“He requires only that our love be ardent for Him and our hearts be willing to love others in the same way. Simple as that.” ~Mary DeMuth (p. 31)
In chapter 3, Mary explores “the VOW factor” and making promises. Do you make promises? To yourself? To others? As I read this chapter, I thought to myself, “I’m not one that makes many promises to other people. I don’t make many to myself either – at least not outward ones like New Year Resolutions. I may try to hold myself accountable to a standard or certain behavior, but I try to go easy on myself if I fail.”
Maybe I have learned already that I fail when I try to make vows to do certain things. Certainly I have…lose so many pounds, spend so many hours doing this, keep the house clean all the time. I kind of laugh at myself when I think about it. I have failed so many times that I’ve finally learned to let go of the promises. I try to strive for a goal, but I allow grace to work in my life.
I was glad to hear Mary reaffirm this for me in this chapter. She revealed to me what I hadn’t realized as I was learning my lessons. She points out that vows are our “internal determination to fix our lives without God’s help.” And yes, this is why I fail. I wanted to slap myself and say “DUH.” It’s so simple. We cannot do anything of our own accord. We must rely on God. If we try to do it on our own, failure is certainly in our future. So even though I’d learned this through experience, I was really glad to hear it explained plainly to me.
Or maybe it just clicked this time.
Do you make vows? Why are you making them? And have you realized what you’re doing when you’re making a vow? We make vows out of fear of giving up control, out of lack of trust in God, and stubbornness. Mary suggests we do this to protect ourselves instead of trusting God with that job. We are led to believe we can take care of it ourselves, but we are mistaken.
There was a passage in this chapter I wanted to speak to because I see this too often and feel strongly about it. I never really considered it in the context of making vows, but it does make sense. Mary says near the end of the chapter, “If I continue to worship the idol of self-protection…I’ll keep holed up in my house, preferring the safety of my little family to the big, bad world outside my front door” (p. 30). Think about that. Are you vowing to protect yourself and missing out on what’s outside your door? I have seen this countless times to greater and lesser degrees, and I wonder now if people do this out of self-protection. I’ve heard a variety of explanations, but I believe it comes down to this. And I do not aim to be accusatory – I have been there before and will admit to trying to protect myself. But there is joy in giving over this job to Christ. There is so much we can do for our Lord when we stop vowing to protect ourselves. I’ve been there too, and it’s why I encourage you to think about this.
As I go forward in my walk, I want to consider more regularly whether or not I am making vows. I want to live a life with the only vows I make be that of loving God and people He has created. I want to trust in God more fully, and allow Him to be my protector. What about you?
Other things to think about (p.31):
* What vows have you created over the course of your life?
* What does self-protection look like in your life?
Today, I’m taking a look at Chapter 2 of Mary DeMuth’s book Everything!
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. Romans 1:16
I love this verse! I had it engraved on a necklace years ago. I don’t wear it nearly enough anymore. It has always been a great reminder for me of what it is I am living for.
The gospel. Do we throw this word around too lightly? Do we really have a good understanding of what this is? Are we really living out the gospel in our daily lives?
And what is the Gospel? DeMuth starts off the chapter recounting how she remembered the truths of the Gospel we claim as truth. The five fingers of our hand offer a good reminder for these truths:
* We are all sinners
* Sin results in death
* God sent Jesus to Earth and he led a sinless life
* Jesus died on the cross as atonement for ALL sin
* Jesus rose from the dead and will return for His people
So, we believe all of this but do we live our lives so that people SEE this every day. Do we live the Gospel fully? I will be first to stand up and say “No.” I fail horribly. “I haven’t willingly suffered for the sake of the Gospel. I haven’t counted all things loss. I haven’t given Jesus everything. Instead I cling to my possessions, relish my comfort, and spend a great deal of time seeking earthly peace” (p. 17). Me too Mary. You described me perfectly. And I can’t even blame it on not hearing the gospel in our church. I’ve been blessed having found a church that teaches the gospel, and doesn’t just emphasize the “All you do is progression.” But I am afraid. I don’t know what it’s like to live outside of comfort. I take the comforts of my American life for granted. And it’s hard to trust someone else with that even if I can intellectually understand that God WILL take care of me.
I wonder if I will ever fully live the Gospel like the members of the early church did in the book of Acts. I would love a life filled with joy like that. And it comes down to whether or not I’m willing to “live in [the gospel's] tenets, giving up our wills, our agendas, our fears, our everything” (p. 21). And these are things I am still working on even though I’ve been a believer for 15 years now.
What about you? Are you living the Gospel fully? Are you willing to live that everything life that comes from laying down everything like the men and women of the early church?
Feel free to share your thoughts on this. Here are a couple questions from the book that got me thinking about living the gospel:
1. Have you ever heard the gospel presented as All You Do Is…? Or have you thought of it that way? If so, how has that view of the gospel brought disillusionment?
2. Who in your life emanates the gospel? What about that person intrigues or draws you?
“When the world careens out of control, we can rest in the fact that God spun this world with a simple word. Matter from emptiness. Beauty from void. Community from chaos.” ~Mary DeMuth (p.5)
The first section of the book asks us to examine our minds – our thoughts – about God. In Chapter 1 we look at cultivating the discipline of astonishment. There are five truths presented that help us in this endeavor:
1. God Creates
2. God is Other
3. God Redeems
4. God Sees
5. God Inhabits
When we think about these statements and read the scriptures that go along with them, we are likely to be astonished by God. For me, the idea that God creates is HUGE. It is what brought me to Christ in the first place. I looked around me at age 16 and couldn’t accept that anything but God could have created our world.
And to know that He is beyond anything I can understand, and has done for us on the cross what I could never repay, and sees me even now as I type, and despite how wretched I am he dwells within me… well to be honest is scares me a bit. I cannot comprehend it all, and have to rely on faith. These truths bring me to my knees in astonishment, amazement, and awe!
And yet I can forget. I can get in the habit of trying to do things on my own when I have this awesome God who I can rely on. I too, am guilty of “insulating myself, minimizing the risk so I don’t have to fling myself into the arms of this wild God” (p. 7). Because what might happen?
Here are some questions to think about:
1. How does knowing God created everything from nothing influence your behavior? Or does it? Why/Why not?
For me knowing that God created all that is around me brought me to Christ. I find that I am in constant awe of the natural world around me. Yet in this admiration for nature, I find that I am not as astonished at humanity. God created us too, but I sometimes struggle with being patient and loving because (let’s be honest) it’s hard. People don’t make it easy. But if I can train my mind to think about people in the same way I do about nature, then maybe I would be making myself more usable by Christ.
2. When was the last time you truly felt the Holy Spirit living in and through you? What were the circumstances of life the?
This was a hard one for me. I don’t pay attention to this nearly enough. After thinking about it for a few days, I realized that the Holy Spirit really was in me after my sister-in-law was pregnant. I had a really hard time with the fact that she was going to have a child before me (even though I wasn’t trying for that at the time). I felt very angry, but through the emotional turmoil, God worked. When my nephew was born, I believe the Holy Spirit was in me as I reached out to her in a way I never had been able to before.
As you go forward in cultivating the discipline of astonishment, think about this: Do you measure God by human standards? Write down 3 things that show you how much more God is that we are. Maybe you could share these here with us. If you have other thoughts or insights from Chapter 1, please share with us! I can’t wait to hear what you learn!
I want to whet your appetite for this book by sharing some thoughts on the preface of Everything by Mary DeMuth!
We are all on a journey, and we each have a choice to make about what kind of journey it will be. Mary DeMuth invites us along on an “Everything Journey” as we delve into her book.
In her introduction, she asks the question, “What accounts for maturity, the hallmark of growth?” Maturity and growth in our spiritual lives are a goal for many of us. We look at other women and wonder how do we get to be like them. (Ok, maybe you aren’t asking that, but I know I am.) I desire to grow in my walk with Jesus. I want to be what Mary calls an “Everything Christian,” a person who has figured out the “secret” of giving over their everything to God.
It’s not such a secret really, but many struggle to get there. As we move towards this type of life we have to bring everything under God’s hand. Our heads, hearts, and hands. And this book aims to help us examine what we think (heads), who reigns in our lives (hearts), and do we obey in every moment (hands).
Are you willing to join us on a journey toward this Everything life? We will start looking at the first chapter on November 16th!
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
~ James 2:26
After two weeks of meditating on this verse, I started to get worried. I was deliberating with myself, determining whether or not my faith was confirmed by works. I was concerned that maybe I don’t do enough works, and then my mind got to thinking that maybe my faith isn’t genuine.
I work full time and I don’t seem to volunteer much. I am not very active in my current church (though I have been in the past). I’ve never been on a mission trip. I’ve only been to a soup kitchen once, and did street ministry once. My mind kept mulling over what was lacking. Then I thought maybe I should think about what “works” are before I go jumping into service without thought and prayer.
So what are “works?”
The notes in my Bible gave me a clearer understanding. It describes it as “all righteous behavior that obeys God’s word and manifests a godly nature.” It also specifically pointed to “acts of compassion” found in verse 15 of the same chapter. These include clothing the naked and destitute and feeding the hungry. (The soup kitchen wasn’t that far off, was it?)
But God was speaking to me, telling me to go deeper. FEEDING. This is not just physical hunger, but spiritual hunger. This symbolism is used throughout the Bible – and your works should be addressing spiritual hunger. And maybe I started feeling a little bit of relief.
After some prayer and conversation with God, I concluded that works are evident in my life. I won’t enumerate them here for fear I might boast in anything but the Lord. Yet, I also came to realize that I could do more.
And then just this morning another word came to me as a warning…
Do you want to do more because you think you should or because you love God and His creation? Are you compelled by love or doctrine?
Apparently the Lord is trying to keep me in check!
I urge you to consider the words of James. You should not try to rack up works in a worldly effort to prove your faith. Works flow out of your faith and a love of God and people. If you consider your faith genuine, then there should be evidence. It doesn’t hurt to take stock, but at the same time be careful not to do more simply for the sake of doing more.
This entry was cross-posted at Jolene’s Journey.
I recently got my hands on the book Everything by Mary DeMuth, and I decided I would like to lead a virtual book club here on the GodlyGals blog. Here’s what Mary herself has said about her book:
“I don’t write this book as a condemnation or as a sermon. The last think I want to do is provide a ‘how to be the best Christian in ten easy steps’ guide. I pen these words as a fellow struggler who is learning that what we think about God matters, how we allow Him to reign in our hearts matters, and how we obey Him in the moment matters. It all matters. Everything.” ~Mary DeMuth
To give you all some time to get your hands on a copy, we won’t publish our first post until November 16th.
I have heard wonderful things about this book, and I am very excited to start reading! I will be using the FREE study guide that has been made available on Mary’s website. You should definitely check it out!
Do you like to plan things out? I know I do. I seem to want to plan everything. From the minutia of my day, to the trip I’d like to take to Europe next summer. Plan. Plan. Plan. I even have a job that requires me to plan each and every day.
Now, preparedness is never a bad thing, but sometimes I get hung up on plans. I forget to just let life be, and sometimes I wonder if my planning is my secret way of taking control of my life instead of giving it over to the will of God.
I was studying James one morning about a week ago when I came to the section about boasting about the future (James 4:13-15). It was a wake up call ringing loud and clear.
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.
My planning is sin?
That sure woke me up! I think God was saying to me, “LET GO and give Me back some control over your life.”
We definitely don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I can’t count on things to happen with certainty. And I do recognize it is ok to make plans (loosely).
I am still going to plan my daily lessons at school, because I know that I am flexible and can change with the needs of the students. And I’m still hoping to go to Europe next summer, but I’m going to “pencil it in”, and say, “If the Lord allows, I will go to Europe.” I’m going to let him be the ultimate decision maker.
I need to be a bit more spontaneous and responsive to the Lord’s leadings. I need to give up some control and arrogance that comes from an attitude of “I’m making this decision.” I need to have more of a mindset that says,
If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.
…when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ.
The ability to read is probably one of the biggest things I take for granted in my adult life. I can’t imagine a life with out being able to read. When we read we gain understanding about God, about people, about the world around us. It is a powerful tool – so keep reading. Keep your mind sharp. Grow in knowledge. And share what you have learned.
For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise. Heb 10:36
The topic of endurance came up in my daily reading this week, and as a runner the topic strikes a chord with me. We are said to be in need of a spiritual endurance, and like running, that endurance doesn’t just come in one day. It takes time and training. I was really thinking through this the other morning, and thought to myself, how do we build that endurance? Time and training – what does that really mean? So bear with me here as I work this out…
Proper training – we need experienced people who have the right information to help guide us. This means we need to have a pastor who is steeped in the Word, knows it well, and presents it to us unashamedly. We need Bible study leaders who are strong in their faith and understanding of the word. We need brothers and sisters of faith who challenge us, encourage us, hold us accountable. And then when we get that truth, we need to actively apply it to our lives. We can listen all we want to the running coaches, but if we never get up and move – nothing will change.
Consistency – Training is not good for much if you don’t apply it and apply it consistently. Endurance is built up over time, and it builds upon itself. It’s hard to endure hardships when you’ve stopped and started, stopped and started building your endurance. Instead, that stop-start pattern actually leaves you pretty stagnant. I’ve experienced this in my running as well as my spiritual life.
With the right guidance, and the consistency of action (prayer, study, service, worship), spiritual endurance blossoms. A steady determination and perseverance grows and flourishes. It is an active process that enables you to face the challenge of the race of life.
Endurance is that point when you have the strength and determination to keep going even when you want to stop. It’s the will to put one foot in front of the other when the temptations threaten to lure you off the path.
The weary runner needs to focus and press onward in a straight path watching carefully so they do not injure themselves before the race has ended. Endurance is that focus, that determination, that strength to get you through the challenges and on to your second wind. I love the imagery from Hebrews 12 that illustrates this so well. Any runner will understand the slackening arms/hands, and the wobbly knees, and the need to stay strong…
Therefore, strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. Heb. 12:12-13
Cross-posted at Jolene’s Journey.
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Summer vacation is in full swing here in the Northeast. As a teacher, I sometimes struggle with summer because I am prone to idleness. A few summers ago I started running, and that seemed to keep me up and out and productive. The summer after that I was a voracious reader – of the Bible and of other things. I was still running too, and I have to admit I felt alive. Last summer I joined a running program, and like the summer I started running, I was energized and invigorated. I was particularly active in my garden and backyard too. I even painted the garage all by my lonesome!
This year, however, has been a challenge. After a long school year, I was quite honestly burnt out. I had plans to be in the yard, exercise every day, and read. I even wrote a post on my personal blog about how I intended to cultivate a place of peace in my home – work hard at making it a safe and healthy place for me spiritually. Alas, I feel as though I have failed. I’m halfway on my way to nowhere this summer, and as I read the words in Proverbs 31:27, I am strongly convicted…
She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. ~Pro 31:27
The Bible has a way of convicting you, pressing you to right the wrongs in your life! So, no more blaming the heat or drought as reason to stay inside. No more pushing aside my nightly Bible reading for extra time staring at the stats on my blog. No more laziness and skipping runs or workouts, because like my household, I should look well to the ways of my body. And workouts for me are perfect times for meditation on the word. I memorized so many verses last summer. This year? Not a single one. Shame on me.
I may have been halfway to nowhere this summer, but right now I’m going to flip the switch. Idleness off. Spiritual and physical fruitfulness on. It’s time to salvage this summer, and by God’s grace and mercy, I pray it will be the case.