by Susan Sampson

Stop and think. This is what stood out to me from the recent Beyond Belief lecture. Stop and think. So many times the verse in James that says be slow to speak, quick to listen, and slow to become angry (James 1:19) has come into my mind and yet I still struggle with thinking before I speak! Reacting in my flesh instead of stopping and thinking about the path I want to take – flesh- which leads to death or Spirit – which leads to life. I am again reminded of the term from our homework – “practical unbelief.” This is one of the big ways “practical unbelief” still rules my life.

My first job out of college was as a paralegal. I think it was the first week of work and the attorney I worked for called me into his office, handed me a document, and asked me to look for the heirs. Well, I thought he said to look for the “errors”. So I happily went back to my office and thoroughly proofread the document, and pleased with my efforts, presented it back to him. Of course, much to my dismay he looked at me like I was a total idiot and that he regretted hiring me when he said, “No, the heirs – this is a probate document and we have to notify the heirs of the death of our client.”

It is obviously so important that we understand absolute truth and what it is we truly believe. To be aware of the “errors” we are believing and acting upon everyday. I was also remembering a time when someone shared how the treasury department and FBI agents learn to spot counterfeit money. They study the real thing until they know every millimeter of the real bills. They go over and over and over the true bills so they will then be able to spot the false ones. We will not know what is false if we don’t immerse ourselves in the truth of God’s Word.

John MacArthur was quoted in the lecture as saying there is nothing as important as divine truth! And the greatest reality the world possesses is divine truth! Wow! Do I truly believe this? Sitting here in the comfort of my own home, with no kids around, my husband hard at work for his family, and the dryer kindly drying my laundry for me, I would answer wholeheartedly, YES! But then again, there’s that practical unbelief.

It shows up when I hit the snooze repeatedly. When my phone reminder pops up and I don’t look at my Taking the Truth to Heart box. When I forget to work on my memory verses for a couple of days. When I get up from my quiet time and if you asked me what verse I wrote down in my Taking the Truth to Heart box I would not be able to tell you because I forgot what I so convictingly wrote down just hours before. When I get frustrated with my child who left their homework page at school and we have to turn back around (even though I just forgot something earlier that day) and when I put my needs before my husband’s. I’m sure there are so many other ways this is evident.

Praise God for His grace! He knows we are weak and He remembers we are dust (Psalm 103)! Praise God for the body of Christ and for a discipleship ministry that is teaching me how to turn from my practical unbelief and take the truth of God’s Word to my heart and live it out in my life day-by-day. Praise God for the gift of confession and like-minded women who are teaching me how to confess my sins and live in the light and fellowship of other believers. Praise the Lord for His Spirit who lives inside of us and is actively working to conform us into the image of Jesus Christ. Praise the Lord for sending His one and only Son to live a perfect life that I could not live and die the horrifying death that I deserve.

Our lives truly are not our own. We have been bought with a price. This is true. This what the Lord has told us in His Word. May He give us His grace to truly stop and think about what we have been given, the amazing gift of eternal life, and compare it to the eternal punishment we deserve. So much so that true and humble gratitude and love would well up from the depths of our souls that we would be compelled by the love of God to live the life we have been called to live. Lives of repentance and faith. Love and trust. Peace and joy.

Praying for more grace to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12) by putting our flesh to death and taking God’s living and active Word to heart and living it out daily, hour by hour, moment by moment.

by Angie

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5)

I just pulled myself off the floor after a confession session with the Lord and let me just tell you, I am SO thankful for the truth in 1 John 1:5 that GOD IS LIGHT and IN HIM IS NO DARKNESS AT ALL. I mean, shove that truth back in the face of Satan and any lie He might be screaming or whispering to you to get you to mistrust your Savior.

I am clinging to this truth as the Lord has revealed this week my struggle to believe and trust in His goodness and understand His ways in light of some recent challenges. It really is not a huge deal, but Satan’s lies have been all over the situation which has made it more painful than it should be. He whispers, “He doesn’t care about you. He has left and abandoned you. What good Father would withhold this acceptable request, especially when He is capable of answering?” Perhaps you can relate?

Here’s the deal.  My sweet 22 month old has not been sleeping well. For the past three weeks he has been waking up anywhere from 5-6am and last night was up at 1am and 3am, requiring my attention. The most painful part of all of this is that it has prevented me from having my time with the Lord in the mornings. I literally cherish my time with Jesus. It is the fuel I rely on to get through hectic, demanding days. It is also helpful as a leader of this Bible study to have time to work through the material so I can lead well. Once my children are up, the day is full and I usually don’t have a chance to sit down with any sort of “peace and quiet” again until 9-9:30pm at night. Trying to do my study at that time for me is torture, because I am usually falling asleep.

So, I asked my small group this past week at Bible study to pray that he would sleep until 7am and every night I have prayed peace and rest over him as I have put him to bed, asking the Lord to allow him to sleep until 7am. So far, that prayer has not been answered once this week (or really in the last several weeks).

This afternoon I somewhat grudgingly gave up time when I could have been outside enjoying the amazing weather so that I could work on my study. We were given a list of possible sin struggles and asked to confess them before our Loving Savior. I was led to my knees weeping as I saw my anger, frustration, ingratitude, desire to control, and selfishness staring at me. I laid it all before Him and told Him I was tired physically and emotionally. I shared with Him that it was painful that He seemed to be withholding a request that was rooted in a God-given desire to spend time with Him. I confessed that I was frustrated because it was messing with “my” schedule because I didn’t want to have to sacrifice other time I might have during the day to do my study because it wasn’t convenient or the way I thought was best. I expressed my frustration that my days continued to feel chaotic and out of control.

And you know what…He listened…with a soft heart, and I could feel His tenderness and love for me. Guess what was streaming through the window where I was kneeling, covering me and literally warming my physical body…His beautiful afternoon light. He was literally speaking 1 John 1:5 over me…I am Light and in my ways there is no darkness.

He then gently reminded me of all the other prayers He had been so sweetly answering this week instead of the “one” I was clinging to with white knuckles.  He reminded me of the neighbors I have been praying for who seem to suddenly be at our house all the time for various reasons, being exposed to His light.  There is the text I just got from a friend, telling me God had answered something I had been praying for her about. God graciously led my husband to teach this wonderful lesson in our small group this morning at church and it was so cool to see the Holy Spirit work through him. And that little rascal that I have been wrangling every morning at 5 or 6am….he is really sweet and I have been able to get some extra cuddle time with him.

I share all of this to hopefully encourage you. As you can see, I am so weak and so focused on the wrong things so often. My lack of trusting Jesus so often taints my heart and attitude. I desire so much for these verses to reflect my heart, even in circumstances that I don’t understand: “Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!” (Psalm 84:4, 12).

If you find yourself in the midst of challenging or painful circumstances in which it seems almost impossible to trust the Lord, I encourage you to take all of your pain and frustrations before Him. He is a gentle, loving Savior and He will graciously shine His light and truth into your pain and illuminate His love for you. May we all, by faith empowered by His grace, choose to remain in the promises of His love and goodness even if our circumstances don’t immediately change. I am praying that we can cling to these promises:

For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
O Lord of hosts,
blessed is the one who trusts in you!
(Psalm 84:11-12)


by Susan Sampson

Well I never thought I would be told I was full of crap when I went to a Bible study! But it happened in a recent Beyond Belief lecture. But how incredibly helpful and freeing as I really try to think this through.

I completely identified when Laurie said we walk into church and look around and then immediately start cleaning up the outside with the right clothes and right purse (I would add children’s matching clothes) because on the inside we feel like crap and know we don’t measure up to what we see.

I love the group Casting Crowns. I think I have written about this song before, but it is such a vivid and helpful picture of what is happening in churches and Bible studies across America and speaks to my heart:

“Stained Glass Masquerade”

Is there anyone that fails?
Is there anyone that falls?
Am I the only one in church today
Feelin’ so small?

‘Cause when I take a look around
Everybody seems so strong
I know they’ll soon discover
That I don’t belong

So I tuck it all away, like every thing’s okay
If I make them all believe it, maybe I’ll believe it too
So, with a painted grin, I play the part again
So, everyone will see me the way that I see them

Are we happy plastic people
Under shiny plastic steeples
With walls around our weakness
And smiles to hide our pain?

My sin of pride still makes me want to “tuck away” all my crap.

Very recently our church worship pastor needed the wifi password when we were getting ready to have Bible study at our home. He knows I keep it upstairs and asked if he could have it. I can’t quite remember exactly how it all went down, but I think I said I would get it and he said he would be happy to get it but knew going up through our bedroom might be seriously off limits. I quickly had to run through my mind if my bed was made and laundry put away before I would allow him access. And even more so was the thought that the password was in my computer room which is most of the time a mess. Was I going to let the worship pastor see my mess?! I let him up there, but only because I knew it wasn’t as much of a mess as it usually is.

And this of course is just the external crap. What about the internal crap? What about the ugly thoughts I have that if you all could read my mind, you might no longer read my email? What about the dark recesses of my heart?

More lines from “Stained Glass Masquerade”:

Is there anyone who’s been there?
Are there any hands to raise?
Am I the only one who’s traded
In the altar for a stage?

The performance is convincing
And we know every line by heart
Only when no one is watching
Can we really fall apart

But would it set me free
If I dared to let you see
The truth behind the person
That you imagine me to be?

Would your arms be open?
Or would you walk away?
Would the love of Jesus
Be enough to make you stay?

This is why we need discipleship! Why we need each other, the body of Christ. Why we need to ask the Lord to rescue us from our individual fish bowls.

Our flesh wants to hide and cover up both the external and internal crap.

But there is One who already knows all the crap. Inside and out. And He loves us in spite of it all. Not only that, He took all our crap away from us and carried it to the cross. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).

We are free. We don’t need to hide our crap any more. Our sin has been atoned for by the Son of God. Our ransom was paid at the cross.

May the Lord’s love and grace give us all “open arms” for one another as we seek to grow as true disciples of Jesus through the study of His Word. May He give us the grace we need to live in freedom by trusting our good Shepherd, picking up our crosses, dying to self, and transparently and vulnerably confessing our “crap” to one another.