2015 Bible Reading Challenge

The Light

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Sometimes ignorance is truly bliss, isn’t it?

My eye caught the particles of dust that hung in the air in the streaming sunlight. I was taken aback. I actually breathe all of that in? That’s disgusting.

The same thing has happened when the sunlight has hit my floor off of the kitchen. It makes what I think is a pretty clean floor show all of the dog hair, dirt, and debris that tends to get lost in a darker setting.

The light tends to do that. And many times we’d just rather not know.

But what if the light is really a blessing?

What if the light is the only way we know the truth? My floor is dirty and my air is dusty, whether I can see them or not.

In my journey through the New Testament the past couple of months, I have felt like much of it is a bright, shining light into the dark crevices of my life. And, while this is a painful and humbling process, it is also a freeing and hopeful process. There is so much I have to change, but it is not hopeless!

This is really one of the reasons why I am hoping more of you will join me in the Bible Reading Challenge. If you have the right heart when you start in January, you will not go away unchanged.

By right heart, I mean this–

I was talking with a friend the other day and she, too, is reading faithfully from God’s Word each day and is experiencing the life-changing truths held within its pages. But she mentioned something that I think is worth mentioning here–

We will not be changed by God’s Word if we do not have a submissive and obedient heart–a heart filled with love for our heavenly Father that truly desires to please God above self.

I finished the Old Testament a few months ago and those were the three words that kept coming up over and over and over again– humility, love, and obedience. It is so clear. It is the most important thing I learned in reading through the Old Testament. These qualities are not optional but are absolutely necessary in the Christian life.

So, honestly, I can’t promise you that your read-through will be life-changing. Many, many people read God’s Word whose lives are never changed. Only God (and perhaps they) know why. I am not the judge.

And I want you to know that I understand that this might not be the right time for you to join the challenge. And that’s ok. You may have commitments that are too overwhelming right now or another Bible Study that you are involved in. Many of you I don’t know, but many of you I do. You all need to know that I am not offended or judging you in any way if you don’t join the challenge.

However, if God can use me to encourage even a few of you to develop a deeper and fuller love for His Word, I believe it is worth it. And so I truly hope that if you are even thinking about it, that you will join me. It doesn’t cost anything. You can print out the schedule and at least start, right?

And– just to be clear– I am receiving no compensation or payment for this challenge in any way. This is about God placing within me a burning passion to get people back into His Word. I truly believe that the American church and Christian families would not be in the state they are in, if we had not allowed ourselves to become so biblically illiterate. I want to do whatever I can from my little blog corner of the world to change that.

I truly hope you will consider joining me. Click here for the details. And don’t forget to subscribe to the blog (find the box in the upper right-hand of this page) to receive a special newsletter that will be bring encouragement, worksheets, and commentary for the challenge each month.

 

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Understanding Our Riches

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I don’t know how old you have to be to remember the show “Beverly Hillbillies.” It is a silly show, tilled with innocent humor and pointless plots, telling the tale of a hillbilly family that struck it rich.

The first verse of the theme song goes like this–

Come and listen to a story about a man named Jed
A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed,
Then one day he was shootin at some food,
And up through the ground came a bubblin crude.
Oil that is, black gold, Texas tea.
Jed and his family were actually very rich for a very long time before he even realized it, because there was oil underneath the ground where he and his family lived.  His ignorance did not make his wealth any less valid or true.
I was reading in Ephesians this morning (Oh, how I love that little epistle!) and came across these verses– For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,[c] 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.  (Ephesians 3:14-21)

And I was just struck by the knowledge that we have so much in Christ. And yet we live like we have so little. So often we are just like Jed, living as a spiritual pauper. We work our way through the swampy mess of our lives, relying on our own resources and strength. When that runs out we turn to worldly philosophies and counselors. And then when that doesn’t work, we often build walls and hide behind them. But these verses tell us that our strength and riches come from Jesus Christ. And that He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think! This isn’t talking about selfish requests focused on material goods and a comfortable, pleasant life. Earlier in Ephesians Paul tells us–

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

When we are saved we are filled with the desire to please God. This isn’t a requirement, it’s just a fact. What doesn’t change is our fleshly desire to please ourselves. And so with salvation comes a huge battle and many of us are not prepared to fight it. We either cave to the temptation of our lusts or we fight it with earthly tactics and humanistic techniques.

And yet God tells us in Ephesians that God can accomplish greater things than we can ever imagine through His power in us. We can have victory! Oh, most times it doesn’t come easy and we have to work hard. While God miraculously changes sinful desires in some people, most times it is tiny step by tiny step forward.

But I think the thing I found encouraging is that if we are walking with the Lord in obedience, we can expect victory! Paul goes on in Ephesians to clearly explain what a truly saved and transformed life does and does not look like. If our lives are filled with the things that are of the flesh, we should not expect victory. We can’t live willfully in sin and expect God to work great things in us. That is why so many of us flounder as spiritual paupers, when, in truth, we are quite rich!

Today is a good day to examine your heart. I know that I had much confession to do this morning, as I read Ephesians and realized how I have been allowing some things to take a hold in my heart that shouldn’t be there. I don’t want to live as a spiritual pauper. I want to live as the spiritually rich and very loved person I am in Christ! If you are His, I am sure you want the same. May we all continue to fight the flesh that wars within us by the power of Christ in us! We are on the winning side. Victory is ours through Christ Jesus. Let’s not forget it!

 

If you enjoyed this post, would you consider sharing it on your facebook page or twitter feed? I do not take in any income nor spend any marketing dollars for Growing4Life, but rely solely on my readers to spread the word. Thank you!

A Story From My Own Life

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I thought I would start off by telling a little story from my own life as we prepare for the 2015 Bible Reading Challenge. Over the course of the next few weeks, I thought I would share a few posts that will helps us prepare for the Challenge. I truly hope you will join me in reading through the Bible this coming year!

Now, for a little story–

I feel like I’ve been a believer for my whole life. I professed Christ as a young child and then re-dedicated my life as a thirteen-year old. I never strayed real far from the principles I have been taught and I have been viewed as a real “goody two-shoes” for most of my life. I am not sorry about this. I am thankful that I have been spared so much hurt and pain throughout my life because I have followed the principles laid down in God’s Word.

That being said, however, I want you to know that even though I professed Christ and did all of the outward stuff, I drank milk so much of my life. I filled my mind with romance novels and the words and advice of other men and women in non-fiction books, but I didn’t spend time in God’s Word. Oh, I’d read The Daily Bread or some other light devotional that gave a verse and then a paragraph written by someone else. That was what my devotions consisted of for a very long time. I used the excuse that I was a busy homeschooling mom and didn’t have time to dig into God’s Word. Funny how I did have time for so much other stuff, though.

Fast forward to a year or two ago, when I was riding in a car with a friend. We talked about how we would both like to attend a Bible Study where we actually study the Bible instead of a book. She told me if I’d start it, she’d attend. She was a lot busier in Christian work than I was at the time (and probably still is) and so I took the idea home to my husband and asked him what he thought. He gave his blessing and so I — very hesitantly and tentatively — started talking to a few close friends to see if anyone else was interested in coming. I offered to be the “discussion facilitator”, as I felt very uncomfortable being viewed as “the Bible study leader”. It ended up being about six of us and we chose the book of I Peter, using Kay Arthur’s inductive study guide.

Around that same time, a different friend told me how she had read through the Bible during that year and it was changing her life. I bemoaned the fact that I had never done that, even though I had been a Christian for such a long time. She told me I should definitely try again and even bought me the special one-year Bible she had used.

And so I was off an a double adventure of getting into God’s Word. One through a Bible Study and the other through another attempt of reading through the entire Bible in a year.

Over the course of this past year, I have learned in a new way the truth of these much beloved verses–

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

and

2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Since I have started to study and read the Word of God with serious intent, I have grown in leaps and bounds in understanding and knowing God. I have truly come to finally love the Word of God. I never understood that love for the scriptures will come if I just do it in obedience, even when I don’t feel like it.

Of course, some days are hard and difficult. Sometimes still I can think of a thousand other things I need to do. Some days I read a passage and I tell the Lord, “I just don’t get this…” But, now, when I look back over the year, I can see that God has changed me — really changed me– through study of His Word.

While I have studied, I have never felt under more spiritual attack than this past year. You need to know that. If you get serious about studying the Bible, you will be attacked spiritually. It confirms in my life that our enemy does not want us knowing the Word of God. But we know that God is bigger, stronger, and so much more powerful than our enemy. We can’t back down in fear. The blessings and joy that come from persevering through the temptations and trials are real and tangible.

So… that is my story. I am quite aware that I will have lost most of my readers by now. Posts like this don’t seem to appeal to most of my reading audience. This topic doesn’t seem to garner much interest and perhaps the challenge of reading through the Bible seems like an overwhelming and impossible task.

But I really hope that you won’t let fear stop you! Read through Psalm 119 to get a bit of an understanding just how vital and life-changing God’s Word is to us as believers.

In this confusing cauldron of modern Christianity, I find that so many people have started to gauge their spirituality on mystical experiences and how many visions they see. But I am here to testify that we learn to know and love God through His inspired and inerrant Word. Not only does His Word tell us this, but I have learned it first hand. We need to stop looking for some ethereal experience and dig into the Word of God.

You may have noticed that God’s Word has become a major focus of this blog. This testimony of mine shows you why I have become so passionate about this recently. I long to testify to the power of God’s Word and to encourage others to read it and study it.

If you want to join us in January, then hop on over to this page that will give the details for the challenge. I will send out encouragement and tips to my subscribers throughout the year, so if you are serious about the challenge, I hope that you will take a moment and subscribe to the blog (find the box for this in the upper right of this page).

If you’ve read this far, then I want to thank you for seriously considering this challenge and encourage you to go for it! With God’s help, you can do this! And it will change you.

Have a great day!

Moving Forward

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Last week, I found myself murmuring and complaining about a life-changing situation that my family is in. Oh, I wasn’t complaining on the outside. I was still saying all of the platitudes that an “older, wiser, middle-aged” person should say to anyone who would ask me about it, but on the inside I was frustrated and sad and perhaps even growing a little bitter.

God, in His Providence, led me to think on the life of Joseph, through a series of podcasted sermons by *Alistair Begg. This boy was hated and beaten by his brothers, thrown in a pit and sold as a slave to passing merchants. He was seduced by his new boss’s wife, and then framed when he didn’t jump into bed with her. This part of his life concluded by him being thrown into prison for a crime he did not commit. Do you see the potential for bitterness in any of those circumstances? And yet, through it all, he kept his testimony upright and pure and blameless. And because of this, God went on to use Joseph in a mighty way.

My thoughts turned towards the many friends and acquaintances I have known who have been through some really tough times. Some of them could never move beyond their tragic circumstances. They ended up caught in a mire from which they could not extricate themselves because, instead of trusting in God’s Sovereignty and moving forward, they dwelled on the circumstance and grew angry and bitter and stayed broken. In contrast, I thought on those who, by the grace of God and with an admirable determination,  chose to move forward and use the trial as an opportunity to give God glory and to share the Gospel. I have seen both examples and I knew which one I wanted to be.

Illnesses and deaths of loved ones, distressed and broken marriages, and financial struggles happen every day. Broken relationships and failing bodies are a painful part of our world. Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you just wanted to scream, “But this isn’t how I wanted my life to be!” ?  I certainly have.

You see, it really comes down to submitting ourselves to the will of God. Instead, we often find ourselves dwelling on the could haves, the should haves, and the might haves. But we need to stop and say “It is what it is.”

It is what it is.

We aren’t able to turn back the clock and we are given no “do-overs”. So for God’s glory and for our own spiritual health and testimony, we need to stop dwelling on the past and move forward in humble submission, no matter what God has allowed in our lives.

May we be like Joseph, strong and sure in faith, obedient and upright in action, and determined to move forward, no matter what life may bring.

 

*Below is the link to the first part of the series on Joseph by Alistair Begg.  The MP3s are free of charge.  If you find yourself in a situation where you are having a hard time trusting God, this series of sermons will be a great encouragement and challenge to you.

http://www.truthforlife.org/resources/sermon/new-coat-big-dreams-deep-pit/

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