The Bible

Our Undoing

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Many of us cannot fathom how Fifty Shades of Gray is accepted as normal entertainment, not only by the world, but also for many in the church. We just can’t understand.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the last few days. Why is something so obviously wrong embraced so eagerly by people who call themselves Christians?

I think I may have the answer.

Somewhere in the not-too-distant past, Christians decided that what we entertain ourselves with just doesn’t matter. It is considered completely separate from the rest of our spiritual lives.

I remember a conversation I had with my daughter a few years ago. She was trying hard to process the fact that so many Christians who live otherwise godly lives spend so much time watching shows and movies that are filled with all of the things that God hates and somehow have no conviction about this. And she finally suggested that perhaps entertainment is the one big blind spot in the lives of most Christians today.

I think she may be on to something there. For what other explanation could there possibly be to explain how Christians would fill their minds with such filth and call it okay?

Sure, Fifty Shades of Gray is a little out there for most of us reading this blog, but do you honestly think God hates S&M any more than He hates adultery and fornication? Or the glorification of theft and illicit drugs? Really? Or what about homosexuality? Or sorcery? Or crude and profane language? Or violence for no reason? The God of the Bible hates all sin. And yet most Christians will put any or all of the above before their eyes on a regular basis and call it okay.

Actually, we might wonder why there is such a to-do about Fifty Shades. We watch just about everything else and call it okay, don’t we?

I am so excited that so many of you have joined the Bible Challenge this year. I love hearing all that you are learning in God’s Word. We know that His Word never returns void (Isaiah 55:11). And I am sure you are finding out, like me, that Hebrews 4:12 is true.

But I do have a concern as we continue on in our challenge.

Imagine with me, if you will, an elderly lady knitting a beautiful sweater. She is carefully crafting it for her only granddaughter and it is in an intricate design of flowers and hearts. She has spent hours and hours on it.

The curious thing is that after she has knitted for a few hours, she spends the next few hours undoing all that she has done. Not because there is anything wrong in her work, but because she just loves to undo her knitting as much as she loves to knit.

Sound strange and completely unrealistic?

Of course it does. No person in their right mind undoes so much hard work. And, yet, I propose that many of us do just that by how we entertain ourselves.

Why do we believe that we can watch, read, and listen to anything we feel like and yet think we will grow by leaps and bounds towards the Lord? Unless we use very careful discernment, we are going to undo every good thing that has come from our Bible reading and study.

Look, I am not going to give you a list of acceptable entertainment. This is not about a list of rules but, instead, about a heart that wants to please the Father in all we do (I Corinthians 10:31).

And I just want to shout out a warning to any of you who are giving effort to reading and studying your Bibles (in any way, not just through the G4L Bible Challenge)–

If you leave your Bible and then go fill your mind with ungodly music, movies, tv shows, or books, don’t expect this to be a year of great growth. The Christian life is about learning God’s Word and biblical truth but it’s also very much about living a holy, pure life before God. Both are required for a life that would glorify God. Giving our time to learning God’s Word and then filling our minds with ungodly entertainment could be likened to the elderly lady with the sweater. It’s the undoing of so much of the good work being wrought in our lives through God’s Word.

Grace and Introspection

Parting of the Red Sea

Sometimes we approach the stories we read in the Bible with a bit of arrogance, don’t we?

“Well, I would have never done that!”

or

“I can’t believe anyone could have acted {or reacted} like that!”

If you are reading along in the Bible Challenge, we have arrived in one of the most exciting books of the Bible–

Exodus.

In this book we witness God’s power through many different miracles, we see His care and protection for His people, and we read of God’s faithfulness and sinful man’s faithlessness.

It’s the faithless stories that drive me a little crazy. One of these is told in Exodus 14:10-12. Here’s what it says–

And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord. 11 Then they said to Moses, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? 12 Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, ‘Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.”

My initial reaction when reading this was to condemn the Israelites harshly. For goodness’ sake, they had just lived through the ten plagues where they had witnessed miracle after miracle. They had seen the lives of their firstborn children and livestock spared, while the firstborn sons and livestock of the Egyptians were killed on one dark, dark night. There was only one explanation for how they could even be beside the Red Sea at that very moment and that explanation was God. God had worked miraculously to bring them to this point. They had seen it with their very own eyes!

And yet they doubted.

How could that be?

But then I remember times in my life when I do the same thing. Oh, it may not be in such dramatic fashion. I’ve never had the waters part for me or food fall down from heaven, but I’ve seen the hand of God work in mighty and wondrous ways– ways that defy circumstances and could never be called coincidental. And then, after all that, the impossible scenario comes along and I throw up my hands with questions and doubts, all the while wondering if God really does care for me.

One thing I have learned over the years is that when we are in our lowest, most hopeless place is when we see God work in the most incredible ways.

If we can do it ourselves and fix it ourselves and, through our own effort, solve our own problems then we have no need for God.

But when we reach that hopeless place–when we are smack dab against the Sea with nowhere to run and the enemy is headed towards us at breakneck speed-that’s when God shows His power!

Sure, we can criticize the Israelites’ reaction as they sat in that terribly hopeless place, but I am pretty sure we would have done the same thing. After all, we do do the same thing.

As we read through the Bible and even as we interact with other believers, let’s remember to do so with humility, love, and much grace. We don’t know how we would act in any circumstance, but one thing we can be sure of is that we are sinners, just like everyone else. And that fact alone should keep us humble and full of grace. And let’s keep our eyes open, because our God is still working in our most hopeless situations!

 

 

Where Were You?

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As a friend recently pointed out to me, Job is not only about suffering but it is also about the very nature of God. If you are still reading along with us in the 2015 Bible Challenge, we are just about at the end of Job. The book is filled with men giving their eloquent (and dare I say long-winded?) interpretation of why Job is suffering and their personal descriptions of God and life.

But finally God speaks. In Chapter 38, we hear God’s response to Job.

I am always put to shame with the words of God. It is such a lesson in submitting to God’s Sovereignty.

Where was I when the foundations of the earth were laid?

Have I commanded the mornings since time began?

Can I loosen the belt of Orion?

When we read God’s response to Job, we can respond two ways: Submission or Rebellion. There is no neutral.

So let’s move ahead many thousands of years. What does this have to do with life today?

As you read Job 38, can you understand why it was so critical to Satan that people stop believing in a 6-day literal biblical creation?

For when the world system undermines our belief in God as Creator and Designer, then it undermines our complete and total understanding of God, as presented in the rest of the scripture. This naturally leads to rebellion towards God, rather than submission.

Many Christians say it doesn’t matter if we believe in a literal creation or not. But it does. Job 38 is one of the reasons. If we don’t believe in creation, then Job becomes a poem to us– something that we can learn from and that sounds beautiful in a literary, symbolic sort of way instead of being the true, inspired Word of God. And when that happens, God’s Word loses its power in our lives.

This is a big deal. As believers, we need to understand the critical nature of believing in a literal 6-day creation. It is the foundation of the rest of the Word of God. And we know what happens when a foundation is destroyed– it isn’t long before the rest of the house comes tumbling down. I think we can already see this playing out in the modern-day church.

But let’s make this even more personal. How we deal with the unanswered questions we have as we read is very important. I have no doubt that you have many, after having read Job. There are just some really puzzling verses within this book of the Bible.

We can get frustrated as we read and start focusing on our questions, rather than on the words themselves.

When I asked my brother, Pastor Dean, a particularly burning question that several people have asked me about this book, he encouraged me to let my readers know that they should not worry too much about the unanswered questions, but instead focus on what we can know.

Last year while I was doing my first read-through of the Bible, I became aware of two things–

1. If I focused on the questions, I would stop reading. There are so many unanswered questions– particularly in the Old Testament. I had to allow God to give me insight into what He chose and stop thinking I needed to understand it all.

2. I also realized –and this is really important–that if I understood it all, I would be God. Do you get what I’m saying here? We live in this culture where we think we have to understand everything. The age of reason has affected us in more ways than we even know. And, while I don’t recommend living a life of ignorance, we do have to come to God’s Holy Word with an attitude of submission and humility, recognizing that we aren’t going to understand everything because He is God. And we are not.

And so let’s move on from Job assured that God is God. He is sovereign and does what is best, even when we don’t understand why. And while God does give us more and more insight, the deeper we dig into His Word, let’s remember that we are never required to understand it all, but only to submit and obey. For therein lies the key to the joy of the Lord and the peace that passeth understanding.

 

Seven Things to Learn from Job

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If you are still reading the Bible Challenge, you are now in the book of Job. We are reading together as a family and if I may be honest, we had a conversation yesterday about the difficulty of reading this book. It is not really a narrative (aside from the first couple of chapters) and the style makes it hard to read. So I wanted to encourage you to keep going. And I was thinking about some lessons we can learn from this book, despite its flowery, hard-to-understand language–

1. God may allow trials in our lives to prove (or test) our faithfulness. At first, it’s tempting to wonder why God would let Satan torture Job is such a manner, isn’t it? And, yet, God had confidence in Job’s response to his trials and, through it all, Job’s understanding of God was deepened considerably.

2. There is a whole drama playing out which we cannot see or hear. Satan hasn’t stopped torturing and tempting believers and there is a spiritual battle that we are always fighting! Paul even talks about it in Ephesians 6, encouraging us to keep all pieces of armor firmly in place so we can stand and fight effectively!

3. God may use the trials in our lives to encourage others.  I was thinking about the fact that here we are — in the year 2015– reading the true story of Job. Many Christians are comforted and gain great insight into their own difficult trials through this book. Job’s experience was not in vain.

4. Trials show us our true friends. Job’s friends certainly seemed judgmental and unkind. They did come to sit with him for seven days (Job 2:13) which I am sure was a cultural (but pretty cool) thing to do. So that’s good. But when they open their mouths, instead of comforting him, they accuse Job of great sin and tell him he needs to repent. His friends were short-sighted and arrogant, weren’t they? They had no idea the drama that was playing out above their heads. But if Job had sinned (which he didn’t) true friends don’t respond this way in a trial, do they? And, honestly, many of our trials are a direct result of a sinful choice or action. And it does need to be addressed. But it’s so much about timing and the great love with which we would choose to share such information that shows if we are a true friend. Job’s friends just didn’t seem all that loving to me. Like Job didn’t have enough problems without having to defend himself to his “friends”.

5. The book of Job shows us how not to respond to someone going through a trial. This piggy-backs off of number 3, so I won’t say anything else about his friends. But we also have his unsupportive wife (Job 2:9) who gives a great example of what not to do. For she tells Job to “curse God and die.” Doesn’t seem to be a great thing to say to someone who has lost everything.

6. Don’t judge too quickly. I can tend to judge Job’s wife pretty harshly for her words and wonder how a wife could be so unsupportive–until I remember that she had suffered terrible, terrible losses as well. She lost all of her children and her total way of life. In a day. There isn’t mention of grandchildren here but if all of the children were adults, there is even that possibility. Her pain must have been unbearable. And then her husband gets deathly sick on top of it all. I don’t know about you, but trials and tribulations and stressful times cause me to say things I don’t mean. I hope that these lone recorded words of Job’s wife just indicate a bad day. I think, given her situation, we should give her the benefit of the doubt and not be too hard on her. I think this is a good lesson to think about in our own here and now. People always do things or say thing for a reason. I have said many a foolish thing before thinking and hope for great grace in those situations. I desire to extend that same grace to those around me.

7. We need to keep reading, even when we don’t get it. Some of you by now are probably contemplating giving up reading through the Bible. You just didn’t realize it would be this hard. You may even be thinking it’s rather uninteresting. Please don’t give up. Remember the Bible Study Trap I wrote about? Go re-read this post if you don’t remember what it says. It’s important. We are reading to know more about God, not to entertain ourselves. And don’t underestimate the power of prayer. Pray for insight and keep going. I promise you that you will be glad you did!

This is certainly not an exhaustive list of things to be learned from the book of Job but just a few things I thought of as I have been reading. Have a great day and keep reading!

 

Why Waiting Is Sometimes the Best Option

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I think I may have done the same thing. It’s hard to know, isn’t it? But if my husband would have been promised heirs as numerous as the dust and I very obviously couldn’t have children, I may have tried to fix it, too. Because that’s what we humans do. We try to fix uncomfortable, inconvenient, unpleasant situations.

Only sometimes –many times– it backfires.

I couldn’t help but think of this as I read Genesis 16. If you are doing the Bible Challenge this year, you will have recently read (or will soon read) about Sarai giving her maid, Hagar, to Abram to bear children for her.  In a culture like theirs we can’t conceive of giving our husband another woman, but that was a different time and place and Sarai was obviously desperate for a baby. So instead of waiting, she took matters into her own hands. As we read on, we see that her decision to do that not only caused heartache for her and her family, but caused strife and anguish for generations to come. She took matters into her own hands and many, many people suffered –and continue to suffer–because of it. For Ishmael is considered to be the ancestor of the Arab nation and this seems to be the birthplace of the historical strife between them and the Jews.

It is easy for me to sit back and point a finger at Sarai. How could she be so hasty and foolish to think she could fix a problem that only God could fix? And, yet, how often I am guilty of the same thing.

I have been known to rush in and try to “fix” my husband and my kids on many occasions. I have tried to fix situations at church and in my extended family. These efforts are usually not helpful and I have been slowly learning to back away and pray instead.

Of course, sometimes, God would lead us to confront someone (Matthew 1815-17) or to pull them from the fire (Jude 1:22-23) but this should only be done with much humility and after much prayer. There is a place for thinking outside of the box to solve problems and giving our energy to changing our own bad habits but human efforts should never be done impulsively or out of desperation. They should never take precedence over God’s will. And we should never, ever try to change someone else’s bad habits unless they ask for our help. Because I have learned that this is a completely fruitless and utterly hopeless task.

Of course, this is so easy to write about but much harder to put in place. For example–

The other day, I found myself growing extremely frustrated that once again my floor was filled with muddy footprints. I found myself in a bit of a panic, as Bible Study was going to be taking place in my home shortly and my family seemed to have no care about this, but continued to walk across my clean floor with their wet boots on. And so I took matters into my own hands and started yelling. Yeah, like that’s going to fix it. In my experience, yelling has never fixed anything. So why do I keep doing it?

Thankfully, this pathetic effort at trying to fix something in my life in the wrong way only humbled me and reminded me of my great sinfulness. I was absolutely mortified to be yelling at my family just before my friends walked in my house. And instead of fixing the situation, I had just made it worse.

Which is what usually happens when I try to fix something without praying and considering the ramifications beforehand.

And this was just a wrong response to a muddy floor– a tiny blip in the timeline of my life with no long-lasting consequences. I can’t imagine how Sarai must have felt after she tried to take matters in her own hands. A lifetime of strife would follow and she was to blame. Taking matters into our own hands can have minor consequences or they can have major ones, but there are always consequences.

And so perhaps we would be better off if we would wait quietly, taking time to consider and pray, bringing our baffling problems and unsolvable puzzles to the Lord instead of trying to impulsively fix them ourselves.

And the wonderful thing about doing this is that so many times, the Lord proves Himself so faithful in these situations! Even just recently, a friend shared how God worked in an absolutely astounding and surprising way to solve an impossible situation. For it’s only when we can’t solve it ourselves that we really see God work, just as He did in Sarai’s life by giving her baby Isaac. For, with God, nothing is impossible.

 

What If I Don’t “Get” The Bible?

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People will sometimes share their hesitation in reading scripture because they just find the Bible uninteresting or so hard to understand. Even if we don’t say it out loud, these thoughts often lurk in the back of our minds, casting a shadow over our best intentions to read the Word.

I’ve been there myself. I, too, have struggled with disinterest, lack of comprehension, and terrible guilt about not loving God’s Word as I ought to as a believer. My lack of love for God’s Word was a big shadow over my Christian life for many years.

And so I started praying about it–asking specifically that God would give me a love for His Word.

And He answered that prayer.

It wasn’t instant and sometimes I still struggle, but He truly has instilled in me a love for scripture. It is just one of the many ways God has proven Himself faithful to me. I am not special. If you ask Him, He will do the same thing for you. There are a few things we can do to prepare our hearts, though, to be receptive to the Word.

We first (and most importantly) need to recognize our sinfulness and be sure to have a humble and submissive spirit when we read. This can take some work in this world of “rights”, with the great focus always on “me”. It’s not how we have been trained to think. I have also found in my own life that it is a purposeful choice that I have to make almost daily. I have not found humility something that I master and then can move on. Pride and selfishness sneak their way in so subtly.

We also need to bring a spirit of obedience– being ready to obey even the things that make us uncomfortable or that may require sacrifice. This can be very difficult and I can truly understand why so many people struggle with this and may even stop reading. Stepping out of our comfort zone and giving up the things we love is never easy– for any reason. But if you are willing to do this, you will not walk away from your Bible reading unchanged. Slowly, but surely, God uses His Word to transform us and make us more Christlike.

I would also like to add here– and this is really important– I do not understand every passage I read in the Bible. There are many moments where I am scratching my head, really puzzled over what a particular passage is saying or why something happened the way it did.

I know at this point, skeptics and scoffers would call me naive and perhaps even ridiculous to keep reading. But here’s the thing–I am okay if I don’t understand everything about God. In fact, if I did understand everything, I would really be bringing Him down to my level– putting Him inside a box of my own finite and limited understanding. The fact that I can’t understand everything is okay with me because I understand enough. And, quite frankly, I have to agree with Mark Twain, who said–

“It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts I do understand.”

I agree. I think many times we are so disconcerted and uncomfortable about what we can understand, that we often use the excuse we can’t understand it as a reason to just give up.

And I will state right here– that is the easier choice. Yes, it is. It is easier to just say we can’t understand it and put it aside. At least it is easier if you are looking only at right now.

At this present moment.

But what I just wish I could help you understand is the great peace and joy and comfort that comes with submitting your life to Christ in all ways, first and foremost by spending time getting to know Him in the Word. I cannot even begin to tell you how God has used His Word in my life.

Again, let me just confirm once more — I am not anything special. I am just a middle-aged mom from Small-town, America. Let me also make sure you understand that I still fight sin and my selfish desires every single day. This is not about me but about what God is doing in me. He can do the same thing for you. I know He can. If you will submit and obey Him. And the first start to that is by getting into His Word.

I am going to pray that this is the year you are given the faith and the courage to pick up your Bible and read it. Really read and study it. If you do, I can promise you that you will never be the same.

Try a Growing4Life Challenge (see menu at the top of this page). All of the challenges can be used during any year. Or try a 2-year plan. Or an inductive study of a single book. Or just take a book of the Bible and read it for 30 days straight.

But do something. I can promise you that you will not be sorry.

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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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!

A Different World

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When I was a child, I can remember my grandmother’s reaction to the TV shows that my grandfather used to watch. She would say with gusto (and in good, old Pennsylvania Dutch fashion), “Such dumb stuff!”

I used to giggle as I watched my grandparents. My grandma would fuss and my grandpa would fuss right back and keep watching anyway.

Interestingly enough, the shows she was upset about then seem utterly mild and innocuous now.

Isn’t it so fascinating how we so easily slide down the moral slope? The things we allow in our homes now make the shows of the 70s look almost moral (even though so many of them weren’t) because we have become so hardened to what is right and wrong. We have become so inoculated to the evil in this culture.

And, honestly, the TV is probably one of the main reasons. When we allow ourselves to watch a show filled with the things that God hates, they become normalized.

I remember a young man arrogantly telling my daughter that she cannot possibly understand the real world, if she doesn’t watch popular shows and movies. After all, they are just showing the real world.

Aaahh. How I beg to differ.

First, you can know the real world quite well by just living in it. You don’t need a screen to tell you about it.

And, second, tv and movies do not generally show the real world anyway. They show an unrealistic world full of violence at will, sex anytime you want it, normalized gay lifestyles, and scoffing of Christians.

Oh, wait.

That is real.

What TV and movies started showing us in the 80s and 90s has become reality. Do you think that is an accident?

What tends to not be real with most of the stuff coming out of Hollywood is the complete absence of the consequences of sin. They are almost always missing. There are no damaged emotions, jail time, or insurance claims. There are no consequences to drug use, selfishness, or shooting someone because they were in your way. But this is not the real world.

So let’s take it back to us. I have a question for you– Are you more or less likely to watch the same shows as you did five years ago? 10 years ago? 20 years ago?

I mentioned this in a post a few years ago. You can find it here. If we are growing as a Christian, then our spirits should be more offended as we watch things that are displeasing to our Savior as time goes on, not less.

It reminds me of the time we had on a movie in our home that had been very popular in the 80s. We tend to think that if it is old, it is okay. We found out as we watched that movie that this is not the case. A few minutes into it, we were so inundated by bad language and an overabundance of taking our dear Lord’s name in vain, that my husband turned it off. Why hadn’t we remembered that when we watched it the first time? Or the second time?

I can answer that.

It’s because as we have grown closer to the Lord, He is filling us with hatred for the things He hates and love for the things He loves. And, oh, the blessing that comes from that! You may think we are missing out on all the fun, but, honestly, we don’t miss it because our definition of fun has changed.

If you just don’t care or believe that God doesn’t care about your entertainment choices then I challenge you to get in the Word, find out who God is, commit to obey Him and then watch Him change you from the inside out. Watch your love for filthy entertainment grow to an occasional lapse in judgment. It’s an amazing thing. Hebrews 4:12 is TRUE!

If you have no desire to be changed or think you are going to miss out on too much fun and refuse to even think about this, then you’d better do some soul-searching.

There is no denying that we are in a different world now than we were even ten years ago. Right and wrong has become relative and fuzzy. Anything goes. There is no respite from the evil and sinful things that come into our homes via a screen unless we turn off the TV.

So I challenge you to turn it off. Or at the very least, pay more attention to what you and your family are watching. Don’t cave to the god of this age. Don’t let him steal your children. Stand for the truth. And, in so doing, be a wonderfully, shining light to the lost around you!

 

Running Through the Airport

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All families have stories that crop up around the holiday table or family campfire once in awhile. One of ours is about the time when I flew with my 6 year old and my parents to California to see my brother. We were loaded down with luggage and my dad, being the only man, carried the bulk of it. This was before there was luggage with wheels. Imagine it, if you will–two women, a little girl, and a Grandpa loaded down with luggage. I am sure we were a rather funny sight to behold as we walked to the ticket counter.

It was my first visit to California and we all had a great time seeing the sights and enjoying family time together. A week or so later we headed to LAX for our return flight. Upon arriving, we found out that our flight home was quite delayed. This was a concern because we had a connecting flight in Cincinnati without a whole lot of time to catch it. Of course, it was completely outside our control so we settled in to wait.

When we finally landed in Cincinnati a few hours later we were dismayed to see our connecting flight taking off in front of our eyes. My heart sank. I had left my husband and babies at home and was quite anxious to see them. I was not thrilled about spending the night somewhere other than my own bed. We trudged to the closest agent to find out our options. To our delighted surprise, we were told that we could catch another flight home today! But it came with a condition — we would only be able to take it if we could get to the gate on time. It was across the airport and it was leaving shortly.

Oh, my. Now we really looked ridiculous, I’m sure. My dad took off running, my daughter keeping up with him. My mom and I did our best, but we are not runners. On each of our shoulders were big carry-ons and bags because – remember– luggage with wheels either didn’t exist or was too expensive to own at this point. I wouldn’t really classify myself (or my mom) as athletic, so  I am guessing–although I didn’t personally witness it– that we were the butt of a few jokes after that run through the airport.

The good news is that we made it to our connecting flight. The bad news is that my mom and I have never lived down that run through the airport, because my dad and my daughter are sure to remind us how silly we looked as we made that run. We aren’t offended because we know it was true. We still just laugh when we think about that unexpected–and quite stressful– moment.

But, you know

That run would have been totally different if we had prepared for it by running or at least exercising on a regular basis. It would have been totally different if we wouldn’t have had to carry any bags on our shoulders. These two things slowed our journey across the airport considerably.

Yeah, you know where I am headed with this by now, I’m sure.

Why are we so out of shape spiritually? And why do we insist on carrying so much baggage with us on our spiritual journey?

We say that we want to live fulfilled lives that please our Savior and yet we are never in the Word, we have no idea what it says, and many of us attend churches where the preacher never even opens the Bible. We rely on shallow feelings and emotions to take us to some kind of “deeper” walk with God, and yet never search the scriptures for the Truth. We have thrown out doctrine and absolute truth and then we wonder why we are never satisfied spiritually. We are never fulfilled because we have been hoodwinked by false teachers. Oh, be so wary of what you believe. It will slow you down considerably. Only by faithful studying of the Word will we be prepared for our spiritual journey through life.

And then, along with not studying God’s Word, we insist on carrying heavy loads with us. It’s like we have backpacks full of rocks– each with a different label. One rock says Terrible Parents. Another may say Wayward Child. Or Deadbeat Husband. Or Complaining Wife. They may say Sexual Abuse or Rejection or Betrayal. Many of us carry rocks that say Unforgiveness, Anger, and Bitterness. We hang on to these rocks and let them weigh us down. Some of us are so weighed down by our past — and even our present circumstances– that we can’t ever seem to make any headway in our spiritual journey at all. But this is never what the Lord intended for us. In fact, the Bible says just the opposite–

Psalm 55:22 Cast your burden on the LordAnd He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.

Matthew 11:28-29 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

We are to cast our burdens on the Lord.

But here’s the thing. Removing these rocks and baggage are decisions we have to make very deliberately. It will never  just happen. It takes some serious effort. And, really, it never ends. I know that for me, personally, I have to give some of my heaviest burdens to the Lord every single day. Thankfully, as we get into the practice of doing this, the burdens do feel lighter. Which is exactly what God promised.

And, thankfully, removing those rocks is a lot easier if we are exercising. Because when we are in the Word and learning about who God is and what He promises for those who love Him, we are better able to hand our burdens to the Lord. We learn to trust Him in a much deeper way and rely on His Word. We submit to His Sovereignty because we know, without a shadow of a doubt, that He loves us and will work all things together for good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28).

But by not being in the Word and carrying the heavy rocks of burden, we slow our pace down and then wonder why we never grow.

Think about removing some of those rocks today. And start by digging into God’s Word. Go. Do it now. It’s so much more important than this blog or the news or Facebook. Seriously. You don’t need a devotional or a special book. Just go get your Bible and start reading through one of the Gospels.

And I hope you will think about joining me for our Chronological reading through the Bible this coming year, starting January 1. We can hold each other accountable as we grow stronger in our faith together!

Have a great Monday!

 

Would you consider sharing this post if it has encouraged you? Thank you.

 

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