God’s Word is… God’s Word

“All scripture is God- breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  II Timothy 3:16-17

If we are to draw closer to God, we need to spend time in His word.  What are your thoughts regarding the Bible?  Do you believe the above scripture?  Or do you tend to ‘pick and choose’ which reading fits what you are looking for?

Do you know what the scriptures say?  Have your read the Bible through? I am not trying to throw you on a guilt trip here- just think we all need to be real with ourselves.  How can we discount something if we do not know what it says?

Brought up in the church most of my childhood, I knew that Jesus loves, Jesus saves.  When I got to a Christian college, I needed to take a Bible class.  Someone had the audacity to say Jesus got angry and threw a tantrum outside the temple.  I was horrified someone would say such a thing!

Until I read it myself. (Matthew 21:12-13) How horrified was I to realize I had a lot to learn!  Yes, Jesus loves!  Yes, Jesus save!  Yes, Jesus had righteous anger, and demonstrated it!

When I got really serious about reading the Bible, which unfortunately was not until a few years later, I decided it was high time to read it the whole way through.  I love Bible studies and classes at church- I always get so much from others comments, and others are so kind to listen to me and answer questions.  But, I did not realize many things until I read the Bible through for myself.

What sparked my decision?  I began homeschooling our oldest (only school-age child at the time!) daughter.  I was determined my children would grow up knowing the word of God.  I had always told them about God, taken them to church, read the Bible stories, and prayed with them.

But when we began homeschooling, and I needed to teach Bible as a subject, I realized this teacher better know her subject!  Thankfully, I started out with first grade!  We used a text in addition to our Bible, the text was Leading Little Ones to God.  I must say, at times I thought this book was misnamed. It can lead big ones to God too! It is a fantastic book to simplify all the tenements of faith, and explain in real, understandable terms what the Bible says.  (And by the way, if you have never read the Bible through, you may be truly surprised!  Anything that happens under the sun, is covered in the Bible.  Anything.  So if you are reading it to your kids, be prepared to define words like prostitution, concubine, and adultery, to name a few.)

I read the Bible through in less than a year the first time.  I had notebooks filled with quotes from scripture, (revelations to me!).  And I first realized God promises many things!  I began listing those promises, relying on a few.  Praying a few.  Trusting in God much more than I had before.

This time frame coincided with our family moving to yet another new city, but my reading it was no coincidence.   My husband traveled four days a week for work.  We had no family there.  But I had God.  Most importantly, I learned what God said.  And, I can testify, since I read through His Word in 2004, I have seen for myself that God does not break His promises.

I have asked what I thought was impossible (yet not ungodly!), and He delivered.  When my heart has been broken, time and time again, I know He is there, holding my tears in His hands.  When I truly did not think I possessed any more strength, He carried me.  When I cried out asking Him to help me believe, faith was in my heart.

I never would have made it through cancer treatment had I not read the Bible through.  In chemo I could not always remember exact quotes (chemo brain, the medical profession calls it!), yet the meaning was in my heart.

One of the more difficult moments I had in chemo, I cried out, “God, I do not even know where to begin in prayer!” I had my Bible in my hands, and turned to Romans 8.  I was thinking of reading Romans 8:28 again to remind myself God would use even this for good.  But my eyes happened to settle a few verses above “In the same way the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” Romans 8:26  It was exactly what I needed at that moment.  And God was delivering once again, giving me a verse when I had forgotten it existed.  But since that moment, I have never forgotten Romans 8:26!

I did not memorize the Bible the first time I read it, (or any subsequent time thereafter).  But each time I read it, something new stands out.  I memorize more scripture, I learn where I can find more stories, things stick in my mind.  In short, time in God’s word is never wasted!

I have learned that the more Scripture you know, the closer you are to God, the more you can draw from Him, and help someone else.

Thinking about this post for the past week, I contemplated giving you reasons why we should believe the Bible is God breathed.  My husband and I taught a Bible class last spring quarter, examining this very topic.  We came up with all kinds of archeological evidence, historical evidence, and scriptural evidence.  At some future point, I think I will post it. But I really felt I should explain beyond academics here.  This is personal.  I know He is real.  I know His word is real.  I honestly do not believe you could talk me out of it.  I have seen too much, lived through too much.  I really believe God is who He says He is.  And if you are not there at this moment, I encourage you to investigate it.  Read the Bible through.  Ask God to reveal Himself to you.  You will not be disappointed.

I have asked, and been asked myself, where do you start when you read the Bible through?  I personally usually begin in the New Testament.  Why? For me, it is about hearing what Jesus said, and trying to learn from His teaching.  What an incredible teacher! He knew his time on earth was brief, so what was recorded has true significance. And, here is a great place to begin discovering how much God loves you!  After the New Testament, I read the Old Testament.  My mother-in-law summed it up perfectly once, when she said, ‘you need to read the Old Testament in order to understand the why? of the New Testament’.  The Old Testament clarifies the reason Jesus needed to give His life to save us.

But, the order is not nearly as important as just reading it, in any order. Thanks for reading, this l-o-n-g post!

Reflection questions: What do I know about the Bible? What would I like to learn?

Action:  1) Pray for God to show you Himself!

2) Determine a time, most days of the week, where I can read the Bible.

3) Determine where to start.  You do not need an entire reading plan, just a starting place. Once you get going, you will find where to go when you complete the starting book.

4) Read!

5) You may want to find an “accountability” partner, someone who will ask how your reading is going.  Maybe, someone will read with you!

Please return next Monday, January 23, Lord willing, for a look at encouragement.

Am I correctable?

Yesterday we asked the question: Am I teachable?

Today, we want to ask: Am I correctable?

Being teachable implies a willingness and ability to learn. Often it used in the idea of learning something new.

Being correctable implies a humility wherein I can acknowledge I am completing a task in a wrong manner, and I am willing to change.

In order to draw closer to God through reading His word, we each need to be teachable and correctable.  If you are reading this blog, you have the ability to learn.  Only you can answer if you are correctable are you willing to let the Holy Spirit work in you to show you where you may have had false ideas about Scripture, or salvation, or God?

How humbling to realize when something you have done for years, is wrong.  How humbling when you learn something you believed for years is wrong.  God wants us humbled.  When we are truly humbled, we are ready to listen to His voice, and ready to make the necessary changes. When we are humbled, we can finally get ourselves out of the way and let God work through us.

Proverbs 16:18 “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”   Because of relocating many times in our first decade of marriage, my husband and I have attended several churches over the years.  What drew us most to any church wherever we landed, was the church whose body said “We do not know everything.  We turn to Scripture and we ask questions!”  They were not burdened by human traditions.  They were willing to change if  Scripture told them something they followed was false, or simply not there.

Am I that way?  Am I willing to put my beliefs to the Scripture test?  I certainly believe so, certainly hope so.

We are all human, we have all sinned and fall short fo the glory of God, yet He still loves us.  He is still offering forgiveness.

Because He chose me, I want to give His word an in-depth study.  I want to be teachable and be correctable.

How about you?

As you reflect on today’s post, pray that we each embark on a quest for truth.

Please return on Monday, when, Lord willing, we will begin our examination of the Scriptures.

Am I teachable?

We have completed the study on prayer, which was first on our list of what we can do to draw closer to God.  Before we begin our study on reading the Bible, we need to ask ourselves a few questions: Am I teachable?  Am I correctable?

Our text is taken from  II Timothy 4:2-4  “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage- with great patience and careful instruction.  For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine.  Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”

This passage made me think of parenting my children.  There are precepts and principles I want to instill in them before they leave home. I have learned something about teaching children: you must watch for and seize those teachable moments!

Paul is instructing Timothy: be prepared to seize those teachable moments! Speak the truth without watering it down! But speak with great patience and careful instruction.

Great patience: something I often lack, especially when tired. Sometimes when I am frustrated with my child, I wonder how often God is frustrated with me. Yet, patiently, He is waiting there. He loves me (and you!) with the deepest of passions and He wants the best for us, so He waits patiently. He is waiting for my heart to soften, my rebellion to pass, so I will be pliable, and He can seize that teachable moment with me.

What can I do to become more teachable? First, try to step outside myself, and yield to Him.  Easier said than done, for sure.  Yet, God knows the heart.  We need to ask Him to help us yield to His Spirit. And then we must trust He will help us.  “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength”. Philippians 4:13

As I reflect on how God teaches me, He does the very same as Paul instructed Timothy: correct, rebuke, and encourage. Jesus did the very same with His ministry here on earth.

Let’s learn from the best! On Wednesday, we will explore the question: Am I correctable?

Reflection:  Am I teachable?  In what ways am I stubborn?  How does that hinder me from learning?

Prayer: Praise, Petition, and Unleashing Power Part Five

I hope you all had a great weekend!  It is hard to believe we are so far into the New Year!  How are your resolutions going?

Today we will conclude our study of the Lord’s Prayer.  The final verse, Matthew 6:13 says:  “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

Obviously none of us desires to fall into temptation.  Praying against temptation is a smart practice.  Also, setting up personal “guard rails” is wise. “Guard rails” are events or things which alert you to the fact your are dangerously close to going over the edge into sin. (A simple example might be, for someone tempted by alcohol, do not keep it at home, do not drive past the store where you can purchase it, if the desire is stronger when you are tired, make certain to plan for adequate rest, etc).

Interesting that the next phrase is “but deliver us from the evil one”.  We can all agree the evil one is Satan, who is constantly trying to tempt us into sin, to separate us from God.

Many people who have been Christians for a while find ways to keep temptation at bay, at least most of the time.  What struck me this weekend, is how to handle temptation when the unexpected happens.

This more I received some sad news. A friend and Christian sister died last night.  She had several young children who need mom.  She had a husband who needs his wife.  I prayed for over two years for God to heal her.

As I thought about temptation today, I thought how easily I could be tempted to conclude God did not hear me, or could not heal.  I know none of that is true.  I know that I simply can not see the entire picture. If, in His wisdom, He chose to bring my friend home to him, where she is no longer suffering, then I need to trust Him.  But, oh, my heart aches for her family.

I truly believe God has each of us in the palm of his hand, and He would not allow anything to happen to us which necessitates pain unless He will bring good from it. (Romans 8:28)

I do not believe He authors our trials, but rather either agrees to them and /or limits them so that He can work good in all our lives.  (Job 1:6-12)

He also promises to not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear.  And, when we are tempted He promises to provide a way out! (I Corinthians 10:13)

How easy for me, for all of us, when trials come, to imagine God does not see, does not care.  How easy for us to believe we do not matter to Him.

How easy for Satan to feed us those lies- and how terrible for us when we chose, in our pain, in our exhaustion, to believe them.

The guard rails I have set up for the unexpected: first, recognize that I need some quiet time alone with God.  In order to “hear His voice”, and feel His peace in the midst of chaos, I need to be alone with Him.  Second, I try to refrain from making any judgements, voicing anything negative, such as thoughts and feelings, until I can get that time with Him.  My girls, and several others close to me, are always watching how I respond to everyday life: I try to be the best example I can, while I humbly acknowledge how human I am!  And last, when I am tired, emotional, and just mentally spent, I put it on hold, until I can recharge. I have learned with myself, nothing good, nothing which glorifies God seems to come from my mental ramblings in exhaustion.

The reflection I would like to ask you tonight: in the midst of your personal trials, do you choose to see God is holding you, even when you can not see where you are going?  Or, as most of us have at one point or another, do you choose to let your present feelings dictate the lens through which you view God at that moment: dark, distant, dreary?

What “guard rails” could you erect for yourself, so when challenges come, you are better prepared?

Please return Tuesday morning, Lord willing, for the next post.

Prayer: Praise, Petition, and Unleashing Power, Part Four

The Lord’s Prayer has been our focus this past week.  In our quest for learning more about prayer and drawing closer to God, we have covered several areas: praise, acknowledging God as king, and laying our requests at His feet.

Today we will focus on Matthew 6: 12, 14-15  “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

When you go to God in prayer, it is best to have a clear conscience. (Not always easy because we have all fallen and fall short of the glory of God!), but we need to be right with God.  We need to seek His forgiveness for the wrongs we have committed, or the rights we have not.

Before we can go any further in prayer, after asking God’s forgiveness we need to examine our hearts to determine  we need to forgive anyone.

Sometimes, it is hard to let go of hurts.  Sometimes it is painful.  Sometimes we believe certain infractions are too difficult to forgive- I know.

But forgive we must, if we expect God to forgive.

So, how do we get from point A (deeply hurt) to point B (freely forgiving)?

Prayer.  (Not to sound redundant! But seriously, who do you know who can suffer at the hands or mouths of others, and yet freely forgive without help from God?)  God loves us when we are unlovable, we can pray for grace to love others when they are not easy to love.

I often remember the man talking with Jesus, asking Jesus to help him overcome his disbelief.  When we need to forgive someone and find it difficult, if not near impossible on our own (!), we need to ask God to help us forgive them. God can provide that grace.  We need to ask him to use us as a vessel, and let His grace flow through us toward the offender.

It is not easy.  But, it is not impossible. (One side note: forgiving someone is necessary, but leaving yourself open to being hurt again is not what forgiving someone is about.  You might forgive someone for assaulting you, but you do not need to walk down a darkened alley with him again.)

In a devotional I once read, Corrie ten Boom wrote about her public speaking experience after World War II. Her topic: forgiveness.  One engagement in particular stood out in her mind.  As she was speaking, one man in the audience looked very familiar to her.  Near the end of her speech, she realized who he was: a guard from her concentration camp.

After her speech, this man made his way up to her.  She wrote that it was all she could do to meet his gaze and shake his hand.  His tear-filled eyes met hers and he said “I am sorry.”

She wrote that it was easier to forgive him after the apology, but not easy.  We do not all receive some semblance of satisfaction, knowing the offender realized his wrongs, because we do not all receive an apology. Sometimes, the offender even lies about his mistakes.  Yet, God has sufficient grace to cover that too.

Our goal is to do what we can to live peaceably with others.  What someone else does is his concern, and he will be held accountable for it. We must focus on our part in the equation, and trust God to give us the grace to do what we are called to do.

Reflection: Is there anyone I need to forgive?  How can I better pray for God’s help in this matter?

Prayer: Praise, Petition, and Unleashing Power, Part Three

I hope you are all having a great week- it can be hard to jump back into routine!

Continuing on with our study of The Lord’s Prayer, today we focus on Matthew 6:11. “Give us this day our daily bread”.

This verse highlights that we are to ask God for what we need. He already knows what we need, but He loves to hear from us, to see us asking Him and trusting Him.

Our needs do not end with physical or material requests.  We have emotional needs and spiritual needs, as well.  God knows that- He created us!  So, we can also ask Him to fulfill our emotional and spiritual needs.

A few years ago, I was asking God to give me peace.  Without going into details, many things in my life needed to change.  I had no peace.  I saw no way out, no way to improve the situation.  I asked God repeatedly to move in a big way.

I had some medical issues, which ended up sending me to a specialist, who determined I should have surgery.

When I awoke from that surgery, my doctor and my husband came into the room.  The doctor looked at me, and said, “Stefanie, I walked your tissue to the lab myself, you have cancer”.

Forty-five minutes later I was in our car, riding home with my husband.  He kept looking over at me, asking if I were alright.  I guess he thought I was loopy from the surgical drugs because I had a small smile on my face.

I was only 32.  There was very little family history.  This was not what I wanted, but it had God written all over it.  I was curious (on many levels!) to see what God would do.

But I was at peace. Psalm 23:2-3 says “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.”  I was graciously given, at that moment, and for oh-so many to follow, a deep satisfying peace which passes all understanding. My soul was at peace.  I could trust God entirely- even with my life on the line- quite literally.

God not only provided for my emotional needs, but He also provided for my physical needs as well.  Today, there is no cancer in my body.  I am much closer to God as a result of the experience.

There were so many good things which came from my journey, but for myself, I often think that God used it to draw me even closer to Him, to let me know that yes, He can provide for me physically, even when doctors tell me statistically I will not be here in five years.  And, He wants me (and you!) to know He loves us each immensely and wants to provide for us emotionally and spiritually as well.

I think sometimes, He just wants to be asked.

Reflection: What concerns or requests have I withheld from God?  Why?

Take some time today to share those with Him, He really wants to hear the desires of your heart!

Prayer: Praise, Petition, and Unleashing Power, Part Two

Are you getting excited about prayer yet?  I know I am!  I love digging deeper into God’s word and learning new things!

Let’s return to Matthew chapter six.  You may recall yesterday we began studying The Lord’s Prayer as a means of learning how we ought to pray.  Today let’s focus on verse ten.

You kingdom come

Your will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

The first part- your kingdom come- implies we are speaking to a king.  You cannot have a kingdom without a king. Again, we are acknowledging who God is.  He is “Lord of lords and King of kings”, (Revelation 17:14)  This is another reminder that we are to humble ourselves before Him and honor Him with praise as to who He is.

The next sentence- Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven- speaks volumes.  First, Your will, not my will, not the President’s will, but God’s will, be done.  We are to remember who is all knowing, all powerful, and all loving.  He knows best.  When we think of it that way, we realize only His will, will do.

The final section for today, the phrase- on earth as it is in heaven- which when placed with the first part of the sentence tells us that God’s will is done in heaven.  None of this, I hope it is, business- simply put- it is. He controls heaven, and He also had complete control of Earth.  If you remember back in Genesis chapters 1 and 2, God made the world, and had complete control over it.  God gave Adam and Eve a choice to follow Him, and they did not choose to obey Him.

Some would say this is when Satan received his temporary, limited control of the earth.  He does have control of this earth for a time.  Not complete control.  Remember in Job, Satan had to ask permission to test Job.  So, Satan’s power is limited.

What can further limit it? PRAYER.

God will often intervene on our behalf when requested.  When we pray: Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, we are helping to unleash God’s power.  Remember Abraham in Genesis 18: 22-33.  Abraham is distraught with the impending destruction of Sodom.  He repeatedly asks God not to destroy it for the sake of the righteous. in dwindling numbers. God finally assured Abraham that He would not destroy it for the sake of ten.  God knew Abraham’s heart, and He sent angels to rescue Lot and his family before the destruction struck.

I would like to end with a quote from a dear friend.  She once told me, “I want to be the kind of woman that when I wake up in the morning, Satan says “Yikes! She’s up!”

Reflection: How can I pray to help limit Satan’s control of this world?

Prayer: Praise, Petition, and Unleashing Power, Part One

Happy New Year!  How is your year so far? Mine got off to an unexpected start: thanks to icy interstates, my family and I are in a hotel room on the wrong side of the state, instead of home tonight!  Earlier today, we were all praising God for keeping us safe as a neighboring car spun out of control and stopped within a foot of our car.  Thankfully we are safe, and God can use this too!

We left off last time planning our New Year’s resolution: Getting Closer to God.

Spending time in prayer is our primary method of communicating with God. But, you may ask, how should I pray? Many verses in the Bible address this question.  Over the next five days, we will take a closer look at Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 6:9-13.

“Our Father, who art in heaven,

hallowed be thy name,

your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,

give us this day our daily bread.

Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from the evil one.”

We may more commonly know the above passage as The Lord’s Prayer. While it would be completely acceptable to repeat it verbatim, let’s examine it more thoroughly. Let us break it down, noting what we are to say in prayer. 

The first two lines will be our focus for today. First, Jesus acknowledged who God is, and He is holy . Seasoned Christians might call this praise. We are often taught to praise God in prayer, recalling how wise and wonderful He is, and the fact that we, mere humans, are in no way on the same level.  Earlier today, our hearts stoppped as that other car slid recklessly on the icy highway, coming toward us.   Now, hours later, I can see how God protected us.

Jesus humbled himself before God the Father. By acknowledging His infinite superiority, we are again reminded why we worship Him.  Why we ought to obey Him, why we should serve Him.

A great exercise for today: in five minutes, list as many of  the characteristics of God that you can. (Feel free to post your lists!)

Now, look over your list.  I know the characteristics of Stefanie in no way compare to my list of God’s. Looking at the list is a great reminder of why He is God, and I am not, and why He deserves my praise.

 

New Year’s Resolutions

Draw Closer To Him is the title of this blog.  The “Him” being God, creator of the universe, and also our heavenly father. Most fathers would do absolutely anything for their children.  I know mine would.  For those without a loving relationship with your earthly father, I am so sorry.  Our first glimpse of our heavenly father is the love of an earthly father.

My dad lives in another state. Yet, we talk several times per week.  There was a time, a few years ago when my dad called me every weekday. The purpose?  He knew I was struggling.  I was in chemotherapy, and my prognosis was not encouraging. Thanks to the drugs, I felt I could not process information and my brain did not seem to function properly.  It was difficult following conversations, and remembering information. Dad did not mind.  He kept it simple.  I knew every afternoon at an appointed time, dad would call.  He was checking on me.  He was giving me something positive to anticipate. He was doing everything in his power to help me.

Like my earthly father with me, our heavenly father wants to supply all our needs. He loves us immeasurably and is just waiting to hear from us!  He wants us to come to Him.

“Come near to God and He will come near to you.” James 4:8  God promises to draw closer to each of us if we pursue Him.

How do we pursue Him?

This is a time when many of us make New Year’s resolutions.  This year, make your relationship with God a priority!

Join me in a challenge: schedule regular time in God’s word: The Bible.  Everyday is great, but let’s not overwhelm ourselves- strive for most days of the week.

Another challenge: talk with God.  He loves to hear from you!  He already knows what you are going to tell Him, but in these conversations, you will learn to pause and let Him talk to you. By regularly conversing with your heavenly father, you will become more spiritually minded- maybe even find yourself not taking the stresses of this world so seriously!

Please return on  Tuesday, January 3, God willing, for some words of encouragement.

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