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Getting A Little Personal

September 12, 2018 Leave a comment

Bible QuestionThere are so many ways to read the Bible. You can read it like great literature, read it for academic purposes, read it to understand a culture, read it to gain a sense of morality, or, of course, read it for a myriad of spiritual reasons—to know GOD, to know His Son to know the working of His Spirit.

I’ve discovered the best way to read the Bible is to make it personal, to view the message of God’s Word as personal, and to understand the words as written for me—personally. How’s that for personal?

The Bible itself encourages this method of Bible study. David, speaking in Psalm 16:11, says, “You make known to me the paths of life.” David has a personal relationship with God. While it’s true the Bible has a message for all people, God intends for that message to be understood and received by each individual.

Although I read through the Bible every year, I always ask for new insight into how each day’s reading is speaking to me personally, what personal message God is intending for me in the verses, and in what way a particular Scripture can deepen my personal relationship with Him.

How personal can it get? Psalm 139 says it all.

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is high; I cannot attain it.

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
    Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
    If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
    and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light with you.

13 For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.[a]
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.

 

17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
    I awake, and I am still with you.

For a great selection of various Bible Reading Plans, click here.

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Trust Isn’t To Be Trusted

August 3, 2016 2 comments

Trust with blue markerPlacing trust in someone doesn’t mean they are trustworthy. Trusting a chair to hold you up doesn’t mean it’s sturdy enough to do the job of bearing your weight. Trust must have a basis. Otherwise, it’s not to be trusted.

Trust is a word that’s being discussed a lot these days. That’s probably why I was intrigued by a story about trust in the Old Testament.

Without getting too caught up in the details, here’s the background: The King of Assyria sends an army to fight the Israelites led by King Hezekiah. When the envoy from the King of Assyria arrives outside the gates of Jerusalem with a huge army, he has a message for King Hezekiah.

“Say to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: On what do you rest this trust of yours?'” 2 Kings 18:19

“On what do you rest this trust of yours?” Hezekiah rested his trust in the Lord. His trust was in the Almighty God, the God of his fathers, his Creator. He trusted Him for deliverance rather than an army of thousands. This was a trust to be trusted.

Hezekiah demonstrated his trust by praying for deliverance to a trustworthy God. “O Lord … you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth.”   

Hezekiah’s trust was well-placed.  God delivered the Israelites from the Assyrian army in a miraculous way (2 Kings 18-20).

One of Hezekiah’s ancestors, King Solomon, left instructions about how to trust the Lord. Those instructions are found in Proverbs 3:5-6. They involve two commands. 1) Don’t rely on your own understanding and 2) Acknowledge the Lord’s right to control your life.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your path straight.”

“On what do you rest this trust of yours?”

Here’s A Little Secret For You!

April 9, 2016 Leave a comment

secretEveryone loves secrets. Whisper a secret to a child, and immediately his eyes light up. However, children don’t have a corner on the secrets market. Adults love to hear secrets almost as much as children love to tell them.

God has secrets—boy, does He have secrets! As if we didn’t know this already, the Bible tells us so.“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 29:29)

When God came in the flesh in the person of Jesus, He revealed His secrets in a form mankind had never seen before. John 1:18, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”

Jesus revealed many secrets to his disciples.  He even revealed explicit details about his upcoming death. Matthew 20:18-19, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”

God even gave us a promise about His secrets: “For the Lord GOD does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7)

Every secret God wants us to know, He’s already revealed through his prophets. Just to make sure those of us living in this century would have access to those secrets, He had His prophets write them down.

So, you wanna know a secret? Just read His Word. There you’ll find the best-kept secrets!

{A longer version of this post was published in 2015. You can find it in the archives in April 2015}

What You Are NOT

January 8, 2016 2 comments

 During a recent interview about Titus Ray, the main character in my Christian fiction series, I was asked to describe some of his personality traits. By doing so, I came up with some attributes, which point out what Titus is not: He is not an extrovert. He is not a scholar. He is not a family man.

By pinpointing what a person is NOT, a picture emerges about what a person is. The apostle John does this in the Gospel of John. He says, “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.” John 1:6-8.

Perhaps the most important attribute about John the Baptist was what he was NOT. He wasn’t the Messiah; He wasn’t the Light; He wasn’t our Savior. He had to reiterate this several times during his ministry. Every time he did so, he was able to tell people who he really was. He was a witness sent to point people to the real Savior, Jesus Christ.

There are other examples in Scripture of what people were NOT: Joseph was not an adulterous slave boy. David was not an intimidated shepherd. Daniel was not a cowered exile. Paul was not a timid follower of Christ.

How would you answer this question, “What are you NOT?”

How you answer that question will enable you to see what you are. The NOT realization of what he was helped John to know his role. He wasn’t the Light, but he was to tell about the Light. Perhaps you’re NOT a Sunday School teacher, but you can be a Sunday School member. Perhaps you’re NOT a teacher of the Bible, but you can read the Bible. Perhaps you’re NOT a prayer warrior, but you can pray.

John was sent by God. “There was a man sent from God.” John 1:6.

John was sent by God to be who he was;  not someone he was NOT. Discover who you are NOT, and you’ll discover who you are.

 

 

Three “Finds” That Will Help You Find Your Way

August 21, 2015 Leave a comment

Finding Your WayIt’s easy to lose your way in the world. Our modern world has a myriad of paths from which to choose, and we can explore them all, saturating ourselves with facts and philosophies and desires and practices and beliefs.

However, like hikers exploring a new trail, there are some precautions we should take before we head off into the unknown. Otherwise, we’re sure to lose our way. These practices should serve us well, whether we’re looking at a belief system, a career choice, a new set of friends or anything requiring our time, money, and effort.

First, FIND a way to have a Daily Quiet Time
Spend at least thirty minutes every day in Bible study and prayer. It doesn’t matter how you do this. There’s a Bible reading plan out there that will match up with anyone’s learning style and preferences. The important thing is to put yourself in a position where your Father in heaven can communicate His love, His plan, and His desires for you, and  in return, you can catch a glimpse of His Glory.

Second, FIND a way to meet with others to worship God
Praising, loving, and serving God with other people will strengthen and enhance an individual’s faith. However, being with others in a faith-based group isn’t always about the individual’s needs. It’s about a people who together desire to give glory, honor and praise to an Almighty Creator who sacrificed His only son to make such a relationship possible.

Third, FIND a way to express your faith
Our belief in God requires an outlet. Otherwise, stagnation sets in. This expression can take many forms, and it may be different according to personality types. For some, it may mean singing, speaking, teaching or preaching. For others, it may mean journaling, writing, serving, or counseling.

Jeremiah 6:16: Thus says the Lord: Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.”

Four Pieces Of Advice

May 16, 2015 Leave a comment

public-speaking-fullsize-gettyIt’s that time of year when news organizations show clips of famous people giving speeches at graduation ceremonies. Some are funny. Some are practical. Some are full of platitudes. But, perhaps not surprisingly, most of the words won’t be remembered beyond the graduate’s walk across the stage.

That’s tragic because most college graduates could use some advice as they prepare to paddle their own boat across the ocean called life. Graduates who are professing Christians should be particularly concerned as they seek to discern the will of God about their future, and they should be wary of equating the secular principles of living the American Dream to the principles found in God’s Word, especially when it comes to what their future accomplishments should look like.

Here are four things I would tell a college graduate–or anyone for that matter–about measuring success in God’s Kingdom.

1. Your greatest asset isn’t your own abilities. While you may have been told all you need to do is work hard and keep on keeping on, don’t believe it. Your greatest asset is your utter dependence on God. “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” John 15:5.

2. While our sinful nature is bent toward making much of ourselves and looking out for our own interests, the gospel tells us to make much of Jesus and look out for His Kingdom. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33.

3. There’s no blueprint, formula, or method out there which will enable you to gauge what God is doing in your life. It simply doesn’t exist. If it did, you wouldn’t rely on God when He takes you to places you wouldn’t ordinarily go and has you do things you aren’t equipped to handle. God is too delighted in seeing your faith grow to tell you what He’s up to. Most of what He’s doing can only be understood through a rearview mirror. “For we walk by faith, and not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7.

4. If God’s Word is any gauge of how God operates–and it most definitely is–then He uses the weak, the nobody, the frightened soul, the lowly, and the despised to be a blessing and give Him glory. If you’re willing to be a piece of clay in the potter’s hands, He’s willing to fashion you into a beautiful vessel for His Kingdom’s work. But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter.” Isaiah 64:8.

 

 

When God Doesn’t Answer, Don’t Act Dumb!

March 1, 2015 2 comments

Dumb 1God promises to hear the prayers of His children. “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” 1 John 5:14. And Jesus told His followers in John 16:23, “Whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.”

Quite often, though, when I claim this promise from Him, I overlook one important aspect of it—He never promised to answer my prayers immediately. And, my timetable isn’t even mentioned in this verse.

The truth is, God often delays his answer whenever His children ask Him for something. There have been very few times when God has answered my petition within hours of presenting Him with some perceived need in my life. I’ve heard stories about the doorbell ringing or a letter arriving as soon as the “Amen” was spoken, but it doesn’t happen very often. At least, not to me.

So, when God doesn’t answer immediately, how do I respond? It would be easy to list a few Do’s. For example, I should  1.Examine my heart for unconfessed sin. (1 Peter 3:12). 2. Question the motives behind my request. (James 4:3). 3. Realize God’s ways are not my ways (1 Corinthians 13:12).

But, the best example of what NOT to do, is found in Exodus 32:1. “When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him,“Up, make us gods who shall go before us.”

The theology behind this passage is clear: When God delays answering your prayers, DON’T act dumb.

Don’t act dumb by 1. Providing your own answer. Like the golden calf, it will be a poor substitute for the real thing.

Don’t act dumb by 2. Acting out of fear. The Israelites rationalized their response by saying, “As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” Exodus 32:1. Fears for their future clouded their faith in God’s ability to provide for them and caused them to act irrationally.

Don’t act dumb by 3. Asking God to bless sinful behavior. After acting against God’s will for them, the Israelites sought God’s blessing for their actions. “And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings.” Exodus 32:6. Don’t expect God to bless something that came about as the result of sinful behavior.

The next time God delays in answering your petitions, don’t dumb down.

 

 

 

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