Taking the Read Through The Bible Challenge?

If you are taking the challenge to read the Bible in a year, stop by my other blog:


Weekly posts and an opportunity to ask questions or give your perspective. Let's study the Bible TOGETHER!

30 November 2011

The Essentials of Effective Prayer - 30 November

We have learned that worship is the first and last part of Jesus’ model prayer, and we know that we are to enter His gates with thanksgiving. How will that tie in with showing our allegiance to Him?

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Phil 3:20 (ESV)

For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Phil 3:20 (KJV)

I find those two translations fascinating. Conversation, as in prayer? Citizenship, as in allegiance?

We hold citizenship in America (or in another country) where we were born or chose to place our earthly allegiance. Our allegiance to our country comes with responsibility: taxes, voting and so on. But our ultimate allegiance is in heaven. And what responsibility do we have as citizens of heaven?

Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? 27  Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? 28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Matt 6:26-34 (KJV)

If I seek God’s kingdom, what will be added unto me?

In a typical day, how much time do we spend in seeking God’s kingdom? How much more time do we spend worrying about food and clothing? This passage shows me that most of the time, I get it wrong. I worry about stuff – about money, bills, food, clothes, presents (all of which are important, of course) – and I forget that God knows me and knows my needs.

But I don’t have a job. I lost my house. My bills are behind. Does that mean that God doesn’t care about me? Did I not pray long or hard enough? That question is very difficult. Sometimes it does seem like God is ignoring me, or avoiding me. And frankly, I don’t know why. It’s annoying to not get what I feel I need from God….oh….wait….what I feel I need….sigh.

God didn’t promise to provide us with a job or a house. He said He knows we need this stuff. He also says if we seek His kingdom, it will be added unto us. But He doesn’t promise us “health and wealth”. He says that He knows what we need. How can we swear allegiance to Someone who doesn’t SEEM TO provide us all the things we [think we] want or need? Simple. Look at our Biblical examples. Daniel – thrown into a den of lions. David – chased by his own son, who wanted to kill him. Paul – who spent years and years in prison. They didn’t have what they wanted, but they had what God wanted them to have.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 1 Tim 6:6-7 (KJV)

Is our food just physical? Or is there something more to this heavenly kingdom?

“It is written, “ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”  Matt 4:4 (ESV), citing: And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Deut 8:3 (ESV)

Oops. “Humbled”? I don’t wanna be humbled! I want to have it all. I want to keep up with the Joneses. 

It was the same for Israel. Wandering in the desert, even after being miraculously taken out of slavery, didn’t seem quite so wonderful now. No permanent homes. No food on the table. They wanted to go back, and feel the relative comforts of slavery rather than press on to see the land flowing with milk and honey promised by God. And of course Israel was humbled for their lack of trust and their grumbling.

As a heavenly citizen, I should concern myself more with Godly food: the Bible. I should show my allegiance to God by thanksgiving and prayer. I can’t know God’s will without studying His Word. I can’t get answers unless I ask questions and talk to God.

What does this all mean to you? How has learning that your citizenship is in heaven, that God promises that He knows what you need, and that your bread is not merely physical changed your attitude toward prayer and the Word? Will you spend more time in either, or both, this week? Let me know!

29 November 2011

Following God's Lead

I was in Barnes and Noble today. They have an area with seating, but to use the seating, you are asked to purchase something from the Starbuck’s coffee nook.

I was standing in line, waiting to buy my coffee, and in front of me was an elderly lady. I had never met her before. She was calmly waiting in line, looking at the various sweets available.

No words were shared, just mutual admiration for the sweets.

When it was time to order, I felt God prompt me to purchase her coffee and sweet for her. I got out my money, and when the total was announced, I  pushed my money to the clerk and announced that I would pay.

The lady was astonished. She turned to me and asked me why. I told her that I was paying it forward, and that I just wanted to. Her eyes began to water, and she said, “I thought you saw the black ribbon.”

It turns out that she was recently widowed. They were married 62 years. She told me that she hoped it would get easier. I told her that I hoped so as well.

As she left, she told me that my act was the nicest thing that had happened to her in a long time.

Maybe you will have the opportunity to show God’s love during this season. Quietly pay it forward. No ceremony or fanfare, no outward religiosity, no expectations.

I know that I will take opportunities to show God’s love in this way again. Words can’t express the honor I felt to know that God gave me a part in making a widow’s day a little brighter.

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.  Matt 25:35-40 (ESV)

28 November 2011

The Essentials of Effective Prayer - 28 November

Welcome to “the holidays”. A time when people watch the ads to get the best deals; when fights break out between shoppers; when…..But, wait… we celebrate Christ’s birth! Please keep Christ in Christmas. We can honor the gift giving traditions, but we can’t serve God and money!

Now on to our Bible study….

With Thanksgiving over, the “official” thanking season also ends. But do you remember to thank God when you pray? Do you truly “count your blessings” when you speak to the Almighty? And what does that do for you?

Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. 20 Daniel answered and said:  “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. 21  He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; 22  he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him. 23 To you, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for you have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we asked of you, for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”  Dan 2:19-23 (ESV)

Daniel interpreted a dream that no one else could. He did it by seeking God. What did Daniel do once he knew the dream’s meaning? Did he puff himself up and tell the King that I interpreted the dream? Did he seek wealth and fame? No! He gave thanks. His thankfulness and allegiance to God were wrapped up together. Without walking close to God,  Daniel would have not been used so mightily. Without thanking God for His blessings, Daniel would not have seen God’s infinite power – not once, but several times in his lifetime.

Daniel's prayer highlights several characteristics of God in this passage. What do you see? And how do you think that focusing on God’s characteristics and our thankfulness to him will affect both our prayer and our everyday life?

I know that in my “normal” life, when I feel grateful or thankful to someone, it manifests itself in stronger feelings of love and service toward that person. It’s the same with God. When I take my focus off my needs, my petty problems, and yes…my selfish wants, and remember that He has done so much, it makes me feel closer to Him. For me, the one thing that God has done that brings me the most awe and wonder is creating each grain of sand. When I contemplate sand and see each of those tiny, tiny grains, it reminds me that God has created every one of us in exactly the same loving manner. That allows me to focus on the bigger things for which I am thankful. I find that when I focus on God, rather than myself, the things in life that seemed important are minimized. What do you think about when you give God thanks?

Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. 5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. 6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Phil 4:4-7 (KJV)

Wow! We are to pray with thanksgiving. Not just pray selfishly, but with a grateful heart. And then what happens? – God’s peace will “keep your hearts and minds”. Thanksgiving leads to peace! That is surely not what the world tells us. If we watch TV or listen to the radio, we learn that we are to get “stuff” to get peace. God’s world is a much simpler world than our narcissistic society. His peace trumps any "thing" which I could find in the stores.

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. 2 Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. 3 Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. 5 For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations. Psalm 100:1-5 (KJV)

What is the expression of thanksgiving? Joy and service. When we are thankful, we want to reach out to others to share that thankfulness. Service to our family. Service to our community. Service to our nation. All of those, done with a heart of thanksgiving toward God, will show our love and appreciation for Him. All of those will show our society that the Lord IS good. But don’t let external service prevent you from service to your church. If you have a few minutes, ask what you can do at your church. You may not have money, but you can change a light bulb or wield a paintbrush. You may be too timid to sing in the choir or greet others on Sunday, but you can fold and stuff bulletins or help set out chairs for the service. There are always a million things to do in your local church. Ask around. You’ll find gratefulness from the staff as you serve the Lord with gladness.

Prayer and thanksgiving. A happy cycle which brings us closer to God!

What will you do this week to add thanksgiving to your prayer life? Will you stop and thank Him for a specific blessing every morning? Will you serve Him in a different way? Will your thankfulness change your daily attitude? Your life? I know it will change mine!

24 November 2011

The Obligatory Thanksgiving Post (which I am thankful to write)

It's that time of the year again. The hustle and bustle for the turkey dinner is happening; Christmas decorations are coming out; there's a mess everywhere (and if you have kids that are anything like I was, they are trying to find ways to weasel out cleaning duties). We know it's the day to "give thanks", and our dinner prayer might be a little more fervent. We might ask people what they are thankful for. Here's MY list of things to be thankful for. Can you add anything to it?

First and foremost -- I thank God that He gave my mother the ability to send me to a Christian elementary school to find out about Jesus Christ and to bow my knee to Him, confessing my need for a forgiveness and a Savior, in 5th grade.

God has blessed me with a perfect apartment, the perfect landlords, and the perfect living situation. I have the perfect job which supplies my needs and creates a situation where I lean on God on a daily basis.

My friends know of my quirks and love me anyway.

My enemies are few.

I have electricity, running water, a comfortable bed, and companionship of two wonderful dogs as well as visitation to four goddogs.

God opens and closes doors for me in a way that makes it clear which path He has prepared for me.

I have been blessed with the gift of Thrift and the gift of creativity, which allows me to live out the song "Little Is Much When God Is In It".

Because I spend time in His Word, I am constantly improving myself through the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

This year, God has worked on my "eye trouble" as well as my "I trouble", and I find myself able to turn away from temptations of the eyes a lot easier. As to my "I trouble" -- He is helping me to see areas where selfishness still resides.

God has also shown me that He keeps His promises! The more of me (or of money, time, possessions) that I pass along, the more He gives to me. I am not talking about "health and wealth gospel". I mean the peace and joy that comes from knowing that the things I do are in His will. It's been an interesting journey, that's for sure!

I am thankful for technology. I can study my Bible from my telephone, my computer, or a physical book. I have unlimited free resources on the internet. I am able to listen to many preachers via podcasts. All of these things are helping me to grow.

I am thankful that I see God's Word unfolding in today's newspapers. Every day it seems that the Bible is being proven in the nightly newscasts.

I am thankful that God brought me to Gracepoint Church. I am able to use my talents in His service as never before.

I am thankful that God has provided me with a "thorn in my flesh" situation. It gives me the opportunity to obey Him, to work on my patience, to refrain from speaking when I should remain silent. Every time I am ready to give up on the situation, God brings someone into my path who reminds me that I am where He wants me to be. When it's hard, I am learning to give thanks. When I want to speak out, I am reminded to lean on the promise in Exodus 14:14 -- "The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”When I think it's unbearable, I remember what He bore for me.

And finally, I am thankful that through prayer, my contentment comes because the things He has blessed me with have truly become the desires of my heart.

Happy thankful day!

23 November 2011

The Essentials of Effective Prayer - 23 November

We’ve learned that we need to worship God in our prayer life. But to do that, we need to know who God is. He is given many names in the Bible.

After Abraham rescued Lot and defeated five kings, he worshiped God. Here’s what the priest did:

18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) 19 And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; 20 and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” Gen 14:18-20 (ESV)

God Most High. El-Elyon. God is sovereign.

This one is easy for me to pass by. It’s “just words in a prayer”, right? Upon reflection, what is Melchizedek saying? I think that phrases like God most high are lost in today’s language. We call a blooming onion awesome and we say we love a certain color. That tends to diminish the phrase God most high. But stop and think.


Why is He the Most High? What did He do to receive that exalted position? For me, it’s knowing that God created sand from nothing. Why sand? Because glass comes from sand, and I spend a lot of time working with glass.  As I form the glass, it’s easy to say I did it, but the reality is that without God, the Most High One, creating the sand… we are so unworthy of His love! But He loves us and wants to talk to us, and He does – through His Word. Shouldn’t we exalt Him in our conversation to Him – our prayers?

The Psalmist has many names for God. How is He described in these verses?

1 He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. 3 Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. 4 He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. 5 Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; 6 Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. 7 A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. 8 Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked. 9 Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; 10 There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. 11 For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. Psalms 91:1-11 (KJV) – italics in my King James version

Wow! Not only does God promise to deliver me – he sends angels to help! Why do I bother to worry when I have all these promises at my disposal?

How do these promises help you? Was there a time that you clung to the promises and came through a trial with peace and calm? Or are you a worrier? Do you forget all the amazing promises of protection that God gives us?

One more description of God this week, and then it’s off for Thanksgiving festivities:

“If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, your healer.”  Ex 15:26 (ESV)
Jehovah Rapha – the Lord Who heals. He can heal me physically. He can heal my wounded spirit. He can heal my nerves. He can heal my relationships. He heals.

It is helpful to pray the scriptures. It brings them to life in our mind, and it reminds us of God’s promises. I close this week with Psalm 107. Use it to remind yourself of the greatness of God the next time you pray! It’s a great scripture to read before your Thanksgiving meal, too.

1      Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! 2 Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble 3 and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. 4 Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in; 5 hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them. 6 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. 7 He led them by a straight way till they reached a city to dwell in. 8  Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! 9 For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things. 10  Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons, 11 for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High. 12 So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor; they fell down, with none to help. 13  Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. 14 He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart. 15  Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! 16 For he shatters the doors of bronze and cuts in two the bars of iron.  Psalms 107:1-16 (ESV)

Happy Thanksgiving. And please keep in mind the real reason for the Christmas season.