Reflection

Bible Study Review

  • Posted on December 21, 2020 at 5:16 pm

I hope you are having a blessed December. After a moderate fall temperature-wise, we are finally getting the cold temperatures that Michigan is used to this time of year. I don’t prefer cold weather but I try not to complain since every season serves a purpose.

Last week I wrote up a review of the Bible studies that Family Renewal (the company I work with) sells to send to our email list, and I thought I would share this with you all as well.

Years ago, I didn’t see the importance of Bible studies or devotionals but I have changed my mind on that. Although I read my Bible every day, and I read through the Bible to make sure I don’t miss anything, it can still be easy to read over a lot since it is so familiar. For me, going through a Bible study causes passages to jump out at me that I may not have noticed before. It forces me to slow down as I read the Word so that it becomes life. I have opted to do my studies at night before I go to bed so that I can ponder them if I need to instead of jumping into my day and forgetting what I’ve read. I don’t do this every night, but I like having a study that I can pull off my shelf and dig deep in order to examine my heart through the light of God’s Word.

So without further ado, let me describe the studies that have been a blessing to me and help you to choose the one that is right for you.

A Lamp Unto My Feet is a study on Psalm 119. I view this as a starter study. If you are new to Bible studies or if you have a teenage son or daughter who would be interested in studying, this could be a good place to begin. Psalm 119 is all about loving God’s Word and His laws. I found myself worshiping as I went through this study. You will be inspired and encouraged each day.

He Leads Me Beside Still Waters is on the book of Psalms. This too is an encouraging study. You will meditate on various Psalms, answer questions, and then it will suggest another Psalm that you can read. I feel like we can learn a lot from David since Scripture called him a man after God’s own heart. Psalms is a good place to begin.

Pressing On Toward the Heavenly Calling is a deeper study which goes through the epistles. Then at the end of each week, you will read a portion of Acts and learn a little more about Paul’s life.

The above are all 12-week studies, but if you are someone who has walked with God for a long time and is strong in your relationship (or want to become so), I highly recommend a 24-week study titled The Walk of Repentance. I have gone through this three times in the last 15 years or so. Two of those times, it took me over a year to finish. It’s hard-hitting, as it covers topics such as Biblical Submission, The Repentant Heart, The Lifestyle of Repentance, The Process of Repentance, Overcoming Self, Overcoming the Flesh, Controlling the Tongue, Double-Mindedness, Biblical Love, Biblical Forgiveness … just to name a few. 🙂 Each of those topics takes a week and within those weeks, you will be looking at root issues. For instance, the week of Biblical Forgiveness, you will learn about “Our Need for Forgiveness,” “Appreciating Our Forgiveness,” “The Basis for Forgiving Others,” “Commanded to Forgive,” and “Handling an Offense.” See what I mean? It’s not for wimps, but you are diving into the Word in a way that a lot of people have probably never done. This can also be a good counseling tool. There is very little commentary as you are looking up Scripture verses in whichever version of the Bible you use and writing down what the Bible says about each topic.

The newest additions to our Bible study line are some studies for women. The Word Study Scripture Journal for Ladies and The Word Study Scripture Journal for Young Ladies are designed for mothers and daughters to study together or individually. Each week begins with a hymn. Then each day, you will read a scripture verse, write it down, do a word study, write down the practical application, and keep a prayer journal. Although that sounds like a lot, I expect that most days will not take more than 15-20 minutes.

All of these studies are on sale through the end of the month so you will want to order right away.

Although they are not Bible studies per se, I would also like to mention my brother’s books Questions God Asks and Questions Jesus Asks. I mentioned that I do Bible studies at night, but in the morning, after my regular Bible reading, I like to read a devotional or a book that will help me to focus on the Lord. These can be perfect for that. They may be used in family devotions or individual study. They could also make good gifts for your pastor or small group leader. We are currently selling them as a set for $19.99 or you may purchase them individually.

Thank you for taking time to read my Bible study review. I hope that you will find at least one study that will help you to grow in your walk with the Lord this coming year. After the year we just had, I think we could all stand to refocus and remember that this world is not our final home. Let’s not neglect to draw ever closer to our Father, looking into His wonderful face until “the things of earth become strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”

Testify Anyway

  • Posted on December 16, 2020 at 9:11 pm

It seems like inevitably whenever I post about a certain topic, I am tested in that area. Likewise, whenever I publicly praise the Lord for increased health or some other positive thing that He is doing, I have a setback. This can cause me to think twice about giving God glory for anything, but you know what? If I give in to that temptation, satan has won so I am going to testify anyway.

The fact is that God is good. Period. Nothing I am going through changes who God is. He is the same yesterday and today and forever. Besides, we are told to rejoice in all things, and I expect this is why those tests come at those inopportune times.

If you are hesitant to share an answer to prayer, I encourage you not to hesitate any longer. Maybe your cancer is in remission but you are afraid to mention it in case it’s a fluke and it comes back. Praise God for His healing touch. If it does come back there is a reason, but it doesn’t make Him less worthy of praise. I want to take hold of that perfect love that casts out fear instead of letting fear control me.

I began writing this post back in 2019, but I expect that we need this reminder now more than ever. This has been a rough year for everyone, regardless of religious affiliation, color, or financial or social status. Different people have been hit in different ways, but I doubt you will find anyone who was not negatively affected in some way. At the same time, if you think about it, I’m guessing you have experienced blessings this year as well. I know that I have.

So, my friends, let’s not neglect to tell others of the good things that God has done for us. You may need to be sensitive and not share about your good fortune with someone who is at their rope’s end right now, but find people who you know will rejoice with you and let them know how good God has been. Ask others what God has done for them. If they can’t think of anything, encourage them to think about it until they come up with at least something positive that came out of 2020.

As I look ahead to 2021, I have concerns that could turn into paralyzing fear if I let them, but I am choosing to look to God instead of focusing on what feels foreboding. I encourage you to do the same. Don’t let the enemy find you cowering and afraid to give God glory in case things get bad again. Instead, testify anyway. Praise the Lord for every blessing He brings your way, no matter how small. Let’s enter the new year with rejoicing!

 

Photo by Kevin Schmid on Unsplash

Perfect Peace

  • Posted on December 13, 2020 at 5:36 pm

Last year, my stepmom took me to a sign-making class. I had been wanting more scripture plaques for my room, but it was difficult to decide what I wanted to say. The above verse kept coming to my mind so I personalized it and placed it where I will be reminded daily of the way to achieve complete and total (i.e., perfect) peace.

As I read Facebook posts and talk to people across the country, I know that I am not the only one who has battled fear in the last little while. This year has been quite unsettling and, as soon as someone asks the question, What else can happen? we quickly find out. Everything that can be shaken is being shaken, and I expect that we have not come close to seeing the end of it yet. Little did I know how much I would need Isaiah 26:3 this year. Lord, help me to keep my mind on You and trust in You.

I have been struck lately by how America is no longer the land of the free and the home of the brave. We have become the land of the masks and the home of the fearful. Before you all start stoning me, I know that we humanly have reason to be concerned about COVID-19, and we should do what we can to stay well, but ultimately, life and death are in God’s hands. If I am regularly washing my hands and face, steering clear of those whom I know to be sick, taking my vitamins, and anything else that might help, I have to trust God to cover me. I do not want to cease enjoying life because I’m afraid to do anything. And if I do end up contracting COVID and dying, I will believe that it was God’s timing.

The election is a big concern to some people as well, but at this point, if you voted, there is nothing you can do but pray and keep serving God to the best of your ability. If you didn’t vote, then it’s too late to do anything at this point, so you may as well keep doing what God has called you to do. Don’t forget that this world is not our home; we’re only passing through.

If you are fearful, I encourage you to reach out to someone who will pray with you and encourage you. These are the times we most need Christ’s Body. If you are doing well keeping your mind on Christ and staying above the worries of the world, ask God to show you someone that you can be an encouragement to. I’m thankful that I do not personally know anyone who has taken their lives this year, but I’ve heard that suicide has increased. Be willing to be a listening ear for someone who is struggling and remind them that the only hope that we have is in Jesus. I am so thankful that He came. He knows what each of us is going through, and He still cares.

Studying the Greatest Commandment

  • Posted on November 29, 2020 at 2:31 pm

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”  ~Matthew 22:37

It’s amazing how one can walk with the Lord for close to 30 years and yet still have Scripture verses gain new meaning from time to time. The above verse is a familiar one, being referenced several times throughout the Bible and yet have you ever thought about what it means to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and (some passages include) strength? I would like to break this verse down and give us all some food for thought.

Heart

When a person falls in love, they talk about giving their heart to a person. They feel as though their heart would break if this person were no longer in their life. Sometimes their heart may skip a beat at the very thought of their beloved.

The older I get, the more I realize why Scripture calls us the Bride of Christ. When you first became saved, you no doubt were in love with Jesus. You wanted to learn everything you could about Him. You wanted to tell people about Him. He became the greatest thing that ever happened to you. As in marriage, though, time goes on and feelings can wane. All of a sudden, you are not as zealous. You are tired of reading the Word, and you may have allowed other people and things to take priority in your life. Just as in marriage, you must work to not let those feelings die. You should love the Father more deeply with every day that passes. This comes through continually studying about and conversing with this God who loves you so much that He gave His Son to die a horrendous death for you!

Soul

Dictionary.com defines “soul” as “emotional or intellectual energy or intensity.” Whereas the heart tends to be the center of feelings, the soul seems to be a deeper, more grounded part of you. This is where you not only feel love for the Lord, but you commit to serve and obey Him even when your feelings wane or aren’t as strong as they once were. I believe it is the soul that keeps resurrecting the desire to stay close to the Lord. After your heart has long stopped beating, your soul will live on. How important it is to love God from the depths of your being. Near as I can tell, that would be the soul.

Mind

Many people fight spiritual battles for their minds, and I am no exception. This week has been rough in this area but that is probably what caused this verse to jump out at me last night. God wants to be at the center of our thoughts. He wants us to take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) and to think about those things which are pure, lovely, true, and of good report (Philippians 4:8). He wants our focus to be on Him, His Word, and His ways. With everything going on in the world right now, this is hard to do, but we must keep fighting the good fight, and that begins with redirecting our thoughts. It is hard to be depressed when you are thinking about God and how good He is.

Strength

Certain passages also tell us to love God with all of our strength. I deal with adrenal fatigue and fibromyalgia so there are days that I do not feel very strong. But even when I don’t have energy, I can love God with whatever amount of strength I have. Some days, that might be mentally praising Him and thanking Him for His goodness. When I am having a better day, it could be using that strength to serve in some way. No matter how I feel, I can almost always send a text or an email to share God’s love with others and put a smile on someone’s face. If you are God’s child, His love should protrude from you to everyone around you.

The bottom line is that it’s not enough to say you love God. Do you love Him in reality? Does His love permeate the depths of your being? Is your love anchored in who He is or merely what He does? I believe the answer to these questions are part of making our calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10).

Suffering Is Necessary

  • Posted on November 10, 2020 at 11:57 am

who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him. ~Hebrews 5:7-9

“Well-meaning” Christians are quick to say that our trials cause us to grow. It never occurred to me until today that Jesus learned obedience the same way that we do: through hardship.

Although I know that Jesus was a man when He walked on earth, I think of Him as being God. In reality, He was both, but I expect that His human side could have rebelled against God’s authority just like Lucifer did many years before. Instead, He understood the reason for His existence and “humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the Cross” (Philippians 2:8).

First Peter 4:12 tells us:

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you.

So what do we do? We think it strange. Why is this happening to me? What have I done wrong? It may have nothing to do with what you’re doing wrong. You may be about to do something right.

The Hoppers sang a song which said:

Now if I had no mountains
Lord, I might forget to pray
And if there were no trials
Well, I might even stray

We like to think we would be even stronger Christians without hardship, but I bet you go to your knees a lot more when you are being tried. It is during those trying times that we can unequivocally declare that God’s Word is true. Early in life, we live by faith, but experience is the best testimony.

I find it comforting that Jesus knows what our life on earth is like. He understands heartache and temptation and probably fear, but He tells us to cast all our cares onto Him and rest in the assurance that He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).

When you find yourself going through a difficult time, read the Gospels. Think about everything Jesus gave up to come to earth and be one of us. But notice how He responded to each situation. Most of the time, He was filled with love and compassion, knowing that people are like sheep without a shepherd. They needed someone to lead them. Thank God that today we have the Holy Spirit. May we follow His leading and respond to hardships the way that Jesus did.

 

Photo by Timeo Buehrer on Unsplash

Lord, Teach Us to Pray (Part 5)

  • Posted on October 25, 2020 at 4:59 pm

And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.  ~Matthew 6:13

God does not tempt people to do wrong (James 1:13). Instead, He provides a “way of escape” (1 Corinthians 10:13) if we will look for it. The reason so many people feel helpless to change their sinful lifestyles is because they are helpless without Christ. But also, many want their sin and Jesus too while the fact is that you cannot have both. Everyone comes to a Y in the journey where they must choose which way they will go. Will you choose the straight and narrow path that leads to life, or the road of destruction that leads to death? Only you can decide. Once you have truly surrendered your life to Jesus, then He is able to give you the power to withstand temptation while He receives the glory for another life that has been set free.

Some would say that God never promised us a rose garden, but I like to think of the Christian life as just that. Life is full of thorns that will try to scar us along the way. Sometimes the patch may be so thick that we don’t think we can penetrate it, and we want to turn around. In fact, early on, sticks and thorns may be all we see. In due time, however, the roses begin to bloom, and we realize that, had we not persevered, we would have missed the beauty that God had planned for us.

I guess this ended up being not so much about prayer as it is about temptation. Part of an effective prayer life is confessing sins, but if you find that you are continuing to do those sins that you have asked forgiveness of, examine your heart to know if you really want to be free. If you do, then ask God to show you the way of escape and take it. Do not keep riding the fence. You may not have tomorrow to make things right.

Lord, Teach Us to Pray (Part 4)

  • Posted on October 22, 2020 at 4:37 pm

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.  ~Matthew 6:12

Some versions use the word “sins” instead of “debts,” and I expect that is what Jesus is getting at here. Forgiveness is not easy. In fact, I expect it is one of the hardest things for a Christian to do, and yet Mark 11:25-26 tells us, “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” Wow. Take a minute and ponder this before reading further.

Years ago, there was a man I hated. I really did. He had hurt my family, and the sight of him or the sound of his voice would send a wave of hatred coursing through my body. Every time I thought I had conquered it, there it was again. After I had grown in my relationship with the Lord and truly came to know Him, I despised myself that I could not get over these feelings. I prayed frequently for God’s help, and eventually I was able to forgive this man, but it took quite a few years. Now this does not mean that I get together with him and “let bygones be bygones.” There have been other times when I have had to put offense aside and forgive someone while being willing to still interact with the person, but I don’t believe this is always necessary. Sometimes it depends on the crime that was committed and whether or not this is someone that God placed in your life and desires for you to continue in relationship with. You must, however, make sure that you do not wish anyone evil and that you are willing to place them in God’s hands. It’s true that if you pray for a person, your heart will soften towards them as well.

The more you realize that you are a sinner in need of forgiveness and that you can be pretty annoying yourself, the more I expect that you will show grace to others. I know it works for me.

Lord, Teach Us to Pray (Part 3)

  • Posted on October 18, 2020 at 6:08 pm

Give us this day our daily bread. ~Matthew 6:11

Daily provision. I expect that most of us do not have a habit of asking for our daily bread, although some may have felt more of a need to do so this year. Although there are people who do not know where their next meal is coming from, the majority of Americans eat very well. So well, in fact, that it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that every morsel, everything we own comes from God’s hand. We should definitely be thanking Him on a daily basis for His many blessings. Even if things are tighter this year than they usually are, thank God for your family. Thank Him that you still have a roof over your head and a car to drive. If you are in need, then present your petitions, but I encourage you to spend even more time in thanksgiving. We have so much to be thankful for.

Lord, Teach Us to Pray (Part 2)

  • Posted on October 14, 2020 at 9:03 am

Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven. ~Matthew 6:10

I believe that this is the hardest prayer to pray–that God’s will would be done. I am not immune to wanting my way and yet sometimes the answer is No. Like children, we can pitch our fits and whine and scream, or we can trust Him and say, “Yes, Sir.” As I get older, I am learning to more quickly respond appropriately, but this has come after many times of not getting my way and yet realizing that God’s will truly was better.

This verse doesn’t mean that we should not ask specifically. I have heard people pray along the lines of, “Lord, if you are willing, please heal _____________.” Although I understand the sentiment, this does not seem like a fervent prayer to me. Bartimaeus cried out, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus answered his cry (Mark 10:46-52). When you pray, know that God is able to do what you ask. He knows your heart so you may as well be honest with your longings. The key, though, is in surrendering to the omniscient God who knows what you do not.

As I write this, I am thinking of Steve Weatherford who is still battling COVID not knowing whether or not he will survive, my friend who is in pain after heart surgery, and my dad who has a long road to recovery after neck surgery. These are all things I cannot control, but I am fervently interceding for each of these needs. I want those I love to be well and free of pain, and I am praying accordingly. At the end of the day, though, I acknowledge that God is God, and I am not. All I can do is ask and then leave my friends and family in God’s hands.

If you have an urgent need right now, I want to encourage you to keep asking, seeking, and knocking. Then rest in knowing that your petition has been heard. You will receive your answer in due time regardless of whether it is Yes, No, or Wait.

Lord, Teach Us to Pray (Part 1)

  • Posted on October 12, 2020 at 1:21 pm

Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”

So He said to them, “When you pray, say:

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.  ~Luke 11:1-2a

As we continue our series on prayer, I’d like us to look more closely at what we have now dubbed “The Lord’s Prayer.” I’m not sure why we have chosen that name for this portion as I would more readily think of John 17 in that manner, but for better or worse, you understand what I am referring to.

When people memorize this passage of Scripture, they do not typically include the verse before it and could easily lose sight of the fact that God has given us a model prayer. That does not mean that we should mindlessly quote this word for word and let that suffice, but I believe there is an order in prayer that could help our prayers to be more effective.

As Jesus began His prayer, He acknowledged that He was praying to His holy Father. I imagine that if we understood just how holy our Father is, we would shudder with fear as we approached His throne. Instead, it’s easy to pray flippantly, taking no thought for the way we live our lives, treating God as if He were a fairy godfather awaiting us to present our petitions so that he can grant our every wish. As you are praying this week, I encourage you to think about the One that you are praying to. Examine your heart and repent of anything that might hinder your fellowship with Him. It might be a good time to get in the habit of talking less and listening more.

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