Monday, December 5, 2011
Sunday, December 4, 2011
Here, at the conclusion of the book of Acts, we see Paul facing trial for preaching the gospel. Paul faced A LOT of persecution but two things kept him going. First, he was focused on his mission. Secondly was the intervention of the Holy Spirit. God miraculously changed the course of events several times (see 27:33-34, 44; 28:1-10). Despite all the detours, in the end Paul accomplished exactly what God wanted him to accomplish.
As far is it depends on us, how can we accomplish what God wants for us? The E100 challenge literature says:
- Have a Purpose in Life
- God had a purpose for Paul (Acts 9:15)
- You can trust that God has a purpose for your life, too
- Have a Focus in Life
- Don’t let anything distract you from your purpose
- not opposition (26:20, 28-29)
- not what others think of you (26:24-25)
- Don’t let anything distract you from your purpose
- Have a Power in Life!
- Trust the power of God to help you (27:33-34, 44; 28:1-10)
Saturday, December 3, 2011
This passage tells us about other journeys Paul went on. Paul was following the call of God, and still things didn’t go the way one might have expected!
How can we know God’s will?
Wait on the Lord!
- seek godly advice
- wait for the Holy Spirit to guide
Friday, December 2, 2011
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Paul and Barnabas went several places to share the gospel. They were met with receptive ears and with persecution. The persecution, even though severe, (Paul was even stoned to the point where he was presumed dead!) did not stop them from sharing that Jesus came to give people spiritual life.
When presenting the Message, Paul was aware of his audience and addressed them according to where they were at. He emphasized the positive and showed courage, while remaining accountable to the people who sent him (he reported back to them).
According to the E100 website, effective witnessing requires being respectful of the audience, emphasizing the positive, courage in the face of opposition, and accountability to the Church. The purpose of evangelism is to build the Kingdom.
Are you prepared and willing to evangelize? If not, what steps do you need to take to be both prepared and willing?
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Saul, a persecutor of the church, experienced the ultimate turnaround on the road to Damascus! After an encounter with Jesus, Saul was never again the same. His name was even changed! This reflects a complete change in identity.
After meeting Jesus, other people were used to help Paul. Ananias prayed for Paul to receive his sight. Barnabas helped Paul be accepted by the leaders of the church. And the leaders of the church both protected Paul from those who wanted to kill him, and sent him out to spread the gospel to other areas of the world.
Our passage concludes with this: “so the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.
Is the church today “walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit?” As a part of The Church, are YOU? If not, ask God to teach you how. If you are, ask God to use you like He did Ananias and Barnabas to help build up the Body of Christ!
Sunday, November 27, 2011
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Cornelius, a Gentile, heard from God and at God’s command sent for Peter. In the meantime, God spoke to Peter in a vision. Peter didn’t understand the vision, so he “pondered” it, and the Holy Spirit spoke to Peter and told him to go with the three men who were looking for Peter. Peter went with them to see Cornelius. Cornelius called together his friends and family to hear what Peter had to say. Peter then revealed he understood the vision God had given him - “God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.” Peter then preached to the Gentiles, telling them first that God shows no partiality “but in every nation anyone who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to Him.” While hearing Peter’s words, the “Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the Word.” Then people were baptized and Peter remained with them for a time. When Peter returned to Jerusalem, he encountered criticism for eating with the uncircumcised. Peter told them about the vision from God and what it meant. Peter then told them about the Holy Spirit falling on the Gentiles just as He had fallen on the Jews and said “If then God gave the same gift to them as He gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” The critics fell silent and then glorified God for granting repentance and life to the Gentiles, also!
A fundamental truth of the Good News is that salvation through Jesus is for everyone, not a select group. The Kingdom of Heaven is open to all who believe in Jesus Christ and who receive Him. The Church needs to be blind to social status and the doors must be open wide to all who believe and receive!
Ponder in your heart, do you welcome all who seek Him, or do you judge them by what you can see? Do you decide who is and who is not worthy to be part of the Kingdom of God? If so, waste no time - repent and seek God’s forgiveness, then ask Him to show you how to show others the marvelous grace He offers!
Friday, November 18, 2011
God sent Philip to the desert, where he found an Ethiopian Eunuch studying the Scriptures. Philip took the opportunity to witness to this man for Jesus by first asking questions. This helped Philip to understand where the man he was speaking to was coming from. Then Philip explained what the Bible says about Jesus. Most importantly, he was present to witness in the first place only because he was willing to take action based on the prompting of the Holy Spirit, without understanding "why" he was doing so. He didn't know why he was to go to the desert, only that he was to go.
We are to be effective witnesses for Jesus, also. Using this passage as a model, we can presume we need to take the following steps when witnessing to others:
1) Be open to opportunities to witness.
2) Start where the person is at. Identify their questions and struggles. Don't go with an "agenda," start with the person’s.
3) Take time to explain what the Bible teaches.
4) Encourage people to be honest in their questions. And be honest in your response (including admitting when you do not know the answer to a question).
5) Most importantly, be willing to act as the Spirit leads you. Go when He says go! And be silent when He says "be still."
The E100 reading materials say "Effective witnessing is God-lead and people-centered." I couldn't agree more!
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Steven was a man of wisdom. Impossible to beat in a debate. And a threat to the religious “status quo” of the day. So false witnesses spoke against him and he was brought before The Council. When given the opportunity to speak, Steven gave a moving and yet logical speech about the history of his people (which the religious leaders of the day would appreciate). Steven ended his speech, however, with words of rebuke for the religious leaders. As a result, they became angry and took him outside the city and stoned him. Steven’s last words were a prayer for God to forgive his murderers. Following Steven’s death, persecution arose against the early church in Jerusalem and the first Christians were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.
God tried to get the religious leaders’ attention. They were more interested in their religion, however, than they were in loving God and people.
Jesus came to restore relationship between us and Him. Are you focused on a relationship with Jesus? Or on religious tradition?
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
The Believers, under the power of the Holy Spirit, acted powerful and boldly. A man who had been lame from birth was healed. Peter preached the gospel to those who were astonished by this. Peter and John were taken before The Council (the religious leaders of the day who yielded much power) and were threatened by them - but they still refused to stop telling people about Jesus. THEN they prayed for boldness! They wanted more! Most of all, though, in this passage we see the Church operating in unity, caring for one another, loving one another, and serving one another!
Unity, being of one heart and mind, breeds the natural result of love and sharing. It also empowers our witness and attracts others to the faith.
Are you walking in unity with others in the body of Christ? How can you take steps to restore a fractured relationship? Seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit and then do what He directs you to do in pursuit of unity with His children!
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
The Holy Spirit has come, and the gospel is being shared in an exponential fashion! Peter has been transformed from an impulsive man who even denied knowing Jesus to a powerful, dynamic, and persuasive speaker, who is responsible for presenting the gospel passionately yet clearly, and many are being saved! Once people are saved, they “devoted themselves” to learning more, fellowshipping together, eating together, praying together, and caring for one another. They were learning to live in unity and intimacy with one another and with God!
The Holy Spirit empowers us to serve God in ways we could not otherwise do. He gives us insight into God’s Word, understanding of God’s plan, boldness, courage, effectiveness in ministry, and heartfelt love for others.
Is your walk Spirit-empowered? Are you seeking insight into God’s Word and His plan? Are you being effective in ministry? Are you showing love for others?
Ask God to empower you to love others and to be effective in His Kingdom. Submit to Him and watch what He will do in, through, and around you!
Monday, November 14, 2011
Saturday, November 12, 2011
Jesus speaks His parting words to the disciples, and then is lifted to Heaven on a cloud.
The disciples are to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to come upon them. Why? They needed to be empowered by the Holy Spirit before they would be able to fulfill their mission - to go and make disciples of all nations.
Are you relying on the Holy Spirit to fulfill your mission? Today’s challenge - pray, wait for the Spirit’s leading, then GO and DO what He’s told you to! :)
Friday, November 11, 2011
Jesus is alive!
Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice so we could be spiritually free - He set aside His divinity to become fully human, live on earth, and die an excruciating death - then RAISED HIMSELF FROM THE DEAD and thus conquered sin forever!
I find it interesting that the culmination of our reading about the sacrifice Jesus made for us is today, which is Veterans’ Day in the United States and Remembrance Day in Canada.
1) Thank Jesus for dying to set you free spiritually,
2) Thank a veteran for serving to secure your freedom in this physical life we are living, and
3) Serve someone today in Jesus’s Name.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Pilate’s decision not to release Jesus (see yesterday’s post) resulted in Pilate’s decision to have Jesus beaten and (because of fear of what people would do to him if he didn’t) he had Jesus crucified.
Before he died, Jesus made sure His mother, Mary, was taken care of. After He died, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus took care of burying the body. Jesus’s body was buried in a new tomb (no one else had been laid there).
Jesus went to trial willingly. Jesus went to the cross willingly. Not because He desired to suffer such a brutal death, but because He knew that was His mission on earth - it was the means through which we can be saved! Because of His love for us, He paid the price for our sin (death!). He completed His mission on earth!
Jesus CHOSE to die for me. And for you....
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Judas betrayed Jesus and as a result Jesus was arrested by soldiers and some officers of the chief priests and Pharisees. Interestingly, when Jesus spoke the words “I am He” those who had come to arrest Him “drew back and fell to the ground.” (Note - this indicates Jesus could easily have avoided arrest - they were only able to arrest Him because He went willingly.) Simon Peter tried to come to Jesus’s defense with a sword, but Jesus rebuked him.
Jesus was taken first to the father-in-law of the high priest. Peter denied Jesus when asked by a servant girl if Peter was one of Jesus’s disciples. Jesus was then taken to the high priest to be questioned. Peter then denied Jesus again, this time to the people he was sharing a fire with. A third time Peter denied Jesus to one of the servants of the high priest. Then a rooster crowed.
Jesus was brought from the high priest to Pilate, who was the secular governor of Judea. Pilate tried to avoid bringing judgment on Jesus, but bowed to the will of the people and released Barabbas instead of Jesus.
Pilate SAID Jesus was not guilty, but refused to act on that statement. He faced a decision - what to do with Jesus? Everyone must make that decision at some point. Is Jesus a hassle? Or is He the Way, the Truth, and the Life?
It’s the biggest decision you will ever make. Will you accept Him as the source of Truth and listen to Him? Or will you reject Him?
If you’ve decided to accept Him as the source of Truth, are you listening to Him each day and following His voice? Or are you following another voice?
Only you can decide for you. Yes Jesus or no Jesus? If the answer is yes Jesus, He wants ALL of you!
Monday, November 7, 2011
Here is what the E100 Challenge says about this passage:
Communion is more than just another meal!
Jesus was soon to fulfill the mission given to Him by His Father - to die on the Cross for the sins of the world. That’s what He wanted to symbolize for His followers with this meal. The bread helps us remember His body (22:19), the fact that He was about to take the punishment for sin. The cup helps us remember His blood (22:20), the fact that He was about to make the final sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin. He called it a “new covenant,” between God and humankind that would last forever.
The last supper symbolized the fulfillment of Jesus’ mission on earth. Observed by us as “communion,” it is a way to remember His body broken for us (the bread) and His blood shed for us (the cup). It represents a new covenant, and helps us stay committed to following Him by reminding us of what He did for us that freed us from the power and consequences of sin!
Sunday, November 6, 2011
Saturday, November 5, 2011
Jesus, although he knew about his friend Lazarus’s illness in time to heal, instead waited until Lazarus was dead and then raised him from the dead! This created an unforgettable symbol of the new life He would offer to those who believe in Him (vv. 25-26).
People can go to church all their lives and STILL not understand Who Jesus is and all that He offers to us!
“Jesus said…, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he life, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.”
Do you believe Him?
Friday, November 4, 2011
Jesus frees a demon-possessed man, sending the demons into pigs (and the pigs jumped off a cliff). The herdsmen went into the village and told what had happened. People came out to the caves to see for themselves, and when they saw the man “sitting there, clothed and in his right mind” they were afraid and begged Jesus to leave. As Jesus was leaving, he instructed the freed man to “go…tell…how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you.”
Jesus wants to bring a radical healing into our lives - to break our dependence on sin and free us from its power! He also wants to empower us to share the gospel (“good news”) with others.
But the unexplained is scary (see v. 15). Some of us will be afraid to yield to the change He wants to make in us. Some people will be afraid of the change they see in others. Others will marvel at what Jesus has done.
Are you afraid of change? Of the impact it might have on your life? Your family? Your relationships? Or are you marveling at what Jesus has done (or will do)?
When Jesus’ power is working in you, when He has healed you, changed you, freed you…are you going and telling others what He has done for you?
A changed life is the most powerful statement of the gospel!
Thursday, November 3, 2011
The E100 Challenge describes this passage like this:
After hearing about the miraculous healing of a blind man, the disciples tried to over-analyze the blind man’s predicament. But in the midst of all the arguing, the blind man had the clearest insight of all. He started with a basic understanding of the facts and formed an opinion about Jesus but finally made a decision to believe in spite of the consequences. That’s a good description of how to become a Christian.
How, then, should we respond to Jesus?
1) Get the facts - Jesus welcomes tough questions!
3) Count the cost of following Jesus - there may be serious opposition!
4) Believe and commit to Jesus!
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Jesus had just spent time ministering to crowds of people and is now seeking some alone time with the Father. He even sent the disciples away. When He went to join the disciples, they were on a boat far from shore. Jesus joined them by walking on top of the water toward them. The disciples were at first afraid, but soon realized it was Jesus walking toward them. Peter asked to walk on the water, too. Jesus allowed Peter to participate in the miracle, but Peter lost focus (he took his eyes off Jesus) and when he lost focus, he began to sink.
We face many problems in our lives. Being a Christian does not exempt us from them! In order to deal with them, we have a few responsibilities. First, we must recognize Jesus is ALWAYS with us. Second, we must trust Him, and trust that He has the power to deal with our problems. Next we must step out in faith - in whatever manner He is leading us - to deal with the situation. (Peter had to step out of the boat, remember?) :)
Finally, we MUST remember to worship and give thanks, regardless of the outcome!
Problems are an opportunity to move closer to Jesus. Will you “take courage” and step out of the boat? Keep your eyes on Him!
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
This passage begins with Jesus sending out the twelve disciples “to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.” After they return, Jesus feeds five thousand men (plus women and children!) with five loaves and two fish - and there were TWELVE baskets of leftovers! (One for each disciple, perhaps?) Then Peter declares Jesus is Lord, Jesus foretells His death, and Peter, James and John (who have gone with Jesus up on the mountain to pray) see Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. The passage concludes with “a voice” from “the cloud, saying, ‘This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!’” (v. 35).
This passage clearly tells us that Jesus IS the Son of God! If we really believe that, we need to be sharing that news with others and we need to be doing good works in His Name! Our lives need to proclaim Jesus!
How can you proclaim Jesus to someone today? Whether it’s by sharing how He has rescued you from death, by seeing a need and meeting it anonymously (perhaps even including a note saying “because Jesus loves you”), or by doing something else He leads you to do, do something today to show Jesus to someone around you!
Monday, October 31, 2011
Sunday, October 30, 2011
In this passage, Jesus tells three parables: The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, and The Prodigal Son. The common theme of the three stories is that Jesus came to reclaim lost and broken people. He loves us and is waiting for sinners to return to Him!
The mission of the Church is not to create “religious” people, it is to help draw people into right relationship with Him!
“Lost people” are any who are not walking in relationship with God. God cares deeply that ALL lost people return to Him, and we who are walking in relationship with Him are to share that passion! We are to rejoice (as God does) when the lost return to Him. God is waiting to forgive, He is gracious and compassionate toward sinners (Nehemiah 9:17). We are to reach out to the lost. Do you share God’s heart for lost people? How are you reaching out?
Saturday, October 29, 2011
Jesus is telling a young lawyer how he can obtain eternal life through the parable of the "good Samaritan." Two main principles are evident in this parable. First, Christianity is not about being an expert or being perfect...it's about being willing to receive God's love and forgiveness (grace) and express them to those around us. Secondly, true neighbors are those who show mercy - which is feeling empathy / compassion AND taking action to help!
Find an opportunity to show God's love, grace, and mercy to someone around you today, and DO so!
Friday, October 28, 2011
Following Jesus changes EVERYTHING. Jesus compared the Kingdom of Heaven to yeast, a hidden treasure, a mustard seed, and a net. These are all seemingly insignificant things yet they each have amazing impact. This is like the decision to follow Jesus. A seemingly simple decision changes EVERYTHING about our lives, not and forever!
Some people consider the Kingdom of Heaven to be only a place we will live someday. The Kingdom of Heaven is also a way of thinking and behaving (now) that brings glory to God in all we say and do. Jesus challenged the hearers of His Words to “understand with their hearts” (v. 15) and to allow His Word to affect their attitudes, motivations, and actions. Listen to His Words with your heart. What impact are you having on the Kingdom of Heaven in the way you think and behave? Are you bringing glory to God with your attitudes, motivations and actions? Making a difference in the Kingdom starts with one small step of faith. Listen to Him with your heart today - what small step is He asking you to take? Take it!
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Jesus talks about several "spiritual pitfalls" (as the E100 Challenge describes them) in this passage. These "pitfalls" include:
- praying for show
- trying to serve both God and money
- worrying (about self or others) instead of seeking God
- judging unfairly
- being deceived by false prophets
- hearing but not obeying God's Word
In short, "spiritual pitfalls" are best described as focusing our lives on anything other than God!
Of the "pitfalls" mentioned, our focus today is on prayer. Take some time to assess your prayer life. Do you pray regularly? Do you only pray privately? Do you only pray publicly? When you pray, are you praying to "be seen by others?" Do you avoid praying publicly for fear of what someone might think or say about you? Do you use many empty words? Or is your prayer time (either in private or with a group of people) a time of conversation with your Heavenly Father who loves you?
Today's challenge: Ask God for a deeper, more intimate prayer life!
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Saturday, October 22, 2011
Jesus was tempted, as we are. Jesus avoided giving in to temptation by speaking Truth. Notice this wasn’t a subjective truth, it was The Truth (with a capital T)! Jesus used the Word of God as His defense against the temptation (and deception!) of His enemy.
In order to use Scripture as a defense against temptation, we need to KNOW it. Today’s challenge is to begin a Scripture memory program, if you are not already doing so.
There are many ways to do this. A Google search of “Scripture memory system” returns hundreds of thousands of results. If you use any kind of handheld device, there is probably an app available for download. Post it notes and index cards work great, too!
If you just aren’t sure which Scripture to use first, try picking one of the top 100 read verses on Bible Gateway:
Or the Topical Memory System suggested by The Navigators:
The important thing is not WHICH verses you memorize, but that you are consistently and regularly meditating on Scripture.
Begin memorizing a verse today, and see what a difference God makes!
Friday, October 21, 2011
John the Baptist, a cousin of Jesus, spent his LIFE pointing others to Jesus, accepting no glory for himself....
Arguably, one of the primary themes of John's message was repentance - not in word only, but also in deed. John declared "you will be known by your fruits." I see in this a two-fold message. First, true repentance will be reflected in your actions - you WILL "walk the talk." Secondly, you cannot ride the coattails of anyone else's relationship with God. Just because your parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents for multiple generations were powerhouses of faith does not make you righteous. Righteousness comes from God (through Jesus' death and resurrection) and each of us must accept the gift of salvation He offers. NO ONE can make this decision for us. And no one can rely on God on our behalf...no one can walk our walk for us.
If you have not repented of your sin and asked God, in His infinite grace and mercy, to save you and make you His child, don't delay! He loves you and wants you to become part of His family!
If you are already a member of the family of God, prayerfully consider your walk today. Do your actions reflect that you have been forgiven? Can others tell by watching you that there is something "different" (in a good way!) about you? Are you walking daily (moment by moment) in the path God has for you? Are you fully relying on Him with each breath? Repent of anything keeping you from intimacy with Him, and of anything keeping you from reflecting Him in your daily life. Ask Him to draw you closer to Himself.
It's all about Him!
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Meeting Jesus is a life changing experience! Each of the people we read about in this passage - Joseph, Mary, the shepherds, Simeon, and Anna, were changed for good after their encounter with this Baby.
For today, though, let’s look at the shepherds. Their lives were changed by:
1) observing worship (vv 13-14)
2) meeting Jesus (vv 15-16)
As a result of this transformational experience they immediately began spreading the good news to others! (v 17)
Have you met Jesus?
How has your life been transformed?
Do you worship Him regularly?
Do you share the good news with others?
Today’s challenge: spend time in private worship daily, engage in corporate worship (meaning with other believers) regularly, and let Him transform you! Then share with those around you the radical, life changing ways knowing Jesus has impacted you!
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
In this passage we read about three people who are in different stages (and different ages!) of life. Each of them (Zechariah, Elizabeth, and Mary) were used by God in a way that was completely surprising and unexpected. Zechariah was performing a task in the process of worship that had been performed by Levites thousands of times. He certainly wasn’t expecting to encounter an angel! Elizabeth, advanced in age, was NOT expecting to become pregnant. And Mary, a seemingly insignificant young girl, BOTH encountered and angel AND became pregnant - even though she was still a virgin!
When God shows up unexpectedly, are you ready to be used? Will you, like Mary, say “Behold, I am a servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” or will you be like Moses and repeatedly tell God no?
Challenge for today: be ready to let God use you!
1) Believe He has the power to do anything - nothing is impossible with God! (v. 37)
2) Commit yourself to His way - no matter what happens! (vv. 6, 38)
3) Depend on Him - His mercy is great for those who fear Him! (v. 50)
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
The Word is Jesus. Jesus is God Who, because of His great love for us, became flesh (human) and dwelt among men, in order to save us from our sin and make us His children! In His days here on earth most people did not understand who He really was. Today that is still the case. Many accept Him as a great moral teacher, but unless we ALSO accept Him as God, it’s equivalent to rejecting Him.
We are born with an inherent sin nature because of the original sin committed by Eve and Adam in the Garden of Eden. Our sin keeps us from relationship with God. Because He loves us, however, Jesus is offering us forgiveness -- accepting His offer results in both a relationship with God (as His CHILD!) and freedom from the law. In order to experience this, we must both receive and believe in Jesus. Verse 12 tells us that those “who believed in His Name, He gave the right to become children of God.” Name represents identity. We need to believe in Who He is ...the Christ, the Son of the living God, the only One Who can save us from our sin and give us a life (here and now and for eternity) beyond our wildest dreams! After we have become one of His children, we then learn to believe Him - to trust Him completely and without reservation.
Believe in Him AND believe Him and see the difference He makes in and through you!
Monday, October 17, 2011
To review where we left off in the Old Testament click here.
This week we focus on The Living Word:
51) The Word Became Flesh
52) Gabriel’s Message
53) The Birth of Jesus
54) John the Baptist
55) Baptism and Temptation
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
I do apologize.
When taking on a mentorship role for the Bible in 90 Days program, it was my intention to blog twice per week. Instead, I found myself completely swamped with reading, mentorship responsibilities, and life as wife, mom, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, and therapist - so blogging got put off for a day, then two, then a week.... You get the idea. :(
Then, a little over 5 weeks ago, I dropped out of the Bible in 90 Days program. My family experienced a sudden, very unexpected loss ~ my mother passed away in her sleep. We had no indication that Jesus would be calling her home just then. With the plethora of changes and the shock of it all, I could not continue the pace of the Bible in 90 days reading plan but was instead clinging to verses (sometimes phrases) of Scripture, trusting in God’s goodness and sovereignty even when life here on earth was NOT making sense.
Some of the verses I have been clinging to (emphases mine) include:
Psalm 34:18 The Message
If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there; if you’re kicked in the gut, He’ll help you catch your breath.
Proverbs 16:19 ESV
The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.
Isaiah 55:9 ESV
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher that your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.
Deuteronomy 30:19-20 ESV
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore, choose life, that you and your offspring may life, loving the LORD your God, obeying His voice, and holding fast to Him, for He is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.
And I Thessalonians 4:13-18.
I am so thankful my mom is with Jesus and I will get to see her again. Still, I miss her very much.
That being said, as I move further along in this journey of grief, you can start to expect some more activity here at Better Things. It is my intention (and I believe it is God’s plan for us) to resume the E100 challenge with the 50 New Testament readings sometime in the next couple of weeks. That study will take us through the middle of December and then we will start something else the first part of the year.
I am looking forward to resuming our studies together. :)
Hug your families. Tell them you love them. Appreciate the time you have with them. And thank God for the time He has given you with them. May God richly bless you and them!
Friday, August 5, 2011
Application is easier said than done, though.
Recently we have been de-cluttering our house. One of the pieces of paper I found in sorting through some old files was something I had typed up years (okay, decades!) ago describing three different methods of applying Scripture to our lives. It seemed like one of these methods might be useful to someone someday, so I thought I would share them here. (Unfortunately, I did not include the source of the information on that sheet, so I am unable to give proper credit to the people who came up with each of these suggestions.) :(
To use any of the methods below, read the passage of Scripture a few times, and then reference the passage while answering the questions. (I highly recommending writing the answers down - when we write or type the things God is teaching us - it helps to cement the concepts more fully into our lives.)
The Application Pyramid
People: Who are the people in the passage and how are they like us today?
Place: What is the setting and what are the similarities to our world?
Plot: What is happening? Is there any conflict or tension? How would I have acted in that situation?
Point: What was the intended message for the first people to hear this passage? What did God want them to learn or feel or do?
Principles: What are the timeless truths?
Present: How is this relevant in our world today?
Parallels: Where does this truth apply to my life? At home, at work, at school, in church, in the neighborhood?
Personal: What attitude, action, value or belief needs to change in me?
Plan: What would be my first step of action?
The Application Window
(based on II Timothy 3:16)
Doctrine: What should I believe?
Reproof: WHow should I not behave?
Correction: What should I not believe?
Instruction in Righteousness: How should I behave?
The Application Acrostic:
Is there a(n)
Attitude to adjust?
Promise to claim?
Priority to change?
Lesson to learn?
Issue to resolve?
Command to obey?
Activity to avoid or stop?
Truth to believe?
Idol to tear down?
Offense to forgive?
New direction to take?
Sin to confess?
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
For the last couple of days weeks months the Holy Spirit has been talking to me about my prayer life. I’ve learned that many times when the Holy Spirit is talking to me about things, I am not the only one. So I thought we’d take a few minutes to talk about prayer.
We often separate the concepts of prayer and Bible study, but we cannot truly understand the Word of God without His Spirit revealing It to us. Therefore prayer, which deepens our relationship with the Lord, is necessary to deepen our understanding of Scripture. :)
But how do we pray? This is not a new question, even the disciples asked this of Jesus: “Lord, teach us to pray.” My childhood pastor once suggested using The Lord’s Prayer as a model for personal prayer, using each section of the prayer as a springboard for more detailed communication with God. I’ve been practicing this model for a few weeks, and while it’s slightly different each time, the overall breakdown usually looks something like this:
Our Father Who art in Heaven:
- Reminds me God is my Father and desires intimate relationship with me. I thank Him for that.
- Reminds me God is holy, and that the attitude of prayer should be awe. (Mary Lou Redding of The Upper Room says the essence of prayer is being with God as we are and naming Him as He is, being changed by degrees with each encounter with Him.) God is holy, yet He wants a relationship with me! What a humbling concept! This prompts me to spend some time in worship and praise.
- Reminds me to surrender to His will for my life, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, year by year.
• Reminds me to pray for needs of others and for my own needs.
And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us:
• Reminds me to confess any sin and ask for forgiveness, and also to ask for the strength to forgive others who may have hurt me.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil:
• Reminds me to ask God to fight for me, fight through me, and to rescue me
For thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever:
• Reminds me to conclude my prayer time with a time of thanksgiving and adoration.
What models of prayer have you found helpful in your pursuit of a deeper relationship with the Lord?
Please share with us!
Friday, July 8, 2011
Malachi 1 to 4
Malachi was a contemporary of Nehemiah. There is some belief that Malachi may have written this message to Israel between Nehemiah’s two terms as governor. Malachi is addressing Israel’s loss of hope (doubting God’s love and no longer trusting His justice) and their subsequent insincere worship. Malachi warns them that God is coming as a judge, and He will judge His people first. Malachi also reminds them that God does not change, and He still offers Israel the opportunity to repent and be reformed in order to once again experience God’s blessings. Malachi urges Israel to return to God.
God knows my heart. He knows when I doubt Him and whether or not my worship is sincere. God also, in His lovingkindness, offers me the opportunity to repent and be restored in fellowship with Him after I have strayed.
One outline of Malachi might read like this:
- You can’t fool God (with insincere worship - just “going through the motions)
- You can’t defy God (with unfaithfulness - so guard against impurity)
- You can’t rob God (everything is His so don’t neglect tithing)
- You can’t escape God (judgment of sin is coming, but so is the good news!)
Father, thank You that You offer mercy and restored relationship to Your children who have strayed! Thank You for being faithful even when we are faithless! (II Timothy 2:13) Draw those who are not walking with You back to Yourself, I pray. In Jesus’ Name, amen.
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Jonah 1 to 4
1) Running from God:
Jonah didn’t like what God told him to do, so he tried to run away. But there is no getting away from God! (Psalm 139:7)
2) Turning to God:
After Jonah spent three days and nights in the belly of a big fish, he was spit up onto the shore. (Side note: Jonah was part of the vomit of a very large fish. That’s disgusting. Just saying.) Once he was freed from the fish’s belly, Jonah admitted his sin and turned back to God. This is a tremendous example of both the consequences of sin, and God’s willingness to forgive when we repent.
3) Obeying God:
Jonah preached repentance to Ninevah and they listened! God, in His mercy and compassion, sent the way of salvation to the people of Ninevah. They needed to choose whether or not to accept God’s gift. They did and experienced forgiveness and entered into a relationship with God as His children. God used Jonah to bring salvation to a nation.
4) Disappointed with God:
Jonah was unhappy because God offered the way of salvation to Ninevah. Jonah acted like He knew better than God. We’ve learned in the past that this is pride. God could have been angry with Jonah and caused the ground to swallow Jonah up (like Korah in the book of Exodus). Instead, God patiently explained to Jonah why He wanted to offer salvation to the people of Ninevah. God made them, just like He made Jonah. And God loved them, just like He loved Jonah.
God is patient, gracious, merciful and loving. He knows when I am running away, angry, or disappointed. He loves me and is ready to extend his grace and mercy to me when I turn back to Him.
Father, for any one reading this who is trying to run from You, I pray You would remind them of Your love and Your desire for them to turn back to You. Thank You for loving us. Thank You for Your grace, mercy, and patience. Please keep me in the shadow of Your wings!
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Daniel is a leader in King Darius’ kingdom “because an excellent spirit was in him” (v. 3). It was not because of what he had accomplished, but because of who he had become - the character he both possessed and displayed in his dealings with others. The other leaders tried to find fault with Daniel but couldn’t, so they attempted to manufacture a way to remove Daniel from power (and to take Daniel’s life!) by making his faith illegal. (We call this persecution.) Daniel responded to this persecution by continuing to pray to God. When Daniel’s violation of the new law was brought to the attention of the king, the king tried to find a loophole to avoid throwing Daniel to the lions, but none was to be found. The king, too, then “had” to resort to praying to Daniel’s God. God miraculous saved Daniel and brought Daniel’s enemies to justice. King Darius began to follow God, and ordered all his people to do so, too!
To worship God like Daniel did I need to:
1) be faithful in daily quiet times
2) work for my employer to the best of my ability
3) seek to be a woman of character from the inside out
4) continue to do what is right in the face of persecution
5) trust God with my life
Father, shine Your light in my heart and reveal the areas that are not yet fully surrendered to You. Please remove my human faults and replace them with Your fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control. Help me be faithful to You and to those whom You call me to serve. Make me a woman of character, who walks in a manner worthy of a child of Yours. And make me strong in the face of persecution, I pray. In Jesus’ Name, amen.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Jeremiah gets the job of telling Israel that they are about to be disciplined for their sin (idolatry). The message God gives Jeremiah to give to Israel uses the imagery of a bride who becomes a prostitute. God also sends the message that He loves Israel and that He will forgive His wayward people and their relationship will be restored.
Sin breaks our relationship with God. Forgiveness from and reconciliation to God came to Israel and to all the world through Jesus! Galatians tells us through Jesus we can be redeemed, made children of God and be given His spirit! (Galatians 4:4-6)
Thank You, Father, for offering us forgiveness and restored relationship! That is truly “good news!”
Monday, July 4, 2011
Isaiah 51 to 53
Week before last we read about the fall of Israel. Today we read a message of hope. Isaiah is telling the people of Israel that God will save them. Isaiah reminds the people that God has rescued them in the past and He will do so again. Isaiah shares the gospel (the word gospel means “good news”) with them that a Savior is coming. That Savior is Jesus!
Jesus came to rescue sinners from their sin. Isaiah shared that news with Israel. It is our job to share that news with people today!
Father, teach us how to share the truth of the gospel. Thank You for sending Jesus to save us! Help us to share the good news with others! Amen.
Penney will be serving as a mentor, and if you would like to be placed in her group, please indicate so in the last box on the sign up form. If you have already signed up and want to request Penney as a mentor, please email her as soon as possible at mrssid(at)gmail(dot)com and she will forward your request to the person assigning mentor groups.
Blog posts at Better Things will be written approximately twice per week from portions of the reading. Those who aren’t feeling as though they can commit to taking on the whole challenge this summer are invited to continue to follow the blog.
I do encourage anyone who is feeling even a little interested to sign up and take the challenge. It is an experience that is well worth the time invested. Jesus will meet you in amazing ways on this journey!
We will plan to resume the E100 reading plan (the 50 New Testament readings) in October. :)
Sunday, July 3, 2011
Saturday, July 2, 2011
Proverbs 16 to 18
The Proverbs contain wisdom for living. In this excerpt from the book, we see several verses that give instructions for living. These verses can be grouped into themes. Three of the themes we see in these three chapters are wisdom, humility, and trust.
Wisdom is a treasure. God’s wisdom is more valuable than earthly riches (see 16:16). The opposite of wisdom is foolishness. Our wisdom or folly is reflected in our words. Sometimes the wisest thing is to remain silent (17:28). Wisdom is also reflected in controlling our strong emotions (17:27).
Humility is also a treasure. The opposite of humility is pride. Simply put, pride is considering yourself either more than or less than what God made you to be. That bears repeating. Simply put, pride is considering yourself either more than or less than what God made you to be. Pride is the source of downfall (16:18). We learned in James that God gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). True humility is understanding who you are and Who God is.
Trust is a third treasure we see reflected in these chapters. Trust God. Trust that His way is best and that His will will be accomplished. We are responsible to do what He calls us to, and to do so with all of our hearts, but the results are up to Him (16:1-4).
The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.
Proverbs 16:9 ESV
Father, please forgive me for the times I have tried to take control from You. Thank You for establishing my steps! Help me to trust You more!
Friday, July 1, 2011
Proverbs 1 to 4
The book of Proverbs was written by King Solomon. The first four chapters set the foundation for the book; they talk about the importance of wisdom. This chapters tells us that wisdom:
- begins with the fear of God (1:7, 2:5)
- comes from God, through His Word - the Bible (also in James 1:5)
- protects us from evil (1:10-19)
- provides us with blessings (3:13-26)
Wisdom comes from knowing and obeying God.
Know Him. Do what He says.
Father, teach us what it means to “fear” You. Fill us with a reverence for an an awe of You. Give us a love for Your Word, and give us wisdom. Thank You for hearing and answering us!