300 Days – Part 2

Conversation – the informal exchange of ideas by spoken words.

My best friend and I have regular conversations.  She talks, I listen, then I talk and she listens, pretty typical right?  But have you ever had a “one-sided” conversation?  A “one-sided” conversation occurs when the other person does all the talking and you do all the listening, or maybe you are one doing all the talking and if you are, snap out of it!

A “one-sided” conversation is really a monologue.  How do you feel when you walk away from the monologist?  I can tell you I feel frustrated and very reluctant to repeat that experience.  Maybe you did try to make some comments but the talker apparently does not need to breathe regularly because he/she just kept on talking and talking…

Reading the Bible relationally is talking and listening to God as He speaks through His written words, it is a conversation with the King – it is that simple.

Since the Bible is God speaking to His people it is to be taken very personally.  I picture Jesus sitting in my living room, waiting to talk with me, He is the living Word.  He has much to tell me and He wants to hear what I think, what I want and need, and my concerns.  Jesus wants to have a conversation with me – wow!

How I Read Relationally

Each day, I sit with Jesus and my Bible, my notebook and my coffee.  I begin reading from the point where I ended the day before.  I read until God nudges me to stop.  I might read a single word, one or two sentences (verses) or an entire chapter, it varies.  Sometimes, I talk to God about what I just read, sometimes I listen; God and I converse with and about these verses.  I may read and pause over and over again, each time with God and His Word is different.

When I don’t understand the verses I ask Him to teach me, to help me.  Parts of the Bible are difficult, I don’t let that stop me, I just keep reading, God will help me understand what I need, I may make a note to do some research later on the difficult sections.  Some verses are warnings, “Don’t do this!”  Some verses are rebukes, “Look what you did!”  A rebuke makes me pause to confess, asking God to forgive me.  Always, always, I learn something about God, something I can thank Him and praise Him for, about His character.

As God and I talk together, I am taking notes.  I want to remember what I learn and also because, for me, taking notes helps me see connections, helps me clarify my thoughts.  I do recommend making some notes.  I always write down two specific things:

  1. What I learn about God, and
  2. How will I apply this to my life – this is my “take away” or personal application.

Often, what I write ends up in this blog or is used to encourage or teach someone else, God’s Word is never wasted.

God and I are simply talking and if you overheard our conversation you would say, “Oh, you’re praying!”  You got it.  I read and then I pray about what I just read, using many of the same words and then wait till God answers or tells me to read some more.

Here is a very quick example from Psalm 27, verse 1.  God’s Word is in italics.

  • The Lord is my light and salvation – Oh God, I am so grateful for your light that leads me and for the gift of salvation – thank you!
  • Whom shall I fear? – I am sorry I don’t always trust you, I worry about things.  Help me not to let fear stop me.
  • The Lord is the defense of my life – You, God are my true defender.  I am safe only always with you.
  • Whom shall I dread? – I don’t have to worry what people think or say about me because you love me!
  • What I learned about God.  God is light, He protects and defends me from everything and everyone!
  • What is my take away?  God does not want me to worry or be afraid and when I am I can call on Him for strength and courage.  He will be my light when I am in the dark places!  He will show up! (Your take away may be different, remember it is personal application!)

I have been reading the Bible for years yet I have barely uncovered its rich treasure.  Reading relationally is drawing me closer to God than I have ever been, it is the most peaceful and productive part of my day.  My plan is to read the entire Bible relationally and then start over, I am nearly halfway there.

How did my best friend become my best friend?  How did I get to know her?  We had many long conversations.  My goal is to know the God of the Bible and that happens as we have many long conversations.

Try reading the Bible relationally – if you have never done it, it takes a bit of practice.  Pick a favorite part of the Bible and have a conversation with God about it.  Please let me know what God shows you!

What to know more? – Part 3 coming soon!

300 Days – Part 1

What have you been doing for the past 300 days?  Some of you probably can’t remember, some of you wish you could forget.  300 days, about 10 months, less than 1 year, doesn’t sound like too much does it?

300 days ago I began reading my Bible in a different way.

The Bible is unlike any other book that has ever or will ever be written.  The Bible is a collection of 66 shorter books written over a period of 1500 years.  Forty different men were inspired to record the words, the words were breathed by God (2 Timothy 3:16).  It has one story and one central theme.  It is the story of Jesus the Christ and the theme is God’s redemption of man.  It is called a holy book, the good book, the book without bottom.  It does not contain the words of God it IS the Word of God, a subtle but very significant distinction.  It is foolishness to those who are perishing but it is power to those who are being saved (1 Corinthians 1:18)

One hundred million Bibles are sold each year according to Wikipedia.  There are thousands of books written about the Bible and thousands of other books that attempt to refute it.  Highly educated people teach it, study it, mock it, follow it, reject it, hate it and love it.  Everyone has an opinion about the Bible even if they have never read it for themselves.

I have been reading and studying the Bible for years but am far from expert or a scholar.  I am “one of those”; I read and believe the Bible.  I do not debate the Bible but instead challenge you to read it for yourself and draw your own conclusions.  Reading and studying the Bible changed my life and 300 days ago God started to take me deeper.

Want to know more?  Read Part 2 – coming soon!

Glad I’m unable

Now to Him who is able…Ephesians 3:20

This is the day, this is the time.  No more waiting or hesitation.  This moment will never come again, it cannot be “done over”; it is a once and done moment and in the blink of an eye, the next moment is here.  We are captured by time and there are no guarantees in this life except for the breath I am on in this moment.  What are you hesitating over?  “Don’t put it off, do it now!” Proverbs 6:4 (NLT)

God is so mighty and majestic, awesome in power, abundant in mercy.  If I were to see Him right now my eyeballs would melt right out of their sockets, like the soldiers in the Indiana Jones movie!!  My mind would expand and blow up, it could not absorb His greatness, His light.  I would die, no one can look at God and live.  But God sent Jesus.  The holy one, the promised Son, the image of the invisible God.  Jesus walked among people, they were able to look at Him, touch Him, hear the sound of His voice. “He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.  He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.” Isaiah 53:2 -3  I can see Him through Scripture and that is enough; I know someday I WILL see Him face to face and it will be glorious.  I believe He is my Lord and that God raised Him from the dead and He gives me eternal life.  Do you believe this?  If not, what is holding you back?

God alone is able.  I am completely and totally unable to be or do anything other than who and what God created me to be.  Even in that, my power, strength, stamina, ability, and knowledge is profoundly limited.  Are you self-reliant?  God is showing me I am weak in so many area’s of my life.  But He is teaching me to celebrate and not fear my weaknesses because through them God’s power and life in me is perfected and made strong.  At the same time, I can celebrate my unique personality and talents as gifts from Him, keeping me in balance.  As I listen to His voice, I decrease and He increases.  God is leading me from self-esteem to God-esteem, self-image to God-image, self-confidence to God-confidence.

I am glad I am unable, it is freedom!

Never Less Alone

When day came, Jesus left and went to a secluded place; and the crowds were searching for Him, and came to Him and tried to keep Him from going away from them. Luke 4:42

When day came – Sunrise, the morning after a busy day, Jesus had healed and freed many for hours, into the night. His body aching, His heart weary, He rises and begins another day. Each day, He calls me to rise before the sunrise, I love sleeping and don’t like waking up early, I am a night owl – God knows this and made me this way. Jesus understands me, He helps me wake up.

Jesus – the centerpiece, the cornerstone, the Bright Morning Star. He is the one who leads. He is the only one to follow.

went – hearing His father, He follows in obedience, in submission, under authority, always with clear purpose, He moves. He does not rush or dawdle. He simply goes. God sees me rushing, feeling pressured, that is not his voice. He does not want me to run ahead of Him or walk behind Him. He wants me at His side. He shows me how and when to move. He is my friend.

to a secluded place – alone, quiet, private. A haven of rest where even the smallest sound and every tiny voice can be heard in His heart. Where is my haven of rest found? I must be intentional about getting to that place, it will not come to me. Jesus went there, I need to get myself there. I need to stay at His side, that is the haven of secure and quiet rest.

From Matthew Henry’s Commentary: He retired for a while into a place of solitude. It was but a little while that he allowed himself for sleep. When it was day he went to a solitary place to be sometimes alone with God as even those should be and plan to be who are most engaged in public work. They will find themselves never less alone than when thus alone.

and the crowds were searching for Him – all always seek Him. Even those who do not know what they really want seek Him. What is their motive? Who are these crowds? They are sinners, beggars, healthy and well, wealthy and wise, fools and fakes, users, abusers, easily amused, some have an agenda, some love HIm, some are greedy, some are empty, all are desperate, lost, and lonely.  Which one am I, are you?  Which one do I want to be?

and came to Him – to all who seek, He will be found! They did whatever they had to do to get to Him but He was never hidden.  Some will not like what they find, some will take what He has to give, stay a while and then turn away, others will fall in love with Him and follow Him always. I came, I saw, I stayed.

From Matthew Henry’s Commentary:  Though a solitary place may be a convenient retreat, yet it is not a convenient residence because we were not sent into this world to live to ourselves.

and tried to keep Him – He cannot and will not be kept in a box made by human hands. He cannot be kept by strength, He is kept by faith, He is kept by His own love for me; the love that kept Him on the cross until death. He is Messiah, the Son of God.

From Matthew Henry’s Commentary: The people sought him and though it was in a solitary place, they came to him. A desert is not desert if we be with Christ there.

 from going away from them. – He will never leave nor forsake the heart that is truly His but to the heart of pride, of self, of lies He never really came…

March Book Review

I am participating in a community event organized by a fellow blogger at Weird and Wonderful

My book review for March is: Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri.  This is another book from the list of Pulitzer Prize winners.

Interpreter of Maladies is the first book by this author and is a collection of short stories.  To be honest, I am not a big fan of reading short stories but I do admire any authors ability to tell a good story in short form.

Lahiri was born in London and raised in the USA, of Indian descent.  She does an excellent job of portraying both the clash of cultures and the similarities of people.  I had several favorite stories in this book, This Blessed House, was one of them.

“They discovered the first one in a cupboard above the stove, beside an unopened bottle of malt vinegar.”  What a great opening line!  This Blessed House is a story about Sanjeev and Twinkle, yes, that is her name, the early days of their marriage and their preparations for their house-warming party.  Both Indian, both Hindu, Sanjeev is an engineer, detail-oriented, neat, organized.  Twinkle is his complete opposite, spontaneous, free-spirited, an office worker and student working on her Masters Degree.  As they are cleaning and prepping the house for the party, Twinkle begins to find small tokens of the former owner’s Christianity; a little statue of Jesus, a post-card of St. Francis, a cross key-chain; all of which Twinkle displays to Sanjeev’s growing irritation.  What constitutes a delightful treasure hunt to Twinkle gradually develops into a major conflict between them that erupts when a large statue of the Virgin Mary is found buried under fallen leaves in their yard.  Of course, Twinkle wants the statue cleaned up and displayed prominently on their front lawn.  How Sanjeev learns to appreciate Twinkle and his new, married life makes a delightful, sweet and touching love story.

The title story of the book, Interpreter of Maladies, was another I enjoyed for a different reason.  Mr. Kapasi has been hired to be the driver and tour guide for a young American family touring India.  The Das family are of Indian descent, both born and raised in America, visiting family in India with their three young children.  The story is told from Mr. Kapasi’s point of view as he observes the interactions between the couple and their children as well as telling them a bit about himself.  Mrs. Das reveals a secret to Mr. Kapasi, thinking that his other job, as a Gujarati language interpreter to a physician, gives him some special insights and helpful knowledge.  What Mr. Kapasi does with this information, his feelings towards Mrs. Das, and how Mrs. Das reacts to his response form the bittersweet ending to the story.

I recommend this book if you are a “people-watcher” who enjoys reading stories of how others view the world and I plan to read another by this same author once I finish my list!

Book Review Day

One of those days…

Taking a quick walk outside the office it hit me again…God is so majestic and awesome, He created this beautiful world, He makes the sunshine and keeps the sun in its place.  He made the water and the water is sparkling with sunshine.  He made a variety of trees and plants in the world to give shade and beauty; He made it all and it is good.

He has made me able to walk around and enjoy His beauty, to feel the sunshine, to hear the birds.  He put me in this beautiful place.  He gave me a job and a mind to learn.  He gave me a family, people to care about and people who care about me.  He gave me His only Son.  He delights in me. He gives me joy.

He is God and there is no other.

Feeling Foolish

In case you haven’t noticed the world is full of fools.  And, they seem to be multiplying!

Among fools there are several different varieties.  There are fools that are just plain ignorant and don’t know any better.  The “anything for a laugh” fool will go to extremes to get attention, loads of these fools on You Tube and Vine.  Fools have always been around, the Bible has a few stories about fools, Balaam comes to mind here (see Numbers 22 for his story).  And there are the fools who totally deny the existence of God, “The fool said in his heart, “There is no God.”  Psalm 14:1

But who or what is the worst kind of fool?  It is the fool who has made a god according to his or her own design.  “For a fool speaks nonsense, And his heart inclines toward wickedness: To practice ungodliness and to speak error against the Lord, To keep the hungry person unsatisfied And to withhold drink from the thirsty.” Isaiah 32:6 This is the fool who believes that there is a god and perhaps even believes in the God of the Bible.  The fool who lives by a set of rules that is an amalgam of personal feelings, preferences and God’s Word.  The fool who sometimes sits in church Sunday but then does whatever makes her/him feel good Monday through Saturday.   The fool who visits church after church trying to find the “one that fits” instead of the one preaching truth.  The fool whose life is a mess, who keeps on doing the same foolish things over and over and just cannot figure out why their life is a mess.  The arrogant fool who believes that he/she can pick and choose when and how to obey God and that somehow God will not only understand and forgive but bless.  God is so big, so powerful, so omnipotent, He does not fit our mold or conform to our image, we are to allow Him to transform us into His image as He renews our mind.  It is all Him and none of us.

But there is one more kind of fool.  The kind of fool who does not follow the standards and goals of this world.  The kind of fool who has decided to follow Christ fully; who is all in for God and His Word.  The 1 Corinthians 4:10 fool, “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor.

Being a fool is a choice.  Which kind of fool are you?  Which kind do you want to be?  What steps do you need to take to change?  I chose Christ’s fool, the one I want to be, hoping to be more foolish every day!

Risk Analysis

“You know, I got a hunch, fat man. I got a hunch it’s me from here on in. One ball, corner pocket. I mean, that ever happen to you? You know, all of a sudden you feel like you can’t miss? ‘Cause I dreamed about this game, fat man. I dreamed about this game every night on the road. Five ball. You know, this is my table, man. I own it.”

“Fast Eddie” Felson is about to risk it all in the movie, “The Hustler”.  The entire roll of cash, everything he has, in a game of pool against the great “Minnesota Fats”.  I love stories of gamblers, all kinds of gamblers.  The gamblers who risk their lives climbing mountains, gamblers who risk their lives exploring new places, gamblers who risk their reputation to follow a vision.  Many of our great heroes were gamblers – they believed so strongly in their dream, they risked everything to achieve it.  Every gambler makes an assessment of the risks versus the rewards by looking at all the elements of the game as well as each player, sometimes they do this in seconds, sometimes they spend years analyzing.  But then the moment of decision arrives, stay or go, bet or go home, do or not do.

Rahab was a gambler.  She is first mentioned in the Old Testament book of Joshua, and we learn a lot about her in her first appearance: she lives in the city of Jericho, she is a harlot, she allows Joshua’s 2 spies to stay in her house.  She is also a liar, the King of Jericho sent men to find these spies, when they show up at Rahab’s house she admits they were there but says she had sent them away.  In fact, the men were hidden on her roof among the stalks of flax.

When Rahab lied to the King’s men she gambled her own life and the lives of everyone in her house.  Kings had absolute power and there was no democratic process.  What convinced Rahab that the risk of hiding these foreign spies was worth the risk?  The answer is found here:

Now before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof, and said to the men, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed.  When we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.

Rahab knew the Lord was giving the Israelites the land, she knew the people of Jericho were terrified of them.  She had heard the stories of how God had taken them out of Egypt and given them victory in battle and most importantly, she knew and believed that this God was the one true God the Lord of heaven and earth.

The spies promise to spare her life and the life of her family IF she keeps silent and when they conquer Jericho.  Notice (verse 15) exactly where Rahab lives, “her house was on the city wall, so that she was living on the wall.”  You probably know what happens to Jericho but if not, read Joshua chapter 6.  Rahab ties a scarlet cord to her window to mark and protect her house from the impending invasion.  This red cord was a vivid marker to say, “Here I am” and also to say, “I believe!”

The walls of Jericho fall flat but God preserves and protects Rahab and reminds Joshua of the spies promise to her.  Everything she owns and her fathers family are all spared, Jericho and it’s people are utterly destroyed.

But the story of Rahab does not quite end there, “she has lived in the midst of Israel to this day, for she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.”  Joshua 6:25

Rahab is mentioned again in Matthew 1:5, only one of three women in the genealogy of Jesus, Rahab lives in the midst of Israel to this day.

In Hebrews 11:31, Rahab lived by faith, trusting in God for her life and future, when she welcomed the spies in peace, living in the midst of Israel to this day.

James 2:25 Rahab was justified by her works, gave evidence of her faith, when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way, living in the midst of Israel to this day.

I love this story of a woman who gambled everything for her God.  And not just any woman, a harlot – this identity is used in every mention of her except Matthew.  God wants us to know that Rahab was a woman the world scorned, looked down on, gossiped about, and marginalized but look what God does with and for her!  Her story, her name, she herself, lives on in the lineage of Jesus Christ.

Rahab risked it all for a very great reward – an eternal heritage.  When the Kings men pounded on her door what went through her mind?  Based on her actions, I am sure she thought, “This God will save me.

She was right.  And He is still saving anyone, anywhere, anytime.  Just ask Him.

Header image from: Photo by James Barker. Published on 16 December 2008
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