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!

Stay Flat!

Some of my least favorite conversations start like this.

“What’s the matter?”

“Nothing.”

“I can tell something is bothering you. What’s wrong?”

Like a ping pong match, this exchange can go for a while until one or the other person breaks down and tells why they are angry/hurt/upset/worried/sad etc.  Most of the time it is pretty easy to “read” the people we are close to and we know when to start this conversation.

But we know how to hide, how to pretend, how to dissemble, and how to divert attention from what is really going on with us to some other meaningless thing.  God knows we do this and that we like to think we are pretty good at it.  When Adam and Eve were hiding in that garden He knew where they were and why they were hiding but He asked, “Where are you?” It was similar to asking them, “What’s the matter?”

We may be able to hide from one another but we cannot hide from God.  In chapter 5 of the book of Numbers God has some interesting instructions about revealing some things that could easily be kept hidden.

Leprosy – cannot be in the camp where God is; a person having leprosy must be put out of the camp.  Leprosy often begins with a  visible sore or white patch on the skin and it would it be easy to keep it hidden for a while.

Wrong another person – the offender must confess their sin and make proper restitution. But what if the wrong is not such a big deal or the person offended cannot be found?   “No one will ever know”  This is not an acceptable excuse, we know we did it and so does God.  No procrastination either, do it right away before you “forget”.

Suspected adultery – a husband suspects his wife may have committed adultery but has no proof. (And yes, sorry ladies, a woman suspecting her husband did not have this same recourse and yes, this does not seem fair.)  The husband must take her to the priest, he is not to nag her with accusations and because there are no witnesses she cannot be stoned to death. (The penalty for adultery Leviticus 20:10).  Now it gets really interesting, the priest prepares bitter water for her to drink (water with dust from the ground mixed in)  and the priest makes this pronouncement,

the Lord make you a curse and an oath among your people by the Lord’s making your thigh waste away and your abdomen swell; and this water that brings a curse shall go into your stomach, and make your abdomen swell and your thigh waste away.” And the woman shall say, “Amen. Amen.”

There was really nothing special or “magical” in the water, the priest and woman were agreeing that God would judge her.  If she had committed adultery, she would become barren – unable to bear children, her sin would be exposed.

This is one of those parts of the Bible that makes me look up to God and say, “Huh?  I don’t think I really get all this, God.”  And I “hear” God say, “That’s ok, I am glad you are working on it, you don’t have to understand every word of my Word but what do you get?”

And here are two things that seem very clear:

  • Sin spreads, like leprosy, it will not go away and must be dealt with or it may “infect” others.  Once I have taken one apple from my neighbors orchard it becomes much easier to take two or three the next time,  “Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile.”
  • God expects His people to be holy as He is holy.  To be honest in all our dealings with one another.  To be honest with Him, to confess our sin, apologize to those we have hurt, to make restitution if necessary, to honor our marriage vows with our faithfulness.  To be pure and holy is a process, it begins on the outside with cleaning up the obvious sin in our lives, whatever that is, drinking, bad language, etc.  Then we are to move on the deeper levels, being honest in all of our dealings with each other and finally to honesty in our closest, most intimate relationship – our marriages.

Jon Courson (Jon Courson’s Application Commentary, Old Testament, Volume 1) writing on the woman accused of adultery in this passage says that her swollen belly indicates her inner turmoil and her rotten (wasted) thigh represents an inability to walk spiritually.  A swollen belly and a painful leg make it difficult to walk (ask anyone who is 8 – 9 months pregnant!)  A pure life brings inner peace and a strong walk with the Lord.  How do you get that?  Admit your sin to God, ask Him to forgive you, believe that Jesus died for you, accept Jesus’ gift of salvation.  So, keep your belly flat and your legs strong!

Empty Excuses

“No, I didn’t do that!”

“That is not true.”

“Yes, but do you know what they did/said?”

“I promise I won’t do it again.”

“I only did that once!”

“Let me tell you what really happened.”

“Things are really hard for me right now.”

I sat listening to a steady stream of excuses, justifications and blame. After a few moments I tuned it all out because it was just the same old same old repeated over and over with minor variations.

When the conversation finally ended, the person who had been in the “hot seat” left, clutching the tattered shreds of their delusion that somehow, they were believed. The lies they had told to others, the lies they clung to about themselves were so deep, they were convinced their pride and dignity was still intact. They were wrong. I was not the only one listening to this conversation and all of us knew the truth. The person making the excuses was being dishonest. The excuses were exactly that, lame excuses and there was no legitimate justification for any of the foolish and disrespectful actions. Only one person was to blame.

As this pitiful conversation was drawn to a close I felt amused, disgusted, ashamed, saddened, angered and finally, deeply convicted. I began to consider the hours of precious life wasted; how “Satan fascinates and then assassinates” to quote my dear friend, Debbie. This person was caught in a web of lies and deceptions that took years to construct; the wasted potential for good, for creativity, for happiness made me sad and angry.   A lack of personal responsibility, for “owning” your decisions, for blaming others disgusts me; the “victim mentality” so prevalent in our world is a big lie from the pit. Yes, I do understand that bad things can happen to people through no fault of their own, some people are truly victims but let’s face it if I eat candy bars all day every day and all my teeth fall out and I balloon up to 700 lbs. it is not the fault of the candy company – take responsibility for your decisions people!

I began to see this person as God does and realized how often I make excuses for my own sinful choices that sound exactly the same as the excuses, justifications and blame I had overheard. How God must hate listening to my ridiculous statements: “He made me so angry. “ “She hurt my feelings.” “I would do ______ better if I didn’t have this problem right now.” “I will start tomorrow/I will never do that again!” And so on and so forth the excuses march on.

God, forgive me. Help me to be a worshipper in Spirit and in TRUTH, to be honest in my confession, to take responsibility for my own actions, to compare myself only to you and not to others. Remind me to pray for this person, for their freedom from lies and for their salvation; show me the lies I believe. Help me stay dependent on you, not making empty promises to do things on my own strength but drawing on your power and the Holy Spirit to transform me from the inside out.