Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Five Keys to Bible Reading

Have you ever read those articles or blog posts that are "5 Keys to ________".  I've been seeing a lot of them lately. 5 Keys to Getting Out of Debt, 5 Keys to Organizing Your Home, 5 Keys to Losing Weight.  I always think that these articles may have some new bit of knowledge that will be helpful, but usually I just read 5 points that anyone with a little bit of common sense could have come up with on their own.  So my post today is about the 5 Keys For Reading the Bible.  Don't expect some earth shattering news.  It's really just a little bit of common sense.

1. Make it personal.

When did being a Christian become so complicated?  It isn't complicated at all.  Just read the Bible as if it's a message for you.  Because it is.  Simply read it, think about it, believe what it says, and apply it.

2. Make it personal.

Pray for God to make it personal and He will.  I'll share an example that just happened to me this week.  It's long, so try to stay with me.

Sunday morning I woke up before everyone else and started my day with reading my Bible.  First I prayed for God to make it personal for me.  I did this on purpose because I've been reading my Bible through as if I'm doing one of those programs to read the Bible in a year.  I'm sure it will take me longer than a year but the point is that I'm not reading the Bible randomly, but in the order that it's written.  I never last very long doing this because it becomes tedious to me, but I want that to be different this time so I prayed for God to make it personal.  When I opened my Bible I found myself at the story of Abram and Melchizedek, which is a tithing story.  My husband and I both believe in tithing but we've been letting it slip a lot.  But it didn't stop there.

We hadn't been to church for a few weeks so I was really looking forward to being back in church.  However, we were really late for church and when we pulled in the parking lot it was packed.  We knew that we would have to walk down front to get a seat and this back row couple didn't want to do that.  (Despite what some people believe, God shows up in the back row also.) There's another church nearby that starts much later than our church so we went there and we were almost on time.  The sermon was II Chronicles 29.  The end of the chapter is about the people giving their offerings.  A coincidence?  With God, there is no such thing as coincidence.  And it all started with a prayer that morning to make it personal.

Now, this is just an example and tithing might not be what's personal to you right now.  But it's what was personal for me and my family.

3. Make it personal.

Reading the Bible and knowing what it says, doesn't make it personal.  Knowledge is a good thing, but it isn't everything.  I went to Bible school and I can honestly say that none of my Bible classes brought me closer to God.  A good Bible class can be a good thing.  I love facts.  Give me a fact instead of an opinion any time.  The truth is that I don't even care about most opinions, but I'm thankful that I live in a country where people are free to express their opinion. But the Bible isn't just a textbook.  It's the living Word of God.  It's for my life, right now.    There is an answer in the Bible for every personal situation that I'm facing at this very moment. And sometimes the answer for me isn't the same as the answer for someone else.  But God is big enough to handle that, and His Word can guide each person for their personal circumstances.

4. Make it personal.

Context is crucial.  Don't just take what someone else says is personal to them and make it personal to you.  Don't read just one verse and draw conclusions.  Read the whole passage, read the whole chapter, or sometimes read the whole book.  I can't tell you how many sermons and sermon points I've listened to that use a monologue from one of Job's friends to back up the point.  Job's friends got it wrong, but you have to read the entire book to know that.  Personally check out everything.

5. Make it personal.

If you read that you have the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2:16) then stop calling yourself stupid, because Christ isn't stupid. It's as simple as that.  Read it, think about it, believe it, and apply it to you, personally.

The more that I make the Bible personal, the more that I see how good God is. The negativity that religion taught me as a child vanishes, and it's replaced with how much God loves me.  God has given His children many promises, and His instruction is always for our good.  Read about it.  It's Good News!


Winning Words

" Study this Book of Instruction continually.  Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it.  Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do."  Joshua 1:15 NLT

Thursday, December 31, 2015

The End of 2015

Right now I'm enjoying the end of 2015 and looking forward to the beginning days of 2016.  Yes, I'm on vacation for a couple of weeks.  What better way to end this year and start the new year.  The only downside to vacation is leaving the cats for two weeks, but we have a wonderful cat sitter staying at our house so it's a little easier for me be away this time.

Looking Back at 2015

I'm not very good at looking back.  I'd much rather focus on what's to come.  The truth is that this time of being on the verge of an empty nest is very strange.  Also, not much turned out as planned this year, and this blog is no different.  The posts became fewer and fewer and focused less on cooking and sewing than I had planned because life happened and I lost focus.  Time to regroup.

That's about all the looking back that I'm going to do, so on to 2016.

Going Forward into 2016

My current goal is just to enjoy my vacation.  I still have some huge challenges to deal with when I get home so I'm going to regroup now.  Hopefully when I get home I'll have a better sense of where to go from here.  These are some of the things I want to focus on in 2016.

1.  Return cooking and baking to the blog.  

My food posts almost vanished because my plan of using recipes from my huge cookbook collection backfired.  Despite being comfortable in the kitchen, I had one cooking disaster after another.  I stopped blogging about my disasters and finally gave up.  I was making cinnamon rolls from a very well known Food Network person.  The recipe called for melting 2 sticks of butter and pouring it over the rolled out dough.  Even though I knew this was a huge mistake, I did what the recipe said and ended up with butter running everywhere.  What a mess!  Softened butter, not melted!  I know how to make cinnamon rolls without making a complete mess of my kitchen so why did I feel like I needed to follow a bad recipe?  I have many tried and true recipes in my recipe box and I'm rediscovering the great recipes in my good 'ole Betty Crocker Cookbook.  My family gave me a professional Kitchen Aid stand mixer for Christmas (yes, I'm spoiled), and I can't wait to give it a workout when I get home!

2.  Return sewing to the blog.

I didn't do hardly any sewing this year.  I have a huge stash of fabric and patterns and I want to get back to making things.

3.  Lose some weight.

Even though I'm in much better shape than when I started this year, I still haven't lost the weight that I gained last winter.  I know that it shouldn't be a big deal but I'm not comfortable weighing this much.  It's time to get a game plan and do something about it.

4.  Start putting together a strategy for a new business endeavor. 

 This is a really wide open one for now.  I have some ideas floating around in my head that I need to research and start narrowing down the direction that I want to take for the future as far as being productive and contributing to the family finances.

It's always good to take a look at where you've been, what's gone right, what's gone wrong, and where you want to go in the future.  Whenever I do something like this I'm always reminded that all of my planning will come to nothing if God isn't in it.  I want the plan to come from Him.  With God's guidance, the plans will work out for my good, and if the plans don't work out, then God will have something even better for me.  I have a future and a hope, and I will wholeheartedly look for God.


Winning Words

This is what the Lord says: "You will be in Babylon for seventy years.  But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again.  For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord.  "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.  In those days when you pray, I will listen.  If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me." Joshua 29:10-13 NLT

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Merry Christmas!

I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!!  I'm so thankful that I serve a living King who came to this earth so I can live a victorious, abundant life!

I just felt like I needed to declare that today.  Have you ever listened to a sermon that probably made the devil very happy? It bothers me even more at Christmas. If the gospel is dead, then it isn't any different than any other religion.  But I thank God that He is alive and at work on behalf of anyone who will let Him. We came home and put the The Collingsworth Family, We Will Serve The Lord in the DVD player and had church at home.  This isn't an affiliate link, I just love this DVD.  It would make a great Christmas present for someone.

So this Christmas I'm thankful for a God who loved me so much that He sent His Son to this earth as a baby.  That baby grew up, died on the cross, and then rose again so that anyone who makes Him their Lord can have life in heaven, and also abundant life on earth.  This Christmas, like always, I'm going to claim and receive all of the promises that His death and resurrection provided for me.  That little baby is a King, and I am a child of that King!  Thank you, Jesus!

Have a merry, and blessed, Christmas!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

God's Amazing Grace

God's grace is awesome!!!

Sometimes in our Christian world it can be hard to see God's grace through all the law we pile on ourselves.  I've been involved in a study on Jacob recently.  As I've been studying the story, I've found a story about God's amazing grace in spite of and in the middle of Jacob's shortcomings.  Jacob had a wrestling encounter with God that ended his journey of being identified as a deceiver and started his journey of identifying with God and His grace.  Jacob still deceived, but it wasn't his identity anymore.

Of course that wasn't the focus of the study.  We ended up examining our every action and motive because it might be sin and we need to get rid of it if any shred of sin can be found.  Some of the women were really laboring over this.  Oh my.  I tried to insert some comments of grace into the discussion but I don't think they were well received.  I'm not writing this to belittle the others at all.  They just haven't had the same revelation about grace that I've had.  I wish that all of God's children could fully embrace God's grace.

Anyway, I'm glad I did the study because through my own study of the story God's grace and greatness became even stronger to me.  It was just a great reminder to me that everything we read in the Bible has to be seen through the lens of grace and the blood of Jesus.  The one thought that I keep having as I finish this study is this.  If I ever start making God's Word more about my sin instead of God's grace and greatness, then heaven help me because I will have missed the whole point.  I don't need to agonize over my every move, wondering if I'm sinning or not.  God will straighten out anything that needs fixed, and He will do it gently.  He might even let a donkey talk to me. My job is to have a heart for God and keep my eyes on Him, not me.

I love living in the joy and freedom that Jesus paid such a high price for me to have.  I am free to live unencumbered and I'm so thankful.  His yoke is easy, and His burden is light.


Winning Words

Then Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you.  Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light."
Matthew 11:28-30

Monday, October 19, 2015

Order and Chaos

Have you ever sat through a program, concert, or sermon that's all over the place?  It's hard to make sense of it because there's no theme to provide cohesiveness.  I'm an orderly person and something like that is hard for me to sit through.  I usually leave trying to make some sense out of it, but if it doesn't happen in about 5 minutes I just put it in the 'lost cause' bin. I don't want to spend time trying to make sense out of someone else's chaos.

Or how about when someone redecorates their house and they go to the store and buy everything they like but nothing goes together.  I've seen homes like that, haven't you?  Many of them are also cluttered, but even if they aren't cluttered they still look like they are. I'm a pretty organized person.  I believe that everything should not only go together but also have a place and a purpose, even if that purpose is just to decorate. You won't find a jumbled up junk drawer in my home, but there's still always room for improvement like putting away the pile of books by my chair.

And then there are some artists.  I know that a lot of people love mixed media fiber art, but I'm not one of them.  I look at a piece of fabric with trim, thread strands, beads, fabric scraps, and every other leftover craft item attached to the fabric, and while others are raving over the beautiful 'creativeness' I look at it and say, "What a mess!"

I was reading the creation story last week about how God turned chaos into His creation.  Everything went together perfectly.  Perfect cohesion.  I've been thinking about how we sometimes think that creativeness is chaotic.  That couldn't be further from the truth. God created with perfect orderliness and purpose. He set the example. Being deliberate, planning, and executing something with precision and purpose is simulating God. Sloppiness and just throwing something together is not. A week later I'm still realizing all the areas of my life that would benefit from a little more order, purpose, and cohesiveness.  Excellence.  God took chaos and created order.  Then He declared that it was good.


Winning Words

"Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!"
Genesis 1:31a NLT


Sometimes I get myself in trouble and this post may be one of those times.  My examples in this post were simply generalizations.  They were not pointed at anyone in particular.  Just to clarify, I have a wonderful pastor who delivers very organized sermons. In my post A Tree Fence (Sort Of) I wrote that for me this year has been about getting back on track, taking care of business, and getting things in order.  Much like a financial professional will see money matters when they read the Bible, at this point in my journey I have been seeing planning and organization. Although I'm an organized person, I am far from perfect in this area. We are all at different places in our journey.

Every morning I drive to the mall near my home to walk.  I thought I would be walking with all senior citizens but I was surprised to find people of all ages.  When I first started I thought it was great when I could pass the 85 year old with a walker. I've come a long way since then, but I still don't pass the woman pumping her arms like crazy and skipping a few steps once in a while to keep herself from breaking into a run.  We have the same ultimate goal - exercise - but we're at different stages. I think that Christians with a heart for God have the same goal - pleasing God - but we're at different stages.

Let me finish with this thought. Last week in Bible study I was asked to read Hebrews 10:19-22.
"And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven's Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus.  By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place.  And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God's house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ's blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water."
Then the leader asked what that means to us.  The first thing that came to my mind is that we can stand before God and He sees us as clean.  He isn't out to get us. He doesn't condemn us. Our condemnation comes from us, not God, and we don't have to have a guilty conscience.  Christ already paid the price to get rid of it.  All of the women sitting around the table seemed to identify with what I was saying. We are our worst critic.

We're all on a journey and we're all at different places in that journey. God doesn't condemn His children although He may convict us through the Holy Spirit.  I believe without a doubt that God appreciates excellence.  So do I.  But there is no condemnation from God, or from me, toward someone who is at a different place in their journey.