Archive for September, 2012

Resting at the River’s Edge provides an opportunity to participate in reading through the Bible in a systematic way. Here’s more details about the plan and our schedules.

Track your reading along with us using the table below, the the half-page PDF you can download here or the September/October Bookmark you can download here.

We’d love to have you share what God is teaching you. E-mail me, leave a message on the Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog.

Word of God, speak to us this month!
Sandy

Download all 2012 bookmarks here Download only the September/October 2012 bookmark here

Download a half-page PDF of the October Reading Plan here

Here’s the October reading plan:

Oct 2012 RARE Reading Plan JPG

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Remember Who You Are In Christ

Faith is the confidence, assurance and substance of things hoped for – things we confidently expect to happen. It is the conviction and evidence of things not yet seen.
Hebrews 11:1 (expanded translation using NLT, NASB, NKJV, NRSV and Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary)

Faith is confidence…but sometimes our confidence lags a bit. My husband occasionally says that he’s shocked at how insecure I am. I usually project an air of confidence, but there are some common (that is, every day) situations that send my insecurity meter off the charts. The key to being confident (that is, faith-filled) is the object of our confidence – the object of our faith. My confidence lags when my focus changes from God to myself. How will I look to others? How will I be perceived? What if I say or do the wrong thing? What if I forget something important?

Our first faith building action refocused our attention off ourselves and onto God through praise. When we look at the One who created the universe, knowing that He is on our side, our confidence soars. Our second faith building action brings the focus back to ourselves, but in a way that allows us to see ourselves through God’s eyes.

Faith Building Action 2 – Remind Yourself of Who You Are in Christ
Here are a just few of the ways that God sees you. Meditate on these elements of your identity in Christ to build your faith.

Forgiven – Being forgiven means there is no longer any condemnation or shame associated with your past (or present or future) life. It means all penalties or payments required to make up for your wrong actions have already been paid. Welcome to freedom! Your life sentence of being a slave to sin has been commuted.

1So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.
Romans 8:1-2 (NLT)

No condemnation, friends – and freedom from the power of sin.

Child of God – Of course that forgiveness also makes you a child of God – someone who is born not only of flesh and blood but of the spirit. Someone who has the promise of spending eternity with Him. Someone dearly loved by the Father.

3Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God…5I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. 6Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.”
John 3:3, 5-6 (NLT)

1How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.
1 John 3:1-3 (NIV)

That hope gives us confidence in today and tomorrow. What love the Father has lavished upon us!

Child of Abba-Father – There are many ways to view being a child of God. One picture that often escapes us is the intimate picture of a child reaching up his or her arms to be lifted up by their Papa. That is the image portrayed in this verse:

14For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”
Romans 8:14-15 (NASB)

We’re not given a spirit of fear – rather, when we are tempted to fear we are reminded that we have been adopted as a child of God and we can cry out for His help – “Abba! Father!” My parents were divorced when I was in my teens and I felt disconnected from my father. It was only after I grew older that I began to understand that if I needed anything and called out “Daddy!” he would do his best to move heaven and earth if necessary to come to my aid. And he was an earthly father – quite imperfect when compared with my heavenly Father. My heavenly Father actually has the power to move heaven and earth to come to my aid. My heavenly Father invites me to cry out “Daddy!” Matthew Henry writes that this verse “denotes an affectionate endearing importunity” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible.) He’s my father with whom I can be affectionate, who finds me endearing, and who encourages me to seek Him and His help.

Joint heir with Christ – When God made us His children – or perhaps I should say when God set in motion the plan for Christ to pay the penalty for our sins and when Christ agreed to leave the glories of heaven for the pain and suffering of earth and when we accepted Christ’s gift as payment for our sins – we also became joint-heirs with Christ. In the breath that Christ said “forgive them,” He said “I’ll share all that is mine with them.”

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
John 3:16 (NLT)

16The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ…
Romans 8:16-17a (NASB)

All that the Father has belongs to the Son. We have become fellow heirs, joint heirs, co-heirs with Christ.

Beloved Bride of Christ – We are not only a friend of God and co-heir with Christ, but Paul told the Corinthians that he had “promised [them] as a pure bride to one husband – Christ” 2 Corinthians 11:2 (NLT). Revelation 19 describes the wedding:

7Let us be glad and rejoice, and let us give honor to him. For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and his bride has prepared herself. 8She has been given the finest of pure white linen to wear.” For the fine linen represents the good deeds of God’s holy people. 9And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” And he added, “These are true words that come from God.”
Revelation 19:7-9 (NLT)

We will be the bride who has made herself ready. We are the bride who is making herself ready. We have been invited to the wedding feast not as a guest but as the beloved bride. Christ is our husband and He longs for the day when we will become His bride.

There is a passage that puts all these relationships together:

4But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. 5God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. 6And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” 7Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.
Galatians 4:4-7 (NLT)

We have gone from slave to son. We have gone from deserving death to being an heir. Our confidence – our faith – grows as we understand who we are in Christ. This powerful video with Jason Gray’s song Remind Me Who I Am illustrates the point.

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This has not been an exhaustive list of who we are in Christ. There’s much more! Scripture also says that we are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), a chosen people (1 Peter 2:9), created in God to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). And more, and more.

Move beyond discouragement to faith – meditate on who you are in Christ.

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1Faith is the confidence and substance of things hoped for – things we confidently expect to happen. It is the conviction and evidence of things not yet seen.
Hebrews 11:1 (expanded translation using NLT, NASB, NKJV, NRSV and Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary)

Faith is this wonderful, supernatural, practical, every-day living thing. I’ll use a word that might offend some and say it almost seems magical. Sometimes you have it and sometimes you don’t. When you have it, you feel like nothing in the world can hold you back and nothing in the world is going to discourage you. When you don’t have it, it’s so easy to slide into defeatism and wonder if you’ll ever have enough faith, if you’ll ever be able to accomplish things, maybe even if you’ll ever be good enough for God. Of course the answer to that last doubt is no, you’ll never be good enough…but God doesn’t require that you be good enough. He’s already done the heavy lifting and is ready to forgive your sins if you just turn your life over to Him. If you’ve never done that, I encourage you – I urge you – to do so. You can learn more about it here. Or send me an email (sandy@ApprehendingGrace.com) and I’ll respond.

Yet even those who are confident they are living in Christ can become discouraged. As we continue to walk with the Lord, He expects us to mature in our faith. He no longer spoon feeds us to help us get through our daily life. We learn to live in Christ and overcome the things of this world. Don’t misunderstand and think that Christ isn’t always with us. He is. Just as a loving parent, though, He allows us to grow up and confidently face the challenges and experience victory in Him.

So how do we encourage ourselves in our faith? How do we increase our faith when we feel it lagging? In this series we’re going to look at five specific actions we can take that will move us past discouragement toward faith and confidence. Each of the steps will strengthen your walls of faith. They will patch the weak spots and repair the broken edges.

Remember that if you’re at a weak point, it’s unlikely you got there overnight. You’ve probably been sliding for awhile and now you find yourself at the turnoff to discouragement valley. Or perhaps you’ve already taken the exit ramp. It may take a little time to get back to the road that leads to confidence and faith. Take your time and be consistent. Take these actions – starting today – and trust that God will restore you.

Faith Building Action 1 – Praise
There is no substitute for spending time praising God and it is the single-most important action you can take when your faith is dwindling. Often, however, when your faith is low, it can be difficult to remember how to worship and praise God. (Lord, forgive us. Lord, help us.) There are two practical things you can do to help you praise God when your heart is heavy and your mind is blank:

  • Remind yourself who God is. There are many ways you can do this.Here’s just a few.
    • Study or read about the different names of God. He Jehovah-Jireh – The Lord, My Provider. He has always provided for me and He always will. He is Jehovah-Raffe – The Lord, My Healer. He has made me whole!
    • When I’m having one of those medical tests that cause me stress I work through the alphabet identifying characteristics of God that are praiseworthy. He is the Alpha – He’s always been. He existed before the beginning of the world. He’s Big – bigger than any problem I’m facing. (He’s also Better at dealing with them than I am.) He Cares for me – like a mother hen wants to protect her chicks. You get the idea. If you’re working on faith building, don’t just do this in your head as I’ve done during uncomfortable medical tests, do it on paper – journal your way through the alphabet. It is a powerful exercise that can easily take several weeks. Make it a special time between you and God.
    • Read through the Psalms. Many of them describe God in ways that wouldn’t be on the tip of our tongues. He is the good shepherd (Psalm 23). He is a shield around me (Psalm 3:3). He is my rock (Psalm 18:3 and many others). You’ll also find example after example teaching you how to praise Him. “I love the LORD because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy.” (Psalm 116:1)
    • I love to read the creation story in Genesis 1. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Then God said…” (Genesis 1:1-3a, NLT). I am blown away by the power of God each time I read it – His ability to create all that exists from nothing. God’s Spirit hovered, then He spoke. And the world came into being.
    • Sing praise music. This Sunday, after each worship song our pastor had us call out things we were thankful for that we had just sung about. It made us think about the words we were singing – making it impossible to treat the worship time like a songfest. Engage while you sing praise songs and pause after each one to audibly praise God for things the song identifies.
  • Remind yourself of what God has done for you. Be specific.
    • Tell yourself your “God story.” How were you saved? What prayers has He answered? How has he protected you? How has He intervened in your marriage? How has He changed your life and the lives of your children? Who has he put in your life to bless you? How have they blessed you?
    • If you’ve kept a prayer journal, re-read it. Slowly.
    • Think through the major seasons of your life and identify how God has been a part of them.
    • Think through the major events of your life and remember how God has directed them.

Our pastor said something this Sunday that I put two stars next to in my notes:

“There isn’t a wall that satan can build that cannot be torn down – demolished – with praise.”
Pastor Dan Caudill

He followed it with a second double-starred note:

“Praise disarms a complaining spirit.”
Pastor Dan Caudill

How very true this is. It’s that complaining spirit that drives us to discouragement valley. Praise takes the keys away from it and returns them to the Holy Spirit. Then He drives us to faith and confidence.

Friend, praise Him! In the morning, throughout the day and before you go to sleep every night.

It will keep you off the road to discouragement.

In a few days I’ll give you a second action to build your faith when it’s wavering. For now, let’s praise Him.

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Lukewarm Water Thermometer

This challenging blog got my attention. “The faithful life only appears radical because we exist in a fallen world” the author writes. This fallen world woos us to conform to a faith that lacks action – one that Jesus described as lukewarm. One that prompts the author to ask “Are we being radical or are we in retirement?

The author’s seven questions will help you answer that question objectively…because without an objective aid, we’re too prone to claim that we are radical for the Lord we love. I don’t doubt that we love the Lord. But I know I am susceptible to the wooing of the world.

Lord, draw me closer to You.

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From Discouragement to Faith and ConfidenceI’ve run into several things over the past couple of months that seem to have the same theme. That typically means God is trying to teach me something.

I read an article about never-ever-ever giving up, never-ever-ever quitting – even if you’ve been knocked down and it would seem all hope is lost. It was a powerfully written piece that stuck with me. It was an article about self defense, not our walk with the Lord.

A short time later I was watching Olympics coverage of the men’s gymnastics team. They were falling apart. The announcer began to talk about a basketball coach he had interviewed. This basketball coach repeatedly said “I’m training them for the thunderbolt.” Yes, he would drill on layups and foul shots, but he saw his primary function as “training them for the thunderbolt.” That is – training them what to do when the worst happens.

A few days later I went to a walk-thru at a commercial printer’s facility. It was their opportunity to teach us a bit about the printing industry and talk about their capabilities. One of the speakers made a statement followed by this insightful question: “Mistakes happen. The key question is what systems and processes do you have in place for recovery?”

I’m sensing a theme.

I think sometimes I am too easily discouraged. Maybe you are too. I think some times I give up too soon. Perhaps it’s because I’ve not trained for the thunderbolt. Perhaps it’s because I don’t have the proper systems and processes in place to move beyond discouragement into faith and confidence.

Because quitting too soon, my friend, is a sign of weak faith. Let’s look at a famous faith verse:

Faith is the confidence, assurance and substance of things hoped for – things we confidently expect to happen. It is the conviction and evidence of things not yet seen.
Hebrews 11:1 (expanded translation using NLT, NASB, NKJV, NRSV and Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary)

When we face discouragement, there are (at least) five specific actions we can take to travel beyond that discouragement toward the faith that pleases God. We’ll look at those five actions in upcoming blogs.

Before we get to any of the actions, though, the first and perhaps most important thing for us to do is to decide that this is the time to keep moving – not to make discouragement a stop along the road. It’s time to change our destination – and that means changing our expectations. It’s time to expect to win and have the attitude that we’re in the game until we win. We’re to never-ever-ever give up. Christ assures us of the victory

But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.
1 John 4:4 (NLT)

If we don’t make this critical first decision, we’ll never take the five specific actions that will move us toward faith and confidence. If we don’t recognize that our steering wheel is taking the exit ramp into discouragement valley (which is just a stop on the road to depression) and put a stake in the ground and say “No! Not on my watch! Not this time! That exit ramp is closed!” we won’t see the victory we’re promised.

A few days after the walk-thru at the printer’s facility, I read a blog that encouraged…you guessed it…expecting victory. Check it out here. Then stay tuned for the five specific things you can do to move from discouragement to faith.

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The topic of the first part of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians is suffering, and I was so blessed to spend a little time in it recently. The Corinthians had been suffering and Paul wrote to bring encouragement and a bit of teaching about suffering. And that’s a lesson we all need some times.

This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy. I am writing to God’s church in Corinth and to all of his holy people throughout Greece.
2 Corinthians 1:1 (NLT)

God has chosen us – some to be apostles, some to be evangelists, some to be teachers – but all to be His sons and daughters and joint heirs with Christ. And although He has chosen us, He also gives us the opportunity to choose Him. He doesn’t force His will upon us, but allows us to choose. Scripture is clear that it is not God’s desire that anyone die without first choosing to make Jesus their Savior, but He allows it. Because love doesn’t force one’s will on another. Love is giving, not controlling. John 3:16 tells us how much God gave –

16For God so loved the world , that he gave his only begotten Son , that whosoever believeth in him should not perish , but have everlasting life. 17For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
John 3:16-17 (KJV)

We have all been chosen by God’s will. Paul says he was chosen to be an apostle. You may not be an apostle, but you have been chosen by God’s will to have a relationship with Him and you’ve been chosen to serve Him.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.
2 Corinthians 1:3 (NLT)

In verse 3 we begin to get to the meat of Paul’s letter and although he is going to address suffering, He begins with praise, setting the example to us. When we face suffering of any kind, making praise our starting place changes our focus and enables us to see the goodness of God. It also opens the door for God’s presence to walk with us through the suffering.

Paul quickly gets to the point, though and tells the Corinthians that God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. Do you need comforting? Go to God – because He is the source. When we are comforting a friend, the best thing we can do for them is help them turn to God – the best thing we can do is take them to the source of all comfort. Because any comfort you or I can offer is a pale comparison to God’s comfort.

I love verse 4 – it tells us that our suffering has purpose – that it isn’t useless and we’re not useless when we suffer….

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.
2 Corinthians 1:4 (NLT)

First, notice the word “all” – He comforts us in all our troubles. Not just some of them. I can take all my troubles to Him and He will comfort me.

He doesn’t just comfort me for my benefit – although that’s wonderful. He comforts me so that I can comfort others. That tells me that my suffering has purpose. When we’re suffering, it can be very tempting to ask “Why me?” Paul gives the answer to that question. My suffering and receiving God’s comfort will enable me to comfort others who suffer.

Don’t waste your suffering, friends. Don’t waste your sorrows – use them as an opportunity to receive comfort from God and then pray for opportunities to share that comfort with others. People around us need to hear about the comfort God can give when they are suffering.

For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.
2 Corinthians 1:5 (NLT)

Paul turns to encouragement here. Having just said that our suffering has purpose – that is, so we can comfort others, it’s almost as if he takes a step back and remembers how hard it is to suffer, so he encourages the Corinthians – the more we suffer, the more God showers us with His comfort. What word is used? Showered – the more we suffer, the more God will shower us with His comfort.

When I was a kid and we’d have a bad storm, mom would say it’s raining cats and dogs. In the Kingdom of God, when we suffer, we can say it’s raining God’s comfort, and the more we suffer, the harder it rains God’s comfort.

Paul then makes his writings more personal. He writes about his own troubles:

6Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. 7We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.
2 Corinthians 1:6-7 (NLT)

Paul shares that even when he and his missionary team were weighed down with troubles, it was for the Corinthians – so that they could comfort the Corinthians and bring salvation to them.

Then he encourages them that again, telling them again that he is confident – confident – that word is important – Paul is confident that the Corinthians will also share in the comfort God was giving him and his team.

The word translated “confident” here is translated “steadfast hope” in the King James Version. I love that translation. Paul had a steadfast hope – a steady, secure hope in Christ that just as God was comforting him, He would comfort those who were suffering with him.

What a wonderful example to us of how to comfort others. God comforts us when we are struggling so that we can say to them “I have a steadfast confidence that just as God comforted me, He will comfort you.”

Hallelujah!

But Paul seems to think they should know a bit more about the suffering he experienced. Sometimes it helps others to understand our suffering because it reinforces to them that God can meet their needs. If He met my needs when I was in this desperate situation – if He came to my rescue – He will come to yours. So let’s read about Paul’s situation:

8We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. 9In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead.
2 Corinthians 1:8-9 (NLT)

Wow! Paul again is giving a purpose to our suffering. What an important lesson is in these verses. Paul is saying that sometimes God allows our suffering to continue beyond what we think we can endure…so that we stop relying on ourselves and learn to rely only on God.

That’s the way God wants us to live – relying on Him, trusting Him for each breath we take. And the truth is that when things are going well…it’s easy to believe that we have everything under control and pretty soon we begin to rely on our own abilities or our own money or our own position in life. God wants us to rely on Him. And when we stray too far from that, in His mercy, He allows us to suffer so that we return to Him.

Paul doesn’t dwell on the point because he ends the passage the way he started it – with a focus on praising God, not on his troubles:

And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us.
2 Corinthians 1:10 (NLT)

Paul says “God came through!” God did rescue us! And not only that! He will rescue us again! We have placed our confidence in Him and He will rescue us!

That is the best place to be, friends – placing our confidence in Him, knowing that He will rescue us. Trusting God, relying on Him not only for our daily needs, but for our eternal need – for salvation. Trust Christ, put your confidence in Him and He will rescue you. In this life and for eternity.

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1 Chronicles 16:29-30
Give to the LORD the glory he deserves! Bring your offering and come into his presence. Worship the LORD in all his holy splendor. (NLT)

Give to the LORD the glory due His name; Bring an offering, and come before Him. Oh, worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness! (NKJV)

Isaiah 66:1-2 (NLT)
1This is what the LORD says: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Could you build me a temple as good as that? Could you build me such a resting place? 2aMy hands have made both heaven and earth; they and everything in them are mine.

Sunset Sky in the Firelands
Dandelion Feathered
Light Through the Clouds
By the River's Edge
Purple Flowers
Lake
Flower Amidst Rocks
Wheat

Photo credits to Terry Caudill. Thanks, Terry!

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Bible with Gems in Treasure ChestI read a passage recently and as I read it, I thought “Oh, that might be a good passage to preach at mom’s nursing home on Sunday.” What followed was a particularly busy and hectic week. When Friday evening came around I was worn out and hadn’t started my sermon for Sunday. I knew I had some ideas rolling around in the back of my head, but I hadn’t prayed about it as diligently as I typically would nor had I made any notes or settled on a topic or passage. I knew Saturday was set aside to celebrate our anniversary so I had begun to think that I might read over one or two of the passages that were possibilities and simply preach extemporaneously. That is much less than my normal preparation, but I’ve learned that God extends grace when we are faithful. I had been faithful the previous week to do the unexpected things He’d thrown my way, so I would trust Him to bring a message on Sunday that would meet the needs of the nursing home congregation.

After a short rest, I knew I wanted to decide on a direction for Sunday’s sermon, even if I wasn’t going to do the study I typically do. I returned to the passage that had caught my eye earlier in the week – 2 Corinthians 1. I reread it, and was satisfied that I could preach from it without any notes if necessary. But that’s not my pattern, so I thought I’d make just a few notes in case I was a bit foggy brained when it came time to preach.

I copied the text into my word processing software and I began to make a few notes after each verse. And that’s when the passage came alive to me. I was so blessed to find gems buried just below the surface. They were just waiting for me to spend a little time digging. It didn’t take hours of research and umpteen resources. Just a Bible and a pen and paper – or the modern day equivalent – I use QuickVerse and/or Wordsearch on my computer and Microsoft Word.

So I was again reminded that even a little effort – working through a passage verse by verse and actually making some notes instead of just reading a verse and then moving on to the next – gives the Holy Spirit the opportunity to take us to a deeper level in understanding, receiving and applying God’s Word to our lives. In a short period of time, God had not only assured me that the passage was the perfect passage for Sunday’s message, it was also a message that so many of us need to hear regularly. It was a message to me. And I believe a message for you. I’ll share that message in a few days, but the first message is…

Study your Bible. Just take a passage that piques your interest as you read and begin to write your thoughts about it. Verse by verse. What does it say? What does it mean? Here’s a quick approach to study any passage:

  • Read over the whole passage. A passage might be anything from 1 to 15 verses – there’s no “rule” about it – just a chunk of Scripture that can be digested at one time.
  • If you have more time, read the material before and after the passage to be sure you are reading the passage in context.
  • Now read each verse one by one and make notes about it. Your notes don’t need to be whole sentences. Sometimes it’s just underlining words that grab your attention. Ask questions like:
    • What does the verse say?
    • What does the verse mean?
    • What do the words that grab my attention really mean? (A dictionary is a great companion for studying the Bible, and a Greek-Hebrew dictionary can give you better understanding of the meaning of the word that was translated into English.)
    • How does the verse connect to other verses?
    • Who is doing the talking/writing and who is he talking/writing to?
    • What would your reaction have been if you had been there and heard/read the words?
    • Why has this verse (or this word) caught my attention? What is the application to my life? What is God teaching me?
  • Don’t write non-stop. Pause to hear God’s voice. He may have some comments of His own to add!

Enjoy your Bible! It’s a great place to start a treasure hunt!

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5I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you. 6This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. 7For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:5-7 (NLT)

When I read this introduction to Paul’s letter to Timothy, it seems to me that Timothy was at a low point in his walk with the Lord. Paul is reminding him that his faith is genuine and he is reminding him of the faith of his ancestors. He is telling Timothy that he has confidence in Timothy’s faith. Then Paul gives Timothy a prescription for restoring the spark in his relationship with God. It’s a prescription we all need from time to time. Paul tells Timothy to “fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you” (NLT). Other translations read “stir up the gift of God which is in you” (NKJV) and “rekindle the gift of God” (NRSV). That’s the prescription. Not quite as easy as “take two pills and rest.” What does it mean to “fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you”? Perhaps Paul didn’t answer the question because the answer varies from person to person.

Anyone who has experienced a down cycle in their spiritual life has wondered “how do I get back to where I was? How do I return to the passion I once had for God?” The good news is that once you’ve started asking that question, you can have confidence that God is there to help. God wants you back more than you do. Yes, He requires that you return to Him, but He’s been there waiting for you. Like the father of the prodigal son, He’s been watching for you and the moment He sees your repentant heart, the moment He sees you walking toward him, He will run toward you (Luke 15:11-32).

But how do you go about making that change – returning to God when you’ve slipped from the intimacy you once had? What are the details behind Paul’s prescription? Here’s five steps that will help restore the passion you once had for the Lord.

First. In rekindling the gift of God, first repent that you have fallen, that your spiritual disciplines have grown lax, that you have allowed the world to take a more prominent place in your heart, or that you have done things in your own strength instead of God’s and given the enemy an opening. Spend time asking God how you ended up where you are, listen for His answer, then repent of those actions or inactions that were not pleasing to Him.

Second. After repenting, have confidence that God will restore you! That’s called faith, and faith pleases God. In fact, Scripture says that it is impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6). To grow your faith, study the story of the prodigal son, first imagining yourself in the place of the son, then imagining yourself in the place of the father. This study will grow your faith by helping you see the attitude of the son and the response of the father. Then simply choose to believe that God is like the prodigal son’s father and that He will honor your actions and you will again experience His presence.

Third. If you’ve fallen lapse in your personal spiritual disciplines of reading your Bible, praying and attending church, return to them. While there are many more spiritual disciplines, these three are critical to a healthy life with God. If there are other disciplines that you once consistently practiced, return to them. Some other disciplines that may have fallen by the wayside in your journey away from the Lord are tithing, fasting, meditating, and practicing a weekly Sabbath.

Fourth. Do those things that you once did to build and feed your passion for God. Beyond the disciplines I mentioned in the third step, there are things you can do – things you probably did at one time – that fanned the flame of your passion for Christ. They might be attending the occasional retreat or conference, scheduling an extended time of study or worship periodically or getting together with fellow believers who challenge your faith. There are certain people Phil and I enjoy being around because we always leave their presence encouraged to pursue God more.

Fifth. Finally, don’t hoard what you’re receiving from God – serve Him and others by using the gifts He’s given you. If you have the gift of teaching, teach. If you have the gift of giving, give. If you have the gift of encouragement, encourage others. Consistently taking in without giving out leads to spiritual sluggishness. Being used by God is the best antidote to spiritual boredom. So step out and step up. Find (or start) a ministry that uses your gifts.

It encourages me to know that those who have gone before me – even those in the Bible – experienced down times in their walk with the Lord. It encourages me more that God and I have the same goal – for me (and you) to pursue Him wholeheartedly. Scripture says that He rewards those who diligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6). I’m looking for the reward! I’m looking for a greater intimacy with God.

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