Archive for the “Reading the Bible” Category

God created each of us uniquely – we’re all wired differently. When life causes those wires to get twisted, things inside us begin to go haywire. A few days and we’re just a little out of sorts. A week or two and satan is there at our side ready to capture us with temptations to return to old sinful patterns or try new ones. I’m sure you’ve been there. Too much work, too many crises, too much isolation or too little adventure and you’re ready to jump at change.

Usually that change isn’t following God. Yes, God can bring us to a state of holy discontent which launches us into a new ministry or new level of intimacy with Him. A holy discontent isn’t the same as a life that has gone haywire.

Whether we like to admit it or not, it is routine (which sometimes become tradition) which grounds us, and it is that grounding that we need when our wires get jumbled.

This morning, I returned to my Saturday morning pattern of sitting in my reclining chair alone with God. For a number of years, I have reserved my Saturday mornings for time with God. It was His idea – He began waking me up early on the only day of the week I could sleep in. And I love to sleep in. At first I was frustrated every week when I awoke early no matter what time I went to bed Friday night. Eventually I remembered one of my life rules – if something out of the ordinary happens repeatedly and it’s not sin, it must be God! It’s not rocket science, but sometimes I’m a bit slow at recognizing the hand of God.

So I started getting up when God woke me and going to my reclining chair, sitting, reading, writing and praying. It had become such a special time each week.

Then life got really crazy. I remained consistent with reading and praying throughout the week, but I missed my Saturday mornings with God.

This morning, after taking the dog for a walk, I am back in my reclining chair with my laptop. Ahhhh….I feel grounded in a way I haven’t for a couple of months. Simply being here, reading, writing, and praying has calmed me in a way I’ve been missing. That’s what grounding is. It takes the negative sparks of energy and dissipates them. Ahhhhh…..

My daily reading and prayer ground me, but they are more of a maintenance level grounding. My Saturday mornings are my reboot and refresh level grounding.

Each of us is grounded by many things throughout the day. Here’s just a few of things other than Bible reading and prayer that ground me throughout the day:

  • I like to stir my tea. Most people stir their coffee or tea or hot chocolate once and then take the spoon out and drink their tea. I leave my spoon in and before I take each sip I stir my tea. The motion of stirring the tea is very calming for me.
  • I pause to kiss my husband and tell him how important he is to me.
  • I stop what I’m doing and evaluate my to-do list and schedule. That causes my husband stress. It grounds me.
  • I take a dance break when a great song comes on the radio at work. (Fortunately, I am not subjecting coworkers to my dancing. Typically I am working alone or with my husband in our basement office.)

How about you? What is it that grounds you? Perhaps a date with your husband or dinner as a family are things that calm your world. Maybe it’s reading a good book before bed or exercising or cooking or cleaning. (Man, I wish cleaning calmed me. It doesn’t.) Maybe it’s snuggling with your children at night or sitting on the porch in the morning with your Bible and coffee. It’s important to take time to do the things that bring calm into your life.

It’s critically important that connecting with God be a part of your grounding. There are a number of ways to do that:

  • Read your Bible and pray daily. This daily connection with God, even if it is shorter on some days than on others, keeps you grounded on a regular basis. It needs to be enhanced by those weekly, more intense times with Him, but it provides a minimal safety net when life goes crazy. If I had not maintained this pattern over the past few months of craziness, I can’t imagine how off-kilter I would be today.
  • Meet with God’s people regularly – go to church! Some think that attending a regular Bible study is a substitute for church. I would caution against that. There are few Bible studies that provide the corporate worship experience that a church gathering does. That experience includes worshiping together with other believers and being inspired and instructed through His Word. Each one of those activities are part of our grounding with God. Each provides a different interaction with Him. Most Bible studies provide fellowship and study, lacking intimate worship and inspiration.
  • Enjoy a weekly Sabbath. God created and commanded the Sabbath for many reasons, but one of them is as a gift to His children – a gift of time set aside to reconnect with Him – to become fully grounded before facing the world for another week. Read more about the Sabbath and the joy of keeping it in my series of blogs that start with this one.

For me, the above three activities are non-negotiable for staying grounded in God. Do I miss reading my Bible some days? Yes. Do I miss church some weeks? Yes. Do enjoy a weekly Sabbath every week? No. I’m not perfect in anything yet. Still, I protect each of those activities pretty fiercely, committing to them even when it’s inconvenient or I just plain don’t feel like it. Because God is faithful and will meet us when we make the sacrifice to meet with Him.

So, friends, I ask again: what is it that grounds you? Is God in the mix? Does He play a prominent enough role in your grounding routines? Let me encourage you to find those things that ground you, and especially those things that connect you to God, and make them part of your routine. Then fiercely guard those routines. Because life without grounding isn’t pretty or fun!

Symptoms that you need more grounding:

  • Impatience – When I’m in the car and all the drivers around me seem to be out to get me or determined to make me late, I need more grounding.
  • Quick to become annoyed or angry – When clients call with routine inquires and I get annoyed, I need more grounding.
  • Always tired – When everything seems a chore because I’m just so tired, I need more grounding. (You might think it’s sleep that I need – it is – and when I’m well grounded, I sleep well.)
  • Lacking in creativity – When I have no solutions to the challenges of life, I need more grounding. It means I’m just going through the emotions and grounding dissipates the negative energy and infuses us with positive energy. Positive energy brings creativity.
  • Seeking escape – When all I can think about is getting away or vegging in front of the television after work, I need more grounding. Grounding is our escape and takes away the need for an escape.
  • Always making excuses – That’s called sin. “The woman you gave me caused me to do it.” Those were Adam’s words to God after he also ate the fruit of the tree. He was blaming both his wife and God with that single statement. When I am well grounded, I am able to call sin “sin.” I am able to confess my sin to God and others and enjoy forgiveness and freedom.

If you looked at this list of symptoms and recognize that you experience many of them (and perhaps made excuses for why you experience them), you need more grounding in your life. Yes, your life is hectic and crazy; and yes, there may be others in your life that impact your ability to develop your grounding routines. But God – those magically inspiring words – but God can change that when you ground yourself and your life in Him. Find those grounding patterns, create those grounding patterns, and fiercely protect them.

You will be honoring God and He will honor you. You will begin to experience the peace that surpasses all understanding. Perhaps not tomorrow – because some of us need a major rewiring before we can become grounded – but God can and will do it! He’s that creative with solutions and He’s that good!

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Treasure Seeking in God's Word

1 Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.
Psalm 1:1-3 (NIV)

The man or woman who delights in the Word of the Lord is blessed – because God has hidden precious treasures in His Word. They’re just waiting for you and me to find. Even if we’ve read it many, many times before, there are new treasures to find. That’s why we provide a new reading schedule to encourage you to read through the Bible and to help you stay on track.

You can download each of them below.

Treasure Seeking in God’s Word – Bookmarks Treasure Seeking in God’s Word – Large Print Bookmarks Treasure Seeking in God’s Word – Excel Spreadsheet

“How can anyone read through the Bible in a year? I could never do that!”
This is an objection I hear often. In fact, I’m sure there was a time when I also believed I could never read through the Bible in a year. It’s such a huge book! And some of it is quite confusing!

But it’s really not that hard. It is easily do-able. Reading through the Bible requires reading just four to five chapters five days a week. If we scheduled readings for every day, it would only be 3.25 chapters a day! Everyone can find time to read 3.25 chapters a day. Reading four to five chapters is about a twenty minute commitment for most people. Add ten minutes of prayer and reflection and you’ve spent a wonderful half hour with the Lord, Creator of the Universe, King of Kings, Abba Father.

So, hey — you can do it! At the very least you deserve to try! So what happens when you get off track after a few months (or weeks or days)? No problems. Don’t beat yourself up. Just continue reading. You may not finish the whole Bible in a year, but you’ll read a whole more than if you never started.

God’s Word is full of treasures just waiting to be found. Each day before you read, ask Him to reveal them to you. Then just go for it!

This year’s schedule has three columns:

  • The Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible) and history books.
  • The New Testament. – Follow the readings in this column and you will read through the New Testament in 2014.
  • The poetry and books and books by the prophets

If you read through the selections in all columns, you will read through the entire Bible in 2014.

We’ve scheduled readings only Monday through Friday. It’s not that we don’t intend you to read on the weekend — please do! It’s just that we live in the real world and recognize that it’s always nice to have “catch-up days” to make up for those times when life is hectic — which seems to occur nearly every week!

You’ll find that many of my blogs relate to the daily readings – because that’s when God “speaks” to me, giving me messages to share. Follow the reading schedule, then join our conversation!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ApprehendingGrace/

E-mail:  Sandy@ApprehendingGrace.com

How to Get the Schedule
We’re providing three different versions of the Schedule:

  • Bookmarks with normal size print (in PDF format)
  • Bookmarks with large print (in PDF format)
  • A Microsoft® Excel® file

You can download each of them below.

Treasure Seeking in God’s Word – Bookmarks Treasure Seeking in God’s Word – Large Print Bookmarks Treasure Seeking in God’s Word – Excel Spreadsheet

Comments Comments Off on Treasure Seeking in God’s Word – Read Through the Bible in 2014

After a couple years of “practicing,” I began blogging in earnest on March 30, 2008. (My first blog is here. My March 30, 2008 blog is here.) That’s nearly six years ago. During those 269 weeks, there have only been 8 weeks when I didn’t post a blog. Why? Because it’s important to me to fulfill the call that God has on my life, and I believe that call includes blogging regularly. It doesn’t matter whether ten or ten thousand people are reading my blog. What matters is that I’m faithful and obedient. I’m not posting for the sake of posting. I’m posting because God has laid something on my heart and I’m a teacher, writer and speaker, so, like Jeremiah, if I don’t share it feels like “fire in my bones.”

Why do I tell you this today? Because it’s been seventeen days since my last blog. This is the longest I’ve gone without posting. Over the past month we have had extraordinarily short deadlines at work and other unexpected activities that simply left absolutely no time for writing and posting blogs. It’s been a pretty chaotic time and even when I’ve had the time to write blogs, I didn’t have time to post them.

The cool thing is that during the past couple of weeks, I have been very aware of my neglect of Apprehending Grace and totally at peace with it. I have a pretty strong sense of “ought to” that I regularly have to push away from. Over the past few weeks, God has taken care of that for me. So getting back into the swing of things, I thought I’d reflect on that peace and how it happened.

Things I Did Right

  • During this time, I very purposefully looked at my schedule each morning and asked God to identify the top priorities for the day. I’d pray, review my To Do list, pray again, then write numbers next to the tasks indicating their priority. I took time to do this no matter how busy we were. Each day I’d have “AppGrace blog” on the list. Each day it either didn’t get a number next to it, or the number was so low I never got to it. Because I had started the day asking God to put things in priority, I was able to sleep in peace each evening. I knew I was working as hard as I could, so if it didn’t get done, then it wasn’t God’s priority for my day.
  • Throughout the day I was intentional about pausing to breath in God’s presence when I moved from project to project. It was my “presence of God pause” – I’d take a deep breath and concentrate for a few seconds on God’s goodness. I was reconnecting with God’s presence in the midst of the chaos around me.
  • When tempted to complain about our season of busyness, I repeatedly spoke of the good things associated with this season. (Most notably that God was using it to supply our needs in a year when business has been very slow.)
  • I purposefully prayed each evening thanking God for His goodness and faithfulness. At bedtime God’s peace would try to slip away as all that was left undone would try to flood my mind. I kept that from happening by praying – sometimes aloud to keep the enemy at bay.
  • Each morning, no matter how tired I was, I thanked God for the day ahead.
  • I read God’s Word each morning. I didn’t always read as much as I typically would, but I read something.
  • I didn’t overdo it. Sometimes it felt like I was about to cross over that fine line of doing all we can and not overdoing it, but I was always able to pull back. I took a lunch break and dinner break each day. When I couldn’t work anymore, I quit. No matter how much was left on the To Do list. Not overdoing it is one way we show that we trust God. Pushing ourselves too hard is evidence that we’re relying on ourselves too much. I even had folks come help me clean my house twice during the past few weeks. (Special thanks to Linda who recognized the need and offered before I even asked.) Resting says that I trust God to enable me to accomplish what needs to be done in the time I have available or He’ll give me grace with clients for the work that isn’t accomplished. (Or He won’t give me grace with those clients, but He’ll provide for my needs in some other way. I’m OK with that option, too.)

Things I Did Wrong

  • One morning (very near the end of the busy time) I realized that I was putting my makeup on like a wild woman! My hands were moving so fast dabbing at the powder (with more force than necessary) that it was actually adding to my stress. When I realized it, I stopped and purposefully slowed my movements. It made a huge difference in my stress level. I realized that I was adding to my stress by acting as if I were under stress. I didn’t need to be under stress. I was experiencing God’s peace, yet I was still letting my mind and body register stress. In other words, I truly had peace about what wasn’t getting done, but during the day I was allowing myself to feel stressed about all I needed to do. I’m not sure that makes sense but it was my experience. What I found was that the moment I relaxed my movements, I felt less stress and greater peace. I have a tendency to move too quickly when I’m stressed. All that does is increase our stress. It really doesn’t help us get things done more quickly. More often than not it causes us to drop things or spill things or make mistakes. At least that’s my experience.
  • I didn’t do any of the things I did right as consistently as I’d like. I forgot to pause between tasks to breath in God’s presence, I did complain, and I didn’t ask for help as much as I could have. There’s always room for improvement.
  • Exercise and healthy eating fell by the wayside. Ugh. Time to recover the good habits I’ve lost over the past 2 months.

God’s peace is a wonderful thing. He promises that He will keep us in “perfect peace” when our mind is steadfast on Him (Isaiah 26:3). I wouldn’t say that the peace I experience was “perfect peace” – it slipped at times. But then, my focus wasn’t always on the Lord, either. But I experienced much more of it than I usually do. Thank You Lord! Sometimes we really do see ourselves making progress!

It feels really good to be back in my routine. I’m looking forward to more writing. And enjoying the short time left before Christmas. Merry Christmas, friends. Enjoy God this season! Despite my busyness, I sure have been. More about that in my next blog!

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods HeartLord, I want to know You and I want to know Your ways. Yet I get caught up in this world at times. Grab my attention – remind me that You are waiting to respond to me. Teach me Your ways so that I see You at work in this world. Lord, develop in me a heart to seek You in every situation and every moment.

That’s the prayer we ended with in the first blog of our focus on a seeking heart. Have you been praying it faithfully? Or something like it, anyway? I hope so. But if not, that’s OK. You can always start today! God’s mercies are new every morning. Seek Him for them today!

This week I want to focus on developing a heart that seeks God. We have His promise that when we seek Him with our whole heart, we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13).

Seeking God is not about doing all the right things, although developing the Christian disciplines is a good thing. It’s about connecting with God. It’s about continuing to pursue Him until you have connected with Him. It’s not about knowing things about God. It’s about knowing God. And to truly know God, you must have an experience with Him. Having an experience with God means more than simply reading Scripture and praying. It means lingering with Him. It means not giving up until you have touched the hem of His garment.

In his excellent book The God Chasers, Tommy Tenney wrote this:

When you pursue God with all your heart, soul, and body, He will turn to meet you and you will come out of it ruined for the world.
God Chasers by Tommy Tenney, Destiny Image Publishers, 1998 (p. 14)

Expect God to turn and meet you and expect to be changed! Expect the things of this world to hold less value for you – because when you have touched the eternal, the temporal loses its shine.

Because the things of this world are always before us, however, we can easily become deceived that they have value and we become “satisfied” with them. Satisfied with an easy life. Satisfied with prestige. Satisfied with having a happy family life. Being content is good, but being satisfied can lead to complacency and that kills our motivation to pursue God. Again, to quote Tommy Tenney:

There is much more of God available than we have ever known or imagined, but we have become so satisfied with where we are and what we have that we don’t press in for God’s best. Yes, God is moving among us and working in our lives, but we have been content to comb the carpet for crumbs as opposed to having the abundant loaves of hot bread God has prepared for us in the ovens of Heaven!
God Chasers by Tommy Tenney, Destiny Image Publishers, 1998 (p. 23)

Pursuing God with all your heart will change you! But don’t be scared! It’s a good change.

How do you pursue God whole hearted?
How do you develop a seeking heart?

The first step is developing the God Chaser mindset – be determined and diligent about seeking Him. Don’t settle for reading your Bible a few minutes a day. Don’t settle for short prayers. Don’t settle for doing the same things you’ve always done and getting the same results. Don’t settle! I’m going to discuss spiritual disciplines here, but more important than practicing the disciplines is how you practice them. Practice them with persistence and with expectation. Look for God! Connect with God. Otherwise, it just becomes more doing and more learning about God. And we want to know Him, not just know more about Him.

Bible Reading
Don’t rush through it. Linger over it. Pray through it. Read smaller portions so that you can digest them fully. In our Resting at the River’s Edge reading, we have the opportunity to see the whole picture because we are reading larger portions of Scripture. That’s a good thing. It’s also a good thing to take time each week to read smaller portions and mull them over. Read the passage in several different translations. Ask questions about the text – What’s the background? Why would the disciplines say that or do that? What’s that word mean? What does the passage reveal about the nature of God? Most importantly, ask God directly, “Lord, what do You have for me in this passage? How should I apply this passage to my life?”

Meditating
Meditation is a Biblical practice. It is the practice of rolling something over and over in our minds, turning it this way and that, looking at its many facets to find all its beauty and significance. After reading a small passage of Scripture, meditate on it. Highlight a key verse and carry it with you throughout the day. Think about it often. Consider how many times today you thought about something that happened yesterday – perhaps a conversation you had with someone, perhaps a television program you watched, perhaps the words to a song that has your attention. God’s Word is infinitely more important than any of those things. Mull over the Word of God, not last night’s episode of your favorite show. As you stay focused on Scripture, you’ll find that your thoughts change and your conversation will change. You’ll also find that God reveals more and more about that small verse you’re meditating on. You’ll find a whole treasure chest of diamonds in the passage.

“What do you see?”
In his book Developing Your Prophetic Gifting (Sovereign Word Publishing, 1994), Graham Cooke analyzes how God often gave prophetic messages to his prophets in the Old Testament. Again and again, God would ask them “what do you see?” The prophet would describe the picture in front of them – a pot boiling over from the north (Jeremiah 1:13) or good and bad figs (Jeremiah 24:3) – and God would give its prophetic significance – an enemy about to attack from the north (Jeremiah 1:14) or God’s intention for His people (Jeremiah 24:4-10).

I learned from that to ask God to reveal prophetic meaning in scenes that catch my attention. A child that distracted me during worship one Sunday morning became a lesson about how I am prone to wander outside the boundaries God has set for me (as the little boy was want to do that morning) and then pout when God sits me in a chair for being disobedient (again, mirroring the behavior of the child when his mother disciplined him). If I had not asked God if there was a message in the scene I was watching, I would have missed it entirely.

Ken Gire gives many examples of this in his book Windows of the Soul. It is a book about seeing God through glimpses of every day life – like watching a scene through a window.

To see what is in those windows we first have to stop, and then, as C.S. Lewis advised, “we must look, and go on looking till we have certainly seen exactly what is there.”

God speaks through many things. The field of a sluggard and the fruit of someone’s life are just two of them.

How many times, though, have we passed those fields without stopping to see what was there? How many times have we seen the fruit of someone’s labor but not the soul of the laborer. How many times have we seen but not learned, watched but not wondered what lesson this person’s life could be teaching us?
Windows of the Soul by Ken Gire, Zondervan Publishing House, pages 42 and 43

Breathing Prayer
Begin to think of prayer as an ongoing dialog that you have with God throughout the day. I call that “breathing prayer.” In other words, develop an ongoing prayer life – one that mirrors our breathing – regular, constant and refreshing. It is life-giving. As we inhale we listen for God’s answers and His heart; as we exhale we ask our questions of Him or breathe our thanksgiving. This imagery and practice can help center us in the midst of a chaotic day. It’s in or from that center that we find God. We won’t find Him when we are reacting to or become a part of the chaos around us. But we’re likely to find Him when we pause to seek Him. A simple inhaling of God’s peace and exhaling of the stress of this world, then a second inhaling to ask Him what He is doing in the situation and exhaling while we listen and look. Two deep breaths. Don’t let the enemy deceive you into thinking you don’t have time to take two deep breaths.

Lingering Prayer
Seek God by lingering with Him. Transform your prayer life by losing your shopping list! Don’t view prayer as the mall you go to periodically to pick up a few things you need. Think of prayer as time you linger with God. Time you spend with your best friend getting to know Him. I remember one summer in high school when I would spend hours sitting on a backyard swing with a couple of friends just talking. For the life of me I can’t imagine what we talked about for hours day after day, but it’s one of my most vivid memories of that time. Sitting on the swing, moving slightly back and forth as I talked with my friends.

Find a place where you can meet with God just to talk. Then visit that place frequently. Read Scripture a bit, then ask Him questions and wait for answers. This is a relatively new practice of mine and you know what? He answers my questions. Sometimes I have to ask them a few days or weeks in a row – I don’t know why He does that, but it’s my experience. Perhaps He just wants to make sure I’m serious. I don’t know. But I do know that He answers.

Remember, though, this is time with a friend. It’s not a time when you demand answers. Attitude is everything. He isn’t likely to answer questions that are asked with wrong motives, and there will undoubtedly be questions that He doesn’t answer. Sometimes He just asks us to trust Him. But it’s OK to ask. So go ahead and linger with God awhile and ask Him those questions you have.

I’ve been asking Him lately what it is about me that pleases Him. I’m not asking because I want the pat on my back. I’m asking so that I can do more what pleases Him. For the first few weeks, He answered the question I didn’t ask – He told me what didn’t please him. Oops! So I worked on those things. Then He told me something that pleases Him. I want to bring joy to God’s heart, so I’m doing more of that.

Linger with God and He’ll answer your questions, too.

Study Nature and Science
God has revealed so much of Himself through nature and science. When we look at the tremendous variety in every species of plant, animal and humans, we see just a glimpse of God’s infinite creativity. When we look at the stars we see the immensity of God. When we look at how the universe is held together, we see God’s preciseness. When we look at our bodies, we recognize with the psalmist that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Combine these studies with some of the other disciplines to hear God’s heart about creation and to learn His purposes.

Worshiping
Don’t just sing, worship. Close your eyes. Think about the meaning of the words. Pray as you sing them. Sing them again and again until their meaning moves from your head to your heart to your soul. Sing aloud when you’re alone, not just at church on Sunday morning. Worship Him. Enter into His presence.

Journaling
I journal because it focuses me to write more in quantity and specificity than I would think. In other words, it causes me to go deeper than I would if I weren’t writing. If I were only thinking about a passage, I would easily become distracted and miss the opportunity to delve more deeply into the treasure of God’s Word. If I am only thinking a prayer, I would stop at the surface level. When I write (type) them out, I find that my repentance is more genuine (because I become specific about what I am asking forgiveness for), my pleading more sincere and desperate, my desire to hear from God more urgent. I would offer a caution here – I sometimes physically remove my fingers from the keyboard when I am lingering with God because my typing can become a distraction to simply enjoying His presence.

Putting it Into Practice
Do I do all these things? Yes. Do I do all them all the time? No. Not even close. And that’s OK. This isn’t meant to be a list of things you should be doing all the time (although you should consistently be in God’s Word and in prayer). It is meant as ideas to help you seek and experience God in a greater way. May I challenge you over the next couple of weeks to try one of these methods that are new to you? Not just once, but a few times. Because God is ready to respond. He is waiting to be caught.

Resource Links
God Chasers by Tommy Tenney

Developing Your Prophetic Gifting by Graham Cooke

Windows of the Soul by Ken Gire

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Come Lets Go Up to the Mountain

People from many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of Jacob’s God. There he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” For the LORD’s teaching will go out from Zion; his word will go out from Jerusalem.
Micah 4:2a (NLT)

My husband Phil was reading Scripture recently and realized that as he was reading, he was thinking about how he would teach the passage – how it would be broken into sections, what points he would draw out, etc.

I frequently find myself falling into the trap of reading through the lens of preaching – how the passage would be preached, what points should be drawn out, what illustrations might make the lesson more real to the listeners, etc.

And then there are always the times we read Scripture just to meet our assigned reading for the day. Maybe you never do that, but there are times I realized that I’ve progressed quite far down the page without really having a clue what the topic is.

We’ve stopped reading Scripture as a letter from God to us. God has something very special that He wants to speak to each of us each time we read His Word. He has taken great care to have His Word written and then preserved for thousands of years. The writing and preservation of Scripture is a miracle that we often overlook when considering miracles of God. If you ever have an opportunity to go through a good museum or display about the history of the Bible, it’s worth your time. We went through one at the Holy Land Experience in Orlando, FL. It was something I was doing for Phil (he’s more geeky than me)…or so I thought. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it!

God’s letters are as relevant for us today as they were to the audience for which they were originally written. Yet we often breeze through them or read them in a clinical or scholarly way. Sometimes scholarly is appropriate…so long as there are also times when we read Scripture as God’s letter to us.

When Phil and I are about to have conversation, I “settle in.” I sit across from him, get comfortable, look him in the eyes and watch his face as I listen to his words. I get ready to enjoy him before he actually speaks. Our conversation might be about something as mundane as how his workday was or as meaningful as what God has been speaking to him during his devotional time with Him. Either way, I’m interested so I put myself in a place to pay attention and enjoy our interaction. I look forward to these times every day and miss them when our schedules don’t mesh enough to allow for them.

Treating our times with God in a similar fashion will do wonders for our ability to hear from Him. “Settle in” before you begin to read. If possible, have a special place for meeting with God. It doesn’t have to be a place reserved only for Him – simply a place where you usually meet with Him. I sit in my recliner when I meet God on Saturday mornings. Because I do it almost every Saturday morning, I’ve had some really special times with God there. The chair holds memories with God for me. Now I also sit in that chair to watch television, but there’s a difference when I meet with God. I settle in with a cup of tea and a piece of toast. I start up my computer and I read and write and pray and worship. And God honors my time by sharing His heart with me as I do those things. I often wake Phil a few hours after I’ve gotten up with excitement about something I’ve read in God’s Word.

Treat reading God’s Word as you would treat meeting a special friend – protect the time, prepare for it, set it aside in your calendar as a special event, and be fully “present” as you read. Our Resting at the River’s Edge schedule last week included readings from the prophet Micah. In the last chapter he wrote this:

1In the last days, the mountain of the LORD’s house will be the highest of all — the most important place on earth. It will be raised above the other hills, and people from all over the world will stream there to worship.

2People from many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of Jacob’s God. There he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” For the LORD’s teaching will go out from Zion; his word will go out from Jerusalem.
Micah 4:1-2 (NLT)

We are in the last days. Let’s approach our time with the Lord with the enthusiasm the passage holds. When I read this passage, it sounds to me like they are preparing for a picnic with the King of Kings. They are gathering their things, climbing the highest mountain (but it’s a fun climb, a carefree climb, not a treachurous or arduous climb) to sit face to face with God talking about life. Read to enjoy God. He is the creator of the universe and He’s ready and waiting to have a conversation with you!

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What are the odds you’ll get struck by lightening?

Or that you’ll eat out this week?

Or that you have a membership in the National Geographic Society?

What are the odds that one man at any time in history might fulfill only eight of the sixty major prophecies fulfilled by Christ?

You’ll find the answers to these questions and more in this article. I came across the article from a google search I did last week. I found it to be interesting and thought you would too. Enjoy!

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Help! I’ve Fallen Behind and I Can’t Catch Up!

As I prepare this last Resting at the River’s Edge recommended reading list for 2011, I somehow “all of a sudden” find myself 22 chapters behind! Now that translates to just about a week, but I like to stay a couple of days ahead so that I can write blogs related to passages you’re reading that day, the next day or you’ve just read the day before. And here I am in late November finding myself 22 chapters behind. Well, at the end of this blog you’ll find December’s reading schedule, but I think my own situation provides a perfect jumping off place for when you’ve fallen behind in your reading. (I’m guessing there a few of you out there who share my situation!) Here are some tips:

  • Don’t fret over it! Our pastor shared the definition of “fret” in his sermon last week. The definitions included:
    • Feel or express worry or discontent
    • Cause corrosion, gnaw into something
    • To become eaten, worn or corroded
    • Irritated state of mind, vexation

Wow! That’s certainly not a condition or state of mind conducive to meeting with God as you read His Word! Let it go.

  • Keep at it! Don’t let being behind schedule keep you from continuing to read. What’s the worst that can happen? Instead of reading through the Bible by December 31, 2011, you’ll finish some time in 2012. Sounds good to me! You will still have read through the Bible and that’s the important thing. It’s not the schedule, it’s the content and meeting with God.
  • Don’t rush through your reading just to stay on schedule! It’s not the schedule, it’s the content and meeting with God. (Is there an echo here?)
  • Realize that catching up just might be possible! Our reading plans schedule about three chapters a day. Here are some ways to catch up:
    • If you’re able to add one chapter each day, you’ll catch up almost two days each week.
    • Read three chapters on Saturday or Sunday (or both) and you’ll catch up one or two days each week.
    • Spend your lunchtime reading your Bible. You’ll catch up at least one day, perhaps more, each time you do this. You might even decided that it’s a great way to relax at lunch!
    • Arrive at an appointment about fifteen minutes early. Spend the time reading your Bible. You’ll catch up another day. This is a great thing to do on Sunday morning if there is a quiet place you can read before service. It really prepares you to enter into worship and the message.
    • Carve out some “me and God” time in your schedule. This is absolutely the best thing I’ve done in my walk with the Lord and I look forward to it each week.

Implement one or more of these things for a few weeks and you’ll find yourself catching up quickly.

  • December’s reading schedule is great for this season. Don’t hesitate to stop reading where you are, read along with us in the month of December (think Revelation and Psalms), then pick up where you left off in January. Or begin following the December schedule while you employ some catching up techniques to previous schedules.
  • Remember: It’s not the schedule, it’s the content and meeting with God!

So, friends, keep at it. I commend you for all the reading you’ve done – even if you’re three months behind schedule or more! The monthly schedules will continue to be available here all throughout the coming year. Enjoy your reading and your time with God.

Now before I get back to my reading, let me provide you with a short synopsis of our December reading:

  • We will begin the book of Revelation on November 29th  and we’ll finish it on December 29th. We will end the year reading about the future. I love that God’s Word doesn’t teach us only the Law and history and how to live in this life, but it gives us a glimpse into the future – some of which we can only imagine, and some that seems so bizarre that we can’t even imagine it. Still, He trusts us with such knowledge. Wow! Enjoy this book and if it gets too confusing don’t let it get to you! Just ask God to reveal what He wants you to understand and keep reading. What you can’t understand will simply begin to lodge itself in your spirit for the time it’s needed.
  • We’ll finish the minor prophets by reading Malachi on November 30th. Note that this is a slight change from the schedule that was published in November. I changed things up a bit to read the book of Malachi before finishing the Psalms instead of after.
  • We will begin reading the rest of the Psalms on December 1st and finish them on December 30th. I can’t think of a better way of ending the year than with Psalm 150 which begins and ends with the phrase “Praise the Lord.”

I know the month of December is a busy one for everyone, but friends – enjoy your reading throughout the month. Remember, it’s not the schedule, it’s the content and meeting with God!

Blessings, Friends!
Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for December is below.

To download a PDF of the December 2011 recommended reading plan, click here.

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Jeremiah hasn’t been the easiest book to read through, but as I’ve read, I’ve seen the emotional side of God more clearly. I’ve seen both His anger and His compassion. I’ve seen His patience and His enduring love. And seeing those things make reading the book worthwhile – even if it is hard work sometimes.

You can read my reflections from the middle chapters of Jeremiah here.

Upon finishing the book, I thought it appropriate to add my reflections from the latter chapters. Here’s what struck me as I read the latter half of Jeremiah:

  • God sends people to warn us before He brings judgment.
    • Sometimes we’ll be the ones sent to warn others. Do I take that responsibility seriously? Am I obedient when I am confident God wants me to give a warning to others or do I shy back? Do I handle the responsibility with love? Jeremiah didn’t want to spend his life bringing news of impending doom. (Likewise, Jonah didn’t want to bring news of repentance to Ninevah.)
    • Sometimes, others will be sent to warn us. Do I listen to the warnings or do I take offense and ridicule the person God has sent to save me? The first two verses of Jeremiah 43 caught my attention:

1When Jeremiah finished telling the people all the words of the LORD their God—everything the LORD had sent him to tell them—2Azariah son of Hoshaiah and Johanan son of Kareah and all the arrogant men said to Jeremiah, “You are lying! The LORD our God has not sent you to say…’
Jeremiah 43:1-2

It is arrogance – pride – that causes us to reject God’s Word when it’s not what we want to hear. We think we know better. We think that God will not bring His judgment. We’re wrong on both those accounts.

  • When we sin, we encourage those around us to sin. Notice in the verses above that it was the gang of men that accused Jeremiah of lying. Sinning doesn’t just affect us, it also affects those around us. Perhaps you’ve heard the saying “Misery loves company.” I would say that “Sinning loves company.” (We’ll see that lesson repeated quite a bit when we read Proverbs next week.)
  • Even in the midst of our sin God pursues us – always with the intent of helping us turn to Him in repentance and living a life that He blesses.
  • There is always a remnant of people who follow God. And we always have a choice of whether to align ourselves with those who are sinning or those who are following God.
  • In the midst of God’s judgment, He reassures us of His love:

“Do not fear, O Jacob my servant;
do not be dismayed, O Israel.
I will surely save you out of a distant place,
your descendants from the land of their exile.
Jacob will again have peace and security,
and no one will make him afraid.
Jeremiah 46:27

Remember to look for God’s love. It’s always there.

After reading through all of Jeremiah, then, it seems to me, that God’s compassion takes three forms:

  • Warnings given so that we might repent and live the life He has designed us to live.
  • Punishment or judgment sent to get our attention when warnings have failed. They are designed to bring us to repentance and/or mitigate our sabotaging influence over others.
  • His constant, always-present love for sinners. He graciously reassures us during judgment and rescues us when we cry out to Him.

What a gracious and compassionate God we serve! I can’t help but love Him more and more as I learn more and more about Him.

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I periodically get asked about various translations of the Bible, so today’s blog is a bit different from others. It will be much more informational than most blogs. Even so, this is a very summary level overview of the topic, but it’s a good start. I haven’t included all translations by any means, only the most popular or well known ones.

Bible translations fall into three categories, based on how the translation was developed:

  • Formal Equivalence (word-for-word)
  • Dynamic Equivalence (thought for thought)
  • Paraphrase

Formal Equivalence
Formal Equivalence translations seek to translation the Scripture word for word. Examples of this type of translation are:

  • King James Version (KJV), also known as Authorized Version (AV), published in 1611
  • American Standard Version (ASV), published in 1901
  • New American Standard Bible (NASB), published in 1971 (New Testament revised in 1969)
  • New King James Version (NKJV), published in 1982
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), published in 1990
  • English Standard Version (ESV), published in 2003

Technically, word-for-word translation is the most accurate method of translating text, but it is not always the most accurate method of conveying the thought being expressed in the text. That’s where Dynamic Equivalence translations find their strength.

Dynamic Equivalence
Dynamic Equivalence translations seek to translate the passage thought by thought. Instead of translating word-for-word, they are translating thought-for-thought. Here are some examples of Dynamic Equivalence translations:

  • Good News Bible (GNB), also known as Today’s English Version (TEV), published in 1974 (New Testament revised in 1993)
  • New International Version (NIV), published 1978
  • New Living Translation (NLT), published in 1996

Most people find these translations to be more readable than the word-for-word translations (as you’ll see in the examples below).

Paraphrase
A paraphrase translation is just that – it is putting the concepts into different words. When Phil and I were in the Air Force, a running joke was that after a new second lieutenant gave his boss an answer to whatever question was on the table, the sergeant would always say “what the lieutenant meant to say.” In other words, unless you’re speaking the language of your audience, you’re most likely going to get yourself and others in trouble. A paraphrase translation seeks to speak the language of the audience while remaining true to the text. The most commonly known paraphrase is:

  • The Living Bible (TLB), published 1971

Why So Many Translations?
It’s important for people to read the Bible in their own language, and language changes over time. The King James Version was the only English Bible available for over 300 years. Most middle-aged and senior Americans were raised with that version. Most of the Scripture memorization that I have done is in that version. (And it’s hard to re-learn Scripture that one has memorized.)

Yet Phil often comments that he now realizes that what he once thought of as “revelation” about a passage was simply finally being able to work through the arcane language of his Bible and understand the plain meaning of the text.

Then along came the newer translations. Now we can read passages in a language we understand so that the plain meaning of the text is easily understood. Understanding the plain meaning of the text is the first step to Biblical interpretation and further revelation.

The Value of Many Translations
While some people are uncomfortable with the concept of multiple translations of the Bible being available (either they have a significantly strong association with one translation or they are uncomfortable that there isn’t a single, definitive translation), having multiple translations is really a good thing.

  • It gives the reader the ability to compare how different passages have been translated. Such comparisons often yield a rich understanding of the original writer’s intent.
  • It provides the translators the opportunity to apply knowledge that has been gained over time to the new translation. Translations are not being made from the original manuscripts. They no longer exist. Rather, translations are made from copies of the more than 24,000 ancient manuscripts that exist. (If you have questions about how reliable the Bible is, I recommend this site by Josh McDowell, or read his book Evidence that Demands a Verdict.. Josh has done a tremendous job of reviewing data from a skeptic’s perspective and presenting it in a compelling and readable fashion.)
  • It allows a broader representation of the Body of Christ to participate in the translation, reducing the opportunity for error based on denominational bias. For example, the King James Version was translated by 47 scholars, all who were members of the Church of England. The new King James Version was translated by 130 scholars from a broad spectrum of Evangelical Christiandom.

How to Choose a Manuscript
First, don’t think of it as choosing one over another forever. There are many opportunities to compare multiple translations. There are several good online Bible translation sites, but the one I use most often is www.BibleGateway.com. I highly recommend reading in multiple translations when you are studying or meditating on a passage.

Having said that, you do want to choose a single translation for “every day” reading. This “every day” reading Bible may change periodically, but for continuity I think sticking with a single Bible makes sense. I tend to stick with a single translation for my Resting at the River’s Edge until I have read through the entire Bible. Then, I consider selecting a different version for the following year’s reading.

How Do You Find Your “Every Day” Translation?
You simply have to try several out to determine which version accomplishes your goals. If you are studying scholarly, you probably want a word-for-word translation. If you are a layman studying for personal edification and teaching those around you, I recommend a phrase-by-phrase translation. I would never recommend a paraphrase as the primary translation you read. It is much better in a supplemental role.

What do I read? My every day reading Bible is the NIV. It’s phraseology is easiest for me to follow. I enjoy reading it more than others.

A Point on Which We Ought Not to Divide
There are some who feel that a specific translation is the only accurate one. May I suggest that no one has the corner on Truth and we ought not to argue this issue. Just as there are many denominations and we’ll find members of each of them in heaven with us, so there are many opinions on Bible translations and we’ll find those who prefer different translations next to us in heaven. If you believe that a single translation is considerably more accurate than others, I encourage you to continue to read that translation. If others prefer a different translation, allow them the freedom to do so.

Following is a taste of several different translations. Perhaps it will be a starting point for you. Hebrews 12:1-3 is provided in each translation.

A Side by Side Comparison

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. – King James Version (KJV)

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. – New King James Version (NKJV)

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. – New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. – New International Version (NIV)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy he knew would be his afterward. Now he is seated in the place of highest honor beside God’s throne in heaven. Think about all he endured when sinful people did such terrible things to him, so that you don’t become weary and give up. – New Living Translation (NLT)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. – English Standard Version (ESV)

Above all – READ! Reading God’s word daily is incredibly more important than which translation you choose to read.

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So Many Books, So Little Time

Well, it’s many books, but it’s not really much time. We’ll finish six books and start two others in August, but we’ll do it at the same pace as we’ve been travelling throughout the year – three chapters each day, Monday through Friday.

I’ve had a number of conversations about reading through the Bible recently. It seems that many people have the misconception that they just can’t do it. “I’m not much of a reader,” is what I’ve been hearing.

The good news is that:

(1)  You don’t have to be much of a reader to read through the New Testament in a year. All it takes is reading one chapter each day, five days a week. Even if you are a slow reader, you can probably do that in less than ten minutes. Increase that time to thirty or forty minutes each weekday and you can follow our Resting at the River’s Edge schedule. Over a two year period, you’ll read through the entire Old Testament once and the New Testament twice.

(2)  There are many modern language translations available. You can check out different translations online. Read from several different versions. If you find one you like, head on over to ChristianBook.com and pick it up.

(3)  It’s the inspired Word of God. I confess – sometimes it doesn’t feel like it! But when it does, it’s magical! (That would be magical in the sense of “wow!” and “cool” and “how does God do that?”, not magical in the sense of sorcery of course).

Reading through the whole New Testament and/or the whole Bible pulls the story of God’s plan together in a way that isn’t grasped by reading less methodically. So even if you haven’t been reading along with us yet, I invite you to join us in August.

In August we’ll finish 1 & 2 Samuel – the story of David’s life. God called David a man after His own heart – that seems like reason enough to study his life. In the New Testament we’ll read Collossians, Philemon, and Hebrews. In the book of Hebrews we’ll read about how Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of all that is taught in the Old Testament – He is our sacrificial lamb; His blood was poured out for the forgiveness of sins; He is our great high priest. Mr. T used to say “I love it when a good plan comes together.” Hebrews pulls God’s plan together and spells it out for those of us who didn’t catch it on our own!

May God whisper in your ear as you read with us this month!

The recommended reading schedule is below.

To download a PDF of August’s recommended reading plan, click here.

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