He Came from Heaven to Earth

I hope to join this study to get ready for celebrating Christ’s birth!

God'sCharacter

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I am pleased to announce our upcoming online bible study entitled “He Came from Heaven to Earth”

Mark your calendars.

Tell your friends and family.

Share on your social media.

Join me beginning Sunday 4th December 2016, for a 3 week bible study about Jesus coming to earth.

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And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us

After the Christmas tree is up (typically Thanksgiving weekend), I love sitting there in the early morning with my coffee, just enough light to read by and some type of Christmas devotion or study and my Bible.

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus by Nancy Guthrie is one of my favorites.  Nancy put together a variety of Christmas sermons and writings in this compilation.  What I read this morning (on page 65) was by St. Augustine under the heading of John 1:1, 2, 14a.

John 1:14 NLT  So the Word became human and made His home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.

What is proclaimed / taught in this passage is so familiar to those of us who have been walking with the Lord for a long time.  And yet for its familiarity, it is such a hard saying to really comprehend.  I mean, it is truly unfathomable to the human mind, isn’t it?  How can we possibly understand fully that God came to be fully man, while still being fully God.

So is there anything to be gained from spending time meditating on this passage?  Am I lazy if I don’t because I know it cannot be understood this side of heaven?

Lord, keep my mind on you long enough to build my faith by studying such fantastic concepts.  As St. Augustine says,

Who can comprehend the abiding Word?. . . He ‘was’ before his own flesh; he created his own mother.  He chose her in whom he should be conceived, he created her of whom he should be created.

In the very next devotion, J. I. Packer expounds on the same concept.  He says, “Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of incarnation.”  Then he refers us to 2 Corinthians 8:9, saying that our response should not just be that of marvel, but of the wonder of grace.

Father, I know that when I meet you in glory, I will be able to comprehend these things.  Praise your name!  And yet, here on earth, guide me to take the time to meditate on them and not just skip over them as I take them on faith.  I want to be in awe.  There is more you can teach me if I take the time. 

 

What Are You Giving God to Fill?

I love listening to some of the great Bible teaching available on Bott Radio. While I don’t believe listening to this teaching is a replacement for my personal Bible study or meeting with my church family for solid Bible teaching and fellowship, it is a great supplement during my commute or even while I put on my makeup in the morning.

One of James McDonald’s lessons that I remember vividly from May, 2010 was based on the story of Elija and the widow in 2 Kings 4:1-7. You probably remember this miraculous event where the widow poured what little oil she had into borrowed vessels and ended up with enough oil to sell and pay off her debts.

This woman was distraught because of her indebtedness. What has you distraught today and seeking a solution? Pastor James’ statement (as well as I can remember it, if not word for word) really spoke to me:

“God will fill anything we bring him.  If we’re not being filled it’s because we haven’t brought him any more empty vessels.”

Despite the fact that I have a regular time with the Lord, I am often so focused on intercession for others that I fail to bring myself before Him for filling. I fail to come humbly say, “I need thee, O I need thee.” Or I fail to clean my vessel so that it is truly empty for His filling.

Father, I thank you that you can fill anything I willingly put before you. Keep reminding me of my great need for you and then remind me to clean my vessels and put them before you.

“I need the, O, I need thee.

Every hour I need thee.

O bless me now my Savior,

I come to thee.”

Annie S. Hawks

A Passion for The Word

I’ve just finished preparations for this week’s session of the New Christians’  Sunday School class and I’m always pumped by the process.  There is NOTHING more exciting than being in the Word to find what the Lord wants to say to me and through me.

I think people who know me well know that I do not typically commit myself to things I am not passionate about.  I learned the art of saying, “No,” many years ago after a stress related illness.  I try to make sure I am doing what the Lord wants me to do, because I know he will give me what I need to do it.  I love what Matthew Henry, the great Bible commentator (1706), writes in his thoughts on 1 Kings 19.

Note God knows what he designs us for, though we do not, what service, what trials, and will take care for us when we, for want of foresight, cannot for ourselves, that we be furnished for them with grace sufficient. He that appoints what the voyage shall be will victual the ship accordinglyhttp://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/1-kings/19.html

This spring we had several new adult Christians in our congregation and I am passionate about discipling new believers so they don’t get lost in the shuffle.  That is a big failure in many churches.  I offered to teach a New Christians’ class, not really knowing how I would have time to prepare.  But I definitely felt called to do it.  The pastor typically teaches this, when we have it, but he took me up on my offer and proposed giving me his material to help.  There are a lot of discipleship materials on the market, but most of them are not comprehensive on the topics we want to cover.

About the same time that I was offering to teach the class, I began to feel that even though I watch very little television, the shows that I was watching regularly were not shows that honored the Lord or would lead me to honor the Lord.  So I have quit watching NCIS and The Goodwife.  There’s two hours a week right there for additional study and preparation.  The more I’m in the Word, the more I want to be in it.  I don’t miss those shows at all.

I have challenged by Facebook friends to spend more time in the Bible than they spend on Facebook every day.  Will you take the challenge to give up something with no lasting value to be in God’s Word to YOU? 

By the way – when you take the challenge, get ready for challenges from Satan.  He will challenge your new commitment.  He will want you to fail.  Don’t give up. 

 Ephesians 6:13 NIV   Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  

 1 John 5:3-4 NIV  This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, 4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Small Distractions

I love the early morning hours when the house is quiet except for the coffee maker gurgling.  I praise the Lord for his faithfulness to meet me each morning that I take the initiative to get up and meet Him.

I’ve tried to spend time with the Lord in the evening, but it just doesn’t work.  It’s definitely not my best time after a long day of work and my 1.5 hours on the road (combined).  And that is my time to spend with Ellis.  He’s not up at 5 am.

One morning as I was sitting at my desk with all my quiet time resources around me –  Bible, devotion book, prayer notebook and journal, I saw a mouse run out from behind the desk and into the kitchen.  Of course, I jumped and screamed, but the mouse was out of sight by then and I had to take several minutes to calm down and get back into my study.

Mice are such small little animals and yet they can typically cause a pretty big distraction from whatever is going on.  But as I reflected on the experience through the morning I realized that anything that distracts us from God is tiny in comparison to Him.

What is it that keeps you from spending daily time with the Lord.  I mean really concentrating on His Word and lifting your prayers to Him?  Make your list and then compare each thing on it to the Lord God Almighty.  Don’t most items on there pale in comparison?

Lord, we say we want to know you and to think like you and yet we struggle to make the time it takes.  Show us your importance compared to everything in our lives and give us an unquenchable desire for you.

You Need a Bucket to Build Sand Castles

We didn’t go to the beach this year as planned.  (Note the header photo – the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas.)  I tell my husband the beach is my favorite spot besides in his arms and when we go there together it is pretty much perfect.  But this year we feared arriving along with the tar balls.

One of my favorite beach activities is building sand castles.  I don’t make the kind that are formed with buckets.  After building a foundation of packed sand, I let  very wet sand drip through my fist.  This is very relaxing for me and one of the few ways in which I can be very creative.

One year I didn’t buy a bucket for making my sand castles.  But I need a LOT of water.  Fortunatley (or not, if you are really concerned about litter)  as I walked along the shore, I found a discarded gallon milk jug and thought it would be a good tool for carrying water.  However, I found that filling the jug with ocean water was difficult because a wave will cover the entire hole and air can’t get out to be replaced by water.

Although I thought of the jug as empty, the fact is that it was full of air.  While the air was invisible to me, it still filled the jug. This reminded me of how sin acts in my life.

Any sin in my life, no matter how small or insignificant in my eyes, is a barrier to my being filled completely by the Holy Spirit.  While we are promised the Holy Spirit at the time we are saved, (Ephesians 1:13).  He cannot completely fill or occupy our hearts when sin is creating a barrier – just like the air in my jug.

Praise the Lord for his promised to “forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” if we confess our sin.  1 John 1:9.  Regular time before the Lord will help make us sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s conviction of those sins.  We must be prompt in our confession and repentance.

Just like the jug is full, even if it isn’t full of water, so our hearts are full, even if not with the Holy Spirit.  If the jug isn’t full of water, then it contains water AND air.  It IS full – even if I can’t see it.  We must allow sin to be replaced by the Holy Spirit if we want to be completely “filled” and become like Christ.    This requires daily prayer and Bible study.   What are you filled with?

Many times, trying to get water into the small port of the jug quickly resulted in the jug seeming overwhelmed.  We must  seek environments that are conducive to being filled with the Spirit.  While we must be in the world to win it, we must take care that the world doesn’t “take” us.

You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. (James 4:4  NLT)

How do you know if you are “of the world”?  The Lord has spoken to me personally about behavior that isn’t of Him.  These are mine, so yours might be different.

  • Going to movies, watching TV shows, reading books or listening to music that is not God-honoring
  • Eating when I’m not hungry
  • Shopping when I don’t need anything
  • Using language or telling stories that do not distinguish me from the world

Part of my problem with the jug was the small opening.  Is your heart wide open to receive the Holy Spirit’s touch or do you have the opening restricted?  How much opportunity do you provide the Holy Spirit to have control?  Only through the Spirit can we know Christ completely.

Father in heaven, how we thank you for your Holy Spirit – the comforter who comes along beside us – who you sent to inhabit us.  Lord, show us how to make room for Him and how to make Him welcome in our inner beings.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen us with power through his Spirit in our inner being, so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith. And I pray that we, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that we may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
(Eph 3:16-19 NIV)

Coffee Anyone?

Are you a coffee drinker?  And when I ask that I realize that there are all different levels of coffee drinkers.

For instance, my husband drinks coffee.  At McDonald’s he gets three creams and ten sugars in a small.  And he might drink the whole cup.  On Saturday morning at the coffee shop when we are visiting with each other and our neighbors, he might drink more than a cup.  But at home, he might not drink any or he’ll only drink a few sips in the morning.

On the other hand, I have coffee during my quiet time.  I drink coffee on the way to work and I drink coffee until about 11 am.  Now I am a sipper and not a gulper so it doesn’t add up to a whole lot of coffee, but I definitely drink more than my sweetie.  And if I drink it at night, it is usually a special situation where dessert is involved.

And then there are those who drink coffee from morning until night.  Caffeine before bed is no issue.  They like it with meals (I like it with sweets or breakfast) and as a refreshment.  Are you a coffee drinker?

Are you a Bible reader?  Sure you are!  You read along with the Bible Study teacher and the pastor on Sunday morning.  But do you read the Word daily?  How much?  If you have a quiet time, you may read a devotion that lists a scripture reference.  Do you go to that reference and read?  Do you meditate on what you’ve read or are you already moving on?

Or are you committed to daily time in the Word with a plan to get fed?  You work through in-depth Bible studies by book, word or topic.  You memorize scripture to hide His Word in your heart.

If you struggle knowing God’s will for your life or how to respond/behave in certain situations, God wants to teach you and His primary way of teaching is through His Word.  And if you know Christ personally, He has given you the Holy Spirit to interpret it for you.

“But I don’t have time. . .”  If that’s what you’re thinking, I challenge you to get before the Lord and ask Him what you’re involved in that you can give up.  How many hours per week do you spend on fitness for your body?  Isn’t your spiritual health more important?  Are your children involved in multiple activities each week?  Chances are one is plenty.  Pray for God’s guidance on this.  Your entire family may be too busy.  How many church activities are you leading?  Which ones have you been doing without being called by the Lord to do them?  How much time do you spend on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or other social networking sites?

If you’re looking for a place to start, get into Psalm 119 to learn all about the benefits of learning and following God’s Word.  When God’s people get interested in God’s word, we will have revival!

Listening to God. . . Asking questions

Conversation is 2-way and most of us do all the talking in our time with God.    Out of the model prayer we spend the most time on “give us this day. . .”

Maybe this is something we need to watch in our other relationships, too.  But how do we grow closer to a person if we do all the talking? A great way to ensure you don’t monopolize the conversation is to ask questions.  And our questions to God may not sound significantly different than what we might ask a friend.  “Can you tell me more about that?”  “Why do you feel . . .”  “Is there anything I can do?”

So let’s say you take time to listen.  You spend time in His word.  You attend regular preaching services with your church family.  You even listen to a radio preacher or two on Bott Radio.    But if you are  really having a conversation, you may need to ask God for clarification as he speaks.  You may need to delve into the passage you’re reading more or look at similar or related passages.  Maybe you need to follow up after a service to read a scripture for yourself to check out what the pastor said.  God desires for us to know his Word.  It is the only way we can know his will or be like him.

Spend time considering WHO wrote the passage, to WHOM it was written, WHY it was written as well as WHAT it says and HOW you can apply it to your life.  God will bless every moment spent acting on your desire to know Him.

I believe that God will respond to questions posed out of our limited understanding if they are spoken to Him in reverence and the faith that He is sovereign.  “Lord, I trust you in this tragedy.  How can this be your will?”

“Thy hands have made me and fashioned me: give me understanding, that I may learn thy commandments.”  Psalm 119:73

Repeat back to ensure understanding

Repeat back to ensure understanding – I have heard this touted as a good listening skill for many years.  However,  only in  the last two years have I really started practicing it and asking others to practice it as well.  For instance, when I am wrapping up a meeting at work, I might ask all the participants to voice their main take-away or their action items.  Or, when I have a one-on-one session, I may ask them to send me the notes from the meeting.  This allows me to know whether they have understood me.  And I also try to practice repeating back to make sure I am hearing someone’s message.  This really makes me more aware of whether or not I’m actively listening when I know I’m going to need to say it back to the person.

I think this skill can be practiced with God as well.   Before reading scripture we should ask the Holy Spirit, in Jesus’ name, to reveal His word in a way we can understand and apply it.  Having read the passage (or been presented it in a sermon) and received the message, “repeat back to ensure understanding.”

One way to do this is through a journal.  God will continue to speak to you as you meditate or spend time considering the message.  What better way to begin hiding God’s word in our heart than looking for the application?  (Ps. 119:11)   You may even want to keep a separate journal for regular daily thoughts (more like a diary) and one for keeping track of what God has said to you through His Word.

Other ideas include:

  • Memorize scripture so that it can be repeated now AND later.
  • Pray scripture can be a way of acknowledging to God that we are hearing him speak.
  • Obeying God’s instruction is the ultimate way of confirming to the Lord that we have heard his message.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.   (Jas 1:22 NIV)

Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn your commands. (Psa 119:73 NIV)

Do not be dismayed

One of my favorite books in the Bible is Joshua. Over and over the Lord encourages him to be strong and courageous.

I am using a magazine I received in the mail in my Bible study right now.  In this month’ Tabletalk from Ligonier Ministries the lesson was on Joshua 1:9.  I needed this last Thursday, but there must be a reason the Lord gave it to me today.

“Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go”  Joshua 1:9 (ESV).

So today I looked up frightened and dismayed in my e-Sword.  I have never had Hebrew lessons, so I know I’m missing some background, but it is still enlightening to get the root of the word being used.

Of particular interest this morning was dismayed.  In the NIV it is translated discouraged.

châthath (khaw-thath’)
A primitive root; properly to prostrate; hence to break down, either (literally) by violence, or (figuratively) by confusion and fear: – abolish, affright, be (make) afraid, amaze, beat down, discourage, (cause to) dismay, go down, scare, terrify.

That is really how I was feeling last week. . . beat down.  And I knew I wasn’t because I am God’s child.  And I knew that He was with me.  And I praised him in spite of it.  But Satan was still able to beat me down with all the negative circumstances.

There is no place that the Lord promises us ease, but He promises His presence and joy unspeakable.  And he promises that He will be with us wherever we go.

Thank you, Lord for revealing your presence to me.  Thank you for the victory that is waiting.  Help me be one of the spies that believes that you will provide all that you’ve promised us.  Help me encourage others.