Monthly Archives: September 2019

September 21; A Layer At A Time

Psalm 119:73-176

The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. (verse 130)

I like the word the NIV uses as the “unfolding” of the understanding of God’s Word. The truth is, no one completely  understood Scripture the first time they read it. No one. Not even Billy Graham or Ravi Zacharias. God unfolds understanding through His Word one layer at a time.

For years I would begin with Genesis 1:1 on January 1, determined to read it all by New Year’s Eve, only to find myself still in Exodus in May. Life, my job, stuff took priority over my time in God’s Word.

I began earnestly reading through the Bible every year when I retired in 2011. Before that I may have made it from Genesis to Revelation maybe four times total. But this year, before we welcome 2020 in January, I will have read the Bible cover to cover for the seventh time in eight years, God willing. (I slowed down in 2017-18 and read it through in two years. You can read that journey in the archive of this blog)

I have sat here and considered how God has unfolded understanding of His Word to me over the years. For many years I would read a passage and my thoughts would go to a sermon I had heard about those verses, or a lesson my Sunday School teacher had taught on the subject. I’d remember some author I’d read, and be assured that what I’d always heard was true, that my denomination had a lock on Scripture.

Even when I’d come across a verse that seemed to contradict what I’d always been taught, I’d get out a commentary from a like-minded theologian and rest in his or her take on it. I read the Bible through other people’s eyes.

But today as I consider what the psalmist said, I realize that isn’t the case so often any more. In fact, now when I am reading the Bible, instead of recalling a sermon I’ve heard, my thoughts often go to a parallel Bible verse I’ve read in the past. I recall a Bible story that illustrates the truth I’m reading. I realize God is unfolding understanding of His Word by His Word.

Verse 169 says:

May my cry come before you, O Lord; give me understanding according to your word.

According to your word.

Folks, I am not an intellectual. I was never in gifted classes in school. I graduated from college right in the middle of the academic standings. I am a simple woman.

But God is unfolding the understanding of His Word one layer at a time, because I’m reading it. I’m thinking about it, praying about it. I write about it, but even that is just my personal way of recording what I am learning. The point is God is helping me understand Scripture because I am reading Scripture.

I promise you, if you read the Bible asking God to unfold understanding – HE WILL! He wrote it with you in mind. Of course He wants to help you understand it.

Read it. Then read it again.

September 20; A Real Life Author

Psalms 111, 112, 117, 119:1-72

When I worked in the middle school, we invited one of our students’ favorite authors to come and spend a day with us. This woman had written a series of books about children which had captured the imagination of pre-teens all over the country. And she was coming to visit us!

The kids were in awe when that woman entered a classroom. I have to admit I was a bit awe-struck myself.

Here’s what I remember about that day. The students who had read the books were attentive, and asked great questions. It was almost like they already knew and loved her. They couldn’t get enough of this woman’s story. The students who hadn’t read the books looked bored, either didn’t participate or they asked silly, meaningless questions. And those who hadn’t read the books were the students who were first out of the door when class was over. The others had to be pried away from the author.

The author of Psalm 119 spends 176 verses writing about his love for God’s Word. He believes it, studies it, cherishes it, lives by it, considers it precious. The psalmist knows and loves the Author because he’s spent time reading and learning what the Author has written.

Sometimes I think we put so much emphasis on worshiping and serving God we forget to get to know Him. And the only way we can know Him is by reading what He wrote. I find that the more I read God’s Word, the more I love reading God’s Word. The more I get to know God through His Word, the more I love Him. The more time I spend in God’s Word, the more I want to worship Him in Truth, serve Him out of gratitude for the privilege of knowing Him through His Word.

As I look back on the day that real life author came to town, I realize some of the kids got to hear about her books, the plots and characters, through what other people said about them. But the kids who had spent time actually reading the books got to know the author, could understand the plots and characters because they had experienced them first hand on the pages of the books. It seemed they shared an inside secret with the author the others could not understand.

One day we will all meet the real life Author. Will I know Him as a result of having had the first hand experience of getting to know Him through His Word? Or will I look into His eyes and only know what others have told me about Him?

Well, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to hit “publish,” and re-read these psalms today. I’m going to spend some more time with the real life Author.

 

September 19; Somebody Said…

Nehemiah 5-7; Psalms 1, 107

How do you act when you hear gossip? Do you automatically assume that what you’re hearing is the truth? What is your reaction if the gossip is about you? Can you feel your blood boil?

I think most of us could do with a lesson from Nehemiah. Look how many times his enemies tried to get him to react, tried to intimidate him with cunning words and gossip. Then look at how Nehemiah reacts.

I’m pretty sure reality TV and FaceBook would crumble if we did what Nehemiah did. And I’m even more sure we’d all be happier if we learned to keep our heads whenever we hear, “Somebody said…”

September 18; Beneath Me

Nehemiah 1-4

There are a lot of things required for the effective running of a local church. Of course we need pastors, deacons, teachers, singers, song leaders, and musicians. We need cooks and childcare workers.

But we also need people who sweep floors, clean toilets, mow grass and pull weeds. We need people who visit the sick, and move furniture for widows. Not all jobs in a church are glamorous.

I’ve often said the book of Nehemiah might be my favorite book of the Old Testament. It’s a beautiful picture of what a church should look like. But I saw something today I don’t remember ever noticing before. 3:5 says:

The next section was repaired by the men of Tekoa, but their nobles would not put their shoulders to the work under their supervisors.

The thing that I love about Nehemiah’s book is how everyone chipped in and did their part in the building and repair of the wall around Jerusalem. Even some of the women got their hands dirty. But here we see the “nobles” refused to lend a hand.

Shame on them.

But as God often does when I begin to fill a little self-righteous and point my fingers at those obviously not doing the right thing, He places a hand on my shoulder. “Shame on who, Connie?” He seems to ask.

Have I declined a ministry I felt was beneath me? Am I too proud to work behind the scenes? Do I think someone less educated is better suited to some menial task than I who have gone to college? Am I afraid to get my designer clothes dirty?

Shame on me!

My thoughts went to Jesus. Was anything beneath my Savior? Was He ever too proud to get down and dirty with people who needed Him? Was He too dignified to be hanging on a cross stark naked?

If the God of the Creation stooped so low for me, there is nothing too low for me to do in response. I don’t want to be counted with the “nobles” we read about in Nehemiah who would not put their shoulders to the work. Count me in with Shalhum’s daughters, chipped and dirty fingernails and all.

I guess God may be speaking to me about this topic today as I get ready to serve on the Nominating Committee at my own local church. We will be talking to people about the various areas of service that keep our fellowship running smoothly. We will be asking people to consider serving on the food committee, the grounds committee, the congregational life committee, etc.

May we all remember that nothing done for the glory of God is beneath any of us. May I remember nothing done for God’s glory is beneath ME!

September 17; Hold Your Horses

Ezra 8:15-10:44

Ezra had the go-ahead from the king, and from God to gather the Jews and head home. Ezra immediately organized the people, but when he discovered there were no priests or Levites among them, he waited. He sent for the spiritual leaders, and didn’t move until they were present.

But Ezra didn’t move out the minute the priest got there, either. He led the Israelites in a time of fasting and prayer. They humbled themselves and asked God for a safe journey for all of them, men, women, and children.

Have you ever found yourself moving ahead of God, of jumping into service without really praying about it, of beginning a ministry before you humbly give it to God?

Hold your horses!

I think Ezra’s example is a good one for all of us excited about doing God’s will.

He knew upfront that God was in it. But Ezra still prayed. He surrounded himself with Godly people and they prayed. He humbled himself. He gave the journey to God, asked God to protect him, and to bless their efforts.

And God brought them all safely home. Sounds like a recipe for a successful ministry to me.

 

September 16; Getting Our Priorities Straight

Ezra 7:1-8:14; Psalm 106

There’s no question Ezra was used by God in amazing fashion. He was instrumental in re-establishing Jerusalem as the City of God, of re-settling the returning Jews into the Promised Land, and of reminding the Jews of their relationship with God and their need of Him.

But there is one verse that struck me today as I read these verses. Ezra 7:10:

For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.

Sure, Ezra wanted the temple up and running again, he wanted the exiled Jews home again. But he wasn’t devoted to any of that. His devotion was toward God’s Word, for himself and for others. Ezra had his priorities straight. And because he spent time in God’s Word for himself, then shared it with others, he was able to then do great things for God.

Sometimes I think we forget that first important step. We get busy doing things for God, teaching SS, singing in the choir, volunteering, visiting… we neglect our personal time in God’s Word.

Please don’t let this blog, or a commentary, or a study guide replace your time reading the Bible, opening God’s Word and allowing Him to speak to you personally. I mean, I’m glad you drop by here to see what God has impressed on my heart. But don’t ever let that take the place of allowing Him to speak to you directly through the pages of His love letter to you.

What are you devoted to? Let’s be sure we all have our priorities straight.

September 15; Ups and Downs

Esther 9:18-10:3; Ezra 4:6-23; Psalm 105

The history of the Jews is a picture of life, isn’t it? In the book of Esther we see a great celebration lasting days. They had enjoyed a great victory over evil, and they were on top of the world.

But when they got busy rebuilding Jerusalem, they were stopped in their tracks. Scripture tells us the Persians “compelled them by force to stop.” (Ezra 4:23)

I find it the same in my life. I may have victory over a sin, or am able to successfully navigate a difficult situation. I may get a raise at work, or get a “thumbs up” medical report. Things in my life may be working out. I feel blessed!

Then I run into a roadblock, a temptation, a hardship, and I don’t feel blessed at all.

It’s interesting that the organizer of the chronological Bible I am using places Psalm 105 after Ezra’s account of the work-stoppage.

Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him… (vs 4)

It just reminds me that life has its ups and downs. Good times and bad. Successes and failures. There is only one constant.

God.

And I am reminded God is good all the time. God deserves praise all the time. And I can rest assured that He does all things well, all the time. May I, may we, sing His praises from hearts that are overwhelmed with WHO He is, circumstances aside. Because life will be hard some time. Life will be great sometimes, too. We will have victories, and we will blow it.

But God is the same yesterday, today, and forever! Praise Him.