Tag Archives: reading God’s Word

(Psalm 119:97-104) The Master Teacher

I know there are Christians who depend heavily on Bible study curriculum to help them understand as they read God’s Word. I myself appreciate reading the opinions of Bible scholars like Matthew Henry, Warren Wiersbe, John MacArthur, and others. I actually teach a Bible Study using one such curriculum. But I stand behind my conviction that the best use of our time in God’s Word is reading God’s Word.

Referring to Bible helps occasionally and as a supplement is one thing. But substituting a Bible study guide for Scripture is another thing. The book of Job tells us we won’t find God’s wisdom from each other. Finding God’s wisdom requires searching Scripture for ourselves, digging into God’s Word one verse at a time. It requires you and I to get in there and do the work ourselves.

If you read this part of Psalm 119, you’ll hear what God inspired the psalmist to write. Verse 97 sets the stage. He expresses his love for God’s instruction. In fact, he says he meditates on it all day long.

The psalmist tells God he realizes he has more insight into and understanding of the things of the Lord than do the teachers and elders, and has learned to obey God because “you yourself have instructed me.” That is awesome! Can you have better insight into God’s Word than your pastor? Can you understand God’s Word better than your Sunday School teacher or favorite author? The psalmist seems to be indicating it’s possible if God Himself is your instructor.

So who is instructing you? I hope it’s not just me. I hope it isn’t only your pastor or the Daily Bread. I hope and pray that you spend some quiet time with your Bible open in front of you and ask God to be your teacher. I hope you’ll read the Old Testament and the New, slowly, prayerfully, expecting God to give you understanding.

You may think you “can’t” understand Scripture. Let God prove you wrong. He is the Master Teacher!

(Psalm 119:1-40) Digging for Treasure

Our Sunday School lesson yesterday was from Job 28 where Job talks about mining for treasure, and how God’s wisdom is so much more valuable than any gem or mineral men work so hard to get. Our challenge was to “mine” the treasures in God’s Word with the same intentional effort as a miner of gold.

Then today, as I continue with reading through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation in 2021, I found myself in Psalm 119. Yes, the psalm that talks about God’s Word in every verse, the psalm that celebrates the treasures in Scripture.

I love God!

I had intended to read through the entire chapter, all 176 verses. But there is so much treasure here to gather, I couldn’t just skip over the surface. I had to dig. I had to pull out everything I could, one gem at a time.

But here’s the thing: If I read God’s Word, and if I do it slowly, thinking about what I read, if I stop and look at what others have said about these verses, and go back and read the verses again, if I gain all the knowledge about what Scripture says, but don’t write in on my heart and allow it to change me, I miss out on the chance to glorify God and be blessed by Him. If I don’t actually use what treasures I’ve mined, why bother?

It would be like digging for diamonds, and just putting the lump of rock on a shelf and forgetting it. What makes the diamond valuable is the cutting and polishing and use of it.

Same thing with God’s Word. The psalmist knows the value of actually loving God’s law AND obeying it; things like happiness, a life lived without fear of being “found out” with some hidden sin, a life lived unashamed. Things like knowing God hears – really hears – when I pray. The fact that He gives me understanding of His Word when I ask Him. And the amazing blessing of life lived through God’s own righteousness.

James 1:22-25 tells us there is blessing not just from hearing God’s Word, but in obeying it.

As Christians we are God’s servants. Not the forced and oppressed kind of slaves that might come to mind. But people who are privileged to serve, people who love to please our loving Father kind-of-servants. And our loving Father has written down exactly how we can please Him, gave us our “honey-do” lists, our instruction book and lesson plan, step by step instructions that spell it all out. He makes His will known through the pages of Scripture so we CAN serve Him.

The beauty of Scripture is the fact that the more time we spend reading and taking it in, the better we get to know God. The more we know God, the more we want to know Him. The more we know Him, the more we love Him. The more we love Him the more we want to please Him, to spend time with Him reading what He wrote, which helps us to know Him better, love Him more, serve Him in a way that pleases Him, and so on and so on and so on.

It’s a glorious cycle! And in this cycle of knowing God, loving His Word, and obeying Him there is such joy!

Matthew Henry said that the joy that comes from knowing God like that should be the “wheels” to our obedience. It comes back to the Bible. Because if we want to obey God, we find out how to obey Him in His Word.

And if we read His Word, we want to obey Him.

Is your head spinning? It’s cool to think of this cycle like a spiral, or the ripples in the water when you toss a pebble into it. The rings get bigger and bigger as it reaches further and further out. God blesses us who love His word, and as we love His Word more, the blessing grow, reach out, multiply.

Now let me say I’m glad you are reading this post. I am thankful for people like Henry, Wiersbe, MacArthur and others who have studied God’s Word and shared their insight through hundreds of books and commentaries.

But A.W Tozer warns us about the difference between being “man taught” and “God taught.” I think that’s something we need to take seriously. The psalmist is celebrating the beauty of God’s Word, and the blessing of reading it, meditating on it, loving it, desiring it, longing for it, writing it on our hearts. Nothing – NOTHING – compares to spending time in the pages of the Bible for yourself and allowing God to open your minds and hearts to what He wants to say to you.

I pray that you will dig for treasure today as you open your Bible and begin to read. The treasure you will find is priceless.

Just Can’t Get Enough (Luke 19)

because all the people hung on his words. (verse 48b)

Have you ever been in love? Did you think that person was the smartest, cleverest, most interesting person you had ever known? Did you hang on every word he or she said? You just couldn’t get enough, could you?

That’s how the people responded to Jesus when he was teaching in the temple. And that’s how I want to respond every time I read God’s Word.

I don’t want my quiet time to be just another thing on my daily to-do list. I don’t want to read with my mind on something else. Every time I open these precious pages I want to sit at Jesus’ feet and hang on every word.

I love Him! And I just can’t get enough!

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.

January 2; No Questions Asked

Genesis 4-6

“Noah, build an ark.”

“Ok.”

But had Noah ever even seen an ark? Did he even know what a flood looked like? He might not even have known what rain looked like. But God said it. And Noah obeyed.

If you are like me, sometimes I ask too many questions. God might be prompting me to do something as easy as walking across the street to talk to a neighbor about Him, or to befriend that irritating coworker, or up my financial giving at church. And instead of obeying, I start asking questions:

“Why?”

“What’s in it for me?”

“What can I say to them?”

“What will people think?”

“Am I hearing you right?”

And I think it to death, my time is wasted, and my opportunity is past. What if Noah had done that? What if he started asking questions and put off building the ark?

The Bible would be a much shorter book. There’d be no one to read it anyway.

But Noah obeyed and built that ark that saved him and his family, and us. God is not asking me to do anything as unimaginable or difficult as building an ark. Why do I make such a big production out of obeying what He does ask of me?

This year, in 2019, I want to be obedient. Period. I want to trust Him without having to know the details first. As I continue to read His Word and pray, I want His voice to be clear and my obedience immediate.

Like Noah building an ark, I want to take that step of faith and obey God just because He asks me to. No questions asked.

Proverbs 25-31; Can You Hear Me Now?

I love how God speaks to His children through the words He inspired men to put to paper thousands of years ago. I hope you aren’t squandering this precious pipeline to God’s heart.

These last chapters of the book of Proverbs have a lot to say about a lot of topics. But honestly, as I read them today I found myself skipping over some of the verses without much consideration. The topics of those don’t apply to my life as much right now. Work ethic, honesty, material possessions, alcohol aren’t things God is dealing with me in 2018.

However, anger is. Quarreling is. Relationships in my life are challenging today, this minute, and God nudged me every time I read those verses that speak to those things. I hear you loud and clear, Lord.

Once again, I was tempted to point fingers. I’d think, “Boy, So and So should read this verse.” Or, “Yeah, that describes So and So.”

And once again, God reminded me that I need to take care of the plank in my own eye before I worry about a speck in someone else’s.

I believe, according to what I read in Scripture, there may very well come a time when I need to address that speck in the eyes of my loved ones. But not before I have a clean heart, pure motives, and God’s leading first.

Not that I’m a “Proverbs 31 Woman,” by any stretch of the imagination, but I would like verse 26 to describe me:

She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

Speak, Lord. I can hear You.

 

Psalms 123-132; The Theme

I am not what you’d call a Bible scholar. Other people have studied Scripture, dissected it, put it on a timeline, and could tell you the dimensions of the temple off the tops of their heads. I’m not that person. I just don’t like studying God’s Word through a microscope. That might be your approach, and that’s okay. But that’s just not me.

Psalm 131 has the title, “Growing in Grace,” and I would like to think it describes me. I don’t “concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.” Material details just don’t interest me. But the message is my passion.

I see the Bible as one cohesive book with one theme: Jesus. From cover to cover it is all about Jesus. I don’t see it as being so much about a people group, or some mystery book that throws out clues so we can guess what’s coming in the future. I see it as a story about a God who created this universe in order to share His love. It’s about a God who chose mankind to fellowship with and save. It’s about that Savior who gave His life for love of each of us. And it’s about that same Savior who is coming again to take us to be with Him forever.

That’s how I like to read Scripture, looking for that theme in every historical account. I don’t get caught up in the historical account.  Again, if you enjoy the history I’m not telling you there’s anything wrong with that. I’m just sharing my own approach to reading and studying God’s Word.

Some will say that’s too simplistic of an approach. Maybe. Maybe not.

I’m like the weaned child with his mother. (can’t get much simpler than that). That child is a blank slate. That child will grow, and learn, and love by choice.

So I will continue to read these precious pages. I will still and quiet my soul, putting my hope in the Lord both now and forever. And I will see Jesus on every page.

Dear Teacher, I want to be that blank slate today. May I, as I read Your Word and pray, recognize Jesus in every chapter, every verse Your Holy Spirit inspired the men to write. I don’t want to be sidetracked by rabbit trails that don’t have much to do with the bottom line. Teach me about Jesus, help me to grow in grace and knowledge of Him. And may I be equipped to share His story with someone today.

 

Exodus 16; Give Us This Day

Manna intrigues me. It was something no one had ever seen before, or has seen since. It came straight from God in a very visible way. It was good, refreshing, and nourishing. The Israelites could bake it or boil it. And God gave exactly what everyone needed every day.

One commentator I read suggested I put myself in a Jewish sandal for a moment. Their food supply was spent. They went to bed hungry every night, and parents knew their children were starving. Is it any wonder they complained to their leader?

And is it any wonder that, when that first manna came down from heaven, some hoarded a bunch? They had learned to go to bed each night with no food in the fridge, and it was pretty understandable they wanted a backup plan in case the manna didn’t come again in the morning.

But the manna came. And their hoarded food spoiled. Lesson: Trust God even when things look  hopeless. The Israelites learned they could go to bed at night without any food in the house and no means of supplying food on their own, and trust that God would provide. Every. Day.

Sometimes I can lie awake in bed at night and worry over a situation, or plot a plan of action just in case. I need to learn from the Jews and trust God to supply exactly what I need. When will I learn to pray believing in every situation?

Scripture has been likened to manna. Jesus told us He is the Bread of Life. And Jesus taught us to pray “… give us this day our daily bread…”

Jill Briscoe, in her book “Here Am I… Send Aaron,” points out an important lesson from this account in Exodus 16. If God’s Word is manna, and Jesus is the Bread of Life, how’s my diet?

Most of us have probably been “hangry” a time or two in our lives. You know that irritable feeling that comes from being hungry. Isn’t it Snickers that has the commercial that tells us, “You’re not yourself when you’re hungry”? Been there. Done that.

But how many angry Christians do you know? Christians who complain about the pastor, who divide the fellowship with malicious gossip, who find fault in every decision, and who blame God when they don’t get their way. Jill suggests those kinds of Christians aren’t collecting manna.

We are all created with a hunger to know God. And God has supplied the manna in the pages of the Bible. But if we don’t read it, think on it, pray over it every day, we are starving ourselves. Too many people expect the pastor to feed them a week’s worth of manna on Sunday. They have reason to be “hangry” if that’s the case. They are starving!

Jesus prayed, “give us this day…”  God does. We just need to collect it this day, and every day. If we feed our souls, feast on God Word, ingest our Bread of Life daily, we will be healthy, productive children of God.

If we don’t, well… it’s not God’s fault.

June 3 – Time to Grow Up

Proverbs 1-3

The other night I watched a little neighbor girl go up to my five-year-old great-nephew, Colton, and put her finger on his shirt, then ask, “What’s this?” When Colton put his head down to see where she pointed, she flicked his nose. Took me back a few decades. I wonder how many times I fell for that myself.

The thing is, just a few minutes earlier, the little girl tried the same thing with Sara, Colton’s mommy. I’d heard Sara laugh and say, “I’m not falling for that.”

Children are naive, aren’t they? Santa Clause, the Tooth Fairy, they believe just about anything they hear – until they grow up. But you have to admit, it’s cute while it lasts.

Solomon begins the list of proverbs by talking about wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, he reminds us. God gives us wisdom, he says, if we only pay attention.

1:22, “How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded?”

1:12 tells us the waywardness of the naive will kill them.

Dear one, it’s not enough to say you’re a Christian. Being a Christian involves being born again, but like a child, there is a time to grow up. Solomon tells us God will pour out His spirit on us and make His words known to us. But first God says, “Turn to my reproof.” (1:23)

In other words, accept the fact that God disapproves of sin in your life. No, he hates sin in your life. And he doesn’t want you to be naive about what sin is, or what the consequences for sin are. Saying, “I didn’t know” doesn’t cut it with God.

In fact, naivety is a death sentence. How sad is that, when there is so much wisdom available to us through God’s Word and by His Spirit living in us?

It’s time to grow up.