The More We Know Him, the More We Trust Him

It’s natural—or should be—for Christians to go to the Bible for our spiritual needs. God has promised to meet our needs. His Word gives us hope, assurance, comfort, guidance, and so much more.

But if we’re not careful, we can approach Bible reading with an “all about me” attitude. What’s in it for me, how does it relate to me, how does it make me feel.

Instead, the Bible is all about God. God wants to meet our needs, but more than that, He wants us to know Him. He told Jeremiah of the exiles He was punishing, “I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart” (Jeremiah 24:7). Throughout the Bible we see His longing for a people to know Him.

Eternal life begins with coming to know God. Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). But when Paul said “that I may know him” in Philippians 3:10, he already knew Him as Lord and Savior. Yet he longed to know God more. Peter tells us to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

My husband and I met and started dating in college in SC. But in May, he went home to Idaho, and I went home to TX for the long summer until we saw each other again the next fall. I’m sure I spent much of those summers apart gazing at the photos I had of him. But to get to know him better, I heard his words during the few phone calls we could afford and read them in his letters.

2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” We can’t behold an accurate physical image of God in a painting or photograph. But we behold Him in His Word.

And in His Word, we find that He is good, loving, kind, merciful, righteous, powerful, wise, always present. We see His declarations about Himself. We read what the prophets of old said about Him. We see His actions in dealing with people throughout the Bible. The more we get to know Him, the more secure we are in His love, the more confidence we have in His wisdom, character, and provision.

And as we get to know Him, we trust Him more. We trust His promises in individual Bible verses, but more than that, we trust His character and His ability to take care of every need we have. We move beyond just getting our needs met and we find the ways He wants us to show His love and truth to others.

We don’t get to know Him just to get our needs met. But in getting to know Him, our needs are met.

So as we come to His Word, let us look for Him on every page. Let’s know and trust and love Him more and more each day.

In Thy truth Thou dost direct me
by Thy Spirit through Thy Word;
and Thy grace my need is meeting
as I trust in Thee, my Lord.
Of Thy fullness Thou art pouring
Thy great love and pow’r on me
without measure, full and boundless,
drawing out my heart to Thee.

From “Here Is Love” by William Rees

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

When Spiritual Routines Get Boring

I watched, amused, as my husband prepared to go to work. He checked to make sure he had his wallet, keys, backpack, and water, then he kissed me goodbye.

But then he remembered something else he needed, or something else he needed to do, before he left. He’d run through his checklist again—keys, wallet, backpack, water, wife—and remember something else he needed to get. He went through this process three times, ending each time with kissing me goodbye.

I suppose I could have gotten upset that he forgot he had already kissed me goodbye several times, that kissing me was part of the routine. Or I could have reveled in getting four kisses instead of one.

But I was amused because I have similar routines.

Some routines arise to help us remember what’s vital. When I get out of the car, I stop to check for my phone, purse, glasses and keys, saying each one aloud. This routine grew out of having locked one or more of these items in the car in the past (all of them one time when one of my then-young children closed the car door before I was ready).

I also have a checklist before I leave the house to make sure I have those same items and have turned off the oven and burners (because I have accidentally left one on for hours, though thankfully not while I was gone) and have locked all the doors (because I have come home to a forgotten unlocked door).

Routines also help us get into the right mindset. Michael Phelps had an elaborate routine before races to prepare both his mind and body. A basketball player preparing for a free throw will usually dribble the ball a few times before aiming for the hoop.

Routines also save us time and brain power by not having to think through everyday decisions. We follow more or less the same schedule with eating breakfast, brushing teeth, showering, dressing. Routines can help us avoid distractions and give more time to creative thought.

But operating on automatic pilot gets us into trouble. I don’t know how many times I’ve missed a turn while driving because I was following my usual path instead of remembering I was going somewhere different that day. Or I’ve gotten to the end of my shower and forgotten if I washed my hair.

When I read articles about establishing a regular quiet time of Bible reading and prayer, I find many authors encourage setting up a routine. If we plan a quiet time at the same time and place with the same tools every day, soon it becomes regular and we don’t have to stop and think about whether, when, or where we’re going to have devotions.

Well and good.

But I’m sure you’ve had the same experience I have of running through your quiet time as a routine and then forgetting what you read five minutes later. Or looking at the same prayer list with a bit of dismay at praying for the same things over again.

I like to start my prayer time with what we call “the Lord’s prayer” and expand from there. But when I look at those same words every morning, sometimes I am in danger of running through them thoughtlessly.

How can we help our spiritual practices not to become so routine that we move through them on autopilot?

Remember who we are interacting with. Warren Wiersbe said in With the Word “The end result of all Bible study is worship.” He meant Bible study isn’t an end in itself: it should lead us to worship of the God in its pages. But it helps to start Bible reading with worship as well, to rejoice in the fact that the God of the universe wants to talk with and hear from me. The Bible says His thoughts are precious to us, highly valuable (Psalm 119:72). Stopping to think about who He is and what a treasure His Word is helps get me in the right mind set. Sometimes I do that with thought and prayer, other times by reading or quietly singing a hymn or reading a psalm or two.

Pray. Sometimes I just stop in the middle of what I am doing and ask God to clear the cobwebs and wake me up spiritually. Sometimes I’ll read through parts of Psalm 119, which is mostly prayer, like verse 24″ “Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors,” or 25: “My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!” Verses 36-37 are good, too: “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.”

Change up the routine. It helps sometimes to change the order in which we do things or the translation or study method we’re using. Maybe go out on the patio or somewhere else in the house instead of our usual spot. I mentioned starting with the Lord’s prayer. But some years ago I made a list of other biblical prayers like Colossians 1:9-12 and Philippians 1:9-11, and I’ll use one of those instead.

Find study aids. If boredom comes from not understanding what we’re reading, a study Bible or simple commentary will help.

Examine our hearts. I think boredom in spiritual routines is often the result of familiarity or fatigue. But if we always feel bored when we read the Bible or pray, something deeper might be wrong. Maybe we’ve gotten our focus off the Lord or we’re harboring some sin. We need to ask Him to examine our hearts and show us anything that displeases Him. The Israelites were in worse trouble than they realized when they complained of weariness in the spiritual routines of their day.

Do it anyway. We shouldn’t let the feeling of boredom and routine stop us. Often, once we get going, we find something special in the day’s reading. One former pastor said one of his best times of prayer occurred when he started out confessing to the Lord that he didn’t feel like praying. Sometimes at the end of my quiet time, I’ve prayed, “God, you know I didn’t feel these things as fully as I have at other times. But you know I mean them.” Feelings help, but we do right whether feelings are there or not.

If over-familiarity with the Bible is a problem, these reasons to keep reading it might help.

God understands our human frailty. “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14). He’s not looking for a stellar “performance” in our time with Him. He invites us to “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

Do you have any other tips for alleviating boredom when reading the Bible or praying?

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Daily Light on the Daily Path

When I mentioned Daily Light on the Daily Path in my post about pursuing the fruit of the Spirit, my friend Susan commented that she wasn’t familiar with the book. Since that might be the case for others as well, I thought I’d take the opportunity to share about it.

I first heard about Daily Light in missionary biographies, particular Amy Carmichael’s and Isobel Kuhn’s. I don’t remember if I assumed it was an older, out of print book: I don’t recall seeking it out. But one day when a home school conference was held nearby, I visited their sales area. I found a 1906 copy of Daily Light on sale for $2. So I grabbed it! They must have printed a lot that year, because I have worn out two versions from that year and am on my third (the latter two found online).

I found that Daily Light is a devotional book made up entirely of Scripture readings for every day. They were compiled by Jonathan Bagster of Bagster and Sons Publishing Firm for his own family’s devotions. His son later published the readings as a devotional book.

Most of the Scripture selections for the day follow a theme, like the one from September 1 about meekness.

Others follow a progression of thought, like this one.

One of my favorites from April 10 pairs verses together like this:

Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.—Thy renown
went forth among the heathen for thy beauty: for it was perfect through my comeliness,
which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord God.
I am a sinful man, O Lord.—Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair.
I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.—Thou art all fair, my love; there is no
spot in thee.
When I would do good, evil is present with me.—Be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven
thee.
I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing—Ye are complete in
him.—Perfect in Christ Jesus.
Ye are washed, . . . ye are sanctified, . . . ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus,
and by the Spirit of our God.—That ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called
you out of darkness into his marvellous light.
Psa. 51:5. -Ezek. 16:14.Luke 5:8. -Song 4:1.Job 42:6. -Song 4:7.Rom. 7:21. -Matt. 9:2.Rom. 7:18. -Col. 2:10. -Col. 1:28.I Cor. 6:11. -I Pet. 2:9.

We used the book for family devotions for a while, but my husband didn’t like reading verses grouped together out of context. Though I do prefer reading through the Bible a book at a time in order to get everything in context, these selections seem to have been combined prayerfully and carefully.

Many days these readings were just what I needed for the day. One of the most memorable times was when I was in the hospital with transverse myelitis and scheduled for an MRI. Every nurse and aide who came into my room asked me if I was claustrophobic. I wasn’t sure—I’d never been in a situations when I felt claustrophobic before. They described the close quarters of the MRI machine and the need to be perfectly still. They could give medication for calmness for the procedure, but it would have to be done ahead of time. I opted not to take the medicine. The morning of my MRI, September 4, the day’s selection from Daily Light contained several verses about being still, something that had been emphasized to me so much for the scan:

Ruth 3:18  Sit still, my daughter

             Isaiah 7:4 Take heed, and be quiet; fear not, neither be fainthearted.

             Psalm 46: 10   Be still, and know that I am God

   John 11:40 Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?

   Isaiah 30:15 In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength

             Psalm 4:4 Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still

             Psalm 37:7 Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him

   Psalm 112:7-8 He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the LORD. His heart is established

When they first put me in the MRI machine, I did feel panicky. But God kept bringing these verses to mind over and over, and they calmed and comforted me.

So every September 4 when I come across these verses, I am reminded of the Lord’s help that day.

Another time that stands out was when we were house-hunting as we prepared to move from SC to GA in the late 90s. The reading for March 6 included these verses:

The Lord your God . . . went in the way before you, to search you out a place to pitch your tents in, in fire by night, to shew you by what way ye should go, and in a cloud by day. -Deut. 32:11,12.
—As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: so the Lord alone did lead him. Psa. 37:23,24.
—The steps of a
good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand. Psa. 34:19.

When I read the first verse to my husband, he said, “Does that mean we’re going to live in a tent? Thankfully, no. 🙂

The 1906 version has a section at the back titled “Thoughts for Personal and Domestic Exigencies” (love that title!) It has a page of Scripture readings for thanksgiving, birthdays, marriage, sickness, anxiety, affliction, and bereavement. My 1999 version doesn’t have this section, unfortunately.

I’ve read Daily Light for about 30 years now. I like to read it to begin my devotional time, to get my mind and heart in gear. But some days, like when we’re traveling, or when I have an early medical appointment, or on Sundays, DL may be all I read for devotions that day.

I didn’t know there were evening readings until I ordered a more modern version. I don’t know if they were added later or if originally the morning and evening readings were published separately.

The original versions use the KJV, but you can find DL in several other Bible versions now. It is also online several places, including Crosswalk (if you don’t mind their ads) and Christian Classics Ethereal Library. This site will send the day’s readings from the NIV via email.

So that’s my long history with Daily Light on the Daily Path. Had you heard of it? Have you read it?

Laudable Linkage

I’ve been saying for weeks that I was behind on my blog reading. I’m almost caught up now, as evidenced by this long list of good reads.

Imagine Reading The Lord of the Rings the Way You Read the Bible, HT to Challies. “The aim of the story is really to sweep you away in the narrative, to carry you along in a story in which you are not the starring character but in which the idea is to fall in love with other characters. That’s how epic stories are meant to be read—not as tiny little morality tales, but as horizon-busting, eye-bugging, world-broadening, even life-shaping experiences.

Sometimes I Struggle With the Bible, HT to Challies. “I relate to what Mark Twain allegedly said, that ‘it ain’t the parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me; it’s the parts that I do understand.’ It is comforting to know that one of my personal heroes, C.S. Lewis, shared similar feelings about the more perplexing parts of the Bible.”

I Should. . . “When we’re here, sighing over “shoulds” that overwhelm, our brain space ends up reading more like a to-do list than an ongoing conversation with God. We spend less time listening to God, and more time just asking him to help us get enough done today. The words of Jesus in Luke 10:42 strike a chord when the shoulds start to drive our days.”

Harmony of the Gospels. “When you carefully read the four Gospels, you will inevitably . . . encounter what might appear to be discrepancies or contradictions between the Gospels. How should you approach apparent contradictions? The following four starting points will help readers of the Gospels approach apparent contradictions in a helpful way.”

Is Your Gospel an Urban Legend? HT to Challies. “If you talk a big game about ‘the gospel,’ but don’t live like it’s true, the people you do life with will begin to suspect you don’t actually believe it. Worse yet, they may begin to disbelieve it themselves.”

Intersectionality and My Adoptive Family, HT to Challies. “If our family took these ideas seriously — as serious proponents intend — they would suffocate our love, steal our joy, and destroy my family. Intersectionality brings the division of mother against child and son against father in very different ways than Christ does.”

The Purpose of Discipline. “God gives us His grace during seasons of discipline so that we come to know Him more deeply. His desire is for us to know Him increasingly and intimately.”

4 Truths for Your Insecure Moments. “The next time you feel insecure, remind yourself that the parts of you that make you unique are the precise parts God wants to use to fulfill his purpose through you.”

I Didn’t Want to Go to Church, HT to Challies. “Recently it took everything within me to drag myself to church (for Wednesday night Bible study). My body was tired, my mind exhausted, and my heart fatigued. Further, it meant bringing both children who, for one reason or another, always decide to act wild on those nights. Long story short, I went to church that evening.”

First Friday Prayers; Galatians 1:24. Lauren takes every first Friday of the month to share how we can convert Scripture into prayer. This time an overlooked phrase from Galatians packs a big punch.

Living With a Legacy. The Elisabeth Elliot Foundation newsletter referenced a nice article in World Magazine about Valerie, Elisabeth’s daughter, growing up with the legacy of Jim and Elisabeth (I can see the article on my phone but not on my computer. World only allows a few views before hiding their articles behind a paywall).

These verses grabbed my attention when I was in another part of 1 Timothy 6. Don’t they sound just like the spirit of our age? May we share right words with a right heart.

What Can We Learn from Bible Genealogies?

If Leviticus doesn’t kill your Bible reading plans, Chronicles might.

When our church was going through 1 Chronicles, our Bible study leader said his children asked, “Do we have to read the genealogies?” He admitted he was thinking the same question.

The genealogical sections of the Bible are probably no one’s favorite part of Scripture. Our pastor has often said, “Every part of the Bible is inspired by God, but not every part is inspirational.” We’re probably not going to get warm fuzzies from those lists of unfamiliar names.

But because the genealogies are as inspired by God as every other part of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16), they have much to teach us.

The Holy Spirit doesn’t waste words. God’s works and thoughts are “more than can be numbered” (Psalm 40:5, NKJV). A former pastor used to say the Bible is divinely brief: of all the things God could have shared with us, He chose the particular words in the Bible. So everything in the Bible is there for a purpose.

Our pastor’s wife used to say of some of the “drier” passages of the Bible, “Keep digging until you find the golden nuggets.”

So what can the genealogies teach us?

God keeps records. Detailed records. Every person on those lists was someone known of God and loved by God. And He knows and cares about us as well.

Some genealogies act as bookends or transitions. For example, Genesis 36 wraps up Esau and his descendants before Jacob’s story switches focus to Joseph.

The Bible is history. Bible professor Dan Olinger said he was thrown for a loop when he learned that some theologians teach that the narratives of the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, are fables. These teachers say we’re meant to learn lessons from OT stories like we do from Aesop’s fables, but the stories and people were made up. Dan struggled with this view until he realized that the genealogies ground the Biblical narratives in history. In fables, it doesn’t matter where the characters lived or came from or who their descendants were. But those details do matter in history.

God keeps His promises. Part of God’s covenant with Abraham was that in him, “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). God repeated this promise to Jacob three times (Genesis 12:18; 26:4; 28:14). God had promised David that his throne would be established for ever. Paul says God “promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:2-4). Matthew’s genealogy establishes Jesus’ human and royal lineage from Abraham through David. Jesus was the long-awaited fulfillment of God’s promises to His people through the ages.

Jesus loves sinners. Luke’s genealogy traces the line of Christ all the way back to Adam, establishing His humanity. Matthew mentions some people we might be surprised to see there.

All of the names shout that Jesus is not only the long-awaited King but that He is the King of grace! This entire family deserved to be rejected by God for notorious wickedness—for lying (Abraham), deceit (Jacob), immorality (David), double-mindedness (Solomon), arrogance (Rehoboam), unbelief (Ahaz), and idolatry which included child sacrifice (Manasseh). And this family had a history of disreputable women, who were “outsiders” for one reason or another. Tamar was the seductive Canaanite (v. 3), Rahab, the prostitute from Jericho (v. 5), Ruth, the Moabitess (v. 5), and Bathsheba, the adulteress (v. 6). You see, Jesus was born into a family that was notoriously deserving of judgment. But that means He’s not afraid to be associated with sinners, including immoral Gentiles—including me and you! (Joe Tyrpak, Gospel Meditations for Christmas, p. 11).

Thomas Overmiller writes:

If the genealogy of Jesus himself featured mothers with disgraced or shameful reputations, then why should you expect anything different? God does not weave people into his purposes and plans because they come from a pristine family background. He weaves people into his plan instead who have disgraceful backgrounds, the kind of disgrace that comes from our own sin and the kind that comes from the sin of others towards us. God delights to find sinners and save them. He delights to redeem us from the power of sin and from the pain of sinful things that other people have done to us. The grace of God shines through disgraced people (A Genealogy of Grace: Mothers of the King).

Genealogies encourage God’s people. I don’t think I realized before this trek through 1 Chronicles that it was written to the Israelites going back to their land after having been in exile in Babylon for 70 years. They needed to be reminded of their identity and encouraged that they were “still God’s people and retain their central place in God’s purposes for humanity” (Brian E. Kelly, ESV Study Bible, p. 705).

The Chronicler sought to address some urgent questions of his day concerning the identity of Israel. He wanted to instill fresh confidence in the people. The genealogies of Israel that begin the work (1 Chronicles 1–9) start by tracing the people’s ancestry back to Adam, a striking reminder that Israel was at the center of God’s purpose from the very beginning of creation. Although only a “remnant” and a provincial outpost in a great empire, Israel must remember that its security and destiny rest with Yahweh, “who rule[s] over all the kingdoms of the nations” and has given the land to Abraham’s descendants “forever” (2 Chron. 20:6-7) (Brian E. Kelly, ESV Study Bible, p. 701).

Genealogies remind us that life is short and death is sure until the Lord returns. I don’t remember the details or the source, but I heard about a girl who invited her unsaved dad to church. The pastor happened to be in a section of genealogies. The girl was discouraged, thinking this was the worst of all sermons for her dad to hear. But her dad became a believer. He said that hearing over and over that so-and-so lived, had children, and then died struck him. The repeated phrase “and he died” drummed itself into his mind, and he decided he needed to prepare for his own end.

Many of the Bible genealogies are “telescoped”: they don’t include every ancestor in a given line. This accounts for some discrepancies between lists. Each of the genealogies is there for a particular purpose, so the author will only include the names that are pertinent to his theme.

I hope you’re more encouraged about Biblical genealogies now. They still might not be the most exciting parts of the Bible, but they’re a rich and integral part.

Does anything in this list of what genealogies teach us resonate with you? Can you think of other purposes for genealogies in the Bible?

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

How Can We Make Our Souls Fire-Resistant?

A few years ago, we came home from having lunch at my son and daughter-in-law’s place to find a large burned patch in the grass to the left of our house as well as damage to a neighbor’s fence.

As we talked with neighbors, we learned that the neighbor behind us had been burning leaves earlier in the week. She thought she had the fire completely out and left a few days later to go out of town.

But underneath the ash, fire had been quietly smoldering for several days. Finally it erupted into flame and then spread over the dry grass. Thankfully neighbors saw it and called the fire department.

It was frightening to me that all this could happen in just a few hours while we were out. Perhaps the fire had already started before we even left, but we didn’t notice it since our driveway is on the other side of the house.

Since the photo above is a panorama shot, it’s a little distorted. Our fence line actually turns a corner rather than standing in a straight line all the way down. Still, you can see how the fire neatly went around the fence.

Another evidence of God’s protection is that just a few months earlier, we had a row of dead trees rather than a fence. Some of you may remember our ordeal of having 50 trees on our property line die off. We had to find someone to cut them down and haul them off, and then someone else when the first crew didn’t fulfill their obligations. Then my husband found some used fencing on Craig’s List and spent several evenings and Saturdays putting up the new-to-us fence.

But imagine what would have happened if that row of dead trees had been in the line of the fire. I shudder to think about the possibilities. I’m grateful for God’s mercy and timing.

I don’t know what brought this incident to mind recently—maybe the sight of a different neighbor burning something in his yard last week.

James 3:5 came to mind: “So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!” Just as an almost-put-out fire can blaze up and burn out of control, a small tongue can cause immeasurable damage.

Lust is another kind of fire. Job said that if he had been unfaithful to his wife, “that would be a heinous crime; that would be an iniquity to be punished by the judges; for that would be a fire that consumes as far as Abaddon, and it would burn to the root all my increase (Job 31:11-12). Proverbs asks, “Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched? So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; none who touches her will go unpunished” (6:27-33).

Anger is not always bad in itself. God is angry at certain things. We should be angry at injustice, at mistreatment, and so on. But much anger arises from selfish reasons. Some of us have been on the receiving end of the quick flash fire of someone else’s anger. But a slowly smoldering undercurrent is no better. Psalm 37:8 says, “Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.”

Gossip can easily spread like wildfire. “For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases. As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife. The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body” (Proverbs 26:20-22).

Most sins are more easily dealt with when they’re small. If we let temptation linger without turning from it, if we fail to quench it completely, it can build up under the surface until it suddenly erupts and spreads.

But sometimes it seems we’re not only surrounded by temptation, but filled with it. We have an enemy of our souls who knows what our particular triggers are. And we have an old nature that fights against the new nature we received when we believed on the Lord Jesus as our Savior (Galatians 5:16-16). What hope do we have when the devil lures us and our own flesh betrays us?

I thought it was so unusual that the fire in our yard bypassed the vinyl fencing. I looked up whether vinyl was heat-resistant, and it is, according to this article. Vinyl fencing is hard to ignite, won’t spread easily if it does ignite, and can be easily put out.

How can we help our souls to be fire-resistant?

In describing the armor of God in Ephesians 6, Paul says, “ In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one” (verse 16). The word “extinguish” in the Greek means, according to the definitions at the bottom of this page, “extinguish, quench, suppress, thwart.” The shield of faith doesn’t just stop the fiery arrows of temptation from reaching us: it actually puts them out.

What kind of faith makes up this shield? The faith that acknowledges the one true God is righteous, kind, and good. The faith that believes His will and purposes are better than Satan’s lures or our desires. The faith that wants to please Him more than it wants to indulge self. The faith that believes and applies His Word. Proverbs 6:23-24a says, “For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life, to preserve you.” Jesus resisted Satan’s temptations with the Word of God (Matthew 4:1-11).

The Pulpit Commentary says of the shield of faith in Ephesians 6:16:

Withal taking up the shield of faith. The θυξεός was a large oblong shield covering a great part of the body, not the ἀσπίς, smaller and more round. Faith, in its widest sense, constitutes this shield – faith in God as our Father, in Christ as our Redeemer, in the Spirit as our Sanctifier and Strengthener – faith in all the promises, and especially such promises as we find in Revelations 2. and 3. “to him that overcometh” (comp. promise to Ephesus, Revelation 2:7) Wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one. “Fiery darts” were weapons tipped with inflammable materials, firebrands, curiously constructed, adapted to set on fire. Metaphorically, considerations darted into the mind inflaming lust, pride, revenge, or ether evil feelings, emanations from the great tempter, the evil one. That such considerations sometimes start up suddenly in the mind, against the deliberate desire, sometimes even in the middle of holy exercises, is the painful experience of every Christian, and must make him thankful for the shield on which they are quenched. An act of faith on Christ, placing the soul consciously in his presence, recalling his atoning love and grace, and the promises of the Spirit, will extinguish these fiery temptations.

We can say with David:

For it is you who light my lamp;
the Lord my God lightens my darkness.
For by you I can run against a troop,
and by my God I can leap over a wall.
This God—his way is perfect;d
the word of the Lord proves true;
he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.

For who is God, but the Lord?
And who is a rock, except our God?—
the God who equipped me with strength
and made my way blameless.

(Psalm 18:28-32)

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Making Time to Read the Bible

Elisabeth Elliot is one of my favorite women, writers, missionaries, speakers, people in general. I’ve read almost all of her books. I received her newsletter for many years.

I was able to hear her speak in person twice. On one of those occasions, we had an opportunity to have her sign one of our books written by her. I had several of her books, but couldn’t quite work up the nerve to ask her to sign it. Then when my pastor heard I was going to hear her speak, he asked me to have her sign one of his books.

I stood in a long line waiting for my turn at just a few minutes with Elisabeth. And what did I say in those precious few moments?

“How do you find time to write so many books?”

Duh.

In her practical, no-nonsense way, she said, “You don’t find time. You make time.”

I’ve told this story here before, but it illustrates an important truth. We have so many things that can fill our time these days. We have to make time for what’s most important.

I’ve never seen a poll on this subject, but I would guess if we asked a large group of Christians why they don’t read the Bible, most of them would say lack of time. They know they need to, and they feel guilty for not reading Scripture regularly. But somehow the day is gone before they know it. They might read a verse or two or a short devotional before they go to bed, but their brains are too fried for much more.

But Jesus said spending time with Him is the one needful thing in our lives. So rather than waiting for time for Bible reading to magically open up, we need to make time in our schedules for it. We need to prioritize it.

Here are a few ideas for making time to read the Bible:

Pray about it. God says to ask Him for wisdom. One of the hardest times for me to make time for Bible reading was when my second child was born. With my first child, I could read while he napped. But when my second child napped, I now had a preschooler. I could tell I wasn’t getting spiritually nourished. I’d whimper to the Lord at the end of the day that I didn’t know when I could have set aside time for Bible reading that day.

He gave me the idea to ask Him at the beginning of the day to help me be alert to time to read. And He did. Normally I like more of a schedule routine, but I had to learn to grab what moments I could some days.

Don’t make too big a production of it. I think we often sabotage our devotional time because we feel we can’t have it unless we read so many minutes or chapters, consult a commentary or two, sing or read a hymn, draw something pretty in the margins of our Bible, journal for fifteen minutes afterward. Those are all great practices, and often we can employ several of them at certain seasons in life. But if we feel we haven’t actually had devotions unless we’ve done all that, no wonder we don’t get to it some days. The essential thing is to spend some amount of time in the Bible itself.

Have a plan. If we have to decide every day what part of the Bible we’re going to read from, that takes up valuable time. Early in my Christian life, I was urged to read the whole Bible through, and I think that grounded me more than anything else. I don’t do it in a year any more: that felt too rushed to me. There are multitudes of Bible reading plans available, from one year to two years to five years to a chronological reading. Don’t feel you have to read all of the planned reading for that day. But knowing where to go next makes it a lot easier to pick up and read rather than flipping through trying to find somewhere to start.

You might think that having a plan is stifling, and you’d rather read as the Spirit leads. The Bible was meant to be read in context. We get more from a particular book of the Bible when we read it in progression from start to finish. We wouldn’t read a letter from anyone else by reading the second paragraph on page two one day and the third paragraph on page one another day.

I can testify that God does speak to people through regular planned reading. I can’t tell you how many times my Bible reading for the day has been exactly what I needed. Of course, we can take a break in the plan if we feel a need to study some other part of the Bible at some point or have some kind of special need.

Know why. Any time I read about starting a new habit or making a major change, the writer will advise readers to know our “why.” When obstacles come up, when we’re tired, when it’s not convenient to do what we need to do, remembering why we do it can carry through when we don’t “feel” like it. I wrote last week about reasons I still read the Bible. I started a list years ago of reasons to read the Bible, and have been adding to it ever since until now I have over fourteen typed pages of reasons. But in a sense, I don’t need that list to keep me going. I’ve experienced the benefits of reading the Bible so much that I don’t want to go without it.

Lay other things aside. I confess that if I pick up a book or magazine or turn on the TV or open Facebook and then realize I haven’t read the Bible that day yet, I sometimes feel a little resentful at having to stop what I am doing. Even knowing all the benefits of reading the Bible, I feel that petty irritation at being interrupted and having to stop something I enjoy. But that only lasts for a moment. Once I do start reading, I’m glad I did.

Listen. Personally, I get more out of my Bible from reading rather than listening. But there are ways to hear the Bible being read if that’s the best option for others.

Plan for Bible reading after a natural break in the day. It can be hard to change gears in the middle of the afternoon to stop and read the Bible. It’s easier if we plan for it in conjunction with something else: after breakfast, after showering, after the kids go to school or take a nap, etc.

Keep the Bible handy. This is easy to do now with Bible apps for the phone. Years ago, my neighbor with three little stair-step girls kept her Bible open in the kitchen. That’s where she spent much of her time, and she could read a little while waiting for water to boil, etc.

Anything is better than nothing. For years I have been reading Daily Light on the Daily Path. It ‘s composed of just Scripture, usually on a particular topic for the day or in a progression of thought. I like to use it to begin my devotional time. But on Sundays, that’s all I read. Likewise, if I have an early medical appointment or obligation, or we’re traveling, that might be all I read for the day.

Normally I like having a good amount of open-ended time in the Word. But the days I truly only had time for a few verses, God gave me what I needed.

How about you? What tips have you found for making time to read the Bible?

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Why Keep Reading the Bible?

Do you reread books?

Little Women is one I’ve read several times. As a child, I identified with Jo. Even though we’re different personalities, I could relate to getting into “scrapes” despite one’s best intentions, the angst of growing up and learning self-control, the desire to write. But in some ways, I felt more closely aligned with Beth, the shy, quiet sister.

In early married days, I could empathize with Meg, especially her kitchen disaster on the day her husband brought home unexpected company.

After I had children, I could see myself in Marmee.

I’ve read Mere Christianity three times, I think, and I still haven’t mined its depth. I get a little more from it each time. But I could probably benefit from rereading it once every few years.

I’ve read some of my favorite biographies three or four times: Isobel Kuhn, Amy Carmichael, Rosalind Goforth, Through Gates of Splendor, and others. Each time, I am inspired by people’s life stories.

I don’t think I’ve read any book more than five times, though.

Except the Bible.

Someone asked me recently why I keep reading the Bible. He suggested that since I have read it through several times over, I must be pretty familiar with it by now.

Some years ago, I posted 13 Reasons to Read the Bible. Since then, I’ve added to that list as I have found more reasons within God’s Word that encourage me to read it. In fact, I have about fourteen typed pages of reasons in a Word document. I am trying to wrestle them into one chapter for the book I am working on. But suffice it to say, the reasons I have for reading the Bible in the first place are also reasons to continue reading it. It provides light, joy, comfort, encouragement, encourages my faith, helps me fight sin, tells me more about God.

But for this post, rather than going into general reasons to read Scripture, I’m just going to list reasons to keep reading it once we’re fairly familiar with it.

There’s always more to learn. I’m sometimes surprised at things I seem to have overlooked in previous readings. For instance, Michele recently wrote about Paul’s admonition to “come together for the better.” How had I never noticed that phrase, “for the better” before?

I notice different things each time. As with Little Women or Mere Christianity, each time I read through the Bible, I build on previous readings and have weathered different life experiences to perceive things I didn’t before.

I need to keep eating. The Bible is often compared to food. Physically, if I didn’t eat, I might last for a while on the strength of what I have eaten in the past. But at some point I am going to weaken severely if I don’t take in new food. I need to keep partaking spiritually as well. Hebrews 5:12-15 and 1 Corinthians 3:1-2 talk about progressing from “milk” to “meat” spiritually as we mature.

I need to be reminded. God often told His people to remember what He had told them—and they all too often forgot. As the old song says, we’re “prone to wander.” Peter says in his writing “I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder” (2 Peter 3:1).

God says to meditate on His Word day and night in Psalm 1, Joshua 1, and many other places. To meditate on it—to keep turning it over in my mind—I need to keep reading it because (see above) I forget.

Anticipation. When we reread a favorite book or rewatch a favorite movie, we look forward to our favorite parts all over again, even though we know what’s coming.

Relationships thrive on communication. We are often told that Christianity is not just a list of rules, but it’s a relationship with God. “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). My husband and I have been married for 42 years. We know each other’s opinions on many things, and we know what the other will say in some circumstances. But we’re not bored with each other, and we haven’t run out of things to talk about. Similarly, I don’t get tired of hearing what my heavenly Father has to say.

Recalibration. My husband uses microscopes both in his work and as a hobby. Every now and then, his microscope has to be readjusted. It hasn’t gotten totally out of whack, but continued use, gravity, dust and other things affect its function. It has to be fine-tuned in order to work correctly. The same could be said for cars, pianos, guitars, and other things. As I wrestle with the flesh and am exposed to a range of ideas in the world, I need to fine-tune my thinking regularly and line it up with God’s.

The Bible meets my needs. The Bible says it gives enlightenment, joy, comfort, guidance, and so much more. I don’t know how many times I’ve been thinking or praying about something just before I open my Bible to read, and then I find the very thing I was thinking about in my scheduled reading for the day.

I need to be filled up in order to pour out. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). If we compare the passage about being filled with the Holy Spirit and letting the word of Christ dwell in us richly, we find many parallels. The Holy Spirit works through the Word of God to enable us to minister to others.

God’s Word enables me to do His will. “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (2 Peter 1:3-4). I remember marveling the first time I “discovered” this verse. All things that pertain to life and godliness–through the knowledge of Him–by His great and precious promises.

I still need to change. I haven’t “arrived.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 says we’re changed to be more like Christ as we behold Him. “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” I still need to behold Him every day. Jesus said, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). I still need to hear truth to be sanctified. I still need to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

Reading the Bible is still necessary. In the famous Mary and Martha story, Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion [sitting at Jesus’ feet to hear and learn from Him], which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-42). “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4). Jesus said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God'” (Matthew 4:4).

God wants me to continue in it. Paul told Timothy: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:14-17). I still need all those things the Bible is profitable for.

I need God’s Word to flourish. Psalm 1 says the person who meditates on God’s Word day and night is like a tree planted right by the water, a continual source of nourishment and refreshment. That tree “yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither” (verse 3). I want to be like that.

I love God’s Word. “I find my delight in your commandments, which I love. I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes” Psalm 119:47-48).

I’ll admit, every day’s reading isn’t thrilling (I’m in Chronicles right now). But even though every “meal” in the Bible isn’t a Thanksgiving feast, it all nourishes me. Most days, God gives me something to take with me through the day.

If I do find myself feeling like I’m in a rut, reading from a different translation helps jolt me out of familiar wording. I had not used a study Bible until the last few years, and the notes and observations helped me glean more from a passage than I did on my own.

When I first started reading the Bible as a teenager, I felt it was my lifeline. I still do. I can’t imagine not reading it regularly any more, it has become so much a part of my life.

How about you? Do any of these reasons resonate with you? Do you have other reasons I didn’t mention?

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Laudable Linkage

Though I’m a little behind on blog reading due to the online conference I’m attending, I still found lots of great stuff to share.

My Biggest Struggle with Daily Devotions, HT to Challies. “My biggest struggle with daily devotions is not carving out the 20 to 30 minutes needed to read the word and spend time with God. The most difficult part is slowing down my heart and mind enough to get anything from it.”

How Should We Apply Biblical Narratives, HT to Knowable Word. “A biblical narrative’s presence doesn’t necessarily imply approval of its contents. Description is not the same as recommendation. But in the absence of explicit commentary from the biblical author, how can we sort out what to apply from each story?”

From Rage to Repentance, HT to Challies. “Hamid* unexpectedly walked in just as the service was beginning. At once I felt anxious chills in the back of my head and neck, my body’s way of telling me that it feels threatened. The last time I had seen this man had been five years previous – and he had been screaming at me in the middle of the street . . .” Wonderful and encouraging story of God’s grace.

Why It’s Right for God to Seek and Demand Glory, HT to Challies. Way back in college, one of my Bible professors brought up the question of why it’s ok for God to seek to be glorified, but it would be selfish on anyone else’s part. Unfortunately, he didn’t answer the question, and it has troubled me from time to time over the years. I knew God deserved glory, and because He is inherently good, it’s not wrong for Him to seek it. But the thought that helped me most was that we’re changed by beholding His glory (2 Corinthians 3:18)–one reason He wants us to see His glory is so we might become more like Him. There’s a quote I can’t find right now, I think from John Piper, that says God doesn’t “need” glory, but we need to glorify Him. This post brings up another couple of reasons.

The Value of Knowing Both Sides, HT to Challies. “This skill—the skill of articulating both sides of an issue—is one that is in short supply in American culture. Most debates that we observe on television consist of two people trying to outshout and demonize each other. This is because it is much easier to dismiss opposing arguments than it is to understand them.”

When the Same Sin Comes ‘Round Again. This post brings out some good conclusions concerning Abraham’s repeated sin of lying about his relationship with his wife. But it’s also a good example of using observation and considering context when studying the Bible.

Entrusting My Treasure. “I wanted to require God to insulate my family from hurts in exchange for our sacrifice and service. This would not do.”

Be Careful About the Multiplying Attacks on Christian Nationalism. “There are those that are conflating conservative politics and Christianity, but the political left is conflating all conservatives into one category in order to dismiss them all.”

Be Responsible (1 Kings)

Warren Wiersbe helps us glean understanding in Be Responsible (1 Kings): Being Good Stewards of God’s Gifts.

The book of 1 Kings begins with the death of David, Israel’s greatest king, and ends with the death of Ahab, one of Israel’s worst kings.

In-between those two kings, the temple was built, but then the kingdom of Israel split in two. The southern kingdom, Judah, was ruled by David’s line. The northern kingdom with the rest of the tribes was ruled by various people.

A few of the kings were good to some degree, but most were bad and led Israel in their besetting sin, idolatry.

God raised up prophets to warn the kings and the people about the danger they were in due to their disobedience. This book had Elijah’s famous showdown with the prophets of Baal and Elisha taking up Elijah’s mantle. But there were many unnamed prophets faithfully doing God’s will.

Here are some of the quotes that stood out to me from Wiersbe’s writing:

The two books of Kings record about four hundred years of the history of Israel and Judah, while the two books of Chronicles see the history of the united kingdom and then the kingdom of Judah from the priestly point of view. Besides recording history, these books teach theology, especially the faithfulness of God in keeping His covenant, the sovereignty of God in directing the destinies of all nations, and the holiness of God in opposing idolatry (p. 13).

Integrity is one of the vital foundations of society, but integrity involves taking responsibility and facing accountability. This includes leadership in the home and church as well as in the halls of academe and the political chambers. It’s one thing to make promises at the church altar or to take an oath of office, but it’s quite another to assume responsibility and act with courage and honesty and seek to please God (p. 11).

God took the consequences of David’s two worst sins—a piece of property and a son—and built a temple! “But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more” (Rom. 5: 20 NKJV). This isn’t an encouragement for us to sin, because David paid dearly for both of those transgressions, but it is an encouragement to us to go on serving God after we’ve repented and confessed our sins. Satan wants us to think that all is lost, but the God of all grace is still at work (1 Peter 5: 10) (p. 53).

“Because of our proneness to look at the bucket and forget the fountain,” wrote Watchman Nee, “God has frequently to change His means of supply to keep our eyes fixed on the source” (p. 160).

Responsibility means our response to His ability (p. 214).

I appreciate Dr. Wiersbe’s help in getting more from 1 Kings.