Learning to Love the B-I-B-L-E: Letting the Holy Spirit Lead your Bible Study

 “The B-I-B-L-E,

Yes, that’s the book for me.

I stand alone on the Word of God.

The B-I-B-L-E.

BIBLE!”

This popular children’s song sums up a great truth in a few lines- the Bible is the book for us, and we can stand alone (with confidence) on God’s Word. But how many of us really know how to do that? We teach our children that all the answers we need are found in God’s Holy Word, and yet how many of us go to another source for answers?

I am not a Bible scholar, but I love God’s Word. I’ve completed many different Bible studies: some in a classroom, some on my own with a workbook requiring me to fill in blanks, some that included extensive historical perspectives and wise leaders providing lectures filled with insights. I’ve also taught preschool children for nearly a decade. Do you want to know what I’ve discovered? Children are often more comfortable exploring God’s Word than the adults who are supposed to be the examples!

In this digital age of quick answers and access to millions of perspectives from around the world, we’ve become intimidated by the oldest source of information available: the Bible. Many of us are unfamiliar with even the most basic knowledge of the Bible; did you know there are sixty-six books in the Bible? Thirty-nine are in the Old Testament, and twenty-seven are in the New Testament. The books of the Bible are also divided into groups, such as Law, History, Poetry, Prophecy and Letters.

In a standard Bible (assuming there is no lengthy commentary or added study aids), if you open your Bible to the middle, you’ll find yourself in the Old Testament, usually in Psalm or Proverbs. If you then open to the middle again, on the left, you’ll find yourself in the Old Testament, usually in 1 or 2 Samuel. Open to the middle on the right side (instead of the left) and you’ll be in the New Testament, usually Matthew, which is the first book of the New Testament.

Perhaps you already knew those things, and you may even know the books of the Bible- in order! The question now is what are you doing with that knowledge? Do you rely on workbooks, videos, or Bible teachers to lead you in your study? Many “old” Christians are still nervous about opening their Bible and letting God lead their study- they are afraid that they will miss something if they don’t have a commentary or workbook. Many of us wonder if we can discover the “right” answer on our own, without someone guiding us to understanding.

The Holy Spirit inspired the entire Bible, but we often forget what that means. Consider this: if God could inspire fishermen, shepherds, prophets and kings to hear and record the Message that would stand for eternity, why do we think we can’t trust the Holy Spirit to lead us in understanding that same Message?

The truth is that we can trust the Holy Spirit to lead us. God wants to speak directly to us, and we must learn to come to the Bible with confidence. God has blessed us with many gifted writers and teachers, but satan has convinced us of the lie that only gifted writers and teachers can understand God’s Word. It is my prayer that you will accept the challenge to come to God’s Word expectantly and confidently, using only the Holy Spirit to guide your study.

In order to gain confidence in your ability to understand God’s Word, begin by finding a translation of the Bible that is comfortable for you to read. Perhaps the most common is the New International Version, but there are many options available. A good way to choose the translation that suits you is to go to a Bible bookstore and read a familiar passage in 2 or 3 different translations. Ask your minister or friends who are actively studying the Bible which translation they prefer. Ultimately, the translation you choose must be one that you can easily understand and feels natural to you.

The truth is that few adults actually know all the books of the Bible, and certainly not in order. Don’t feel that you must memorize them before you begin to study. The Bible is a book, and like every book, the Bible has a table of contents. Don’t be afraid to use it! I promise that as you study and become familiar with God’s Word, you’ll naturally learn the books of the Bible.

Before you begin studying, pray! Ask God to use the Bible to speak to you, and ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand God’s Word and apply it to your life. Then, simply begin with B-I-B-L-E:

Be” aware of the emotions, questions and/or anxieties you are bringing before God. Be ready to focus on nothing but God’s Word. Be willing to stop on a passage of Scripture for as long as it takes for you to glean the message of it.

Inquire” about what you feel God wants you to understand. Is there a person or situation that keeps coming to your mind? Consider what it is that resonates with you at that moment. Is it a verse or phrase that keeps coming to you unexpectedly? Is there a praise song that echoes as you go through your day? Most Bibles have a concordance at the very back. This is a wonderful tool when you don’t feel led to a specific passage, but you sense a word, phrase or emotion that comes to you again and again. The concordance lists words and phrases that are found in specific Bible verses. You can use the concordance to lead you to specific passages within the Bible that address what is on your heart. Pray as you read, pausing to ask God to confirm when you’ve found the passage you are supposed to study that day.

Believe” that you will hear God’s voice. Believe that the Bible contains the insight you seek. Believe that God wants to speak to you. Believe that you are capable of understanding and recognizing God’s voice. Believe that the Bible is the true, complete, and inspired Word of God. Believe that the Bible is relevant and alive, able to advise and encourage you as you seek to hear the voice of God.

Listen” as you read the Bible. Pay attention to the details. Many times God chooses to reveal the message a little at a time. You may not be able to comprehend the full extent of the insight God wants you to gain until hours or even days later. Listen for confirmation of the whispers of insight that you sensed during your Bible study. Listen for opportunities to share and discuss what you’ve read with others. There are no coincidences, and you can trust the God will confirm the message you sensed as you studied.

Finally, Spirit-led Bible study requires that you “Expect” that God will speak to you. Expect that the Holy Spirit is capable of communicating to everyone on a personal level. Expect to leave God’s Word with a thought or insight that resonates with you. Expect that God’s ability to communicate is never affected by our ability to listen. God knows your heart and you can trust that God the Creator is capable of producing understanding and insight in everyone. Wait upon the Lord. Expect that God will meet you.

Be                                                             Significant

Inquire                                                      Theme

Believe                                                      Understand

Listen                                                        Discover

Expect                                                       You

Now that you’ve discovered the passage that you feel God wants you to study, now what? This is the hard part, isn’t it? This is the place where we long for someone to give us questions to answer, or to tell us what it all means. This is actually where things get exciting, because this is where the Holy Spirit begins to speak the loudest. Now it’s time to “S-T-U-D-Y.”

Read through the text, including the verses immediately before and after the passage you are drawn to study. It often helps to read through the entire chapter so that you can understand how the passage fits into the bigger message and not risk misunderstanding a specific verse because you’ve considered it out of context. Now that you’ve gotten a general idea of the context, re-read the passage you are studying very slowly, underlining or noting on a piece of paper anything that seems “Significant” to you. “Significant” is personal, and will be different for most people. Finding what is Significant is as simple as noticing words or phrases that seem to “jump out” as you read, or even phrases that cause you to pause and try to understand what is being said. Perhaps you’ve noticed a word or phrase that has been repeated; often this indicates something Significant. Now isn’t the time to try to understand why something seems Significant, you’re just paying closer attention to details that God may use to connect with you.

Now that you’ve noticed words or phrases that seem significant, consider the “Theme” of the passage. What seems to be the main idea? Who is speaking? Who is the audience? Let your imagination wander- if the setting or situation is described in the text; consider the sights, sounds, and emotions of the Theme. Can you think of a modern setting that would be similar?

Now consider what you “Understand” about the passage you just read. What questions do you still have about the text? What seems clear to you? Sometimes it will help you to Understand if you re-read the passage slowly, pausing to consider the significant words and phrases. Another way to increase what you Understand is to retell the text using your own words. If it still seems difficult to Understand, it is often helpful to read the same passage in a different translation of the Bible. The key is not expecting to Understand everything. Review what you do Understand and note what questions remain. Be willing to return to this passage again and again until you are confident that you fully Understand what God is saying to you. Here is where you must resist the temptation to go to a commentary or the notes in a study Bible to give you the answer. Wait to use those tools until after you Understand what God is saying to you personally. Commentaries and historical insights are valuable tools and I highly recommend them- AFTER you know that you’ve heard God speaking to you personally.

Each time we study the Bible, we “Discover” something new. Even if we have read or studied the same passage numerous times, God wants us to Discover more today than we did yesterday. What did you notice that you might not have seen before? What does this Scripture passage say about God’s character? What new idea or perspective do you have now that you’ve read this passage several times? Is there something else that you feel God wants you to Discover that still seems hidden?

Finally, ask what God is saying to “You” in this passage. If this isn’t immediately obvious, stop and pray about it. Ask God to give You insight into what You need to know today. Review the significant words and phrases and ask God to show You what made them “jump out.” Don’t give up. Be patient and confident that God has a personal message that You need to understand. Perhaps it isn’t something that applies directly to your life, but is something that God wants You to share with someone who is going to be placed in your path. Expect. Trust. Wait. God speaks; we only need to learn how to listen when the Holy Spirit uses the Bible to communicate with us.

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Perspective

It is here that I begin my story,

This life that is mine to live.

The shadows of anticipation recede,

Carried away upon tides of discontent.

This is the face I see in the mirror,

Lines and creases forged during my wait.

Always waiting.

For what?

Days I have lost in my quest for perfection.

Blessings ignored as I looked over my shoulder.

Always analyzing,

Never content.

And yet, I’ve still managed to reach this place.

This here and now,

In spite of myself.

Candy Land Color Word Literacy Center

used for Candy Land Color Words

Candy Land Color Words


For this literacy center you will need:

  • One Candy Land Castle Game (1 to 4 students)
  • One copy of the color word take home sheet for each student

Object of the center:

  • Recognizing and writing the color words; red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple.
  • Taking turns and working together.

How to play:

Children learn to take turns as they play the game as usual. (This is similar to a Bingo game because they match the shapes to their Gingerbread Game Board). The literacy center application comes when they write the color word in the spaces below the matching shape on their take-home sheet.

Candyland color word take home sheet

Convicted

I am a murderer. I have never lived behind bars, nor have I been prosecuted for my crimes. I have, however, been convicted. Many times throughout my life I have been convicted of hatred and selfishness that caused me to act in ways that killed those around me. I’ve seen my words kill confidence. I’ve seen my judgmental attitude kill hope. I know my critical spirit has left vulnerable hearts broken and bleeding. I grieve over all the times I didn’t even bother to notice how my selfish and hateful actions affected someone close to me.

Today I am compelled to respond to the reactions I’m seeing all around me as people process the news that Osama bin Laden has been killed. We may end up agreeing to disagree about much of what I’m about to say, but I can’t remain silent.

Please understand my heart. Like you, I can describe exactly where I was and what I was doing as I felt the horror of seeing the second plane crash into that tower. I watched, holding my 3-month old daughter close as simultaneous emotions of fear, anger and insecurity engulfed me. I feared the world she would face as she grew into a woman. I cried as I watched the anguish of people walking among the rubble, looking for answers and desperately searching for hope. I hated the evil that caused such destruction. I wanted revenge.

Today, nearly ten years later, I’m trying to explain to my daughter how to process a situation that I still can’t fully understand. As I listened to her questions and prayed for wisdom in how to answer them, God used her to reveal the heart of the matter. My daughter couldn’t get past the fact that Osama bin Laden created the plan, talked people into doing it, and then those people agreed, knowing that they would die in the process. She doesn’t understand how a leader can convince someone to commit obvious suicide while the leader continues to live. She can’t comprehend the magnitude of hopelessness that allows such evil to occur. Neither can I.

Just as she brought her questions to me, I have been bringing my questions to my Abba Father. Why don’t I feel that justice has been served with the death of bin Laden? What is it that I keep feeling like I’m missing about this situation? Why doesn’t the justification of bringing closure to victims make me comfortable with how fellow Christians are reacting to the news? Why do I feel a stone in my stomach every time I read a verse that someone has thrown out there about God’s wrath and God’s justice being accomplished?

As He often does, God allowed me to experience these swirling emotions for a few days before He knew my brain was quiet enough to hear His voice. He allowed me to listen to my child wrestle with things beyond her comprehension before He led me to the deeper understanding I was seeking.

As a follower of Christ, I am called to view the world from a different perspective. I’m called to live against the culture, to be transformed when Jesus renews my mind and allows me to see God’s pleasing, good, and perfect will (Romans 12.2). Sometimes it takes a while before I can move beyond the obvious and into a transformed understanding. Today I finally know why I’ve struggled to see bin Laden’s death from a perspective that isn’t conformed to the pattern around me.

The problem is that we’ve been deceived. Again. Osama bin Laden wasn’t the mastermind behind the destruction and devastation of 9/11. He too was manipulated into seeing what he wanted to see. He was unaware that he was also accepting a suicide mission as he implemented the plan of 9/11. As Christians, we have allowed ourselves to see the face of evil as having a beard and empty eyes. We’ve had the audacity to give evil a name, and we’ve dangerously assumed that we’ve killed the heart of terror. Osama bin Laden was evil, but we should grieve his death rather than celebrate it.

Hang with me here, because I’m not saying that bin Laden wasn’t guilty. I’m not saying that he didn’t deserve to die. I’m saying that evil didn’t start with him, nor will it end with him. I’m saying that as Christians we know the truth; that satan was the mastermind behind 9/11, and that bin Laden was simply a willing and able individual open to the idea. Just as bin Laden sent his followers to their death, the devil manipulates us to carry out his plans for destruction, knowing that we are condemning ourselves in the process. John 8.44 describes the devil as a “murderer from the beginning” and a “liar and the father of lies,” yet we continue to accept comfortable lies as a substitute for hard truths. We celebrate the death of a murderer and justify our joy by seeing ourselves on God’s side and above the temptation of hatred that created 9/11.

As a follower of Jesus, I am called to be the light in the darkness of the world. I am called to see others with the heart of my Father beating in my chest, looking past what they seem and seeing who they are as a child of God. I am called to not only admit but to accept the truth that Jesus died for Osama bin Laden as much as Jesus died for me. I must live with the fact that sin is sin, without hierarchy and without distinction. The wage of sin is death (Romans 6.23), but we as Christians often conveniently forget that the Bible also says that anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer (1 John 3.15). It is far more comfortable to sit in judgment than to grieve the fact that one more person died without knowing the hope and salvation that is available through Jesus alone.

Sin is sin. There is no distinction in God’s eyes between those planning murder, those committing murder, or those hating their brother. We’re all guilty. Each of us deserves the same fate as Osama bin Laden. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3.23). This is a truth difficult to admit or accept. In a world of compromise, Christians must acknowledge that because God loves us, He doesn’t “grade” sins. There are no “acceptable” sins in the eyes of Holy God. We’re all equal, condemned by different actions but by the same root of sin. Thankfully, we’re also equal in the forgiveness that God so freely gives. Everyone can receive the same measure of hope, regardless of who we are or what we’ve done.

I don’t know where you stand with God, and I don’t know what you think about heaven and hell. I certainly don’t profess to have all the answers. However, I believe with all my heart that events like 9/11 open doors for conversations about evil, hope and justice. I know that it’s difficult to live in a world with such evil and not question why God allows things like this to happen. I understand the frustration that comes when Christians use the Bible as proof of their position but can’t understand or admit that not everyone believes in the authority of the Bible.

Here’s the thing: I don’t know why God allows evil to happen, but I believe with all my heart that He is in control and brings eternal good out of situations intended for permanent destruction. I know that it is impossible to deny the depth of evil that exists in this world, and because of that, I cannot live without the hope that there is a stronger force of good that will ultimately triumph.

Unchallenged and untested faith is not actually faith, but rather a catchy slogan. Until we are willing to face difficult questions and admit that we are not capable of finding the answers or making sense of things on our own, we will never be able to take steps toward faith. Once we accept that Jesus really did die for us and we really do have hope, we must also accept that we are called to share that hope with a hurting world.

We are called to grieve the wages of sin no matter the situation. We are not called to celebrate the destruction of those created in the image of God. We are called to speak the truth in love, and fight against the forces that want everyone to die without hope and with eternal condemnation. We are called to recognize and identify hate no matter how cleverly it disguises itself as justice. I’ve been convicted. Have you?

Imperative

Today I felt the overwhelming need to write something- anything, but really didn’t feel creative at all. Steven James once said that the key to being creative is giving yourself a window to jump through, so I chose a writing exercise from a book. This is the result.

The “assignment” was to write only using imperative voice, and to make it no more and no less than 500 words.

I immediately framed the assignment in the window of past pain- what better example of feeling ordered around than living through abuse? Here’s what fell out of my brain. It’s not my best, but it was nice to get something on paper for a change.

“Imperative”

Tune it out, tune it out, tune it out. Make it stop, no matter what it takes. Look at the sky; see the blue. Imagine you are there, among the clouds. Lose the weight of this world, defy gravity. Stop the fear and show no emotion. Block every sensation that tries to distract you. Feel nothing because nothing is always safer than something you don’t understand. Close your heart, but leave your eyes open. See beyond this place. Ignore the pain, and open your brain. Float above the confusion. Stop it, stop it, stop it. Fight from the inside out. Choose wisely; leave your body or leave your mind, but be ready to pay the price either way. Stop trying to understand. Wait for it to end. Don’t hear. Don’t see. Ignore the discomfort in your soul. Don’t go there. Stay here, in this silent utopia. Don’t speak. Stop listening. Tell me when it ends. Hang on to the fantasy because it’s your only way out of this reality. Let go of the questions, they only make things worse. Trust no one. Tell no one. Never ever be stupid enough to think you are safe.

 

STOP!

 

Change your future by claiming your past. See it. Acknowledge it. Experience it. Don’t be afraid. Remember that it’s over. Identify yourself as a survivor. Expose the lies. Don’t forget to remember how strong you are. Leave the fear, disown the guilt. Release the anger. Allow yourself to grieve. Decide to hope.

 

Dare to believe that your past does not define your future. Begin to listen to the voice inside your soul. Look around, what do you see? Decide what to keep and what to reject. Accept nothing less than unconditional love. Believe that you matter. Dare to voice your dreams.  Look forward to tomorrow because you have already faced yesterday. Leave the baggage, lose the excuses. Choose to change your assumptions about yourself. Let no one define you, and change the labels you’ve given to yourself.

 

Stop ignoring the ache. Cry out to God and give yourself permission to unload your emotions on Him. Don’t be afraid to be mad at Him. Ask God all your questions; trust that He’s listening. Believe that He’s powerful enough to take anything, no matter how horrible, and make it new. Let Him show you how He’s redeeming your past. Know that vengeance belongs to Him alone, and stop trying to give your pain to someone else.

 

Take your time as you figure out just what you’ve lost and exactly what you’ve gained. Admit that things don’t always make sense, but understand that everything matters. Accept that every experience is only a tiny fragment of your life. Refuse to see pieces without putting them together inside the whole picture. Find the good; believe it’s there.

 

Fight to be free. Break the chains and choose to stop the cycle of bondage. Become the person you’ve always wanted to be. Learn to love. Begin to live in the moment.

Be Still!

Have you ever noticed how often God reminds us to be still and give him room to be God? In Psalm 46.10 he says, “Be still and know that I am God”. In Exodus 14.14, God reminds us through Moses that he will fight for us, we need only to be still. And yet, what do we do when faced with a problem? We run everywhere trying to find a solution, when the only thing that we really need to do is to be still and let God show us the way.

If you are lost, wandering is not the way to be found. You must stop and let it be known where you are. Then, you must wait for help to come to you. Instead of wearing yourself out by fighting battles that you were never meant to fight, stop! Be still and take the time to go to God. Tell him where you are, and be honest. He knows when you’re tired. He knows when you feel lost, and he knows exactly where you are.

There isn’t a magical formula or special prayer you have to pray, just trust in your heart that there is one God in control of the universe, and that he is ready to listen to you. However, you first have to trust that it’s ok to stop fighting for a while, be still, and know that God is ultimately in control. The battle may not end immediately, but when you are prompted to start moving again, God moves with you and ahead of you in battle.

Prayer is simply talking to God and believing that he listens- he is a friend who won’t share your secrets, and he understands the deepest cries of your heart, even when you don’t know how to express what you’re feeling. What God says always happens, and you can trust that when he says for us to be still, it’s because he’s about to do something that only God can do!

Truths to Stand On

  • God rewards me when I earnestly seek Him. (Hebrews 11.6)
  • God honors my trust: He is never too busy for me. He is never bothered by my requests. (Mark 5.22-36)
  • Jesus knows my name. He will call me and I will recognize His voice. He calls me to His side so that I may have life to the full. Jesus knows me and I know Him. No one can snatch me from God’s hand. (John 10.1-30)
  • God is my shield and my very great reward. (Genesis 15.1)
  • God calls me to intercessory prayer. (Genesis 18.17-33)
  • God will use me when I am humble. (Genesis 41.16)
  • God is in control! What others may intend for evil, God will redeem for good. (Genesis 45.4-8)
  • God will clearly guide my steps, even when I am in the midst of an emotional or spiritual desert. (Numbers 9.15-23)
  • God is the God of clarity. (Genesis 15.4-18, Numbers 12.8, Psalms 25.14)
  • I should not be afraid because God is with me. (Numbers 14.9)
  • God is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. (Numbers 14.8)
  • When God gives me direction, I can be strong and courageous because the Lord my God is with me wherever I go. (Joshua 1.1-9)
  • God understands my immature disbelief. He is the God of clarity and wants to reveal Himself to me. (Judges 6.36-40)
  • When God sends me, the strength I have will be made sufficient. (Judges 6.14-16)
  • God honors my obedience more than my service. (1 Samuel 15.22-23)
  • God may choose to speak in a gentle whisper, even in the midst of great noise. (1 Kings 19.11-12)
  • God surrounds me with His protection, even when I feel outnumbered and alone. (2 Kings 6.16-17)
  • God’s timing is perfect; I must be aware of when He has placed me for such a time as this, for He will use those who are ready to accomplish His purpose. (Esther 4.14)
  • God will protect me and allow me to sleep in peace. (Psalms 3.5, 4.8)
  • God will never forsake anyone who seeks Him. (Psalms 9.10)
  • When I seek God, I will never be shaken. (Psalms 15-16)
  • God is my strength, my fortress, my refuge, my deliverer. (Psalms 18)
  • Nothing is greater than God. (Psalms 24)
  • No one who hopes in God will be put to shame. (Psalms 25)
  • God is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him and I am helped. (Psalms 28.7)
  • My sadness may last for a night, but joy will come in the morning. (Psalms 30.5)
  • God’s plan stands forever. (Psalms 33.11)
  • When I seek God, He will answer me. (Psalms 34.4-10)
  • When I am most crushed in spirit and brokenhearted, God is close to me. (Psalms 34.18)
  • I can wait patiently and confidently for God, for when I hope in Him I will be rewarded. (Psalms 37)
  • God knows my heart and my most intimate emotions. (Psalms 38.9)
  • I am called to be still and witness the reality of God. (Psalms 46.10)
  • Materialism is superficial and deceptive. I must live in the context of eternity. (Psalms 49.16-20)
  • I am most desirable and ready for growth when I feel the most broken. (Psalms 51.10-17)
  • God will sustain me when I cast my cares upon Him. (Psalms 55.22, 142.1-3)
  • God alone is my rock, my hope, my rest, my trust. (Psalms 62)
  • God bears my daily burdens. (Psalms 68.19)
  • I can always go to God, in any situation. Psalms 71.1-3)
  • God will answer me when I call to Him. (Psalms 86.7, Psalms 120.1)
  • I will look to the Lord and His strength; I will always seek His face. (Psalms 105.4)
  • God honors the desire of my heart. (Psalms 113.9)
  • God is faithful to His promises and loving to all He has made. (Psalms 145.8-20)
  • God is near to all who call on Him in truth. (Psalms 145.18)
  • God’s timing is perfect. (Ecclesiastes 3.1)
  • God is with me. He takes great delight in me, He quiets me with His love, He rejoices over me with singing. (Zephaniah 3.17)
  • I can come to God when I am weary, burdened, and He will give me rest for my soul. (Matthew 11.28-29)
  • God wants me to come as I am. (Matthew 28.17)
  • Nothing is impossible with God. (Luke 1.37)
  • God will give me words when I walk in faith. (Luke 12.12)
  • Jesus knows when I will be tempted; He intercedes in my weakness and anticipates my victory. (Luke 22.31)
  • I will have trouble in the world, but because Jesus has overcome the world, I have peace in Him. (John 16.33)
  • God will direct my day for His purpose, God will prompt me when and who I am to witness His mercy. (Acts 8.26-39)
  • God rescues me when I follow Him. (Acts 12.8-10)
  • God honors my honesty when I see past obstacles to the truth of His trustworthiness. (Romans 4.18-22)
  • I was created to not be afraid. (Romans 8.15)
  • The Spirit helps me in my weakness and bears my burdens. (Romans 8.26-27)
  • Because I love God, He will work in all things for my good. (Romans 8.28)
  • Nothing can separate me from the love of God. (Romans 8.38-39)
  • When I call upon the name of the Lord, I will be saved. (Romans 10.13)
  • I have not received the spirit of this world, but God’s Holy Spirit, Who reveals God’s gifts to me. (1 Corinthians 2.12)
  • When I am tempted, God will provide a way out so that I may stand in victory. (1 Corinthians 10.13)
  • I can stand firm, knowing that my labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15.58)
  • Hardships teach me to rely upon God rather than on myself. (2 Corinthians 1.8-9)
  • When I am hard pressed on every side, God will protect me and not abandon me to destruction. (2 Corinthians 4.8-9)
  • What is seen is temporary. (2 Corinthians 4.17-18)
  • I fight with weapons greater than the world; weapons that have the power to demolish strongholds. (2 Corinthians 10.3-5)
  • I will reap what I sow; I must not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time I will reap if I do not give up. (Galatians 6.7-9)
  • Because I believe, I have the power of God’s mighty strength. (Ephesians 2.17-20)
  • I struggle against the forces of darkness and yet God has given me the ability to stand firm when I am attacked. (Ephesians 6.12-18)
  • My attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2.5-11)
  • I do not need to be anxious about anything: I can confidently present my requests to God. (Philippians 4.6)
  • I can do everything through Him Who gives me strength. (Philippians 4.13)
  • Jesus is supreme over all creation. (Colossians 1.15-17)
  • God did not call me to be impure, but to live a holy life. (1 Thessalonians 4.7)
  • God can use me regardless of my age. (1 Timothy 4.12)
  • God did not give me a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1.7)
  • I can hope because God is faithful. (Hebrews 10.23)
  • God rewards those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11.6)
  • God will never leave me or forsake me. (Hebrews 13.5)
  • When I am tested, I am growing. (James 1.2-4)
  • When I submit to God and resist the devil, the devil will flee. (James 4.7)
  • If I know the good I ought to do and fail to act, I am sinning against God. (James 4.17)
  • I can cast all my cares upon God because He cares for me. (1 Peter 5.7)
  • God knows how to rescue me from trials. (2 Peter 2.9)
  • God’s timing is perfect; we cannot comprehend His patience. (2 Peter 3.9)
  • When I obey God’s Word, His love is made complete in me. (1 John 2.3-6)
  • I must not love with words, but with action and truth. (1 John 3.18)
  • God is greater than my heart and He knows everything. (1 John 3.19-20)
  • The One Who is in me is greater than the one who is in the world. (1 John 4.4)
  • God’s love is made complete in me. (1 John 4.12)
  • I can overcome the world because I believe that Jesus is the Son of God. (1 John 5.5)

It’s a Matter of Perspective

December has been a very challenging- but rewarding month. God is taking me on a personal journey and while it’s exciting, it’s also very draining and emotionally difficult sometimes. During my quiet time, I felt led to study Acts. It seemed I needed to remind myself of my roots (Acts is the 1st book of the Bible I studied verse by verse), as well as the roots of what “church” is really supposed to be. I started with Saul’s conversion in Acts 9, and never made it past verse 22. Specifically, I parked on verses 10-17: (quoted from NIV)

In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered.
The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

God used this familiar passage to reassure me that we don’t always know what we think we know. (Yeah, I realize I should’ve figured that out a long time ago!) Ananias was prepared to hear God- when he heard his name in a vision, Ananias wasn’t like Samuel; Ananias knew immediately that it was the Lord calling him. He answered right away, “Yes, Lord?” (I think it’s worth noting that he said that instead of “What now, God?”)

God gave clear instruction, and while Ananias didn’t refuse or directly offer excuses like Moses did, he still wanted to be sure God knew what He was asking Ananias to do. “But God, you do realize this guy wants to kill people who follow you, right? And God, this isn’t just me being paranoid- everything I’ve heard and seen tells me this is a bad idea. It’s NOT a good situation. Do you realize how badly this idea of yours might turn out, God?”

That’s kind-of my M.O.- not to defy God and tell Him what I won’t do, I just want to be sure He understands MY perspective. MY fears. My reasons for thinking He’s asking me to do something that doesn’t make much sense.

So how did God respond when Ananias voices his concerns? “Go!” (“Ananias, what you don’t know is that this man is already changed. The situation is completely different than what you’re expecting. I’ve chosen to use this very man you think will destroy my church- and you. I know what is going to happen. I know what he’s done to my people, and only I know what he’s going to face as a result. Thanks for the concern, Ananias, but I’ve got this one under control.”)

The thing that struck me most is this: when I have similar conversations with God, I am acting just like Ananias did. I assume that I see the entire situation, I presume to understand who, what, where and how. Like Ananias, I overlook the fact that God is always working behind the scenes: softening hearts, changing the variables, working in all things for the good of those who love Him. However, like Ananias, I can trust that when God gives me specific instruction it’s because He’s been working specifically to make a place for me to be effective.

Why is it so easy to forget that God never sleeps, that God is always at work, that nothing is impossible with God? Why is it so easy to presume that what we think we know is all there is to know? Why do we act like “walking in faith” means knowing exactly what is in our future? Faith is not only “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see,” faith is trusting that God is in control and we can walk in places where we know we do not see the entire situation or understand the details of what God is orchestrating.

We will never be able to comprehend, or even imagine how God works in every situation, understands every variable and knows ahead of time every possible outcome, and ultimately chooses the best possible one from an eternal perspective. We just need to walk in faith, knowing that God loves us and He won’t set us up to fail Him. He’s working in ways we can’t imagine, using unlikely people to do extraordinary things. The really cool thing is that we might just be that unlikely person He’s chosen!

I’ve been disobedient and now I’m living in the middle of the consequences of my sin- why should I pray now and expect God to listen to me?

  • Psalm 6.1-9 (NIV):

O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am faint; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in anguish. How long, O Lord, how long? Turn, O Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love. No one remembers you when he is dead. Who praises you from the grave? I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes. Away from me, all you who do evil, for the Lord has heard my weeping. The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer.

  • Psalm 69.33 (NIV):

The Lord hears the needy and does not despise his captive people.

  • Psalm 102.17 (NIV):

He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea.

  • Jonah 2.1 (NIV):

From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God.

  • Jonah 2.7 (NIV):

When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.

It seems like God isn’t even listening! Why is nothing changing when I pray?

  • 2 Peter 3.9 (NIV):

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

  • Mark 11.25 (NIV):

And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive your sins.

  • Luke 18.10-14 (NIV):

Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

  • 1 Peter 3.7 (NLT):

In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.