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Words of God

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}

I’ve got quite a collection of Bibles. Growing up, I was often on the receiving end of such gifts.  As an adult, I’ve wanted study Bibles and different translations so I could understand better.

While it is the trend to read any available version of Scripture online via laptops, tablets  or smart phones, I still prefer to hold the book in my hands, turn the thin pages, underline verses and make notes in the margins. Call me old-fashioned. 

So I was delighted to receive the Christian Standard Bible from B&H Publishing Company for review.

The dual shaded brown leathertouch book is thinline and light weight, a just-right size for purse or carry case.  The cover has a soft feel. Opening the book and turning its delicate, golden-edged pages is a pleasing sensory experience.

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Features of this Bible are:

  • Smyth-sewn binding
  • Presentation page
  • Two-column text
  • Center-column cross references
  • Topical subheadings
  • Words of Christ in red
  • 8.25-point type
  • Concordance
  • Full-color maps

I’ve not had a Bible with cut-in tabs showing the books for quickly locating them, and I must say I am finding that very helpful, even though I learned the books of the Bible when I was a child. The Old Testament order can still be tricky, and I often sing a song that helps me with the New Testament order of books.

There is an “Introduction to the Christian Standard Bible” near the front explaining how this particular version came about. This is always important to me. I want to know that every effort was made to be as accurate as possible in translating the Scriptures to a readable format. And I am comfortable that the CSB is just that.

This is a lovely book to look at and hold. It will take its place among the varied translations and paraphrases I already have on shelves. I want to be a good student, to search out on my own and not just swallow what someone tells me. The more I am able to understand what God is trying to say, the more I get to know who He is.

And the more I know who God is, the more I love and trust Him.

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NOTE:   I received a copy of the Holman Christan Standard Bible, provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review.  The book was free.  The words are my very own. 

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Let’s continue on

Completing one more Bible study is not just another notch in our belts.

A group of women and I finished Hosea: Unfailing Love Changes Everything by Jennifer Rothschild, and we celebrated this week. Seven weeks of meeting together created a bond of friendship that happens in the middle of opening God’s Word together. It’s amazing how we learn from the Scripture and how we learn to love one another. It’s special.

The challenge now is to continue the daily time of study and simply be in the presence of our Savior Jesus. How do we shut out the world for a few minutes each day and sit at His feet like Mary did?

We are good at being Martha, bustling about to accomplish tasks. That in itself is not bad. But in our “Martha-ness” we can become distracted, frustrated, critical and fussy. As we compare our own work load with another, we make demands and question our Lord. We lose our contentment in the gifts we have been given, gifts meant to bless others.

Our culture encourages us to work hard and find efficient ways of doing more. The “being” part is often left out, and we are left wondering how to do that.

We’ve somehow lost the art of being present, of being still.

So let’s try this. Dedicate fifteen minutes for some quiet, meditative time with the God of the Universe. Uninterrupted time. No multi-tasking. Press the pause button on your To-Do List. Turn off the smart phone. Take some time to pray, and then to listen.

Can we do that? Just fifteen minutes a day? There’s a very good possibility that the dedicated fifteen minutes will strech into thrity as we get lost in the Presence.

When we set aside a portion of our time, it becomes sacred. It becomes holy. And we find the Holy One has been waiting for us.

And in the holy stillness, our hearts will open and we will see God.

 

To finish well

armor of god2This week we celebrated with gladness.

The Armor of God Bible study concluded, many of us saying it was the best one yet. The ending of something so grand was a mixture of joy and melancholy moments.

The women and I have been gathering regularly for seven weeks, weathering snow, a tornado watch, rain, muddy yards that captured a couple of cars, and 80-degree-almost-record-temperatures. Typical Kentucky.  And we persevered because we wanted to know the God who makes Himself known.

By the final week, the chatter among the women was loud and beautiful.  We had bonded.  It is one of the benefits of Bible study and the way our Father planned for us to have community, communion, and find common ground when we are all so very different.

As we looked deep into the Law of Love, we saw ourselves.  We confessed our failures.  We  desired to do better and be stronger.  We acknowledged that when we fall, we want to fall forward, at the feet of a merciful Savior.

We were made aware of our enemies strategies and how we can stand firm against him.  We studied the armor, God’s own strength provided to us, and we practiced putting it on.

We welded the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God, and we found it powerful.

Bible study brings us face to face with the very words of the God who made everything and is in control of everything, who saw us in our desperate need and provided a remedy, who loves us enough to show us Himself through words we can understand.

I don’t want to forget what I’ve learned.  I don’t want to just check off another Bible study completed, blanks filled in and meetings concluded, the book put on a shelf and its teaching soon to be forgotten.

No. I don’t want to forget. I want the Word planted deeply into my heart, my soul, my very being.  I want it to grow and produce fruit fit for the Kingdom, making me useful and spiritually healthy.

One more Bible studied finished.  One more day of my life done.  How many are left to be lived abundantly, fiercely fighting the battle and standing firm when I’ve done all there is to do?

I want to finish well in the days I have left on this earth.  I want to look more like Jesus every day. Though the process is painful, I want to submit to the chipping away of anything that does not look like my Savior.

That would be a life well-lived.  A life to the the praise of His glory.

 

 

 

 

Got a helmet?

 

Flipping through a book awhile back I saw it in a picture, a plaque on the wall, and I recreated in a very rough art form.

“Life is tough.  Get a helmet.”

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It tells me what I already know.  This is no easy road we travel.  Acknowledge it.  Make up my mind.  This is how it is going to be.  No one gets off without an injury, a disappointment, a struggle.

Ask anyone to tell you his story and you’ll hear it.  Family dysfunction affecting this generation and the next.  Divorce that divides children between parents.  Job loss that creates financial struggles that create arguments that create more stress.  Health issues not easily diagnosed and even harder to treat.  Death that steals a loved one before we said our last good-byes.  The unthinkable event that changes a future.

Life happens to us.  The question then is what are we going to do with it.  Are we just to give in, to endure it in misery?  Or is there a better way?

Wisdom says as a woman thinks in her heart, so is she.  Science is proving this to be true.

Wisdom says to dwell on the true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

I can change my thought process and change my life.  I can enjoy my journey even though life is hard.

The tough places along the way cause me to develop endurance, teach me compassion, tender my heart to be more understanding, help me love better, forgive quicker, and encourage more.

The final week of our Bible study focuses on the Helmet of Salvation.  It is the protection of our minds that can change our thinking and let us live our lives in a positive victorious way.

Learning to think God’s thoughts is the key. And that means we have to know what His thoughts are on any given subject.  The only way to do that is to look in His Word.

It isn’t enough to take someone else’s word for it.  We must read the Bible ourselves and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us, to teach us so that we know – We Know! – what God says.

Don’t allow someone else to tell you who you are.  Don’t believe that you have to measure up to an air-brushed standard.  Don’t let your past overshadow your future.  Don’t listen to the enemy of your soul whose native language is Lies.

God calls us chosen, holy, blameless, adopted, redeemed and forgiven in Christ.  He lavishes us with grace and seals us with the Holy Spirit.

God offers life, a hope and a future, immeasurable blessings, personal relationship with Him, and an eternity in Heaven.  Who wouldn’t be glad about that?

I can choose to dwell on negative thoughts, the sadness, the darkness, the bleakness of the world.  Or I can be thankful, count my blessings, remember all God’s promises in Christ Jesus, receive the life He offers, and be joyful.

O Lord, my Lord, the strength of my salvation, you have covered my head in the day of battle.  Psalm 140:7 ESV

Life is tough.  It will always be.  Wear your helmet.

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Drawing from ShareAVerse

 

 

It’s about time

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}

Time is such a gift.  I realize it more and more.

We each received the gift of time this morning, my friend and I, as we met for a couple of hours.  And our chatter was the give and take that friends do.  We share life experiences, and we pray for the each other.

This kind of gift cannot be purchased and wrapped with a bow.

Time is a gift we give to God.  Imagine that we can gift something to the God who owns everything?  But think it through.  He desires to be with us, to talk and listen to us.  To share heart experiences.  To hear our prayers.

How much time do we really give Him?  Uninterrupted time.  Focused time.  Meditative time.

When I was but a small child, my mother presented me with a daily devotion book.  It began on January 1 and ended on December 31.  It was her way of encouraging daily time with the One she knew so well.  She wanted that same precious relationship for me.

Mother kept me in devotion books through the years hoping I would develop a habit of spending time with God.  It was a discipline I would desperately need through the years.

There were seasons when I could barely bring myself to open the Bible, open the devotional, open a study book.  Times when I felt alone and forsaken.  Times of depression and darkness of soul.  Times when all looked hopeless.

But the daily habit was ingrained.  So I did it.

And it brought me face to face with my Savior once again.  It was the face I needed to see, beyond the current storm I was in.

And so I want to recommend The Devotional for Womendevotional for women.

It begins with Day 1, not January 1, so you can begin it at anytime of the year.

It begins with Genesis and goes through Revelation, encapsulating the entire Bible, not leaving out the tough parts.

It is a book written by women for women so it speaks to us personally.

It has a “strong focus on what God has to say to women.”

And it’s just pretty.  Purple.  With a soft almost velvety feeling cover.  It appeals to the eye.  But it’s what’s inside that is important.

Just like a woman.

Are you needing something to spur you on this year?  Have you already forsaken that “read the Bible through in 2016” resolution and feel like a failure?  Would you like some help in developing the discipline of being in God’s Word and spending time with Him?  Could you use a a little guidance that you can pick up at anytime?

Check out The Devotional for Women.  If not for yourself, make it a gift for someone.

Because time is the gift.

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NOTE:   *  I received a copy of the book The Devotional for Women, provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review.  The book was free.  The words are my very own. 

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A clear vision

Several years ago, a friend told me about unclaimed money and how to look for it.  And guess what?  I found some that had my name on it!

It wasn’t a lot of money, not like a windfall inheritance from a long lost relative who remembered me in his will.  But it was a nice surprise.  It was like getting a check for free.  Quite exciting.

As I look at the first day’s study of Armor of God, I am reminded of so many spiritual blessings I have already been given through Christ Jesus.  Ephesians 1 lists many of them:

redemption, forgiveness, riches of God’s grace, included in Christ, marked by the seal of the Holy Spirit, God’s incomparable great power for me, and on and on.

But if I forget about them or don’t make the effort to access them or simply don’t believe they are for me, then I am likely to walk in defeat rather than victory.  I’ll be the poorer for it.

I need a clear vision of God’s spiritual blessings, the bounty of His goodness lavished on me as a follower of Jesus.  He has given me so much and I need to open my eyes.  I need to believe what He says.  I need to receive it all.  All!

Open my eyes so I can truly see the marvelous things in your law!   — Psalm 119:18, NET Bible

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I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people . . .    –Ephesians 1:18 NIV

Remember that free money I was talking about?  It took some effort on my part to get it.  I had to fill out forms and mail some things in before the check came to me.

It is the same in our relationship with our Savior.  He takes us just as we are but does not plan on leaving us in that place.

He has given us everything we need, grace abundant, gifts galore, and He wants us to grow in Christ.  He wants us to become disciples so we then can be a discipler, helping others grow.

Is it too much trouble for me to come to Him through prayer and Bible study to learn more and access His power?  Will it require too much energy to gather with fellow believers so we can learn, encourage each other, and challenge one another like iron sharpens iron?  Is it just too much out of my comfort zone to open up and share with a trusted Christian friend when I struggle and when I need prayer?

I don’t think so.  The gifts and blessings are there for the taking.

I need to reach out and take what is already mine.  In Jesus Name.

 

 

 

Breathe in, breathe out

Whenever I start a new Bible study, you know I just have to write about it.

A beautiful group of women and I began Priscilla Shirer’s Breathe study which is helping us to a better understanding of the Sabbath.  Being a “good little church girl” who practically cut her teeth on the pews, I should know how to do Sabbath.  Right?  Not necessarily.

As a Christian, I’ve always worshiped on Sundays and considered it our “day of rest,” though I can tell you sometimes it’s been anything but restful.  I’ve spent many a week, Sundays included, going full force, never really pausing to take much of a break.  I’d go from one task to the next, from one appointment to another. There was a time I actually took pride in how much I could accomplish and was constantly tweaking my time management skills to see if I could be more efficient.  Really I was trying to see if I could squeeze in one more thing.

That was when I learned about stress.  It became the catch word in those days.  We were running fast, accomplishing more, climbing the corporate ladder, often leaving the really important things in our dust. We became workaholics, addicts to our behaviors.  Eventually we began to run out of steam.  We became sleep deprived.  Relationships languished for lack of time together.  Oh we talked about quality time over quantity time, but it was more of an excuse to keep doing what we were doing. Instead of trying to do less, we just wanted to know how to manage our stress better.  There had to be a secret way of continuing our rat race without falling over from pure exhaustion, spent and fully depleted.

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It was 2006.  I was at one of the lowest points of my life.  Financially strapped.  Emotionally drained. The future was uncertain and looked rather bleak. My insecurities filled a bushel basket.  I crowned myself “the Queen of Part-time Jobs,” working four or five of them at one time just trying to make ends meet, and perhaps to keep my mind busy so I didn’t have time to think about the state of my life.

I was the proverbial candle burning at both ends.

Enter the Sabbath principle.

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The Spirit of God convicted me about the way I was living my life.  I was acting like it all depended on me.  There had to be a change.  I determined, with the Lord’s help, to try honoring a rest day and chose Sunday after church (church was one of my part-time jobs from 7:45 am to 12 noon).  I decided I would take the remainder of the day to rest, relax and refresh.

The first week, I prepared for the challenge.  I did everything I could on the Saturday before, scurrying around to finish as much as possible before bedtime.  By Sunday afternoon, I closed my day planner, turned off the computer, and refused to do my regular work.

It was challenging that first day because I was not used to doing “nothing.”  I was a work horse who was chomping at the bit to accomplish something even if it was a load of clothes thrown in the washer, a drawer that needed organizing, phone calls to customers, or papers to file.

Instead, I read.  I napped. I leisurely watched a movie.  I walked outside. I visited with people in my neighborhood.

By the third week of this new routine, I began to look forward to my Sunday afternoon.  My mind rested along with my body.  I realized the world would not stop turning and I could still get a lot done in my six days of working.  It was life changing really.

Since then, I’ve made the effort to honor the Sabbath principle in my week.  I’ve not done it perfectly.  I am prone to try to do too much and fill my schedule too full.  I know that about myself and often have to pull in the reigns of this work horse.  I have to guard my time when I could easily fill it with too many things.  Even too many good things can become burdensome.

I have found the gift of rest is exactly that – a gift.  God knows how we are, that we push to the limits. That we try to do it all.  That we think we are invincible.  That we tend to depend on our own strength instead of drawing from His.

As believers in Christ Jesus, we are free from the burdens of regulations and rules.  But sometimes we ignore the principles God has given us for our good.  And a Sabbath rest is good for us.  We need it.  We need the space, the balance.

We must remember that we are not in control and the world does not depend on us.  We do better with rest, sleep, and a little down time.  God is the one who never slumbers or sleeps.  He is the one who carries the weight of the world on His shoulders, not me.

Honoring Sabbath puts things into perspective.  I see myself in light of a great and powerful God.  He asks me to work well on six days, then stop and rest awhile.  It is wise.  It is healthy.  It has rewards we often overlook.

A Sabbath rest will look differently for each of us.  But it is something worth considering, worth incorporating into our week and our lives.

Will you take the challenge?  Will you give yourself some breathing room?

Breathing in and out – it is good for the body and the soul.

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For all my musician friends out there. {smile}

stop, rest