TWO STEP PLAN: GET ACQUAINTED​ WITH THE BIBLE

bible-close up with hand

WELCOME TO PART II OF BIBLE READING 101! (link to part I)
I wiped away the tiny beads of sweat from my forehead with the back of my hand. But soon my teeth began to chatter. I pulled a blanket over my shoulders. A few minutes later, I was tossing the blanket off. It had been a month since my diagnosis of strep throat. Of course, when the strep screen came back positive, I was given a heavy dose of antibiotics with specific instructions.

The antibiotics were like a miracle. Within a few days, I was feeling good enough to begin my regular activities as a busy mom of three young kids. The problem was, as I got back into my routine, I lost track of taking my antibiotics. So, I just stopped taking them altogether. And now here I was, back in bed feeling worse than I had a month ago.

When given an antibiotic, the only way to see healing from the infection is from consistent consumption as directed. It’s the same with reading our Bibles. We must be just as diligent. But unfortunately for most Christians, this isn’t happening. In fact, most are biblically anemic. In subsequent articles on the subject, we established that one of the reasons for this anemia is Christians simply don’t know how to effectively read their Bibles.

A recent poll by Ponce Foundation shows, with over 2 billion Christians in the world, only 30 percent will read through the entire Bible. And 82 percent of American Christians only read their Bibles on the Sundays when they attend church.

How often do you read your Bible? Be honest.

Are you like many other Christians who have tried to read the Bible, but it was just too difficult to understand or didn’t seem relevant? I was once there too!

When I began reading to my kids in their children’s Bible, things began to make more sense. Here’s why:
It was written in language that was easy to understand
It summarized the major stories
It had pictures and maps!

So, I decided to apply some of those techniques to tailor my own Bible reading plan. I quickly discovered the Bible is NOT in chronological order. I knew it would help my understanding if I could read things in the order they happened, but we’ll get to that shortly. What I found was what I actually needed was to get “acquainted” with the Bible before diving in head first. Here’s one way I got started studying the Bible and you can do it too!

TWO STEP PLAN TO GET ACQUAINTED WITH THE BIBLE 

STEP ONE: MAPS AND TIMELINES

MAPS: Before reading an actual story, get your bearings by taking a gander at the maps that most Bibles offer in the back. The maps are usually of the past and present times.  In my last article, I included a few links to maps. Here they are again. 
https://a.openbible.info/geo/maps-big/all.jpg
From Google Maps:
 https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewer?oe=UTF8&msa=0&ie=UTF8&mid=1uR5a0eI379UMHAtfhCjiJcJIlYQ

TIMELINES: The Life Application Bible has a chronology of Bible events and world events. What this means is on the top of the timeline it will show things as they happened in the Bible. On the bottom, it records what is happening in history at or about in the same time period. For example, Mary the mother of Jesus was born about 25 B.C. Around the same time, Cleopatra and her lover, Marc Antony, both die by suicide.

I found the timeline to be very important in my understanding.

Printable PDF A Chronology of Biblical Events and World Events found on the internet:

http://www.eindtijdinbeeld.nl/EiB-Download/chronologische%20timetable%20of%20the%20Bible.pdf

STEP TWO: GET AN OVERVIEW FIRST

I happened upon a few books by R. C. Sproul which helped me tremendously. I learned that starting with an overview of the major happenings (sort of like the children’s Bible) was a good place to begin. Below I have outlined what I got from his teachings through the Ligonier Ministries website which you can look at later (http://www.ligonier.org/blog/).

BEFORE YOU START:
Make a commitment to reading for fifteen minutes every day (same time and, same quiet place is best) from the plan below.
Set up accountability. You don’t have to read together. Just hold each other accountable to the daily reading plan.

Here’s the plan:

 The Old Testament Overview:

  • Genesis (the history of Creation, the fall, and God’s covenantal dealings with the patriarchs)
  • Exodus (the history of Israel’s liberation and formation as a nation)
  • Joshua (the history of the military conquest of the Promised Land)
  • Judges (Israel’s transition from a tribal federation to a monarchy)
  • 1 Samuel (Israel’s emerging monarchy under Saul and David)
  • 2 Samuel (David’s reign)
  • 1 Kings (Solomon and the divided kingdom)
  • 2 Kings (the fall of Israel)
  • Ezra (the Israelites’ return from exile)

 

  • Nehemiah(the restoration of Jerusalem)
  • Amos and Hosea(examples of minor prophets)
  • Jeremiah(an example of a major prophet)
  • Ecclesiastes(Wisdom Literature)
  • Psalms and Proverbs (Hebrew poetry)

The New Testament Overview:

  • The Gospel of Luke(the life of Jesus)
  • Acts(the early church)
  • Ephesians(an introduction to the teaching of Paul)

         1 Corinthians(life in the church)

  • 1 Peter(an introduction to Peter)
  • 1 Timothy(an introduction to the Pastoral Epistles)
  • Hebrews(Christology)
  • Romans(Paul’s theology)

Let me know in the comments below if this has been helpful. 

This plan is only one way to begin getting acquainted with the Bible. I suggest that you copy, paste and print it out for yourself. Remember, it’s an overview of the Bible. Join me next time for another article with a few more suggestions to make Bible reading easier. Until then, blessings!

Love,
Beckie

BIBLE READING 101 Fundamental Pieces

BIBLE READING 101 https://beckielindsey16.com/2016/08/15/bible-reading-101-fundamental-pieces/

Welcome to Bible Reading 101: Part I—Fundamental Pieces

Before we get started, I’d like to tell you that I don’t hold a degree in theology. I do, however, consider myself a student of the Word. From my experience of nearly thirty years in the church and ministry, I have learned (by trial and error mostly) some valuable things that I’m honored to share. I know there are many, just like me, that desire to not only read the Bible on a regular basis, but to actually understand it, apply it, share it, and dare I say, LOVE IT.

There are many excuses for why we don’t read the Bible consistently. Last week we uncovered three overlooked ones: 1. Our image of God is flawed. 2. We don’t know how.  3. It makes us uncomfortable (see last week’s post).

We’re going to begin unpacking the reasons stated above. A flawed image of God in its complexity is based on the individual, which can partially be unfolded by becoming better acquainted with the scriptures themselves. Therefore, we will begin with number two, “we don’t know how to read the Bible.”

Many times I have found when talking with other Christians, the absence of Bible reading boils down to a lack of understanding. A lack of understanding leads to a lack of desire, which in turn, leads to sporadic or nonexistent Bible reading. Because who wants to do something over and over that really doesn’t seem to make sense or even benefit them?

I hope to clear away some of the ambiguousness of the Bible within the next few articles. Some of the points may seem basic. But we must have the fundamentals in place in order to grow stronger. Are you ready? Let’s get started.

First Things First:

It’s important to understand that the Bible is written as a story. A true story. As with all great stories— this is indeed the greatest—there are some major components. Characters, setting, plot, and theme, to name a few.

I do some freelance writing for my local newspaper. In journalism, there’s a technique to putting together a good story called the Five W’s and one H. Perhaps you’ve heard of them: Who, What , When, Where, Why, and How. We have established that the Bible is written as a story. Who is the story about?

WHO

The answer, of course, is God. But there are many other characters as well, which even include you and me. But we’ll get to that later.

WHAT

What is the Bible? The word Bible comes from the Latin and Greek words meaning “book.” It is a vast library, written by 40 authors, inspired by God. It is comprised of 66 books. The Bible is divided into two sections. The Old Testament is the first section (before the birth of Jesus) containing a collection of 39 books. It is the story of God’s chosen people, the Hebrews, later known as the Israelites. The second section, The New Testament, tells of Jesus’s birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection, the growth of the early Christian church, and predictions of the second coming of Jesus.

WHEN

The Bible was written over a span of over 1,600 years. The first book, Genesis was likely written around 1440 and 1400 B.C.

WHERE

The Bible is also about a place (setting) named Israel, that spreads into surrounding regions and eventually into parts of the Roman Empire.

The setting is important to a story. It can have an immense effect on the plot and characters. Take for example the fictional story of The Wizard of Oz. Or how about something a bit more current, The Matrix. The setting largely affects the overall story and helps us better understand the characters and why they do what they do.

So let’s get our bearings straight. I’d like for you to take a look at two maps. The first map has red markings that correspond to the biblical setting (places mentioned in scripture). Here’s the first map:

https://a.openbible.info/geo/maps-big/all.jpg

Here’s the current google map of that same area. There’s even a satellite image available. https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewer?oe=UTF8&msa=0&ie=UTF8&mid=1uR5a0eI379UMHAtfhCjiJcJIlYQ

The stories in the Bible are about the people (characters) who lived in these areas long ago.

WHY

The purpose of the Bible is to reveal who God is and to show us His will toward mankind. In this way, God’s story declares His desire for a relationship with His most prized creation—people (ALL people).

It was God’s plan from the beginning to bring revelation and salvation through His son, Jesus Christ (John 1: 1-4). Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life, and it is these that bear witness of Me.”  So, we can say that the focus of the Bible is about Jesus since he said the entire Scriptures bear witness of who he is.  The Scriptures tell us that he is God in the flesh (1 John 1:1, 14; Colossians 2:9). He bore our sins on the cross (1 Peter 2:24), and he died and rose from the dead 1 Corinthians 15: 1-4). We can also say that the Bible is the background that supports and testifies to who Jesus is and what he did.

HOW

The history of the Bible is a very large and complex subject involving many dates, councils, people, and political events. It is far more complex than can be dealt with in a single article. In fact, there have been many, many books written about this subject. If you want some basic understanding as to how the Bible was compiled, I have referenced a few sites that I find informative.

http://www.gotquestions.org/canon-Bible.html

http://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/who-decided-what-went-into-the-bible.html

Now that we have established some of the fundamentals, we can begin to look at ways to study the Bible. We will do this over the next few articles.

Here’s a sneak peek of what we’ll be discussing:

I told you in my last article that reading a children’s Bible to my kids is how I began to make sense of the adult Bible. Later I realize the reason for this. The children’s Bible highlighted the significant people and events. I’m going to show you how to make that connection, as well as suggest other reading plans and tips.

Let me leave you with this. God is not removed from His creation. He desires to be known. His story—His revelation, is alive within the pages of scripture. They tell one seamless story about the God who made you and me. Isn’t that exciting?

I look forward to meeting you here next Monday.


Was this article helpful? Do you have any questions or prayer request? Please use the comments section below.

This post is linked to Literacy Musing Mondays!
http://www.foreverjoyful.net/?p=1225

3 OVERLOOKED REASONS CHRISTIANS DON’T READ THE BIBLE

 

3 Overlooked Reasons Christians Don't Read The Bible https://beckielindsey16.com/2016/08/08/3-overlooked-reasons-christians-dont-read-the-bible/

“God, I don’t understand your book!” I cried.

I had recommitted my life to Christ in my mid-twenties and was hungry to know God. I knew from attending church, the primary way God speaks is through His word. The problem was, whenever I sat down to read the Bible, I was confused and frustrated.

I have since grown a deep love for the Word of God. I read and study it daily. But this didn’t happen overnight.

During my years of serving in ministry, I’ve discovered that many Christians struggle with reading the Bible the way I once did years ago. I’ve also learned the reasons are more complex than I once thought.

A survey conducted by LifeWay in 2012 indicated that 80 percent of Christians don’t read their Bibles daily. Another survey done by The Barna Group in 2013 indicated the following: Only 26 percent of Americans said they read their Bible on a regular basis—averaging four times a week. Fifty-seven percent only read their Bible four times a year or less.

And yet the survey by The Barna Group also found that 88 percent of Americans said they own a Bible, 80 percent think the Bible is sacred, 61 percent wish they read the Bible more, and the average household has 4.4 Bibles.

If Americans still place such a high value on the Bible (80 percent think it’s sacred), then where is the disconnect?

Of course, there are the typical excuses such as, I don’t have time. I go to church and hear the Bible. It’s not relevant to today’s issues.

But perhaps there are deeper reasons why we avoid the Bible.

Reason 1: Our Image of God is Flawed

How do you picture God when you pray? This may seem like a silly exercise, but take a moment to consider it. Is He an old bearded man on a throne? Perhaps you see one of the many popular portraits of Jesus in your mind’s eye. Is God angry at the world’s sin—at your sin—ready to impart His wrath? Or does He have better things to do than worry with our wimpy little prayers?

What we imagine when we picture God is akin to whether or not we think of Him as worth  knowing.
Of course what we picture is dependent upon many factors: how one was raised and personal experience to name a few.

How we view God is also a type of reflection of how we see ourselves.
In other words, what we believe about God says more about ourselves than God.

You see, how we view God will determine a key aspect—reading God’s Word.

Think about it. If we see God as rule maker who is never satisfied, always looking for reasons to punish us—then it’s no wonder His followers don’t rush to His words as a source of comfort, direction, and identity.

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”A.W. Tozer

The irony of not reading the Bible is: it perpetuates our flawed view of God. The Bible is God’s story. There’s no better way to know Him than through His word.

Reason 2: We Don’t Know How

Most of us don’t like to admit when we don’t know how to do something that should be simple. And shouldn’t reading the Bible be simple for a Christian? Or even if you don’t consider yourself a Christian, shouldn’t reading be simple?

For years, I would flip open the Bible and hope to find something of use. If it landed in the Psalms or Proverbs, I had a little nugget to take away. If it landed elsewhere in the Old Testament, I was sunk.

Perhaps you’ve done the same thing. Or maybe you’ve tried to start at the beginning, in Genesis and by the time you got to the third book, Leviticus, you gave up.

I have a confession to make. My love for the Bible began by reading a children’s Bible to my kids before bed. Somehow seeing the pictures and hearing the stories written for a child’s understanding drew me to open my adult Bible and compare.

I began to see the Bible was not just a rulebook and one didn’t need a Master of Theology in order to decode hidden meanings.

Finally, I saw the Bible as a story about God and the people He created. When I read the stories about David, Daniel, Esther, Paul, Mary, and Martha, I realize they were just human—like me. In fact, they are my ancestors. They are yours too.

You and I are part of the story as God’s people. And we have a role to play in this amazing story that has not yet reached its conclusion.

Reason 3: It Makes Us Uncomfortable

Oh, how human beings love to be comfortable. Interestingly, the Bible aims to comfort us. If this is the case, then why are we avoiding the Bible? It’s simple really. The Bible makes us uncomfortable before it comforts us. It pinpoints those hidden thoughts, selfish motives, and crooked actions. It’s sharp and cutting.

“For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” Hebrews 4:12

Are you ever angry with someone? Are there strained relationships because you are frustrated with people? Are you ever tempted sexually or do you ever feel sorry for yourself? The Bible exposes our true thoughts and feelings.

The Bible is the great equalizer—showing us we are ALL sinful and in need of a savior.

By His love, grace, and mercy, God has provided the remedy for our  sinful selves. Jesus.

And that is a real comfort.

Let’s be honest: If you’re not reading your Bible regularly, it’s because you’ve chosen not to.

Don’t know where to begin? Join me here next week, and we’ll uncover some practical Bible reading suggestions in BIBLE READING 101: Understanding

Until then, if you are serious about reading the Bible consistently, I have a three-part challenge that may help. Please don’t be overwhelmed. The main thing is to be actively working towards regular Bible reading.

CHALLENGE

Supplies needed: notebook or paper and pen to write down your answers and observations.

Part One

Carve out at least fifteen minutes of alone and uninterrupted time (not while driving or even doing another task).

Close your eyes and imagine how you view God. Once you’ve pictured it, write it down.

Close your eyes again and imagine how you believe God views you. Write it down.

How do these affect whether or not you read the Bible?

Part Two

Ask yourself if one of the reasons you’re not reading the Bible consistently is because you don’t know how. Or maybe you just don’t know where to begin.

If the answer is yes, make a commitment to learning how to read the Bible. Schedule a certain amount of time for this. Write it down and/or put it on your calendar.

Tell someone close to you that you’ve made this commitment and ask them to check in with you.

Reading next week’s article, “BIBLE READING 101: Part I, Understanding”, here on Spotlight, can help.

Part Three

What makes you uncomfortable about the Bible? (remember to write down your answers)

About God?

About yourself?

Now that you’ve written this information down, we have a starting point. It’s time to seek God and His word for the answers. Are you ready?

Join me here for the next few weeks and we’ll unpack some helpful information about God, His word, the way He views people as well as some doable Bible reading plans.

If you are taking the challenge, will you tell me in the comments below so that I can be praying for you? You can also contact me via email. beckielindsey16@gmail.com

 

BACK TO SCHOOL—ARE YOU READY?

Back To School—Are You Ready? https://beckielindsey16.com/2016/08/03/back-to-school-are-you-ready-2/

Ring, ring, ring!

It’s that time of year again. Can you hear the school bell ringing?

A new school year means new beginnings, new friends, new school clothes, new supplies, new teachers, new classes…

New.

New can be exciting, but it can also be scary and intimidating.

Even though as adults we have outgrown going back to school in a literal sense (unless you’re working on a degree—then props to you!), we face new situations that can feel like going back to school. Maybe it’s a new boss or job, or baby, or marriage.

Facing new seasons in life IS life. God designed it that way. Embracing and trusting this concept makes change easier.

“For everything, there is a new season, a time for every activity under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

Seasons change, fashions change (thank God for that!), and we must learn to roll with it or be pummeled. I know this from experience.

You see, my life was pretty typical for over fifteen years. I was a homeschool mom with a part-time job I did from home. I also served in women’s and music ministry at church. Life stayed centered around my church, family, and kids with their many activities in which my mom was a big help to me.

Then it happened.

Change.

It started with the death of my mom. Outside of God and my husband, my mother was my best friend. Losing her was not just a little life change. It was a landslide that lead to an avalanche of major changes to the typical topography of my life. In fact, my life today looks nothing like it did before mom went to her new home in heaven.

My oldest son joined the Air Force. My middle son graduated college, moved out and got married. My husband’s mother passed away. My dear friend’s husband committed suicide. My brother-in-law, wife, and baby lived with us for several months while looking for a new home. I lost my part-time job. My daughter graduated high school.

I think you get the point. And these are only a few of the major changes my life has taken.

While being incredibly difficult, these changes have landed me exactly where I need to be— at the feet of Jesus. This is where I learned:

We may not have control over our circumstances, but we do have control over our response.

Another thing I’ve learned:

We are continually going back to school and learning.

Only this time, it’s the school of real life. The ‘school of hard knocks’, if you will. There are tests in the school of life. Tests worth more than a letter grade or passing to a new grade level. These tests are designed by God to help us develop in maturity.

“Life on earth is a Test. This life metaphor is seen in stories throughout the Bible. God continually tests people’s character, faith, obedience, love integrity, and loyalty. Words like trial, temptations, refining, and testing occur more than 200 times in the Bible.

We don’t know all the tests God will give you, but we can predict some of them based on the Bible. You will be tested by major changes, delayed promises, impossible problems, unanswered prayers, undeserved criticism, and even senseless tragedies.

Character is both developed and revealed by test, and all of life is a test.”
Rick Warren’s, The Purpose Driven Life

Whether or not you realized it before reading this, you and I are on that yellow school bus and headed back to school.

ARE YOU READY?

I have an idea. Let’s get ready together.

Until we meet again, dear student of the school of hard knocks, please find hope in the knowledge that throughout our many changes and trials, our God is immovable. When we anchor ourselves to Him, nothing is impossible.

“This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.” Hebrews 6:19

“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’ “ Matthew 19:26

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

“For I, the LORD, do not change…” Malachi 3:6

Takeaway And Application: God uses change, life’s tests and trials to grow us.

Are you going through a change or perhaps a period of testing right now? Please share in the comments below. In this way, we can pray for and encourage each other.

Prayer: Father God, I realize that you are good and you have good plans for me (Jeremiah 29:11). Please teach me how to anchor myself to You and Your Word so that I can grow through this test.

This post is linked to- http://www.leahadams.org/the-loft-link-up-back-to-school/

CHRISTIANS, WE NEED TO DO BETTER

Christians, We Need To Do Better. https://beckielindsey16.com/2016/07/26/christians-we-need-to-do-better/

“Going to Church doesn’t make you a Christian, any more than going to McDonald’s makes you a hamburger.” — Keith Green

Recently I was speaking with a friend who no longer attends church. “The church makes me sick. The people are intolerant, self-righteous hypocrites,” she said.

Ouch!

Of course, I could have gotten defensive. Honestly, I felt a little angry. But when I saw behind her anger, what I actually detected was pain. And so I listened. I listened to her speak about the contractor who took a downpayment for a job he never completed. The Bible study who shunned the gay teen. The Pastor who committed adultery. The prayer requests that turned into fodder for gossip. And believe it or not, there was more.

These are unfortunate and heartbreaking examples I wish I could say are out of the ordinary. But they’re not.

So, how did I respond to my friend? “I’m so sorry that your experience with people who call themselves Christians has been so hurtful. But that’s not Jesus.”

She shrugged. “But aren’t Christians—especially those who go to church— supposed to act like Jesus by following His example?”

That’s when I quoted Keith Green. “Going to Church doesn’t make you a Christian, any more than going to McDonald’s makes you a hamburger.”

She laughed. And so did I. But then the conversation got serious again.

Here’s the reality: Christians, we need to do better.

Why? Because people need Jesus. Because we—the church, the Christians—are supposed to represent Jesus. Because people are hungry for truth and for authentic. And quite frankly, they are sick of people who say one thing but do another. That is the definition of a hypocrite. The term “hypocrite” is from the Latin hypocrisies meaning “play-acting, pretense.” Which is exactly what people don’t want.

Many Christians today have fallen into a trap of pretending to have it all together. In fact, that’s a big reason we are called hypocrites. When we pretend to others, we have a tendency to become blinded to our own hypocrisy. This is very dangerous. Take a look at what Jesus had to say:“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.” Matthew 23:27-28

Here’s the truth. All Christians fail to live up to the standard the Bible teaches. This includes me. This is why I need grace. This is why we need grace. But we shouldn’t hide the fact that we need grace as if Christians don’t make mistakes that require it.

I’m not saying to flaunt your mistakes. I’m saying, let people see the progress you are making as you grow in your relationship with Jesus.

We should be genuinely and actively seeking to grow more and more like Christ by allowing the Holy Spirit to convict us and change us. When we pretend on the outside, many times we aren’t allowing God to convict us on the inside. This is how Christianity appears hollow and phony.

The fact that we receive God’s grace on a daily basis is the very reason we will, in turn, extend grace to others.

Showing grace to others is a byproduct of receiving God’s grace.

This is how people will “see” Jesus in us. This is REAL.

If we aren’t awed by God’s daily love and grace, how will we be able to truly extend love and grace to a world that is desperate for it?


What are your thoughts?

This post is linked to: http://www.leahadams.org/the-loft-link-up-pot-luck-7/

 

UNLIKELY SECRETS TO PRAYER

UNLIKELY SECRETS TO PRAYER https://beckielindsey16.com/2016/07/18/unlikely-secrets-to-prayer/

Everyone wants to know the secret to something. Dieters want to know the secret to losing weight. Parents want to know the secret to raising responsible, loving children who will grow into productive members of society. And Christians want to know the secret to effective prayer. So, what’s the secret to real intimacy with our heavenly Father?

Let me start by saying, there is no magic formula for a productive prayer life. Having said that, the Bible gives us all the information we need to become prayer warriors—most of them we are familiar with. However, there are a few that don’t get the lip service they rightly deserve.

It’s no secret that Americans are busy. One Gallup poll indicates nearly half of us feel we don’t have enough time to do what we want to do. Books on time management find their way on the New York Times Best Sellers List on a regular basis. And yet, If Jesus is our example of proper time management, His bestseller—the Bible (the world’s best seller of all time) —will be ours.

A SECRET PLACE

The Bible tells us that Jesus often retreated to lonely places and prayed (Luke 5:16).

Jesus made sure to: pray often, alone, and in a quiet and uninterrupted place. We ought to do the same. 

But too often we bulldoze into our day without talking to God. Sure, we may take a moment to pray in the shower, or on our morning commute. There’s nothing wrong with praying during these times, but this is not the quality time necessary to deepen any relationship. We need to have a place where we can drown out the static of the world. A place where there is no motivation but to know our heavenly Father.

In the popular movie War Room, the lead actress (Priscilla Shirer) turned her closet into a place of prayer.

Do you have a place where you can go on a daily basis to be alone and uninterrupted with God?

MEDITATION

Unfortunately, the word meditation has been associated with the New Age movement, or even carries a certain mystical connotation. But there is no hocus pocus involved in Christian meditation—it is rooted in the Bible. In fact, we are commanded to meditate.

“Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.” Joshua 1:8

What is mediation?

“Biblical meditation is not about emptying your mind but filling it with truth. It simply means to read a passage of Scripture, think about it, and repeat it to yourself. It’s the first and most important step to memorizing Bible verses.” Rick Warren

Meditation should be solely on the Bible, characteristics of God, and what is revealed about Him.

It takes serious effort and concentration. But the payoff is priceless. “No other habit can do more to transform your life and make you more like Jesus than daily reflection on Scripture…” Rick Warren

We have many thoughts raging within our minds, even in our sleep. And yet, we don’t like to sit alone with nothing but our thoughts. Researchers at the University of Virginia and Harvard University found that many people would rather inflict pain on themselves than spend 15 minutes with nothing to do but think. Two-thirds of the men and a quarter of the women in the study decided to shock themselves rather than just sit and think. (study)

Our heavenly Father knows the benefits of making the time to remove ourselves from the busyness and constant stimulation of the world. We need to be alone with our thoughts in order to ascertain what is influencing and driving us. Christian meditation is not about emptying the mind as in other forms of meditation. God calls us to bring our thoughts to Him and allow Him to transform our thinking (Romans 12:2)

Our thoughts are transformed through meditation when we: “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8

FASTING

In many Christian churches today, fasting has become a lost discipline, rarely discussed or practiced. Chances are you are among the majority of Christians who rarely or never fast.

WHAT FASTING IS: Fasting is defined as voluntarily going without food and/or drink for a period of time in order to focus on deeper prayer and fellowship with God.

We can look at fasting as an exchange of physical needs for spiritual needs. (tweet this)

WHAT FASTING IS NOT: Fasting is not a special tool or method in which we manipulate God to respond like a genie in a bottle and grant our every wish.

Fasting is not just denying yourself of food. As stated above, it’s an exchange of physical needs for spiritual ones. Fasting is not a diet.

Scripture does not command Christians to fast. However, the Bible mentions fasting numerous times as something that is good, beneficial and rewarding. I think it’s worth noting that although Jesus didn’t speak too much on fasting during His ministry, the one time that He gave specific instructions on fasting, in Matthew 6:5-18, He started by saying: “when you fast,” not “if you fast.”

THE BENEFITS OF FASTING

Fasting helps us draw closer to God. We acknowledge through fasting that we need God to live more than food. It should help us break away from the desire to satisfy our own lusts and materialism, thereby desiring God in a new, fresh way. Fasting can help us understand what the Psalmist meant when he wrote, “Like the deer that pants after water, my soul longs for You.” (Psalm 42:1)

Fasting fosters self-discipline in an undisciplined age. Have you noticed the age in which we live seem to despise discipline? We live in a very materialistic society where we are used to getting what we want rather quickly. It seems whether you live in an affluent country or poor one, the world today is becoming more and more interested in what their neighbor has. Even as far back as the 10 Commandments given to Moses, God talked about materialism and being satisfied with what you have.

Fasting provides a way to impose self-discipline in your life. Physical self-discipline “rubs off” into spiritual self-discipline.

Fasting provides guidance. “Paul and Barnabas also appointed elders in every church. With prayer and fasting, they turned the elders over to the care of the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.” (Acts 14:23)

The Israelites sought the Lord through fasting when they had been defeated in battle by the tribe of Benjamin in Judges 20:26-28.

Fasting shows humility and dependence upon God. King David was known as a man after God’s own heart. David shows us in Psalm 35:13 an example of humbling oneself before God. “Yet when they were ill, I grieved for them.  I denied myself by fasting for them, but my prayers returned unanswered.”

Fasting Empowers. I look at prayer combined with fasting as the TNT of a Christian’s weaponry arsenal.

The apostle Paul, in Ephesians 6:10-18, tells us that WE ARE AT WAR, not with flesh-and-blood enemies, but evil spiritual forces. He then describes heavenly spiritual armor that God provides for believers. A powerful part of our arsenal includes prayer, as well as prayer coupled with fasting.

When Jesus faced the temptation of Satan, he fasted (Luke 4:1-11). In Mark 9:29, we read that the disciples needed a power from God that comes only through fasting. Matthew 17:20 21 say that prayer with fasting can work spiritual miracles.

While there isn’t a magic formula for prayer, three unlikely secrets to incorporate into our lives are: establishing a secret place for prayer, meditation, and fasting.

What are your thoughts on these unlikely secrets to prayer?

“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” Hebrews 4:16


This post is linked to: http://www.foreverjoyful.net/?p=1189
http://www.create-with-joy.com/2016/07/inspire-me-monday-week-237.html
http://mostlyblogging.com/inspire-monday-linky-party-90/#more-12182

http://www.leahadams.org/the-loft-link-up-pot-luck-7/

 

 

 

 

Five Types Of Christians God Won’t Use

Five Types of People God Won't Use

It’s been over twenty years since I prayed this prayer: “Lord, take all of my life and use me however you choose.” Then I gulped, closed my eyes tightly and held my breath.

I knew I had made the most important commitment of my life—more important than getting married or having children. I gave complete control of my life to the Creator of the Universe. What would He do with me?

I just knew God was going to send me to some remote village in Africa. But He didn’t. I thought He would send me to work in a homeless shelter. But He didn’t. Or maybe He’d tell me to throw out all of my make-up products and go natural. But He didn’t. I expected a drastic event of some kind to take place. But it didn’t.

I desperately wanted God to use me.

This is what He did do: He showed me that ministry had to be on His terms, and not mine. His ways are not my ways. His thoughts are not my thoughts (Isaiah 55:8).

God bends and breaks those who speak for Him. And I needed some bending, some letting go of fears, past hurts, and attitudes, and even some breaking.

Yeah, I know. It doesn’t sound appealing. This is because when we become Christians we expect that life will be better. Our definition of better is usually different than God’s. But God’s better is the BEST. This took me awhile to learn (I’m still learning).

It’s true that God can use anyone. He doesn’t show favoritism based on race, age, gender, marital status, sexual past or present, income, or any of our failures. But He will never lower His standards because His standards are true and right and the best; He uses only humble, obedient and surrendered followers.

Many Christians will not be of much use to God because of mindsets and behaviors that limit the Holy Spirit.

First Thessalonians 5:19 calls it “quenching the Holy Spirit.” I don’t know about you, but I need as much Holy Spirit in my life as possible. I never want to quench or suppress Him.

If you and I want God to use us, then let’s be careful not to fall into any of these categories:

CONTROL FREAK

There are many Christians who enjoy the benefits of salvation but never relinquish control from their tight little fists. Jesus is the savior as well as LORD. He deserves the right to not only guide our lives but override our attempts to make selfish and harmful choices. Holding onto control is pride. It is saying that you don’t trust God to handle your life.

If the Holy Spirit isn’t the one in control of your life, then SIN is in control. 

“Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.” Romans 8:5-6

If we want God to use us, then we must move over to the passenger seat and let the LORD drive.

CRITIC

Oh, how humans love to judge, criticize and blame—and we’re so good at it too! We should be. Humankind has been developing our inner critic since the Garden of Eden. The devil, the Accuser, (Revelation 12:10) was there to spur it on. So, if we are accusing and judging others, we are cooperating with the schemes of the devil.

The Holy Spirit will not work through people who are bitter, angry and judgemental.

CARNALLY-MINDED

The carnal mind is the mind of the flesh and senses. Our senses are an unreliable guide and often contradict the Word of God. We live in a time where it is not only popular but acceptable to lower our standard of moral behavior. It has become increasingly prevalent to live in sinful lifestyles that go against the word of God.

The world and the carnal mind shout things like: Follow your heart. Look out for number one. Do what feels good. The Bible tells us the heart is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9). To put others first (Philippians 2:3-4). And not to copy the patterns of the world, but to let God transform our thinking (Romans 12:1-2).

The flesh wants power, money and to be content at all times. We are inundated with messages that tell us what we must have in order to be happy. The Bible tells us if we love God, then we will not love the world and the things it offers (1 John 2:15).

Do not be fooled. Those who live in blatant sin and love the world will not be used by the Holy Spirit. Our usefulness to God is based on whether we are submitted to the sanctification process. This simply means we are in the process of surrender to God at all times.

Holiness is not optional in God’s economy.

“If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work.” 2 Timothy 2:21

COWARDS

Let’s face it, the Christian message is and always has been countercultural.

We need to face this fact as we choose to follow the Great Commission of sharing our faith (Matthew 28:16-20). When Jesus told us to go and make disciples it was a command. If we are not sharing the Good News, we are not obeying Christ—plain and simple.

Worry is another form of fear. Fear has the power to paralyze. This is why it’s such a popular tactic of the enemy. Fear simply stated is unbelief, which also reveals our lack of trust in God. Faith and fear cannot exist together. Our deliverance from fear is based on faith. We need to understand that faith is not something we generate on our own (Ephesians 2:8-9). Faith is a gift. God gives us faith to be courageous.

If you’ve been stuck in fear, repent for your lack of faith and ask God to increase your courage. Memorize a few scriptures about courage to recite when you feel afraid. Here are a few: 1 Chronicles 28:20, 1 Corinthians 15:58, Ephesians 6:10, Deuteronomy 31:6-8

If we want God to use us, we must courageously step out of our comfort zones.

COUCH POTATO

Somewhere in the midst of all the 21-century technology, we’ve lost the discipline of discipleship. God wants more than a quick prayer on our commute or a five-minute devotion read on our smartphones. Going to a weekend church service is great, but it doesn’t take the place of consistent one-on-one time with our heavenly Father.

We make time for the things that are truly important to us. If knowing God is important to you, it will show in your priorities.

If knowing God through His word and prayer matter to you, you’ll do it.

We must be consistent students of the Word who obey what it says. Obedience to the Word will show through our faith and faith will show in our actions. Service is a byproduct of a mature and growing Christian. If we want God to use us, we must make His word, prayer, and service priorities.

Halfhearted, lukewarm people don’t change the world. God calls us to be world changers!

5 REASONS I’M PATRIOTIC—AND YOU SHOULD BE TOO

5 Reasons I'm Patriotic and You Should Be Too. https://beckielindsey16.com/2016/07/03/5-reasons-im-patriotic-and-you-should-be-too/

Let me start with an admission: My view might be a bit biased. For you see, both sides of my family include veterans who’ve served this country. My oldest son followed in the footsteps of my father and is currently serving in the United States Air Force.

Two years ago, on the 4th of July, I stood with tears running down my face as I watched my son graduate from basic training in Texas.  It was hands down, the best Independence Day of my life (despite the heat and humidity)!

Kevin and me at his graduation from basic training in Texas. beckielindsey16.com Biased or not, I believe that every Christian should be patriotic toward their country. Yes, this country has a bloody history. And yes, I realize we are smack in the middle of a bizarre political season where partisan angst divides both major parties, making it disconcerting for all Americans. But nonetheless, I still believe there are a number of reasons that Christians should be patriotic. Please allow me to share a few.

1. Freedom Is Not Free

Christians should understand the issue of sacrifice more than anyone. The  death of Christ was a horrendous, bloody, and selfless sacrifice. Though the death of mere mortals in no way compares to the death of Jesus, we should be humbly appreciative of those who’ve given their lives for this country (John 15:13).
Not a Christian? http://www.lifeway.com/Article/Becoming-a-Christian-can-be-as-easy-as-A-B-C

2. We Are Christ’s Ambassadors Where We Are

It is Christ’s missional message to make disciples of all people. We cannot reach those whom we do not first love. The United States of America is our home and our mission field. Therefore, we must love this country and her people.
2 Corinthians 5:20, Acts 1:8

3. God Uses The Government For His Good

Every ruling authority that exists has been established by God (Romans 13:1-2). Those in authority are described as servants and ministers of God. God often uses the government for carrying out His purposes (Romans 13:4). Those in power hold their power because of God (John 19:10-11) and can be removed by God (Ps. 75:7, Daniel 2:21).

4. Our Nation’s Foundation Was God-Centered

Historical revisionists would like us to believe otherwise, but the founding of this nation was God-centered. Take a look at any number of our founding documents. See link below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wIIqXiF-z6E

5. God  Commands Us To Be Thankful

As Americans, we have so much to be thankful for. If you are reading this, my guess is that your take-home income is more than a few dollars a day. And most likely you have access to clean water and a restroom. This is not so in many parts of the world.

One-third of the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day.*One in ten people lack access to safe water. And one in three people lacks access to a toilet**

Always be joyful. Never stop praying.  Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

This country may not be perfect, but as a Gallup poll from 2012 shows, however, there are 150 million adults worldwide that would permanently move to America given the opportunity. The next highest preference was the U.K., with 45 million, then Canada and France, with 42 and 32 million, respectively.

People around the world know that America is blessed!

My hope and prayer on this Independence Day: as you and I enjoy our freedom to celebrate—pause from the BBQ, family gatherings and fireworks to thank God for this great nation and the sacrifices made by so many.

Please join me in prayer for our country.

LORD, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments”(Nehemiah 1:5). Please hear our prayer for The United States of America as we humbly seek You. Father, we thank you that we have the freedom to come before you, first because of what Christ has done, and secondly, because we live in a country that protects that very freedom.

We confess the many sins committed against you and ask that you would forgive us and heal this country (2 Chronicles 7:14). We pray for a revival of faith in Christ Jesus throughout the United States—in our homes, churches, businesses, and government.

God, your Word tells us, “we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:10-24). As Christians, we exercise our authority over the enemy and rebuke the powers of darkness over our country, in the powerful name of Jesus (Luke 10:19)!

Where darkness of the enemy and sin have prevailed, Lord shine Your light! Shine over all government and military leadership, giving them wisdom to make godly decisions. We pray that you would rise up God-fearing leaders who put You and Your Word first. We pray for the courage of Your people to stand up for the truth of Your Word and to live it.

We praise Your Holy and Most High Name, Jesus Christ!
Amen.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA!


Of course, my list is not exhaustive. Perhaps you can think of other reasons to honor our country. I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

* http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-17512040

** http://water.org/water-crisis/water-sanitation-facts/

This blog is linked up with http://www.leahadams.org/the-loft-freedom/

 

 

THE GREATEST ADVENTURE OF OUR LIVES

Scott and Me Mountain hike

The Greatest Adventure Of Our Lives

My husband, Scott and I recently took up hiking. We started on a whim last summer. With our kids now young adults, we were looking for something to do together that would also keep us in shape. Scott loves adventure, spontaneity, and sports. I love routine, planned adventure (if that’s even a thing!) and jogging.

Hiking has been a bridge to our gaps. That is until Scott attempts to venture off the trail. You see, I like the trail. The trail satisfies the “planner” in me. The trail feels safe. The trial has been traveled. My adventurous man loves to go where few have traveled. He likes to climb up rocks, and trees.

I holler at his back as he hoists himself higher and higher. “Scaling rocks is not part of the trail. I am not a billy goat!”

He laughs and keeps on climbing. He reaches the top of a jagged peak and hollers down to me.

“Babe, you’ve got to see this!”

I crane my neck. He looks the size of an ant way up there. I shake my head violently to make sure he sees. “No, I don’t!”

He begins to climb down. I take a few steps back. Then a few more. I know what’s next. He’s going to try and get me to climb those jagged rocks! Now I begin to pray. Maybe you’re laughing too, but this man of mine is well known for his many injuries throughout the years. I have a problem with cuts, bumps and bruises while trying to enjoy nature. As I pray, I hear God’s still small voice in my spirit (1 Kings 19: 11-13).

I’m a God of adventure.

What? Oh, Lord.  I like safe and comfortable. And I thought you are a God of peace. This is not peace. This is scary!

Daughter, My perfect love casts out fear. I want to make your life a glorious adventure in which we travel together. I know how ambivalent your heart is to all of this. You long for the adventure that an abandoned life to Me can be, and yet at the same time, change frightens you. You feel safe and comfortable when things are predictable. In this way, you feel you have things under control. You are addicted to comfort, and control. I want you to break free and discover the adventures I have for you! That is when you will truly have peace—when you trust Me to be in control.

The greatest adventure of our lives is knowing God intimately and abundantly. God dearly wants each person to discover how wide and long and high and deep His love is for us (Ephesians 3:17-18). That kind of love can be overwhelming and even frightening. It takes faith and trust. I believe this is why many people, even Christians, choose to limit their knowledge of God. The more we know Him, the more we risk the possibility of being taken from our comfort zones. And how very sad this is. We have settled for mediocrity because it feels comfortable. All the while, we still battle fear. God wants so much more for us!

I get the feeling God is going to teach me many more lessons as Scott and I traverse our trails (or lack of trails!). But for now, I will ponder today’s lesson and I hope you will too: God is a God of adventure. He wants to break us free from mediocrity.

Scott stands with his hand extended, looking down at me with a smile. I take a deep breath, wipe a tear from my eye and take hold of Scott’s hand as God takes hold of my heart. Goodbye, comfort zone!

It’s time for an adventure!


Is God whispering to you to give up your addiction to comfort and control that results in mediocrity?

 

This post is linked to:
http://www.foreverjoyful.net/?p=1165
http://www.create-with-joy.com/2016/06/inspire-me-monday-week-234.html
http://www.leahadams.org/the-loft-link-up-pot-luck-6/

 

 

DO YOU LIKE BROWNIES?

Do You Like Brownies? https://beckielindsey16.com/2016/06/24/do-you-like-brownies/

Dad’s Brownies

Two teenagers asked their father if they could go to the theater to watch a movie that all their friends had seen. After reading some reviews about the movie on the internet, he denied their request.

“Aw dad, why not?” they complained. “It’s rated PG-13, and we’re both older than thirteen!”

Dad replied: “Because that movie contains nudity and portrays immorality, which is something that God hates, as being normal and acceptable behavior.”

“But dad, those are just very small parts of the movie! That’s what our friends who’ve seen it have told us. The movie is two hours long and those scenes are just a few minutes of the total film! It’s based on a true story, and good triumphs over evil, and there are other redeeming themes like courage and self-sacrifice. Even the Christian movie review websites say that!”

“My answer is ‘no,’ and that is my final answer. You are welcome to stay home tonight, invite some of your friends over, and watch one of the good videos we have in our home collection. But you will not go and watch that film. End of discussion.”

The two teenagers walked dejectedly into the family room and slumped down on the couch. As they sulked, they were surprised to hear the sounds of their father preparing something in the kitchen. They soon recognized the wonderful aroma of brownies baking in the oven, and one of the teenagers said to the other, “Dad must be feeling guilty, and now he’s going to try to make it up to us with some fresh brownies. Maybe we can soften him with lots of praise when he brings them out to us and persuade him to let us go to that movie after all.”
The teens were not disappointed. Soon their father appeared with a plate of warm brownies which he offered to his kids. They each took one. Then their father said,

“Before you eat, I want to tell you something: I love you both so much.”

The teenagers smiled at each other with knowing glances. Dad was softening.

“That is why I’ve made these brownies with the very best ingredients. I’ve made them from scratch. Most of the ingredients are even organic. The best organic flour. The best free-range eggs. The best organic sugar. Premium vanilla and chocolate.”

The brownies looked mouth-watering, and the teens began to become a little impatient with their dad’s long speech.

“But I want to be perfectly honest with you. There is one ingredient I added that is not usually found in brownies. I got that ingredient from our own back yard. But you needn’t worry, because I only added the tiniest bit of that ingredient to your brownies. The amount of the portion is practically insignificant. So go ahead, take a bite and let me know what you think.”

“Dad, would you mind telling us what that mystery ingredient is before we eat?”

“Why? The portion I added was so small. Just a teaspoonful. You won’t even taste it.”

“Come on, dad, just tell us what that ingredient is.”

“Don’t worry! It is organic, just like the other ingredients.”

“Dad!”

“Well, OK, if you insist. That secret ingredient is organic…dog poop.”
Both teens instantly dropped their brownies back on the plate and began inspecting their fingers with horror.

“DAD! Why did you do that? You’ve tortured us by making us smell those brownies cooking for the last half hour, and now you tell us that you added dog poop! We can’t eat these brownies!”

“Why not? The amount of dog poop is very small compared to the rest of the ingredients. It won’t hurt you. It’s been cooked right along with the other ingredients. You won’t even taste it. It has the same consistency as the brownies. Go ahead and eat!”

“No, Dad…NEVER!”

“And that is the same reason I won’t allow you to go watch that movie. You won’t tolerate a little dog poop in your brownies, so why should you tolerate a little immorality in your movies? We pray that God will not lead us unto temptation, so how can we in good conscience entertain ourselves with something that will imprint a sinful image in our minds that will lead us into temptation long after we first see it?


Today’s challenge:

“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” 2 Timothy 3:16

Most of us like the first part of the sentence—scripture inspired by God that teaches us what is true. But the second part—make us realize what is wrong—we begin to put on the brakes. And that second sentence, well, we don’t really like so much at all. We don’t like looking at our wrongs. In fact, we’d rather hide those little sins (dog poop). Yes, we’ve become masters at hiding our “crap” in with good ingredients (chocolate). You know, good ingredients like, going to church, giving to the needy, etc. etc. The stuff people see on the outside. At least that’s what we hope. But here’s the truth. People know we have crap. How do they know? Because we are all human. And all humans sin and have the tendency to hide it. (for more on this subject, see: https://beckielindsey16.com/2016/05/30/stop-lying-to-yourself/)

Satan knows this strategy too. He realizes he cannot tempt us with dog poop brownies. No, he must hide the poop in with things that are sweet. But just like the teenagers in the story, we’ve allowed ourselves to be deceived by the dangers of allowing a little sin here or there into our lives.

We are living in times where the Word is being twisted and taken out of context in order to allow us freedom to justify sinful behavior. This is another way Satan uses God’s good ingredients and mixes in a little of his own. Our heavenly Dad’s Brownies contain only the finest ingredients and are not to be substituted! Friends, it’s time to get real.

How To Get Real

Just own it. Own up to ways you’ve comprised God’s best ingredients for poop.

Embrace the truth of God’s word that shows where you’re wrong.

Stop making excuses. You’re not fooling God, and most likely not anyone but yourself.

Untie yourself from things that lead you away from God.

Stay in the Word every day. The Word is a sword that cuts through Satan’s schemes.

As Christians, we are faced with difficult choices—especially in today’s culture. Should I watch this? Should I wear that? Should I say this? Should I agree with that? Should I ignore this? Should I speak up about that?

The answer is the same today as it’s always been: THE BIBLE. We’ll be deceived without it.

Happy Friday! Hope this has given you some food for thought (Psalm 34:8)
In Christ’s love,
Beckie

https://twitter.com/LindseyBeckie/status/746111421545537536

The original author of the brownie story is unknown.
Picture from Pixabay.com