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God knows me {Knowing God}

sunsetWhat does it mean to know God and to be known by Him? That’s what I’m discovering as I read for the first time J.I. Packer’s classic Knowing God. I joined in with Tim Challies’ reading group that’s going through two chapters of the book each week. Read here some of what Packer describes as the way the Sovereign Shepherd knows His sheep…

There is unspeakable comfort – the sort of comfort that energizes, be it said, not enervates – in knowing that God is constantly taking knowledge of me in love and watching over me for my good. There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion Him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench His determination to bless me. There is, certainly, great cause for humility in the thought that He sees all the twisted things about me that my fellow humans do not see (and am I glad!), and that He sees more corruption in me than that which I see in myself (which, in all conscience, is enough). There is, however, equally, great incentive to worship and love God in the thought that, for some unfathomable reason, He wants me as His friend, and desires to be my friend, and has given His Son to die for me in order to realize this purpose. (pg. 42)

blogbook1Since becoming an adult, I’m not sure that I’ve done anything more difficult than parenting. And I’m nowhere near done…if you’re ever really done? :) God is definitely transforming me into the image of His Son, Jesus, through the daily work of mothering. Yet, in the midst of toddler tantrums, sibling squabbles and memorable milestones, the Lord doesn’t leave us without help. God is available for mamas and dadas wanting to rear their children in His ways. God our Father wants us to seek Him for all of our parenting challenges, whether big, small or in between:

In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried to my God for help; He heard my voice out of His temple and my cry for help before Him came into His ears. Psalm 18:6

blogbook3Crying out to God, calling out to the Lord, seeking His face = prayer. This is the heart of humbling ourselves before God on behalf of another and who better to pray for than our own children? Author Becky Harling gives parents a good guide in her book, The 30-day Praise Challenge for Parents. Each day focuses on a specific praise to the Lord for a gift or blessing from Him as well as a prayer request for our children and ourselves. From focusing on God’s power and strength in guiding parents to finding balance in juggling work and home responsibilities, the easy-to-read chapters give readers several Bible verses to meditate on through the day as they bring their cares to the Lord.

Other features of the book include a list of God’s qualities and various names from the Bible to inspire your own prayers as well as an index of topical Scriptures to pray over your children and song suggestions for listening to praise music through the day. This book is a helpful tool for expanding your prayer life and increasing your dependence upon the Lord, who is able to give you all you need to teach and train your children for His glory. And for the next 24 hours, you can get a free Kindle version of this book. Would be a great resource for the upcoming school year :)

BlogPic5Anger, sadness, fear, frustration, confusion. Emotions brought forth for many evangelical Christians after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of allowing homosexual couples living in all 50 states to legally marry. The debate of whether homosexuals should marry has been ongoing for years and became legal already in several states. Now, the country has a new definition of marriage. No longer is it a covenant between one man and one woman, according to the highest court of the land. It’s a loving relationship between two loving people of any sexual orientation. This is marriage equality, the court states, and must be recognized by all the states.

BlogPic4Yet, Christians who stand firm in Biblical Christianity based on the Word of God steadfastly accept and acknowledge God’s definition of marriage as that of one man and one woman. These Christians, myself included, stand firm in what God’s word says about homosexuality – that it is unnatural and a deviation from God’s created purpose for men and women (Romans 1). Homosexuality, a lifestyle that is against God’s plan similar to premarital sex and adultery, prevents a person from inheriting (receiving) the Kingdom of God (eternal life with the Lord) – unless he or she is born again by faith in God’s Son, Jesus Christ, is made new and turns away from this sin. This is salvation, new life and eternal inheritance available as a gift to us because Jesus died on the cross for sinners and resurrected from the dead.

This process of salvation is the same for anyone – a person who is a liar, a thief, a murderer, or just your average self-consumed, self-centered and self-protective person who thinks they don’t need God or that our deeds aren’t so bad. All of us – whether we identify ourselves as homosexual or heterosexual – are sinners and are in need the Lord and His forgiveness for going astray from His way. We are dead in our sins and need to be made alive. Jesus began His public ministry with this: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” If we are all good and do good things, for what reason would there be to repent? To repent is to change our mind from what is wrong to what is right. It is returning to a right relationship with God, our Father, and being cleansed of our sin by Christ. His love and mercy draws us to Himself. You can read more about God’s plan to save you and why salvation is necessary this link.

So, the challenge with the Supreme Court ruling is that people who stand firm in the biblical view of marriage will now be required to accept this new definition of marriage which is contrary to God’s ways. And there could be repercussions ranging from Christian colleges being forced to accept homosexual marriage partners into university housing, as an example, to pastors being asked to officiate at homosexual weddings or be sued if they object, to schools now teaching a variety of relational lifestyles that many parents don’t agree with. Many of the future consequences are still unknown.

To muddy the waters even more, you’ll find Christians who do support homosexual marriage and agree with the right of homosexual couples to be legally married. You’ll find Christians who say you can practice homosexuality and still be a Christian (most of them may view God’s commands in the Bible as outdated or changeable in light of the culture.) This view is in opposition to the Bible. There is a difference, though, between a Christian who struggles with same-sex desires and is seeking God to be changed (an accurate possibility biblically – check out this resource for more explanation) versus a person claiming to be Christian saying that God is accepting of homosexuality and requires no change in their behavior (an inaccurate view according to the Bible.)

BlogPic3You’ll find Christians who may not agree with homosexuality but feel that it’s not anyone’s right to prevent a loving couple from being married. It’s a Constitutional right, others say, and the right of every American to marry who they want. (Forgetting and or not realizing that the entity of marriage is not mentioned in the Constitution.) Some Christians don’t think redefining marriage will hurt them or the church at large. “It’s their life, not min,” they say. Read this for how that plays out.

If I’m honest, feelings of anger tend to bubble up when I hear of other Christians twisting, ignoring or perverting God’s word to justify their own feelings or behaviors. Our culture as an entity is a secular, non-God loving culture and cannot be expected to live by biblical standards. But a person calling himself or herself a Christian needs to know what the Bible says about what kind of behavior and lifestyles honor God and which ones don’t, and accept what God commands. Some Scripture can be difficult to understand but that doesn’t make it any less acceptable. Does any Christian perfectly live out the Lord’s commands? No, not even on a good day. But a person’s behavior, obedience and reactions do not change the truth of God’s word. To call good what is evil in God’s eyes is deceptive and dangerous. Those who are truly seeking Christ desire to be changed and no longer want to identify themselves according to their sin.

As I thought more about all of this, I wondered what is it exactly that Christians want. We know what the world and our culture wants – to live autonomously without any direction or guidance from a specific group or leader especially from a higher power you can’t see or an antiquated book you can’t understand. “You do what’s best for you, I’ll do what’s best for me and we’ll live at peace,” is the mantra of the Western world. Others want to believe in a god of their own making – but a God without Jesus Christ is a no-god.

But a Christ follower is under a different set of instructions. A Christ follower who has been born again is a subject of a very different kingdom where only One Sovereign rules. The Lord God Himself. And as many have written about this topic in just the past few days, God is not surprised by this outcome and God is not panicked. I believe it’s because God is allowing it to happen just as He sees fit.

The Lord has established His throne in the heavens and His sovereignty rules over all. Psalm 103:19

Sovereignty (noun) = supreme power or authority. Synonyms include dominion, authority, rule. This is not the Supreme Court. This is not the President, nor world leaders and others nations. This is Almighty God, the only Supreme Judge, who created everything with His own breath and gave power to those He created.

When the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, God used the pagan Pharaoh to display His power and release His people from bondage. Pharaoh had no power that wasn’t given to Him by God.

When the Israelites disobeyed God and followed after foreign gods, the One True God used the highly-feared Chaldeans (Babylonians) to again display His power and bring His people to repentance through exile. The Babylonians had no power that wasn’t given to them by God.

When it was time for the Israelites to return to Jerusalem from exile, God used the Persian king Cyrus to display His power and send His people back to their homeland. Cyrus had only the power God had given to him.

BlogPic2When Jewish and Romans officials sent Jesus to His gruesome death on the cross, God used those leaders to display His power and provide a way of salvation for all who would believe. The Jewish priests and Pontius Pilate only had power that was given to them from above (John 19:11).

This is the sovereignty of God – the ultimate rule over kings and kingdoms, rulers and nations. All for the purpose of bringing people to a saving faith in God through Jesus Christ and complete dependence upon Him and the rules of His heavenly kingdom. God’s sovereignty is a place of rest for the Christian, knowing that while all may look like utter chaos from our perspective, God sees and knows and purposes for His plans to prevail. Just as Job said of the Lord: “I know that You can do all things and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.”

So, it’s not any different here in the United States with what many describe as the moral decline of our society and government. For there is no authority except from God and those that exist have been instituted by God (Romans 13:1). But what happens when those authorities stray from what God has said is right? Maybe a better question is what is a Christian’s motivation and job here on earth in this current culture when authorities veer from God’s ways, as they’ve been doing for quite some time now?

BlogPic6What do Christians want? The freedom to worship and express our worship to God without the threat of attack or lawsuit? The nation to return to Judeo-Christian principles? The right to teach our children biblical truths without government mandates that oppose our beliefs? I would say yes to all of these things but should they be our motivator?

It seems that there should be an even greater desire. The desire to see others come to know Jesus Christ as Lord, through whatever means necessary, and the desire to see Christians be matured and grounded in their faith. If those are genuine desires and prayers, and are in line with Christ’s desires and God’s will, it seems there’s another perspective to consider:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Could the sovereignty of God allow greater testing to come upon Christians through this court ruling? Could this be a time of persecution for the Western Church and a time of repentance for the sin that blinds us? Could this be the time, as are all times of uncertainty, when we must choose to rest in God’s perfect providence and purpose for His church as we love the unchurched around us in grace and truth? Could this be a trial that we count as joy knowing that it has the potential to produce greater faith in believers’ lives and to lead unbelievers to Himself?

We can’t open blind eyes and soften hard hearts – that is spiritual work that God is in control of. Yet, He uses His people as instruments and vessels to proclaim and profess His righteous word to the world. When Paul preached and spoke to those in the first century who were hostile to Christ, he was able to do so with love and grace because the formerly-blaspheming Paul trusted and rested in God’s sovereignty and power to work in other people’s hearts as he shared the love, power and forgiveness of Jesus. No tricks, no human powers, no angry debates or disagreements. God is powerful and He can handle those who are opposed to Him.

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…

Those who are not Christian and have no interest in Christianity see nothing but foolishness and fairy tales when they hear of a dying Savior on a cross. But that can’t prevent the message from being told for there is at least one heart that is ready to believe. “No one comes to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws them to Me. You must be born again to enter the kingdom of God. There will be trouble for you who believe in Me.” All Jesus’ words. Pastor David Platt said this:

Christians live in a hostile culture. There is a price to be paid for proclaiming God’s Word and confessing Christ as God’s Son…it won’t be easy but don’t stop proclaiming the word of God and His testimony.

So, as we have been doing and will continue to do, biblical Christians are to stand firm upon God’s holy and inerrant word. It is the truth and it is unchangeable. This is the time to be a Berean and know your Bible.

Biblical Christians are to share the love of Christ with others around them (and sincerely care about other people and what they’re going through). It is the command of God.

Biblical Christians are to speak what is true in a respectful and gracious way. It is kind to do so and the way of God’s servant.

Biblical Christians are to rest in God’s sovereignty and power over the lives of others and over the authorities of this world. It is the way of peace.

Biblical Christians are to trust that God will use trials and tests to mature His people for His glory and our good. It is what’s necessary.

Biblical Christians are to store up God’s word and prepare for battle, not against those who disagree with us, but against the unseen spiritual armies and forces of Satan. It is wise.

Biblical Christians are to humble themselves, repent of their own sin and pray for revival, seeking God to work first in their own lives to prune and purge the sin that so easily entangles. It is right and holy.

BlogPic1And those who are chosen in Christ are to anxiously wait for Him to return and bring us safely to His heavenly kingdom – and take as many souls with us as we can. We are to set our hope upon Jesus, who has promised to never leave us nor forsake us, as we live in a culture that wants nothing to do with Him, praying that by seeing His beauty and love in us people hostile to Christ will want to know Him and follow Him. It’s only through Christ and by Christ that a culture can be changed as hearts are changed. We are great sinners but we have a great Savior.

EEbooksIt was always on my to-do list. Well, on my mental to-do list in the back of my mind. Every time I read a word of wisdom or a nugget of truth, I would remind myself: tell her thank you. “Write her a letter,” I’d say to myself.

Tell her thank you for transparently sharing her courtship and love story with Jim Elliot in Passion and Purity, a book that changed your view of dating and marriage as a new Christian.

A question of chastity. An outmoded word, the world says, but the truth is it’s a Christian obligation. It means abstention from sexual activity. For the Christian there is one rule and one rule only: total abstention from sexual activity outside of marriage and total faithfulness inside marriage. Period. No ifs, ands, or buts. (Passion and Purity, pg. 124)

EE2Tell her thank you for introducing you to five brave missionaries, one of whom was her first husband, who risked everything they had to gain even more as recorded in Through the Gates of Splendor.

To the world at large this was a sad waste of five young lives. But God has His plan and purpose in all things. There were those whose lives were changed by what happened on Palm Beach…Only eternity will measure the number of prayers which ascended for the widows, their children, and the work in which the five men had been engaged. The prayers of the widows themselves is for the Aucas. We look forward to the day when these savages will join us in Christian praise. (Through Gates of Splendor, pgs. 252-253)

Tell her thank you for the encouragement in Quest for Love, the admonitions in Let Me Be a Woman and the challenges in Discipline: The Glad Surrender. Tell her thank you for beautifully capturing the selflessness and courage of missionary Amy Carmichael in A Chance to Die and for sharing the wisdom of her childhood and upbringing in The Shaping of a Christian Family. Pages and pages of her books highlighted, dog-eared and pored over as I gleaned from her counsel in how to live a surrendered life for Christ.

Tell her thank you…

In our fast-paced society of quick texts and tweets, it’s easy to share our appreciation through email and blog comments. But I wanted to send a handwritten letter. To sit down, gather my thoughts and express my gratitude on some lovely stationary. To tell Elisabeth Elliot that she had been a long-distance spiritual mother to a young Christian wife, mom and first-generation believer in need of godly wisdom.

EEpicBut my thank you never came. Pen never met paper. In the midst of motherhood and the hurry of life, my handwritten thank you letter to Elisabeth never materialized. And now the only thank you I will be able share with her is the one that will happen when I join her on the other side of eternity where Elisabeth is rejoicing in the physical presence of Jesus Christ. (image from Elisabeth Elliot homepage)

A hero of the faith and role model to many women, Elisabeth died Monday and entered through the gates of splendor. She was 88 years old and left behind a legacy that will live on through her books and messages. What was her message? That a life lived in surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ is a life of joy and peace. So much has already been written about her highlighting her missionary work, radio program, speaking ministry and Christian books. She was a true disciple…

To be a Christian in New Testament terms is to be a disciple. There are no two ways about it. We have a Savior who have forgiven us and saved us from the penalty of sin. Most of us would happily settle for that. But He died to save us also from our sins, many of which we love and hate to part with. Christ could not have done this if He were not Lord over all the powers of evil. Jesus Christ is Savior because He is Lord. He is Lord because He is Savior. I cannot be saved from my sins unless I am also saved from myself, so Christ must be “commanding officer” in my life. (Discipline: The Glad Surrender, pg. 27)

For any Christian, wife or mom unfamiliar with Elisabeth Elliot, your life will be changed once you read her books, listen to her audio messages or watch some of her conference presentations (thankfully added to YouTube.) She had a way with words that was convicting yet comforting, holding nothing back and standing firmly upon God’s word. Drawing criticism from women who opposed the biblical view of marriage and motherhood was not uncommon. Yet, she was sure to direct women back to Christ and His word, allowing them to wrestle with Scripture themselves. Obedience to the Lord was always a first priority in the life of a believer, she would say.

Through Elisabeth, I was also introduced to other amazing women like Amy Carmichael, Betty Stam and Elizabeth Prentiss, all of whom served as her role models. Lives given up for the cause of Christ. Lives that patiently and peacefully accepted suffering and pain as tools in the Savior’s hands to transform and conform His children to His own image.

Most of all, I learned from her that being a wife and mother is a noble ministry that glorifies God amidst diaper changes and dish washing, meal planning and clothes mending. Elisabeth was an encourager from a distance, always pointing me to Christ and for that I am ever grateful. I look forward to passing on her godly wisdom to my own daughters and also taking the time to remember to send out those handwritten thank-you notes to other women who are now leaving godly legacies like Elisabeth. I will tell them thank you before we reach the Celestial City, ultimately secure in His everlasting arms. :)

Read more about Elisabeth Elliot Gren at this tribute page from Revive Our Hearts and Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

A birthday behind bars

saeed1Bread and cheese for breakfast. Rice and soy sauce for dinner. Everyday. Not much sustenance but it’s something. Those aren’t meals I would choose and they aren’t meals Saeed Abedini would prefer, I’m sure. But it’s what is being offered to him in prison as he serves a sentence imposed by the Iranian government. And today, May 7, on his birthday, he won’t get the added bonus of a buttercream cake or a chocolate cupcake. This day is just like all the others that he’s spent behind bars. Except this year, the National Day of Prayer falls on his birthday and on mine. Pastor Saeed is 35 today and I’m 36. A few days ago I mentioned to my daughter that I was getting old because 36 just sounds old…or at least older. I don’t exactly feel 36 but then again I’m not sure what 36 should feel like. Yet, I have the chance today on my birthday to celebrate with my family, to enjoy meals with them, to go to the bookstore, to drink vanilla chai tea. All of the daily pleasures that Pastor Saeed hasn’t enjoyed for the past three years and that he won’t enjoy on his birthday. Can you imagine a birthday behind bars? You can read more about his days in prison here.

So, thankfully, Saeed has been able to write letters from prison and wrote a powerful message for this National Day of Prayer encouraging Christians to remember his chains and to cry out to God for revival in this country. My prayer today, as it has been daily, is for his release and for the release of other believers behind bars, that God would return Saeed to his family when his work in that dark prison is done. My prayer is also for the release from bondage for those who are in a different type of prison cell. The binding chains of sin that can be undone by belief in Jesus alone; the bondage of addiction to substances or performance or relationships; the poison of unforgiveness, bitterness and resentment.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Not to fulfill our own desires (which I’m often guilty of doing) but the freedom to live for Him first and for others second. And that’s the one thing that Pastor Saeed has that no Iranian official or prison guard can take from him – his freedom in Christ. He has the freedom to not fear, the freedom to not worry, the freedom to not get even or seek revenge. He has the freedom to be joyful in the midst of pain, the freedom to be loving in the midst of evil and the freedom to be bold in the midst of trouble. He has this freedom because he knows Jesus Christ. Just like the Lord God was with Joseph when he was put in prison, the Lord God is now with Pastor Saeed in his prison cell. And He cannot be taken from Saeed.

For the past few years on my birthday, I’ve chosen to start reading, meditating upon and sometimes memorizing the psalm that matches my age. So, this year, it’s Psalm 36 and it’s ideal for me as I’ve been focusing on the character of God. David wrote the psalm beginning with the wickedness of the ungodly, how he doesn’t fear God and has ceased to do good. In contract, the Lord is righteous and faithful and loving. The Lord is a refuge to His children and the giver of all good gifts. If Saeed were to do the same and pick a psalm based on his age, his would be Psalm 35 (mine last year) and it’s titled, “Prayer for Rescue from Enemies.” Some of it is below…

Lord, how long will You look on?
Rescue my soul from their ravages,
My only life from the lions.
I will give You thanks in the great congregation;
I will praise You among a mighty throng.
Do not let those who are wrongfully my enemies rejoice over me;
Nor let those who hate me without cause wink maliciously.
For they do not speak peace,
But they devise deceitful words against those who are quiet in the land.
They opened their mouth wide against me;
They said, “Aha, aha, our eyes have seen it!”
You have seen it, O Lord, do not keep silent;
O Lord, do not be far from me.
Stir up Yourself, and awake to my right
And to my cause, my God and my Lord.
Judge me, O Lord my God, according to Your righteousness,
And do not let them rejoice over me.

Jesus said: “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Pastor Saeed is greatly blessed!

Instead of blogging…

rosesI’m not sure why I can’t find or make time to blog. Wish I could say I’m stopping to smell the roses but most days seem chaotic at home with my kiddos. So, blogging just hasn’t been happening. When I checked in here and realized it had been three months since I blogged, I thought about what I’ve been doing instead of blogging. Aside from daily chores and schoolwork and colds and coughs (which lasted way too long), we’ve had some fun times and made some good memories. This is where all the pics on my phone came in handy…visual reminders of what I’ve been doing these past three months. Instead of blogging, we’ve been…

Celebrating my brother’s wedding! The kids had a super fun time and asked when they can go to another wedding :) Family from out of town came for the wedding and it was great hanging out with everyone again. And just a week after my brother’s wedding, we celebrated our baby’s 1st birthday! She is on the move all the time now and does her best to keep up with her big brother and sister. They love her and she loves them so it’s been working out well :) She also enjoyed her first visit to the zoo. The warm weather has brought out all the bugs so we’ve been trying to catch them on our daily walks around the neighborhood, keeping track of the different trees and flowers and animals we see. Baseball is also in full swing and it’s our son’s second season. He has a good time playing and this year has his dad as an assistant coach. Most of our days are spent reading and playing and teaching and training and fighting and forgiving and loving and learning. We’re nearing the end of our countries and cultures curriculum and just finished reading through the Gospel of Matthew. Now, we’re on to a bible study of the New Testament book of James before heading into ancient civilizations and Genesis early next year. Summer is nearly here and we’re looking forward to library visits, pool time and ice pops :) And maybe a few more frequent blog updates if I can scheduled them. Just thankful that I do make time for photos…

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babysleepingEvery night before I put our baby in her crib to sleep, I rock her and sing “Jesus Loves Me” as part of our bedtime routine. It’s the simplest of songs that I think every child growing up in a Christian home learns to sing. I was actually surprised to find it in the hymn collection, Then Sings My Soul, since I hadn’t really considered it a great hymn of the ages. Yet, the history behind the song is interesting and actually began as lullaby in a fictional story written by Anna Bartlett Warner and her sister Susan Warner. Longtime New Yorkers, the Warner sisters began writing stories and poems to help bring in money for their family after a financial crisis. In their later years, they ended up teaching Bible studies for cadets at the United State Military Academy – West Point. While Jesus Loves Me is considered one of the most popular hymns, here are the first few lyrics for anyone unfamiliar with it:

Jesus loves me! This I know,
For the Bible tells me so;
Little ones to Him belong;
They are weak, but He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.

So, the other night, after I sang the song for, by now, at least 300 times if not more (with my 10-month-old being more than 270 days old and I’ve sung the song with my older kids), one line stood out more than usual:

For the Bible tells me so.

Nothing really spectacular when you read that but after going through several Bible studies with Pam Forster of Doorposts, I’ve learned to pick up on key words and ‘for’ is one of them. The word ‘for’ usually gives a reason or evidence of something and can be synonymous with the words ‘because’ and ‘why.’ You need to look at the phrase before ‘for’ and after. In this case, “Jesus loves me this I know” is the phrase before ‘for.’ Therefore, the ‘for’ in this phrase is telling us the reason I know Jesus loves me is because (or for) the Bible tells me so. That’s how I know.

bugreadingAnother tip of Pam’s – while reading put emphasis upon each individual word of a line of Scripture or verse. Well, the lyrics to “Jesus Loves Me” aren’t Scripture but principle can be used. And so I did just that once this line began bulging in my mind: For the Bible tells me so. The Bible I have at home, the Bible that is available online and has been translated into hundreds of languages, the Bible that people have tried to destroy in other countries and cultures but can’t. For the Bible tells me so. It actually tells me? It speaks to me? Yes – the word of God is living and active (Hebrews 4:12). It is the very words from the Lord’s mouth (Proverbs 30:5-6). More than that, the Bible is the Lord’s message of love to His lost children – which was me before Christ! – spoken through His only begotten Son.

The Bible tells me so. What does it mean to ‘say so?’ We’re all familiar with the phrase, “Because I said so,” most commonly heard from our parents. They said so, or said it was going to be a certain way or the way they wanted, and that’s what was happening. ‘I said so,’ is better translated, ‘What I said is all that matters. No more discussion. The end.’ That was it. No questions. Is that how I view God’s word? Do I believe that God’s word is the final say, the ‘I said so’ for my life? The authority upon which I am to base my life?

BibleIs the Bible enough? For those who don’t accept the Bible as an accurate, believable and credible source of not just theology but also of history, why accept any other historical documents written before our time as credible? A ton can be found online about biblical credibility and reliability through an Internet search and this is one good site. At least see for yourself what it’s all about by reading the Bible to get your own first-hand account. Start with Matthew or Mark, or listen to this short message to find out where to start reading.

For Christians who struggle with the Bible’s words, maybe a good place to start is getting to know God Himself as He has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ (John 17:3; Hebrews 1:1-2). Reading through one of the Gospels, hearing from Jesus and seeing Him, who is THE Word of God. Wrestle with the word like Jacob wrestled with the angel of the Lord and don’t give up seeking Him through Scripture. Study His word (and check out this lengthy article on how to study the Bible.) Not everything will be understandable right away or even make sense but God has given believers His Holy Spirit to lead us into truth and He will. For the only way to truly live righteously in this world is by thinking righteously as we seek God and let the truth of God transform our minds as the True Woman devo shares on Day 5:

Scripture is God’s authoritative means of instructing us in His ways, and it reveals His holy pattern for our womanhood, our character, our priorities, and our various roles, responsibilities and relationships.

Believers in Christ are to look at this world and our circumstances through the lens of the Bible and the knowledge of God’s character. The essence of His character is love for He is Love (1 John 4:8). The Creator of the universe allows us to know Him and His love through His word. That is the goal of Bible reading and study – to know Him and live like Him. Scripture provides the sound doctrine for the sound living that God calls His followers to live out in this temporary world as we wait to enter our eternal one. What a blessing that He hasn’t left us on our own but has given us His word, His own “I said so,” and it is enough because He is enough. For the Bible tells me so.

babybornThis morning, the kids and I were driving down the freeway to our local library and we passed by the hospital where both of my 5-year-old daughter and 10-month-old baby girl were delivered. For better or worse, I decided to point out that fact to my kids as we drove by and my 9-year-old son added that he was born there too. But I reminded him that he was born at the hospital of the same name but at a different building a few miles away (this hospital constructed a larger building a few years after he was born.) Here was our interesting conversation about babies, the birds and the bees while in the car:

My son (trying to imitate my mom’s New York accent): Remember when Grandma said, “Oh, Edson, I remember the day you were born and when Dr. Andrews pulled you out.”

My daughter: Pulled you out of where?

My son: Out of Mama’s belly.

Me (silence, waiting for the subject to change)

My daughter to me: But you don’t have a hole in your belly? How can the baby come out of your belly?

Me: Well, God made a special way for babies to come out.

(Insufficient response)

My daughter: But how? How did the baby get in there and come out?

(No hope for that change of subject I was expecting…)

Me: Well, God made a special way for a mama and dada to have a baby. Remember in Genesis when Adam and Eve were naked in the garden? Well, when a mama and dada are together and naked like Adam and Eve, sometimes a baby is created by the special way God made.

(My pause, trying to figure out other words to say as we near the library.)

My daughter: Is this the same road where the trail riders and their horses come down?

YES – the subject change :) Time to exhale…no need to expound further for now at least!

Me: Yep, this is the road and we’ll see the trail riders later this month! (The trail riders that kick off the Houston Rodeo!)

kidsThe irony of this impromptu conversation is that my son kind of kicked it off but remained pretty silent the entire time and our church just recently had a sermon about how to talk to your kids about sex so I was sort of prepared (and the sermon’s really good so check it out). Sexual intimacy was God’s idea after all so might as well blame it on Him! :) Perhaps I’ll be a bit more prepared next time but am praying to not pass up these “teachable moments” as they come. Now, back to our regularly-scheduled programming of reading, ‘riting and ‘rithemtic!

Girls2I wanted to make some excuse, find someone else or something else to blame. Ignore it, write it off. It was a long day. I’m tired, overwhelmed. It’s the same thing over and over again. I wanted to tell myself I didn’t mean to react that way. To try to reason with myself over the tone of my voice, over the frustration in my heart. But my daughter’s words wouldn’t let me. And more than that, the Lord wouldn’t let me.

“Why don’t you like me when I disobey,” my five-year-old daughter asked me.

“What do you mean? I do like you when you disobey and I still love you,” I explained to her. “I just want you to learn to obey and do what’s right for your own good. Why do you think I don’t like you?”

“Because you talk angrily to me,” she confessed.

Ouch. Our kids are quite honest when they need to be. And she was right. I had spoken angrily to her earlier over an instance of repeated disobedience. My words weren’t harsh or mean or wrong but the tone was. And that’s what mattered to her. And that’s what matters to the Lord. So, it needs to matter to me. With sorrow in my soul and hurt in my heart, I asked her to forgive me for speaking to her in an angry tone. We hugged and she was happy. But I remained troubled. So many times I’ve read verses on anger, pleasant words, soft tones. “The anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God…” It doesn’t make anyone around us do what is right. So what would work?

Fear began to set in, making threats that I would never change, could never change. The fear that angry responses would win when I sought for a kind and pleasant voice (while firm when needed) to rule. But I’m striving after a no-fear new year that isn’t dominated by being afraid of anything. And a no-fear new year is only possible through a God who is able, a God who is greater, a God who is compassionate. A God who sees all things, who knows all things. A God who is glorified when sin is mortified. A God who exchanged the righteousness of His selfless Son for the unrighteousness of a selfish sinner.

So, I’m tempted to run to books and blogs and behavior management to curb my angry outbursts. But those have no power. The Bible is where I need to go. To seek the Lord to make the changes in my heart that only He can make as I humble myself before Him. For that’s the only safe place to be – on my knees at His feet living in the light. Praying today to instead of attempting to organize the little souls around me I’d first organize my heart to set apart Christ as Lord. And my Lord is with me and has promised to never forsake me as He completes the work He began in me. For the Lord Himself reminds me in Isaiah 57:15 of His dwelling place:

For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.”

bibleSeveral years ago at an annual used-book sale, I found an antiquated collection of short stories called The King’s Daughter and Other Stories for Girls that included writings about girls living in the late 1800s. Most of the tales share timeless truths and biblical messages for girls of various ages. The idea is that “every story contains an important lesson.” Some of the stories were intriguing, others were just so-so but there was one that I always returned to, that seemed to be seared upon my mind. I found the entire book online for free as part of the Project Gutenberg (and also free for Kindle on Amazon) so you could try out some of the stories to get a taste for the book. This is my favorite one for it highlights the worthiness of delighting in God’s word morsel by morsel, or as Job stated, to treasure the words of our Lord’s mouth more than our necessary food.

Two Ways of Reading the Bible
(reprinted with permission from Project Gutenberg)

“Would you like another chapter, Lilian dear?” asked Kate Everard of the invalid cousin whom she had lately come from Hampshire to nurse.

“Not now, thanks; my head is tired,” was the reply.

Kate closed her Bible with a feeling of slight disappointment. She knew that Lilian was slowly sinking under incurable disease, and what could be more suitable to the dying than constantly to be hearing the Bible read? Lilian might surely listen, if she were too weak to read for herself.

Kate was never easy in mind unless she perused at least two or three chapters daily, besides a portion of the Psalms; and she had several times gone through the whole Bible from beginning to end. And here was Lilian, whose days on earth might be few, tired with one short chapter!

“There must be something wrong here,” thought Kate, who had never during her life kept her bed for one day through sickness. “It is a sad thing when the dying do not prize the word of God.”

“Lilian,” said she, trying to soften her naturally quick, sharp tones to gentleness, “I should think that now, when you are so ill, you would find special comfort in the Scriptures.”

Lilian’s languid eyes had closed, but she opened them, and fixing her soft, earnest gaze upon her cousin, replied, “I do—they are my support; I have been feeding on one verse all the morning.”

“And what is that verse?” asked Kate.

“‘Whom I shall see for myself,'” began Lilian slowly; but Kate cut her short—

“I know that verse perfectly—it is in Job; it comes just after ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth;’ the verse is, ‘Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another.'”

“What do you understand by the expression ‘not another’?” asked Lilian.

“Really, I have never particularly considered those words,” answered Kate. “Have you found out any remarkable meaning in them?”

“They were a difficulty to me,” replied the invalid, “till I happened to read that in the German Bible they are rendered a little differently; and then I searched in my own Bible, and found that the word in the margin of it, is like that in the German translation.”

“I never look at the marginal references,” said Kate, “though mine is a large Bible and has them.”

“I find them such a help in comparing Scripture with Scripture,” observed Lilian.

Kate was silent for several seconds. She had been careful to read daily a large portion from the Bible; but to “mark, learn, and inwardly digest it,” she had never even thought of trying to do. In a more humble tone she now asked her cousin, “What is the word which is put in the margin of the Bible instead of ‘another’ in that difficult text?”

“A stranger” replied Lilian; and then, clasping her hands, she repeated the whole passage on which her soul had been feeding with silent delight: “‘Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not a stranger.’

“O Kate,” continued the dying girl, while unbidden tears rose to her eyes, “if you only knew what sweetness I have found in that verse all this morning while I have been in great bodily pain! I am in the Valley of the Shadow—I shall soon cross the dark river; I know it: but He will be with me, and ‘not a stranger.’ He is the Good Shepherd, and I know His voice; a stranger would I not follow.

“Oh,” continued Lilian, “in the glad resurrection morn, it is the Lord Jesus whom I shall behold—my own Saviour, my own tried friend, and ‘not a stranger;’ I shall at last see Him whom, not having seen, I have loved.”

Lilian closed her eyes again, and the large drops, overflowing, fell down her pallid cheeks; she had spoken too long for her strength, but her words had not been spoken in vain.

“Lilian has drawn more comfort and profit from one verse—nay, from three words in the Bible, than I have drawn from the whole book,” reflected Kate. “I have but read the Scriptures,—she has searched them. I have been like one floating carelessly over the surface of waters under which lie pearls; Lilian has dived deep and made the treasure her own.”

English pastor Charles Spurgeon wrote this about thinking upon God’s word: “Jesus showed us the surest road to wisdom is not speculation, reasoning, or reading human books, but mediation upon the Word of God. The readiest way to be spiritually rich in heavenly knowledge is to dig in this mine of diamonds, to gather pearls from this heavenly sea…O for grace to study the Bible with Jesus as both our teacher and our lesson!”

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