Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Guest Post: Bible Memory Goals

The following is written by a dear Bible Bee friend, Anna M.  She is a fifteen-year-old Bible Bee senior, and has a lot of wisdom and encouragement to share with us on the topic of memorizing God's Word.  More of her writings can be found here: Sweeter Than Honey Blogspot.   I pray that you would be blessed by this just as much as I was!

With 2016 just around the corner, most of us are probably making goals and plans for next year.  I thought that this would be an appropriate time to share some things that I've learned about memorizing/studying during the Bible Bee off-season.  By the way, this post focuses more on memorization than study, because I'm not starting an in-depth study until mid-January, and because I enjoy memorizing more than studying :).

It's very important to memorize everyday.  A few weeks ago, I missed a day due to business. The next day, I was feeling tired, and I lazily thought, Well, since I missed yesterday, surely another day wouldn't make much difference. So I didn't memorize that day either.  Then, the day after that, I still didn't "feel like" memorizing, but I realized that I was being tempted, and if I missed yet another day, would I ever memorize again? It's a slippery slope to miss even just one day, and we have to be careful that we don't gradually go from being faithful memorize-ers to forgetting completely about doing it.  Consistency is everything when it comes to memorizing.

I'd really encourage you: don't wait until you feel like it to memorize.  There have been so many days that I didn't feel like memorizing in the afternoon (the time that I usually do all my memorizing), and so I planned to memorize after supper.  Well, after supper I would be cleaning up the kitchen, and then we would fold laundry while Daddy read a book, and I never ended up memorizing that day, or I would be trying to memorize in just a few minutes before I went to sleep and I wouldn't really have time to meditate on what I was memorizing.  The truth is, most of us won't "be in the mood" to memorize until we are actually doing it.  Memorizing is something that I love and enjoy so much, but when I'm not doing it, I forget how much I love it.  

I've also found that when I commit to a reasonable amount, I'm more likely to get it all done.  Last year, I made too many plans for after Bible Bee study and memorization, and so I wasn't able to do all of them to the best of my ability.  Of course, it's also quite possible to make goals that aren't high enough.  I did that in 2013, so I didn't feel overwhelmed, I just didn't end up doing as much memorizing as I probably would've if I had made more plans.  Hopefully, I will find the right balance this year :).

It's also important to have a plan.  Rather than just picking a few random verses to memorize each day, I've found it helpful to memorize portions or books of the Bible.  Not only does this help with context and understanding what you are memorizing, but it also helps you to make goals.  For example, if you decided that you were going to memorize the book of James in January and February, you would need to memorize two verses a day on most days.  Memorizing books also keeps me motivated, because I get excited when I'm nearing the end of a chapter or book! :) If you don't know what to memorize, here are a few suggestions:

Isaiah 53 -- A beautiful chapter foretelling the death of Christ.  
Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) -- This passage teaches us how to rightly obey God.
Psalm 119 -- One of my favorite chapters in the whole Bible.  Its focus is God's Word.
An epistle -- The epistles are a great place to start if you've memorized before, but have never memorized an entire book of the Bible.  They are filled with encouragement, exhortation, and God's truth.
A gospel -- When I first heard about someone memorizing a gospel, I was more than a little surprised. Was it really possible to memorize a whole gospel?  But as I turned the thought over in my mind, I decided it would be a good idea to try it.  I had memorized some epistles, and I wanted to try a different genre.  I first thought about Mark since it's the shortest, but then I found out that John was less than 900 verses, which was a good bit less than I had expected.  So I thought and prayed about it for awhile, and I started memorizing it on November 12, 2014.  Ironically, John 1-12 was the study passage for this year's Bible Bee, so I had a nice head start on it :). I'm still not finished with it yet (I'm in John 17 at the moment), but I hope to finish it sometime in the next few months, by God's grace.

Whatever you decide to memorize, I would encourage you to make memorizing God's Word a priority and to be diligent with it.  It's not always going to be very easy, but it is so worth it!

If you have any tips, I would really appreciate them.  I still have a lot to learn in this area.

"Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day."
Psalm 119:97

Monday, December 28, 2015

Seek Him First

I have prayed much about what the Lord would have me to write as we focus our thoughts on New Year's goals and resolutions, and He has led me not to say my own words, but rather to speak His Words.  Do not close this article or take it lightly.  Pause for a moment and allow your heart to prepare itself to read these words.  They are living and active and have the power to change your life this next year, if you will take them seriously and meditate on what they say, applying it to your life. 

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” ~Matthew 6:33

Our New Year’s resolutions are to be all about.  I have found in my own life that when I seek His kingdom (the spread of the gospel) and God Himself (through His Word and prayer) all other things simply fall into place.

“But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” ~Philippians 3:7-11

Take out your list of goals for the next year.  Ask yourself honestly if you are counting all things loss for the sake of knowing Christ.  Is He your number one priority?  If He isn’t, I can assure you through my own experience that 2016 will be meaningless and joyless.  We must seek Him, for “in His presence is fullness of joy and at His right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” ~Galatians 2:20

Read this one over a few times.  Is it true of your life?  Do you live as if you were dead and He only alive?  Allow the Scriptures to pierce your heart and change your life.

I close with a prayer from Ephesians 3:14-21. Please, do not close the article yet.  Read to the very end.  I can promise that even as these words are spoken over you right now, they will bless you. Remember Who it is you serve. And put Him first in all things.

 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,  from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith;

that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Ponder These Things

This Christmas season, it's so easy to get caught up in all the business.  There are presents to buy, cookies to bake, gifts to wrap, parties to attend, and carols to sing.  The workload never seems to end!  I mean, it is so wonderful, but there is just so much to do!

We can get so caught up in all the busyness.

I imagine that it might have been busy on that very first Christmas, so many years ago.  Everyone was travelling to their hometown for the census.  Bethlehem was overflowing with guests from all over Israel who traced their heritage to this small town.  The inns were bursting; people of all ages scurried about. Just imagine the noise level!  It must have been simply chaotic.

Enter Mary and Joseph.  Mary, well advanced in her pregnancy, after a long journey on the back of a donkey.  I can imagine that it wasn't very comfortable.  They knock on inn after inn, all to know avail.  Talk about hectic!  When they finally find a bit of straw to lie upon, there is a Baby demanding to come into the earth.  Finally, Mary, with the little Baby Jesus sleeping in her arms, imagines she might now have some long-needed peace.  Then burst in a bunch of shepherds.  And I'm sure she had many more visitors in the days to come, for the shepherds proclaimed Jesus' birth loudly for all to hear.

It was all so wonderful; so good.  But it was busy--going, going, going.  So many distractions, so many things that needed to be done.

In the midst of this however...Mary stopped.  In a season busier than any she had ever experienced, she took the time to meditate on what was going on.  Here's how the Scriptures put it:
"But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart." ~Luke 2:19

She paused even in the midst of the to-do lists, and thought about what this all meant.  She took in the weight of what was going on around her. Banes' Notes on the Bible says this: "This is the original meaning of the word "weighed." She kept them; she revolved them; she "weighed" them in her mind, giving to each circumstance its just importance, and anxiously seeking what it might indicate respecting her child."  She pondered the significance of each memory--the visiting angel, the nine months spent with a Baby in her tummy, the shepherd's visit--and brought them all together in her mind.

She pondered, or weighed, the significance of what was going on around her. This was no ordinary event--God's own Son coming in the likeness of man!

This Christmas season, let us ponder these things in our heart, just like Mary.

As we look back over that world-shattering event, do we ponder how absolutely amazing it is that Jesus Christ--the One Who cast stars into space and ordered the world--came to be born, not in a mansion, but in a simple food box?  Colossians 1:15-17 says, "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist."

This God--the Holy One of Israel--came to earth as a simple Babe.  He humbled Himself in a way no other king has ever done.  Just think about that for a moment!  I love the chorus of "How Many Kings."  It expresses the wonder of what Jesus did for us so well:

How many kings, stepped down from their thrones?How many lords have abandoned their homes?How many greats have become the least for me?How many Gods have poured out their heartsTo romance a world that has torn all apart?How many fathers gave up their sons for me?

This year, instead of allowing the busyness of life to distract us from the true meaning of Christmas ponder the wonder of Jesus' birth.  And worship Him this Christmas.

Photo Credit:

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Leonard Ravenhill on Prayer

How do you learn to pray? [Well], how do you learn to swim? Do you sit in a chair with your feet up drinking coke learning to swim? [No], you get down and you struggle. That's how you learn to pray. Prayer is our strength; Prayer generates strength; it generates vision; it generates power; and the devil wilI drive you away from the prayer closet more than anything.

No man is greater than his prayer life.

I want to see something that God builds. I want to find some people so hungry for God that every night they want to pray and make intercession. We're not going to move America any other way.

If you tell me this, I'll tell you how spiritual you are: will you tell me how much you pray? Brother [and sister], I'm not interested [if you're] booked up ten years; I'm not concerned about how many books you've read, how many doctorates you have [or how large your church is], tell me how much you pray!

How much time have you spent with Jesus today? When is the last time you've gone to Him and say, "I'm not going to ask you for a thing; I come to worship you in spirit and in truth."

Jesus prayed there at the Jordon [at His baptism]; He prayed at (the) Mount of Transfiguration; He prays here [John 17] and just before He goes to the cross. Prayer, prayer, prayer all the way! Should I pray less than He prayed?

Monday, December 14, 2015

One Thing I Have Desired

"One thing I have desired of the Lord,
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord,
And to inquire in His temple."
~Psalm 27:4

Does this verse express the cry of our own hearts?  Especially as the Christmas season approaches and minds become consumed with things they want, we must remind ourselves of that which bears infinite value--Jesus Christ Himself--and seek Him with all our hearts.

One thing...

Notice how David's whole being focuses with singleness of heart, mind, and body on this one thing.  If he could have only this, he would be satisfied.  For his own personal gain, he seeks only this.  He doesn't come before the Lord asking for a better job, or a peaceful kingdom, or even a new Ford Mustang.  Rather, David approaches the throne-room of God with one petition on his mouth: That he may dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  Is the Lord our number one (and only) goal in life?  Do we seek this with an undivided heart, longing just for more of His presence?

I have desired...

The Hebrew word used here for "desire" means so much more than simply "a strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen" as our culture defines it.  In fact, the Hebrew word is better translated, "to ask, enquire, borrow, beg."  It is not just a feeling, it is an active pursuit.  David seeks after the Lord with everything he has in him.  Do we?

Of the Lord...

Notice where David turns with this deep desire of his heart.  Whom does he ask to fulfill his request? He doesn't seek the counsel of esteemed Bible teachers or prophets.  He doesn't gather his wise men together for a discussion of how to increase the presence of the Lord in his life.  Rather, he goes directly to the One Who alone has the power to answer his request.  So often we seek pastors, sermons, books, and discipleship groups to give the answers that are found in Jesus Christ alone.  Even this past week, as I longed to have a greater awareness of His presence in my life, I was tempted to seek the help of godly men and women in our church, instead of falling on my face before God Himself and seek the answers that can only come from Him.  

That will I seek...

This is the part that the Lord still has so much to teach me.  How do we truly seek His face?  How does this go beyond merely a desire into action?  Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible, puts it this way:  How shall we seek that we may dwell in the house of the Lord forever? "By incessant prayer, until obtained; importunity and perseverance in prayer are the way to succeed, as appears from the parable of the widow and unjust judge."  Let us get on our knees before the God of heaven and incessantly pray for such a mindset--one set on the King of the universe.  Let us seek His face through prayer and scripture reading; let us seek until we find.  Know this: We serve a God who delights to pour Himself out upon us and show us Who He is.  But there is much that we must first learn through the process of waiting, and so, while you are waiting for the Lord to answer your cries, do not doubt.  Be patient.  Keep praying, keep seeking His face.  And know that one day, not far from now, He will come.  He will.  But first we must seek Him with our whole heart, leaving nothing behind.

That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.

This isn't the physical house of the Lord--heaven.  For in order that our spirits might dwell there, we must leave this earthly body behind (if we have believed upon the Lord Jesus Christ, that is).  Instead, this line speaks of our hearts and minds dwelling in the temple of Almighty God.  Colossians 3:1-2 explains it best: "If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth."  This also follows with the concept of abiding in the Lord.  Much as a branch abides in the vine, so we ought to abide in Christ (John 15).  Although David may (and probably did) mean a physical house of the Lord, since Christ has appeared, we can now dwell in His holy temple, even while on this earth.  I love the way The Treasury of David puts it, "For the sake of communion with the King, David longed to dwell always in the palace; so far from being wearied with the services of the Tabernacle, he longed to be constantly engaged in them, as his lifelong pleasure. He desired above all things to be one of the household of God, a home-born child, living at home with his Father. This is our dearest wish, only we extend it to those days of our immortal life which have not yet dawned. We pine for our Father's house above, the home of our souls; if we may but dwell there for ever, we care but little for the goods or ills of this poor life."  This is a place where we continually abide in the Lord, communing continually with Him and lifting up never-ending praises to His name.

I will leave you to meditate on the last two beautiful lines on your own, but I pray that, as the Christmas season fills hearts and minds, that we would desire but one thing, that we may abide continually in the house of the Lord forever.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Search the Scriptures

Acts 17:11 says "These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so."

How many of us are like these men in Berea, searching the Scriptures daily? How many of us go home after hearing a good sermon, only to further dive into the Scriptures to see what they have to say about this? How many of you, after reading this article, will dive into your Bible to see if it is expressing a biblical worldview? How many of us, after hearing the opinions on the theology discussion look to see what the Scriptures have to saw about the subject?  Searching the Scriptures in such a way is something that I do not follow perfectly, so this exhortation is just as much for me as it is for anyone else.

I wonder what would actually happen if we did this... If we searched the Scriptures every day, to find out if there is truth in what we are reading, hearing or seeing. I know one thing for sure, we would all gain a biblical worldview.

1 John 4:1-3 adds, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world." We are called to test the Spirits.  How can we discern what is a lie without first knowing the truth?

The enemy is trying to deceive us so that he might corrupt our hearts. That's his number one specialty --deceit. We mustn't let him win this battle; we mustn't believe his lies; and in order to do this, we need to be continually searching the Scriptures.

The more we abandon the Bible, the more the voice of this world and the voice of the devil drowns out the voice of truth. I've been told that if you hear a lie long enough, you'll believe it. If we are not continually flooding our minds with truth, they will be corrupted by the sin and dirt of the devil. 

My friends, we must not let this happen! 

1 Thessalonians 5:21 says, "But test everything; hold fast what is good." Let us test everything that we read, hear, and see; holding on to only that which aligns with a biblical worldview.

Paul once said of Timothy "and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus." (2 Timothy 3:15). Timothy held fast to the Scriptures.  He spent time in them.  And, as Paul says, they made him wise.  The Word of God teaches us what is truth, because it is the very words of the Lord to His people.  We must be spending time each day in these words so that our minds can be transformed.

How can we expect to grow, if we don't consume the pure milk of the word and the bread of life? We must be reading the guideline for life, if we expect to follow the straight and narrow way. If we want to become more like Christ, we must first know what He is like. The people you spend time with are the people you will imitate. When we spend time with God, we will find ourselves subconsciously imitating God.

Let us be diligent to read God's Word and hide it in our heart so that our feet may be planted firmly upon the truth of God's Word!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Receive the Word with Meekness

"Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls." ~James 1:21

Stop and take a moment to examine this verse.  "Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls." 

As we approach God's Word, we must come with a pure heart. If we have built up walls of sin and rebellion, we will not be willing to allow the Word of God to penetrate our hearts and change our lives.  Before we approach the Scriptures, it is right to confess our sins and lay aside our own selfishness.  We must be ready to receive God's Word, but first we must empty ourselves of all else.  We must turn away from that which is contrary to God's Word.  Once we have done this, we are ready to receive His Word with a pure heart, in full assurance of faith.

God's Word is freely offered.  Will we "receive" it?

We have access to the Scriptures 24/7.  We read the Bible.  But do we receive it? Do we allow it to have a place in our heart?  Do we meditate on it and abide in it?  Is it "implanted" in our hearts?  This is not a matter to be passed over lightly, but a matter that deserves much thought.  When we read and find a passage that challenges the way we have been living, are we willing to receive and accept it?  Will we allow it to change our lives?

Do we receive it with meekness?

This implanted word is freely offered to us, but do we approach it with an attitude of meekness?  Do we come with open hands and a soft heart, ready and willing to be molded by this living and powerful Sword?   Do we approach the word as newborn babes, like 1 Peter 2:2 says, "as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby"?  We can either approach the Word seeking to be changed, or looking to poke holes in it and find fault with it.  Which do you and I do?

We must approach God's Word with clean hands and a pure heart.  With a meek spirit.  This is not meant to be something to add to our list of rules, but rather something for which we should plead with our heavenly Father to grant us.  We are cannot possibly become "clean enough" or "meek enough" on our own.  If we were left to ourselves, we would never be able to approach God's Word.  

But our gracious Lord, who humbled Himself by coming in the likeness of men, being the complete image of meekness and purity, will, of Himself, make us pure.  He alone can cleanse our hearts and teach us how to approach His Scriptures with openness and a heart that is ready to learn.  He will work through us, if we ask.  It is He Who lives in us, and we are not expected to live this Christian walk on our own.  Rather, we must implore our great Provider and merciful Savior that He might cleanse our hearts and grant us meek spirits, so that God's Word can transform our lives, by the power of His Holy Spirit.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Lessons from 1 Timothy on Prayer

"Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." ~1 Timothy 2:1-4

The words of Paul to his son-in-the-faith Timothy have been ringing through my mind lately.  They speak of the purpose and direction of our prayers--how we should pray and what we should pray for.  The things Paul says are an exhortation and a command to the church Timothy was teaching at the time and an exhortation to us as well.

These words "supplications, prayers, and intercessions," while they do not have completely distinct meanings, can be understood to be all encompassing.  All prayer must be made for men.  But Paul reminds us too that whenever we bring our requests before God, we must also bring our thanksgivings.  God has done so much for us, and we cannot neglect to give our gracious Savior thanks, for really, we deserve none of the amazing things He has done for us.

What ought we to pray for?  "For all men, for kings and all who are in authority."  Paul tells us that our prayers are not merely to be turned to ourselves, but to others, and specifically all who are in authority. Why are we to pray for them?  "That we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence."  When we pray those who are in authority (government leaders, pastors, elders, employers, teachers, and fathers), our goal in praying is that we might lively peacefully and godly lives.  Think about it for a moment.  When the leaders do their jobs well and according to the Word of God, fulfilling the duties to which they were appointed, then those of us who do not lead may live freely and peaceably.  We will have no need to be afraid, but can freely live lives that line up with the Word of the Lord.

What does the Lord think about such requests? "This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior..."  This is not only a command from Paul, it is a command from the One to Whom we pray.  I have often asked the Lord how I ought to pray, and here He has given us His answer: by praying for our leaders and those who are in authority--both Christian leaders and those who reject the truth.

In the statement, God "who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth," we learn both of God's character and our goal in praying. It is God's desire that all men might be saved, and so as we pray for our leaders, our goal is to be salvation.  When we pray "for all men," the saving of souls is always to be in our hearts and on our lips.

As we pray today, let our minds be turned back to this verse. Maybe you could write it out and stick it on the wall of your prayer closet, or in your Bible.  Remember what the Lord has asked us to pray for: 1) leaders, and 2) the salvation of lost souls.  When we bring these prayers, supplications, intercessions, and thanksgivings before our Lord, He will hear and be faithful to answer.  Let us be faithful to ask!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Meet with God Today

Imagine walking up a mountain alone. But it’s no ordinary mountain. The ground beneath you is shaking, and the entire mountain is covered in smoke. At its peak is a thick cloud with lightning and thunder. God descends onto the mountain in fire, and each time you speak to him, he responds in thunder. This is what Moses experienced in Exodus 19.

Now compare that experience to your last time in prayer.

Distracted, obligatory, ordinary — I doubt any such words came across Moses’s mind as he ascended the mountain. But some three thousand years later, we rarely marvel that God permits imperfect humans into his presence.

How did the shocking become so ordinary to us? Is it even possible for our experiences with God to be that fascinating?

A mentor of mine lives in India. Last year, he called me on the phone crying, distraught over the state of the church in America. “It seems like the people in America would be content to take a selfie with Moses. Don’t they know they can go up the mountain themselves? Why don’t they want to go up the mountain?”

When was the last time you enjoyed meaningful time alone with God? Time so good that you didn’t want to leave. It was just you, reading God’s words, in his holy presence.

I was fifteen years old when my youth pastor taught me how to pray and read the Bible alone. Now, more than thirty years later, I still can’t find a better way to start my days. I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I didn’t refocus daily by going up the mountain.

It is alone with him that I empty myself of pride, lies, and stress.

Pride: standing before a Person clothed in unapproachable light has a way of humbling you (1 Timothy 6:16).Lies: speaking to an All-Knowing Judge tends to induce honesty (Hebrews 4:13).Stress: kneeling before the God who causes men to fail or succeed replaces our anxiety with peace (Psalm 127:1) ....

It was simple for Paul. He loved being with Jesus. “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

Knowing Christ deeply consumed him (Philippians 3:8). There is no substitute for being alone with God. If you don’t have time, you need to quit something to make room. Skip a meal. Cancel a meeting. End some regular commitment. There is literally nothing more important you could do today.

God literally determines whether or not you take another breath. “He himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25). Could anything be more important than meeting with the One who decides if you live through this day? Could anything be better? How can we not make time to be with the Maker of time?

What plans do you have today that you think so important that you would race past the Creator to get to them?

[From Francis Chan's article "The Greatest Thing You Could Do Today"]

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Praise of Mary

Knocking boldly upon the door, Mary offered up a silent prayer that she and the One in her womb would be accepted at the house of her cousin. A virgin becoming pregnant was a thing to be disgraced, and she didn’t know if Elizabeth would let her stay in her home or if she would be thrown out on the streets. Creak, went the door, revealing Elizabeth. Mustering up her courage and drawing strength from the One, true God, Mary greeted her cousin.

Hearing that greeting, Elizabeth went silent. This is a little awkward, thought Mary. What is she thinking? Does she see how big my stomach has grown?

But Elizabeth abated her fears, exclaiming, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For indeed as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.  Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”

A few tears sprang to Mary’s eyes, as she heard these words, realizing that not only was she accepted, she was blessed. Oh, the Lord is so good! Her heart was overwhelmed with love for her King, and she could not keep it in.

Bursting into joyful song, she began,

My soul magnifies the Lord,
   And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
   For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
   And holy is His name.
And His mercy is on those who fear Him
   From generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm;
   He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
   And exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
   And the rich He has sent away empty.
He has helped His servant Israel,
   In remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
   To Abraham and to his seed forever.

The Lord led me to memorize these beautiful words of praise this morning, and as I meditated on the words, they became more alive to me.  I decided to share my thoughts with you all as well, that you might be blessed through her life, even as I was blessed. But as I prepared my thoughts, I remembered that I had written about her life over a year ago, and decided to share that again with you while weaving in some of the things the Lord revealed to me this time around.  Mary's story of meekness and praise is so beautiful to behold, and I pray that we might emulate her heart this Christmas season.

Mary was a young girl, a beautiful virgin.  The Lord choose her, of all the millions of women in the world.  Why?  Because she was highly favored and pleasing to the Lord.  He delighted in her, because of her delight in Him.  He was her passion, her stronghold, her dwelling place.  His Word was her refuge, her comforter, her strength.  She knew her Lord in an intimate way, she knew of His character, and she loved Him for it.

God chose to place His only Son inside her, because she would love Him more than her life and treat Him as a King, because of the love that she had shown for the Father.  Her praise floated up to Him on a continual basis.  She was so in love with Him that she couldn’t contain her jubilant praises.

The same was true of her trip to Elizabeth’s house.  Gratitude for God filled her and spilled out in song.  In this song of praise, Mary cited at least fifteen verses in the Old Testament.  She had filled her mind with words from the prophets and psalmists that praised God.  This young peasant girl knew the Scriptures.  She understood the things of the Lord.  She meditated on His Word as she went about her work and as she lay in bed waiting for sleep to come.  Whenever she opened her mouth, God’s Word poured forth, because that is what was in her heart.  

As a result, His words became her language.  

I don't know about you, but compared to Mary's words of praise, mine seem rather weak.  It's not that God rejects "weak" praises, but He does offer us more and deeper things in our worship, if only we will seek Him with all our heart.

Mary knew the Scriptures.  And she knew her Lord.

When she worshiped Him that day, she was not merely thanking Him for what He had done, she was worshiping Him for Who He was.  She had meditated often upon His character and knew intimately the different aspects of His character. And she was only a young teenager!  All we who are still in our youth have no excuse for not memorizing and meditating on God's words so that we might gain a beautiful knowledge of the Lord like Mary had.

Will we too choose to fill our heart and mind with the praises of God?  Will we memorize and meditate on the words of God in such a way that we come to know the Lord in a very intimate and personal?  Will you and I choose to delight in the Lord as Mary did?

Monday, November 30, 2015

PRAY Method

Do you ever feel like your prayers seem to be misguided, or disproportionate? Or how you sometimes spend all your time in asking God for things and entirely forgetting to thank Him?

This is something that happens often, but one of the ways we can avoid wandering prayers or disorganized prayers is through different prayer outlines, or methods.

One of my favorite is a method I learned through the National Bible Bee this year which is an acronym called "PRAY."  I have used it over the course of the summer, and I have found it to be very helpful, not only in my own life, but also as I taught younger siblings and some girls I was discipling how to pray.

The acronym stands for:

 1. Praise

"Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits," ~Psalm 103:2

In my own prayer life, I have found that it is easy to rattle off a list of requests and forget the splendor of the One I am praying to.  I ask and ask and ask, but forget ever to say "thank you."  This is the time to express gratefulness for the things He has already done for you before moving on to share what is on your heart with Him.  He is so worthy of our praise, but if we don't schedule in our times of praise we often forget, since praising God is so opposite our self-centered nature.

2. Repent

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." ~1 John 1:9

Confession is also something I tend to let slip, if I don't choose to make time for it.  Remembering God's holiness through praise helps us to remember our own sinfulness by comparison.  God promises that if we confess our sins before Him, He will forgive us.  We must first break our hearts over our own sins, before we have the right attitude to ask Him for things.  It is fitting and proper to confess our sins before the holy and just Judge.  God already knows them.  But He has asked us to spell them out before Him and ask forgiveness.  And when we repent (or turn the other way), resolving no longer to allow that area of sin to control our lives, then the Lord will forgive our sins.  This time of confession and repentance prepares our hearts so that we have the right heart and attitude about the next section:

3. Ask

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." ~Philippians 4:6

After we have worshiped and adored our King for Who He is and acknowledged our own sinfulness before Him, we have the right heart to ask Him for the things that we desire.  When we remember how faithful God is and how unfaithful we are, we'll be less likely to ask Him for a new car and a easy school/work day and more likely to ask for faithfulness in obeying His commands.  We have the right attitude to pray in faith as we remember all the ways that the Lord has already been faithful.  And so we bring our requests before Him.

4. Yield

"And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”" ~Mark 14:35-36

This is why I love the PRAY method so much. Because after we have finished praising Him, and repenting of our sins, and bringing our requests before Him, we spend a few quiet moments in yielding our lives into His hand. This is a time of surrendering ourselves to His desires. We have asked the Lord for the things we want, in "Ask," but here, we must lay down those expectations and rights and place ourselves once again into the Father's capable hands. Just like Jesus did.

Although this method is just a guide, and by no means perfect, it is helpful to add some sort of structure to our prayers.  This way we are best able to bring our requests before Him, while praising Him and surrendering our lives into His hands.  Try it out this week and sooner than you know it you'll find your prayers naturally fitting into this mold as you talk to the King of kings.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Live on God's Word

But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” ~Matthew 4:4

We have often heard or read the words of Jesus and agreed with them in our minds. Yes, it is necessary that we should live by the Word of God. We sing songs on God's Word and sometimes even memorize it. We know that we should be spending time with God every day. we actually live by God's Word?  Is is our very life's breath?  Is our every waking moment spent in its pursuit.

Let's really get practical here.  We're not talking about what place God's Word should take in our life.  We're talking about what place it does take in our life right now.  You ate three times yesterday, right? (Well, Thanksgiving day may have been an exception, but on a regular basis, you eat three meals.)  About how long does an average meal take to consume?  About thirty minutes, right?  That's an hour and a half of eating, plus any snack time.

Let me ask you now, how much time do you spend each day feeding on the words of Christ?

Was it a foundational part of your day, or did you spend just a few minutes in it?  Was your every spare moment consumed in its pursuit, or did you waste away the precious moments of your day feeding on your own thoughts, a phone, or a computer?

Not having enough time isn't a good excuse.  You found time to eat, didn't you?  Three meals!  We just don't make time to read God's Word.

We must understand something.  God's Word is more valuable than our everyday food.  Repeat that a few times.  Just as vegetables and meat sustain our earthly body, God's Word sustains our soul and spirit--our spiritual bodies.  We can't except to live a healthy, satisfied life as a child of God if we are not spending time in God's Word!

"as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby," ~1 Peter 2:2
We must desire God's Word and actually spend time in it if we wish to be grown by it. Just before Moses death, some of his final words to Israel were these:

“Set your hearts on all the words which I testify among you today, which you shall command your children to be careful to observe—all the words of this law. For it is not a futile thing for you, because it is your life, and by this word you shall prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to possess.” ~Deuteronomy 32:46-47

What would it look like if you and I made God and His Word the center of our life?  Not just talking about making it of great importance, but actually doing it.  I've had enough talk.  Let's move into action here, my friends.  

Let us resolve to really and truly spend time in God's Word.

Will you join me in real action?  This isn't light and fluffy, and it won't be easy. But we didn't sign up for easy, we want life-changing.  And that's what we'll get.  May we too (though practice and not just theory), not with our heads but with our hearts, echo with complete fervency the words of Job:

"I have not departed from the commandment of His lips;I have treasured the words of His mouthMore than my necessary food." ~Job 23:12

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Give Thanks!

As I thought about the Thanksgiving celebration coming up very soon, I pondered what I could write about here that would motivate us to give thanks.  Then the Lord showed me that my mere words only have so much weight. I can talk about the importance of giving thanks, but that does not serve you (or myself, for that matter) any better.  It's not actually giving thanks.

So today, instead of reading about the importance of giving thanks, I want you to actually stop what you are doing and pull out pen and paper.  Or maybe you can use the comment box below.  And begin to write.  Write as many things that you are thankful for as possible.  Big things.  Little things.  Get specific and leave nothing out.  What are you thankful to the Lord for?

Need inspiration?  Check out these 100 reasons to be grateful!

Write as many things as possible.  Turn your list into a prayer.  Thank the Lord for the countless thousands of blessings He has given you!

It's easy this thanksgiving season to simply think about giving thanks.  We hear words of gratitude, we see pictures telling us to be thankful, but have you stopped to actually thank Him today?

Let us choose to be really and truly thankful this day!

Monday, November 23, 2015

The One to Whom We Pray

“I have read many books on prayer, studied prayer and attended seminars on prayer. I have prayed tens of thousands of hours privately, and met weekly with beloved friends over years and years to pray. 

I have attended church prayer meetings, prayed at church railings, at community prayer meetings and while watching or listening to tragedies on the nightly news. 

I have prayed with thousands of people in large groups and hundreds of individual friends and strangers in intimate settings and casual conversations; face-to-face, over the telephone, in restaurants, in malls, in parking lots, in prisons, in foreign countries, on planes and through letters and e-mail. 

I have prayed walking, standing, sitting, rocking babies, kneeling and lying on my face. 

I have journaled prayer, spoken prayer, conversed in prayer, sung prayer, shouted prayer, whispered prayer, groaned prayer and wept prayer. 

In all of this prayer over so many years I have learned one thing. One single thing . . . and this is that the power of prayer is not in the words I pray, the place I pray, the way I pray, how loud I pray or how long I pray, but in the One to Whom I pray.” ~Anne Murchison

Friday, November 20, 2015

Chewing Over God's Words

"Meditate is a very figurative word. It pictures a cow chewing her cud. I’m told that the cow has several compartments in her tummy. She can go out in the morning, graze on the grass when the dew is on it in the cool of the day. Then when it gets hot in the middle of the day, she lies down under a tree and begins to chew the cud. She moves the grass she had in the morning back up and now she masticates it, she goes over it again. 

That is what we do when we meditate. We go over what we have read. Way back in 1688 Bartholomew Ashwood said, “Meditation chews the cud.” My, how that is needed today in the lives of believers. Remember that James spoke of the man who beholds his natural face in a mirror, then “… immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.” (Jas 1:24-note). 

We are to meditate on the Word of God (which is God’s mirror that shows us what we really are). We are to allow the Word to shape our lives. My friend, God has no plan or program by which you are to grow and develop as a believer apart from His Word. You can become as busy as a termite in your church (and possibly with the same effect as a termite), but you won’t grow by means of activity. 

You will grow by meditating upon the Word of God—that is, by going over it again and again in your thinking until it becomes a part of your life. This is the practice of the happy (blessed) man (Psalm 1:1-2)." --John Vernon McGee       

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Enduring Prayer

“I myself have for twenty-nine years been waiting for an answer to prayer concerning a certain spiritual blessing. Day by day have I been enabled to continue in prayer for this blessing. At home and abroad, in this country and in foreign lands, in health and in sickness, however much occupied, I have been enabled, day by day, by God’s help, to bring this matter before Him; and still I have not the full answer yet. 

Nevertheless, I look for it. I expect it confidently. The very fact that day after day, and year after year, for twenty-nine years, the Lord has enabled me to continue, patiently, believingly, to wait on Him for the blessing, still further encourages me to wait on; and so fully am I assured that God hears me about this matter, that I have often been enabled to praise Him beforehand for the full answer, which I shall ultimately receive to my prayers on this subject. 

Thus, you see, dear reader, that while I have hundreds, yes, thousands of answers, year by year, I have also, like yourself and other believers, the trial of faith concerning certain matters.” ~George Muller

Will you join George Muller in praying with faith--even if it takes 29 years? Will  you have faith and trust like his?  Will you believe that your Lord will answer, whether 5 minutes from now or 30 years from now?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Obedience and Prayer

"Many persons, being told that God answers prayer for Christ’s sake, overlook the condition of obedience. They have so loose an idea of prayer, and of our relations to God in it, and of his relations to us and to his moral government, that they think they may be disobedient and yet prevail through Christ. 

How little do they understand the whole subject! Surely they must have quite neglected to study their Bible to learn the truth about prayer. They might very easily have found it there declared, 

“He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be an abomination.” 

“The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord.” 

“If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” 

All this surely teaches us that if there be the least sin in my heart, the Lord will not hear my prayer. Nothing short of entire obedience for the time being is the condition of acceptance with God.
There must be a sincere and honest heart — else how can you look up with humble confidence and say, "My Father;" else how can you use the name of Jesus, as your prevailing Mediator; and else, how can God smile upon you before all the eyes of angels and of pure saints above!” ~Charles Finney

Let us remember to approach God's throne room with clean hands and a pure heart.  He is holy, holy holy!  Let us remember to Whom we pray and when we seek His face, let us cleanse ourselves of all wickedness.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Meditating on the Scriptures - Part 2

Listen to the wisdom of Matthew Henry on the subject of meditation and be encouraged in your own life to make this discipline a priority.

"To meditate in God’s word is to discourse concerning the great things contained in it, with a close application of mind, a fixedness of thought, till we be suitably affected with those things and experience the savour and power of them in our hearts."

"meditation is the best preparative for prayer, so prayer is the best issue of meditation."

"If we willingly banish holy meditations in our solitary hours, Satan will soon occupy our minds with sinful imaginations."

"Meditation and prayer are blessed means of strengthening faith and hope."

"Meditation. God’s words must be laid up in our hearts, that our thoughts may be daily employed about them."

"In retirement and in meditation the Christian character is formed and perfected."

"We must have constant regard to the word of God, as the rule of our actions, and the spring of our comforts; and have it in our thoughts night and day. For this purpose no time is amiss."

"Those who would have clear views of heaven, must get as near to heaven as they can, on the mount of meditation and faith."

Isaac "went out to take the advantage of a silent evening and a solitary place, for meditation and prayer; those divine exercises by which we converse with God and our own hearts." 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Meditating on the Scriptures

“I began to read the Holy Scriptures upon my knees, laying aside all other books, and praying over, if possible, every line and word. This proved meat indeed and drink indeed to my soul. I daily received fresh life, light and power from above.”– George Whitefield

“I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God, and to meditation on it…. What is the food of the inner man? Not prayer, but the Word of God; and….not the simple reading of the Word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it, and applying it to our hearts.” – George Müller

“The more you read the Bible, the more you meditate on it, the more you will be astonished by it.” – Charles Spurgeon

“Remember that it is not hasty reading, but serious meditation on holy and heavenly truths, that makes them prove sweet and profitable to the soul. It is not the mere touching of the flower by the bee that gathers honey, but her abiding for a time on the flower that draws out the sweet. It is not he that reads most, but he that meditates most, that will prove to be the choicest, sweetest, wisest, and strongest Christian.”– Thomas Brooks

Monday, November 9, 2015

Believing Prayer

"Beware in your prayers, above everything else, of limiting God, not only by unbelief, but by fancying that you know what He can do. Expect unexpected things ‘above all that we ask or think."

"Each time you intercede, be quiet first and worship God in His glory. Think of what He can do, of how He delights to hear Christ, of your place in Christ, and expect great things."

"Learn to worship God as the God who does wonders, who wishes to prove in you that He can do something supernatural and divine."

"We must begin to believe that God, in the mystery of prayer, has entrusted us with a force that can move the Heavenly world, and can bring its power down to earth."

"The measure of believing, continued prayer will be the measure of the Spirit’s working in the Church. Direct, definite, determined prayer is what we need."

"One thing is sure: The Lord wants us to believe most certainly that asking, seeking, and knocking cannot be in vain. Receiving an answer, finding God, and the opening of His heart and home are the certain fruits of prayer."

"The Holy Spirit comes in answer to believing prayer."

~Andrew Murray

Due to scheduling conflicts, over the next two weeks I will be unable to write blog posts on what the Lord is sharing with me. However, I will try to share some encouraging and inspiring quotes from others who have walked this path before us and have finished the race. They have much wisdom to share and as we learn from them, I pray that we might be inspired and equipped to walk this path that they have trod.