Getting to Know God

Recently, going through old newsletters and other things I’ve written, I came across this article I wrote years ago. I’ve adapted it a bit and I think the thoughts are still valid.

One Sunday I was sitting in the sanctuary before service and I had a really wonderful experience. My mind was wandering (I shouldn’t admit this ever happens, but it does) and I started looking at the people around me. I realized that I had some sort of special connection with just about everyone there! I saw coworkers (former and present), classmates from Bible Study, special Sunday School and VBS leaders who have taught my children, friends who have helped and encouraged me in many different ways. My list just kept growing and I know each of you could compile your own. I guess that’s what gives a congregation that “family” feeling.

I also realized that this sense of warmth and belonging doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and effort; a willingness to get involved and stick with the process of getting to know one another and become part of each other’s lives.

Isn’t that true of our relationship with God as well? If we want to feel close to God, to know His will for us and be comforted by His presence in our lives, we need to devote some time to building a relationship with Him. One way to do this is by studying His word.

Most churches offer a number of opportunities to do this. For example:

*Pick up a copy of a monthly devotional if your congregation makes one available. Portals of Prayer is an example.

*Go to Sunday School — it’s not just for kids! You’ll get to know fellow members and God better.

*Join an evening or daytime Bible study, or even start a small group study yourself.

*Volunteer to teach — teachers must first be learners!

For more information on getting to know God through study or educational offerings, speak with your Pastor or someone on your church education committee. They will no doubt be excited by your interest and glad to help you!

Growing Up, Part 4

Since those early days I’ve been in many different kinds of Bible study groups. There was the two year “Crossways” study Terry and I attended when our children were small. In that class, for the first time, I began to get the chronology of all those Sunday School stories straight. I made some good friends, too. I could still list for you every person who took that class with me.

Another study that had a big impact on my life was one that our pastor taught on spiritual gifts. I hadn’t really thought about my gifts before. Of course, I knew there were things I liked to do and things I didn’t. But when it came to doing things at church, I was pretty haphazard. I did things because somebody asked me to help, or because something needed to be done, or because I was interested. Sometimes this approach worked out– I was fine at many things like teaching the children, serving on the altar guild, and editing the newsletter–but I also made mistakes. There was the time I agreed to bake a lamb cake for Vacation Bible School. I baked three cakes and the final one still wouldn’t stand up the way it was supposed to! I can laugh now, but at the time it was a frustrating and unpleasant experience and one I certainly wouldn’t want to repeat.

In the gifts class, I learned there was a better way to go about serving. By evaluating my God-given talents I began to sort jobs around the church into three categories– things I was especially good at that included writing, studying and leadership; things I certainly could do like making coffee, cleaning, helping at the yard sale or visiting someone in the hospital; and things I really shouldn’t do– in my case that’s anything involving arts and craft or a high degree of organizational skill.

I’m not finished yet, so come back tomorrow for installment #5!

For more posts about spiritual gifts see:

Spiritual Gifts from the Holy Spirit

What are the Spiritual Gifts?

Let Your Spiritual Gifts S–T–R–E–T–C–H You

Growing Up, Part 3

When Terry and I joined the congregation, I didn’t have any experience at being an active, adult member. As a child, a family friend took me to church, Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. As a teenager and young adult, I attended services sporadically. Then after Terry and I got married, we decided to join a church, but basically, we just sat in the pew on Sunday morning. I thought that’s what belonging to a church was all about, but I was wrong. When we joined Peace In Christ, there were maybe 50 or 60 members, and God must have known just what I needed, because it’s hard to hide in a group that size. In fact, I was elected Recording Secretary at the first congregational meeting I attended. What a shock! I didn’t realize that in a small church agreeing to serve meant you got the job. Soon the pastor found out I liked to write and he suggested I get involved in helping with the newsletter and writing articles about the church for the local newspaper. I really enjoyed that, but I still wasn’t studying the Bible. After all, I knew all those stories from Sunday School class, and had even taken some courses about the Bible as literature in college. I didn’t think I needed any more.

Life has a way of moving along and changing, though, and pretty soon our first child was born. Before I knew it, she was two years old, and the nice people at church were asking if she could stay for Sunday School. Of course, that meant that Terry and I joined the adult class–what else was there to do for that hour? There I got another surprise–I discovered that the Bible is more than history or literature, it’s a guide for living life. In 1 Timothy 3:16-17 we read:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

I got to know other Christians — the ones in the Bible, and the ones in class–most of whom were more mature in the faith than I was at the time. I saw how, despite their flaws and mistakes they had a living faith–vibrant and growing. Here were people who prayed before making a decision–I had never done that. They loved and served some of the most unlovable people. They had a purpose in life. I admired them and I began to want to be more like them.

Stay tuned for more tomorrow …..

For more posts about Bible study see:

The Greatest Bible Study

Study Resources for Ladies

A Prayer Before Study

R. C. Sproul on God’s Word

Do you study God’s Word, the Bible? God chose to communicate with us through words, and we won’t grow in our faith if we never bother to read them R C Sproul addresses the question of why we don’t study the Word of God this way:

“Here then, is the real problem of our negligence. We fail in our duty to study God’s Word not so much because it is difficult to understand, not so much because it is dull and boring, but because it is work. Our problem is not a lack of intelligence or a lack of passion. Our problem is that we are lazy.” – Knowing Scripture, 1977

I’m sure, like me, you find the time to study the things that are really important to you. Sports fans memorize statistics about their favorite teams and players, employees take courses so they can advance their careers, teenagers (and many others) comb the internet to find out what’s going on in the life of that special celebrity. We all have our passions, but these things are all temporary. Make sure you also study the only subject that’s permanent. In the book of Matthew, Jesus tells us:

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” Matthew 24:35

So, don’t be lazy. Study the Word.

For more about R. C. Sproul see:

The Holiness of God–R.C. Sproul–Book Review

Flee to the Scripture– A Quote by R.C. Sproul

A Quote From R.C. Sproul

Coping With Uncertainty

I don’t know about you, but when things are uncertain, it helps me is to stick to a routine.  For example, if you lose your job, or retire, you should still get up every morning, shower, eat breakfast and perform some daily tasks.  If a loved one dies, or your best friend moves out of the area, you should continue going to work, volunteering, caring for your children or grandchildren, and doing whatever you normally do to interact with others.  Carrying out our usual, normal activities gives life both structure and purpose.  Even if many things have changed, clinging to what remains gets us through that uncomfortable, transitional period.  If we are patient, things settle down and a new normal establishes itself.

This applies to our spiritual life as well.  In 1 Timothy, Paul says:

“…. train yourself to be godly;  For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for the present life and the life to come.”  1 Timothy 4:7-8

Just as we should not give up eating healthy foods, or exercising when our situation is chaotic, we should also continue our spiritual disciplines.  That means we must develop those disciplines before uncertainty strikes.  Are you doing this?  Do you even know what they are?

Here are some basic things the Bible tells us we should be doing:

  • Do not to stop meeting together –this means attend worship and other activities with fellow Christians (Hebrews 10:25)
  • Be constant in prayer (Romans 12:12)
  • Know God’s Word –this means reading and studying it (Psalm 119:105)
  • Use your gifts to serve others– this means knowing what your gifts are (1 Peter 4:10)

So, prepare yourself.  Those uncertain times are sure to come.  You’ll cope better if you have a spiritual routine to sustain your faith.

 

For more posts on spiritual discipline click on these links:

Spiritual Discipline For a Spiritual Life by Donald S. Witney –FTF Book Review

Fanning the Flame #16 Personal Spiritual Discipline

Lenten Discipline

A Disciplined Life

Small Groups Made Easy – A Book Review

Ryan Lokkesmoe is a well-known author of several books on small groups, as well as, small group curriculums. The book is divided into 2 parts. The first part addresses the practical applications of small groups. He covers logistics, planning, leaders, childcare, and location, as well as many more.

He gives practical, simple principles to follow to make sure the group is instituted, planned and lead well so that it can succeed in the first part. I found the principles to be easy and effective if a bit simple.

The second part is based on 12 basic Christian studies which I enjoyed more than the first part. I felt that the studies were well thought out and provided ample questions to engage all participants. He backs up his study material with ample scripture references and ends each study with the most important thing – Prayer.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. I felt it was well-written and gave sound advice but could have given a little more detail in the implementation part.

I have received a free copy of this book in return for an honest and fair review – Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CFR Part 255

Confronting Christianity – A Book Review

Rebecca McLaughlin has written a book that tackles 12 hard-hitting questions that most Christians should be able to answer but shy away from, whether from an inability to answer or afraid of the answer, remains to be seen.

The chapters are divided into topics such as slavery, the denigration of women, homosexuality, and God allowing suffering are just a few.  Each chapter gives detailed Biblical reference to the position stated and additional references from noted theologians.

The book is so detailed in the response to the questions that I would argue it is more than a one time read. It is an armchair reference manual to be studied regularly and absorbed. I feel more comfortable in explaining several of the questions asked but will take more time to read and digest them all. I applaud the author for this undertaking and feel that she has done a tremendous job of equipping Christians to answer those hard-hitting questions.

I give this book a stellar 5 stars. This review is based on the thorough, detailed explanation and thought that went into the compilation.

You may purchase this book at the link below:

https://www.crossway.org/books/confronting-christianity-hcj/

I have received a free copy of this book in return for an honest and fair review – Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CFR Part 255

Follow Your Heart?

Follow your heart.  We often hear this phrase in everyday life. It sounds good, doesn’t it?  But is it really good advice?  Well, not according to the Bible!  Scripture says,

“The heart is deceitful about all things and beyond cure;  who can understand it?”  Jeremiah 17:9

This verse tells us three things:

  1. The heart is not truthful
  2.  The heart is desperately sick
  3.  The heart is unintelligible

“The heart” is considered the seat of our emotions, and emotions are changeable.  I may be angry at someone or something today, and come to understand and forgive tomorrow.  I may be attracted to an activity at first glance, only to realize it is boring or bad for me later.  I may “love” a certain author or type of book only to mature and go on to “meatier” topics.  Relying on the heart is simply — well, not reliable.

In addition, after the fall, our hearts became infected with sin.  What we desire is often what looks good, but lacks substance.  Have you ever yearned for a certain car, or outfit, or to achieve some award or goal, only to find that getting it failed to satisfy?  That’s what the heart does.  It disappoints us because what we get when we follow our heart isn’t what we really need.

On the other hand, in the same chapter of Jeremiah, we are told:

“But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.

He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.

It does not fear when heat comes;  its leaves are always green.

It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”  Jeremiah 17:7-8

Trusting in God and and following His Word will produce results that last.  The Bible is truthful, nourishing and easy to understand when we take the time to study it.  So don’t follow your heart, follow God.  Build your house on the Rock that lasts.

 

 

 

 

 

God’s Word, Our Light

 “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119:105

Nothing enlightens and directs us more clearly than God’s Word in the Holy Bible.  This song written by Amy Grant and Michael Smith is often used on Lutheran Via De Cristo weekends to introduce the talk on Study.  It’s a good reminder of the blessings we receive from studying the Word and allowing it to influence our daily lives.

For more music by Amy Grant, go to this post:

Mary, a Servant

In the Beginning — Wisdom

“The Lord brought me (wisdom)  forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old;  I was appointed from eternity, from the beginning, before the world began.  When there were no oceans, I was given birth, when there were no springs abounding with water, before the mountains settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth, before He made the earth or its fields or any of the dust of the world.  I was there when He set the heavens in place, when He marked out the horizon on the face of the deep, when He established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the dee, when he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep His command, and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.  Then I was the craftsman at his side.  I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence and delighting in mankind.”  Proverbs 8: 22-31

Did you know that wisdom was present at the creation and works with God, the creator?  I had not thought about this before, but it’s in the Bible and was one of our readings in the worship service last week.  And what is wisdom? The biblical definition of wisdom is the fear of the Lord as that’s where it begins and God is the source.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding”  Proverbs 9:1

Sounds to me as if we should study the Bible first, last and always.  Without it, we’ll never have true wisdom, and wisdom is the only firm foundation on which to build our lives.  We can’t know God unless we read His Word.  Put that first, and your life will fall into the right order.