Saturday, November 10, 2012

Be Thou My Vision

As we national contestants prepare these last few days, may the words of this song be our prayer:

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art-
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son,
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise,
Thou mine inheritance, now and always;
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
Hight King of heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of heaven, my victory won,
May I reach heaven's joys, O bright heav'n Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

Praying for you all!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

We've been hearing the Word a lot recently...

For all of you participating in the National Bible Bee this year, I'm sure that you agree that you've been hearing the Word a lot.  We've all been studying it for hours on end.  We've been memorizing it and getting into our minds constantly.  What a great opportunity this has been! To think that we are able spend hours at a time just absorbing the very Word of God.

So yes, we've all been hearing the Word a lot recently.  But we can't just be hearers of the Word - We have to be doing it.  We have to be applying it to our every day lives.

This can sometimes be a struggle for me.  I can sit down and study the Word - Recite verses and investigate passages for hours on end.   But once I've checked it off my list, I've been living my life how I want to live it.   I've been convicted of separating the Word from my daily life.  Of course, I agree with the Word and its main principles.  But I am truly applying it to my life?  Am I letting it change my heart - not just my mind.   When my mom asks me to help her with my siblings, do I truly do it with thanksgiving, rejoicing that I can serve?  Or do I do it half-heartly with complaining because I'm not able to get my studying done.   I can get so caught up in studying to get things checked off my list that I forget the ultimate purpose for studying in the first place.  My ultimate goal should be to glorify and exalt the name of Christ, not to get my verses perfect or to know every greek word possible.   My main goal should be to learn more about my great God and what He would want me to do, not to try to live up to men's expectations of me.  My main goal should not be to know the Word in my mind, but to truly hide it in my heart that I might not sin against God.  I need to be a doer of the Word not just a hearer.  I cannot become complacent with just studying the Word and patting myself on the back for being in the Word.  It means nothing unless I let it transform my life.

So the next time your mom asks you to help her and you still have two hours worth of Bible Bee study to complete, don't sigh and help only half heartedly. "And whatever you do, do it heartily as to the Lord and not to men" (NKJV) We've all memorized it - but have we truly hidden it in our hearts? Or have we simply reviewed it enough to make sure that it's word perfect? 

We must remember that doing the Word is just as important (if not more important) as studying it.  All our studies will be useless if we don't let them impact our daily life.   Let's be doers of the Word, not just hearers, that others may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven.  Let's do it all for the praise and honor of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

When the going gets tough....

Summer is a busy season! Every week holds its own excitements, trials, and obstacles to overcome. The biggest obstacle for me to overcome each week is finding time to do everything! And sometimes it can get a little overwhelming. I start doing things with less energy and enthusiasm. I skim through the Sword Study, run through my verses quickly; to check it off the list. I start worrying about the local contest coming up in five short weeks - yikes! I don't have my verses perfect yet. I don't know all my cross-references. When my mind starts getting overwhelmed thinking about my to-do lists, many activities to get to, "Bible Bee worries," and countless other things, I need calm down. I need to be still and know that the Lord is God. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the Beginning and the End. He's my Savior and merciful Redeemer. There is no god like Him. He is the one, the only true God. When I start thinking about how great my God is, the things of my "oh-so-important" life don't seem that important anymore. I realize that my life is so insignificant, so little. I'm wasting my life by living for myself. My life is but for a moment; like the flower of the field which is here today and is gone tomorrow. What really matters? What am I living for? Am I living for the praise and glory of God alone? Or do I live for my own little kingdom that I've created for myself?

When I sit down to go through my Bible Bee materials with these questions playing through my head, I have a completely different perspective. Instead of feeling rushed, discouraged, and worried, I can come into the presence of God ready to learn from His Word. Why do I do it? So that I can glorify my King by growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. 

"To God Alone" by Aaron Shust is song that I have been blessed by as I consider these things. I wanted to share the lyrics with you all:

Can You take by the hand?
Can You use me as I am?
Break me into who You want me to be

When the time is finally right
Will You open up my eyes
And show me everything You want me to see?

This life is not my own
To God alone be the glory
To God alone be the praise
Everything I say and do
May it be all for You;
The glory is Yours alone;
Yours alone.

Take the offering I bring
You want more than I can sing
Can I give You every part of me?

Turn these pennies into gold;
Take this life I call my own
Until I'm running after Your heart.

I'm needing to let go.

To God alone be the glory
To God alone be the praise
Everything I say and do
May it be all for You;
The glory is Yours alone;
We will rise and we will fall
But You remain after all
You're glorious and beautiful
You're beautiful.

To God alone be the glory

To God alone be the praise
Everything I say and do
May it be all for You;
The glory is Yours alone;
Yours alone.

So, when the going gets tough, be still and know that the Lord is God. Let that thought change your perspective.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Greetings and Advice from a Bible Bee Alumni :)

As I look on this year of BB I am excited yet somewhat sad.  This is my first year of not officially participating the Bible Bee.  :(  But... I know that all the verses I learned over the past three years and all the books we studied (Genesis, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, Matthew, Acts, Romans, Colossians, 1 Peter, 2 Peter) will remain forever.  And all the study habits we all learned and shared with each other will last a lifetime.  As each of you are endeavoring to continue to study God's Word through another year of Bible Bee I would like to share with all of you some things I have learned along the way.

First, always remember the purpose of why you are memorizing and studying the Word.  That is to develop a closer relationship with your Savior.  Never forget that or get caught up is all the practicing, reciting and memorizing that you for get the purpose, " know Christ, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings..." (see if you can find where this verse is from)  :)

Second, meditate on God's Word.  Don't let your knowledge become just head knowledge about the Scriptures, really "know" God's Word and make it a part of your life, make it heart knowledge.

Third, memorize 2 Timothy in its entirety so that you can recite it to others.  (this is something I wish I had done with the study books in the past).  Even if the locals are as far as you get you will be able to share that book of the Bible with those you know.

Fourth, remember that if you diligently study and seek the Lord through this summer, no matter where you place in the scoring, you have won in the sight of God.  There are no losers in the Scripture memory except those who do not start.  Even if you only memorize 1 passage that is still 1 more passage you did not have before you started!

Fifth, include your family in the studying process and share what you have learned with your family and friends.  Include your siblings as much as possible (even if they are not actually participating in the Bible Bee)

Sixth, use what you have learned as a conversation starter to share the Gospel with unbelievers.  (the Bible Bee T-shirts are a great starter)  :)  Also, ask friends to help listen to your verses and share with them what God has taught you through His Word.

Seventh, always keep a humble attitude.  This may be one of the hardest things in the entire Bible Bee.  It is God who has given us His Word, He is the one who gave us the ability to memorize it, He is the one who gives us life.  He is the one who is to receive the glory!  Remember "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."

Eighth, remember that the most important thing is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Back in 2009 at the Nationals, the Harris brothers gave a sobering warning, "You can participate in the Bible Bee, memorize all the verses and the entire study book, you can even win first place at nationals but it would all be in vain if in the end you did not have personal relationship with the Lord"
This is my prayer of each of you, that you may know Christ, that you may walk in obedience to His commands, that you delight in His Word and in His Law, that the words of your mouth and the meditation of your heart may be pleasing in His sight, that others may see the light of Christ in your life, and that you delight with your whole heart in obeying the Savior and following His commands!

Your sister in Christ,

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A New Beginning...

Well, another year of Bible Bee studying has started.  What an exciting time!  As I start to plan out my summer schedule, I'm realizing that this summer is going to be packed full with many activities and learning experiences.   I'm eager to dig in to all that God has put in my path.   But I need to remember to keep the main thing the main thing.  No matter what I do, I need to be doing all I do for the glory of God.

In the midst of all the activity, I can get so distracted.  I start to just do all my Bible Bee studying as routine; just another thing to check off the list.   But that's not how it should be.  Even with a hectic schedule, I can't rush through my time in the Word of God.  That's not glorifying to the Lord.

So as we all embark on this exciting journey through 2 Timothy and memory passages, let's remember to do it for no other reason then to glorify our God.  Don't get caught in the rut of doing it to check it off your list.  Don't do it for the sake of winning a competition.  Don't do it to know Scripture in order to have head knowledge.  Do it to know Scripture in order to grow in your relationship with Christ.  Do it to win the applause of heaven.  Do it all to the glory of God.  That's what really matters.  Nothing compares with that goal.  We won't be perfect, but we can keep pressing toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14). 

"Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Faithfulness In Those Little Things.

I've been thinking a lot about faithfulness.  About being faithful in the little things.  You know, the little things we do everyday; school work, chores, practicing music, and the list goes on.   Many times we overlook these things. We skim over them as unimportant.

We can get excited about doing the "big" things; the things that "hold significance." As young people, we can't wait until we can have our first job, go on a missions trip, go to college, serve in "ministry", or other "big" things like that.  There is nothing wrong with these things.  In fact, we should want to do these things, if it's according to the will of God.

But sometimes, I think that we get so caught up wanting to do those "big" things that we forget the important ministries that the Lord has given to right now.   We long for the day when we can serve the Lord as a missionary, but we complain about helping Mom in the kitchen.  We can't wait until we can get our first job, but we are lazy in our chores and helping Dad with projects.  We look forward to post-highschool education, but we don't excel in our studies in school.  We love serving in the church's nursery, but we don't find time to read a book or play with our little siblings.

Are we being faithful in the ministries and jobs the Lord has given to us? Or are we constantly longing to do something "bigger"? Let's not overlook the vital positions God has given to us in our homes.   We have the opportunity to serve and bless our families, encourage and disciple our siblings, develop our world-views and characters, learn valuable skills that will be with us for the rest of our lives, and much more.  If we don't do these things faithfully, how will we ever excel in whatever else the Lord may have in store for us?

Let's be content and thrive right where God's placed us.  Let's not hasten to go on to "bigger" things, but let's excel in the little things that God has given us to do right now.  They might seem insignificant, but they hold great value when they're done to the praise and glory of God.

May Jesus say of us:
"Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things."

"He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.  Therefore is you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if you have not faithful in what is another man's, who will give you what is your own?" Luke 16:10-12

"A faithful man will abound with blessings, but he who hastens to be rich will not go unpunished"
Proverbs 28:20


Sunday, April 15, 2012

I'm going to live as like a Narnian as I can

"‘One word. All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things–trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s the funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia. So thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we’re leaving your court and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for the Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s a small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say.’" (C. S. Lewis, The Silver Chair)

I was thinking about Puddleglum’s renouncement of the Lady of the Green Kirtle several days ago. That has always been one of my favorite scenes in Narnia...when the good side wakes up and stands against the evil. But recently, I realized that we are in the same place as Puddleglum, Jill, Eustace, and Rilian–we’re living in a culture that says that the "trees and grass and sun and moon and stars" are just a product of evolution and not God’s creative handiwork. Then, culture follows up the rest of the Lady’s denial of "the bigger and better cat." The world says that Christians aren’t strong enough to take care of themselves, so we created a bigger and better man–the God-Man, Jesus Christ. We’re just babies playing at a game...the "fools to the world" (1 Corinthians 1). Doesn’t Puddleglum have the most amazing answer to all that?! I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia.

Here, Lewis uses Blaise Pascal’s famous apologetic argument in a child’s story. Pascal’s Wager goes something like this:

1) There is no God
  • I will gain nothing by believing Him.
  • I will lose nothing by not believing in Him.
2) There is a God
  • I will believe Him and gain everything.
  • I will disbelieve Him and lose everything.
Assuming there was a 50-50 chance that there is a God, you lose nothing either way by believing Him. By not believing Him, you risk losing everything. That’s what Puddleglum is saying when he says that. Puddleglum is willing to be the world’s fool and take the wager on Aslan’s side.

Puddleglum, Jill, Eustace, and Rilian all began their conversation with the Lady knowing exactly what they believed. However, she sweetly convinced them that they were wrong (brings back memories of Genesis 3). There came a point when all their minds became so muddled that they could not remember the truth, and they began to believe her lies. Puddleglum in particular struggled with this. Inside, he knew that Narnia was real, but her words all but convinced him that Narnia was just an imagination. "Suppose we have only dreamed..." What do they risk by believing in Narnia? "That’s a small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say." They face her wrath and have to slay the serpent, but then they gain everything! Why are Christians so ready to believe that the trees and grass and sun aren’t God’s special creation? Why do they want to take away Jesus’ deity and turn Him into a great human teacher? They’re listening to the wrong arguments. We’re afraid to stand for the truth. But are we so afraid of good news that we let even wet-blanket Puddleglum believe while we sit in the Underland listening to the Lady? That’s when you must make the wager–do you believe the dream or not? I, for one, am on Jesus’ side even if the world doesn’t believe there’s a Jesus. I’m going to live like I am a citizen of Heaven even if everyone else says there is no Heaven.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

God's Perfect Plan

"For I know the thoughts that I have towards you," says the Lord, "thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." ~Jeremiah 29:11

This verse has been of great encouragement to me lately.  I've been thinking and making some decisions about what I will be doing this summer and next fall concerning school and other opportunities.   I sometimes get overwhelmed with all the ideas and possibilities before me.  I'm a visionary.  I love to dream big.  And usually my dreams are kinda far-fetched :).   I have so many things I want to do, so many plans.  Sometimes, I come become discontent with where I'm at because I want to move on to bigger and better things (according to my plans).  But I'm learning that no matter what my plans may be, God's plans are always better.  They may not be what I want, but they are always just what I need.  God knows what I can handle when I can handle it.  His plans for my life are far greater than anything of which I could ever ask or think.  I can trust Him with His plans and simply be content and live fully where He has me now.  I have no need to worry about  different decisions - I have the Coordinator of the whole universe working in all the events in my life to perform His perfect purpose.  Praise the Lord for His sovereign plan for us!

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ." ~Philippians 4:6

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways," says the Lord, "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts." ~Isaiah 55:8-9

Monday, April 2, 2012

Are you present?

A few weeks ago, I read 2 Corinthians. I love reading the Epistles; the men who wrote them knew exactly what Christians from every time need to hear (I guess that is one of the advantages of having the Holy Spirit tell you what to write!). Those men were the pillars of the Church. Christ is the foundation, and they were the pillars built upon Him that provide structure for the rest of the building. Paul, Peter, John, James–their sermons must have been amazing!

Yet, in 2 Corinthians 10:10, we read that Paul was mocked because his sermons weren’t as strong as his letters! "‘For his letters,’ they say, ‘are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.’" In a world where much of our communication with other Christians is via the internet, we can easily "know" someone through their writing rather than their speech. We have a great opportunity to communicate with people without having to worry about our "bodily presence being weak" or our "speech contemptible." Those of you who don’t know me very well might be surprised if you saw me try to speak in front of people. While I can normally give a Bible study lesson speaking clearly and not too terribly fast, there have been times when little girls will come up to me afterwards and say, "It’s okay, Abbie. You don’t need to shake and look so scared. We’re not going to hurt you." (Talk about getting embarrassed...!) Even though I study the Bible and pray before starting a lesson, I still struggle sometimes with a weak presence teaching! But with blogs, email, and other modes of communication, I can "talk" to people about what I’m learning without having to actually talk. We can encourage and learn from other Christians through technology without having to worry about shyness or speech impediments getting in the way.


We have a problem. It’s easy to separate our "cyber life" from our "real life." On this blog, I can talk about all the great things I’m learning in my Bible reading, how God’s working in my life, and all sorts of Christian things. But what you can’t see is my bad attitude when my mom asks me to set the table. I doubt any of you would intentionally live separate lives online and in the real world, but it’s very easy to let your personality, interests, character–to let you–slide around when people can’t see you or know "the real you." Online, we only know what the other person wants to tell us. Do you see how that can be a problem even with well-intentioned Christians? That’s why, after confessing that his speech is contemptible, Paul follows up with this in verse 11: "Let such a person consider this, that what we are in word by letters when we are absent, such we will also be in deed when we are present." As Christians, all of us are living our lives as a reflection of the one Life. Whether we’re communicating in person, via snail mail, email, blogs, or Skype, we need to speak the same message...we can’t let our character be dependent on the media we’re using. We need to learn how to use the same boldness in a face-to-face conversation that we use on a blog. I am much more comfortable writing a long blog post about the Gospel than going out and telling it to a friend, but I need to learn how to say the same words absent and present. That’s why Paul’s sermons were powerful even if the presentation wasn’t–he wrote, spoke, and lived one message no matter where he was.

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Work In Progress

Philippians 1:6: “being confident in this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ”
            “Come quickly and look at what I found!”
            I rushed over from across the field to see what Amy had found.  I was at a diamond park with my friend Amy.  She was an expert diamond hunter and I was tagging along with her for the day while she hunted.  We spent hours searching and I was tempted to just give up and go home, but Amy kept on looking patiently. 
            Now, as I rushed across the field, Amy was holding up a huge black object.  When I reached her, she excitedly exclaimed, “Look at this diamond I found!”
            I studied the ugly object in her hands.  A diamond? Could that ugly thing of dirt be a diamond?  
            Amy noticed my puzzled look and explained,  “Of course, it doesn’t look like a diamond now.  It looks like a big old stone.  But, you watch; with lots of washing, chiseling, and shinning, this rock will be a beauty unlike anything you’ve ever seen.   You just wait and see.” 
            I wasn’t completely convinced.  I mean, the rock Amy held looked hopeless; it was caked with dirt and awfully out of shape.  It seemed beyond repair.  I shrugged my shoulders, “Whatever. I mean if you want to try and make something of that thing, go ahead.  I sure wouldn’t want to waste my time on it, though.” 
            Amy just smiled. “Let’s get going,” she said, “I want to start working on this right away.” 
            For the next few weeks, Amy was obsessed with that rock.  Every moment she could be found working patiently on her “prize” as she would affectionately call it.  She labored endlessly.  At times, it seemed that she was making no progress; the rock still looked ugly and dirty.   I tried to tell her to just give up, that it just wasn’t worth all that work. 
            But Amy would just say, “I still working on it.  It will perfect yet.” 
            And no mattered how stubborn the rock would be, Amy never gave up.  She still loved that little rock as if it were her own child. 
            One day, after weeks and weeks of ceaseless work, Amy called me into her work room and showed me a sparkling, purely white, absolutely exquisite diamond.
            I gasped, “Where did you ever get this?”
            “This,” she said, “is the ugly, hopeless rock that I found in that field with you all those weeks ago.”
            I stood there, gaping, “How in the world.....?”
            “Oh, believe me,” Amy said, “This took a lot of work and much patience, but don’t you think it was worth it?” 

              Do you ever feel discouraged about your own sinfulness? In many ways, we are like that diamond.  God found us hopelessly lost in sin, buried in the ugly dirt of our own flesh.  He rescued us from our despairing state.  He adopted us into His family.  But we didn't become automatically perfect.  We still are not perfect.  We still have many faults and impurities.  And many times we get discouraged about all our disobedience.  We think, “Can we ever get anything right?”  We must remember that God is still working on us.  He is still patiently molding, shaping, and cleaning us of our sin.  His purpose for everything in our lives is to conform us to the image of His Son (Romans 8:28-29).   We need to let Him work and not try to be good on our own.  We must remember that apart from Christ we are nothing.  He is our righteousness. 
            So, the next time you are discouraged about your sin, take a deep breath and surrender yourself to the mighty hand of God.  Don’t fight His hand as He molds you - even though His proddings may hurt.  Remember that He has promised to complete the good work which He has started in you.  One day, you will be sinless before His throne.   Praise the Lord!

Monday, March 19, 2012

The beauty of holiness

And the answer is....Psalm 96:9!

Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!
Tremble before Him, all the earth.
(If you want to know how to solve it, scroll to the bottom of this post)

One of God’s most defining attributes is that He is holy. "Holy" according to Webster’s 1828 dictionary means "Hallowed; consecrated or set apart for consecrated use." God is set apart from creation. He is infinitely above it in truth, goodness, purity, wisdom, knowledge. He is "set above" it because He is the ruler of it.

When God instructed the Israelites to build the tabernacle, He designed it to be a beautiful place. They used blue, purple, and scarlet embroidered fabric (Ex. 26:1); lampstands were decorated with gold almond blossoms (25:33); and the Ark was overlaid with gold and embellished with gold cheribum (25:19). Doesn’t that say something about what God thinks of beauty? He wanted the Israelites to worship Him in a beautiful place because He is beautiful. Along with making the Tabernacle beautiful was making it holy. Everything had to be consecrated and set-apart to God. Even the High Priest wore a sign that said "HOLINESS TO THE LORD" (Ex. 39:30). Everything about the Tabernacle was designed to reflect God’s beauty and holiness–the beauty of His holiness–so His people could worship Him in the beauty of holiness.

Christians today are still told to follow this command. 1 Peter 1:15-16 says, "but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy." We are supposed to live lives that are set apart to God. We were rescued from the sin of the world, and we need to continue living differently from the world. Several days ago, I was talking to a friend about movies and books. He couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t watch, read, or listen to certain things; he said I could watch them without participating in them myself. That contradicts the idea of being holy to the Lord. As Christians, what we do, say, and think is different from what the world does, says, and thinks. We are called to "be holy as He is holy." Even though we can never attain to God’s standard of holiness, we still need to strive after who He is. When people say a Christian’s life is beautiful, it’s because he has tried to follow God’s command to live a holy life. After Christ died to save us, we gave our lives to Him. They are set apart to God. Just as the set-apart Tabernacle was beautiful, our lives also become beautiful when they become sanctified to the Lord.

The world doesn’t like the beauty of holiness. The more beautiful and holy Christ is, the more dirty and sinful they look. While Christians can worship the Lord in the beauty of His holiness, the world trembles before. A holy God is a terrifying thought to sinful people. But in the end, every knee will bow to Him, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil. 2:11). All the earth will one day be worshiping the Lord in the beauty of His holiness.

Key: Count the letters; take the squares of the numbers 1-18 (1 squared=1; the first letter is P. 2 squared=4; the second is s. etc.) Answer: Psalmninetysixnine

Monday, March 12, 2012

A mystery...

This post is a little different from the usual Bible studies posted on here. But the concept behind it–something hidden–is repeated throughout the Bible. The Bible is full of mysteries–some revealed, some yet to be made known. There is the mystery of the kingdom of God (Mark 4:11), the mystery of the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 2:7), the mystery of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:51), and so many more! In fact, forms of the word "mystery" occur 32 times in the NKJV. And that’s not even including all the Old Testament prophecies which must have been quite a mystery before Jesus came!

The answer to this "mystery" is going to be a Bible reference.   If you can break the code behind the poem and find the answer, I’ll have a post about it ready next week!

(If you need a hint to get you started, you might want to know that I like numbers a lot!)

Pressing anxiously ahead,
Remembering lands in time past
Imbedded deeply in memory.
How I long ne’er again to leave
Where true honor reigns
In the mysterious lore of old.
Knights and dragons, elves an’ fairies

In stories of myths forgotten,
Mixed with childhood dreams my own.
Conquering evil with sword and shield,

Singing the song of the victor's return,
Finding peace in the glade and glen
Of children’s land.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The key to happiness is.........right here!

My family learned a lesson in thankfulness yesterday. There are some things we never think twice about and have very little appreciation for them...well, until they’re missing.

Since my older sister is home for spring break, we decided to hop in the car and drive to a nearby park to take a walk by the river. It was a beautiful spring day–60 degrees, sunny, breezy–you couldn’t ask for prettier weather. Since we were all together, we decided to leave all our cell phones behind and forget about technology for an hour. We had a lovely walk. Being together as a family and enjoying God’s creation at the same time was a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon. As we pulled into the garage though, the beauty and peace of the afternoon vanished. We couldn’t find any house keys. My mom thought my dad had them, my dad thought my older sister had them, my sisters thought I had them, and we all assumed my mom would have at least one. But alas, there was no key to be found. We walked over to the neighbor’s house (they have a spare), but they weren’t home. Since we didn’t have any cell phones, we couldn’t even call someone for help. So, we got back in the car, drove to my dad’s office, and spent several hours calling friends on the office phone until someone was able to help us find a key. By that point, our quick excursion had turned into a four-hour long adventure. All because we forgot a little piece of carved metal.

We’re all prone to forget how much we appreciate something until it’s gone. Good health, family, friends–unless something happens and we no longer have them, we rarely forget to say "Thank you" to God for them. Sometimes, the only time we think about these blessings is to complain that they’re not as nice as we want them to be! Instead of rushing to the next thing, we should rejoice in the present and thank God for everything He’s done for us. There are so many we should be thankful for, yet we often fall into the trap of seeing only the annoyances in life. When we can be praising God for the sun, we’re complaining that it’s too hot or bright. Maybe we should invest in a special pair of thanks-tinted sunglasses that will allow us to see things from God’s perspective. There is never a time when you can’t be thankful for at least one thing. When we’re surrounded by a whole universe of God’s creation–what He called good–why don’t we remember to thank Him for His gifts?

Monday, February 27, 2012

His name is holy

A few hours ago, I was sitting in a room with a group of other highschoolers. For the most part, the conversation was light-hearted and friendly. But at the same time, it wasn’t. The conversation was peppered with expressions that took the Lord’s name in vain. Whenever this happens, I start to get really upset–God’s name is holy; we shouldn’t use it flippantly! On the other hand, how are my friends supposed to know that it’s wrong to take the Lord’s name in vain if they don’t first know that He is holy? When we’re with Christian friends and they start talking wrongly, then we should lovingly remind them what the Bible says. If we’re with a group of people who don’t know or care much about God, we should first be telling them about who God is. He is holy, just, and good...a God of truth and without injustice...righteous and upright is does anything else make sense until you first understand that? Creation, the Fall, the Law, Jesus’ Death and Resurrection–how can they understand any of that until they first know what it’s all built on? Before anything else, they need to know that God is holy, holy, holy a million times over, the Lord God Almighty, merciful, mighty, glorious...that He is God.

"No one is holy like the Lord, For there is none besides You, Nor is there any Rock like our God" (1 Samuel 2:2)

"Let them praise Your great and awesome name–He is holy" (Psalm 99:3)

"Glory in His holy name; Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the Lord!" (Psalm 105:3)

"For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name" (Luke 1:49)

"Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, for Your judgments have been manifested" (Revelation 15:4)

..."and they do not rest day or night, saying: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!’" (Revelation 4:8)

Could you please pray for me to be able to lovingly and wisely handle these situations?  Have you been in a similar position before?  How did you respond?

Monday, February 20, 2012

You can't collect $200 without first passing Go

"You shall have no other gods before Me.

"You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

"You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.

"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

"Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.

"You shall not murder.

"You shall not commit adultery.

"You shall not steal.

"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

"You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s."
(Exodus 20:3-17)

"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
(Matthew 5:3-10)

Which do you prefer–the Law or the Gospel? The one that results in punishment, or the one that results in salvation? When you think of it that way, it’s a no-brainer. Of course we want the one that saves us instead of the one that condemns us!

Many people today want just the Gospel. But how can you have the Gospel without the law? The verb "save" requires an object. You were saved from something. You were saved from the punishment you deserved by breaking the Law. You can’t enjoy the salvation of the Gospel without first realizing that you are condemned to death by the Law. Then the news of the Gospel is indeed good news. First comes the Law, then comes the Gospel.

While the Law is generally represented by the 10 Commandments, much of the Gospel is summarized in the Beatitudes. The Law applies to all people; everyone is judged by the perfect standard of God’s Law. The Beatitudes, on the other hand, are God’s blessing to those who love and follow Him. 1 Peter 3:9 says, "knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing." The blessing is a special benefit that applies to the believer. All are judged, but only a few are given the blessing. Only the Christian can inherit the kingdom of heaven and become a son of God.

You can have the Law without the Gospel, but you can’t have the Gospel without the Law. You can have punishment without grace, but you can’t enjoy grace without knowing that there was a punishment.

Monday, February 13, 2012

God's in His heaven, All's right with the world

One of the greatest gifts God has given believers is peace. "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27). While the rest of the world worries about the future, we’re told, "Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things" (Matthew 6:34). While the world frets over all the evil it causes itself, God says, "Do not fret because of evildoers nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass and wither as the green herb. Trust in the Lord..." (Psalm 37:1-3). But perhaps one of the most vivid pictures of peace comes from Psalm 2:1-4
Why do the nations rage,
And the people plot a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
And the rulers take counsel together,
Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,
"Let us break Their bonds in pieces
And cast away Their cords from us."
He who sits in the heavens shall laugh;
The Lord shall hold them in derision.

God laughs at man’s "vain" plans. He’s in control of everything! Don’t worry about tomorrow–why? Because God is sovereign. Nations raging and people plotting don’t take Him by surprise. He who sees when a sparrow falls knows the outcome of the battle before it happens. When we look around our world and shake our heads over the mess we’re in–the evil, ungodly, iniquitous mess–we can still have confidence that God is in control; yesterday, today, and forever. The world we’re in has a problem. It’s not taxes, government, or war. It’s sin. And it’s not going to leave until God re-creates the world and restores it to perfection. We don’t have to despair of sin (or its results), though, because God is still here, and He’s still in control. He still sits in the heavens and laughs. Man can’t plot anything against God–He had the first word, and He’ll have the last word, because He is the Word.

Psalm 2:10-12–Now therefore, be wise, O kings;
Be instructed, you judges of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear,
And rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,
And you perish in the way,
When His wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him

Are you willing to trust the Lord even when the nations rage and everything seems hopeless from our perspective?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Why I'm not memorizing the Bible

Yes, you read that correctly. I’m not being sarcastic–it is possible for Bible memory to be a stumbling block for Christians.

Bible Bee opened my eyes and taught me something about myself: I was capable of memorizing huge portions of Scripture. Before 2009, I struggled getting through my one verse a week for school. After the 2009 National Bible Bee, I began memorizing verses, chapters, books "for fun" during my personal devotions. I learned so much and developed a love for Scripture unlike anything I had ever known. Yet at the same time, I began falling into the dangerous trap of turning Bible study into an academic exercise.

Eager to learn more, I continued to keep a vigorous memory schedule during the months I was not participating in Bible Bee. Last year, as a 10th grader, I made it my goal to have the entire New Testament memorized by the time I finished college. I figured out approximately how many verses I needed to learn per month and fulfilled my quota. If I continued my plan, I would have all but two epistles memorized by the end of the school year. I could definitely do this.

The past few weeks have been extremely busy for me. School and extracurricular activities all managed to coincide their deadlines. In between a few hours’ sleep and a cup of coffee, I continued my memory work, loving the Word but struggling to keep up.

My mom had warned me before not to speed-memorize the Bible. We’re supposed to meditate on it. Feed on it. Not just slurp it down. I justified my method, feeling that the constant read, memorize, review that I did every single day was anything but speedy.

Then, I realized I had fallen into the trap. Bible memory was becoming something I do. It’s not supposed to be that way. It’s supposed to be God working in us, not cramming facts into our minds as a mental exercise. God still worked in me as I crammed the facts, but I was so busy "just getting through" that I didn’t leave time to listen to Him.

Here are a few "traps" that I fell into:

  • I love challenges.  I enjoy training my mind to do something new and love the thrill of accomplishing it.
  • I’m being a good Christian.
  • We’re supposed to meditate on His Word day and night, so the more words knew the better. Forget the quality as long as there’s quantity.
  • I want to do well at Bible Bee. Memorizing more would give me a better foundation when competition season starts.
  • I do everything fast (well, not when I’m driving. Apparently I’m too slow then...). Talking, reading, playing piano–everything’s best at top speed. Naturally, Bible memory also became a game to see how quickly I could memorize.
  • And, of course, there’s that little giant called pride. It makes me feel good to know how devoted I am to the Bible (obviously there’s a problem with that. It’s called self-justification. It doesn’t work. Memorizing words won’t save you, but meeting the Word will).

I’m going to continue studying and memorizing Scripture, but I think I will change my goal. Rather than aim for memorizing huge hunks of the Bible, I’m going to slow down and focus on each individual verse. I’ll keep reviewing old verses; hopefully, I will fully learn them! Oh the depth of the riches–who can fully know the glorious mysteries of Christ? When Bible Bee starts, I’ll do more new memory work again, but for now, I think I will slow down and learn to quiet my heart and meditate on the wonder of God. Eventually, I would like to have the whole New Testament–or, Lord willing, the entire Bible–memorized, but for now, I will slow down and take it verse by verse, step by step; always pressing toward the goal, but not being consumed with the prize; running steadily with endurance rather than running quickly and stumbling.

Monday, January 30, 2012

God, all nature sings Thy glory!

We sang this hymn in church yesterday--I hope it will help you worship the Creator as it did for us!

“God, all nature sings Thy glory, and Thy works proclaim Thy might;
Ordered vastness in the heavens, ordered course of day and night;
Beauty in the changing seasons, beauty in the storming sea;
All the changing moods of nature praise the changeless Trinity.

“Clearer still we see Thy hand in man whom Thou hast made for Thee;
Ruler of creation’s glory, image of Thy majesty.
Music, art, the fruitful garden, all the labor of his days,
Are the calling of his Maker to the harvest feast of praise.

“But our sins have spoiled Thine image; nature, conscience only serve
As unceasing, grim reminders of the wrath which we deserve.
Yet Thy grace and saving mercy in Thy Word of truth revealed
Claim the praise of all who know Thee, in the blood of Jesus sealed.

“God of glory, power, mercy, all creation praises Thee;
We, Thy creatures, would adore Thee now and through eternity.
Saved to magnify Thy goodness, grant us strength to do Thy will;
With our acts as with our voices Thy commandments to fulfill.”

(Words by David Clowney.  Can be sung to Beethoven's "Ode to Joy.")

Monday, January 23, 2012

Whether the weather

In my sunny home state, we are enjoying almost record-setting temperatures for January. It’s 76 degrees outside, and the sun is throwing long shadows off the Spanish moss on the oak trees. We just got home after visiting family on the other side of the country, and we’re still recovering from the dazzling brightness of sun on snow (and, for me, a cold). Both are so pretty–graceful shadows across the backyard and snow-covered fields and forests. God made both. His creation is so beautiful! 

Look out the window. Isn’t it amazing what He has made?! Who else could have possibly thought of creating all that He has made? We can’t even think of something new to "create" unless it’s first based off of what God has done. Try imagining a new, undiscovered color; you can’t! Everything we know or imagine is based off of His handiwork. All it took for Him was a single word, and it was. He didn’t stop with creating worlds, people, plants, and animals–He even created seasons! Even with your eyes closed, you can still feel the beauty of His creation. There is no way to escape the evidence of God’s hand in the world.

Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous!
For praise from the upright is beautiful.
Praise the LORD with the harp;
Make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings.
Sing to Him a new song;
Play skillfully with a shout of joy.

For the word of the LORD is right,
And all His work is done in truth.
He loves righteousness and justice;
The earth is full of the goodness of the LORD.

By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.
He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap;
He lays up the deep in storehouses.

Let all the earth fear the LORD;
Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.
For He spoke, and it was done;
He commanded, and it stood fast.

(Psalm 33:1-9)

No matter where you are today–whether you’re in the frozen tundra or someplace warmer–you can still see the beauty of God’s creation. Sometimes I get tired of the part of His creation that I see and wish I was somewhere else. Isn’t that wrong? Everything He has made is good; that’s what He said when He made it. Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good (Genesis 1:31). Who are we to complain? We should rejoice in His creation every day!

Psalm 29:2–Give unto the LORD the glory due to His name; Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Happiness is...

People are always looking for happiness--where did they lose it?

Augustine said this about happiness in his book Confessions:
O Lord, far be it from the heart of your servant who confesses to you, far be it from me to think that whatever joy I feel makes me truly happy. For there is a joy that is not given to those who do not love you, but only to those who love you for your own sake. You yourself are their joy. Happiness is to rejoice in you and for you and because of you. This is true happiness and there is no other. Those who think that there is another kind of happiness look for joy elsewhere, but theirs isnot true joy. Yet their minds are set on something akin to joy.
True happiness is not from things of this world–it’s from God.  In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11). We can only be happy when we are in God. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4). Augustine goes on to say that all men want happiness; everyone desires to be happy. People often go to the wrong places for happiness. The way to find happiness is in God. If you desire Him, you will find true happiness. He is the Giver of joy and pleasure.

I hope your day is full of true happiness and joy!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Are you broke?

Recently, my sister was reading the forum board at a Christian college. Someone posted the question, "Why don’t we talk about sin in chapel?" Someone else posted back, "We do, but now we call ‘sin’ ‘brokenness.’ The word was changed back in 1979–you can check the chapel records."

Quick background information: This college always talks about the effects of sin (AIDS, poverty, racism, etc.) but often avoids talking about the cause of sin. So the question "Why don’t we talk about sin?" was really saying, "This world is subject to so many problems...let’s talk about them over coffee."

The answer to the question, though rather sarcastic, brought up a really good point. People today don’t want to talk about sin; they want to talk about brokenness. When you say the world is full of sin, what you’re really saying is that the world is full of sinners and you’re one of them. That’s not very nice; it hurts our self-esteem. But when you say the world is full of brokenness, then you become the victim of sin. We feel bad for you. We’re sorry that you’re suffering because of all the world’s problems.

Doesn’t that sound a little contrary to the Gospel? The Bible says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We aren’t innocent victims of sin–we’re sinners. Sin is a result of the Fall. After the Fall, there will be brokenness because there is sin. As Christians, we do need to go out in the world and care for the needy (James 1:27). However, we can’t fix what’s broken; only God can. Only God can take away sin, and until the root cause of sin is gone, there’s going to be brokenness. What we really need to talk about is the Gospel. People can see that there’s brokenness in the world; tell them the cause of the brokenness. Give them hope; Someone willingly took our sin upon Himself and gave us the promise of eternal life without sin if we remain faithful to Him during our time on earth. The world is full of sin, and we can’t escape what’s out there. But through God’s grace, what’s in each of our hearts can be fixed.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A new year

Happy New Year! Looking back, it’s hard to believe a whole year has passed since we last said that. It seems like 2011 just started yesterday. Thinking back to everything that’s happened this last year, it almost feels like several years have elapsed instead of just one.

Towards the end of 2011, my family knew that 2012 was going to be a challenging year full of changes and decisions and would need a lot of family cooperation to make things work. By the last week of 2011, we received news that made challenging sound like an understatement. Things fall apart. Life is full of unpredictabilities and hurts. Yet through it all, God is always the same. He is always faithful. Hebrews 13:5b-8 says, "For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." So we may boldly say: ‘The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’ Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." A few verses later, the writer asked the recipients to pray for him. Pray for us; for we are confident that we have a good conscience, in all things desiring to live honorably (Hebrews 13:18). I was thinking about these verses as lots of things have been going on, and I wanted to share these words with you since they are a great comfort and challenge for all of us as we face a new year. None of us are going to have a "perfect" year; we’re all going to experience times when we want fall into anxiety and fear. But the correct reaction is to see that we’re not alone because we have God with us. Last year, this year, next year–He never changes. He will always be with us. As we begin a new year, we look to Him for the strength to live honorably with a good conscience and without fear.