Pulling Weeds

I told you last week that I would share a moment when the Holy Spirit led me on a trail that was unexpected. It doesn’t happen often, but because it is possible, it keeps me tuning in everyday to see what God will reveal to me next.

I was reading the familiar story about Adam and Eve after eating the forbidden fruit. They had purposefully made a choice to disobey God for the purpose of gaining knowledge. They didn’t know this knowledge would come at such a cost.

There were consequences to their choices–one being this:

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, `You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.

Genesis 3:19 ESV

I have often joked that it would be better if God had chosen weeds to be flowers, since they grow without help. When I read these verses I was convicted of my crass humor.

The weeds are a reminder of our sin. And my joking about it was in need of correction. I repented to God and thanked Him for the beauty of flowers. They are a grace produced despite the weeds that would try to choke them.

We live in a broken world. Something I’m reminded of daily whether it’s the news, a phone call with a friend or a debate started on social media. We are in desperate need of a Savior. Jesus came over 2,000 years ago to set us free, yet I am still tempted to grumble and complain like the Israelites–this side of the cross, no less.

Have you allowed the Holy Spirit time to correct you as you read your daily Bible? This isn’t a to-do list to say we did it! It is a personal time alone with the Lord who knows you and loves you most. Ask Him before each daily reading to reveal Himself to you in what you read. He loves to answer such prayers.

I recently heard of someone who was desperate to hear from God. They even offered a prayer for proof that God was in the direction they were going. They asked God to allow a deer to pass by as they were driving–then they added, “Make it a buck!”

To their surprise before the day was done, a buck walked in front of their car–looked at them and walked away. God loves to answer our cries for help, hope and direction. Even when we are doing mundane tasks like pulling weeds. I will forever thank God for His mercy and the beauty of flowers when I pull weeds from my garden.

I encourage you to keep going. We are just getting started on this journey down Route 66–the ancient road–which is full of encouragement and truth.

Photo by Izabela Himes on Unsplash

Spirit Trails

Good Morning.

We all know the benefit of breakfast. It feeds our bodies with strength for the day ahead. So it is with God’s Word.

“Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts.”
‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭15‬:‭16‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Just a couple of weeks in and you may not be feeling the joy and delight. You may be skipping a day here or there already. Discouragement can follow. I know this because I’ve been there.

What do we do when this happens?

Realize it is a temptation that needs to be resisted. Reading the Bible is a privilege given to all mankind. Understanding what we read each morning is a gift sent to us by the Holy Spirit. 

But what if you don’t understand what you’ve read?

Pay attention to parts that make you confused or curious. Then go to a reputable commentary on the internet* and search that scripture. I call these Spirit trails since you end up going somewhere you didn’t expect or plan to go. This is where reading the Bible comes alive!

If you’ve not tried this before I encourage you to do so. I will share one of my recent Spirit trails in the next post. If you’ve had one already please share what you discovered with us. 

Let’s start this week off encouraging each other! Visit our private Facebook page to share.

May God bless every minute you spend seeking to know Him more.

*Commentaries:

How’s It Going

One week in and I think we’re off to a great start. If you’re already behind please, please don’t be discouraged. It’s to be expected that life will hit us in unexpected ways. The thing is to resolve to not let anything stop you from continuing to read the Bible.

We subscribe to Desiring God ministries, and we often receive articles to speak to an area where we may be struggling. Today’s was no exception. We want to share it with you. We’ve reprinted it below, but you can also click on this link to listen to it read. Whichever works best for your attention span. You can even listen and read as Tom likes to do.

Here is the article in its entirety. Have a blessed Sunday as we gather together to hear the Word of God preached. Such a needed means of grace.

(Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash)

You Can Understand The Bible

by Marshall Segal

Some of us fall out of Bible reading because we fail to make time for it. Busyness crowds out the minutes we might otherwise give to sitting and hearing from God. There’s always something that didn’t get done yesterday or something relatively urgent that’s come up today. It’s pretty amazing, isn’t it, just how many things in our little worlds seem to trump listening to the one who made them all?

For others, it’s not busyness that gets the best of us, but a subtle cynicism about reading the Bible. How am I ever going to understand this? It’s hard to keep getting up extra early and setting aside precious minutes when you’re not convinced you’ll be able to make sense of what you see, when you might finish and strangely feel further from God, when you’re chasing a full heart morning after morning and yet often walk away just scratching your head.

If you’ve felt that way before, you’re not alone. In fact, even the men who wrote the Bible know something of what you feel. The apostle Peter says of the letters Paul wrote, “There are some things in them that are hard to understand” (2 Peter 3:16). Think about that: Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote books in the Bible, and yet even he struggled to read Romans or Thessalonians (or whatever particular letter he had in mind). If he could write on behalf of God and have a hard time understanding Scripture, we shouldn’t be surprised if we do too.

And I, for one, definitely do. I’ve battled to get through the census records in Numbers. I’ve labored through the kidneys, livers, and “entrails” of the Levitical laws. I’ve grown weary of the repetitive failures of Israel in 1–2 Kings. I’ve sometimes struggled to see what Hebrews sees in the Old Testament. Much of the imagery of Revelation is still a mystery to me. And so, I regularly find these clear and accessible words from Paul all the more meaningful and encouraging:

Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. (2 Timothy 2:7)

Understanding Is Possible

This is an amazing acknowledgment from Paul to Timothy. He says, in essence, “I know some of what I am writing won’t make sense to you immediately, and you’ll be tempted to think you cannot understand it — but you can. So, don’t give up too easily. Don’t assume this is above you. Assume that God can make his words clear to you.”

Those apart from Christ cannot understand the things of God. They flip through the Bible’s majesty and wisdom in vain. “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). But not you. If you’re in Christ, you can see things that they can’t. You can understand things that they can’t. Where they see foolishness and irrelevance, you see unspeakable beauty, a radiant window into reality. Not because you’re smarter or more educated or merely a better reader, but because you’re not a natural person anymore; you’re a supernatural you, with a supernatural mind and heart and eyes.

“Because you’re someone new, you can understand more of the Bible than you might think.”

Or as Paul says elsewhere of natural people, “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart” (Ephesians 4:18). But not you. You’re not alienated from God anymore. Through the cross, he’s brought you near, and in bringing you near, he’s softened your heart and unlocked your mind. The God who flooded all creation with light “has shone in [your] heart to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). That’s who you are when you open the Bible.

And because you’re someone new, you can understand more of the Bible than you might think.

In Everything

Not only can you understand more than you think, but the apostle goes even further: “ . . . the Lord will give you understanding in everything.” If God lives in you, nothing in the Bible is above you — not the genealogies of Numbers, or the sacrificial laws of Leviticus, or the prophetic visions of Ezekiel, or the apocalyptic imagery of Revelation. With God, all are within your reach.

Lest we think Paul’s talking only about the verses immediately before this one, he comes back to the same reality in the very next chapter: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17). As much of the Bible that has been breathed out by God — all of it! — that much is now profitable for you. Even on the most obscure, most confusing pages, God means to teach you, to exhort you, to correct you, to train you, to equip you — he means to speak to you.

“Even on the most obscure, most confusing pages, God means to teach you.”

Before any of that can happen, however, we first have to understand what God is saying — which is exactly where God promises to help us: “The Lord will give you understanding in everything.”

Varied Means of Understanding

None of this means we just sit alone with our Bibles until we understand everything. No, God gives the gift of understanding in a hundred different ways. Remember, most Christians in the history of the world didn’t own a Bible (much less carry it with them everywhere in their pockets). They depended on the regular reading and reciting of Scripture in community. From the first church to today, believers have depended on faithful teachers to rehearse, explain, and model the words of God for them.

And God has multiplied pathways to understanding in our day — first and foremost through our local churches, but then through messages, articles, books, study Bibles, online courses, commentaries, podcasts, and more. So understanding may come in any number of ways. The point here, however, is that you really can understand what’s in this book — everything that’s in this book, Paul says.

Now, to say that we can understand everything in the Bible is not to suggest that we will understand everything immediately and fully. We won’t — and certainly not the first (or second or even tenth) time through. God can give us understanding in every passage without giving us understanding of every partof a passage. He also often chooses to give understanding, not immediately, but over years or even decades. As we keep reading (and living), familiar verses will emerge with new or deeper meaning and relevance. Some questions will be answered slowly. So don’t expect to understand everything now, but expect to understand something now — and then more tomorrow.

Ask God

Up until now, we’ve seen only that we can understand more than we may assume. You should be asking how. What makes this kind of supernatural reading possible? How do the lights come on?

Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

On our own, we can’t understand the Bible. If God leaves us alone with this book, it wouldn’t be worth getting up early, pouring more hours in, and pressing through difficult verses and chapters. We would search and ask and wrestle in vain. But if it’s God who makes things clear, then he can overcome our limitations and blind spots. You can understand the Bible because God will give you understanding. When you read, he’s not just over your shoulder; he’s inside of you — in your eyes, your mind, your heart — showing you what you’d never see on your own.

The one who reveals himself in the Bible wants to make himself clear. He’s not content to have divinely inspired words on the page; he wants them written on our hearts. He wants to see understanding, and satisfaction, and transformation — and so he won’t leave you alone with your Bible. This may be why Paul ends the letter the way he does: “The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you” (2 Timothy 4:22). We need the present, spiritual help of God in all we do all the time, and especially in understanding his word.

Think Hard

This understanding, however, doesn’t float down from the clouds and land softly on our heads. No, God gives the gift of understanding through the hard work of reading well. This verse demands almost as much as it promises: “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.” This won’t come easily, Timothy. Yes, God is the one who gives understanding, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have to work for it.

Isn’t it strange that some of us hear that God sovereignly gives understanding, and we assume that means we need to do less? Satan teaches this kind of calculus all year round (and not just in Bible reading).

No, 2 Timothy 2:7 is far more like God’s words to Joshua before Israel entered the promised land:

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. . . . Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:8–9)

“I will be with you” didn’t mean “You won’t have to fight.” Along with his promise of help and protection, God gave Joshua a charge: “Be strong and courageous.” Fight all the harder because you know I’ll fight with you and for you.

So, when you open your Bible, be strong and courageous. God will be with you wherever you read. Don’t be discouraged or intimidated. Think harder and longer because you know the Lord loves to give you understanding.

A New Year – A New Goal

Welcome to Day One. It’s the beginning of what may seem a daunting task–to read the Bible everyday for a year. But we’d like to help us change our focus.

This is God’s Word – 66 books that He Himself wrote miraculously through 40 authors over the span of 1500 years.

If you’d like to learn more about this amazing accomplishment we recommend an article by Desiring God Ministries titled, How We Got The Bible. The author explains at length how amazing it is that we have this book at our disposal. It is the primary source of our growth in godliness. What a precious gift!

This journey we are starting today will not be easy. There will be days when we fall behind due to circumstances. God knows and understands. There is grace for the delays. I (Debi) have found many times because I was behind in my reading that I read a verse on the day when I really needed to hear it. God is leading you through this process–trust Him, even in the unexpected delays.

We invite you to comment on each blog post just to check in and let us know how your journey is progressing. Questions to consider:

  • What things has God shown you that seems fresh and new?
  • How has this reading been challenging?
  • How has this reading been comforting?
  • How can we pray for you?

It’s also not too late for anyone to join us. Feel free to encourage your family and/or friends. As you know any road trip is best when shared. Route 66 is an ancient road with so much to discover. We can’t wait to see what God reveals to us all.

Let the journey begin…

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God[a] may be complete, equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV

We also wanted to share with you those who have joined us on this year-long journey. Most are from Metro. And we just want to reiterate how excited we are to do this together. Glory to God!

  • Shane and Ardon Kahout
  • Elyse Rawlson
  • Diane Geraci
  • Eric and Cheryl Grotke
  • Eric and Angie Mendez
  • Dave and Brenda Olson
  • Kelly and Barbara Kester
  • Bitsy Dupree
  • Christina Higley
  • Marie Howard
  • Dom and Erin Trawick
  • Danny and Melodye Jones
  • Tom and Debi Walter
  • Emily Jessee
  • Peggy Kennedy

Kindling A Love For God’s Word – An Invitation for Metro Life Church in 2023

Kindling wood is purposeful. It provides fuel to start a fire or fresh fuel to stir up a dwindling fire.

Likewise in our walk with the Lord, we need to kindle the fire of our hearts on a regular basis. This happens best when we read, meditate and study the Bible. Think of each verse as a small but ready piece of kindling to stir the embers in our relationship with God.

The thing is, no one can do this for us. It is a personal pursuit that requires commitment on good days and fortitude on more challenging days. Most of all it’s accountability through relationships which helps us most.

This is why we are inviting all members of Metro Life Church who wish to kindle the flames of passion for God’s Word to join us.

If you are still reading, here is how it will work…

  • Sign up to receive this blog via email. This will be a gentle reminder when there is a new post to read.
  • Choose a reading plan – it can be 365 Day read through the Bible plan, or choose several throughout the year. The goal is to read the Bible every day in 2023. Tom and I are using the You Version app and have selected M’Cheyne One Year Reading Plan. (See the bottom of this post for a link to this plan.)
  • Comment on this post telling us you’re accepting our invitation and which plan you will use.
  • We will begin on January 1st, but you can begin any day in January if you’re getting a late start. Just finish your plan by next year on the same date.
  • Feel free to share what inspires, challenges or convicts you. The goal is to help us stay the course and allow the Holy Spirit to change us for His glory.

Most of all this is the place to gather around the fire to warm our souls and deepen our relationships.

Tom and I hope you’ll join us. At the end of the year we will have a celebration to thank God for what He did in us all throughout 2023.

Super Bowl Players Share Their Love For The Bible

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I’m always on the look out for things to help me in my walk with the Lord and studying His Word. You Version is an excellent tool to help you stay connected to God through His Word no matter where you are. With today being Super Bowl Sunday, I thought you would enjoy hearing from several of the players as they share with us how You Version has helped them.

What tools have you found helpful? Won’t you tell us?

A New Year, A New Plan

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I realize that it is January 8th, and I have yet to post anything here about the new year. I apologize. We have been facing unusual circumstances in our family, and it has left me out of sync. But not when it comes to my personal devotions.

I’ve been reading God’s Word each year for a long time. Some years I have read it through beginning to end. Some years I have broken it up and read the Old Testament alone or the New Testament alone. This past year I read a different method that had me reading through 4 separate parts of the Bible each day–and I must say I loved it.

But this year is different.

I believe the Lord is going to direct me each day where He wants me to focus my reading. I want to take more time to enjoy Him, not just His Word. I don’t know about you, but often each morning I awake with a worship song on my heart. I’ve always thought of this as God singing over me fresh mercy as I sleep. Many times the song is vaguely familiar, and I have to look up the lyrics. I usually discover words that are exactly what I needed to hear.

Our God is personal like that. He knows our every need before we do. The problem is we aren’t always asking or listening.

So this year I want to hone my listening skills. I want to read what He wants me to read. And as an aid to what I’m reading in the Bible, I’m also reading commentaries by Charles Spurgeon, one of my all-time favorite pastors and teachers, to help me dig deeper into the meaning of the text.

What are you reading this year? Have you found fresh mercy as you’re digging deeper into His Word? Won’t you share your part of traveling this ancient road? I’d love to hear from you and be encouraged.

 

10 Reasons You Should Memorize Scripture

I recently read an excellent article on the importance of Bible memorization. To be honest, I have not purposed to practice this discipline. But after reading this article, I’m compelled to do so, not from guilt but for my good.

I encourage you to read it for yourself and see if it has the same effect on your desires.

10 Reasons To Memorize Large Portions Of Scripture

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The Final Day of 2013

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It’s so rewarding when you finally reach your destination after a long trip on the road. I know we haven’t kept in contact this year as much as in the past, but I’ve prayed for you on your journey as often as the Lord brought you to mind.

This year was a different journey for me. And I didn’t complete my goal, but I did finish what I believe God said to me throughout the year. I’ll share it with you at our annual celebration dinner.

If you didn’t finish your initial goal, I pray you aren’t discouraged. God is in the delays.

Please comment and let me know how your year has gone. Details will follow about our dinner.

Happy New Year!

First National Bank of The Grace Of God

Banner Credit: www.eyeonannapolis.net
Banner Credit: http://www.eyeonannapolis.net

On any road trip it’s always good to have enough money to pay for your expenses. This is what keeps you going–literally. Without cash we stay home! Or we look for our bank along the way to make a needed withdrawal.

What about our journey on this ancient road? Where are the banks, so to speak, along the way where we can make needed withdrawals if our funds are getting low?

I believe the bank we draw from is the Grace of God. It’s so easy for our journey to become more about checking off our assigned reading for the day, than it is about what we’ve been given. It’s the grace of God that teaches us to say no to ungodliness. It’s His grace that fuels a right motivation to read His Word in the first place. And it’s that same grace that picks us up when we’re tempted to just go home and call it quits.

What’s in your wallet today? Is it full of evidences of God’s grace? Or are you carrying around receipts of regret? May I encourage you to clean out those receipts, make a withdrawal from God for as much as you need to get back on the journey. It doesn’t matter if you’re behind, because God is never late. He’s always right on time, even when we don’t see it.

Only three months left on this year’s journey. Won’t you take a minute to share with us the view out your window? I hear the weather is going to cool down a bit, making our journey all the more enjoyable.