Studying Scripture

In the many years I have been a Christian, there have been three distinct ways I have studied Scripture. One has been by using a devotional book which usually has verses of Scripture related to the topics covered. I have then gone and looked at the verses themselves in my Bible.  The second has been to attend a Bible study and listen to what the instructor had to say about the Bible. And the third, which I have started becoming consistent with in the last few years, is to read Scripture myself and record my thoughts on what the chapters and verses were saying to me.

I studied the book of Psalms in this way last year and have hundreds of journal pages recorded with the knowledge God imparted to me. I thought I would try something different this year as it would serve two purposes for me–one, recording my thoughts on what I was studying, and two, topics for this blog. So, for the next several weeks, I’m going to be recording my reflections here on what I’m studying in Scripture.  My hope is that what I have to say would be of some value to the people reading this blog, and that you all would find ways to grow in your own knowledge of Scripture.

God’s blessings on you all today!

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The Least of These

Matthew 25:35-40

” ‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ ”

Many of us are familiar with this passage where Jesus is speaking to His disciples. It is one of the fundamental tenets of Christianity — serving others in Jesus’ name. And it’s something that’s fairly easy to see when we’re doing the kind of work indicated in the passage. Feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, going into the prisons.

There’s one place though that it might not be so easy to see the least of these. That place would be in our own churches, the people sitting next to us. Now, the question might be asked. How are the people sitting next to us the “least of these”? They don’t look like they’re hungry; they don’t look like their sick; they are generally wearing clothes (and if they’re not, your church might have a whole other set of problems, lol). All kidding aside though, the people sitting next to us might need someone to say, “I love you,” to say, “Jesus loves you,” or to just give them a hug. Sometimes I think we take it for granted that the people who sit in our churches don’t need to hear this spoken out loud. But, they do. They most certainly do. It might be the only hug they get that week; the only interaction they get with someone who truly cares; or the only indication that they’re not alone.

See, this has happened to me. I have been in churches where no one has interacted with me during the whole service, where I have felt overwhelmed by pain. I know God loves me, but to hear it spoken by fellow Christians helps me to know I’m not alone. It’s part of being the hands and feet of Jesus, of letting others see Jesus in you. And I’m just as guilty as anyone else. I will go into my church, go to where I usually sit, and not interact with anyone during the whole service. Or if I interact with people, it will be the customary greetings of “Hi, how are you?” and not make a point of expressing how I really feel. I want to be different. I don’t want to be a passive participant. I want to look at the people around me and show Jesus’ love to them, by word and by hug, and to let them know they’re not alone.

I will end with the lyrics to this song by Kari Jobe. It is a song that has touched me to the very core this week and helped me to realize I’m not alone.

“When I walk through deep waters
I know that You will be with me
When I’m standing in the fire
I will not be overcome
Through the valley of the shadow
I will not fear

I am not alone
I am not alone
You will go before me
You will never leave me

In the midst of deep sorrow
I see Your light is breaking through
The dark of night will not overtake me
I am pressing into You
Lord, You fight my every battle
And I will not fear

You amaze me
Redeem me
You call me as Your own

You’re my strength
You’re my defender
You’re my refuge in the storm
Through these trials
You’ve always been faithful
You bring healing to my soul”

God’s blessings on you today!

 

The Meaning of the Sabbath

In Genesis 2:2-3 it says, “By the seventh day God completed His work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work that He had done. God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, for on it He rested from His work of creation.”

Have you ever thought about what this truly means? Rest. God rested from the work He had done. There are many examples of how people have interpreted this. The Old Testament has lists of what could and could not be done on the Sabbath by the Jewish people. In the nineteenth century, there were people who didn’t do any physical work on Sundays and who didn’t go anywhere either. They rested. And then we come to today. We consider going to church our Sabbath duty and after we come home, we do all the “work” we weren’t able to do during the week or we run around and do whatever activity comes to mind and call it rest.

There are some who would say these are all cultural changes, and, of course, we are still honoring the Sabbath Day by what we do on Sundays. I’m not so sure. What about the waitress who works in the restaurant where we have lunch? What about the grocery story clerk?  What about the nurse in the hospital? And here’s the big one, what about our church staffs? Is Sunday a day of rest for them? These are challenging questions. Sometimes I get to the end of the day on Sunday and wonder why I am so tired if this day is supposed to be a day of rest.

A little while ago, I read something that has the potential to answer this question. God doesn’t want us to have a list of dos and don’ts about the Sabbath. And I think it doesn’t really matter to Him what we do or don’t do on Sunday although a break from responsibilities is nice. No, he wants us to abide in Him always.

The term that was used in my devotional resonated with me, and it helped me come to a deeper understanding. This term is “soul Sabbath – a settled, deep stillness, a quiet relaxation in body and soul.” I had never heard it before, but it makes sense to me.  Experiencing a “soul Sabbath”  is the same as abiding in God which is what all of us who profess faith are supposed to do. It is also the hardest place to get to in having faith. God wants this for us though as demonstrated by Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-29.

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  Lord, this my prayer for all of us.

God’s blessings on you all today!

Steady Faith versus Mountain-Top Faith

After reading my devotion,  I had some thoughts on these different kinds of faith. Mountain-top faith is usually a faith we all experience when we first experience Christ as Savior. It can also be experienced on retreats we might go on as well as any other situation that brings us into close contact with God.

But, what about the faith that’s there, day in and day out. The faith when you experience financial reversal. The faith when cancer or any other serious illness is diagnosed.  The faith when the dish washer is broken or the child is out of control. I consider this kind of faith a steady faith. This is not a faith I have mastered. I have to work on it every day. I have to get up out of bed and make the choice to have faith in my Lord and Savior no matter what happens.

This kind of faith is spoken of often in Scripture. One of my favorite examples is in Matthew 17:20 where Jesus is speaking. “He replied, ‘Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.’ ” Faith as “small as a mustard seed”. My faith is that small sometimes. But Jesus says that is all that is needed.

Another example would be in 2 Corinthians 5:7.  “For we live by faith, not by sight.”  I am learning more and more about this every day as I walk through the days of my life holding my Savior’s hand.

Ephesians 2:8, one of the verses this blog is based on, is another example. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”  Faith, not just for the mountain-top, but for always. I thank God every day for the miracle He has given me–for the grace and for the faith.

And finally, 2 Timothy 4:7, a verse that is said often at funerals. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Our lives here on this earth are not meant to be perfect.  That comes later.  But, the faith we display here may make the difference that is needed in someone else’s life.  I pray I display that faith for someone today.

God’s blessings on you today!