Monday, March 25, 2013

Life Changing Words

This collection of literary genius, my latest read, is a true gift to readers of all ages.  Multiple authors come together in 66 books to expose real, vulnerable, multi-faceted people and their timeless stories of God's omnipotent and omnipresent love, mercy, and grace.  The words are holy, sacred, and healing, sure to captivate readers and keep them on the edge of their seats with magnificent drama and redemption.  The poignant life and death of Jesus Christ is pivotal to the plot.  The Holy Spirit will certainly capture and work on the hearts and souls of those who come to know and believe in Him, transforming lives.  All things are possible with God, both in this book and now, especially miracles!

The best selling book I am reviewing for you is the Bible, and I am not making this stuff up.  It's truly a must read for people from all walks of life.  I can say that without hesitation.  I was one of those people who had "Sunday school" kind of Bible knowledge, and I was okay with 
that, or at least I thought I was.  I knew the classic stories because I had heard them so 
many times from so many different people throughout my life.  At some point as I got older and realized how hard it is to be a grown up, I started reading a few favorite daily devotionals (more on that in another post) and looking up the scriptures that went along with them.  Other times when I felt like my circumstances were too much for me to handle, I would search for passages that could speak to my situation and give me comfort.  I was just kind of getting my feet wet, not really diving in.  And, I do think that's a good way to get started.

Something changed, though, along the way.  The more I tested the waters, the more I wanted to read and learn.  The Bible is a real page turner in its own right.  The water felt so good.  I couldn't help but dive in.  The question is, what took me so long?  What had been holding me back?  What is it that kept me from reading one of the best selling books of all time?

Even though I don't like admitting it, I have to call it like it is.  My own excuses were holding me back, but I think that's important to examine in growing in my faith.  I let myself fall victim to false advertising, distorting my perspective on the Bible, and its necessary place in my life.  Part of my problem was poor promotional consideration in evaluating some not so great religious experiences I had growing up.  Awkward and vivid run ins with "Bible pushers" shoving their religion down my throat, claiming the Lord was speaking through them scared me.  I was also troubled by the gap I could see between so many who talk about The Word while their life choices fail to reflect God's love.  At times I even wondered if the book was all it's cracked up to be; and if it was, could I really live up to it?  If I am honest, I worried about falling short of God's expectations.  Another issue was my lack of knowledge.  I grew up in a home that believed in God and loved him but it was a "special occasion" and "sometimes on Sundays" kind of faith we practiced.  God was not a part of everyday life and conversation, so I wasn't sure if or how the Bible applied to me in the here and now.  After all, the words are ancient, funny sounding, often confusing, and some of the customs were so weird back then.  I didn't know how to read it or where to start.  What if I didn't get it?  Where would that leave me, I feared?  My third issue was my insistence on self-righteous independence and honest hard work leading to success, tricking me into believing that I was doing okay.  That misconception made me extremely driven, but left little time for really using and appreciating the literary masterpiece we have in the Bible.  In letting all of these excuses justify not getting "too into" reading the Bible, I was inadvertently suggesting I could be a faithful Christian without it, on my own.  I am so thankful for this "ahh-ha" moment because faith on my own isn't faith at all, is it?

It would be nearly impossible to make it through life without running into some false advertising, some not-so-good religious experiences, and some stubborn self-righteous independence in our faith journeys.  We just have to work through them so they don't become barriers in the road to a stronger everyday faith.  What draws each of us to God is unique to the person God created us to be, and we should celebrate that, not be afraid or embarrassed by it!  

In talking about the Bible, my mom puts it this way, "This book is the best therapy around!"  
This is so true.  I just had to let go of my fears and give God the benefit of the doubt.  He knows what he is talking about, and he will work wonders.   Here's what I did to get started.  Again, I am just sharing.  You have to figure out what works for you...
  1. Make a daily commitment.  Only you know what that means.  That is individual, between you and God.  For me, I told you, I have a cup of coffee with God every morning, FiRST thing.  I read a few favorite devotionals, then I spend the rest of my time reading a few chapters from a book in the Bible.  My goal is to read the Bible in a year cover to cover, but there are lots of other ways to do it.  You could center your scripture reading around a daily devotional or a specific focus.  For more reading plans, you can check out those offered at Bible Gateway. 
  2. Pray first.  I say a prayer before I read and ask God to be with me.  That way, I am inviting God in, giving him room to work from the start.  My prayer changes day to day but it sounds something like this: 
  3. Dear God,
    Please be with me now as I read your holy word in the Bible.  Fill me with your spirit and speak to my soul. Use your words to help me know your will for me.  Bless the meditations of my heart, the words of my mouth, and the works of my hands that they might be acceptable in your sight.  You are my rock and my redeemer. 
    In the name of Christ, I pray,
  4. Take note.  I listen to the words and think about them as I read.  I highlight phrases, or themes that stand out or speak to me.  I also make notes about questions and thoughts that come to mind, and I try to relate characters or events in the stories to things happening in my life and around the world today.  I read and reread key phrases.  Everything doesn't always make sense right away.  Sometimes it takes a few hours or days to process the fullness of what I read.  In the meantime, I do some research to figure out the things I don't understand (more on that in another post).
Do you know what happens for me?  When I started reading the Bible with God this way, I was able to grasp how applicable these ancient words are to helping me make choices and decisions day to day.  And that friends, is the whole point of everyday faith!

The Bible is real people, not perfect people, like you and me, sharing their walks with God, people who were willing to open up about their faith journeys.  Read through Deuteronomy 6: 3-9 today, and see if you can relate to the words of Moses when he speaks to the Israelites.  They had just been through 40 years of some really hard stuff in the wilderness, trials like you wouldn't believe.  God used this season of hardship or unrest to draw them closer to him, prove his abundant love, and show his power and glory.  How many of us have been able to see God at work during some of our hardest times?  Moses is basically reminding his fellow people (and us) not to be fooled into forgetting God when our season of hardship is over, when time goes by and life is good.

Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you.  Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.

God is telling us, through Moses, exactly how to live our lives.  This scripture you just read is the biblical basis for everyday faith.  I want to read the Bible so I can pass on an everyday faith to my children and their children, and their children's children.  God's words are "life to those who find them." (Proverbs 4:22).

My prayer for today-

Heavenly Father,
I thank you for your Holy Bible.  Forgive me for all the ways I have avoided your Word in my life.  I pray you will be with me each and every time I read the Bible, filling me with your Holy Spirit.  Work in me so that your words change my life and help me grow closer to you in an everyday faith.
In Jesus' name I pray,

I hope this blog blesses you each time you take the time to read it!   
May the peace and joy of Christ be with you until next time,

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