He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Psalm 40:3a

Monday, January 30, 2017

Speed Reading God's Word

                 “I’ve been working on speed reading,” said my friend.  “It’s amazing how people can read a book in a day!  I want to be able to do that!”

                  “Seriously?” I asked.  “How can anyone who speed reads really understand what they are reading?  I’ve heard people say that “speed reading” really isn’t possible; at least not for comprehension.”

                  “But I’ve got to try,” countered my friend.  “There are so many books I want to read and I just don’t have the time.”

                  “Well, good luck with that,” I said.  “I’ve found the only way I can understand what I’m reading is to really “read it, one word at a time!”

                  Those who would take on the challenge of speed reading miss out on more than gleaning two or three words out of a paragraph can give them.  Getting the “gist” of a story is not nearly as engaging as reading to gain understanding of feelings and all the emotions that descriptive words can convey. It seems this technique would create more questions than answers in an informative article; and when reading for pleasure, that would not be “pleasure” since words are what forms the pictures in our minds.

                  Sometimes, even as Believers, because of our various, very busy lifestyles we “speed read” through God’s Word.  We scan the paragraphs (if it’s a devotion with an anecdote), or verses, looking for information we probably already know and feel that since we have the “gist” of what a verse or even several verses say, -- especially if we are familiar with the passage from our childhood SS class—we’ve got it! 

                  Very often, however, that is not the case.  Oh sure, we may know the verse, maybe even be able to recite it, but do we know, when we “speed read,” what the Lord is saying to us at that time?  God uses His Word to speak to us.  A specific passage doesn’t always tell us the same thing.  Depending on what is happening in our lives at that moment, the message may change, become clearer and set us in a direction we had never even considered before.

                  God’s Words are timeless.  There is so much to understand.  It isn’t possible to know it all!  Consider how many times you’ve heard a sermon on the same topic.  Perhaps it’s several verses from the Creation story, the Parables, the end times, Abraham leaving his home country, the Gospel and on and on!  Each time you hear it, you have the potential to glean something different.  That is partly because your faith walk (in theory) changes daily because you grow, but also because whomever is preaching the sermon can have a completely different perspective on the subject!

                  Even recently I have been listening to sermons on a subject I felt I knew reasonably well.  The perception of the Pastor has been completely different than I’ve ever heard before.  That causes me to stop, and often after the service dig deeper into God’s Word to understand.  We are even instructed by God to check to see that those who are teaching us are Biblical.  So sometimes, questions are good!

                  But my point is, speed reading is not a good method to gain understanding from any book.  But it’s especially a bad choice when the reading material is the Bible.  So, I encourage you to pick up God’s Love Letters and read them like you understand He wrote those letter to you; like you would if it had been your spouse who sent you a special message.  It’s the best reading you’ll ever do! 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Grant Us Power

      A friend of mine some years ago, learned her cancer was gone.  The doctors called it a miracle. It had to be.  She was given only weeks to live and instead she was healed.  There were many people, friends and family, all over the United States praying for her through prayer chains, prayer services, and regular church services.      

There is power in prayer when many pray together.  The believers in Acts prayed be able to speak with boldness to others about the saving power of Jesus.  They wanted heart and strength to stand against anyone and anything that would try to deter them.  The Believers knew that Jesus was alive and well, yet there were many who didn’t believe the Messiah had yet even come!  They knew they would face ridicule, mockery, and persecution because of their beliefs and wanted to make sure they could stand steadfast, and solid as a rock no matter what outside force would oppose them. 

            God worked in people’s lives long before my friend, or those in Acts.  God worked in the lives of Abraham, Jacob, Joseph and many others, like Moses.  God was there when Moses was leading the Israelites out of Egypt, and faced with battle against the Amalekites.  Moses told Joshua he would hold up his rod as “the staff of God in his hands” during the battle.  As long as Moses held up his rod, the Israelites were triumphant.  When his rod was lowered, the Amalekites would gain control.  His arm became tired, so Aaron and Hur helped by supporting his arms.  In this way, the rod remained up and the Israelites obtained victory.  With God in the forefront, Moses, Aaron and Hur worked together to obtain the same goal:  that God would prevail and He did.   (See Exodus 17:8-12)

God wants to work in our lives much the same way. God gave the Believers in Acts the power to work together for the good of all and speak boldly because they prayed together and asked for God’s hand on, and in their lives.  Their prayer was like the rod Moses held.  Their mission of service was directly in front of them.  God is willing to give us the same power when we ask, especially when we are in unity with other believers to reach the same end, and if we are willing to accept it.

In the same way that Moses, Aaron and Hur worked together to hold the rod high, trusting God and following His directives and like the Believers in Acts, we need to do the same thing.  When we do, we can see “miracles” happen in and through our lives.  When we as Christians, pray together in one accord, we are working for his Kingdom.  Our prayers allow us to be mindful of others, and promotes growth and opportunities to boldly tell others about His love.  

I challenge you to first be in prayer in your personal lives, and then pair with another person or several on a regular basis to pray jointly.  I encourage you to join with others to pray with Believers in a fellowship setting.   Our country and world, neighborhoods, communities and families are in dire need. God will grant us power when we pray. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Beautiful Feet

          When my children were babies, it gave me great joy to kiss those beautiful little feet as they would giggle with delight. A friend of mine recently was reflecting on the verse in Romans that talks about the idea of the “beautiful feet of those who preach the Gospel.” (Romans 10:15)   He remarked that when he thought of feet, he visualized bunions, scars, dry skin, arthritis, worn and tired ones.  Never beautiful!

            One of the things my mother-in-law remarked about me when she first saw me over forty years ago when I was barefoot, was my long toes. It was comical really, because I loved going barefoot, and even though she’d seen them many times over the next four decades, still she would comment.  It made me a little self-conscious, but not so much I chose to hide them.

            We are each given “beautiful feet” with which to spread the Gospel of Christ.  How we perceive our “feet,” in light of this verse, ultimately is how we perceive our abilities, since our abilities are an extension of our personalities.  Even if our “feet” are covered with bunions, we can move forward.  Our “bunions” –those things in our lives considered trials or perhaps something in our lives that needed correcting because it went against God’s teaching, or just something you don’t like, makes our story unique, as do our scars.  

           The situations in which we found ourselves over the years, good or bad, has caused us to grow. Our responses to elements in our lives to those circumstances, molded us and changed us to become the person we are.  Our personal story is what we can share with others as we minister.  God has provided these conditions that are different from others we know, because it enables us to have empathy with someone who is going through a similar situation.

            We may not even know the impact we have on someone else.  It can happen in the grocery store, doctor’s office, at work or at the bus stop.  When we share our heart with someone who is willing to listen, we form relationships.  These interactions are a perfect opportunity to share our faith.  That is the idea behind using our “feet” to share the Gospel. Our “feet,” –personalities, abilities or circumstances put us there.

            By using our personal stories to connect with others, due to where we are, how we feel, our experiences and particular personalities; despite our scars, pain, arthritis and worn bodies, we are sharing Christ.  We are making ourselves vulnerable with love and understanding to others.  But by making ourselves vulnerable, others can see our hearts and see Christ in our lives.  We don’t need to bash someone over the head with the Gospel, but we do need to be honest about our faith in our lives to others, and let God’s light shine through.

            I challenge you to reflect on your own “feet.”  Where are they taking you?  Are you using your “feet” – your abilities—to further God’s Kingdom right where you are?  Do you allow others to see your scars, “bunions,” arthritis and pain?