Truths flapping in the breeze …

We all like for things to end well. A book, a movie, or a story pleases us when it ends warmly. We like resolution, especially resolution that makes us happy. This allows us to tidy up the story, smile, and walk away.

Bible reading isn’t like that. We can never bring the Truth to resolution. Instead, it un-resolves us. God’s Word takes us apart, then stitches us back together, not in ways that we determine, or appreciate, at times. It’s this work in us that makes us more like Christ, whole, joyful. Those three are themes in the book of Philippians. Philippians is rich in truth for daily living. Truth that undoes us, then re-does us (yes, I know that is bad grammar, but it seems the best way to state it.). Let’s gather up the bits that we have whittled on in our month-long study of Philippians:

Chapter One:

  • We are to be thankful.
  • We are to “partner” in God’s work with others — pastors, fellow believers, your church.
  • We are to trust God as He does His sanctifying work in us, and submit to Him as He does.

Chapter Two:

  • We are to look out for fellow believers.
  • We are to surrender to God’s work in us. (There’s that one again … hmmmm)
  • We are to pour ourselves out for others.

Chapter Three:

  • We are to rejoice — find joy and contentment, and express it — in all things.
  • We are to forget the past and press on to the future. We do this through Christ, our Redeemer, Forgiver, Sustainer, and Power.

Chapter Four:

  • We are to seek unity in Christ.
  • We are to grow in knowing peace in Christ.
  • We are to develop strength in Christ.

Each of those truths alone stand out as day, week, or life-changing. As we survey them we see that they are made of solid granite, yet dripping with mercy. God wants us to live them out. By His grace and the power of His Spirit we can. As we close the study of Philippians there is an important application to make: As each of these truths flap and snap on the clothesline in our hearts and minds we must resist the urge to unclip them, fold them crisply, sort them into neat stacks, and put them away. Tucking truth away is a sure way to spiritual stagnation. We must allow the truths we learn to hold our attention.

We must restrain ourselves from seeking to resolve the truths of God’s Word or conform them to our wishes. They cannot be tamed, or domesticated. Let the truth roust and rough-house about with you. Let it do it’s firm, yet merciful, transforming work in you. As God’s Word rubs hard on us, pricks us, and nudges us, we change; we grow; we become more like Christ.

Thank you for being a part of this “virtual” study. My prayer and goal for this study has been to offer a small ray of light on this book. I hope that it has been helpful to you. I have not yet settled on our next study. So, stayed tuned. We will take a week or so off and then begin to walk through another short book of the Bible together.

Thanks again for reading along, your feedback, and comments. Catch your breath, we will begin another study in a week, or so. And, remember to let the loose ends of the truth dance in the wind …

Your past will fade and your shackles will weaken …

In chapter three of Philippians Paul is opening the vault revealing his innermost moviations. What Paul shares divides the chapter into five small sections. Each section contains just a few verses, but each of them are industrial grade in strength.

Chapter two instructed us to look beyond ourselves, love others, and sacrifically serve others; that prepares us precisely for chapter three. Chapter three points us to Christ. — knowing Him now and looking for His return.

Outline: Believers should be:

  • Rejoicing: verse 1
  • Counting accurately: verses 2-11
    • Don’t count on yourself – 2-6
    • Do count on Christ – 7-11
  • Pressing on: verses 12-16
  • Watching: verses 17-19
  • Waiting: verses 20-21
  • As this chapter holds many high caliber verses, please take special note of verses 8-10 and 13-14. Each of those verses set us free from clinging to trivial things, relying upon ourselves, and aiming for the wrong things. They move us from fancying trinkets and replaying the past to loving Christ enough to forsake anything for Him and finding our freedom in Him.

    “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith – that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,” Philippians 3:8-10

    “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14

    Using the outline provided, take several, slow, measured reads through this chapter. It is a volcano of truth, ready to erupt.

    What is that sound?

    After reading, and re-reading, the second chapter of Philippians with a deliberate mind and at a slow pace you have likely felt the weight of what is being said. The 30 verses land hard on our pride, selfishness, and lack of concern for others. Let’s be honest about it. Those unbecoming qualities exist in all of our lives. All of us.

    Rich in meaning, fiercely pressing in on us, those 30 verses can alter your day, week, or life.

    Rather than pecking out three or four hundred words about those 30 verses. Please review our working outline for the chapter, go back and read chapter two again, then ask yourself the questions at the end of this post:

    The Outline:

    Being like Christ requires:

    • Looking out for others – verses 1-11
    • Surrendering to God’s work in us – verses 12-16
    • Pouring ourselves out for Him and others – verses 17-30

    The sound you are about to hear is your pride tripping, tumbling down a long flight of stairs, landing with a dull thud, and whimpering on the floor on a crumpled rug.

    The Questions:

    1. Do you really want to be like Christ? What are you willing to do to become more like Him? Are you ready for less TV, less social media, more quiet time reading the Bible, more time serving others, and more sacrifice for others? Take a moment, write down whatever comes to mind. Then, take some more time and ask God to show you what needs to decrease and what must increase for you to become more like His Son.

    2. Are you actively struggling against God’s work in you or surrendering fully — by the way, partial surrender is well-camouflaged rebellion — to Him and His desires for you? Will you read His Word actively looking for ways to yield to Him and fight against self, self-sufficiency, and self-preservation?

    3. How will you pour yourself out for someone else this week for Christ?

    The 30 verses of Philippians chapter two and the questions they require are awaiting an answer. That sound you hear now is the text standing beside you, tapping it’s foot …

    This one will stick with you …

    As an astute reader, you have noticed that there are some repetitive themes in the Book of Proverbs. The reason for the repetition is to re-emphasize important points. It is one of the techniques used in the wisdom books of the Old Testament (Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes). It is used in this chapter. To highlight the effectiveness of this technique (and to make it stick with you), here is a present day equivalent used by mothers from Arkansas (or other parts of the South):

    Scenario: A mother calling to her children to come in from playing for dinner.

    First attempt: “Babies, y’all please come in and eat.”

    Second attempt: “Y’all need to come in, wash up, and eat supper.”

    Third attempt: “Are y’all deaf? I ain’t screaming out of this kitchen window just to hear myself make noise. Get your butts in this house, wash your grubby little hands, or I will come out in the yard and drag you in to eat. I didn’t stand here slaving over this stove so y’all could ignore me.”

    Last attempt: “Do you hear me? DO you hear me? DO YOU hear me? DO YOU HEAR ME?” “These kids are killing me,” she mumbles as she stomps back into the house.

    Like a frustrated mom, Solomon uses repetition to drive the point home.

    It’s time to play short summaries of important verses:

    • Verse 4 – The ungodly have ears that itch to hear troublesome talk. And, their mouths will run in overdrive to spread it.
    • Verse 5 – Never take pleasure in someone’s difficulty. God knows when we do, and He doesn’t care for it at all.
    • Verse 9a – Friends do not keep score of wrongs. If they keep score, they are not your friends.
    • Verse 9b – The wicked gossip in order to separate friends. When have you ever met a gossiper spreading good tidings as a way of uniting people?
    • Verse 10- You can whisper wisdom to the upright, but you cannot beat it into a fool.
    • Verse 14 – Shutting off the spigot of strife stops trouble. Extra tidbit – Gossip turns the spigot on full stream.
    • Verse 27 – A person of discernment speaks little and stays calm. Ahem, the opposite is true: fools overreact and can’t shut up. Which do you do? This one stings us all a bit.
    • Verse 28 – The best way for a fool to go unnoticed is to keep his mouth shut. Oddly enough, they can’t keep their mouths shut.

    There is not a memory verse alert that I recommend today. You might want to go back and look at yesterday’s verse. It is one of the best ones in the entire Book of Proverbs.

    I hope that today’s post made you smile, smirk, or blow some iced tea out of your nose from laughing. Verse 22 says:

    “A joyful heart is good medicine …”

    Some versions translate “joyful heart” as “merry heart” or “laughter.” I wanted to offer you a dose of the elixir of laughter. It cures many ailments, and helps those around us too. Give it a try …

    Simeon’s example…

    With Christmas speeding down the rails, let’s take a moment and look back at an often over-looked scene of Jesus’ arrival.  Please take a moment and read Luke 2:22-35; really, go ahead, read slowly. Read it out loud — use your indoor Bible-reading voice please — and soak it in. There, now that you have read it, let’s take the narrative apart so that it can assemble for us an up-close portrait of the Christ-child. Here are some of the notables of the narrative that will guide you as you study through this stirring passage.

     

    In Luke 2:25 we meet an older fellow named Simeon. He is found nowhere else in the New Testament. His single inclusion in Scripture is brief, but it is one that will moisten your eyes.

     

    First, Simeon was a fellow who knew God. Many know about God; Simeon knew Him. The introduction to Simeon shows this in verse 25. He was a resident of Jerusalem who greatly anticipated the arrival of the Messiah, was led by the Spirit of God, and was godly and devout. It’s worth noting that the folks to whom God revealed the birth and identity of Jesus were not mainline religious folks. The on-the-fringe folks — magi from the East, shepherds, Joseph and Mary (carpenter and his young wife), Simeon, and a very unique 84 year old lady named Anna — were the ones who received Jesus’ birth announcement.

     

    The point here — a serrated point nonetheless — is that the folks who should have been ready to recognize Jesus didn’t, not at all. They swung and missed. They were busy steeping in self-righteousness and marinating in man-made rules. To bring it to the present, almost all “good church folk” nowadays would have missed Jesus due to thier serving on committees, crafting new bylaws of behavior for others to follow, and congratulating one another on their own acumen in doing both. Instead, some farmers, a handful of foreigners (somehow they made it made it over Donald Trump’s “wall.”), an old fellow, and a very Pentecostal-like 84 year old would have recognized Jesus first. Ouch.

     

    Second, and to advance the previous point, Simeon had ears to hear what God had said and was saying (verse 26). Jesus frequently stated, “he who has ears to hear (God’s Word), let him hear.” There is a reason that he said that, and said it a lot of times to lots of people. Simeon had ears to hear God. He listened; he heard; he believed. It goes in that order.

     

    Third, Simeon had eyes to see what God was doing (verse 27-28). He had listened, heard God, and believed Him. Then, he saw. It goes in that order. When he saw Jesus he knew who and what He was. He did so instantly. How? Simeon ears were perked to hear and his eyes were focused to see through sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. Notice that Simeon went to the temple “in the Spirit.” This was his normal practice. Verse 25 states that “the Holy Spirit was upon him.” This was his usual spiritual state.  In what “spirit” do you go to worship? What is your usual spiritual state? We tend to think that going to church will help us to become Spirit-filled, and it can, but shouldn’t we first arrive there packed-to-the-gills full of the Spirit? We know the painful answer, don’t we.

     

    Fourth, Simeon’s faith finally held its long-awaited object. When by enduring faith he received God’s promise worship welled up and poured out publicly. His faith had been based on God’s Word to him. His peace (verse 29) had been based upon God’s promise to him. At last his faith and peace were woven together in realization through recognition of the Messiah. And, he got to hold the Messian with his owns hands.

     

    Lastly, Simeon’s worship of Jesus introduced others to Him. Notice the roles of and titles for Jesus that Simeon revealed to others: Savior (verse 30), Light for revelation to the Gentiles (32), Glory for Israel (32), Messiah (32). He recognized Jesus and aptly told others about him through praise. This passage is referred to as “Simeon’s Psalm.” In light of that, the question must be asked … if Simeon’s words and worship revealed Jesus, then what do our words of public worship reveal? Honestly, much of our worship highlights how we feel, what we think, and what we like about God. It focuses on God through the lens of our thoughts and feelings toward Him. Re-read that. Once more, please. We are not good lenses. Scripture is the perfect lens. Simeon’s worship was Scripture-dense and Spirit-loaded. Ours is often experience-based and situation-soaked. Here’s a quick test:  recall and think through the words of songs that you sing at church and the lyrics of your favorite Christian songs. Do those lyrics burst with Scripture or bleat out about feelings? Count the use of “I, me, and my” in them and that will distill out the answer.

     

    In closing, this short just-after-Christmas story found in Luke 2 shows that your personal spiritual walk must be Scripture-filled if you are to truly know God and see Him at work. Then, it should fuel your worship so that the spotlight rests on Jesus and His greatness, not on your thoughts or feelings — both of which may be non-Scriptural — about Him.

     

    Over his lifetime Simeon listened to God’s Word; he heard; he believed; he saw; he worshiped rightly. It goes in that order. Let this order our celebration of Christmas and the upcoming new year as well.

     

    Merry Christmas!

    Corrrection, please!

    The headlines over the past few weeks, namely the Vanity Fair cover photo of Bruce Jenner and the maelstrom surrounding Rachel Dolezal (the caucasian NAACP leader in Washington who has pretended to be an African-American) shows us the state of our culture, its depravity, and stupidity. When a person thinks that he or she can “declare” his or her gender or ethnic background regardless of biology, and common sense, what are we left with? Answer: A mess.

    We live in a country that thinks that all one has to do if he or she is uncomfortable with his/her place in life is to redefine it and claim it to be something that he or she likes better, or is more convenient. Jenner calls himself “trans-gender,” while Dolezal is “trans-ethnic.” With one sloppily coined statement folks think that they can alter or outright change who, or what, they are. Unhappy people making an unhappy mess.

    This is where truth comes in handy. It sets standards, teaches principles, delineates boundaries, and clarifies life. In fact, that is what our culture is seeking to undo. And, they are doing it for a reason — to remove accountability and live as they please, and in turn try to make others agree with them. They call it tolerance. I call it “trans-sense,” oops, I mean sans-sense. Better.

    I have read and studied the Book of Proverbs since I was a young Christ-follower. Two decades later I am better for having done so. I am currently digging into Proverbs in greater depth than I have before, and each morning I share a principle or application from it on Twitter (@JodySmotherman). Let me share three things about the Book of Proverbs with you. They are simple, short, yet stout, and provide a good map for the whole book.

    • The Book of Proverbs deals with two kinds of people: the wise and the foolish (though the “simple” are also mentioned as a sort of middle-ground, uninformed person who could go one way or the other. It’s usually easier to break and run for the team of fools than to work toward becoming wise).
    • The Book of Proverbs shares God’s wisdom for living with us in short statements. No long diatribes are present, just succinct statements for wise living. Bite-sized truth that will bite and hold on.
    • The Book of Proverbs shows a common theme that separates the wise from the foolish. It is found throughout the book and summarized in Proverbs 9:7-9 (read it carefully):

    “Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.” (ESV)

    It all boils down to this: the difference between the wise and the foolish is their acceptance toward and application of correction. Period. Folks who will listen to truth — whether read for themselves or shared by godly people in their lives — and appreciate it, and follow the correction that it calls them to, will grow in wisdom. The Bible says that their lives will be marked by words such as “wisdom, instruction, discretion, insight, judgment, good sense,” and much more. Those who reject truth and correction are destined to become more foolish. To summarize, in the presence of truth and correction the wise grow wiser while fools will reject both and happily wallow in their folly.

    So, the application is simple. As life unfolds, the wise will increase in wisdom while the foolish will grow more foolish, and more weird. If you keep this in mind it will help you to sort out the silliness and sordidness that surrounds us nowadays.

    Here is an example of how it might look if you were to discuss a fool’s folly with him or her:

    You: Based on what I know from the Bible, what you just did was pretty foolish (or who or whatever you just “declared” yourself to be).
    Fool: Well, I am not foolish. I will tell you what is foolish. You are foolish, and you are foolish for thinking that what I think is foolish. And furthermore, you thinking that people who do not agree with you are foolish is the new definition of foolish.”
    You: Huh? (you are really thinking that this is a fool spiraling in his senselessness, and you didn’t know what else to say).

    All of this to say that there is Truth — God’s timeless principles of right and wrong. It cuts the culture’s ego and evil right into the quick. We live in a day of excuses, blame-shifting, short-sighted wrong-headedness, and a whiny it’s-not-my-fault victim mentality. God’s Word shows truth, wrong and right, cut and dried, black and white. There’s no room for side-stepping it, or running from it. It keeps coming in a sure and steady manner … while the un-wise cavort about in their soul-blinding, self-deceiving slop.

    Here’s a helpful tidbit in closing, when truth and wisdom are escorted out of the life of a person or a culture, the next to exit will be principles, then reason, and then substance. If you wonder why some people, or our nation’s culture, have helter-skelter, up-and-down, superficial ways … Proverbs shows you why that is the case.

    Now, you can see that their nonsense makes perfect sense to them. And, to the contrary, that God’s sense makes no sense to them…

    It had slipped by…

    Yesterday I was reading in John chapter 1. The Gospel of John is one of my favorite books in the Bible. Each time that I read it I gain insight, pray differently, and “sense” Christ better. Yesterday did not disappoint. As I was reading in chapter one a verse leapt off of the page. It was John 1:30:

    “29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.”

    There was a simple statement that caught me off guard: “because he was before me. I myself did not know him…”

    I don’t recall that verse ever striking me before, but it didn’t slip by yesterday. A couple of thoughts sparked. First, John the Baptist was born before Jesus, so the “he was before me,” must refer to rank and authority since Jesus is God the Son. No problem there. It was the next phrase that snared me, “I myself did not know him…” Now wait a minute. John the Baptist and Jesus were cousins. They did know each other. Since Jesus and John didn’t live time zones apart — there was no such thing back then, maybe sun-dial zones apart though —  what was being said here? Again, John was referring to more than relational knowledge of his cousin Jesus. He was referring to Jesus’ stature and role as the Messiah. That is given by the context of John declaring Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world in verse 29, and followed by the revelation of Jesus as Messiah to Israel in verse 31. Hermeneutical problem solved.

    Before I read further I took some time to ponder why this verse, and its content had not caught my attention before. I have read through the Gospel of John dozens of times, yet this verse had not ever caught my eye or attention. I wondered why it had slipped by so many times before. The simple, and overly spiritual, answer was that the Holy Spirit had not ever “impressed it” upon me during previous readings.That answer seemed to put the weight of the matter on the Spirit and serve as an excuse for me. Perhaps I am over-thinking the matter. I doubt it. Examination is a vital part of meditative reading of Scripture. So, in order to take responsiblity for not getting-a-hold-of this verse before, I jotted down some questions that helped to prompt me on how I should read the Bible. They were a sound reminder for me, and I pass them along to you:

    How am I reading the Bible?

    • Am I reading it at a nice mosey, or at a jogger’s pace?
    • Does it have my full attention, or is my attention divided among other things? A fine antidote to this is to keep a pad and pencil handy. If a stray thought about work, family, or such starts barking at you it can be chased out of the back yard of your mind by writing it down.
    • Am I reading it meditatively — soaking it in as I go — or moving along at a pace that causes me to miss things?
    • Is my mind clear, neutral, and unfettered so that the Holy Spirit can bring insight, conviction, encouragement, or show connections to other passages? Having a clear mind that is not moving in any pre-determined direction with a text creates an ideal chalkboard for God to write upon.
    • Am I eager to receive truth and insight from the passage that I am reading? We must be active readers of the Word, not passive ones; spiritual growth is never by osmosis, or Osteen, I must say.

    A walk this evening fitly illustrated all of this for me. I took Lucy, our Australian Shepherd pup, for a walk on our farm. I took her around the pond and up the first hill for a little piece. She had never been this far. She was excited. Her nubby tail vibrated.  Instead of walking at a pace that I prefered, I allowed her to walk, run, zig-zag, sniff and explore. She seemed to smell each blade of grass, pause at every sound, and quiver with excitement as she went. That’s how I should read God’s Word, and how you should too. Treat it as if it’s brand new each time, expect to see new things, and to meet the Living God.  With our spiritual ears perked, eyes widened, and noses ready we should enter the Bible like an eager pup … determined and delighted to see new things. Then, truth won’t slip by.

    Your “attending” please…

     

    Psalm 107:43 says that “whoever is wise, let him attend to these things…”

    When we think of Bible reading, or Bible study, or devotion time — what a wretchedly sugary phrase that is — we must admit that we approach the Bible with certain attitudes. At times the main root of these attitudes is demonstrated by, or described by, the word “get.”

    That is, we approach the Bible to “get.” Here are some phrases that I have heard from people over the years in regard to their Bible reading:

    • “Get something from” – this speaks to their quick flyover of a passage. It’s a synopsis style of spirituality that samples truth, or Bible browses, hoping to find a passage to “get something from” for the day. This could be likened to hens pecking around in the front yard hoping to pick up something along the way.
    • “Get something out of” – this is a little more in-depth, by an inch or so. Some actual study, or at least a smidge of mindful staring at a verse or two takes place here. An effort was made; or, some contractions were felt, but little pushing followed.
    • “Get into” – this is a phrase that is used in conjunction with a New Year’s resolution, or following a good Bible lesson at church or small group time, as in “I am going to get into the Bible this week and dig in.” What usually happens the next day is a nice sashay or jaunt through a chapter or so of the Bible, which eventually slows from there on. This type of Bible sauntering can lull one into a devotional nap, which in turn declines into a spiritual coma, until the next New Years, or good lesson at church, or such. Tragically,  it’s a case of good intentions shipwrecked upon the shores of lackadaisical island.

    Note the word common to all of these scenarios: “get.” The idea of “getting” here is one of taking possession of and carrying around something for spiritual comfort or encouragement for the week. The “getting” is usually not followed by “keeping.” Sadly. So, it is a spiritual pacifier, or salve, or wobbly crutch for the day or week.

    The idea of “getting” from the Bible is inherently an arrogant one. It assumes that God’s word is static and that things can be lifted from it for our benefit, when in truth the Bible is God’s living word that cannot be “gotten” or possessed. It takes possession of us. Not the other way around. You can get the flu or poison ivy. Those can be achieved by a person simply going to the source and making some contact. Conversely, the Bible requires more than you coming to it and making some contact for good things to happen. As a side note, if you really do read and study the Bible you will be able to avoid many diseases that are bothersome, and that cause a rash (see Leviticus).

    One of the legion of things that is wrong with this idea of a “getting” approach is that it is like a child strolling through a candy store sampling the goodies that suits his/her fancies and tastes, with little regard for anything in particular. That is, until the next brightly colored treat catches his/her eye and he/she scurries off after it. The “getting” approach is random, careless, rushed, mood-driven, and selfish. With this approach the reader — or skimmer — attempts to dictate to the Scripture by forcing it through the sieve of his or her desires or needs for that moment in order to get a quick hit of nicety or warm fuzzies.

    It usually goes like this: someone (less spiritually mature than you or me, at least for this example) is stressed, feels anxious, and can’t find a formula to reduce that anxiety. Then, the Bible is sought out as a last resort. A verse is found, latched onto because it says something positive, and the person walks away thinking that he “got” a promise from God out of this verse. The soul of this kind of person is akin to a spiritual dryer lint trap, it has lots of things passing by it, but only collects fluff — useless, but soft, colorful, and April-fresh fragranced fluff.

    Bible study is not about getting. It is about going to and soaking in God’s Word. Read Psalm 107:43. Seriously, go read it. It says that we are to “attend to” God’s Word. This phrase in the original Hebrew has the idea of keeping watch over and observing, or taking heed to for observation. Yikes. That will take some time, and thinking, and discipline. Egads.

    But, doesn’t God’s eternal Word deserve such attention? Yes, it does.

    This type of attention is similar to that which a mother gives to her sick child, an outdoorsman devotes to watching nature, a soldier dedicates to his post, and of a poet pondering over and choosing the right word. Love, wonder, commitment, and careful thought are the motives of the previous examples. That is what attending looks like. That is what God’s Word deserves … and demands. Oops.

    We are to attend to His Word. This mindful attending will lead to:

    • Guarding against sin (Psalm 119:2-3, 9, 11)
    • Gaining Wisdom (Proverbs 2:1-7)
    • Understanding His Word and dividing it rightly (2 Tim 2:15)
    • Having delight greater than riches (Psalm 119:14, 24, 35, 47)

    That only names a few of the benefits of attending to God’s Word.

    If we are wise we will alter our approach and “attend” to God’s Word, and not try to “get” from it. By attending to the Word it will alter us, and make an altar of us. The wise attend to His Word; His Word attends wisdom to them.

    Steak or vitamins?

    Welcome back to the Bearded Acorn. Here’s something that has been percolating in my mind over the past few days. It all started with a New Year’s resolution. Yes, I know that we all make them, break them, then forsake them. It’s a tired pattern.

    Oftentimes a New Year’s resolution —  also known as a New Year’s transient self-suggestion, or for the really undisciplined, a New Year’s wish-that-won’t-come true — is about a major change that we want to make. There are the usual ones such as weight loss, money management, time management, stress reduction, regular exercise, eating less cabbage, etc. These fade because major change is very difficult. So, with this in mind, I set a couple of minor goals for 2015. They are simple, and will take very little time, but will yield goodly results.

    The first goal is to do push-ups (not the orange sherbet-flavored ice cream treat for kids) three nights a week. I have to do at least three sets each session. While I won’t ever be able to compete in a body-building competition with this work out system, it will be beneficial to a 40+ guy who tries to take pretty good care of himself. In that vein, I won’t mention my goal for getting 100% of my daily fiber intake each day. But, if you are interested in the reason for it, hopeful outcomes, and ways to determine success with this goal….well, just email me.

    The second goal is small, somewhat bookish, but very beneficial. When I run across a Bible verse in my reading of Christian books that I cannot immediately recall to memory, then I will look it up, and study it.

    Why do this? Here’s why: any book written about Christ, or the Bible, is a vitamin supplement to the Christian life; the Bible is the meal. Our singular source for eternal, infallible, unchanging, living truth is God’s Word. It’s steak for the soul. In 1 Corinthians 3:2 Paul tells the believers at Corinth that he fed them with milk, not solid food (also translated as meat), because they were not ready for it yet. Ahem…look it up for yourself.

    So, here’s the point: don’t try to live on the vitamin supplements of Christian books, gorge yourself on the steak of God’s Word. Christian books are helpful, and have been invaluable to my growth as a Christ-follower. But, there is a tendency to spend more time in those books than in the Book. In sum, I want my reading in books that are secondary to the Bible to drive me back to the Bible, not keep me away from it.

    Pushups, more fiber, and verses in books driving me back to the Bible, that ‘s my New Year. What’s yours?

    By the way, this process drives the topic of my next post. Stay tuned….