Bible study

New and Improved, hopefully…

 

With only seven weeks left in 2016 it seems fitting to place the events of the year on the scale and weigh them out — a time to evaluate and enjoy them. This Bearded Acorn post will have a more personal tone than usual. That is deliberate. You will find out why later on.

 

This year has been a splendid year: our daughters growing and becoming more wonderful and fun, and wonderfully fun, day by day, as well as a new role at work. And, lots of life unfolding in the cracks in between. As a plan-focused sort of fellow, please allow me to list some washouts and winners from the previous ten months.

 

Here they are, in no particular order:

  • Reading through the Bible in a year: Check! The One Year Bible is a great tool for this; add it to your wish list for Christmas.
  • Longer, “better” times of prayer: Check. But, the more we grow in prayer the more that we will feel compelled to grow further. It was a solid step in the right direction, many more steps required.
  • Carving out more quality time for and making more memories with family: two steps forward, half step back. That’s how parenting goes, especially with a teenager. But, it was the best year ever. Lots of laughter, trips, and “projects.”
  • Healthy eating: Check, sort of. I have eaten more fruits and vegetables, gotten plenty of fiber each day, and cut back on fried foods. Mostly. Still work to do here. I know, you are all very proud of my increased fiber intake. (Note: there were six different jokes that I typed in after that last sentence. I deleted them all. Let’s move on.)
  • Become a better listener: Uhhhh…, what did you just say? Can you repeat that? There’s work to do on this. James 1:19 leaps to mind here.
  • Speak less: Score! I know, some of you are scratching your heads, but you don’t know how much I actually wanted to say.) James 1:19 again.
  • Regular exercise: Four gold stars on this one. I started with yoga (Christian yoga, no chanting thanks), and added running, then moved up to trail-running. I feel better than I have in two decades.
  • Spending more time outdoors: Yahtzee! Even though the weather wasn’t kind, the effort was made and it was worth it.

 

There you have it … an unsolicited peek into the personal life of an unusual fellow. Now, on to the greater matter, a sketch of what I learned from all of this. Here it is encapsulated in two verses:

 

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

“The works of the LORD are great, studied by all who have pleasure in them.” Psalm 110:2

 

The overarching lesson in Hebrews 11:1 drove the ability to see and live out truths learned from Psalm 110.

 

About faith first, each day was a reminder that we walk by faith, not by what is visible or get-a-hold-able. But, as Christians our faith is an informed faith. God gives us promises, corrections, and direction in His Word to map our steps. Some steps are small, some are a stretch, each of them taken by faith. We have to believe God to be Who He says He is and to do what He says that He will do. It’s a daily decision to live by faith. It’s the best life.

 

The truths that budded on the branch of Hebrews 11:1 are found in Psalm 110:2. This verse delivers potent, but practical truths about knowing His work in our lives:

 

The primary lesson is that we must take delight in God’s works before we can really know them. If you think through the verse from the back to the front it becomes apparent. To take pleasure in God’s work requires attention to it. Deliberate attention. Mary Oliver once wrote, “Attention is the beginning of devotion.” As we devote our attention to what God is doing around us we can then take delight in it, and in Him.

 

As we become more aware and appreciative of God’s work — through disciplined attention — we will think on Him and His work more deeply. Or, as the psalmist states, we become “studiers” of God and His work. When you study and think on God’s work in your life two thoughts spring forward: “God, and His work and gifts, is spectacular,” and “I am unworthy.” Those two thoughts are the foundation of worship. Pause here…

 

It is after devoting attention to and taking delight in God’s works that we become better students of Him in His Word. It is through seeing, savoring, and studying that we agree with the psalmist with joy and conviction about God and His works.

 

Over the past ten months some goals were met while others were not. There is always next year for another good run at them. Over the past ten months I have grown in Christ and also had my share of stumbles. There is always tomorrow; His grace and mercies are new each morning (Lamentation 3:22-23).

 

You might wonder why I am writing about the previous year in November instead of late December. The answer: I wanted to get this rolled out so that it can prepare the way for several posts that will close out the Bearded Acorn’s year. Those posts will build upon the truths shared in this one.

 

So, in summary, what should you take away from this fairly structured stack of sentences? Set some goals, walk by faith, devote more attention and “study” to God and His works, and eat more fiber!

 

Enjoy the next seven weeks my friends. What can surpass autumn scenery, cool weather, the scents and sights of the holidays, laughter of loved ones, and wool socks?

 

Did I mention that the Bearded Acorn blog and logo is under development, and that there will be some holiday give-a-ways (think coffee mugs with the new logo)? Stay tuned…New and improved, hopefully.

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Non-linear life

The back side of goals and right side of doors

As I savor the last bits of the Christmas holiday I have begun to look forward to the New Year. A year ago I jotted down a few goals for the arrival of 2015. Looking back, I can say that each of them has made a difference in my life. Here’s the list from this time last year:

1. Start a blog (check). I did, you read it, and we are all better for it, mostly. Seriously, the Bearded Acorn went further, and wider, than I had anticipated. Thank you kind readers.

As an aside, when you start a blog you will attract a few interesting folks and receive an occasional odd comment or two. The award for the out-of-left-field comment of the year goes to the fellow who emailed and stated that if I would change the font and layout of my blog them I would see more people converted to Christ. I didn’t change the font and layout — I am not sure how to do so and maintain what I was shooting for, and because I value content over cosmetics — which means that by not doing so some poor souls remain unconverted. I trust God’s sovereignty in saving sinners more than the razzamatazz of my blog’s font. To wit,  I had no idea that when the blog’s outdoor light was turned on that one of the moths would inspect the font of the lettering on the bulb. Who knew that one could spot such details with so much light shining in his tiny moth face?

2. Read more, and read better (check). While the idea of reading more is obvious, by “reading better” I meant that I wanted to read with a “writer’s eye” and learn from the pros.  I used a rotation system — which I learned in August was similar to that of Douglas Wilson — of reading a few pages per day in a book on Bible study/Christian exhortation (Douglas Wilson, John Piper, etc.), on the craft and art of writing, in a biography, and in a book of specific interest (humor, poetry, history, etc.). Of course, I read the Bible each day as well, which brings me to the third goal.

3. Read the Bible differently (check). By this I intended to read the Bible as an imaginative exegete, or as an exegetical imaginative. My tool for accomplishing this was Crossway’s ESV Reader’s Bible. The ESV Reader’s Bible is a remarkable Bible that is worth every denarii. It removes the verse numbers, references, and footnotes from the text (which were not in the manuscripts anyway). This lends to reading the Bible as a flowing narrative, much like the original readers would have encountered. The Reader’s Bible has a simple layout with a reader-friendly font. Maybe the moth-guy got to them as well. Oh well, if you do not have a goal for your Bible reading for next year, I would encourage you to read through the New Testament several times in the ESV Reader’s Bible in 2016.

4. Improve my fiber intake (check). This was not a spiritual goal; it was a gastrointestinal one. In case you are wondering — or, if you are not, then you can skip down to number five — fiber intake does improve overall health, reduce the risk of GI cancer, and increase the stock prices of Cracklin’ Oat Bran and Bush’s Beans.

5. Exercise three times per week (swing and a miss). While I did exercise more, I didn’t meet my goal, unless you count reading as aerobic activity (I read pretty hard) or preparing beans and peas several nights per week.

6. Watch less TV (check). This one had to occur in order for me to accomplish number two (not to be confused with the fiber goal) of reading more.

7. Write more (check). Writing blog posts, a book manuscript, and poetry kept both my mind and keyboard busy.

It goes without saying that spending more time with family, doing well at work, etc. were goals as well. They were, and will be next year also.

 

As I peek over the fence into 2016 here is a list of some goals that might make the cut for next year:

1. Use one lunch break at work per week as time for reading and writing.

2. Teach the entire United States of America how to correctly enter and exit a business that has a double-doored entrance. Stay to the right folks. Choose the door on the right hand side when you enter, and — for the love of all that is decent and obvious — choose the door on the right when you exit. The doors did not change sides once you entered the store, and your hands didn’t switch sides either.

3. Reduce TV time even further. I watched less than ever before this past year, even during college football season, and plan to watch even less next year.

4. Double my fiber intake. Just kidding. One’s percentage of the recommneded daily fiber intake does not need to reach four digits, for lots of reasons.

5. Continue to read more, read better, and write more, and better.

6. Post on the Bearded Acorn more frequently.

7. Exercise regularly.

 

I hope that you had a good 2015, and that your 2016 will be even better. Stay tuned, I will share my final goals for the New Year and offer some challenges for you that will make your 2016 deeper and broader, and more sarcastic.

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