GOOD LIFE

WEEK ONE, DAY THREE, COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE COMPANION

THEME: READ THE BIBLE

DAY THREE TITLE: FINDING YOUR WAY IN THE BIBLE

SCRIPTURE: 2 TIMOTHY 3:10-17

SCRIPTURE SNIPPET: …”you must continue with the things you have learned and found convincing.  You know who taught you.  Since childhood you have known the holy scriptures that help you to be wise in a way that leads to salvation through faith that is in Christ Jesus.” 

THOUGHTS: Doing good is the essense of God.  God did not create us to be any profession or role of life, those things come our way, and He certainly skills us all, but God created us to do good.  With every step of creation, God paused and reflected and saw that it was good before going on to the next step.  He created good for good infinitely.  For good to produce good to produce good….  When God finished creation, he said, upon reflection of all that had been put into place, that it was “very good”.  God set in order “very good”.  In response, each fruit of his creation should continue forward in good – being fruitful and multiplying…. MORE GOOD!  Sadly, good has its opponet, evil.  Evil likes to twart the efforts of good.  Evil shows up in seductive ways even presenting itself as good, like a fox presenting as a sheep ultimately to destroy the sheep.  Paul presents to Timothy here that a life lived for God is ultimately good – a good life.  But this life is not all roses and sunshine.  Timothy has witnessed for himself Paul being harassed and imprisoned and mistreated because of the good he is doing as an Apostle of God.  Everyone is not ready for good news, and they can be very destructive and harmful in their misunderstanding actions. As people of God, we can endure these hurtful times knowing that God goes ahead of us and behind us – they are simply a part of following God. But even so, we are vessels that assist with getting God into the lives of others. Paul encourages Timothy therefore to continue on doing good.  He reminds him that since his childhood he has been learning and readying himself for all of this.  He reminds Timothy of the scriptures that he has learned since childhood that are inspired by God to equip him for every obstacle that he may encounter – even reminding him that God is always God and through God he/we are equipped to do everything that is good!  With that information and assurance, nothing then can stand in our way. Scripture illuminates our path and gives us courage and the Holy Spirit provides self confidence.  Praise be to God that we are never alone in the things of God and are strong, even in our weakest moments!

DIP: He (Paul) reminds Timothy of the scriptures that he has learned since childhood that are inspired by God to equip him for every obstacle that he may encounter – even reminding him that God is always God and through God we are equipped to do eveything that is good!  With that information and assurance, nothing then can stand in our way.

HEART EARS

WEEK ONE, DAY TWO, COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE COMPANION

THEME: READ THE BIBLE

DAY TWO TITLE: LETTING THE BIBLE READ US

SCRIPTURE: PSALM 119:1-16

SCRIPTURE SNIPPET:“Those whose way is blameless — who walk in the Lord’s Instruction — are truly happy! Those who guard God’s laws are truly happy! They seek God with all their hearts.”

THOUGHTS: This could be the theme scripture of Kingdom-Dipping! True happiness is found walking in the Lord’s instruction, listening to God and following what is learned.  This is not easy.  It requires MUCH WORK to learn God and God’s ways, to hear with ears of the heart and soul, not relying on physical ears, but on our connection with our Father. Often popular opinion would rather guide us and we go along without even thinking about what God might think about the issues of our life.  God gave us His commandments.  As a whole and individually, they point us to God’s Kingdom – a place where love abides above wants and desires.  A place where we put the needs of others ahead of our own needs.  A place where God is first and central to our every action and reaction.  A place where all are cared for as if we were caring for ourselves. God does not want us to wait until that “great someday” when we leave this life and head to Heaven to experience this kind of living.  God is very interested in this life incorporating with our earthy walk too.  Jesus prayed and modeled for us, “Thy Kingdom come ON EARTH as it is in Heaven”.  As we look to our example, Jesus Christ, we see a life of movement and purpose. A life that was not threatened or overcome by religiosity of the day nor encountered a soul that was not welcomed into his fold.  Jesus met everyone in his path with empathy and compassion knowing that the whole existence of humankind is constantly facing mountains and carrying burdens.  Jesus offers to each of us his assistance in facing our mountains and in carrying our burdens…he even offers to carry them when they are too much for us.  Jesus gives us balance in the face of fear and strife.  Jesus reminds us that there is nothing that we encounter or face that is larger or farther than the love of God. And, Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit to encourage us in ways that we cannot understand or see, but strongly as with the power of the wind.  God’s ways are not our ways.  But as we submit our ways under God’s guidance we get closer and closer to living as He intended for us all along.  As we allow, God is our Provider, our Nurturer, our Confidant, our Warrior, our Peace, our Wisdom, and our Nudger. Help us choose your paths, and to follow your ways, dear Father of our soul! 

DIP TIP: Jesus prayed and modeled for us, “Thy Kingdom come ON EARTH as it is in Heaven”. 

GLIMPSES

WEEK ONE, DAY TWO, COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE COMPANION

THEME: READ THE BIBLE

DAY TWO TITLE: LETTING THE BIBLE READ US

SCRIPTURE: I CORINTHIANS 2:6-16

SCRIPTURE SNIPPET:“God has prepared things for those who love him that no eye has see, or ear has heard, or that haven’t crossed the mind of any human being.”

MY THOUGHTS: Such power and understanding God wants for us.  His Spirit, that He gives freely to his people – his children, knows the depths and wisdom of God. On our own, we struggle to know our own depth and understanding, and we wonder about the ‘wisdom’ part altogether – but as we take on God’s Spirit and allow it to sink in and listen to it, we have glimpses – as we are able to comprehind them – of God.  As we try to grasp these things, we may try to express them to a loved one or a confidant – exploring these glimpses outloud to gain even more understanding.  This can be risky as not everyone will be able to grasp this same new ‘thing’ – they may even deem it foolishness.  Sometimes we have to brood over our own glimpses within our relationship with God for a time so that we will be able to better understand for ourselves in order to clearly communicate a Divine Truth.  In the meantime, there will be others out there who are also listening to God’s wisdom and can grasp and join in a revelation of truth in a moment.  God’s moments in our lives are always used for God’s Kingdom’s good and are not to puff us up or launch us foolishly into something that we are not. To glimpse God’s goodness and continue to walk in God’s light takes maturity and seasoning to endure.  One minute of being misunderstood can be enough to send us running back to a comfortable place and let it all go.  But once we are willing to let go of others’ opinions and trust God to direct our own thinking, some really deep roots are able to let down and dig in and our walk in this world can be seen on an entirely different level.  God allows us glimpses along the way, but we must make the decision to keep on opening our mind and heart for a true heart-to-heart / Spirit-to-Spirit experience with God that may change the way we have always seen things.  As we camp out on these glimpses and explore further why they are true in the heart of God, fresh life will spring forth from us.  We will begin walking a little closer to God and being less concerned with the worldliness around us.  As we see ourselves in God’s light there is less need for staunch rules of behavior or religious do’s and don’ts.  We are set free to experience God’s presence in everything we see or touch or smell or hear or taste.  Our whole life experience is enriched and new doors open to even better understandings of our God at work in the whole universe.  When you have a relationship with a Great God, you can no longer think in small or limited ways.  This upward spiral is safe only as you keep it between you and God, until the time comes when others will benefit from your new understanding – all under the guidance of God’s Spirit.  The risk of sharing may meet judgment and denial.  We must continuely saturate ourselves in God’s Word to stay above our own human weakness and pain.  The power of our prayers in these moments of being misunderstood can continue to bridge the gaps to remain independent in God yet in love with our neighbor. We don’t all have to agree on every piece and part, we must agree on our God who is above it all and lean into His guidance.  Joshua stated that “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”.  We must make our similiar declarations daily for ourselves to keep from being restrained by popular opinion; to be content with being a ‘fool for Christ’. By the Spirit of God the ‘path makes straight’ and leads us on.  Praise God for His Powerful and Insightful Word and His Guidance!

KINGDOM DIP: As we camp out on these glimpses and explore further why they are true in the heart of God, fresh life will spring forth from us.

OUR TESTIMONY

WEEK ONE, DAY ONE, COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE COMPANION

THEME: READ THE BIBLE

DAY ONE TITLE: THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO

SCRIPTURE: 2 TIMOTHY 2:15 (CEB)

SCRIPTURE SNIPPET: …”present yourself to God as a tried-and-true worker, who doesn’t need to be ashamed”…

MY THOUGHTS: As we have our own “God moments” … those moments when we realize that without a doubt God has led us through a thing or has healed us or provided for us in ways that we never could have imagined – we begin our own personal testimony. We graduate from hope to understanding, though we are still filled with questions with lots to learn.  We learn more and more to depend on God rather than ourselves in our times of crisis or confusion. We begin to get comfortable giving God everything and leaving the results to Him – seeking His strength for every breath we take.  But then our opportunity comes to get beyond ourselves and assist another in breathing through a crisis.  It’s that moment when God wants us to be the vessel of hope and faith…that moment when we have the opportunity to step forward in our faith. The fear in that moment is of coming across “holy” and separated and “special” is very scary. The fear of being unable to communicate and empathize properly and possibly running the other away rather than inviting them in is real. In 2 Timothy we are encouraged to communicate the message of truth correctly.  How do we do that. How do we come across real and genuine rather than holier than thou… I think that in each of these incidents we have to see ourselves also in a crossroads of crisis.  Our witness is at stake.  We have to put ourselves freshly and on-goingly in the hands of God to be the comforter through “The Comforter”.  We have to be honest that we don’t have the answers, but that we can trust together in God, Who does.  We have to allow our faith to be borrowed in those moments by those who do not have their own faith at that time. It is in these times that we empty ourselves of everything of us and allow ourselves to be ever more the vessel for the other.  Our agendas have to take second place to the need of the other.  Our desires have to have lapses of urgency as we are there for the other.  Jesus put others first and he kept time with His Father to be present in the moment for each and every encounter he faced in his earthly walk. Even at the well in Samaria when he was tired, thirsty and hungry, he was ministering to the Samaritan woman, helping her find living water and total healing, and her testimony changed her whole community.  We have to be in constant contact with our Heavenly Father in order to be prepared for what we may face in a given day.  We have to study and reflect and decide and apply God’s Word to ourselves.  We have to make bold broad statement, like Joshua – that come what may, I am a child of God.  The Bible gives us testimony after testimony of how God works in and through his people.  That same Word gives us strength to be his people.  This nurturing relationship with our Father is very important for living a life that is peaceful, weathering all of life’s storms with a strengh that is not of this world – giving testimony to God in all our actions and reactions.

KINGDOM DIP: As we begin to dwell more and more in God’s Kingdom within our heart – even alongside our earthly walk – our testimony, whenever and wherever it is needed, causes a rippling effect for others to experience God’s Kingdom too!

RELIGIOUS OR VESSEL

WEEK ONE, DAY ONE, COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE COMPANION

THEME: READ THE BIBLE

DAY ONE TITLE: THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO

SCRIPTURE: JOHN 5:36-47

SCRIPTURE SNIPPET: …(Jesus is speaking) “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, because Moses wrote about me.  If you don’t believe the writings of Moses, how will you believe my words?”

MY THOUGHTS: I feel that Jesus’ heart is breaking here…Jesus is trying to reason with those who are with him physically in this moment about who he is and why he is.  They are looking for something and that something is standing right in front of them, yet they do not see.  Jesus’ point is clear – don’t believe the one speaking right in front of you – but look to the scriptures and see what they imply, then weigh that against all that Jesus is about.  God has given Jesus works to do, and he is doing them “in plain sight”, but people are refusing to see.  We can be the same way. Like them, so often we have someone else’s idea of who and/or what is God’s activity and we look for God based on those ideas only. We measure what happens in our lives based on those ideas and if it doesn’t measure up, we discard it. We fail to open our own minds to decide for ourselves based on our relationship with God and pondering all scripture.  We get locked in traditional beliefs rather than faith.  We see our problems and we see our answers and we believe more in fate than in the God of all intervening in our lives.  The people Jesus is speaking to here search the scripture so that they will recognize the Messiah when he comes.  But their searching is shortsided based on traditional belief of a political power to set them all free.  These people trust in laws and rules rather than in faith and God.  They seek to please God in their “works” rather than understand God and release themselves to be God’s vessels.  Jesus points them all the way back to their original “savior”, Moses.  Moses’ own life and leadership point to Jesus, but they simply do not have eyes to see or hearts willing to accept.  It is all about what Moses “did” rather than “why” Moses acted. They are blinded by false expectations.  It happens to me when I look to religion rather than listen to Scripture.  Christians often have a very narrow understanding of themselves and their relationship to God.  We see a set of expectations – say a prayer, go to church, tithe, read a devotional – and then live the rest of our lives doing anything we want.  We feel checking off all these boxes of “expectation of a Christian” makes us Christian.  When we are “working” things correctly – nothing really has changed us from the “religious” people of Jesus’ day. Jesus desired for his followers to watch and learn a new way – the way of the servant.  The type of vessel that sees each person they encounter as another soul searching for the same things.  Servants who don’t mind giving up something of theirs as it benefits the need of another. Servants who don’t look at the problem, but look at the person consumed with the problem and joining with that person in empathy and understanding to learn to stand straight again.  The “Religious” Jews of Jesus’ day didn’t get any of this, and most often, neither do we. In God’s Kingdom, there are no “we’s” and “they’s” – there is only “us”.  When one of “us” is hurting or in need – it is up to the others of “us” to comfort and provide…Just like Jesus did.  Jesus never met anyone he could not sit down with and eat with and have conversation with.  He always offered hope and understanding and joy. But Jesus doesn’t force, it is always up to the one in need to receive and it is still true today. Jesus, who is the same yesterday, today and forever, continues with us.  As we open our hearts and minds to be more like Jesus, we must lay down judgments and traditions that seperate us from one another – allowing God to do his work in us and through us to benefit all of us.  Let it be so, Dear Lord, and begin in me.  Amen.

EQUIPPING OUR HEARTS

WEEK ONE, DAY ONE, COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE COMPANION

THEME: READ THE BIBLE

DAY ONE TITLE: THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO

SCRIPTURE: MATTHEW 4:1-11 (CEB)

SCRIPTURE SNIPPET:“Jesus responded, ‘Go away, Satan, because it’s written, You will worship the Lord your God and serve only him.'”

MY THOUGHTS: Even Jesus had visits from Satan and was tempted by Satan to give up his dependence on God for an earthly hefty gain. But, through scriptures that Jesus had dedicated himself to and that were ingrained on his heart and in his soul, and through his relations with his Father, he resisted all of Satan’s wicked schemes and remained steadfast. The Bible, the Scriptures, God’s Word is there for us and inspired by the Holy Spirit to equip us for such encounters as Jesus had.  Satan’s visit with Jesus came when he was extremely weak and isolated after 40 days and nights in the wilderness fasting. Satan didn’t rest with Jesus, continuing his temptation in three different ways, and he certainly does not rest with us.  His aim to keep us distracted and uncontented is all a part of his plan to seperate us from God our Father, Christ our Redeemer and the Holy Spirit our Sustainer.  As we study, read, sing scripture, pray, dwell in God’s presence, we are becoming more and more equipped for each distractive and destructive event that comes our way.  Just like Jesus we can battle the lowest of lows with the Word of God.  We can keep our perspective and energy moving in the right directions with just a few rememberances from Scripture – and we don’t even have to memorize it all or know where it is found – once it is in our heart, the Holy Spirit brings Scripture into our remembrance within us using it to encourage us and keep us focused, giving us the ability too to tell Satan to “go away”! Satan left Jesus and angels came to take care of him.  We, through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and in relationship with God our Father, have the same ability to diffuse evil from getting us off track. Thanks be to God for the wonders of His Holy Word!

DON’T FORGET

WEEK ONE, DAY ONE, COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE COMPANION

THEME: READ THE BIBLE

DAY ONE TITLE: THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO

SCRIPTURE: DEUTERONOMY 8:8-11 (CEB)

SCRIPTURE SNIPPET:.”But watch yourself! Don’t forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commands or his case laws or his regulations that I am commanding you right now.”

MY THOUGHTS: The Hebrew people have been through a long period of changing their ways and becoming a new people under God’s leadership through Moses.  They have put behind them the life of a slave and have been given a new life of promise and hope.  But there has been lots to learn and a lot of ups and downs – really high ups and really low downs – but they are approaching the entrance to their promised land, a land that will meet their every need and give them a secure place of living and worship.  Moses (or the writer of Deuteronomy) is conducting a review of the rules…. You must!  Your must remember where you’ve come from and how you got here and how to keep this promised land and your lives in tact.  And above everything else, REMEMBER THE LORD YOUR GOD who has done all of this for you. During this time of learning and developing as a  people, you have not wanted for a thing… your clothes have not worn out and your feet have not swollen.  God has been with you all along, providing for your every need – even when you grumbled and fussed and created golden cows and worshipped other idols… God has remained, correcting and forgiving and pushing.  Don’t be an entitled people – be a grateful people.  Trust God in all of your day to day issues and comings and going.  Dwell on His goodness.  DON’T FORGET!!! 

My First Blog Post

GETTING STARTED IS ALWAYS THE HARDEST PART

Why is getting started so scary?

Terry and I moved to Kennesaw in 2016 when he became the District Superintendent of the Atlanta-Marietta District of the United Methodist Church. We had been at our previous appointment at Gainesville First for 12 years, and most of those years I had been attending a Bible Study on Tuesday mornings with several women, some who came for a period and then several that I saw every week for 10 or more of those 12 years. Those who were together prior to our move had become very near and dear over all that time, and it was difficult to imagine Bible Study without them in the future.

In our new appointment, we didn’t have one church to drop into and begin to bloom, we had 40 plus, and we haven’t settled in with just one, we hop around each week, so I have never really put down roots in any one congregation to find my place. Additionally, during the first 3 1/2 years of that time, my parents were at a place where they needed a lot more hands on care which took a good deal more time than it had before, and I enjoyed at least one day a week with my grandchildren. There was less available time to commit to Bible Study. But I was lonely on those days I was at home, and I did miss my “group”.

It occurred to me that there are a lot of seasons we have in our lives, and mine was more of an “on-the-go” season now, and I needed to learn a new way to do Bible Study. Once the Kennesaw house was settled and there was balance with my parents and my grandchildren, I found (and permanently borrowed) an extra Bible that Terry had on hand. The cover read, DAILY COMPANION BIBLE and it is the Common English Translation… “a fresh translation to touch the heart and mind”. Per the title, Daily Companion Bible, it contained ahead of the scriptures a 52-week Bible Study to follow. I decided to dive in and see if the “Explore the Bible in A Year” method would work for me. But I also decided to do it my way… If I couldn’t do it every day, just do it when I can. I’m a rule keeper, and if the rules are too hard, then I might become defeated before I began. So I gave myself as much flexibility as possible and simply began. Some weeks I might have gotten to it two or three times and then it might be three weeks before I got going again. Another rule I formed for myself was to not read their commentary. The presentation was five days per week – each week has a specific theme – each day has scriptures to read then a short commentary with Reflection Prompts. I didn’t want to launch from that format, I basically wanted to read the scriptures and then listen to them and hear from them myself without any other input… “What does this scripture say to me, and why is this particular scripture important to me in this time of my life?” I really didn’t focus too hard on the theme for the week, and many a day my thoughts began to go down a whole new pathway.

At first, it was a slow go and a bit of work to get myself to focus…but over time it became something that I truly enjoyed and I decided to write my thoughts down every time. Eventually, this time became very special to me and most days I felt a strong and real connection to what I was reading – pure texts from God’s Word that would live with me throughout the day – even for many days. And my mind was more and more open to the things I was learning through these scriptures. It was a very multi-dimential experience for me. Many of the passages I had heard over and over but never the way I read them that day. It became fascinating and encouraging and gave me a new pep in my step as I related one on one with God’s Word. It gave my life a new focus and it began to sustain me in a way that I very much needed. My prayer life enlarged and my understanding became broader. And it continues today. Jesus often uses parables and encounters to help his listeners better understand God’s Kingdom, and that is what my time in scripture began to do regularly – pointing me in a way differently than this world often thinks. It was like with each encounter I was dipping a bit more into the Kingdom of God. His ways are above our ways and we can only learn more about Him through His Word.

It took me way more than a year to do the first 52 weeks – I was not rigid to the schedule but to making the time spent intentional and productive. No more going through the motions. Reading, journaling, praying – time for all elements intentionally or wait til there is the right time – no squeezing it in and just getting it done. My journaling began to get more and more detailed. I’m really not a journaling type person, but this was valuable and important and I became more and more passionate about it.

When the first 52 week reading was completed, I wanted to begin again, so I have. Rather than keeping a journal, I’m keeping a spreadsheet and typing out the scriptures to better sink them into my being. After I type in the scripture, I am highlighting it in my Bible (reading it again in the process) and can see if I have read a particular scripture before and am anxious to see at the end of this re-reading how much of the Bible I actually encountered. Maybe my next “adventure” would be to read everything that has not been highlighted to see what it offers…

So I’m beginning a blog to share my “gleanings” from daily scripture with whoever might want to go along with me. What I write is in the moment and not to be taken as the only way to interpret that day’s scripture… it is simply what that scripture said to me in that moment. I am open to and very interested in what it says to any one else in their moment too. I believe the Holy Spirit has been very much my leader as I write and has so beautifully broadened my horizons and I have had constant nudges to share…it has just been overwhelming to get started. You are welcomed to join in as you would like, and I would love to hear back from you too…. kind of a Blogging Bible Study. My prayer is that God will use it for good! Let’s do some Kingdom-Dipping together!