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Archive for the ‘Bible Study’ Category

4197o3w9xeL._SX355_BO1,204,203,200_[1]I recently read After Easter by Jeremy R. Howard and Doug Powell and this is a review of the book.

This may seem a little late since Easter is long past, but truthfully you could read this book anytime and be amazed all over again by the miracle of the cross.

A new Christian will read this book and journey from the Garden to the Cross, gaining a good understanding of how the whole redemption story came to be. A seasoned Christian will read the book and be refreshed in remembering the significance of why the Son of God had to die. Both will be humbled again by the realization that He did it for us.

I like how this book gives scriptural and scientific evidence for the events that led to the empty tomb, and even gives clear details of how the early church began and took the mission of Christ seriously.

The book can be read in a short period time but that certainly doesn’t indicate it is shallow. Quite the opposite. The depth of detail contained in its 60 pages is amazing. I would highly recommend this book for anyone wanting to boost their witnessing ability. It would make a nice gift and should certainly be in every church library.

I am a Lifeway/B&H blogger and received a free copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

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OGIO-motorcycle-rides[1]First motorcycle outing of the year on Saturday and it was glorious. We managed to sandwich the ride in between rainstorms. The sun was out in full force, warming the air to a brisk 50 degrees when we took off. Of course, I had my miracle jacket on high so I was toasty. Bald eagles, deer and mountain sheep were all out in force taking advantage of the weather just like us.

After the long winter break, I kind of have to get back in biker mode and it takes a while. Remembering all the parts and pieces of being comfortable – the silk scarf, the hair pulled back and secured so it doesn’t tangle in the wind, the right gloves for the cool weather, the leathers and of course, the connector cord for my heated jacket.

But the biggest “Oh yeah” for me is the sense of power that radiates from that huge hunk of chrome and metal. The bike roars to life and I find myself grabbing tightly to my guy, taking a big breath and anticipating the soaring sensation that will come as we hit the highway.

And then there’s that lung-filling fresh air after being huddled inside all winter. The great feel of sunshine on my cheeks. Sky so blue it hurts your eyes. And the hope and promise singing from the trees that are covered with spring buds ready to burst into leafy glory. The peach fuzz covering of green on the hills that have been soaking up the rain. The rush of the river pushing at its banks, swollen from the spring thaw.

And so precious, sipping coffee and eating fresh baked pastries with my husband at the old bakery that is a favorite stop of ours. It’s rare, this relaxing, quiet time together – actually having a real conversation, uninterrupted by phones, grandkids, jobs, errands, and the over-zealous dog.

Sometimes I chaff at having to devote every good-weather Saturday to time on the motorcycle. There are many other things I love to do and can only fit into a Saturday. But I have to admit that once we’re on the road, I forget to wish I was elsewhere because I’m so loving being where I am.

Isn’t that just the way in this crazy busy life of ours? Our list is long, our time short. We have to double and triple book to get it all in and half the time we are too exhausted to actually enjoy ourselves. We don’t prioritize according to what we need, we scramble our schedules because of what we want.

Much as I hate to admit it, I need those kicked back Saturdays on the back of the bike, breathing deep, taking in the sights, and being close to my life partner. It brings balance and sanity to my otherwise topsy turvy world.

Life balance is key if we are to negotiate the journey from birth to death with any kind of success and satisfaction. And balance is not what the enemy wants for us. He will always introduce too many choices to keep us from being focused. He will paint unrealistic pictures of the things we desire and then try to convince us we deserve them, we need them, and we should go for them to the detriment of more important, less glittering activities.

Just as that first few minutes on the bike remind me of the power and pure enjoyment I will soon experience, the first few minutes in God’s word reminds of the same thing. His word is rich, bursting with wise instruction, filled with peace and hope. It is solid and sure, and satisfying to my mind, my heart and my soul.

I need those times of breathing deep and drawing close to the One who gives me breath.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Or as the message translation puts it, “I have told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”

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featured-pneumonia-thumb[1]Wow – when the flu turns into pneumonia it’s a whole new ball game. I’ve never had pneumonia before but I quickly discovered what a show stopper it is.  I thought I was on the downhill side of my illness, just feeling a little run down and still carrying a cough. I went about my usual activities, just a little slower than normal. Until the last shred of strength left  and I found I couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t breathe. And I certainly couldn’t go to work. For me – that was the convincer that something was desperately wrong. I never miss work.

A trip to the doctor and a bit of deliberation as to whether I should be admitted to the hospital or treated at home. I chose home and began a three day flat on my back, barely conscious, miserable course of sleep and medication. I dropped a bunch of weight, not good for me, lost track of day and night, missed my Bible study which was really the pits, and wondered if I’d ever be able to crawl out of bed again.

Once the antibiotics kicked in I began to pull out of the worst of the infection. But it was a slow, hard pull.  It is amazing how quickly your strength is depleted with an illness like this, equally surprising how slowly it comes back.  A walk from the bedroom to the living room was an epic journey. Panting and puffing and trying to sip fluids, I spent the next couple of days propped in my chair contemplating the long trip back to bed.

Being that sick is terrible. But recovering is the worst. You want to do the things you used to do, but just thinking about them wears you out. It just doesn’t feel worth the effort. You think you’re better until you try a simple task, like getting dressed, and you realize you’re not. You think you’re hungry but one bite fills you up. You can’t enjoy anything – a movie, a book, a conversation – because you mind won’t focus or stay on track. Weakness and illness consume you.

Finally on the mend, I’m realizing you don’t just bounce back. In fact, you don’t bounce period. You take a few more steps each day and feel triumphant if you don’t pass out! And, just because you’re a bit better doesn’t mean those nasty germs aren’t lurking everywhere ready to re-infect. You’d better lay in a supply of disinfectant and use it liberally, every where you’ve been, on everything you’ve touched.

It gives you a new understanding of the term “sin sick”. Most of us think we’re just a little under the weather when we dabble in sin. We know we’ll recover quickly so we don’t give it much thought. Until we find ourselves too weak to change our path.

We try to rise above the oppression, but sin holds us down, zaps our strength and makes it hard to breathe. We forget about the things that used to keep us on track – reading the Bible, praying, talking to Christian friends. Our infection takes over until we think there’s no hope.

Recovery is hard. Every step we take in the right direction takes super strength because the enemy is holding us back, keeping us down, speaking defeat. Until we begin to think it’s not worth effort. We start missing church, avoiding the Godly people we used to hang with, and letting the weight of our bible discourage us from picking it up.

Just like with pneumonia, a prescribed course of action must be followed if we are to ever be healthy again.

  1. Admit we are in trouble. We are sick. We need help.
  2. Go to the doctor, the minister, the trusted friend and seek a solution.
  3. Take the medicine prescribed (prayer, God’s word in massive doses, and commitment to a different path) and don’t skip a dose.
  4. Don’t think that because you’re better, sin isn’t lurking everywhere ready to drag you back down. Get out the sanitizer. Wash your hands of the temptation, the friends still walking the dark path, and anything else that exposes you to it again.

In this world, where exposure to sin-germs is constant, a healthy, steady diet of truth, lots of walking with the Savior, and surrounding yourself with robust Christian friends is the only way to survive.

Proverbs 4:20-22 My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart;  for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body.”

 

 

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So – I have this dog.  And the first thing you need to know is I’m not really a dog person.   I’m not one of those people who treats their dog like a person, lets them lick your face or kisses them on the nose.  I’m the person who says, “Nice doggy”, gives them a little pat on the head and expects them to go lay down and be good.

th[8]Until we got this pup a year ago.  Our old dog had died and while I would have been content not to deal with dog hair and drool for a while, my husband really, really missed his dog. So, we got Chopper, a 6 week old Blue Heeler, freckle faced and fit-on-your-lap adorable.  For some reason my heart decided to bond.

He started out as a cute, energetic, curious little bundle of fur.  He’s a year and a half now and he has grown into a cute, energetic, curious big bundle of fur.  His body has matured, his character has not.  He still loves to race across the room and leap into your lap – even though he’s bigger than your lap. He still loves to shoot out the door the minute it’s opened. And he still doesn’t come back when you call him. He barks at anything that moves and being a working breed, will sneak up behind you if you aren’t paying attention and nip at your heels.

It’s not that I haven’t tried to teach him manners.  But it has become apparent that dog training is not my calling. He does respond to a short length of pool noodle bopping him on the noggin – but only if you happen to have it handy.

I have a dog toy that can be stuffed with peanut butter, designed to keep dogs entertained for hours.  It works – at least for a few minutes.  But then he wants more. And he just keeps asking and begging and pleading.

His worst habit is jumping on me when I come through the door.  I keep giving him the “down” command. And he responds – until the sound of my voice fades.

I try doggie discipline but he is so darn precious when he sinks down and looks at me with those big brown eyes. And then sneaks over and puts his head in my lap to eat up every bit of rubbing, petting and scratching I will dish out.

The real problem with this dog is me. He has a hold on my heart and no amount of disobedience on his part severs that tie. I’m always willing to forgive and expect that he will do better next time. I know that no matter how much peanut butter or dog treat I hand out, it will never be enough. I also know that he wants to do right, but he gets distracted and runs after every temptation, not weighing the consequences until it’s too late.

And I especially love the way he goes overboard welcoming me home when I’ve been away for a while. He knows I will most likely leave again but he still relishes every minute that I stay.

I was actually praying about it today – seeking some guidance on how I could master his disobedience and bring him into line, get him to stop running after every temptation and mind his master. But I was brought up short when I realized how much he and his master and my Master and I have in common.

How many times have I been the easily distracted little pup, running after things I shouldn’t and not listening to the voice that calls me back? And how many time have I been away and still found Him welcoming and excited when I return? When I’m close to His Word I bask in the affection that He pours out on me.  When I’m away from His Word I forget how wonderful it is until I find myself suffering the consequences and needing to slink my way back into the light of His love.

I think there is hope for my dog as long as I keep loving him and disciplining him when necessary. And I believe there is hope for me as long as my God keeps doing the same. And I know He will.

“…asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” Col 1:10

 

 

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Earlier this week I sat in my office looking out at a landscape shrouded in heavy7223162 mist. With fresh snow covering the ground and laying like heavy lace on the trees, I have to say the view was breathtaking. It hadn’t made for a fun drive to work, but it certainly gave a soft, gentle, peaceful presence to the landscape.

The impression a misty view gives is one of perfection – no scars, no sharp edges, no dirt or stains. Unpleasantness is hidden by a gauzy veil. But the truth behind that mist is reality. Once it clears, all of those blemishes will be exposed again.

It’s a good lesson in the struggle we have comparing ourselves to others. People can look flawless – but they never are.  Families can appear to be conflict free.  They seldom are.  Other journeys can look pothole free, but believe me, curves and bumps and roadblocks are part of everyone’s life drive.

God has a specific plan for each and every one of his children, all different and unique. He doesn’t want us to be the image of someone else. That would be like an artist creating works of art that never vary in color, shape or design. Part of our uniqueness comes from the battles we survive and the challenges we overcome.

No offense meant here, but there is a reason antiques are appreciated.  They show wear and tear, host a history of everyday life, and remind us of the passing of time.  It’s no different with God’s children. We are marked by the years and the journey.

I was touched by a point Beth Moore made in the final video our ladies group watched last night in our Esther bible study. Beth pointed out how society tends to look at an elderly woman and say “She was beautiful in her time” but God’s word says “He makes everything beautiful in His time.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)  In other words, the passing of time and the events that mark that passing are what create the beauty of a life.

Queen Esther’s early life was all about looking good.  She had to catch the eye of the king and the story makes it clear that this took a lot of primping and preening. And it worked. The misty veil of preparation covered every flaw on the outside until she was perfection to the eye.

It took the life events Esther conquered over the years of her reign to bring beauty to the core of who she was.  Her later life was marked by courage and leadership and obedience to the call of God. We admired her in the beginning but we loved and respected her in the end.

Our struggles are not meant to be hidden by a false covering of perfection. They are meant to be honestly shared in an effort to help others travel the same difficult path.  I don’t mean that we have to spill every dirty detail of our failures and poor decisions.  What I do mean is when a young mother is at the end of her patience with fussy toddlers, lack of sleep and a role that she doesn’t feel she can possibly live up to, we can risk sharing the day we locked ourselves in the bathroom and screamed into a towel to keep from harming the child who pushed us over the edge.  When a woman cries out her pain from a marriage that seems doomed to fail, we can admit that the strong partnership we have today saw it’s own seemingly hopeless moments along the way.

No one sees the whole picture of a life from the outside until it’s over and the bits and pieces are remembered and pooled together to make a completed work. The important thing is to remember – we are unique and God has a specific path for us to travel. Some have more hills than others so God gives them more stamina.  Some have deeper valleys, more roadblocks, sharper turns or rougher terrain.  In every situation, God has the roadside assistance ready to respond.

It’s nice to have days when there’s enough mist (or heavy fog for some of us) to cover the blemishes and give us that soft glow of perfection.  I love it when my mascara goes on well, my outfit coordinates beautifully and there’s not a hair out of place. Those days are treasured because they are rare.

But the more precious and meaningful days  are those when someone sees our soul of overcoming struggles which left their mark, of fighting battles that left us scarred but still standing, of meeting challenges that found us exhausted but exultant in our victory.

“He makes everything beautiful in His time” is the promise.  Our prayer every morning should be, “Lord, today lead me down the path that widens the crevice to allow Your light living in me to escape and bring beauty to the world.”

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Cor 10:31

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Well, it’s over. The dHand of Goday we shopped for, planned for, cooked for, and pushed ourselves to the limit for – Christmas. How was it for you? Did it turn out to be the warm, wonderful, Kodak moment  you anticipated? I didn’t think so. Seems you have to be starring in a family sitcom to come even close to holiday perfection.

Example: My friend who was all prepared for the day with grandchildren plowing through gift wrap. Instead, they spent the day racing  over a snowy mountain pass to meet up with their littlest baby granddaughter who had been airlifted to a children’s hospital. (The baby is improving but it was a close call.)

Example: The lady who posted on facebook that her son decided to spend a couple of hours jeeping in the fresh snow before the big dinner. Instead, they spent 8 hours digging him out of a snowdrift. Dinner ruined and everyone pretty much too exhausted to open packages once they finally got home.

Example: My friend who prepared for a beautiful dinner to share with her  son who never made it over the snowy pass to join her. She picked up her husband from the nursing facility to spend Christmas day at home and discovered he’d been taken off his mental health meds by some clause in the infamous Obamacare program. A simple trip home for the day turned into a battle. But they made it and after getting him settled, she put the glaze on the ham and placed it in a 425 degree oven to finish a few more minutes of baking, took the twice baked potatoes out of the refrigerator and set them on the stove – on the burner she’d forgotten to turn off. Luckily her back was turned when the glass casserole dish exploded, spraying glass and potatoes all over the kitchen, melting big holes in the flooring, and making an unbelievable mess. And in the time it took her to clean up the mess the ham baked to a hard, dry ball of pork. I will spare you the ordeal of getting the husband back into the car to return to the care center.

My own day pales in comparison. All we had to do was babysit the dog who had major surgery on Christmas Eve due to a dog fight. Oh, I’ve had my share of Christmas days that would go down in history. Like the one where the dog shattered every ornament on my beautiful Victorian decorated tree, the year we spent the day at the hospital because of my little daughter’s inflamed appendix, the one where I forgot to put sugar in the pumpkin pies, or the one where all the needles fell off my tree by Christmas eve and my husband cut off the dry branches and wrapped the string of lights around the dry trunk. I could go on but I won’t.

Here’s the thing – there’s the Christmas day family gathering you see in pictures all aglow with candles, a clean house, a golden basted turkey and everyone down to the youngest child with head bowed patiently giving thanks before the gift exchange. And then there’s the one that happens at your house. If you’re lucky it’s just a little loud and messy and no one gets hurt.

When will we finally get it?  Only one thing makes a perfect Christmas – the birth of a perfect Savior. Everything else pales in comparison.

Because He came, the tragedy of sitting at the bedside of a dying loved one on a day that should be filled with fun and laughter is made bearable. Because He came, a ruined meal is just that – a ruined meal not a catastrophe. Because He came, relationships are reconciled and forgiveness happens and lives are restored and we more than survive this challenging, stress filled life.

So as you prepare for the new year – make your resolutions and set your goals, plan the diet and write out the carefully executed schedule – remember this. Just as there is no perfect holiday gathering, there is no perfect life on earth. Your year will not go as planned and that’s a promise you can stand on. Trials and triumphs, smooth sailing and tsunami sized waves, laughter and tears, losses and wins – they will come.  Only a few things are guaranteed to stay solid and sure.

The love of God. The sacrifice of a Savior. And the fact that on every new page of every day in 2016 He will be present. He will share the good times, carry you through the tough times, redirect your path when it takes a wrong turn, calm your fears and hold you close when you can’t seem to face another day.

“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deut. 31:8

 

 

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FerventWhat a great book with real, practical, helpful thoughts on making your prayer time powerful. In Fervent, Priscilla highlights ten strategies to focus on as we spend time in prayer. They are key to opening our hearts and minds to the true power in prayer.

I loved that strategy #1, right out of the gate, was to pray for renewed passion for prayer. Priscilla says “Fervent prayer is fueled by passion.” So very true but we get complacent, even lazy in our prayer life because the passion dims. We treat prayer time like a task to check off our to do list instead of the great privilege of coming before God and having a conversation.

Each strategy chapter includes Priscilla’s thoughts on why the strategy topic is key, a down to earth story illustrations from her life or the life of others to prove her point, and a host of scriptures that support the chapter. In fact, scripture is abundant throughout the book tying every thought back to God’s word. This is truly one of the author’s strengths.

I felt one especially “nailed-it” point she brought out in her chapter on “Our Hurts” was to point out that the bible tells us not just to forgive but to offer comfort to those that hurt us. What a challenge and yet, when acted upon, what a huge place of grace.

I also liked the way Priscilla began each chapter with a thought on “If I were the enemy I would ..” It made so much sense seeing it in writing that satan will attack the areas most likely to interfere with your ability to be completely focused in prayer.

I received this book from the Lifeway bloggers group in order to offer a review. I’m so blessed that this is the book I had opportunity to read and comment on. It was truly prayer-life changing and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to discover the power in fervent prayer. Some of my favorite women will find this book in their Christmas stockings for sure!

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