What Bible verse is currently speaking to you?

Dear Friends,

Don’t faint, I’m actually writing again. I have planned for a bit to start the lifegroup back once our homeschool started back for the boys, and today is their first day.

I would like to make a change to our group though – for the time being, I’d like to study any verse in the Bible, not just Ephesians. Eventually, I’d love to go back and finish up Ephesians, but for now, I’d love to hear about some of your favorite verses. What verse(s) speak(s) to you? I’d love to read your thoughts (it doesn’t have to analyze every word or compare different versions).

I sooo look forward to hearing about your favorite verses. I’ll also be sharing some of mine. Today’s verse, 1 Chron 4:10, has been on my heart the last few weeks – encouraging me on a few different fronts. 🙂

MSG 1 Chron 4:9-10 Jabez was a better man than his brothers, a man of honor. His mother had named him Jabez (Oh, the pain!), saying, “A painful birth! I bore him in great pain!” Jabez prayed to the God of Israel: “Bless me, O bless me! Give me land, large tracts of land. And provide your personal protection—don’t let evil hurt me.” God gave him what he asked.

AMP Jabez cried to the God of Israel, saying, Oh, that You would bless me and enlarge my border, and that Your hand might be with me, and You would keep me from evil so it might not hurt me! And God granted his request.

NLT He was the one who prayed to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and expand my territory! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!” And God granted him his request.

NKJV And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested.

HEBREW And called Jabez on the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, that might your hand be with me, that you would keep [me from] evil, that it may not do grief.” And God him granted that which he requested.

Much love,
Te-ge

To Be Holy and Blameless for Us

One of the things I love as the Near and Far LifeGroup goes through our Bible study on Ephesians is how Paul strives to make so clear to us how very, very much God loves us and what that means for our lives.

I’ve shared 1 John 4:8 before, “God is love;” and of the vision that God gave me of the ribbon of love wrapping around each of us, believer and non-believer alike. As we study Ephesians that image stays close to mind, as I read about how our Father chose before the very creation of the cosmos for Christ to be holy and blameless for us; he knew, even from the very beginning, that we would sin, not just accidentally sin, but sin on purpose, and even knowing this, before we ever committed the sin, he forgave us.

And he didn’t just forgive us, but offers to each of us (and indeed, hopes that we will choose) his very best—grace, favor, and blessings; offering us a life that is completely debt free and filled with his abundance and riches.

“Our Father chose us to be in Christ before the conception of the cosmos, to be for us holy and blameless before God;” I’m not sure that there is any other part that I come back to as often or that makes me smile as much. We can’t be holy and blameless in and of ourselves. I don’t know of anyone, whatever their beliefs, who would claim to have lived a completely blameless life. But, when I stand there before God and the list of things I can be blamed for, both unintentional and willful is read aloud, the One that I have chosen as my Savior will be there, standing in my place, completely blameless, completely holy, paying my debt in full so that I may receive the full and complete inheritance of a child of God.

Several years ago, when God first started teaching Ken and I about Grace, one of the arguments we kept coming back to was that it could so easily be exploited. The thing is, I think it has to be that way—not just grace, but our full and complete salvation has to be so written in stone that you can sin willfully and still know that you’re forgiven and loved and favored, that Christ will still be there, holy and blameless for us, whether our actions were unintentional or on purpose.

We were sinners before God opened our eyes and we recognized our need for a savior. Now we still sin, but our eyes have been opened and we recognize our sin for what it is. We may hate the sin even as we are committing it, but only as Christ changes us from the inside out can we start to become holy and blameless, and even then, even then, we aren’t holy and blameless in ourselves. Even Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament, said that the things he wanted to do, he didn’t and the things he didn’t want to do, he did. Even Paul was not blameless in and of himself.

If we could be blameless In ourselves, then we wouldn’t need God. The law existed for hundreds of years before Christ was born, offering a chance for anyone who could to be completely blameless and saved through their own power. No one, not one person, could achieve it, in fact, the law was edited and worked over so much that in its current form, it is almost unrecognizable when compared to the original—all in an attempt to allow people to become blameless on their own. Paul points this out in Phillippians 3:6, describing himself, “concerning the righteousness which is the law, blameless.”

 

Seeing through an Infant’s Eyes 1 Cor 13:11

When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good. 1 Cor 13:11

On the YouVersion Bible on my iPad,  I have  all of 1 Corinthians 13 highlighted in various colors, with the exception of this one verse.

I enjoy playing games. Some of my favorites are the old games like Zork and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. One thing I learned while playing these that has proved true time and time again, even with modern games, is that the creator doesn’t add an item without a reason.

We are used to inconsequentials. If we’re taking a family photo in the front yard and only discover when we print the pictures that little Johnny left a wagon in the yard and it shows up in the picture, that’s an inconsequential. It doesn’t matter and has no real purpose.

Every day we filter out inconsequentials, more or less successfully, sometimes getting sidetracked by things we shouldn’t, sometimes ignoring or undervaluing things really deserve our attention.

But as I’ve been studying my Bible, I’ve discovered more and more that there are no inconsequentials in it. Perhaps there may be a problem with one translation or a typo or whatever, but there are no verses thrown in for filler, no chapters added to try to expand thee page count. Not even additional letters from the apostles included just for good measure.

Which is why, this morning, my eye lit on these unhighlighted words on a page full of color. On its surface, the words are easy to understand – the only confusion about them is why are they put where they do and what do they mean as a result of that?

Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.

When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! (1 Corinthians 13:8-12 MSG)

So, what do gurgling and cooing have to do with seeing completely? I wish I could say that I understand completely and explain it, but I don’t … yet.

Thoughts that come to mind:

When the boys were born, I loved to read to them. And, being me, of course I had to research the best books first. What I found was that infants can’t distinguish colors yet, their eyes aren’t fully developed when they’re first born, and so, black and white book will catch their attention more than the very colorful books that they’ll love later.

In addition, infant eyes can’t see at a distance. Instinctively, we raise them up to our level or lower ourselves to theirs, so that they can see us.

In the same way, we change our voice, so that it’s at a higher pitch and easier for little ears to hear. Watch anyone around a baby, the adult’s behavior changes without any conscious effort and whether or not they have children of their own.

I am reminded of a movie I watched ages ago (so long ago that I can’t remember the name of the movie). It was about a man who had been completely blind since he was a very young child, and now science had come up with a possible cure. It was a true story if I remember right, but what fascinated me, even back before I had children, was the steps that he went through and could actually describe, as he learned to see. First things were outlines – in other words, black and white and distant objects were blobs. Then the part that fascinated me even more, and I didn’t actually believe it until I had children of my own – after he could “see” and was learning to distinguish objects by sight (another thing I had never considered as a step towards seeing but which made perfect sense to me after I had children of my own), even after all this, he still had to learn to distinguish between 2D and 3D. To see a picture of an object and recognize that it was not the object itself but a flat image.

We see these same steps in babies, but because they don’t have the words to express what they’re going through, it doesn’t bring about the ah ha moments without something to explain what’s happening, at least most of the time.

Morning Bible Study – 10/8/13 Incomplete Portions

We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.

I was sharing with Ken about this verse yesterday. As I was sharing, I came across the perfect analogy – The Blind Men and the Elephant. (I’ve included the poem at the end of this post in case you’d like to read it, it’s a very fun read.)

But that’s how we are, isn’t it? As I read that each of us knows only a portion of the truth, I see so many of us, bickering over who is right, with our only knowledge being the portion that we see.

Even worse is if we teach our portion, without acknowledging that other portions are just as valid. The only question is, which portions are the elephant and which aren’t.

I do believe that the answer comes in the verse, “My sheep hear my voice and they know me.” If we know how to recognize God’s voice, then seeing clear doesn’t matter. Being blind doesn’t matter. If we know and love His voice, we turn towards it and follow, trusting Him, whether or not we can see clear and whether or not my beliefs are different than yours. And if we’re both following the same voice, does it matter if we give the voice a different name? Does a rose by any other name smell as sweet or does a name change the essence of an item?

It’s easy to believe sometimes that because we read our Bible frequently, we know the entire truth. And yet, I am in my 40’s and not only have I never stopped finding new truths in it, but every few years, I come across a truth that completely revises my entire belief system.

Learning about Grace was like that. In fact, I now mark the time when I learned about Grace as the beginning of this journey. There have been other revisions through the years, but Grace was the most complete, mind-blowing experience I’ve lived through yet.

 

The Blind Men and the Elephant
John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887)

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a WALL!”

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, “Ho, what have we here,
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a SPEAR!”

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a SNAKE!”

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he:
“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a TREE!”

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a FAN!”

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a ROPE!”

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

Grace = Freedom

Romans 7:5-6 For as long as we lived that old way of life, doing whatever we felt we could get away with, sin was calling most of the shots as the old law code hemmed us in. And this made us all the more rebellious. In the end, all we had to show for it was miscarriages and stillbirths.

But now that we’re no longer shackled to that domineering mate of sin, and out from under all those oppressive regulations and fine print, we’re free to live a new life in the freedom of God.

As a Christian, your job isn't to judge someone because they don't have the same beliefs as you do. If you act like a pompous jerk, don't be surprised if they aren't keen on joining your Jesus train.  Reflect an image of truth and love, not judgment and pride.   - JarridWilson

Ask the Christians you know and you’ll learn that at one time or another, most were caught up in a life of law.

A friend shared a quote once that I wish I could remember verbatim, but the gist of it was that although as Christians, we believe that we’ve been forgiven, we go around blaming ourselves constantly for failing to stay within the laws, and so while we should be the ones who have the most to rejoice over, instead, for many, we live lives of perpetual misery from not staying within bounds.

Let me say here and now, it would be better to live a life professing not to believe in Christ and then to have a death-bed salvation than to live like this. Living a life of misery because you are a “follower of Christ” does nothing for anyone, not yourself nor others. Living a life of misery because you are a "follower of Christ" does nothing for anyone, not yourself nor others.

“…Freedom of God” For years, I pondered that. What did being free mean? How, as Christians bound by the law, could we be free? At one time I thought perhaps that it was a fake freedom – that we were within a gate and our job was to stay within it’s large boundaries instead of staring over the fence wanting what was on the other side.

But Christ is never false, not in word or action. If He was, then what are we basing our hopes upon?

In my ponderings, I would often wonder about Matthew 11:30 – For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. In fact, my questions over this are perhaps the key to explain my final realization of grace.

There is a Christian song that has a line that goes something like “No one ever said it would be easy….” I remember getting so upset with that song when it was popular. I didn’t have an explanation of Matthew 11:30, but I knew it was in the Bible and that Jesus said it – so therefore either it must be true or my own beliefs were false. I just couldn’t explain how it was true. And it was in this mental purgatory that I hovered for years, stuck on the dream freedom, light burdens, and easy yokes, while around me, church messages seemed to ignore these verses, promoting lives of right living in order to work your way into heaven.

There are moments in our lives that are perfect epiphanies, those “ah ha” moments where the world does a little twist and everything falls into its right place, moved from the spot we’d put it in because we didn’t know where it fit.

I’ve had a few of those moments in my life and in my experience, although I never seem to remember the exact date, I can always tell you where I was and what I was doing, and even the general time. This time, I was on the couch in the den, doing my morning Bible study.

I’d been focused on Abraham for a while, each time I thought I was almost finished studying him, something would bring me back and I’d learn something else from studying his life. At the moment, my focus was on Genesis 15:6 – And Abraham believed and God counted it for righteousness.

I could easily share a whole message or several on this verse, and perhaps one day I’ll share my study notes from that time, but for now, I’ll skip ahead to the realization that struck me after the umpteenth reading of the verse for who knows how many days – “Grace! That’s grace!”

Grace is one of those words that for years I had no real definition for. I knew it was a Christian word that you use in Christian circles, but it really wasn’t a word that made sense – when you believe in a God of laws, where is the grace in that?

And even that morning, as I realized that I was reading about grace, I still couldn’t have given a non-churchilogical definition of the word. I just knew that all Abraham had to do was to believe in God, that he wasn’t required to jump through any hoops, there were no laws for him to strive to obey, there wasn’t anything he HAD to do except believe.

Life as I know it has never been the same since. The revelation of grace – of being forgiven without ever having (or even being able) to earn it, of not having to live a guilty life because by accepting Christ I’ve already been forgiven, was the start to a whole new life.