Tag Archive: Bible


Going Deeper with Jesus

Going Deeper small (2)This weekend, we begin a new 9-month sermon series at Gloria Dei, called “Going Deeper.”

Going deeper into God’s Word.
Going deeper in a relationship with Jesus.
Going deeper in our faith.

I was thinking about this idea of going deeper when I read this passage from Luke.

Now as they (Jesus and his disciples) went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. Luke 10:38-39 ESV

A woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.

Perhaps before we can even go deeper, we must first invite Jesus to join us where we are. He promises to always be with us, but He’s not pushy. He won’t force his way into someone’s life—or somewhere He’s not welcome.

But to welcome Jesus is to want Him present with us…to want to spend time with Him.

Martha’s sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.

She sat and listened. She wasn’t multi-tasking and listening while doing something else. Her focus was only on Jesus. I can imagine her hanging on every word He said.

And I wonder, do we?

Do we solely focus on Jesus and listen to what He says?

When we open our Bibles to read His Word, does He have our full attention?

If we continue to read in Luke 10, we know that Martha was busy bustling about preparing and serving the meal. While Mary sat and listened. I think we can understand Martha’s frustration with Mary because we learn early in life that being busy is good. Being busy gets us places.

Jesus sees Martha’s busyness, but He doesn’t tell Mary to get up and help her.

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42 ESV

Martha is stressed out. Can you relate? I can.

Martha wasn’t out of line for wanting to serve Jesus, but she let it become more important than spending time with Him.

How often do we do the same—when obligations, even church obligations, weigh heavier than spending time with Jesus?

Mary had it right. Jesus was in their home and she wanted to spend her time going deeper in her friendship with Him.

We have the same opportunity to go deeper with Him every time we read God’s Word and let it soak in. Every time we worship Him. Every time we hear Him speak to us and we stop to listen.

In getting to know Him better, our faith grows deeper…and as Jesus said, it cannot be taken away from us.

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Exploring God’s Word

Jer. 29.13

When I was a kid, I remember receiving a new Bible in Sunday school class. We promptly put paper dust covers on them for protection and learned how to look up a verse. I never, ever wrote in my Bible—I’m pretty sure that was a rule—a rule that was deeply ingrained in me. I know this because it was painful when a few years ago I decided it was time to start making notes and underlining verses in my Bible.

What’s taught to us is hard to overcome because I had to restrain myself when I watched my daughter highlight a page in her brand new Bible. I may have quietly hyperventilated, but I wasn’t going to squash her excitement. She was in her Bible, highlighting as she read—and she was reading more than a few verses. She read one book after another and told me why she chose each one, and which one was next.                                                                                                

She was exploring God’s word and sharing with me the verses that captured her attention. My heart swelled, and at the same time…I wish I had been like that at her age.

I wish I had been encouraged to read and ask questions, but I think times are different now.

There are more translations of the Bible, each speaking just a little differently to give new understanding of God’s word. More people are asking questions instead of taking a back seat in their faith. And there are good conversations happening, with people discussing what faith means in their lives. In these conversations, I feel better prepared and more eager to be involved when I’m focused on making my faith part of my everyday life.

I don’t want to stop at someone telling me what I should know. I want to see it for myself and go deeper. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe my pastors or doubt everything explained to me—it means I want more.

I need to know how God’s word is relevant in my life today, and having someone tell me that it is isn’t enough. I have to make that connection myself because that’s when it becomes real. And that’s what I can share with others—God’s work in my life.

I’m speaking for myself here, and not trying to say what you do or don’t do is wrong. This is me and my desire for more of Him.

But, I will encourage you…

If you want to ask questions—don’t be afraid to ask.

If you want to know more—keep looking.

If you want to go deeper into God’s word—keep reading. I’m constantly amazed at how He will give new meaning to verses I’ve heard all my life, but never quite understood what they meant for me.

And there is always more to explore…because we can never fully understand the depth of His love for us.

 

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith

 

Photo credit: Stock photo: Bible

 

 

From Shepherd to King (4 Perspectives)

Perspective 1- Barb Miles

David constantly reached out to God in prayer when he was fearful and needed direction and help.  And David also thanked God for being his deliverer, always giving thanks to God for hearing his prayers.  This is a good lesson for me.  My take away for this chapter is to always pray for direction and to always give thanks.

Perspective 2- Pastor Ron

Sometimes the egos of the characters in the Bible are as fragile as that of the stars in Hollywood! Saul is the king anointed by God to lead his people. God has blessed him during his reign. He even provides him with David. Yes, David will be the next king, but he has intense loyalty to Saul. One would think, what a wonderful blessing to have this naturally gifted warrior by my side! David did so well that the people sang about him:

“Saul has slain his thousands,and David his tens of thousands.”

This can be taken one of two ways. Either, Saul has done a great job mentoring the boy and can celebrate his success, or he can see him as a threat…Saul chose the latter. How sad. Can you imagine what a powerhouse the two of them would have been? Saul on his way out, but David being chosen by God and groomed by Saul. But Saul’s ego would have none of that. David was a threat and the fact that Saul’s son was David’s best friend was just salt in this open wound. What a missed opportunity. What pain and agony was put upon so many…in part, at least, because of an ego.

We all have an ego and it is necessary to have a positive self-image. We can get into all kinds of trouble if we have too negative of a self-image of ourselves. Like all things though, if left unchecked it can get us into a lot trouble. How many times have you failed to celebrate with another person’s success because somehow you saw that as a poor reflection on you? How much more productive would your place of business be if egos were removed and everyone celebrated everyone else’s success?  What if sibling rivalry was removed from your home? What would happen if we put our egos aside?

It reminds me of this passage in Philippians 2:5-8

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!

Perspective 3- Diane Schmidt

I just love the example of David as he demonstrated his faith in the living God; how he loved and trusted him in all things. Right from the beginning of this chapter David demonstrates his faith in God. He questions the army when they allow Goliath to “defy the living God.” (pg. 148) He convinces Saul that he can slay this enemy because “the Lord…will rescue me from this Philistine.” (p 148-149) He gives credit to God and shows great trust when he says, “All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” (p 149) As Saul pursues David, he once again turns to God for deliverance. At the encounter in the cave, David could have slain Saul but he didn’t. Why? I think it’s because he knew it would not be pleasing to God. David was taught God’s laws and knew that God’s story was bigger than his own. David knew that God had a plan for him and even if he couldn’t see the magnitude of the Upper Story he still trusted God. Throughout this chapter we see David’s trusting faith and God’s blessings, and the strength and courage he gave David. David gives us some great images of who God is: my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, my refuge, my shield, my horn of salvation, my stronghold, my savior! What great words and images that we can hold on to when we are surrounded by a world of doubt, struggle, fear, unbelievers, death and destruction. To be comforted and strengthened by a God who is so personal that he cares about my daily life and yet so big he can fight and defeat my biggest enemies, just like he did for David.

Perspective 4- Dan Petrak

Deborah is one of the most interesting if the judges because her presence and her leadership of the men of Israel confounds many males in churches today. Yep, she was a woman; she was chosen by God; she was even the Commander in Chief of a general of God’s army.

The Bible doesn’t explain how God called her. It just says that God was allowing an enemy of Israel to push the nation hard because they had again turned from God to idols. The Bible says of the time, “Now Deborah, a prophet, … was leading Israel at that time.” The Bible adds that she held court and settled disputes among the Israelites.

When the time came for rescue, God directed Deborah. She was instructed to tell Israeli general, Barak, to take the army to a place named by God, where God would deliver the enemy into his hand. It is obvious that Barak did not receive the message from God personally, because his reply to Deborah was, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.”  So, Deborah, General Barak, and ten thousand Israeli soldiers set out. This tells us that not only was Deborah the only woman to serve as a judge, but she was respected by the common people and the military leaders.

To finalize Deborah’s position as God’s chosen leader of the people, we see the climax of the day of battle.  “Deborah said to Barak, ‘Go! This is the day the Lord has given Sisera (the enemy leader) into your hands. Has not the Lord gone on ahead of you?'”  God delivered Sisera and his army into the hand of General Barak, as He had promised.

This victory under the leadership of God and his chosen leader brought a return by the people to God, and the nation enjoyed forty years of peace.

We don’t know if judges served for life, or if they melted back into their former lives when the danger to the nation had passed. We do know that none tried to take over as king (or queen), nor did they try to establish dynasties.

sue wilson

What were judges almost four thousand years ago? They were not the robed figures that inhabit the courts today. In fact, they were more military leaders than judges. The way in which they were judges was that they led God’s people and carried out God’s instructions.

In addition, judges were not permanent fixtures on “the bench” as they sometimes are today. One of God’s judges would be lifted up by God as a short-time leader of the people, to get them back on the right path.

The reason that they wandered was the same as ours–times were good, crops were plentiful, so who needs God.

Let’s look at what is called the Cycle of the Judges:  1) Times are good, so who needs God. We’re doing fine on our own. 2) a powerful neighboring nation arises and puts Israel under pressure to pay tribute (blackmail) in order to remain at peace. 3) The people remember God and beg for His help. 4) God helps by raising up a person as a military leader with character and a focus on God. 5) Through that leader God defeats Israel’s enemies and restores her prominence.

Here’s the sad part–this cycle reoccured about six times in a little over three hundred years! Talk about patience on the part of God!

One judge was pretty much a selfish failure who God continued to use anyway. Another was a woman. All were imperfect, but used by God for His glory and His people’s rescue.

This was the time just before God allowed the people to have an earthly King.

sue wilson

After all that God had provided His people; after all the times that He had shown them His power to protect and bless them, the spies sent into the promised land came back and said that it would be suicide to do what God had commanded. All but two–Caleb and Joshua, who begged the people to obey God and enter the land. They would not, which led to another forty years of desert education.

It’s easy to criticize the spies who came back saying, “There’s giants there!”  I wonder, though, how many times we do the same thing.

I was sitting in my favorite fast food “office” the other day and noted a very scruffy man in his 50s sitting with a backpack and a cup of coffee. I had seen him there before, but this time something urged me to go over to him and say “I don’t want to offend, but would you like to have a McMuffin to go with your coffee?”

Another something inside me said, “There’s giants there!”  I listened to the wrong voice, and after awhile he hoisted his backpack and walked out the door and down the street. I wasn’t very proud of myself for fearing giants in the land.

How many times have you had opportunity to help another person, but ringing in your ears was the phrase, “There’s giants there!”

If You Wonder

Is this book really true? Many critics today claim that the Bible cannot be true as written, or that it just carries ideas that Jesus taught, not his real words.

The Old Testament is doubted for one major reason–it contains miracles. Some say that you cannot go against the laws of physics. Isn’t it ironic that the latest winner of the Nobel Prize has proven that we can do just that? If we can begin to conquer the laws of physics, why could not the God that created them do the same? Why couldn’t the earth slow during a battle if the creator of the world chose? Also, if you believe that a man crucified DEAD walked out of his tomb (and if my reader is a Christian, you do believe that) why is it hard to believe that God did strange and wonderful things in the Old Testament times as well?

As far as the question of whether we can believe all that is said about Jesus, I cite two passages. The first is from John as he concluded his account of Jesus’ life:

“This is the disciple [John identifies himself] who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.  Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”

The second is from Peter, who was at Jesus’ transfiguration with John when He spoke to two long-“dead” leaders of God’s people:

“We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty [when the Father confirmed His Son]. We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.”

Why does the world not question the words or veracity of other ancient books? Because only the Bible threatens our own godhood by proclaiming that there is one greater than we; that we are sinners who cannot save ourselves–who will not evolve into gods; that we need a Savior if we are to continue into an afterlife of joy and peace. These concepts fly in the face of our sinfulness and egos. We want to be our own gods, but the Bible keeps getting in the way, telling us that there is a Ruler of this universe and of our lives. A Ruler who battles evil in us and for us; who fights an unseen battle against evil that will culminate with the return of His Son, who died so that we might live eternally.

sue wilson

“Prosperity knits a man to the world. He feels that he is finding his place in it, while really it is finding its place in him.”
― C.S. LewisThe Screwtape Letters

Jesus talked about the man who built his house on the sand versus the man who built his house on the rock. He said, “But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.” The sand-based house, of course, fell. (Matthew 7:24-27)

On the other hand, the man who builds his life upon Jesus, and acts upon Jesus’ teachings will be “like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.”

Which is the easier house to build? The sand-based house of course. That is the temptation that tears into our hearts every day. Even as believers we want to lapse back into shoveling sand instead of digging through the root tangles and black soil to reach the rock.

Cheating on an exam is easier than studying, doing your best, and taking what comes. Did you know that the majority of our students headed for medical school cheat because it is “necessary” in order to make it into the best institutions? They see no problem in their actions, because that’s what they had to do in order to get what they wanted.

The cheating spouse might feel a twinge of guilt, but will continue to build his life on sand because it’s what he or she has to do “to be happy.”

How many of us remain silent when one of our group spends some conversation time denigrating faith in “fairytales” (that is, Christianity). Silence is safe. It does not embarrass. It does not bring retribution, but is it building a life on the Rock and his teachings?

Satan’s threats to us–his little, continual, irritating voice aimed our “practical” side–never stop. Perhaps that is why the Holy Spirit chooses to take up residence within us. He is closer than Satan’s minions. They can only dance around on the outside, hoping that we will follow their temptations into building a life on sand; a life that will eventually crumble and let us fall far and hard.

Luther says that the Holy Spirit “calls, gathers and enlightens.” Luther was speaking of coming to faith in Christ as Savior, but to be called by Christ, according to the lives of the apostles, entails more than believing that He has given me faith unto salvation.

According to all that we read in the Gospels, being called also involves living every day. As Jesus pointed out in the the story of the house built on sand and the house built on rock–being called is also about acting on the words of our Lord. The Holy Spirit has direct access to our brains and hearts, if we stop to listen and stop to consider whether we want to be of this world, building on sand, or travelers through this world to our real home.

C.S. Lewis looked at our attitude toward what makes a successful life and found it to be lacking. What is success in your life? is it a big house, fenced in yard, a two-car garage, good job with good pay, great benefits from your company, a prestigious school, lots of friends? Or, is it representing Jesus Christ in every area of your life. Is it living and thinking in ways that you would willingly share with Christ?

One success is built on sand; the other on the Rock of our salvation and our lives.

sue wilson

Joseph’s Faith and Mine

What has always amazed me concerning Joseph is his faith-stamina. He just did not give up. He relied on his faith in God every day. I give up so easily, even though I truly believe that God has a path and plan for me. I truly believe that faith is a gift from God, but use it too sparingly, as though I might run out someday. And, by not practicing it every day, I lose so much.

Because faith in my God is often not the primary instigation factor in my daily life, the moment something doesn’t go as I think it should, I begin to dash here and there trying to “fix” it, without stopping to consider what God may be doing. This applies to jobs, relationships, even world problems (yeah, I got whatever it is pretty bad).

Joseph, on the other hand, after being dropped in a water-gathering hole and sold into slavery did not run around in a panic. He had a deep and abiding faith.  He looked at where God had let him be placed and patiently waited to see God’s plan develop. He was the best slave, the best prisoner, and the best manager that Egypt had ever seen.

I, on another hand, am probably the worst whiner that my loving God has ever had to patiently prod in the direction He wants me to go. I am the beagle of his flock–and if you know beagles, you know that they are wonderful and obedient until a path other than yours grabs their attention.

Joseph’s faith was solid and steady. My faith is often forgotten as I try to come up with my own solutions to my latest self-inflicted wound.

Joseph never argued with God. I argue with God as effectively as the time I argued with my father that if driving slower gained better gas milage, then standing at an idle should give me 100 mpg. Yep, arguing with God is that dumb.

So my hope is that thinking about Joseph and his enduring trust and faith in God in all things will remind me (even me) to do the same.

sue wilson

Privatized Spirituality

Most Christians are aware that our culture has been changing. Today, we are being asked in subtle ways to “privatize” our faith; to keep it in the church, or to ourselves. I have had friends on FB ask my opinion and then say, “If it has to do with religion, I don’t want to hear it.”  Hmm. What to do? Keep my faith to myself, sharing it only with those of my church or other friends that I know are Christian?

According to author Ravi Zacharias, that cannot be the answer. Here is what he has to say in his book, “Deliver Us From Evil”–

“Every thinking person knows that to imprison a sacred belief within the private realm is ultimately to fracture, if not to kill, the belief. One could no more sever belief from public expression and still live spiritually fulfilled than one could remove the heart from the body and bid the blood flow. The separation kills the life in the body. Such is the impact on privatized spirituality.”

I do not think that we are in danger of losing our belief, or having it “killed.” I think that Zacharias’ point here is that this is what Satan hopes will happen; that Satan hopes that the Church (its people) can be silenced.

Have you found yourself “privatizing” your faith for fear of ridicule or condemnation? I know that there are times when I speak of my Savior in great trepidation of what might come flying back. It’s a tough call.  I find myself thinking that if I offend someone, I must have not acted in love. Then the other half of my brain/heart reminds me that Jesus said everything in  perfect love and was crucified for his statements; that He told His followers that the time would come when it would be tough to be a Christian. Again, it is confusing.

How are you handling the current attitude toward our faith? What do you think of Zacharias’ summation of the situation? Has our culture come that far, or can we still openly share our faith without fear of a “put down”?

Thanks for reading. I hope you will share your thoughts!

sue wilson

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