Study Your Bible (1)

“Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law.”  Ps 119:18 NKJV

Let’s consider some practical suggestions for getting more out of your Bible study: Schedule it. If you don’t, it won’t happen. Learn to say no to unimportant things. For many of us the biggest obstacle to studying the Bible is television; the average person watches over four hours every day. Do the math: That’s sixty-one days a year—two months! By age eighteen the average person has seen 200,000 acts of violence, including 16,000 murders. And by age sixty-five they’ve spent about nine and one-half years watching TV. By contrast, if you went to Sunday school regularly from birth until age sixty-five, you’d only have had a total of four months of Bible teaching. No wonder we struggle spiritually. Discipline yourself by setting aside a specific time each day to study your Bible—and let nothing get in the way. And do it when you’re at your best physically, emotionally, and intellectually, not when you’re distracted and hurried. You know if you’re “a day person” or a “night person,” so pick the time when you’re most alert. The spirit may be willing but the flesh is weak, so if you don’t want your study time to turn into “snore time,” don’t try to study when you’re tired, or right after a big meal. And keep a notebook to jot down your observations and keep track of what God is saying to you. Writing does three things: It clarifies, reinforces, and personalizes. Also, ask yourself, “What’s the takeaway from this passage?” It will help to fix God’s Word firmly in your mind and jog your memory regarding what you’re supposed to do about it.

Psalm 91:9 Thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the Most High, thy habitation.

The Israelites in the wilderness were continually exposed to change. Whenever the pillar stayed its motion, the tents were pitched; but tomorrow, ere the morning sun had risen, the trumpet sounded, the ark was in motion, and the fiery, cloudy pillar was leading the way through the narrow defiles of the mountain, up the hillside, or along the arid waste of the wilderness. They had scarcely time to rest a little before they heard the sound of “Away! this is not your rest; you must still be onward journeying towards Canaan!” They were never long in one place. Even wells and palm trees could not detain them. Yet they had an abiding home in their God, His cloudy pillar was their roof-tree, and its flame by night their household fire. They must go onward from place to place, continually changing, never having time to settle, and to say, “Now we are secure; in this place we shall dwell.” “Yet,” says Moses, “though we are always changing, Lord, thou hast been our dwelling-place throughout all generations.” The Christian knows no change with regard to God. He may be rich to-day and poor to-morrow; he may be sickly to-day and well to-morrow; he may be in happiness to-day, to-morrow he may be distressed-but there is no change with regard to his relationship to God. If He loved me yesterday, He loves me to-day. My unmoving mansion of rest is my blessed Lord. Let prospects be blighted; let hopes be blasted; let joy be withered; let mildews destroy everything; I have lost nothing of what I have in God. He is “my strong habitation whereunto I can continually resort.” I am a pilgrim in the world, but at home in my God. In the earth I wander, but in God I dwell in a quiet habitation.

Just Turn Your Head

“Son of man, describe the temple to the people of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their sins. Let them consider its perfection, and if they are ashamed of all they have done, make known to them the design of the temple—its arrangement, its exits and entrances—its whole design and all its regulations and laws. Write these down before them so that they may be faithful to its design and follow all its regulations.” — Ezekiel 43:10–11

The  portion for this week is , which means “contributions,” from Exodus 27:20–30:10, and the  is from Ezekiel 43:10–27.

Every day is another chance to change our lives and ourselves for the better. And yet, so many of us wake up in the morning all set to change, only to be reminded how difficult it is to do that. Very often, we become discouraged and overwhelmed and end the day just as we had started.

In Psalm 103:12, we read, “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” However, the Jewish understanding of the verse is not quite as optimistic. The Jewish translation of the verse is “as far as the east is from the west, so far have our transgressions removed us from Him.” Our sins distance us greatly from God. But don’t get depressed yet. As one rabbi explained, closing that distance doesn’t take much.

“How far is east from west?” asked Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk. Then the rabbi continued, “East and west are right next to each other. All you need to do is change the direction of your head.” Physically speaking, the rabbi was saying that to change your head from facing east to facing west proves that east and west are right next to each other – what matters is which direction you are facing. Spiritually speaking, it also means that when we change our head – when we change our mindset – we immediately close the gap that threatens our closeness to God.

In this week’s Haftorah reading, God directed the prophet Ezekiel to “describe the temple to the people of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their sins . . . and if they are ashamed of all they have done, make known to them the design of the temple . . .” All God asked of the people was that they would become ashamed of their sins. If they acknowledged what they had done wrong, regretted it, and decided never to repeat those mistakes again, that’s all it took to restore their relationship with God.

On one hand, change is, indeed, hard. On the other hand, all it takes is a turn of the head; a change in direction; a change of heart. Once we change directions, we are already different because we have changed our ultimate destination.

This week, let’s search out and acknowledge where we might be headed in the wrong direction. It’s tempting to sweep our bad habits under the proverbial rug, but let’s try looking at those things that we might have stowed away for too long. God loves us and wants to have a relationship with us no matter what. All He asks is that we acknowledge our shortcomings and sincerely regret them. Only then we will be heading in the right direction — toward God!

Withdrawing in Order to Draw

“He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.”                       Jn6:15 NKJV

The secret to success lies in knowing what God has assigned and gifted you to do. Once you discover those two things, delegate the rest or let it go. This isn’t easy, because others will place demands on your time and energy that aren’t in line with your calling. Figure out what activities drain you, and unless they’re essential—avoid them. Then figure out the things that energize you and fill your tank, and make them an essential part of your life. “But there are so many demands on my time,” you say. Nobody was busier than Jesus. John speaks about His workload: “There are…things that Jesus did, which if they were written…the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (Jn 21:25 NKJV). Question: How did Jesus stay on track and keep from burning out? Answer: He knew the secret to spiritual rest and renewal. The Bible says, “When Jesus perceived…they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.” The word “again” tells us that Jesus made a regular daily practice of withdrawing from the crowd in order to pray, consider His plans and priorities, and recharge His batteries. Understand this: To be effective with others, you must learn to be comfortable alone with yourself. Novelist Louis Auchincloss said, “The only thing that keeps a man going is energy, and what is energy but liking life?” If you can carve out moments to do what energizes you, you’ll have reserves you can draw on when it’s time to give to others.

Jonah 2:9 Salvation is of the Lord.

Salvation is the work of God. It is He alone who quickens the soul “dead in trespasses and sins,” and it is He also who maintains the soul in its spiritual life. He is both “Alpha and Omega.” “Salvation is of the Lord.” If I am prayerful, God makes me prayerful; if I have graces, they are God’s gifts to me; if I hold on in a consistent life, it is because He upholds me with His hand. I do nothing whatever towards my own preservation, except what God Himself first does in me. Whatever I have, all my goodness is of the Lord alone. Wherein I sin, that is my own; but wherein I act rightly, that is of God, wholly and completely. If I have repulsed a spiritual enemy, the Lord’s strength nerved my arm. Do I live before men a consecrated life? It is not I, but Christ who liveth in me. Am I sanctified? I did not cleanse myself: God’s Holy Spirit sanctifies me. Am I weaned from the world? I am weaned by God’s chastisements sanctified to my good. Do I grow in knowledge? The great Instructor teaches me. All my jewels were fashioned by heavenly art. I find in God all that I want; but I find in myself nothing but sin and misery. “He only is my rock and my salvation.” Do I feed on the Word? That Word would be no food for me unless the Lord made it food for my soul, and helped me to feed upon it. Do I live on the manna which comes down from heaven? What is that manna but Jesus Christ himself incarnate, whose body and whose blood I eat and drink? Am I continually receiving fresh increase of strength? Where do I gather my might? My help cometh from heaven’s hills: without Jesus I can do nothing. As a branch cannot bring forth fruit except it abide in the vine, no more can I, except I abide in Him. What Jonah learned in the great deep, let me learn this morning in my closet: “Salvation is of the Lord.”