Dying to Self

Some people may not like the title of this post. But it’s an important topic in our Christian journey. In Luke 9:23, Jesus says, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.”

Let’s break this down…

1 – If any of you wants to be my followers: I hope if you are reading this, then you are or you want to be a follower of Jesus. When Jesus said these words, He was seen as a spiritual leader. Many people in His day wanted to follow Him in order to learn and grow. We too should want to learn and grow. But that’s not all. The people who Jesus was talking to didn’t yet know that He would die for their sins. Since we have this knowledge, that alone should make us want to be a follower of Jesus.

2 – You must give up your own way: We must learn to set aside our own desires and wants, in order to align ourselves with God’s desires and wants. This might be a painful process and could even cause us much grief. But in the long run, the outcome will be beautiful.

3 – Take up your cross daily: Back when Jesus walked the earth, a person who was being executed had to carry their own cross to the place of execution, just as Jesus Himself did. So I believe in this statement, Jesus is telling us we have die to ourselves. Note the word “daily.” This means every single day we have to make a conscious decision to lay aside the things that our flesh will want.

4 – And follow me: When we become Christians, we gave our hearts to the Lord. Our number one goal in life should be to follow Jesus. It’s not something that is done once, but moment-by-moment, throughout a life-long journey.

When our flesh reads this, it might be tempted to rise up with pride. We might think of all the things we want that we have to give up. But there is good news about the things we are giving up. One of two things will happen. We might truly give those things up for the rest of our lives, which means that it wasn’t good for us. God had a better plan in mind. This could be something we know is bad, like doing drugs. Or it could even be a big dream we had, like having children. Whatever the case may be, if God does not bring it to pass, then He have to trust that He has our best interest in mind.

Or the second route is that God still might cause that thing to come to fruition anyway. Let’s stick with the “having children” example, but feel free to insert any of your dreams or goals. We have to hold that desire loosely in our hands. We have to put God first. We have to do everything for Him and His glory. But God does care about our desires and wants. It says in Psalm 37:4, “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires.” So if He sees that this desire is a good thing and will truly be what’s best for us, we still might see our dream come true.

Every day that we walk this earth, God will be molding us. His goal is to make us more like Christ. It says in 1 Thessalonians 4:3 that “God’s will is for you to be holy.” So He doesn’t want us to give anything up out of pure meanness, as some might think. He wants what is best for us. He can see our whole story from beginning to end. He knows what will bring the most fruit in our lives. Dying to self is really based on love – God’s love for us and in turn our love for Him. When we approach it from this point of view, it will make it a lot easier on us, and we will be more willing to take that step.

The Liebster Award

Hi Friends! I am so excited to tell you that I have been nominated for The Liebster Award! I want to thank Perth Girl for this nomination. I am truly honored! Perth Girl is a blogger who writes about faith, family, and food. Check out this fabulous blog when you have a moment. You will be sure to walk away feeling encouraged. faithfood.blog

The Rules:

  • Thank the blogger(s) who nominated you.
  • Share 11 facts about yourself.
  • Answer the 11 questions the blogger(s) asked you.
  • Nominate 11 blogger(s) and make them happy.
  • Make up 11 questions and ask them to your nominees.
  • Notify your 11 nominees.

11 Facts about me:

  • 1 – I love Jesus.
  • 2 – I have seen all of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies in the theatre.
  • 3 – I love Pumpkin everything.
  • 4 – I like to crochet.
  • 5 – I can listen to Christmas music all year long.
  • 6 – But I most often listen to Christian music.
  • 7 – I can say the alphabet backwards (this is something my grandmother had me do when I needed help falling asleep).
  • 8 – My great-grandmother, who was from Hungary, was Bela Lugosi’s housekeeper.
  • 9 – I love reading classic literature. Usually my sister and I will read (or re-read) the same book at the same time, and have our own mini book club.
  • 10 – I worked at the public library when I was in high school and I worked in my university’s library during my college years.
  • 11 – I originally intended on majoring in Library Science when I went to college. But when I got there I was advised not to because my university was not accredited. So I wound up with a Business degree.
  • The 11 questions I was asked:

    1 – What Inspired you to start writing? I wanted to write for as long as I could remember. This likely stemmed from my love for reading.

    2 – Do you listen to music while you write? No. I do not like any distractions when I am writing. So I usually need to find a quiet place when writing.

    3 – In two words or less, how would you describe your sense of Humour? Unpredictable 😀

    4 – What is your favourite quote? This is a difficult question. Not because I don’t have a good answer. Rather I have too many good answers because I am a quote lover. I will go with:

    God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say thank you? – William Arthur Ward.

    5 – What are you reading at the moment? My sister and I are re-reading Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I am also reading Love Life Again by Tracie Miles.

    6 – What do you wish you were better at? Lots of things but I will say I wish I were better at talking to people.

    7 – If you could be on a talk show which one would you choose and why? I really don’t watch enough television to know what talk shows are current. LOL. So I am going to go with the morning show on my radio station. That is The Morning Cruise on The Joy FM. I love listening Dave, Bill, and Carmen on my morning commute.

    8 – What is your least favourite food? Liver. (And my husband loves it!)

    9 – What meal or dish can you make really well? Cheeseburger soup is a favorite at my house.

    10 – What is your favourite thing to do when you have time by yourself? Read and write.

    11 – What is your favourite trip you took and why? I am not sure about a favorite trip. But my husband and I have a favorite destination, which is The Great Smoky Mountains. We love looking for black bears and other wildlife.

    Nominate:

    I am supposed to nominate eleven people. But it was difficult narrowing this down to only eleven. So I am opening this up to all of my followers. If you have a blog, and decide to post about this, then please let me know. Or you can also comment here with your answers.

    My questions for you if you choose to participate:

    1 – Do you have a favorite place to write or read?

    2 – What are you reading at the moment?

    3 – Would you rather read the book or watch the movie?

    4 – If you could eat dinner with anyone in the world, anyone in history, who would it be?

    5 – If you could live or visit anywhere in the world, where would it be?

    6 – Are you a morning person or a night owl?

    7 – What is your favorite book?

    8 – Are there certain things you like to do in the morning to start your day off on the right foot?

    9 – What is one of your favorite memories?

    10 – What has been your favorite job?

    11 – What hobbies do you enjoy?

    The Wrath of Saul

    When Israel was still a young country, they didn’t have a king. Ideally God should have been their King. But unfortunately the Israelites didn’t always follow God with all their heart. It says in Judges 17:6 that “everyone did as they saw fit.” This was a destructive path they were headed down. As a young nation, they saw a lot of turmoil and heartache because they didn’t follow the Lord. Off and on the nation did have different leaders known as judges. But finally one day the Israelites decided they wanted to be like everyone else. They wanted a king to rule over their nation like they saw in other nations. 

    You might be familiar with someone from the Old Testament named Saul. God chose a man named Saul to rule as the first king over Israel. Saul was a humble and thoughtful man. When we first meet Saul in the book of 1 Samuel chapter 9, he is out searching for some lost donkeys. He was gone so long that he considered turning back so that his father would not worry about him. This illustrates how Saul was a caring and considerate man. 

    But the servants with Saul prompted him to continue on to meet up with Samuel. Samuel was a prophet and the current judge over Israel. The servants thought Samuel might know where the lost donkeys were. Little did they know, Samuel was expecting them. Samuel already knew that he was to anoint Saul as the first king. One of the first things that Samuel said to Saul was, “And to whom is all the desire of Israel turned, if not to you and your whole family line?” Saul’s answer was one of humility, “But am I not a Benjamite, from the smallest tribe of Israel, and is not my clan the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why do you say such a thing to me?”

    After Samuel anointed Saul with olive oil, things looked promising for Saul. We read that the Spirit of the Lord came upon Saul and he was changed into a different person (1 Samuel 10:6) and God changed Saul’s heart (1 Samuel 10:9). One of the first great things we see Saul do was to help rescue the city of Jabesh which had been besieged. Saul gathered 330,000 men to save Jabesh. After the battle, Saul honored the Lord and said, “…this is the day the Lord has rescued Israel” (1 Samuel 11:13). 

    But things began to change in Saul’s heart. First he allowed fear, impatience, and disobedience to creep in. In 1 Samuel 13, when Israel was up against the Philistines, Saul was supposed to wait for Samuel to meet up with him. But he didn’t. And he even sacrificed a burnt offering to the Lord. He knew that this job was strictly for the priests to do. When Samuel arrived on the scene, he let Saul know that he had been very foolish. And because he did not follow the Lord’s commands, his kingdom would not endure.

    Then Saul allowed pride to enter into his heart. When the Israelites were still in battle, there was one particular day when he forbid his troops to eat anything. He said, “Cursed be anyone who eats food before evening comes, before I have avenged myself on my enemies.” In the latter part of his statement, he is focused on himself; and he has taken God out of the equation. This almost cost the life of his own son, Jonathan. He had not heard his father say these words and had eaten some honey. Fortunately, due to the great things Jonathan had done in battle, the other men stuck up for him and saved him from being put to death. (1 Samuel 14)

    Saul’s heart deteriorates even further. Samuel brought Saul a message from the Lord. He told him to “attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them.” Saul and his troops did attack. But they did not destroy everything as God had commanded. They spared the king and also kept all the good animals and plunder. Samuel went to speak to Saul the next day to let him know that the Lord was not pleased with him. Saul tried to argue with Samuel saying that they kept the good animals to use as burnt offerings to the Lord. But Samuel told him that obedience was more important to God. (1 Samuel 15)

    Later on in Saul’s reign we meet David. David would become the next and greatest king of Israel. I am sure you are familiar with the story of David and Goliath. In 1 Samuel 17 we read that the Israelites troops were too scared to fight Goliath, who they say was over nine feet tall. But David knew the power of the Lord, and defeated Goliath with a slingshot and a rock. After this incident, David received a high rank in the army. He was always successful in any battle that he faced, because he relied on the Lord. But one day Saul heard people singing, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7). This is when Saul really allowed jealousy, anger, and pride to take over his heart. Things spiraled downhill fast after that. Eventually Saul’s only goal was to kill David. David had to flee in order to stay away from Saul and his wrath. In 1 Samuel 22 we read that Saul even had eighty-five priests killed because one of them had been kind to David.

    Reading about Saul shows us how dangerous it is to let negative feelings live in our hearts. They eventually become toxic to us and those around us. We cannot allow anger, resentment, negativity, bitterness, fear, pride, jealousy, or any other negative emotion to rule our lives. Once we realize we have these feelings in our hearts, we should immediately take them to the Lord. God will always show us the right way and the right path to take when we truly seek Him. Ultimately these emotions can block us from the Lord and all the good things He has planned for us. Saul’s family line could have reigned over Israel for many generations. But that possibility was forfeited when Saul continued to turn away from God.

    Take some time today to examine your heart. Are you holding onto any of these negative feelings? If so, pray and ask God to help you restore your heart.

    2019 is Half Over!

    Happy Weekend, my friends! Can you believe that we have reached the end of June, which means that 2019 is half over?! Time sure does fly. It seems like we were just ringing in the new year. And then we blinked. And here it is midyear. It can be sad to think about.

    But instead of letting this fact depress us, let’s use it as a stepping stone in the right direction. Did you make any progress towards your goals? Did you accomplish anything on your to-do list? Did you do any spring cleaning? This weekend is the perfect time to evaluate where you have been the past six months and where you are going for the six months ahead.

    I have a blog post I wanted to share here that will help you with this task. As you might recall me mentioning, I write on the Christians Read blog every Thursday. So I wanted to share this past Thursday’s post with you. It has to do with this very topic of a Midyear Reflection. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

    Minimalism, Anyone?

    I really want to be a minimalist. Or maybe I want to want to be a minimalist? (Yes, I meant to put the words “want to” twice!) Because, in all honesty, it is not easy becoming a minimalist.

    What is minimalism? Basically majorly decluttering your home, and keeping it that way. Getting rid of all the excess junk that you don’t need. If you live in America, then chances are you have too much stuff. But when we try to clean out our houses, it can be difficult to get rid of things.

    I have one parent who is sentimental and keeps everything. And I have another parent who is the opposite. Thankfully I take after the latter in this regard. But when it comes time to declutter, I feel more like the former. I am sure you know what I mean. You probably think to yourself that you might need that stray iPhone cord one day. Or perhaps you really like that figurine that you bought on vacation and you just can’t part with it.

    But here’s the thing. It’s just stuff. Stuff that, in the grand scheme of things, is not all that important. Stuff does not last. What lasts is our relationship with God, our relationships with others, and memories. Those are the things to hang on to with all your might.

    If you’re still not convinced, how about this? “Studies show that there is actually a link between clutter, stress, depression, and even the dissolution of familial relationships.” Yep, it’s true. So doesn’t that make you want to start packing? Clutter seriously makes me want to hyperventilate. You can ask my husband. I try to overlook our clutter for a time. But then one day I finally snap and start shoving things behind a closed door. Instead of having junk drawers, we have junk rooms! Ok I am being lighthearted about this topic, but it is true. And I do believe we can all benefit from some decluttering.

    Are you ready to get started? If so, here are a few tips:

    • You’ll need two separate piles. The first will be trash. The second will be for donating to charity. (You can also gift these things to loved ones that might want/need them. Or perhaps have a yard sale, if you are brave. But yard sales make me hyperventilate, as well!)
    • If you are an average American, you can start with one room at a time. (If you are someone who has a lot more stuff, like you see on those TV shows, then you might want to start with one box at a time.)
    • As you go through each item, categorize it in your mind as either a useful item or a non-useful item. Useful items are things you use – clothes, shoes, plates, pens, anything that serves a purpose. Non-useful items can be decor, knickknacks, etc.
    • As you look at each useful item, ask yourself when was the last time you used that item. If it has been over a year, get rid of it. If it has been under a year, but you really don’t need it, I would still consider getting rid of it. How many pairs of shoes do you really need? (I have a sister who is now shaking her head, because while she agrees with me on the clutter, she really loves her shoes!)
    • If the item is a non-useful item, ponder how much you like. Do you really love it? Does it bring beauty into your home? Does it bring joy into your home? If not, consider getting rid of it.
    • For each item that you decide to get rid of, you will then have to decide if it should be trashed or donated.
    • It’s simple really. But it’s not easy. You will see things that you really don’t need, but you don’t want to part with either. Stay strong.
    • If you start getting tired of looking through all your belongings, take a break and come back to it another time. But don’t forget to come back to it.
    • If there is something you want to keep for sentimental reasons, but you really don’t need it, consider taking a picture of it. You can keep the picture for old times sake, but you won’t have the clutter to go along with it.
    • After your initial purge, you might have to cut back on your future purchases. Before you buy something new, give it serious thought. On the fence? I heard it said once that if it’s not an absolute yes, then it’s a no.

    You can do this! I believe in you! Let me know how it goes!

    Sloth or Servant?

    Have you noticed how popular sloths have become recently? Everywhere you turn, you will see sloths. Stuffed animals, pillows, tumblers, plaques, jewelry, purses, etc. I don’t really understand this infatuation. Sloths are known for being extremely slow. So what is so great about that? Are there just a lot of lazy people in our culture today? Or are these people tired of our fast-paced world and envy the sloth? (If you are a sloth lover, then please comment and let me know what the obsession is all about! I really want to know!) I found it funny when I stumbled across a Bible verse that mentions the famous attribute of this creature.

    “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.” – Romans 12:11 ESV

    As I dug further, I found there are actually numerous Bible verses where slothfulness is frowned upon. If you look up the word slothful in the dictionary, it means “lazy.” So the Bible is basically telling us not to be lazy. In the verse I have above, it is talking specifically about not being lazy when serving the Lord.

    In Mark 10:45 and in Matthew 20:28 it says “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (NLT) And there are many more verses in the Bible regarding serving, helping others, being good stewards, etc. When we read the Bible, it becomes clear that serving God and serving others is important.

    Now let me clear up one thing though. We shouldn’t serve as a way of gaining God’s approval or acceptance. God already loves you more than you can imagine. He can’t love you more than He already does. It says in Ephesians 2:8-9 that “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” (NLT)

    I feel our servanthood should come from a place of love. We love the Lord so much, that we want to do things for His glory, His Kingdom, and to honor Him. And we should want to be good to others in order to illustrate the love of the Lord. We might be the only reflection of Jesus that some people might see in their day … or in their lifetime. How very sad it would be if we missed our chance. So as for me, I hope that I am never slothful when it comes to serving the Lord.

    (Picture by Paul Caputo.)

    The Road to a Positive Life

    If you know me personally, then perhaps you think I am naturally a positive person. Well, the truth is that I am not. It takes a lot of work to stay positive. And I often fail. (If you don’t believe me, then ask those closest to me, such as my husband.)

    Here are a few tidbits about my personality that might surprise you:

    • I am an introvert. That part might not surprise you. But being an introvert means that a lot of extra talking, socializing, and interacting with others could make me feel depleted.
    • I am also a highly sensitive person (hsp). This means that a lot of noise or confusion can overwhelm me.
    • Noises, talking, etc easily distract me and bother me when I am working, writing, etc.
    • Negativity, complaining, and even watching the news might bring me down.
    • I don’t like conflict at all. Even if someone is just having a debate, I perceive it to be conflict. And argumentative people seem combative to me.
    • I have had times in my life when I was depressed and anxious.
    • Another problem that might be common in Christians in general is negative self-talk. This often times comes from the enemy. He will do anything he can to bring God’s children down. So if you can relate, please note that it is vital to fight this!

    If you struggle with any of the things above, then maybe you are wondering how you can stay positive. Self-awareness is a good place to start. It’s important to learn the different things that affect you so that you can be better prepared to tackle them. And of course I like books, so I recommend reading books that pertain to you. Currently I am learning about something called enneagram. Basically it states that everyone falls into one of nine different personality types. Once you figure our which enneagram number (personality type) you fall into, you can then learn how to massage certain aspects of your personality that you might like to change. There are also books out there that pertain to being a highly sensitive person. So if you fall into that category, then you might want to look them up.

    Here are some Practical Tips that might help in your daily life:

    • Practice Gratitude! You probably knew I would say that, since I wrote a whole book on gratitude. (Every Day is a Gift.) This helps me keep my mind on positive things in my life. And it helps me to find that proverbial silver lining.
    • As the Bible says, take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). When negative thoughts crop up, we have to turn them around. We can’t allow them to run rampant in our heads.
    • Read my book, You Are Redeemed. This book goes through thirty Biblical truths about our identity in Jesus.
    • Don’t take things personally. When someone hurts your feelings, let it go. More often than not, the person didn’t mean it the way you took it. Even if they did, don’t give them power to bring you down and ruin your day.
    • When someone rubs you the wrong way, remind yourself that no one is perfect.
    • Listen to Christian music. My favorite radio station The Joy FM plays upbeat songs and I listen to them every day when commuting to work. They also have an app and you can listen online as well. So I often listen to this station while working. (Check out their weekday morning show called The Morning Cruise. You’ll love Dave, Bill, and Carmen.)
    • Listen to sermons. Every morning I listen to Dr. Charles Stanley. Every Sunday my husband and I watch Joel Osteen. It is so easy these days to find good Christian sermons on television, radio, or podcasts. So find some you like and make this a habit in your life.
    • Read your Bible, pray, and spend time with God. I’ve talked about this before, so I won’t go into detail now. But if you want to learn more, check out this post.
    • Take care of yourself. Exercise, drink water, etc.
    • Smile. Forcing yourself to smile can bring positive feelings.
    • Laugh often. This also helps to bring positive feelings.
    • Take time for fun activities.
    • Take time to relax.
    • And Remember – Every Day is a Gift from God!

    Giving God Our Hearts

    Love, acceptance, appreciation, and understanding. I believe that these are universal things that most human beings want. We want someone to love us. We want to be accepted. We want to feel appreciated. We want someone to understand us.

    We cannot rely on other people to love us every single second of every single day. Other people will fail in this area from time to time. No one is perfect and no one can love perfectly. No one, except God. God loves us. God accepts us. God appreciates us. God understands us. God can love us all the time. And He does. God loves us with an unconditional and everlasting love. Even when we make mistakes, even when we mess up, even when we are at our worst – God still loves us. The Bible says that we love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). When we fully understand how much God truly loves us, this causes us to want to love Him in return. Jesus said, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). So it is obviously important because it is a command in the Bible. But loving God comes easy when we fully embrace His love for us. This will cause us to want to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, and soul.

    It will also make us want to hand Him the reigns and allow Him to have control of our lives. We will see that He can handle everything much better than we have done without Him. When we try to do things in life under our own strength, we will fall short. We make plans, we try to accomplish things, we set goals – but often under our own efforts, those things fall apart. But once we allow God to be King of our lives, we will see miracles happen. Because we have the Lord guiding our lives and guiding our steps, we will have stronger relationships, we will see our goals accomplished, we will have peace in our hearts, we will have purpose, and ultimately we will finally find true contentment.

    God wants to be part of our lives. God wants to be our friend. God wants to be our companion. God wants to have an intimate relationship with each and every one of us. God wants us to seek Him. God wants to help us with decisions in our lives. God wants to guide our path. God wants to help us overcome obstacles. God wants to bless us. Basically…

    God. Wants. Us.

    How beautiful is that? The King of Kings and the Lord of Lords wants us. I don’t know about you, but this alone makes me want to love God with all my heart, mind, and soul. It makes me want to love God every moment of every day. It makes me want to seek God. And it makes me want to spread His love to those around me. It also makes me want to be a better person. It makes me want to do His will. It makes me want Him to shine His light on every dark area of my life. It makes me want to give God my heart.

    sun coming through the trees

     

    Spending Time With God

    Do you long for more peace in your life? Do you want to feel more of God’s presence? Do you want to hear from the Lord? If so, there are three important things we should do on a regular basis to achieve these things. We need to spend time with God by reading our Bibles, praying, and listening.

    Reading the Bible

    But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” – Matthew 4:4

    For many years I didn’t make reading my Bible a priority. I thought that reading Christian non-fiction books and listening to sermons was good enough. But I was wrong and everything in my life was proof. I made bad choices and I didn’t have any true peace. Finally about a decade ago I tried to make reading my Bible a priority. But I didn’t give it my all. I would hurry through a chapter and not necessarily retain what I read. I knew that I was still missing out on so much.

    I had a longing to know God better. I had a thirst for Him. I knew there was so much more to my walk that I was missing. And I knew that digging deeper in His Word would be a big key to seeing changes in my life.

    At one point, I felt God prompt me to start my day off right. This would mean getting up earlier to spend some time with Him before I did anything else. I didn’t really want to get up earlier. I already got up very early as it was for work. At this particular time, I had been tired a lot and I had even been looking for ways to get extra sleep. But the funny thing was, when I tried to sleep in later, I would still wake up early. I knew this was God, gently pushing me.

    So, I finally turned back the time on my alarm. I spent time first thing in the morning focused on my Bible, trying to eliminate other distractions. Let me just tell you that I actually felt more refreshed, not tired! Amazing! And since my brain was fresh, I soaked in so much more of what He was trying to teach me. It is so important that we start our day off with the Lord. Give Him the first fruit of the day and you will be rewarded!

    Bible Reading Tips

    Here are some tips that I have learned along the way that have helped me with my Bible reading:

    • My goal is still to read one chapter a day. Some people like to read the whole Bible in a year. And that’s great if that’s you. But make sure you’re actually absorbing what you read. Don’t do it just to feel like you accomplished something. I am a type A personality, so I am the type of person that wants to check something off my to-do list. But reading the Bible shouldn’t be seen that way. It should be seen as a peaceful time that you are spending with God.
    • Sometimes when we read our Bibles, our minds start to wander. I honestly think this is one of the enemy’s tricks. I used to ask myself to summarize what I read. If I couldn’t summarize it, then I would go back and re-read it. Now that I have been reading my Bible on a regular basis for a while, I don’t have as much of a problem in this area. So, if a distracted mind is something you struggle with, just keep pushing forward. I believe in time you can overcome this as well.
    • Many people say that the Bible is hard to understand. I honestly believe this is another one of the enemy’s tricks. But it is also helpful to find a translation that you like. NIV (New International Version) is very popular, and it is pretty straight-forward. I also like NLT (New Living Translation). It is really easy to understand. Another good one is the Amplified Bible. This one adds extra words in brackets so that you get a deeper understanding of each word, kind of like a tag-along thesaurus. If you have a book store near you, then take some time to browse through different Bible’s to see what version you like best.
    • On that same note, also look to see if the Bible has any extra features that might appeal to you. There are so many different study Bibles, devotional Bibles, journaling Bibles, and even coloring Bibles out there. Some of the options also offer teachings from well-known pastors (Charles Stanley, Joel Osteen, Kenneth Copeland, Joyce Meyers, etc.). And you can also find ones that are geared towards certain people (men, women, teens, etc.). These types of Bibles usually have a devotional thought to go with a particular verse. This helps make particular verses more relevant for the things that we go through today.
    • If you never read the Bible before, then you might start in the New Testament. The book of John is one of my favorites. This book tells of Jesus’s life and has a certain comforting feel to it. I have gone through seasons of reading John over and over. But I do think it’s best to read the entire Bible eventually. In the beginning, I was hesitant to read the Old Testament. But once I finally did, it revealed so much to me. It ties all the pieces together when you read the entire Bible. I remember felling stunned and thinking to myself that this is why the world needed Jesus. I saw how humanity kept messing things up over and over. Yet, in the end, God loved His children so much and wanted to save them.
    • Another thing to keep in mind, is that the traditional Bible is not in chronological order. Generally, it is. The things in the Old Testament did happen before the things in the New Testament. But some of the text within each of those might be out of order. So, they do also have some Chronological Bibles out there as well. If you have never read the Bible before, I recommend starting with a traditional Bible. Then trying the Chronological version later on.
    • A Bible concordance is like a dictionary. It helps define different words in the Bible. Many Bibles have one included in the back. And you can also buy some separately.
    • Having a Commentary can be helpful as well. A commentary adds extra insight on each verse. This is often found in a separate book. I like Matthew Henry’s because my mother-in-law gifted it to me! But there are a lot of other great ones out there.
    • If spending that extra money is an issue, there are some handy websites, such as Bible Hub, which have links to various commentaries on the verse that you want to look up.
    • Sometimes it can be fun and helpful to do a Bible Study. If you go to Amazon you can find a bunch of them. Denise Hughes Word Writers is a popular way to go. Beth Moore also has many available. Or you can go to the She Reads Truth / He Reads Truth website. They always have a study going. And this is something you can do with other people, if you prefer. This will be more time consuming, but the material is always worth digging into.
    • Find what works for you. But it shouldn’t be overwhelming! That is important!
    • And one final note – say a prayer before you read each day. It can be very simple, such as, “Lord, please open my eyes to a deeper understanding as I read your Word.”

    Praying

    Pray without ceasing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:17

    Have you ever thought about what a privilege it is for us to be able to speak to the King of Kings anytime we want to? And He is always there. He will never tell us He is busy. He will never ignore us. He will never say to come back another time. His door is always open. He is just waiting for us to come to Him.

    In our prayers we tend to ask for things, which is fine. But I believe we should also thank God for things, and we should praise Him for how awesome He is. Some people like keeping a prayer journal. This helps them to keep their prayers focused. It also helps them to look back and see all the prayers that God has answered.

    In that same light, you could also keep a gratitude journal, in which you thank God for all the good things in your life. This is something I do. And I even wrote a whole book about it! (Every Day is a Gift)

    Listening

    My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  – John 10:27

    This one might be the hardest of all for many of us. When we pray, we tend to rattle off all of our requests. But do we ever stop and listen to what God might have to say to us? And in today’s world with so many things coming at us (emails, texts, calls, alerts, social media, instant messaging, television, radio), it can be very difficult to quiet our minds. So, quieting my mind and listening to God has been my focus for the last couple of months. And as a result, it has helped me feel more peaceful and joyful. And I am amazed at how much more I hear from God, when I actually try to hear from Him. Try to carve out a place and time in your day that works for you. Try to eliminate distractions. And ask God if there is anything He would like to tell you. You can read more on this topic HERE.

    I hope you have found some of these tips to be helpful. If you have any special tips or practices that you would like to share, please leave a comment!

    Bible

    Trusting God With Your Heart

    When my husband and I went blueberry picking a couple of weeks ago, it made me think of a particular scene in The Sound of Music. The children snuck out of the house in an attempt to visit Fräulein Maria. When they got back home, their father, Captain Von Trapp, grilled them on where they had been. The children said they had been out picking blueberries. Well their father replied that it was too early for blueberries. One of the boys then said that it was really strawberries, but it had been so cold lately that the strawberries turned blue. Everyone cringed at that silly statement. Well this caused the Captain to ask to see all the berries. But the children said that they ate them. Calling their bluff, the father then tells them that since they ate thousands of berries, they must not be hungry for dinner.

    This scene makes me think of God the Father and how we sometimes try to keep things from Him. Of course we know that God is omniscient. He sees everything and He knows everything. But do we still try to hide things from Him? At times we might try to keep our true feelings and emotions hidden. Or perhaps we might tuck away some of our dreams and desires. Or maybe we try to bury our past or our scars. Maybe we think if we bring some of these things to God, it could stir up too much pain. Or it could be that we feel if we are too open with the Lord, He might strike us down.

    Some of these reactions stem from our relationships with humans. When we put our hearts on the line with people, we often get hurt. If we share our dreams with our loved ones, they might shoot us down and tell us all the reasons why it won’t work. People are quick to judge others and point fingers. It can be hard for humans to extend grace and mercy.

    But our Heavenly Father isn’t like that. God is love. And He loves His children. He cares about His children’s feelings. His children’s hopes and dreams matter to Him. Just like the Captain in The Sound of Music. Of course he knew all along the children weren’t berry picking, just as our Father knows how we are feeling even when we don’t come out and tell Him. And the Captain wasn’t going to punish the children for sharing the truth with him, just as our Father won’t harm us for being honest with Him.

    I will leave you with Psalm 121, which is a beautiful picture of how The Lord watches over us. And the first two verses are actually mentioned towards the end of The Sound of Music. (By the way, if you have never watched The Sound of Music, please do. The 1965 version with Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer.)

    Psalm 121 New Living Translation (NLT)

    Psalm 121

    A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.

    I look up to the mountains—
        does my help come from there?
    My help comes from the Lord,
        who made heaven and earth!

    He will not let you stumble;
        the one who watches over you will not slumber.
    Indeed, he who watches over Israel
        never slumbers or sleeps.

    The Lord himself watches over you!
        The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.
    The sun will not harm you by day,
        nor the moon at night.

    The Lord keeps you from all harm
        and watches over your life.
    The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
        both now and forever.