Sweet summertime

photoThe house is quiet, the coffee is hot and filling the air with a “comfortable” aroma. The date at the top the page reads July 24th. Summer is speeding by‚Ķmoments like these will be packed away soon for another season. Bible study has become my favorite part of each day – but especially int he summer, when I’m not really on a schedule. On a summer day I can dig into the word and get lost in my study time – not having to worry about getting ready for work, for being on time, the day that lies ahead. I can let the word lead me from one subject to the next, as prompted by the Spirit. To me it has become beautiful time of discovery. About my God, and about myself. I am so grateful for these quiet moments in the morning spent with my creator.

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I am not a Bible scholar

newcrossI am not a Bible scholar. Ok, there. I got that off my chest. I grew up memorizing a weekly Bible verse, I went to church camp, I competed in Bible Bowls, I could sing the books of the Bible frontwards and backwards…and I’m still not a Bible scholar. But since I have made an honest, committed effort (with God’s guidance and help) to remain in the Word through daily Bible study, I have gained so much! Before I go any further, I understand that everything is relative. The things I am starting to glean from the Word are not earth-shattering by any stretch of the imagination. But, they are small things that I believe God wants me to learn – on my own – as I study each day. All of that was a set-up to share a new understanding I gained while reading in the gospel of John this week. John 12:31 says “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” Growing up in youth group we sang a song with this verse (I don’t think I ever knew exactly where it was located in the Bible). But when we sang the song I understood it to mean when Christ was lifted up to Heaven to be with God – men (people) would follow Him. As I read it now – and really think about it, the meaning has changed. Jesus, when speaking of being lifted up, is not talking about his ascension to be with God, but rather he is talking about being lifted up on the cross. As a form of execution, being crucified on the cross was an excruciating form of torture meant to bring great shame to the criminal. But that does not hold true for Jesus. When he was lifted up (on the cross) it was to bring glory to God by fulfilling his wondrous plan of salvation for humanity. It was not to draw shame and ridicule and guilt. It was to draw ALL to him. Because while NONE of us are worthy, ALL of us were included in this plan to cleanse us. He was lifted up and sacrificed in order to complete God’s plan and to draw all to Him to receive the beautiful, undeserved gift of salvation.

Remain

Today is my first day of summer break. Going to bed last night was so nice. I wasn’t worrying about lesson plans, or meetings, or tests. I was only worried about what I would be doing with my first day off. However, my alarm was still set or the same time as always…4:20am. Why? Everyday that Brian and I have been married, we have made it part of our daily routine to start our day with God. We spend time drinking coffee, reading our daily devotional, and then jumping into the Word. This is a non-negotiable for us. Now, please know that I am not tooting my own horn, or patting us on the backs. I’m really just trying to share how this time in the Word has completely changed my heart, my mind. my relationship. and my life. It is not enough to rely on the hour a week in church to be your time studying or learning. Our walk with God requires that we spend time with Him in His word every day. Jesus says in John 8:31 “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings.” Jesus’ teachings are so plentiful and numerous and there is so much to be learned from the many parables He taught. But we must “remain” in the Word. The word remain shows up over and over in the Bible, especially in the book of John. In chapter 15 Jesus uses the image of a vine and the branches. “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.” So not only do we spend time or “stay” in the word, but we are to “remain” in Jesus! And the most amazing and reassuring promise, if we dwell, or abide, or stay in Him…He will dwell, abide, and stay in us. It’s such a comforting thought to know that Jesus will dwell in us. We can dwell in Him in many ways. Prayer, study, reading His word, surrounding ourselves with people who are like-minded and who will build us up and encourage us. And our lives will show that He is in us. “Those who remain in me and I in them will produce much fruit. For apart from me, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5). For me, I know that as I spend time with Jesus in the early hours of the morning, He is in me and I am in Him…and the peace that comes from that time, is well worth the sacrifice of a little sleep.

Discipline creates desire

“When you don’t feel like it, do it anyway. Discipline creates desire, not the other way around.”

I recently came across this quote and thought it was perfect for my goals for the summer. I started my very first week of summer break with the goal of working out a minimum of 4 times a week. Now, throughout the school year my alarm tears me out of sleep at 4:30 every morning. And here I was setting a goal to get up at 5:00am (sleeping in for a half hour) at least 4 times a week in order to get in shape and change my lifestyle. Which leads me to why this quote seemed so appropriate for me this summer. There have been many mornings that I do not feel like it. Many mornings. But I kept telling myself that the more disciplined I could become toward my goal, the more desire I would have to keep at it. It has truly been a phrase that I believe has made a difference…but not just toward my physical goals. Another goal that I have set for myself (and I think most Christ-followers do) is to be more immersed in God’s word – in order to be closer to Him each day. I love to read and study and learn…and I cannot even name the closeness that being in the word has brought me. But I’m not going to lie – sometimes it is hard. At times the frustration that I feel trying to “understand” outweighs the feeling of closeness that I get. One of my Bible study groups right now is studying the book of Isaiah. Let me just say that I didn’t even know that I didn’t know so much. It has been such a challenge. But the same principle that I have applied to my physical way of life has been so beneficial to me growing my spiritual side. There are times when I don’t feel like sitting down and trying to understand or to apply the word to my life. That’s the truth (and I feel guilty for saying that)…but the more disiciplined I become in my time with God through his word, the more desire I have to do it more. God has planted that desire in my heart to learn and study and spend time with him. It has been an amazing transformation for my spiritual life. The times that I don’t feel like it are few and far between in both my workouts and my study time. I see and feel the physical benefits of my early morning workouts, and I see and feel my relationship with God and the conviction in my heart growing as a result of my time alone with His divine teachings. My desire to serve God and to share Him with others is stronger than ever before. So glad that I came across this quote and that it has made such an impact of my every day.