The Mirror of My Soul

bibleI like spending time in God’s Word.

That’s not to say I don’t have questions and doubts, that I don’t get a bit bored through some sections, or that I understand everything.

But I don’t read God’s Word just for me. It’s not a self-help book. Oh, it certainly helps, but’s it’s more about Him than me.

I can open the Bible with the wrong motivation or expectations. But I’ve found there’s an approach – an attitude – that helps me.

I ask God to make His Word a mirror.

I know, that sounds as if it’s about me, but not exactly. Of course, if I’m the one reading, it has something to do with me. But looking into a mirror actually gets me to think beyond myself. It gets me out of my head and out of my way. I ask God to let me see Him and see truth. To reveal what’s real. To wipe the fog away and help me focus on what is most important. To engage with Him and become more like Him.

I’ve taken many approaches to the Bible over the years. I’ve scoured it to find inconsistencies. I’ve studies it to solve mysteries. I’ve skimmed it to satisfy my self-imposed obligations.

I’ve also made friends through it. I’ve been comforted in chaotic moments because of what was going on in and outside of it. I’ve let my pride and insecurities crumble. I’ve admitted I was wrong. I’ve seen brilliant hope pierce darkness. I’ve recognized mistakes and taken steps away from them. I’ve trusted God more even when I didn’t understand. I’ve become more patient and gracious. And I’ve grown.

I’ve grown because God has shown me purpose and possibility. That’s what He does. That’s who He is. That mirror of His works, because it reveals Him, and in the process, it reveals me.

You, too.

An Active Response

The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4b-9)

Repeat.

Talk.

Bind.

Write.

Responding to God and His Word is active. It’s not something we are content to know about, tear apart, analyze, and set aside. We question, interact with, wonder, and wrestle with it. We let it change us even after we’ve concluded something about it. We repeat it not to fully comprehend it but to let it become a part of us beyond comprehension. We build our faith on it with trust and certainty even when we are not certain. We let it chasten and chisel us.

It is uncomfortable.

It is necessary.

It is trustworthy.

It is beautiful.

Bible-Reading

Burn Off the Fog

12080407_502182513289728_1708110832_nWe can often feel disoriented by the fog around us. Our sight is limited. We get confused. We have to stay alert, and we notice things we hadn’t noticed before…and miss things we are used to seeing around us.

But the fog eventually clears. The sun burns it off. Without the heat and light, the fog lingers.

It regularly happens in our lives, too. We can stay in the fog or seek the heat and light needed to burn it off. We need truth to burn through the fog. It takes time and perseverance, discernment and humility. But when we’re willing to put in the effort, we certainly get a beautiful view!

Are You Getting Enough of God’s Word?

Many of us feel we get “enough” of the Bible. Sure, we could study more, ask more questions, and certainly know more about the Bible, but when will we fit it into our schedules? We’re overwhelmed the way it is. It’s not that we don’t want to know the Bible better; in fact, we plan on it…when things slow down. The problem is: Life doesn’t slow down on its own.
We’re not enslaved by a busy schedule. As much as we want to cry “I’m a victim and just have to do the things I do,” we have more choices than we care to admit. Such an admission puts some responsibility back on ourselves, and in the middle of that never-ending busy “season,” we just can’t handle the pressure and guilt of thinking we have more control than we want to take.

So, the cycle continues. We want to know the Bible better, but we just can’t seem to find the time. Plus, we get “enough.” After all, we go to church…fairly regularly. We follow popular Christian bloggers. We like and follow encouraging social media people who post verses and quotes that help us through the day.

But how do we know the truth and context of what is being posted if we’re not able to compare it to the truth of Scripture? Not that any pastor, teacher, blogger, or social media friend would intentionally steer us wrong, but each person is absolutely capable of misunderstanding and miscommunicating God’s Word. Or perhaps the timing we think is so perfect because of the comfort it gives us is, in reality, our misapplication of the truth someone else is sharing.

In order to identify something false, we have to know truth.

So, how do we do that when we’re so busy? How will we ever get to know everything we need to know in the Bible? We don’t have the time, energy, or money to get a degree in the Bible, so why not let the experts teach us what we need to know?

Because they can’t. First, even experts don’t know it all. Second, no one knows specifically what you need from God’s Word and when you need it…except God. He wants you to dig into His Word, not because He wants you to gain a boatload of information about Him, but because He wants you to know Him. The Bible isn’t a collection of information and stories. It’s one way He reveals Himself to us. We don’t read the Bible as a self-help book to cure all our woes; we explore it because we draw closer to God through it. His Spirit guides and pours into us as we interact with Him. He opens our eyes, ears, and hearts.

No matter where you are and how daunting God’s Word is to you, start somewhere in it today. While it’s certainly convenient to have a Bible app on your phone, use it for quick references when you’re on the go. For daily reading, if possible, use a printed Bible. You probably have one or more sitting around collecting dust. Start somewhere. Anywhere! Don’t get paralyzed by trying to figure out the perfect reading plan for you. Don’t get discouraged because you miss a day. Don’t give up because you don’t understand something or know how it might apply to life today. Keep reading. Interact with God. Take notes if questions and highlights come up. Pray when you feel challenged, nourished, or doubtful. Ask a friend to help you with accountability and encouragement as you develop a new habit of reading the Bible regularly.

You and only use are responsible for your relationship with God. You can’t complete a workbook , sermon series, or a class and check the box of “Bible study” as complete. You can’t have enough of God’s Word, because you can’t have enough of God. Not in this lifetime.

No more excuses. No more spiritual laziness. God already knows where you are and what you need. Let Him nourish you.

Start today.

Quit Reminding Me

“Be careful. Don’t hit your head.”

My dad repeated the warning at least a half dozen times. He was still recovering for surgery, so he directed, while I got some things ready for winter. One of the tasks was winterizing the dog pens. With each run, I reached in to the get a dog, placed him or her in a temporary dog box, got the pen ready for winter, then put the dog back in the pen. But I wasn’t used to the smaller gates into the pens. Unlike our dog’s pen, I couldn’t just lean in unless I wanted to bash my head.

Which I did the very last time I was putting away a dog. In fact, I bashed it about the time I thought, “I’m really glad my dad cares enough to keep reminding me, but does he think I’m an idiot who can’t remember a warning?”

Well, yes. Apparently, I am.

I reeled back as he asked if I was okay. “I don’t know,” I said. “Am I bleeding?”

I wasn’t, and we both laughed, but I had a knot on my forehead for several days and had small scabs from the imprint the fencing left behind.

We might get irritated when someone repeatedly reminds us of something, whether it’s something we should do or something we shouldn’t. But many times, we actually need those repeated reminders. We lose focus and easily forget.

Are you surrounding yourself with people who hold you to God’s standard, who know it well enough to hold you accountable? Are you consistently filling yourself with reminders by becoming increasingly familiar with God’s Word, not just what you remember, assume, or are told?

There’s always learning to receive and respond to and reminders about that learning.

Remember to get to it today.

Why We Study God’s Word

Why do we do what we do? What’s our motivation?

We can study God’s Word to find self-help, cherry-picking what we think most helps and affirms us.

We can study God’s Word to check it off our legalistic faith checklist.

We can study God’s Word to alleviate our guilt or build our credibility.

We can study God’s Word for ammunition for what we what to prove or disprove.

Or we can study God’s Word to pursue God.

After all, His Word is a lot more about Him than us. He gifts us and reveals Himself through His Word.

Use Your Filter

We all use filters. Yes, even those people who we’d say don’t have filters…the people who seem to have a direct link from their minds to their mouths. Others, who rarely share their opinions, might say they have the “proper” filter, only speaking when it’s absolutely essential. Perhaps you filter things through your experiences, counseling perspective, education, culture, and the list goes on. It’s important to know your filters, because if your filters are faulty, or even if the priorities of your filters are out of order, what you end up with at the end of the trail of filters won’t be as pure as you trust it to be.

For example, perhaps you’ve learned some great tools through counseling. When a problem arises, you return to those tools and the things you’ve learned and filter the problem through them. If the straining process resolves the issue, that’s all you need. You consider the solution a success.

Or, perhaps an issue comes up, and you can tie it to your education. You can chart the flow of information or organization because of what you’ve been taught, so as you strain the issue through your education, it all pretty much falls into place and makes sense. You can explain it, so from your perspective, the issue is resolved.

Maybe you find yourself in a situation that reminds you of a past experience. You remember what worked and what didn’t, so you determine how to respond based on what makes sense from past experiences, good and bad.

Learning from counseling, education, and experiences is important, even essential, to moving forward in life at times. Yet if they’re your primary filters, you’re missing out on something. Until our primary filters are God’s Word, we’re going to let some things through that aren’t His truth, and we might filter some things out that are. God’s Word has to be the first filter, not the last resort. We can’t run to it as a self-help book when we’ve exhausted all our other resources. It’s the top filter, where we initially pour our problems, issues, relationships, and questions. All other filters are secondary.

Know your filters. Don’t just assume because you are a Christian, you stand firmly on God’s Word in all situations and relationships. You might say you fully trust God, but do you, really? Are you letting Him consume every single moment of your life, every decision you make? Do you run to Him before anything and everyone else, then trust Him to guide you to the right resources and people He’s placed in your life? If you trust Him, really trust Him. And if you don’t, you can start right now, today, by asking Him to begin filtering every aspect of your life. You can depend on Him.

For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver. (Psalm 66:10, HCSB)