Tag Archive: Bible study


bible-studyThe following Bible verses met me in my morning devotion today, and prompted reflection that I was compelled to share:

 

“The king was overjoyed and ordered that Daniel be lifted from the den. Not a scratch was found on him, for he had trusted in his God.” Daniel 6:23 NLT, http://bible.com/116/dan.6.23.nlt (emphasis mine)

“And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight. And remember, our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved. This is what our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him—” 2 Peter 3:14-15 NLT, http://bible.com/116/2pe.3.14-15.nlt (emphasis mine)

My nearly constant state of disturbance proves that I am generally not living in a state of trust. Daniel’s miracle was attributed to his trust — his faith. It is by that faith that Christians find the ability to live peaceful, pure, blameless lives. I step outside pure, blameless peace when I grow discontent with circumstances, fearful of outcomes. That’s not faith! Our Lord is patient, so I should be too. If He’s not getting uptight about things coming unwound, why should I?

 

When anxiety grips me, sometimes it helps me to work it out to its end and be done with it. In practice this takes the form of several questions I answer in series:

  1. What is the worst case scenario? Usually whatever fear torments me it’s not even close to the worst case scenario. So this gives me some sort of scale. When I’m sweating a low grade on an exam, it helps to recognize that even failure of the whole class won’t trigger a global apocalypse.
  2. Even if the worst possible outcome happens, won’t God still be sovereign over the universe, and big enough to guide you through? This one’s easy — the answer’s always “yes.” Through persecution, meteor showers, pestilence, and apocalyptic insurgence, I will still be a child of God, purely and dearly loved. Dead or alive, I’m still God’s prince, priest, and bride.
  3. What is the likelihood of the outcome I fear? This brings the scale back into a manageable perspective. It helps to recognize that fear is the anticipation of something that might not even happen, while conceding that it is somewhere on the plane of possibility, almost always lower on the scale than it feels. I might not be forfeiting my occupation of earth, but the critiques I am subject to are far less predictable and administered by far less holy people than the terrorists who might only saw my head off once. I acknowledge the chance, however small, of responding to a perceived failure in my very near future.
  4. If God is big enough in the worst case scenario, isn’t He big enough to see you through this medium sized catastrophe in the event it does come about? Another easy “yes.” And I’m feeling better about my position in the universe.

 

It also helps to recall who and what I am in relation to the fearful obstacles around me. Remember Star Wars’ lonely, afraid astro-droid R2D2 traveling alone through the Gungan Wastes of Tatooine, in a classic cinematic representation of the Valley of the Shadow of Death. R2 slowlyr2d2-on-tatooine propels forward, looking about, humming and chirping to himself, to achieve his higher purpose. Armed Gungan “sand people” on Banthas, Jawa pirates, and mysteries of the rocks be hanged! He’s on a top-priority mission from the princess, so he presses on.

I, too, have a higher purpose, and it is far outside the view of those who seek to assault me or sell me for used parts. My Creator is not finished creating me. He’s shaping me even with the obstacles I now face. He’s forging and hammering my character into the precision instrument I will become. It’s hot, and it hurts, but it’s going to be worth it when the Master is finished and he hears my blade sing.

It’s been said, “This too shall pass,” but I add to that, “No pain is permanent,” and, “This is for His glory and my refinement!” From these statements come resolve, and from resolve courage to stand firm.

God, rebuke the destroyer from my mind, life, family, and estate. Make me slippery to his footholds, and frustrate all his assigns. Cast away every remnant of his authority, and clean my mind of any tendency to repeat his lies after his removal. Consecrate me, my family, and my estate to Your purposes, and use them at Your pleasure. All I am, have, and do is Yours. By Christ Jesus, whose blood bought me from death, amen!

I write three blogs, two anonymously. In them I journal some of my deepest thoughts, and most stirring insights, as well as some ramblings that probably help no one but me as I sort through the emotional soup that stirs in my head. Most of the time, I am content to know that I have poured myself onto a page and released it with the Enter key. Other times, I wonder if my close friends or family members will see what I wrote, understand it, relate to it, or see any evidence that God was in it. On earlier occasions when I experienced the real sensation of God speaking through my keyboard, I often rushed to share the experience with my wife, and I would beg to know, “Did you read what I wrote today?” I am ashamed to admit that it took me a lot longer than it should have for me to learn this was unhealthy for me, and came across as critical of her. To me, it was a sharing of an intimacy, but it threatened to inflate my ego. To her, it was an obligation, one which she could never fulfill fast enough or with enough enthusiasm to suit me. My queries were a lose-lose proposal every time, so I stopped asking. Sooner or later I stopped caring whether anyone else read what I wrote or not. It took a lot of work and energy to transcribe my spiritual struggles onto a page, and even more to muster up the willingness to broadcast it publicly, but I was content knowing two things: I was strengthened by the exercise, and God will do what He wants with the seeds I sow.

Bible IlluminedThis week my Bible study small group was encouraged to candidly expose their devotional habits, and I had to confess I had fallen behind on my Scripture readings even so as to be unprepared for our weekly study. As I mulled over the significance of my confession, I was stirred to recall that God has painstakingly transcribed His very heart onto the pages of the Bible. He has inspired men over centuries to pen His Word, and rallied all manner of spiritual forces and political circumstances to preserve, translate and duplicate it at the cost of many lives. He has orchestrated history to ensure that the Bible is the number one best-seller in all-time and is readily available to most cultures today. Yet He asks, with perhaps a broken heart, “Did you read what I wrote today?”

Holy Father, I thank You for loving me enough to write to me about it. I celebrate the ease with which I may read Your Word and get a glimpse of Your heart. Make mine more like Yours, and keep it from pride. Deliver me from self-seeking, self-pity, and selfish fear. You gave me my life and patiently bought it back when I took it up; now I offer it back to You to do with it as You wish. You are a good and holy Father, and Your love for me is complete. I am content to love You and be loved by You. Your will be done, in Christ’s name I pray. Amen!

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[Or that you, a man of God,] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NIV)

The Trajectory is His

Today:

I am a recovering compulsive overeater, abstinent by the grace of God one more day at a time.

 

From today’s entry in Voices of Recovery:

“I now have a loving Higher Power and friends to support me. I feel immensely grateful.”

 

The rest of the VOR entry is about each of us doing our part before letting God do His.  In his book, Absolute Surrender, Andrew Murray wrote, “As long as we are something, God cannot be all, and His omnipotence cannot do its full work. That is the beginning of faith—utter despair of self, a ceasing from man and everything on earth, and finding our hope in God alone.”   This statement has better described my experience and the hope I pursue than any thought of doing all I can and letting God take up my leftovers.  In fact, the futility that brought my life such disorder was wrapped up in the notion that I could do anything to bring about my own perfection and the inevitable disappointment this false expectation always brings.

 

I am grateful that, just prior to reading this entry, I read the “Food for Thought” devotion for the day, entitled “Different Strokes” at www.Hazelden.org.  It reminded me that not every recovering compulsive overeater thinks, acts, or recovers in the same way or on the same path.  Tolerance is the umbrella under which I have found my own freedom of expression, and it would not serve my recovery to deny it of others.

 

From Proverbs 2:

12 Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men,
from men whose words are perverse…”

15 whose paths are crooked
and who are devious in their ways.”

 

What makes a crooked path?  Misguidance?  A faulty compass?  One of the revelations of my personal inventory was that the zig-zagging trail of my life undeniably marked my multiplicity.  I was always frustrated with my lack of progress because I was following after multiple goals.  It’s hard to hit a moving target, and no one can achieve consistent success without first selecting one.  Because of God’s loving discipline, the going is smoother on the fairway, with increasing cuts of rough as we approach life’s boundaries.  Many times I ignored the rough patches, dead-set on pursuing my way, and was deflected back onto the path by varying degrees of impact with God’s obstacles.  God’s perfect will for us, dare I use the off-putting word “holiness,” is a straight target-line, from start to finish, with one goal, one target, an unswerving heading toward which we can drive.

 

This is why the word integrity has become a keystone for me.  Unity of direction, purpose, priority and power is the prescription for the wayward, a remedy for deviation.  Integrity is all my parts and pieces working together, as integral components toward a single, defined, whole end; a one-ness of total being (the very meaning of the word “integer”).  That is what I believe God wants of me and mine, and because of the conformation of my will to His, I want that too.  No more following shadows or fighting against myself.  No more chasing fleeting fantasies or fancy foodstuffs!  The proper play for me is just pausing to adjust alignment, positioning to address my relationship with my Higher Power, and connecting with His purposes in whatever action wherever He leads me.

 

 

From my reading through the Bible, currently in Psalm 126, 127, and 128:

The New International Version (NIV) of the Bible marks any significant scholarly dispute over translation with annotations so the reader can check alternate interpretations.  Psalm 126:1 has two such interesting mysteries.

When the Lord brought back the captives to[Or Lord restored the fortunes of] Zion,
we were like men who dreamed.[Or men restored to health]”

 

This verse and its semantics suggest a congruity of captivity and deprivation, and the end of that dark state as being a healthy restoration like the dawning of a dream.  I saw the fortunes of my spiritual recovery in this psalm, and celebrate my dream-come-true vitality made possible only by God, who brought me out of my total depletion, twelve steps over into alignment with Him.

 

Psalm 127 identifies the futility of work outside the purpose and means of God:

Unless the Lord builds the house,
its builders labor in vain.”

 

As if on concert cue, Psalm 128 pronounces the blessing of those who submit to God’s alignment:

Blessed are all who fear the Lord,
who walk in his ways.”

 

Holy Father, keep me in Your ways.  Lead my by Your hand, and lift me by Your wind.  Guide me gently according to Your will, that I might help, and not hinder, Your purposes.

 

 

From The “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous, page 68:

“We trust infinite God rather than our finite selves. We are in the world to play the role He assigns. Just to the extent that we do as we think He would have us, and humbly rely on Him, does He enable us to match calamity with serenity.”

Today:

I am a recovering compulsive overeater, abstinent by the grace of God one more day at a time.  For details, check out my food journal.

I did a parallel reference study on 1 Corinthians 3:17, and was struck with an urgency to take better care of myself than ever before.  In the NIV it reads, “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.”  The word “destroys” is also translated defile, violate, corrupt, mar, or waste.  The second phrase indicates that the destruction God will repay is a completion of the destruction we began, an utter, total destruction.  The sacredness used to describe God’s temple in the third phrase is usually translated “holy” and refers to a special reservation of honor, esteem, and purity of the kind of value that is jealously guarded.  The last phrase is wrought with surprise in the revelation of the temple’s identity as “you.”  This “you” is both the individual in his total wholeness, and the plural “you” that represents the collective of all the saints who make up the Church.  It is the total wholeness of the individual saint that tore at me most.  Since we are three-part beings, physical – mental – spiritual, and our whole three-part structure is a temple, I am responsible for the maintenance of the structure.  It is me in my wholeness (and you in yours) that God esteems with the jealous vigor described as “sacred.”  Whatever destruction I perpetrate on myself by defiling my body, corrupting my mind, or wasting my spirit, that destruction will be carried to completion by God Himself.  If that doesn’t refuel your commitment to abstain from destructive self-indulgences, I don’t know what will!

The prismatic truth of this verse, when the Church collective is viewed through it, has an equally profound message on church dissention, heresy, gossip and backbiting, but that’s a whole other topic.

From today’s entry in Voices of Recovery:

“When I was lonely, food was my friend. It soothed and comforted me and filled the hole that was there when I felt unloved, which was most of the time.” — Overeaters Anonymous, First Edition, p. 56

I didn’t look up the reference but I’m sure anyone who ever said this discovered this kind of artificial filling never proved sufficient.  Food is a lousy substitute for love, companionship, affirmation, or purpose.  In fact, eating to feel loved is like inviting robbers into your home.  What little you do have is taken away by it, and the darkness of despair seems darker still.  A prisoner of war may feel some momentary relief when he gives in to his interrogator and offers up some of himself to his enemy in exchange for that respite, but nothing compares to the day of liberation, when he walks over the bodies of his torturers, grabbing helplessly to the arm of his rescuer and walks out of his prison, free!  That is the difference between gratifying desires and God-powered abstinence from them.

The kind of esteem I really needed when I attempted to medicate it with food is the kind I find as my Higher Power reveals more of Himself to me.  As I continue to connect with God, He continues to show me more of His love for me, and my value in Him.  As my study yesterday revealed, I am valued, esteemed, and jealously guarded by God, my Savior, who makes Himself at home in me, and calls me His sanctuary.  There is no morsel of food that can substitute for that kind of affirmation!

From Proverbs 20:

Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler;
whoever is led astray by them is not wise.”

This was interesting to read after the reflection on the deception of food in the Voices of Recovery entry.  I have previously read this with only the alcohol content in mind as the deceptive influence, but the reality is that substances consumed, be they alcoholic or not, can deceive if the consumer allows them.  It stands to reason that, whether the consumable product comes from grapes, barley, hops or wheat, the wise will not follow after any of them.  Food is the fuel; it is not the pilot!

From my reading through the Bible, currently in Psalm 98 through 100:

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth,
burst into jubilant song with music”

Psalm 98 repeats yesterday’s call to praise in song, but this one comes with a prescription for shouting too.  It appears that God likes it when we get excited about Him.  Can you imagine how he must feel when He sees how we react when our favorite sports team scores, but we sit with hands folded except to glance at our watch when it comes time to celebrate Him?

Psalm 100 is short enough I have decided to include it in its entirety.  It concisely contains so many elements of praise it amazes me.  It has a call to worship, a reason for worship, a description of the relationship that makes worship appropriate, a how-to instruction for entering into worship, and it wraps up with verse 5, which contains a chant that leveled armies and brought down walls*, and a promise that lasts beyond the earth.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
    Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.”

From The “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous, page 54:

“We found, too, that we had been worshippers. What a state of mental goose-flesh that used to bring on! Had we not variously worshipped people, sentiment, things, money, and ourselves?”