You may have noticed through some of my recent social media posts that I’ve been part of a launch team for a new Bible Study, His Last Words, by Kim Erickson. It’s part of a new group of women’s studies published by Moody Publishers which is being officially released tomorrow. Read more
“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11)
Late on Thanksgiving Day, after a long day of activities, I began to think of sleep. With all the cooking and preparing that morning, though, I had not spent time reading my Bible. During a day significant for giving thanks, I hadn’t paused to give God thanks.
I sat down with my Bible and thought of the words of James 1:17:
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
I began to think of the gifts in my life, to name them and write them down, to be thankful and to recognize they are from God.
This listing of gifts caused me to wonder: are there specific gifts of God named in Scripture? I looked up “gift” in the concordance at the back of my Bible. Here are four that I found:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
What have we been saved from? Earlier in that passage, it describes our trespasses and sins in which we were dead (Eph. 2:1-3). But God, rich in mercy, made us alive together with Christ, and gave even so much more (Eph. 2:4-7). Saved by grace through faith—the gift of God.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23).
Along these same lines, Romans 6 also talks about being dead to sin and alive to God. It concludes with the contrast of death and life, of being in sin or being in Christ, and the amazing free gift of eternal life for those who know Christ.
“And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)
With salvation through Christ and the assurance of eternal life with Christ, we can also receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, God himself within us. This is a wonder too great to imagine! Other parts of Scripture explain the role of the Holy Spirit, and we also understand this reality more clearly as we experience it through faith in Christ.
“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)
1 Corinthians 12 and following talks about spiritual gifts given to believers. Each one is given and empowered by God and has a necessary role in the body of believers.
Other Good Gifts
This morning I took a more comprehensive look at “gifts” in the Bible, doing a little more study than I previously had with my simple concordance. I saw that God is the giver of many other gifts. This could actually be a much greater study. But there is one gift that is greater than all.
The Gift of God Himself
Though God gives us many gifts, the gift of God Himself is the best one. The gift-giver is the ultimate Gift. We find Him when we put our faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins. As we go on, it might be easy from time to time to long for other good gifts He can give and forget that He is both the Giver of the gifts and the Gift we most need.
Receive the Gift
Do you know this Gift? The Gift of God Himself?
Have you received the free gift of salvation that He has made available to us through Christ, through grace? Do you have confidence of eternal life in Christ? Are you experiencing the Spirit-filled life and exercising the spiritual gifts that God bestows on those who believe in Him?
If not, pray and tell God that you want to receive Him through faith in Christ, to be forgiven of your sins, to confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and to believe that God raised Him from the dead. Call upon Him, put your faith in Him, repent of sin, receive the free gift of salvation, and rest in Him.
No fancy words are needed, no advanced level of understanding is required—just simple faith in the amazing God who made you, loves you, and died to redeem you.
And then begin to read the Bible to get to know Him more. Start with the Book of John or Romans. Go to a Bible-believing church that can help you begin to grow as a new believer. Tell a friend of your new life in Christ so they can encourage you. Keep seeking Him in prayer that He might show you the way to now live. And thank Him for the free gift of salvation and eternal life in Christ for those who believe on Jesus’ name.
As we enter this Christmas season, I can’t think of any better gift to receive. Thank you, Jesus.
Several years ago, I noticed while studying Genesis the repeated phrase, “lifted his eyes and looked” or “I lifted my eyes and saw.”
- In Genesis 18:2 “Abraham lifted his eyes and looked” when three men stood at his tent door, one maybe being the LORD, to tell him that he and Sarah would have a child in their old age.
- When Abraham had Isaac on the altar, after God stopped him from sacrificing Isaac, it says in Genesis 22:13-14, “Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns.”
- In Genesis 24:63-64, Isaac went out to meditate in the field and “lifted his eyes and looked“; Rebekah also “lifted her eyes” as God had provided a wife for Isaac.
- In Genesis 31:10, Jacob said, “I lifted my eyes and saw in a dream. . .” and in the dream, the Angel of God said to Jacob, “Lift your eyes now and see. . .” as God provided and increased Jacob’s herd. God blessed Jacob as he called him to return to the land of his family.
Each time, it seems to indicate God’s provision. It has made me wonder what I would see if I would just lift up my eyes and look, if I would remove my eyes from the circumstances around me and look up to God and see how He might be providing for the need at hand.
This theme of looking up continues throughout the Bible. Looking up might also astound me with the greatness of God! Isaiah 40:26 says, “Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing.”
Looking up might show me the needs around me. In John 4:35, Jesus tells his disciples, “…lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.”
In John 17:1, Jesus “lifted up His eyes to heaven” when His hour had come. When the time had arrived that He came to this earth for—to do His Father’s will, to give His life for ours, to bring eternal life to those who believe on Jesus—Jesus lifted up His eyes to heaven.
Hebrews 12:1-2 shows us that it’s in “looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” that we find endurance to run the race set before us. It enables us to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us.”
I wonder today if we would lift up our eyes and see what we might find.
- Could God have a provision for us in a difficult situation that He wants to give us but that we can’t see if we don’t look to Him?
- Could we find endurance in running our race and freedom from sin which wants to entangle us?
- Could we discover new opportunities to point others to Jesus?
- Could we behold the glory of God as we see differently those things that otherwise might seem just ordinary or that we might take for granted?
- Could we look up in prayer and in reading the Bible to help us know and do our Father’s will?
The fall schedule is upon us, schools are starting back. For our family, I start back in my normal work schedule today, my husband and I are going to his faculty dinner to kickoff the new year, the kids are preparing for school, finishing their summer reading and more.
As we go through the routine, we don’t want to miss the glory of God, the opportunities before us, the provisions He makes for us, the ways He can transform our hearts and enable us to do His will. We want to lift our eyes and see! I pray we will all behold Him anew and catch a greater vision of our God as we begin another school year and a new season.
One of the things I’m most convinced of is the life-changing power of reading God’s Word regularly. When my kids were young, I had not become convinced of that. I felt I knew a lot of what was in the Bible, and it wasn’t a big deal if I couldn’t find time for it with the demands of being a mom. I did, however, find plenty of time for my baby books and magazines! (I suppose we find time for what matters most to us!) I wondered why my friends were always running off to a new Bible study. And when I would hear my friend pray the Scriptures, I would think it showy.
I certainly wasn’t hostile to the Bible though. I believed it to be true. But that belief hadn’t moved me to action, and I had a pride of thinking I knew it all anyway. I had a lot of knowledge about the Bible, but other people can only give you that information for so long. At some point, you have to embrace it on your own and do something with it. It wasn’t transforming me in the way it could if I read and studied on my own.
What I found, though, was when I began to read and study the Bible consistently every day, seeking the Lord in prayer, my life began to change. It’s like a child beginning to grow up. You don’t notice their physical growth every day, but if you see a child a year or two later, how surprised you are at how they have grown! We don’t necessarily recognize or experience that spiritual growth each day, but it is happening, and then moments will come where you see how God has been transforming us! And this ongoing process of growth will take place as long as we live!
About 14 years ago, when I first began to read the Bible each day through joining a Bible study with friends, I thought what I was learning was really good. I was surprised by how it spoke to certain situations I was going through. Gradually, little by little, I was starting to have more of a desire to read the Bible than to do other things, like watching TV. (Note: I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with watching TV, but for me at that time, I really watched too much. It was the way I relaxed in the evenings after putting the kids to bed.)
One evening, after cleaning the kitchen and after everyone was asleep, as I began to sit down to watch whatever was on TV that night, I thought I haven’t done my Bible study today. I could do that instead. But I quickly dismissed it with this thought: Oh, but it’s been good the last few days, but it’s already helped me with everything I’m going through. There’s really nothing more it can say to me right now.
I’m still shocked by that arrogance and lack of understanding and expectation of what God’s Word said and could do! Today I know that going to the Bible is to worship and behold God and see what it says first about him, then me in light of that; to understand the Scriptures as I observe, interpret, and then apply to my life; that God’s Word is living and active and can speak anew each time by the power of His Spirit at work. But such it was at that time, and God was patient with me, to teach me slowly and guide me faithfully by His Spirit.
As I sat down to watch TV, on what had seemed to be a quiet evening with calm weather, a huge thunderstorm came up seemingly out of nowhere. I still held a slight fear of storms because of this incident, so as the power flickered and warnings came on the TV, I jumped up and decided I should prepare. I thought I should get ready for bed and light all the candles in case we lost power. And once that was done, I thought maybe now I will do my Bible study while I wait out this storm!
So there I was seated at my table, now dressed in my pajamas with candles lit all around me, ready for the storm, ready to read my Bible. I opened up the study book, and the title was, I kid you not, “Keep Your Lamps Burning.” The verse was taken from Luke 12:35-36:
“Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks.”
It sounds almost comical! There I was, now dressed in readiness (my pajamas), with my lamps (candles) lit! But it was such a picture to me of how I should be waiting for Jesus’ return, not wasting my time in idleness. And just when I thought I knew all that God could tell me through His Word, these perfectly timed circumstances arose to show me I really didn’t know all that much! I want to be dressed in readiness, with my candles burning—expectant, responsive, alert, faithful, sensible, obedient, serving the Lord as I await His return.
The junior high pastor at church preached on this passage yesterday, which reminded me again of this story. “Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit.”
2 Timothy 3:16-17:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 2:15:
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
This summer, I’m about to begin a Bible study with my daughter and a few of her friends focused on reading and studying the Bible. As I was purchasing some journals for them at the store last week, the lady checking me out said, “If you don’t mind, may I ask you why you are buying all these journals?” So I told her about the Bible study and that we would be learning to read and study the Bible more. She was very interested and said she would love to know how to do that, too.
It occurs to me that many people aren’t sure how to study their Bibles or where to begin. I’ve even participated in a variety of wonderful Bible studies and classes, through which I’ve grown, but where I’m learning what someone else has studied and learned and is now giving to me. That’s been of great value, but do I also read and study on my own?
I also want to know that my children understand the importance of “reading their Bibles” on their own as they get older, and yet have I equipped them with some practical tools for knowing how to do that? It’s easy to outsource this to church or even school and to think they may be further along in understanding than they are.
Of course, it’s true that anyone can (and hopefully will!) pick up the Bible, God’s Word, and begin reading and benefit from this. This is always to be encouraged! John, Philippians or Romans are wonderful starting points. Devotionals can also be a significant aid in helping us as we read and understand. Our focus this summer though will be on learning some practical tools or Bible study methods to help us grown in our ability to read and study God’s Word.
The goal as we read and study is not that we would simply gain more information, but that our lives would be transformed, that we would become more like Jesus. It starts, begins, and ends with prayer that the Holy Spirit would lead and guide us as we study and help us understand this treasured Word God has given to us. And our focus is on God before it is on us. We will see ourselves best when we see ourselves in light of who God is.
With these things in mind, I see today that IF:Equip is starting a new Bible study called “Rooted in the Word.” If you are wanting to learn how to study your Bible more, this might be a good place to begin. Over the next four weeks, they will explain how to study the Bible and then work through the book of Philippians, posting daily on the website so we can follow along. They also have an app you can download if that makes this study more accessible, and you can purchase their book to go along with this.
Another book that provides excellent and thorough insight into this is Living by the Book by Howard Hendricks and his son William Hendricks. Howard Hendricks was at Dallas Seminary for 60 years, and my husband and countless others were able to sit under his teaching of the very content that is in his book. It is quite thorough, yet easy to engage with and very useful.
I think of this quote by Nancy Guthrie: “Day by day, as I was in the Word, God’s Word did a work in me.” Consistent, daily study of God’s Word will over time produce an effect that we can’t begin to imagine. I can testify to that in my life. We just begin and take it day by day, step by step. Much like eating three meals a day for our physical health, we receive this spiritual food and nourishment to help us grow and develop and mature spiritually, to teach us and equip us and give us truth, wisdom, and discernment.
Would you want to join me in growing in this Word this summer? I am praying for you.
Our church has a wonderful ministry to moms and their young children called Mom2Mom. I am one of the “mentor moms” since I and my children are older. At each monthly gathering, a mentor mom will share a short devotional. I did this last year, and you can read it here, and this week I was honored to share again. This is what I shared.
It is rather ironic to me that I should, first, be involved in this moms ministry and, second, be asked to share. This is because growing up, I was the younger of two girls, and my mom and my sister did everything for me. They did all the cooking and cleaning, and I did as little housework as possible. I was not that domestically minded, and I rarely babysat. So when my own children came along, I loved them wildly, but I didn’t know the first thing about how to take care of them! I was learning through each stage of their development, and as soon as I would figure out that stage and feel on top of things, they had moved right on to the next stage! And just when I thought I had things mastered with my first child and would be an expert with my second (yes, I really expected this!), she came along three months early and threw a wrench into that plan!
Also, my children aren’t yet grown. When I think about giving wise advice to young moms, I’m not even proven! So while it would be great to bring in adult children and point to them, and therefore to me, as models of all that wise parenting can bring, the reality is my kids aren’t that old. Though they have faith that is growing, we’re all still learning and growing, and our story is ongoing—though in reality, I know that’s the case for everyone.
So rather than point to my kids or point to me—which even if I could, I wouldn’t want to—I wanted to point all of us to look up and into the face of Jesus Christ.
Easter and God’s Grace
We just finished the Easter season where I was struck again at the thought of what Jesus has done for us. We who are sinners, separated from a holy God by our sin, are able to know God and have fellowship with Him through Jesus’ death and resurrection. He took the place we deserved, bore the penalty and weight of our sin on the cross, and rose again in victory. Now by faith in Jesus, we are restored to relationship with God. What grace! We didn’t do this; God did! That’s how much He loves us. And there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
This gives me great hope, not just for an eternal future with God, but for even today—abundant life in the here and now. When I make a mistake as a parent, be it from ignorance, by accident, through my sin, or whatever it is, I have a God who loves me, who offers forgiveness, who helps me, and who can give me wisdom for parenting.
This doesn’t mean I hang my hands and do nothing as a mom, just trusting God to take care of everything. While I am indeed dependent on Him and trust it will be His Spirit’s work in my children’s life that transforms them, I nonetheless know that I need to teach my children, and I want to do all I can to show my children the grace and love of God that He has shown to me. Rather than simply trying to change their behavior, I want to see into their hearts and help shepherd them to Jesus. I so often fail, but I’m so thankful that God helps me in this wonderful adventure of being a mom.
Beauty Found in His Face
I have just come through a couple of surgeries for skin cancer on my face. During this time, as I wrestled with the idea of having a scar, I was reminded again of the massive love of Jesus for us, that He would suffer and die and bear scars in His body for us (John 20:24-29). Imagine that!
One of the big things I came to realize, though, was that beauty is not found in the absence of scars, but in the presence of Christ. Through my time reading God’s Word, the Bible, each day, He brought me to verse after verse to show me this truth.
Exodus 34 is about Moses who, after having spent time with God, came down from the mountain. His skin shone, and his face was so radiant that the people were afraid, and he had to wear a veil.
Psalm 34:5 says, “Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.” The radiant face comes from looking at Him.
2 Corinthians 4:6 tells us that the light of the knowledge of the glory of God is found in the face of Jesus Christ.
In Psalm 80, the psalmist asks that God would restore them, that He would make His face shine that they might be saved.
Psalm 67:1-2 similarly says, “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.”
Brokenness and Beauty/Suffering and Glory
During this time, I also began to see that God takes broken things and makes them beautiful so they we might shine for Him. This is also similar to the way He takes our light and momentary afflictions (brokenness) and through them produces an eternal weight of glory (beauty, shining) far beyond all comparison (2 Cor. 4:17, Rom. 8:18).
These experiences are working out something in us that will actually make us more beautiful and able to reflect and shine for Him if we go through them beholding His face and His beauty. Our beauty comes from Him. And we can actually ascribe beauty to His name through our praise (Ps. 29:1-2), which I pray will ever be on my lips and in my mouth (Ps. 34:1), even as a scar sits there to remind me of this necessity.
How Do We Behold His Face?
The question then becomes “How do we behold His face?” We can do this through the study of God’s Word and through prayer, in both ways taking pleasure in the presence of Christ.
Study the Bible
It’s important to study God’s Word, the Bible, not just good books, helpful though they might be at giving us practical parenting tips. Set aside time to read the Bible each day. It can be a psalm or using a Bible reading plan or doing a Bible study. It was through Women’s Bible Study at our church that I began to grow and learn and be transformed by God’s Spirit through spending time daily in His Word. This is a vital spiritual discipline. God’s Word will not return void.
Pray God’s Word
Similarly, we want to pray. Pray before we read the Bible asking God to open our eyes and heart to understand. We can also take what we read in Scripture and pray it back to God, pray it for our children. Here’s one way I’ve done that this year.
May His Face Shine Upon You
The content of this talk has been new to me recently, a new theme, and I haven’t had time to wrap it up into a neat outline. These are therefore somewhat disconnected thoughts that I would like to shape more, but I hope you will remember God’s grace and His face when you think of this talk! And I conclude with Numbers 6:24-26:
The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.