Pick a Few and Get Started!

 

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When I was a young girl, my parents took us to Barnhill’s Restaurant in Akron, Ohio. It was our favorite place to eat dinner because the entrance of the store was filled with barrels and bins of every kind of candy you can imagine. After dinner, our parents would give us a little money to spend on candy, and we had a blast figuring out how we wanted to spend our money. It was overwhelming! How do you choose when there are so many options? Well, that’s the way you may feel about choosing Bible verses and passages you want to memorize. There’s so many good rich passages that it’s hard to know where to start. Yet if we want our minds to be filled with the beautiful truths of God’s Word, we need to choose a few passages and begin the process of committing them to memory.

Last week, as we examined healthy self-talk, I mentioned I would share with you some of my favorite verses. These are verses that I recite by memory every morning. I encourage you to begin keeping your own personal list of passages that will help you replace negative thoughts with positive truths from God’s Word. You will see that I use different translations for different passages. Generally, I like to memorize in New International Version, but sometimes I will memorize in New Living Translation or English Standard Version. Here’s the list of my daily seven:

 

 Psalm 37:23-24 (nlt)

The Lord directs the steps of the godly.

He delights in every detail of their lives.

 Though they stumble, they will never fall,

for the Lord holds them by the hand.

 

Psalm 62:5-8

Let all that I am wait quietly before God,

for my hope is in him.

He alone is my rock and my salvation,

my fortress where I will not be shaken.

My victory and honor come from God alone.

He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.

O my people, trust in him at all times.

Pour out your heart to him,

for God is our refuge.

 

John 15:5

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

 

Ephesians 3:16-21

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

 

Psalm 23 (nlt)

The Lord is my shepherd;

I have all that I need.

He lets me rest in green meadows;

he leads me beside peaceful streams.

He renews my strength.

He guides me along right paths,

bringing honor to his name.

Even when I walk

through the darkest valley,

I will not be afraid,

for you are close beside me.

Your rod and your staff

protect and comfort me.

You prepare a feast for me

in the presence of my enemies.

You honor me by anointing my head with oil.

My cup overflows with blessings.

Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me

all the days of my life,

and I will live in the house of the Lord

forever.

 

Hebrews 10:23-25

 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

 

2 Peter 1:3-4 (nlt)

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.

 

 

Perhaps you liked some of these verses. I know they make a difference in my thinking –  changing defeat into hope and fear into strength. I encourage you to find verses that will encourage you and commit them to memory. For practical tips on memorizing Bible verses, check out Becoming a Woman of the Word.

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Anything but Boring

 

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Where are you with the Bible? Perhaps you’ve tried to read it and just haven’t connected with it. Or maybe you simply didn’t know where to start. On the other hand, you could be that person who has gone to Bible studies for years, and yet your interest in it has grown a little stale. Perhaps you’ve never had any interest in the Bible at all. When it comes to the Bible, we are all at different places. No matter where you are, my hope is that this book will bring you to a place of connection – connecting your life with the greatest book that has ever been written.

I was first introduced to the Bible when I was a little girl living in Detroit, Michigan. Yes, it was very cold (I mean the weather, not the Bible). We went to a church in downtown Detroit where our car was broken into more than once while we were attending services. The thing I remember most about the church was not the break-ins, but rather the kindness of our Sunday School teacher who gave us Bibles and taught us how to look up passages in the Holy Scriptures. She led me to memorize Psalm 23, even though the Bible was completely new to me. This teacher sparked a love in me for the Bible and ignited a desire to get to know this sacred book.

As I grew through my teenage years, I found great comfort in the scriptures to help me weather the storms of life. As I went to college, the Bible gave me hearty doses of wisdom and direction in daily living. When I got married the Bible became my companion in working through relationship and communication issues. It taught me that God understood my feelings even when my husband didn’t! As a young mom, the scriptures reminded me that God was my strength and would give me everything I needed. It taught me to not worry, but rather in a very real way to cast my cares on the Lord. There were also times when I felt distant from God’s Word as the busyness of life choked out my interest. Yet, as I look back over my life as a whole, the Bible has been my steady guide, teaching me about God’s unfailing love for me.

There are some people who may think the Bible is irrelevant or doesn’t pertain to our lives today, but I’m pretty sure those people haven’t read it! What could be more relevant than a book filled with stories of people from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, all reflecting the human condition and the desperate need inside each of us for love and redemption? The beautiful theme throughout the entire book is not how bad we are, but how good God is. Every page is infused with God’s grace.

The Bible is a book about messed-up lives and God’s unmerited favor. There is no other book on earth that conveys the abiding love of Almighty God toward His people. Why wouldn’t you want to read a book like that? Throughout the centuries it has given strength and inspiration to artists, businesspeople, authors, musicians, athletes, and world leaders. It has offered hope to the ailing in hospitals to the suffering on the battlefields, and to the starving in poverty. Yet, to be honest, true poverty is the “poverty of the soul.”

How sad to have all the comforts that life can offer, yet be empty or starved spiritually. The Bible is food to feed our hungry hearts, bringing fulfillment and nourishment to our soul. This is why we read the Bible—because like food—we need it for our very existence. It is filled with life-giving sustenance for those who hunger to know God’s grace and love. Cultural blogger Jim Denison wrote, “This hunger for the God of grace is universal. How could it not be? We were designed to need food, and will hunger for it until the day we die. In the same way, we were designed to need our Designer.” Yes, “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3).

 

My hope is that you will explore the truths of the Bible and get to know what it has to say about God and about you. I know you will find strength, courage and hope as you read and meditate on the inspired words on every page. Thomas Manton wrote, “We can never exhaust all the treasure and worth that is in the Word.”

 

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

Matthew 24:3

 

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This is an excerpt from Karol’s book, Becoming a Woman of the Word. To learn more about reading the Bible and getting to know God’s Word order your copy today. For more info click here.

Taking Time to Know Your Father

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Isn’t it wonderful to think that we are invited to spend time with our Heavenly Father each day? How amazing to think that the High King of Heaven allows us to fellowship with Him through prayer and reading His love letters – His Word. There’s no perfect routine or formula when it comes to spending time with God. For me, I start off each morning with my journal, my Bible and of course a cup of coffee. I simply just sit still before God.

In my journal, I always begin by writing out at least five things I am thankful for from the past day. Without exception, I end up writing much more than simply five things, as I begin to recognize all the ways God has blessed me. I also deliberately thank the Lord for at least one challenge in my life, as I consider what God is teaching me through the difficulty. And I can sincerely thank Him for His presence and peace as I walk through those challenges. Another habit I have started is to thank the Lord for at least one thing about my husband each day, because it keeps me focused on his positive qualities and that’s always a good thing!

After I spend time thanking the Lord then I open up His Word, for a time of reading. He has given us His Spirit to lead us into all truth, so I begin by seeking His guidance. I invite His Spirit to be my teacher and open my eyes to new truths. Spiritual truth must be spiritually discerned, and we need God’s Spirit to lead us. I like how author Andrew Murray (1828-1917) wrote about the importance of encountering God’s Word with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit:

 

We must refuse to deal with the written Word without the quickening Spirit. Let us never take Scripture into our hand, mind, or mouth without realizing the need and the promise of the Spirit. First in a quiet act of worship, look to God to give and renew the working of His Spirit within you. Then, in a quiet act of faith, yield yourself to the power that dwells in you. Then wait on Him so that not only the mind, but the life in you, may be opened to receive the Word. The words of Christ are indeed Spirit and life.

          Murray added this prayer:

Lord God, I thank You again for the wonderful gift of the indwelling Spirit. Father, give me the Spirit of wisdom. May I know how deeply spiritual each word of Yours is, and may I know that spiritual things can only be spiritually discerned. Teach me in all my contact with Your Word to deny the flesh and the fleshly mind and to wait in deep humility and faith for the inward working of the Spirit to quicken the Word. May my meditation on Your Word, my keeping of it in faith and obedience, be in Spirit and in truth, in the life and in power. Amen.[i]

 

During my quiet time with the Lord, I use the One Year Bible, which offers a daily Bible reading with an entry from the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs in doable doses. This daily time of meeting with God is a time to read and meditate on the Bible and pray. You may choose other times throughout your week to study and dig into the Bible (which we will cover in chapter three), but for a time of regular reflection and daily growth, I encourage you to simply read and meditate on His Word.

For me personally, I also enjoy reading a devotional in addition to reading from His Word. Devotionals should not replace reading the Bible, but can supplement your quiet time. Most devotionals take a verse and expand on it with the author’s perspective or thoughts. At times, I may use a book with short chapters as a part of my devotional reading, such as The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer or The Names of Jesus by A.B. Simpson, or The Spirit of Christ by Andrew Murray or Here and Now by Henri J.M. Nouwen. It is a healthy practice to journal and write out what God is teaching you, so that you can reflect on it again or simply to help you identify and remember what you learned.

After a time of reading, I sit still and simply relax in His presence. I may go to the atrium and slip to my knees and praise and adore Him for who He is. I reflect on some of His qualities that I learned about in His word or in the devotional reading and glorify His name. After praising Him for His wonderful attributes, I humbly recognize my own sin, so I spend time confessing and opening up my heart before Him. Again, I’m still and allow His Spirit to remind me of anything that I need to confess that was not pleasing to Him. After confessing, I honestly can’t help but thank the Lord for sending Jesus as the payment for my sin. My heart rejoices that the Father has allowed me to be a part of His family through faith in Christ.

It is important for us to pour out our concerns to our Father, because He doesn’t want us trying to carry our own burdens. His invitation is to ask, seek, and knock. Finally, I ask for His direction and leading throughout the day. It’s interesting how thoughts pop into my head about things that need to be accomplished or issues I need to address or even how to order my day. I write down the thoughts He brings to mind as I ask Him to direct my path.

So that’s how I come to the table with my Father. How about you? There’s no perfect formula, just the invitation to dine with Him. Let us not neglect such an inviting feast with the King of all glory. Taste and see that the Lord is good.

 

This blog is an excerpt from Becoming a Woman of the Word. Click here for more info.

 

[i] Andrew Murray, The Spirit of Christ (New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 1984), pp. 78-80.

 

How Did we Get the Bible?   

 

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Throughout the centuries there have been skeptics and mockers of the Bible, and none so vehement as the French philosopher Voltaire. He applied his gift of writing in an attempt to demolish Christianity, believing that when people became enlightened they would no longer believe in God, or the Bible or their need for salvation through Jesus Christ. He is quoted as saying of Christ, “Curse the wretch!” Obviously Voltaire had some serious anger issues, not to mention a tad bit of arrogance. He boasted, “In twenty years, Christ will be no more. My single hand shall destroy the edifice it took twelve apostles to rear.”

Voltaire died in 1778, and since his death, millions upon millions of Bibles have been printed and sold throughout the entire world. This man who said that he would expose the Bible and that it would be buried in obscurity is dead and gone, but the Word of God stands forever. Ironically, sometime after his death, Voltaire’s house was purchased by the Geneva Bible Society and was used as a warehouse for Bibles. The Holy Scriptures survived Voltaire, and they will continue to survive despite modern-day critics and outspoken atheists.

Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matthew 24:35). Peter described the Bible as “living and enduring” (1 Peter 1:23). Isaiah penned, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever” (Isaiah 40:8). The Bible is an indestructible book. Many besides Voltaire have attempted to do away with it. In AD 303, the Roman emperor Diocletian issued an imperial decree that every Bible should be destroyed. Many Bibles were burned and Christians were put to death for having them in their possession, yet this holy book endured! Even in the Middle Ages, when the Bible was kept from the common people, men such as John Wycliffe and William Tyndale risked their lives to translate the Scriptures so that all could have access to reading it.

Modern-day critics of the Bible question its accuracy, and claim that it couldn’t possibly be the same document as the original manuscripts. Perhaps you have wondered how we can know that the Bible is true, accurate, and infallible. In this blog we will investigate the process of how we got what we know today as the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures, the Bible. We will also look at the questions some people have about errors or contradictions. Why is it important for us to investigate the veracity of the Bible? Because it claims to be the very words of God, and if it is, then we must lean our whole life into it. It is our foundation, and we must be able to stand on it with confidence.

How Did the Bible Come Together?

The Bible has over 40 authors who were divinely inspired to write the Scriptures. Not only are the Scriptures themselves God-breathed, but we can see that God led the process by which the books were chosen. Knowing how the Bible came together offers beautiful evidence that God wants His people to know about His love, and He communicated His message of love through the Holy Scriptures.

Of course volumes could be written on the history of this amazing book, but in this section we will deal specifically with the accuracy of the manuscripts. One word we need to understand before we begin is the word canon which comes from a Greek word meaning “measuring stick” or “reed.” In other words, a canon was a measuring rod. The word eventually came to refer to those books that were “measured” and hence recognized as being God’s Word and part of the Holy Scriptures.

The Hebrew Scriptures (which we know as the Old Testament), were written from approximately 1400 BC to 400 BC. Most of the Old Testament was recorded in the Hebrew language (with several passages in Aramaic) and was passed down by the Jewish people from generation to generation. From the time of their writing, the Jewish people accepted them as the authentic, inspired Word of God. From 400 BC to Christ’s birth, several other books made their way into the popular culture of the Jewish people. These are known as the Apocrypha.[i] While most of the Jewish scholars did not accept the Apocrypha as Holy Scriptures, they valued them as good literature and as sources of history and spiritual insight. Some Roman Catholic Bibles still contain the writings of the Apocrypha.

Moses, the prophets, and the other Old Testament writers were recognized by the Jews as God’s messengers and accepted their work as inspired of God. The Old Testament canon was essentially established by the time of Jesus’ birth. Around 90 AD, Jewish elders met together at what is known as the council at Jamnia, and confirmed the Hebrew canon while rejecting the books of the Apocrypha. Several years later, a Jewish historian and priest named Flavius Josephus recognized the Hebrew canon as the books that we now have in the Old Testament. Jesus quoted passages from the Old Testament, including Psalms, Deuteronomy, and Isaiah, knowing His listeners recognized these books as Scripture. By the mid-third century, the church was in almost complete agreement about the Hebrew canon of Scripture.

Old Testament Accuracy

Skeptics often criticize the Bible, saying that a book claiming to be thousands of years old certainly has inaccuracies or errors, but recent archaeological evidence again and again supports that what we have today is reliable and accurate. Looking back at the Old Testament we know that the Israelites kept the copy of the Book of the Law (the first five books of the Old Testament written by Moses) inside the ark of the covenant, stored in the temple. Despite the fact that the Babylonians destroyed the temple, the Scriptures were preserved. While in Babylonian captivity certain Levites (members of the priestly tribe of Levi) began copying the Scriptures and circulating them to other Israelites in captivity.

These Levites became known as scribes, and were respected for their attention to the Scripture and their accuracy in copying them. The scribes painstakingly transcribed each copy of the Law and developed a meticulous process to copying the manuscripts by hand, in order to prevent any errors. The scribes recognized that they were handling the very Word of God and wanted to handle each word, each letter with the utmost care. Some of the rules they followed were:

  • Parchments and all materials had to be made according to strict specifications and could only come from the skins of clean (kosher) animals.
  • The quills had to come from clean birds and the black ink had to be prepared to scribal specifications.
  • Even if the scribe had memorized it, no word or letter could be written from memory. The scribe was required to copy every word from an authentic copy of Scripture.
  • Before writing the name of God, a scribe was required to reverently wipe his pen and say, “I am writing the name of God for the holiness of His name.”
  • Each letter had to have space around it. If one letter even touched another or if a letter was not written correctly or defective due to a hole, a tear, or a smudge causing it not to be read easily, the scroll was invalidated.
  • Within 30 days of completion, the manuscript would be reviewed by an editor who counted every letter and every word as a way of checking. The editor even made sure that the middle word of the copy matched the middle word of the original.
  • Up to three mistakes on any page could be corrected within 30 days, but if more mistakes were found or if they were not fixed in 30 days, the entire manuscript had to be buried (manuscripts containing the name of God could not be destroyed). If a single letter was added or left off, the manuscript had to be fixed or buried.[ii]

This careful and detailed process of copying the Hebrew Scriptures in ancient times is what has led to the accuracy of our Old Testament today. Probably one of the most significant discoveries confirming the reliability of our Old Testament Scriptures is known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. In 1947, while throwing rocks into a cave, a herdsman in Qumran near the Dead Sea accidentally discovered hidden writings of the Essene community (an ancient Jewish sect). Since that time, thousands of fragments, which belonged to more than 800 manuscripts, have been discovered.

Before these scrolls were found, the earliest known manuscript of the Old Testament was dated at around AD 980, but The Dead Sea scrolls were estimated to date back to 150 BC! A thousand years earlier! Yet, the two sets of manuscripts are essentially the same with only a few minor variations. The scrolls include a well-preserved copy of the whole book of Isaiah and have proved to be word-for-word identical with our Hebrew Bible in more than 95 percent of the text. The remaining 5 percent is almost entirely due to spelling variations or slips of the pen. Larry Stone, author of The Story of the Bible (a fascinating book by the way—a must-have), writes, “The Dead Sea Scrolls provide astonishing confirmation that the Old Testament Scripture we have today is virtually the same as that being read a few centuries before Christ. The accuracy of the transmission is remarkable!”[iii]

The New Testament Canon

What about the New Testament? The process of canonizing the New Testament started during the early years of the church, as the apostles’ writings were recognized as inspired and were continually read at church gatherings. Believers knew that the apostles were divinely appointed by God and gifted to communicate His message to the church. Each manuscript was handwritten (the literal meaning of manuscript) and very precious to the early believers. There were several reasons that a New Testament canon needed to be established. One reason was the persecution of the church. As believers faced torture, imprisonment or death for possessing the Scriptures, they needed to establish which books were sacred and worth risking their lives in order to preserve.

Also, there were spurious writings attributed to the apostles in widespread circulation throughout the first few centuries, so it was important for the early church leaders to determine which ones were divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit and should be recognized as Holy Scriptures. Although most of the books we now know as our New Testament were already being revered as Scripture, there were a few books that still needed to be examined. All along, we can see God’s hand in leading the divine process of revealing Himself through the written word of the New Testament. In AD 393 at the Synod of Hippo and in AD 397 at the Synod of Carthage, Christian leaders came together to confirm the 27 books of the New Testament. The word synod refers to a council or meeting of church leaders. The confirmation was not taken lightly. There were at least four general tests which were carefully used and applied to help determine the books to be canonized. They were:

  1. Apostolicity: Was the book’s author a true apostle or closely connected to one or more of the apostles?
  2. Universality: Does the body of Christ at large accept the book as inspired and authoritative? Was the book universally received by the church and not just by a faction?
  3. Consistency: Does the book tell the truth about God as it is already known by previous revelation? Is the book consistent with accepted Christian doctrine?
  4. Inspiration: Does the book’s content reflect the high moral and spiritual principles that would reflect a work of the Holy Spirit? Does the book give evidence of being divinely inspired? This was the ultimate test.

 

The Synod at Carthage only confirmed what the church had already recognized—that these 27 books were the divinely inspired Word of God. Biblical scholar F.F. Bruce wrote,

 

One thing must be emphatically stated. The New Testament books did not become authoritative for the Church because they were formally included in a canonical list; on the contrary, the Church included them in her canon because she already regarded them as divinely inspired recognizing their innate worth and generally apostolic authority, direct or indirect…What the synods of Hippo and Carthage did, was not to impose something new upon the Christian communities, but to codify what was already the general practice of those communities.[iv]

This blog is an excerpt from my book, Becoming a Woman of the Word.

[i] The books in the Apocrypha include 1 Esdras, 2 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, the Letter of Jeremiah, Prayer of Manasseh, 1 Maccabees, and 2 Maccabees.

[ii] Larry Stone, The Story of the Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2010), p. 21.

[iii] Stone, p. 27.

[iv] F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Books: Are They Reliable? (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1981) p. 22.

 

 

Anything but Boring

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Where are you with the Bible? Perhaps you’ve tried to read it and just haven’t connected with it. Or maybe you simply didn’t know where to start. On the other hand, you could be that person who has gone to Bible studies for years, and yet your interest in it has grown a little stale. Perhaps you’ve never had any interest in the Bible at all. When it comes to the Bible, we are all at different places. No matter where you are, my hope is that you will come  to a place of connection – connecting your life with the greatest book that has ever been written.

There are some people who may think the Bible is irrelevant or doesn’t pertain to our lives today, but I’m pretty sure those people haven’t read it! What could be more relevant than a book filled with stories of people from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, all reflecting the human condition and the desperate need inside each of us for love and redemption? The beautiful theme throughout the entire book is not how bad we are, but how good God is. Every page is infused with God’s grace.

The Bible is a book about messed-up lives and God’s unmerited favor. There is no other book on earth that conveys the abiding love of Almighty God toward His people. Why wouldn’t you want to read a book like that? Throughout the centuries it has given strength and inspiration to artists, businesspeople, authors, musicians, athletes, and world leaders. It has offered hope to the ailing in hospitals to the suffering on the battlefields, and to the starving in poverty. Yet, to be honest, true poverty is the “poverty of the soul.”

How sad to have all the comforts that life can offer, yet be empty or starved spiritually. The Bible is food to feed our hungry hearts, bringing fulfillment and nourishment to our soul. This is why we read the Bible—because like food—we need it for our very existence. It is filled with life-giving sustenance for those who hunger to know God’s grace and love. Cultural blogger Jim Denison wrote, “This hunger for the God of grace is universal. How could it not be? We were designed to need food, and will hunger for it until the day we die. In the same way, we were designed to need our Designer.”[i] Yes, “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3).

As we enter 2016, let us ask God for a renewed hunger for his word and devote ourselves to getting to know the greatest book ever written.

 

This is an excerpt from Becoming a Woman of the Word. Click here to order your autographed copy and begin a journey of loving, learning and living God’s Word.

 

 

[i] Jim Denison, Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, www.Denisonforum.org, January 20, 2014 entry.