Do It Again, Lord! (Guest Post by Cynthia Hyle Bezek)

I am delighted to host Cynthia Hyle Bezek as today’s guest writer! Cynthia’s greatest passion and privilege is to help ordinary men and women connect with an extraordinary God through prayer. Leading people into satisfying, two-way, relational, personal conversation with God is the aim of whatever she does, whether as an author, editor, prayer leader, speaker, teacher, mentor, or prayer retreat leader. The following is reprinted with permission from Let’s Talk: Deepening Your Relationship with God Through Prayer.

Desert Sunrise I

Do It Again, Lord!

by Cynthia Hyle Bezek

Sometimes I get annoyed with Bible people. Like this morning. I was reading in Exodus and getting really excited about God. He parted the Red Sea for the Israelites—incredible to imagine! And then when the Egyptian army tried to follow, the waters crashed down on them and they all were destroyed. What an amazing rescue!

Is it any wonder the people rejoiced and worshiped? Moses led them in a song of praise to the Lord. And then his sister, Miriam, led all the women in a joyful dance before the Lord. As I read, the people’s joy nearly vibrated off the pages.

“I will sing to the Lord. He has won a glorious victory!”

“The Lord is my strength and my song. He is my Savior. This is my God, and I will praise him, I will honor him!”

“O Lord, who is like you? You are glorious because of your holiness and awe-inspiring because of your splendor. You perform miracles!”

“Lovingly, you will lead the people you have saved. Powerfully, you will guide them to your holy dwelling. The Lord will rule as king forever and ever!”

(excerpted from Exodus 15, God’s Word translation)

But a mere two verses later, I got pretty upset with the whole lot of them. For Pete’s sake, they act as if God had died! True, they’d traveled for three days in the desert without water. That’s a problem. But instead of asking God for help, they griped about Moses. Instead of trusting God to provide for them as He had done not even 72 hours earlier, they whined: “What are we supposed to drink?” (verse 24).

I paused from my Bible reading. “I cannot believe these people!” I said out loud.

Really? a Still Small Voice asked in reply.

I realized I’d been busted. The Holy Spirit was gently pointing out how much I have in common with the Israelites. Immediately I thought about a situation that I’m struggling with. It’s a genuine problem, no less real than the Israelite’s need for water. And I am utterly incapable of solving this problem. If I think about it very long—like more than about three seconds—I am very likely to gripe and whine, just like the Israelites did.

The irony is, like the Israelites, I have also experienced God’s deliverance in desperate situations. I can name at least three examples of God’s loving intervention, working things out in ways I never would have imagined, and never could have orchestrated on my own.

Still, I forget. The new crisis looms in front of me, and I forget the victory song I’d sung just a few days earlier. Or I doubt. Sure, God delivered me before, but who says He’ll do it again this time?

Either way, my responses are not pretty.

God, I don’t want to be like the Israelites, I told Him this morning. You have delivered me wonderfully before. You have walked through fires and floods with me on other occasions. You have never abandoned me. You have never failed me. I am sorry I forget. I am sorry I doubt. Please help me to remember Your deliverance. And please deliver me again.

It’s a full 15 hours later, and God has not answered my prayer yet. He has not led me to water as quickly as He did the Israelites in Exodus 15. I’m still waiting for His deliverance. But however long I have to wait, I want to do it with faith, not doubt. I want to hope in the Lord. I want to trust that He will help me—as He promises always to do when I call on Him. So that has been my prayer throughout today, and probably will be for days to come: Help me to remember, Lord—and please, please do it again!

Looking back

Photo credit (bottom photo): Susanne Nilsson via Flickr Creative Commons

Photo credit (top photo): TLV and more via Flickr Creative Commons

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Guest Post for Jean Fleming: Two Aromas

I used to think being a sweet fragrance for Christ meant directing that fragrance to others—living so that people will like me, even if that meant conforming my personality to theirs.

But in my thinking, the direction of the aroma was all wrong. Being a sweet aroma does not mean being a people-pleaser. We are a fragrance of Christ to God …

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***

I’m delighted and honored to be a guest writer for Jean Fleming: Live the Mystery. Click through to read the entire article, Two Aromas (and get a peek into my Bible-reading journal, including some drawings and doodles like the ones I wrote about in Behold the Beauty, chapter 4).

Bible Out Loud

Storytime

Ever since our firstborn’s first day home from the hospital, we’ve been reading out loud to our sons every night. The book we chose to inaugurate this ritual? Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott.

Not your typical bedtime read-aloud book, but for a one-day-old, we figured it was okay. Our main goal was to establish the daily routine early.

Besides, we ourselves wanted to read Ivanhoe. Also, the newborn began to learn and recognize the sound of his parents telling him a story.

After Ivanhoe, we switched to board books and picture books—Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon, Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Sandra Boynton’s Moo, Baa, La La La!

Rich & Sabina - storytime

We read them slowly, savoring the words and illustrations. We read them so many times that, even now, I can recite them by memory and tell you when to turn the page: “In the great green room / There was a telephone / And a red balloon / And a picture of— [turn page] the cow jumping over the moon.”

Before my second son started walking, he used to crawl to me, dragging a book in one hand. I remember sitting on the floor (as I often do) with my back against the bookshelves, watching him bring me another Sandra Boynton. Here he comes.

As he crawled into my cross-legged lap, I resolved to stay put and read the book to him no matter how many times he asked.

So when I turned the last page and he said, “Again?” I read it again.

And again.

Through every iteration, I made sure to still read it slowly and enjoy the story. No rushing.

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We read that book seven times in a row before he crawled out of my lap. I stayed, waiting to see if he would ask for the eighth.

Of course, we adjusted as our sons grew older. Five or ten minutes of bedtime reading turned into half an hour or more. On weekly library trips, we took home Frog and Toad (Arnold Lobel), Poppleton (Cynthia Rylant), and colorful, well-mannered dinosaurs (Jane Yolen).

Deep and thoughtful discussions became part of bedtime reading as we read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Count of Monte Cristo (all unabridged). Currently, my husband is reading Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper to our nine-year-old, and I’m reading Shelby Foote’s The Civil War (Volume I) to the older two boys.

The initial intent stuck: we established a habit of reading every night, fifteen years and counting. The fun ritual that started with a one-day-old who slept through most of Ivanhoe has become part of our routine, part of our relationship.

Hear the Bible Out Loud

When was the last time someone read aloud to you? When did you recently sit down for nothing but the joy of hearing good words artfully woven together?

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How to Listen to Bible Gateway’s Audio Bibles

1. Go to BibleGateway.com, hover over the “Bible” tab in the upper left, and click on “Audio Bibles.”

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2. Choose your preferred audio version. (For a special treat, try one of the versions “by Dramatized”!)

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3. Choose the book of the Bible . . .

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4. . . . and the chapter.

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5. Press play, and hear the story!

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Consider it a treat. Someone is reading aloud to you. Like the child who asked for the same book seven times in a row, savor the story and hear it as many times as you want by pressing “play” again and again.

Related:

Did you know about International Day of the Bible on November 23, 2015? Check it out.

***
A portion of the above is excerpted from Behold the Beauty: An Invitation to Bible Reading. For more details, including quotes and the book trailer, visit the book’s web page.

A portion of the above first appeared in one of my articles for Charity Singleton Craig’s How to Bring Words to Life Column, 5 Reasons to Go to Storytime (even if you don’t have children).

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Photo credits:

Elliot Margolies, via Flickr Creative Commons

Alexander N, via Flickr Creative Commons

For quote image: denise carrasco, via Flickr Creative Commons

Guest Post on Bible Reading at Soul Stops

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I’m delighted and honored to be a guest writer at SoulStops.com. Many thanks to Dolly Lee!

Why do I compare Bible reading to the Saturn V rocket, and what do I call the moon? I invite you to read my article at Soul Stops.

Why the Copyright Page Is One of the Best in My Book

[November 16, 2015 UPDATE: Paperback now available.]

Today is launch day for my book, Behold the Beauty: An Invitation to Bible Reading!

Saturn V Launch!

To celebrate launch day, I would like to feature the book’s . . .

[drum roll]

. . . copyright page.

Check out Amazon’s “Look inside” preview, and here’s what you’ll see on the copyright page:

“For information about special discounts for bulk purchases, please contact Fistbump Media Special Sales at sales@fistbumpmedia.com.”

When the print version becomes available [UPDATE: paperback now available!], perhaps you or your pastor, small group leader, or other ministry leader would like to have multiple copies. It’s a little book (< 100 pages) and therefore might be ideal for church newcomer packets or gift bags, church libraries, small group studies, Sunday school classes, or other ministry handouts.

Send an e-mail to sales@fistbumpmedia.com for more info on discounted bulk orders!

Would you share this information with your pastor, church leader, small group, MOPS, campus ministry, other ministry leaders, and your local library? Most importantly, would you please pray that Behold the Beauty readers would grow in knowing God better and hungering for His Word?

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Photo credit: Steve Jurvetson, via Flickr Creative Commons

Behold the Beauty Facebook page

Launch Day for Behold the Beauty: Oct. 13, 2015

My book, Behold the Beauty: An Invitation to Bible Reading, releases on October 13. That’s this Tuesday!

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I will be sharing more information soon. For now, I invite you to take a look at the book’s Facebook page.

Sign-ups for my monthly newsletter will also be available soon. This will include book updates, free subscriber-only resources, and thoughts on the writing life.

Some details:

– Published by BibleDude Press

– Endorsed by Cynthia Hyle Bezek, Jennifer Dukes Lee, and John Blase

– Discounts for bulk orders available

Thank you for the support and encouragement you have shown! More coming soon.

Rocket to the Moon

This post is for The High Calling | Share Your Story: Spiritual Disciplines. Visit The High Calling for other community posts on Spiritual Disciplines.

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People don’t buy quarter-inch drill bits. They buy quarter-inch holes so they can hang their children’s pictures.

– Chip Heath & Dan Heath, Made to Stick, page 179

The Saturn V is the rocket that took the Apollo 11 lunar module “Eagle” to the moon.

Having worked two summers as an undergraduate research fellow at JPL/NASA, I can imagine what it took to make the Saturn V (pronounced “Saturn five”) a reality. Rocket scientists pulling all-nighters. Precise calculations coming from years of education and research. Tests, failures, reworked designs, more tests and tests and tests.

I can imagine myself as one of the astronauts on my way to the moon. I have practiced and studied to understand the rocket that will take me there. I know how this spacecraft works, down to every knob and meter, every strap and latch. I train in it every day, becoming more familiar with its details and mechanisms. I want to set my boots on the moon.

I love getting to know the rocket. I ride in it and know the thrill of several G’s of pull on me during liftoff and, later, the rare exhilaration of weightless space travel. But after all my astronaut’s training in the rocket, I know I want more than the rocket itself. I want the moon.

Sometimes I leave the Bible on the kitchen table all day, open to where I can read the verses on that page every time I pass by.

My Bible reading is an alternating-day habit. Every other day, I read one day of a one-year Bible reading plan. In this way I read the whole Bible about every two years.

On alternate days, I do an in-depth study of whatever book of the Bible I choose (currently 1 Samuel), taking just a few verses each day in the “manuscript Bible study” method I learned at Campus by the Sea and in CCF Bible studies.

I memorize long sections of the Bible using a memorization aid: write the first letter of each word. Then I take that paper with me on my daily walk, thus combining a spiritual discipline with a physical discipline.

I sing lyrics that glorify God and edify His Body by downloading free lead sheets from my favorite songwriters.

The words of Scripture are wonderful and exalted.

”Open my eyes, that I may behold
Wonderful things from Your law.”
– Psalm 119:18

“You have exalted above all things your name and your word.”
– Psalm 138:2

But to maintain the spiritual discipline of daily Bible reading, I need to think of the Bible as the rocket. What I want even more is the moon.

My Bible reading happens before I even open the cover. How do I approach the Bible? With what heart attitude do I turn the pages? Do I read it only as an intellectual exercise and remain content with the increased head knowledge? If so, it’s just words on a page. That rocket goes nowhere.

Intimacy with God is the moon.

Another day passes. I awake at 2:30 a.m. and see the full moon out my bedroom window. I watch the moon’s descent until its smiling circumference kisses the mountain silhouette. I think of the moon as insomnia gives way to slumber, and I know that tomorrow again, I can open God’s Word. I’m not in it just for the ride—but what an awesome ride. The Word is a blast!

I want the moon, but I can’t get there without the rocket. So I turn the pages and read. The Eagle has landed.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.
– Psalm 130:5

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Top photo by Patricia Hunter.

Bottom photo: my son with the toy Saturn V he designed.

TheHighCalling.org Christian Blog Network

Tennis Lessons

Daily Shoot 10.18.10 [Spherical/Curved]

What coach taught me:
When you serve, step up
to the line, bounce the ball

three times, and pause
for that calming breath—those habits,
those rituals will keep you

consistent. Toss the ball in a straight
vertical, to the highest point
of your reach. Keep looking up

even after you hit the ball.
Don’t get caught flat-footed. Stay alert
on the balls of your feet. Split-step as soon

as the ball zooms at you. If the ball is out,
call it out. Hit the ball on the rise
so it won’t continue on its

natural trajectory.
And keep up your
mental game.

Serve

Photo credits:
Tennis ball photo by Marie Coleman, via flickr creative commons.
“Serve” photo by mirsasha, via flickr creative commons.

Open-Heart Bible Study (by Jean Fleming)

In the foreword to Pursue the Intentional Life, I mentioned the article “Open-Heart Bible Study.” Many people have been looking for this article, and I’m delighted to make it available here (with thanks to Jean Fleming for her permission). This article, which first appeared in Discipleship Journal (a discontinued publication of NavPress), will also be linked at the (in)courage Bloom Book Club wrap-up post for this book.

by Jean Fleming

When we approach the Scriptures, too often we grab our tool box of the mind—the concordance, dictionary, commentary, notebook, and pens—and neglect the essential intangibles of the spirit and heart.

Bible, altar, Studland church, Dorset

A curious, capable mind alone cannot invade the deep spaces of this Book. An academic approach to the Scriptures may be fascinating, but it cannot take us beyond the outer husk of truth. To taste the sweet fruit within, we need more than gray matter.

What intangibles of the spirit and heart do we need to bring to Bible study? If I were to choose one verse to capsulate the essential attitudes I believe God looks for in His people as they approach His Word, Isaiah 66:2 would get my vote. “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” We don’t hear much about sticking a humble and contrite spirit and a good solid tremble in with our Bible study helps, but without them we will always shuffle around the edges and never penetrate to the heart of God’s riches.

Let’s take a look at three essential attitudes and why they are important as we come to understand the Scriptures.

A Humble Spirit

First, we need a humble spirit. A humble spirit grows in a proper understanding of who God is and who we are in relation to Him.

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God looks for a particular spirit as we come to His Word precisely because it is His Word. The Bible is communication from the high and lofty One, the One who lives forever, whose name is holy, but who lives with the person of humble and contrite spirit (Isaiah 57:15). This Word is the most complete revelation given of the God who is eternal, divine, holy, and personal. God has “exalted above all things [His] name and [His] word” (Psalm 138:2). God gives His Word a place of highest honor.

When we grasp something of the reality that it is God’s Word, we realize that we cannot come to this Book on an equal footing with it. The human mind cannot fathom the thoughts, the character, the Person of God.

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Jack, May, and Gail are people who approach the Scriptures with humble spirits. Jack and May, a vibrant Australian couple, had come to Christ in middle age. As new believers unfamiliar with the Bible, Jack and May felt they needed to start at the beginning and at the bottom. They bought and read a Bible written for children before progressing to an adult Bible.

At conversion, Jack and May, like us, got their first really good look at who they are and, more importantly, who God is. Seeing themselves in their sinfulness and need and God in His pristine holiness left them little confidence in their own abilities to understand the thoughts of God. They would start where babes start.

Like Jack and May, Gail came to the Scriptures with childlike humility. When I met Gail I was particularly impressed by her spiritual depth and insight. I wanted to know something of her story and what kind of spiritual help she had received. Her tale was one of ignorance, frustration, perseverance, and blessing.

Gail’s first attempt at Bible study ended in tears; she couldn’t answer any of the questions. The doors of comprehension were bolted. The windows were boarded over. Not a shred of light seeped in. She read and reread, but her effort yielded nothing. Why could a more-than-reasonably-intelligent woman not understand even one question? she wondered. Her hunger and frustration drove her to call out to God, with weeping, “Please help me to understand.”

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The next morning she got up to try again. This time the door gave way; the windows of her soul let in the light; the Book came alive.

Jack, May, and Gail are not models of humble spirits because they were ignorant and admitted it, but because they continued in that same spirit, aware that they don’t come to this Book as God’s equals in intellect, character, or experience.

Gail’s story seems to me a parable. God withheld from a bright woman the ability to understand the Bible so that He might implant a deeper lesson in her life. God can open or close this Book to us. An intelligent, inquiring mind is not enough. While most people do not find the Bible to be a completely closed book, Gail’s experience illustrates a spiritual truth. Even scholars remain in the outer courts, handling the outside of spiritual things, unless God admits them into the holy of holies.

God calls us to emulate this spirit of humility and hunger whether we are accomplished students or new converts. Intelligent, diligent, careful study is important, but the Bible doesn’t relinquish its bounty to high IQs and polished exploratory skills alone. While it is true that the Bible is in many ways like any other book, it is absolutely unique. This Book reveals “God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began” (1 Corinthians 2:7). Wisdom that no eye has seen “but that God has revealed to us by his Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:10).

Biblical truth isn’t discovered; it is revealed, interpreted, explained, taught by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God alone knows the thoughts of God (1 Corinthians 2:11), and He communicates “spiritual truths in spiritual words” (1 Corinthians 2:13) to the human spirit. The language He uses is not Greek, Hebrew, or English; it is spirit. The Holy Spirit whispers it to humble spirits.

So, like the psalmist, let us cry out, “Let me understand the teaching of your precepts” (Psalm 119:27). Charles Simeon (1758–1836), an English preacher who taught others how to preach, wrote, “The more lowly we are in our own eyes, the richer communications we shall receive from Him.”

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A Contrite Spirit

Next, we need to have a contrite spirit. A contrite spirit has an acute awareness of its failings. This awareness is accompanied by deep distress over them and gratitude that there is a place of refuge in the mercy and grace of God.

The concordance defines contrite as “smitten, maimed, dejected.” It only follows that if we get an accurate picture of ourselves in our fallen humanity and of God in the splendor of His holiness, we will be a bit bruised by the contrast. As Isaiah lamented after seeing the Lord in His glory, “Woe to me!” (Isaiah 6:5).

But, of course, the glory of the gospels is that “the bruised reed he will not break” (Isaiah 42:3). Jesus doesn’t break but, rather, He blesses those who are poor in spirit and who mourn over their sin (Matthew 5:3-4). “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).

The Word comes in love to bruise as well as to bless. If we come the Word as self-sufficient, self satisfied consumers of blessing, the blessing cannot penetrate the armor of self. The Word of God must pierce our thick skins, must strike stinging blows at times, must put our hips out of joint, must hold a mirror before our faces that we might see what our sin is doing to us. The Word must wound before it binds up. Otherwise, far worse sores fester out of sight, waiting to erupt and destroy us. A contrite spirit welcomes God’s work that reveals who we really are. It limps to the throne of grace to receive the healing balm.

It is clear that God values a contrite spirit, but do we? Let me illustrate. A mature believer in the Sunday school class I attend confessed her failure to share the gospel with family on a recent trip. She said she had been unfaithful and asked us to pray for her. Her words bruised me. I, too, often lack the courage to speak the message God has entrusted to me. I was ready to stand and say so. But before I could, the class rallied to erase her discomfort. With the kindest intentions, they assured her that God had used the time and that contrition was unnecessary, even out of the question.

Just as I became aware of my sin and need when I heard her confession, my heart is made sensitive by the Scriptures as I see God’s plans, commands, and promises. But always I must be alert to the tendency to undermine or dismiss the response of contrition. This tendency makes us discriminating “partakers,” straining out anything unpalatable to us, instead of devoted servants.

Apart from the Holy Spirit’s enlightening ministry to our spirits, not merely to our minds, we will certainly accept or reject the thoughts of God according to our reasoning. We cart along Bible study baggage of which we are barely aware. John R.W. Stott wrote, “It is essential to give up the illusion that we come to the biblical text as innocent, objective, impartial, culture-free investigators, for we are nothing of the kind.” We must face our defects—and acknowledge that we have barely begun to face them. We must acknowledge our biases and blindness—and know that we are still blind to them. We must come as open-minded and openhearted as we can—with the full realization that we are entangled in the sticky web of our humanity. And we must grieve. This is contrition.

Trembling at His Word

God wants us to come to the Bible as those who tremble at His Word. That means we need to take God seriously and believe God is who He says He is, that He thinks and acts just as He says. Trembling at His Word is the equivalent to the “fear God” used so often throughout the Scriptures.

Years ago on an Okinawan beach, my husband and some of his friends spent the day reading together passages from the gospels that took place by the water. The day climaxed with a fish and bread dinner on the shore after they read of Jesus feeding the multitudes. As they ate, my husband noticed a man watching them from the cliffs above. Roger climbed up to talk with the man and to invite him to join them. The man turned out to be a young Marine involved in Satan worship. As they talked, Roger thought of Jesus’ encounter with the demoniac (Mark 5:15ff.) that they had read earlier in the day. Roger extended his New Testament toward the Marine. The man began to tremble violently and ran off.

This is not the trembling that God honors; nevertheless, his trembling puts me to shame. James 2:19 says, “Even the demons believe … and shudder.” It seems the demons in him grasped more fully than I do that this Book is alive, powerful, dangerous.

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). The Bible brings me into direct contact with the clear-eyed gaze of Jesus Christ. As the demons know, this Word is not something to be trifled with.

Josiah was the kind of “trembler” God esteems. During his reign the long-neglected Book of the Law was found in the Temple. When Josiah heard the message of the book and realized the extent of the nation’s disobedience and the judgment that would surely fall on them, he tore his clothes and wept in anguish (2 Kings 22–23).

Josiah came to the scrolls with a prior commitment to obey them with all his heart and soul. He reinstituted celebration of the Passover and began a vigorous campaign to rid the land of false gods. His responsiveness characterizes the man or woman who takes God’s Word seriously.

A trembling heart prepares our spirits for greater intimacy with God’s Word. As a teenager, E. Stanley Jones, a Methodist missionary to India for 50 years, would press his lips to passages that spoke to his heart. Jones’s holy kiss seems to me to express the same spirit the writer of Psalm 119 recorded: “I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches” (verse 14). “Your statutes are my delight” (verse 24). “How sweet are your words to my taste” (verse 103). “My heart trembles at your word” (verse 161).

When we take God’s Word seriously, our hands hover over our Bibles in anticipation.

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God said His Word is the necessary bread that will satisfy (Isaiah 55:1-3; Matthew 4:4). It is like snow and rain that come from heavenly realms to the earth for a purpose. God’s Word comes to nourish and refresh, to make fruitful and effective. The Bible is not ineffectual; we can expect something to happen when we receive God’s message to us (Isaiah 55:10-11).

A spirit of anticipation banishes a blasé approach to Scripture. A trembling heart does not tolerate the thought that it is okay for “mature” believers past the first flushed excitement of life in Christ to stifle their yawns.

Before you open your Bible, stop! Reflect. Kneel. Pray. This book is spirit, and you need the indwelling Spirit working on your spirit to receive spiritual truth. The Author of this book is your Interpreter. Who else knows the deep things of God except the Spirit of God? He comes to read to your spirit the language of your Father. The translation you need is something more than Greek or English. The Spirit works both to bruise and soften your spirit and then to unfold the mysteries of God to you when you can receive them. Be alert to your spirit because it is a Book interpreted Spirit to spirit.

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“Open-Heart Bible Study” first appeared in Discipleship Journal (Sep/Oct 1995). Copyright © 2014 Jean Fleming, all rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of the author.

Also by Jean Fleming: The Practice of Pondering

Jean Fleming is the author of Pursue the Intentional Life, A Mother’s heart, Feeding Your Soul, and others. Visit NavPress.com for details.

FREE PRINTABLE: Would you like to hand out free copies of “Open-Heart Bible Study” in your Bible study group? Download this printable version.

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Photo credit (Bible): MattLake (Creative Commons license)

Photo credit (girl reading Bible): Brielle King (Creative Commons license).

The Practice of Pondering (by Jean Fleming)

The following full-length article first appeared in Discipleship Journal (a discontinued publication of NavPress). You’ll find a condensed version of this article (with Ann Voskamp’s excellent photography) at Ann’s place today. Don’t miss it!

Giuseppe Momos' double helix spiral staircase in the Vatican
by Jean Fleming

Have you ever sunballousa-ed? If not, you should try it. Our Lord’s mother, Mary, did. It characterized her life.

The word sunballousa is Greek for “placing together for comparison.” In Lk. 2:19, the word is translated “pondered.” The Amplified Bible translates Lk. 2:19 this way: “But Mary was keeping within herself all these things (sayings), weighing and pondering them in her heart.” Later in that chapter, Luke says that Mary “treasured all these things in her heart” (v. 51, emphasis mine).

What things? The words of the angel Gabriel. The words of her cousin Elizabeth. The words of the shepherds. The words of the Old Testament about the coming of the Messiah. Every developing event, every new word, might yield more light to this astonishing unfolding. So she kept adding to her treasure store. She held all that was happening in a precious bundle. Over and over again, she unpacked it and spread it out on the table of her heart. Each time she would arrange the pieces anew, placing the various elements in fresh configurations. Continue reading