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Apples of Gold


Christians know that Bible reading is the life-line of the Christian. And from my decades-long experience of Christian living, I have heard every imaginable exhortation regarding this spiritual discipline.

Men, women, preachers, friends, family, books, biographies, radio, blogs, etc. Everyone has a point and a persuasive experience to share. Insightful. Motivating in some regard or another.

But I have also heard some Bible-reading advice that makes me cringe, such as – just read until you get something; or, it’s not necessary to read through the whole Bible, just concentrate on…; or, don’t just surface read your Bible, you must study it thoroughly, not leaving it until you understand it completely; or, some parts of the Bible might seem tedious or irrelevant to you, everyone deals with that. I have heard preachers and teachers actually refer to sections of their Bible as boring, making light of the words and names found within.

I find this to be in contradiction to what Psalm 12 and Proverbs 30 say about God’s Word: “The words of the LORD are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.” And “Every word of God is pure…” It seems to me that if the Lord of Heaven chose these words to be recorded, then we should, at the very least, give honor to them and understand that, though we may be dull of spirit and foolish in understanding, we must reverence and search these words out the more diligently. We proclaim our own spiritual immaturity when we casually toss aside the worth, weight and value of passages we deem tedious, irrelevant to our particular lot in life. Might it not be that hidden in plain sight will be sustenance for the lowliest saint?

Perhaps I am being somewhat of an alarmist, but these statements can become someone else’s rule of thumb, blocking them from full exposure to God’s Word. Kind of like a spiritual sunscreen – only in this case it is not blocking out harmful things, but it is blocking out beneficial life-giving sustenance.

So, I wish to add to the spectrum of Bible-reading advice, fully understanding I share only my experience and view, yet hoping I can liberate AND challenge my dear loved ones to delve into the riches of all of the Living Word.

Here are five thoughts on the matter:

1. Just read God’s Word. Prodigiously. From the moment of salvation until the day you are called home to Heaven, gorge yourself on the Bible. Imbibe it any way you can. Read it by holding the Book in your hands. Listen to it while folding laundry, cleaning your house, driving to the dentist or lying in bed instead of counting sheep.


Don’t fret if you hear something you don’t understand. If you need to, keep a notebook and jot down the reference or word or whatever your minds snags on, and then keep going.


The objective is to immerse yourself in God’s Word. This will familiarize you with God’s Divine narrative. We must be conversant with every word, punctuation mark, phrase, character, principle, event. Every believer who has a copy of God’s Word in their native tongue should aim to know how the Bible fits together. This is facilitated by profuse, unquenchable Bible reading.


2. Mine God’s Word. Start digging in and searching it out. I promise you, you will NEVER run out of treasure. Ever. And because of that inexhaustibility, you will rob yourself of immense spiritual wealth if you are lackadaisical or haphazard or procrastinating about this.


There are probably a gazillion ways to start digging for the treasures of Scripture, but the primary exhortation here is to create, develop and maintain a hunger for mining Scriptural wealth. Don’t allow dullness to leave you a spiritual pauper.


3. Enjoy God’s Word. Oft-times I fall into ruts and routines, allowing pressures and demands to squeeze and wither my pleasure in the Saviour’s love letter. And since the Bible is this amazing love letter from the Creator God to our finite, mortal beings, this is absolutely tragic and senseless and unnecessary.


We cannot afford to live off duty’s demands regarding Bible reading. Imagine receiving a letter from a loved one. Would you not soak up every word and wish for more?


I have found it helpful to glean nuggets from the spiritual hunger-inducing stores left behind by other believers. These motivating storehouses from voices of the past have a generational effect on me; connecting me to God’s family members who are already with Him in glory, and reminding me that I pilgrim not alone or in isolation. Missionary biographies. Writings of other passionate lovers of the Truth. Great preachers, Christians, martyrs, authors.


4. Reflect on God’s Word. I, very often, fall into wrongful thinking regarding meditation and reflection. I tend to think of it as a “heart” exercise. But perhaps, while it begins in my heart, soul, and mind – it must not end there.


Meditation needs an outlet. A purpose. What is this reflection going to do in my life? I might be struggling in a relationship, or facing physical challenges, or financial insecurities, or any number of real-life situations that want to wash over me like a tsunami wave, and I must have the mind of Christ AND the power of Christ living out its victory in me.

Therefore, I need to seize God’s divine communications and appropriate them in my life. What good will it do me to know the Bible inside out, study and store its treasures in my being, find pleasure in the intimacy of this Book, if I do not allow it to transform me? Change me? Meditation and reflection is like personalizing the narrative to my life, making it real and transforming.


5. Utterly depend on the Holy Spirit when approaching God’s Word. If it were not so absolutely dangerous and foolish, it would almost be comical that we often forget Him in this spiritual endeavor, this tryst with the Lover of our souls.


“…the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God…” (I Corinthians 2:14). I am overwhelmed with shame (with just the times I remember) over how often I approach God’s Word without humbling myself to its Author – depending on Him to guide me, protect me from falsely interpreting His Words, illuminate His truth and then draw me into His Presence by the force and power of His Word. And I walk away spiritually anemic and unchanged, and distracted and carrying burdens never intended for me to bear. My face does not shine from my encounter.


I do take comfort in this though - never is any time in God’s Word wasted. And I know THE Comforter understands my infirmities and bears long with me. Gently, with infinite long-suffering, He reminds me that I need Him to quicken His Word in my life. Because my flesh deadens.


Reading God’s Word is a spiritual endeavor and we must train ourselves to prepare our hearts for any encounter with the Scriptures by acknowledging our complete dependence on His ministrations within us.


Schedules, plans, resources, conscious applications meshed with prayerful humility on the Holy Spirit don’t look the same for any one Christian.

Don’t think there is a magical one-size-fits-all way to get into God’s Word.

It’s dynamic, ever-growing and maturing and developing.

Because the Bible is about a Person with Whom we are to share in an intimate relationship.

It will be YOUR experience and it should be glorious.





…While he lingered…

Have you ever been reading your Bible, especially in a familiar passage, and the Holy Spirit pops a word out, or a phrase, or a sentence, or a verse? That happened to me regarding this phrase. It comes from chapter 19 of Genesis – the story of Lot and Sodom and Gomorrah’s impending judgment.

While he lingered.

Why do I linger? I find myself doing it all the time. And even though, I have a tendency to align myself with faithful Abraham, probably I am much closer in reality to worldly Lot.

In Lot’s case, and many times in our lives, we linger, even knowing judgment is looming. Maybe because of our actions – well, almost always because of our action or inaction. Like Lot, whom the Bible tells us was a righteous man (II Peter 2:6-9) in an unrighteous situation, because of his own choices.

Yet we linger. We hold on. We tarry. We don’t want to leave. We are uncertain of the future. We may have to leave behind everything we ever worked for. We may even be asked to leave family behind. Because we must certainly leave the familiar for the unknown.

Why do we do that? Why do I keep doing that?

When I meditate and think and turn it over and over in my heart, my mind, my life, I find something out about myself. The Holy Spirit starts to deal with great specificity in my life. He is showing me something about myself. Something perhaps that I haven’t ever noticed before – or maybe something I even purposefully overlooked or excused.

In this case, I am too attached to the things of this world. Things and matters that are temporal, fleeting, contrary to the work of God in my life. So, I might try to say, “What’s wrong with having a home? Or financial security? Or family close by? Or any number of noble, abnegating reasonings.

And so we linger still.

Not in ignorance. Because we know – we have been warned. We have knowledge of the God of Heaven. We have His Word – in our hands – in our language – in our homes – in our churches.

Not even in fear. Because either we fear God, or we fear man and our personal perception of loss. That goes against everything God reveals about Himself. And ourselves. Why do we remain in bondage to the fear of losing this world? Exactly what am I gaining by hanging on? By lingering?

For me, I must take this phrase and chew on it. I must run my decisions and choices through this filter. Check out my motives. My shortcomings. And ultimately, my relationship and intimacy with the Lover of my soul. Only then will I realize the beauty of the Lord’s response to my lingering.

…the Lord being merciful unto him…brought him forth.

God is ever merciful because He IS mercy.

He knows us inside and out. He created us, and so His knowledge transcends our knowledge, our capabilities, our limitations. And He designed us to always need Him.

The beauty of this design is that He wove liberty and freedom into this need, this dependence. So that we, in love, can choose Him back. Back to the place in our existence where EVERYTHING has purpose and meaning and fulfillment and joy and peace and blessing.

I am resolved no longer to linger, charmed by the world’s delight; things that are higher, things that are nobler, these have allured my sight.                                -Palmer Hartsough


 Sunday, February 18, 2018

Years ago, when I was just a young girl, the Holy Spirit called me to surrender my life to the Lord. I didn’t know what that meant, and honestly, I have no memory of what prompted me or brought me to that place of surrender. But I do know I surrendered.

I was in my bedroom in the little house we had lived in for most of my memory at the time. I remember looking outside the window into the yard, kneeling by my bed after having read something from a shiny black book. It wasn’t the Bible, but some ‘religious’ book with Bible verses in it. I had been seeking.

It was my first real awareness that God had a claim on my life. I have never forgotten it. I believe that decision to say “Yes, Lord” to His claim on me served to place me under the Father’s watch-care, direction, and provision. I was all His.

I sure needed it, because I have traveled many miles out of His way – a sheep that is frequently distracted, lost, confused and just plain foolish. Yet every single step and misstep remains under the watchful eye of my Heavenly Father.

I have been traveling that path of surrender now for 46 years. I am in awe of how the Lord has honored that twelve-year old girl’s surrender. Forgiveness, unconditional love, provision, direction, safety, instruction, blessings – unbelievable blessings.

Never a moment out of His care. Not even a second. Even during the wrong paths, wrong choices, loneliness, watching others fall out or fall away.

God is faithful. God is omnipotent. God is omniscient. Why do I forget that?

Perhaps you too have had such an experience. Maybe that moment was when you were saved, or maybe it came later, as it did for me, seven years beyond receiving so freely His salvation.

Perhaps you have never really let go of your life. You are just not quite sure you can abandon control. Can I gently encourage you to  just let your life go into His Hands?

I love hymns – my chosen favorite is my favorite because it takes me back to that afternoon on Pucker Street in Niles, Michigan. I never want to stray from that surrender.

    Take my life, and let it be – consecrated, Lord, to Thee;                 
    Take my moments and my days – let them flow with ceaseless praise.

    Take my hands, and let them move – at the impulse of Thy love.                                                           
Take my feet, and let them be – swift and beautiful for Thee.
    Take my voice, and let me sing – always, only for my King.                                
    Take my lips, and let them be – filled with messages for Thee.

    Take my silver and my gold – not a mite would I withhold.                                                              
Take my intellect and use – every pow’r as Thou shalt choose.
    Take my will and make it Thine – it shall be no longer mine.                                                              Take my heart, it is Thy own – it shall be Thy royal throne.

    Take my love, my God, I pour – at Thy feet its treasure store;                                                        
    Take myself, and I will be – ever, only, all for Thee.

Ever, only, all for Thee.

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