Category Archives: Faith Practice, the Exercise

Think About a Verse

Open BibleAll 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 3:16-17

The New Living Translation makes these verses sound more like daily conversation:

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16 NLT)

When Paul wrote to Timothy, he had already written a letter to the church at Ephesus, in which he said, “We are [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10 ESV).

  • In the letter to the Ephesians, what did Paul say was the purpose for which God recreated us in Christ Jesus?
  • Paul sent Timothy to the church at Ephesus, and he wrote 2 Timothy as guidance for Timothy’s work there. What did he tell Timothy was the necessary way to learn how to live out God’s purpose?
  • If Scripture is inspired by God, what part of it can we safely ignore?
  • If God has inspired Scripture to help every Christian, why would he want to make it hard to understand? In other words, when you are reading Scripture, is it safe for you follow the plain meaning, or do you need a code book to understand it?
  • What did Paul say Scripture does for us?
  • Jesus said that our natural food is every word that comes from the mouth of God. (Read Matthew 4:4) How often do you need to eat? How often do you need to nourish yourself from the Word of God?

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com. Watch for the release of Thrive! Live Christian in a Hostile World, planned for release in the winter of 2016.

Image: Open Bible
Source:  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AOpen_Bible.jpg
By Wnorbutas (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0

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Think About a Verse

Open Bible

The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:45

  • Contemporary culture is adamant about the importance of customer service. What does this verse say to a customer who is angry that his order was not properly filled and delivery was a day late?
  • A person who supervises other people has a right to expect prompt, complete obedience to instructions. When your supervisor speaks to you with a rude, dismissive attitude and asks you to do something beneath your dignity, how does the example of Jesus shape your behavior? When you are the supervisor and an employee responds to your instructions with glib indifference, how does the example of Jesus shape your behavior?
  • What is the difference between being a servant and being a doormat? Does Jesus expect you to think of yourself as worthless?
  • Some say that marriage is a 50/50 proposition. Some say that it is more like 100/100. What does the heart of a servant say marriage is?
  • How does a servant heart affect your interaction with others when your flight is delayed after you have taxied onto the tarmac?
  • How does a servant heart affect your speech when someone cuts in front of you in the grocery checkout line?
  • How does the example of Jesus help you to teach your children to be servants of all?

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com. Watch for the release of Thrive! Live Christian in a Hostile World, planned for release in the winter of 2016.

Image: Open Bible
Source:  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AOpen_Bible.jpg
By Wnorbutas (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Think About a Hymn

hymnal

O Christ, Our Hope

O Christ, our Hope, our heart’s Desire,
Redemption’s only Spring!
Creator of the world art Thou,
Its Savior and its King.

How vast the mercy and the love
Which laid our sins on Thee,
And led Thee to a cruel death,
To set Thy people free.

But now the bands of death are burst,
The ransom has been paid,
And Thou art on Thy Father’s throne,
In glorious robes arrayed.

O may Thy mighty love prevail
Our sinful souls to spare;
O may we come before Thy throne,
And find acceptance there!

Unknown author
Translated from Latin by John Chandler, 1837
Text is in the public domain
Source: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/o/c/ocohohde.htm

The Bible is our ultimate source for truth, and any statement which purports to be insight into our faith must be tested against the Bible. The creeds of the church are wonderful tools that help us summarize our faith, both in reminding ourselves of truth and in explaining the reason for our faith to other people. Hymns also teach us by reinforcing biblical teaching, and singing hymns attracts the kind of thoughtful attention that might lead unbelieving individuals to consider what Christ has done for all people. The thought questions below are intended to help you consider how a hymn, the creeds and the Bible teaching all help us both to live our faith and to share our faith with others.

  • The Apostles’ Creed states that God the Father created heaven and earth. Where does the Bible tell us that this creative act is the work of God? How does the gospel of John explain Christ’s involvement in that act?
  • The Apostles’ Creed summarizes the teaching about Christ’s death in the words “was crucified, died and was buried.” Where does the Bible explain how Christ died and why he died?
  • The hymn celebrates the fact that “the bands of death are burst.” Why is that important? Where does the Bible tell how the “bands of death” were defeated? How does the Apostles’ Creed tell this part of Christ’s story?
  • The hymn writer refers to Jesus sitting on a throne and to our appearance before his throne. What does the Bible say about Jesus’ throne and our appearance there? How does the Apostles’ Creed sum up this part of Christ’s story?
  • When you want to share Jesus with someone, how do you decide what part of Christ’s story to mention first in the conversation? Have you ever tried to sum up the story of the whole Bible in conversation with someone? Think through the Apostles’ Creed and verify each statement with a text in the Bible. Does that exercise help you prepare to share Jesus with someone?

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com. Watch for the release of Thrive! Live Christian in a Hostile World, planned for release in the winter of 2016

Image: Open Hymnal Source:http://foter.com/
License: CC BY-NC-SA

Take Your Time

Open Bible

The world today is about speed. The ability to multi-task is not only highly valued, but quite necessary for survival. Employees are asked to do more with less, and that includes less time. Studies have determined that many people sleep less than seven hours a day, not resting nearly enough to give their bodies and minds time to recharge.

This state of affairs explains why many people have trouble making time for the Lord. Their days start early in the AM, and they run as fast as they can go till late PM.

These busy people all believe they must be organized. The industry that makes organizers is alive and well and growing. What fills up all this time? The entries cover work, family, home maintenance, physical exercise, volunteer charity work, professional education, and so forth. It is no wonder that people throw up their hands in despair when someone says that they should take time every day for spiritual nourishment in prayer and Bible study.

Yet the Bible is very clear that God wants us to spend time with him. After he had created the first man and woman, he met them in the garden every day. Every day! The first time they missed a meeting, it was because they had disobeyed him, and they felt too guilty to face him. When people today miss their meetings with him, God feels the loss.

Jesus, God’s Son, needed time with his father, though he was often so busy that he did not even have time to eat. (See Mark 6:33) Contemporary families can identify with that problem. Yet throughout these busy days, Jesus made time to pray.

Mark 1:21-39 records a very busy Sabbath that opened with a demon-possessed man in the synagogue and ended with “the whole city . . . gathered together at the door” of Peter’s house. (Mark 1:33 ESV) Yet Mark says that, “very early [the next] morning, while it was still dark, [Jesus] departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35 ESV).

Old Testament or New Testament, God’s desire to spend time with us is a consistent theme. You can read the complicated story of Saul’s anointing to be king of Israel in 1 Samuel 8-10. The country is suffering, and Saul is clueless about his future. When Samuel contrives to be alone with Saul in order to let him know God’s plan, this is what he says: “Stop here yourself for a while, that I may make known to you the word of God” (1 Samuel 9:27 ESV). Samuel as God’s agent, God’s voice to Saul, separates Saul from the busyness in his life and compels him to slow down for a while in God’s presence just to listen. To listen!

That is why we need to spend time with God. We need to make our petitions for our needs, because God desires to care for us, but even more than we need to get what we want, we need to hear God speak and share what he wants for us. How many blessings do we miss, because we do not take time to listen to God? What would have happened in Saul’s life if he had said, “Sam, I’m a busy man. I don’t have time to sit down for your jawboning right now. Why don’t you have your people talk to my people, and we will for sure get together soon.”

Many, many people treat God this way. They get up to the sound of the alarm clock. Maybe their first thought is, “I promised myself that I would make time to pray and read the Bible today. I’m gonna do that today for sure. Soon as I get out of the shower.” After the shower, they say, “Oh, I need to read my Bible, but maybe I’ll get coffee going first.” Then they remember that today’s status meeting is fifteen minutes earlier so the district manager can attend. “Okay, I’ll throw everything in the car right now, and then I’ll grab a few minutes for the Bible, and then I’ll go.” After the car is loaded, they can’t find the Bible or the devotion book or the phone rings. They hop in the car for the early meeting and run by Starbucks for a cuppa to get through the early meeting. As the meeting comes to order, the district manager says, “Folks, I’m sorry, but I have some bad news.” The participants sigh, “Oh, God!” and that is the prayer of the day.

Many, many contemporary Christians feel that they simply do not have the time for prayer and Bible study, and they have this attitude, because they do not realize what will happen after they start spending regular time with God.

I know this to be true.

I started my time with God by allotting only five minutes a day to him. I knew, or felt that I knew, that I should give him more time, but I knew, or felt that I knew, that I would never be able to give more. At that time, I started work daily at 6AM or earlier. I never left work till 6PM. I tried to have a life after work, and it was very hard to add anything to my days. Yet God kept whispering his call to me, and I kept feeling as guilty as Adam and Eve, hiding in the bushes. I had to do something.

I allotted five minutes, and I specified it would be immediately after my shower. Out of bed, start coffee, hop in the shower, dress, and sit down for God’s time. Five minutes. I gave God five minutes out of a day of 1440 minutes. I gave God .3% of my day.

I used the Daily Texts published by Mount Carmel Ministries. I read two verses and meditated on them. Then I read the prayer already written for me in the book. Five minutes, and I was gone.

What was the consequence of that decision? I was never late for work because of that commitment. I discover that those five minutes were very precious to me. I began to look forward to them. Those five minutes became my daily refuge in a very hectic and demanding career. Before long, I wanted to write down my thoughts on the verses, and I increased my time to ten minutes. Soon, I was reading my Bible, journaling my meditation, and praying for fifteen minutes. Yet when work responsibilities were overwhelming, and I worked round the clock from time to time, I could always find at least five minutes. It takes that long to go to the bathroom or go get a cup of coffee in the break room. I could give God five minutes.

That five minutes has been increased several times over the years, but I have never forgotten how important it was, even when it was just five minutes. During the most frantic days of my life, I never want to miss that five minutes. There have been times when I was so overwhelmed that I truly did let it slip away. Those were days when my motto was “Watch and pray,” and I hated being unable to step out of the midst of things for time alone, time to slow down and listen. However, months and years of having made that time apart happen day after day meant that I had a reservoir of peace and fulfillment that helped me through the days when it simply could not happen.

You may not realize it right now, but you need time alone with God every day. You may think you don’t even have five minutes, but almost certainly you do. There is more than one way make that time work, and here are four suggestions:

  • Sign up at Bible Gateway to receive the Verse of the Day by email each day. This site has a wealth of Bible reading plans and devotional series, but you can start giving God your five minutes by reading, meditating and praying a single verse each day. If you start with this simple practice, your life will change.
  • Use Daily Texts published by Mount Carmel Ministries for Kindle and paperback. There are many excellent devotional helps in this book, but you can start very simply with two verses and one prayer.
  • Get the First5 app on your phone. It allows you to set an alarm for the time you choose to give God your five minutes. The alarm will sound, and when you respond, you will receive a devotional and prayer. Step out of the fray and give God your First5.
  • Sign up to receive “Drops from the Well” each Sunday afternoon on your phone or by email. The site provides suggestions for ways to use a single verse as inspiration for meditation throughout the week.

Do you really think you cannot give God just five minutes each day? Think again. It is worth the time.

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com.

Image: Open Bible
Source:  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AOpen_Bible.jpg
By Wnorbutas (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Hymn Meditation

Open Hymnal

Love Divine, All Loves Excelling

  1. Love divine, all loves excelling,
    joy of heaven, to earth come down;
    fix in us thy humble dwelling;
    all thy faithful mercies crown!
    Jesus thou art all compassion,
    pure, unbounded love thou art;
    visit us with thy salvation;
    enter every trembling heart.
  2. Breathe, O breathe thy loving Spirit
    into every troubled breast!
    Let us all in thee inherit;
    let us find that second rest.
    Take away our bent to sinning;
    Alpha and Omega be;
    end of faith, as its beginning,
    set our hearts at liberty.
  3. Come, Almighty to deliver,
    let us all thy life receive;
    suddenly return and never,
    nevermore thy temples leave.
    Thee we would be always blessing,
    serve thee as thy hosts above,
    pray and praise thee without ceasing,
    glory in thy perfect love.
  4. Finish, then, thy new creation;
    pure and spotless let us be.
    Let us see thy great salvation
    perfectly restored in thee;
    changed from glory into glory,
    till in heaven we take our place,
    till we cast our crowns before thee,
    lost in wonder, love, and praise.
  • Love is a much overused word When Charles Wesley used the word, to what was he referring? He prayed fervently that every trembling heart my receive God’s love. How does that happen in such a loveless world?
  • How can God’s love be the end as well as the beginning of faith? How does God’s love give us liberty? What restricts our liberty when God’s love is not in us?
  • When Wesley says that we all receive God’s life, what does he mean? In a world where being a Christian means that people will think you are weird, why do people ceaselessly praise God anyway?
  • What is the new creation to which the hymn writer refers? Why is it incomplete at present? Where did Wesley find the image of people casting golden crowns to the ground? Why do they do that?
  • Does the fullness of God’s love live in you? How do you know? What difference does it make?

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com.

Image: Open Hymnal Source:http://foter.com/
License: CC BY-NC-SA