LORD, I Want to Know You More

Ps 23

Recently, I was reading my Joni Eareckson Tada devotional before I went to sleep and something she said really stuck with me.

When reflecting about knowing Christ, Joni prayed, “Lord, I confess that I know more about You than I really know You.  I don’t want to be that way.  Never, never do I want my knowledge of You to be an illusion.  Help me to consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing You.”

When I read that sentence, “I know more about You than I really know You”, it jumped off the page.  I felt like the Holy Spirit was calling me to pay attention and ask, “Lord, do I know more about You than know You?”  As much as I hate to admit it, I’m afraid that’s true.

Why would I settle for knowing something about Christ, rather than spend the time getting to know Him and have a deep and growing relationship?

In some respects knowing something about God is easier than having a relationship.  It’s black and white, it’s on a page.  I can add to my growing list of truths what I know about God.  I can check off my box I’ve read my Bible today or prayed.  I can fit it neatly in to my daily schedule.

But’s it’s a whole different thing to spend time and get to know the Lord.  It includes being vulnerable and honest about my failings, fears, limitations and sin.  It’s taking a risk and waiting upon the Lord.  Will He really do what He says He can do?  Will I trust God when He’s silent, when His timing is different than my timing and when His plan looks a whole lot different than my plan?  I will be disciplined and choose to take my every thought captive to the obedience of Christ?  Will I take the time to put on the Armor of God each and every day?  Will I focus my mind when I’m reading the Bible and not be distracted and let my mind wander?  Will I seek counsel from God’s Word rather than from the world, or from my heart which is deceitfully wicked apart from the life changing work of Christ in me?  Will I meditate on God’s Word and let it convict, correct, encourage, strengthen and change me?  Will I set aside the distractions of this world…phones, computers, Facebook, Twitter and allow the silence to quiet my heart and mind?  Will I tune my ear to hear the chastisement of the Holy Spirit?  Will I bend my knee and say, “Thy will be done.”?

Lord, as we begin a new school year and study Your perfect, holy and inerrant Word, I ask You to help me know You more.  I want to know the Bible well, so I can discern truth from error.  But I also want to spend time getting to know You more.  May that time with You change who I am and how I live each day.  I want to trust You more, I want to love You more and I want to unashamedly tell others of the salvation and hope that I found in You Jesus.

Five Minute Friday – Narrow Path

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. – Matthew 7:13-14
The first Sunday after I recognized that I was a sinner and unable to save myself and received Christ at the age of 32, I started going to church.  During the ensuing years I went to a church that was Christian-lite.  From there I moved to a church that did expositional preaching but it was large and I found it easy to fade into the crowd.  One of my biggest regrets was moving to a church that didn’t preach the Word, but desired to make the unsaved feel comfortable being at church, rather than feed the flock. 
While at that church I grew very weak and took one of my biggest stumbles which I regret to this day.  Thank You Lord for Your mercies are new every morning and Your forgiveness is complete. 
When this prodigal recognized her sin and wanted to come home, the Lord brought me to Bible Study Fellowship.  It was through this in-depth Bible study that I began walking on the narrow path.  Soon after the Lord led me to a church where I was able to get well grounded in the Word of God. 
It wasn’t until I began studying the Bible, day by day for myself, through the power of the Holy Spirit I intentionally and purposefully began walking on that narrow path.  Through my personally study of the Word of God and applying it that I began to see that the Lord had a message for me. 
These days, I continue to participate in an in-depth Bible study through Community Bible Study.  May I seek to know You more Lord and obey Your commands through Your sustaining grace.  May I grow in wisdom, knowledge and truth.  May Your Word continue to illuminate the narrow path ahead. 
My Five Minute Friday submission is a day late…but I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to participate in The Gypsy Mama’s Five Minute Friday.  I must confess I took longer than five minutes this week, but it felt good to write and remember the goodness of the Lord.  Head on over and read the writings of many gifted individuals while you are there.  Perhaps you would like to try your hand at writing for five minutes

Five Minute Friday – Community Bible Study

It’s been my privilege for the past two years to participate in Community Bible Study’s Orange Evening Women’s class where we do an in-depth study of God’s word.  Last year our class went through the book of Revelation.  I learned more from that study than any other time I’ve read or studied Revelation.  This year we’ve been studying the gospel of John. 
For many years I was part of the Bible Study Fellowship class that meets in Santa Ana on Monday evening.  Those years of study took me from being a relatively new Christian to someone who knew God’s word for myself. 
There is nothing like studying the word of God in depth for myself.  It’s just me, the Bible and God.  I pray for the Holy Spirit to give me understanding.  God has revealed Himself to man through the Bible.  He tells us who He is.  He has revealed His purpose and plan for people and our world.  He tells us what went wrong, why our world is so messed up and why I’m so messed up.  He offers me hope that it doesn’t have to stay that way. 
When I read God’s word, I fall more in love with my heavenly Father and my Savior Jesus Christ who bore the punishment for my sin so that I could be forgiven and set free from sin.  Set free from the penalty of sin, the power of sin and one day from the presence of sin. 
This post is being linked to 5-Minute Friday courtesy ofThe Gypsy Mama, where you simply write for 5 minutes without worrying if it’s right or not.  Head on over and take the challenge today.

A Differnt Pace

This summer I’m finding that my life is going at a different pace in many respects. Make no mistake, following our recent move to our first home, Chris and I are finding out we could be busy every moment of the day and still have things left undone. But thankfully we are a little less busy during the summer months than during the school year.

We are both involved in an in depth Bible studies during the year. Chris attends Community Bible Study and I go to a Bible Study Fellowship class in Santa Ana. The studies go from September through May. Both studies are in depth and require an investment of time.

I’m so grateful for Bible Study Fellowship (BSF). I’ve learned so much over the years. BSF tends to spoil me for other Bible studies, because in comparison they are not as disciplined.

Each summer I find it hard to stay focused when left to my own devises. Sometimes I’ll start a study and before you know it…it’s September and I realize I didn’t complete what I started. There is something about the group dynamic and sharing with other students that holds me accountable and energizes me to study and share what I’ve learned. When studying on my own…I find I greatly miss studying God’s word with a group of women who love the Lord and desire to know Him more.

This summer I felt God leading me to study the Psalms of Ascent through Beth Moore’s study, “Stepping Up”. I already had the audio CD’s but decided to download the video sessions through Lifeway Christian Stores. I thought perhaps if I watch the video…it will fill in the gap that’s missing when I’m studying on my own. So far, so good.

Beth’s studies are much different than BSF. BSF requires me to dig deep and answer more questions about the text we are studying. However though Beth’s studies…I find it helps me to see God in a more personal way. To see the people of the Bible as real people, just like you and me and apply the lessons from their lives to my own.

At church this summer, the normal Wednesday night Bible study has taken a break. As a result…my husband Chris and I are going to hear Bible study teacher David Hocking as he goes through the book of Numbers. Being that I just finished studying it in BSF I’m familiar with the passages…but find that David plumbs the depths of the passage because he can go at a slower pace…going verse by verse, chapter by chapter. He’s not up against the schedule of the school year. Going through the study again helps reinforce the lessons from God’s word.

At the beginning of summer I was perturbed that BSF had concluded for the school year and that our church Bible study was taking a break. I thought…Satan doesn’t take a break and neither should we since we are in the middle of a spiritual battle. But then God convicted my heart. He helped me to see that I wanted something handed to me. I wanted to take the easy and familiar road. But instead…it’s important that I take the time to pursue God and continue to study His word…even when my regular studies break. It gives me a chance to see God and His word through different teachers.

So while Beth’s study is different than BSF…I’m learning to look closer at God and how He cares about each of us and is involved in our circumstances. It’s a different pace…but a good one. One that allows me to sit on the glider in our backyard and study while the sun goes down. I do believe that it’s a setting even Beth would enjoy and feel at home while studying God’s word.

Susan Blog Sig 2

Stepping Up

This summer in an attempt to stay in the word of God, I decided to work on Beth Moore’s study, “Stepping Up, A journey through the Psalms of Ascent”.

Bible Study Fellowship (BSF), which I participate in during the school year, breaks during the summer. At church this year, our Wednesday night Bible study is also taking a break for summer.

My natural tendency is to be lazy or let everything that is urgent push out the important and necessary things of life. Things like studying God’s word so that I may know Him better. Thus…I need something so that I can be disciplined and study God’s word regularly. If left to my own devises I wouldn’t study passages in depth. But with the abundant resources that are available these days I can stay in God’s word…even when my regular studies break.

I’ve grown to really appreciate Beth Moore’s Bible studies because I see the people in the passages as real people not characters in some fictional story. The lessons God is teaching through their lives I’m able to apply to me. Through Beth’s studies…I’m learning to look deeper into God’s word.

In going through the introductory session there were a number of thoughts that resonated with me.

  • What I’m going through here and now is just a flash compared to eternity.
  • Wherever I’m at now is not where I’m staying…I’m passing through.
  • This is not where it ends…I’m on a pilgrimage to Mt Zion…my heavenly Jerusalem.
  • Time is short…and the finish line is in sight. I need to keep moving and run the race to win.
  • Blessed (happy) is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage.

These thoughts touched me because of challenging circumstances in my life. You know the ones that leave you longing for the glorious and soon appearing of Jesus Christ.

I find even in challenging and difficult times…if I keep my eye on Jesus Christ and try to walk with an eternal perspective…it makes the daily load bearable. There is a purpose in what God allows in our lives.

That’s easier said than and done. But it’s made easier as I know God more and more through His word. Through daily study and prayer. Then when the bad times hit…I’ve developed a habit that will help me keep my bearings.

It comes down to a matter of trust. Am I going to trust Jesus Christ and who He is? Believe what He’s revealed about Himself in His word? Remember His faithfulness and merciful and gracious hand towards me in the past? Or am I going to look at my circumstances and doubt God? When I trust and believe God…I can trust my circumstances in the hand of the Master who loves me.

Susan Blog Sig 2

Sin’s Perfect Sacrifice

In Your word
I learned of the sacrificial system
Instituted by Holy God
Who cannot look upon sin

When sin entered the world
Our sinless nature was changed
Try as I might…no amount of good works
Can save me from my sin

In my sin nature
I miss the mark
Transgress when I intentionally violate Your law
I descend into iniquity when I called evil good

Sacrifices seem so bloody…so brutal
Repulsed at the thought
Of an innocent dying
For the sins of another

The high priest of old
Laid his hands upon the sin offering
Confessed the sins of the nation
The sacrificial animal was killed…its blood sprinkled

What seems so brutal
Was the provision of a holy, loving God
To cover sin
Restore relationship with sinful man

Thankful to be living
When the sacrifice which cleansed me outwardly
Has been replaced by Christ’s perfect sacrifice
He died once, for all…and took my sin away

Perhaps I can imagine
Laying my hands upon Jesus’ head
Confessing my transgressions and iniquity
See my Savior afflicted and nailed to the cross

Would sin lose its grip on me
Would I recognize the high cost of my redemption
Would I realize that the only contribution I made to my salvation
Was the sin which Christ chose to bear

A plan so amazing
Conceived before the foundations of the world
My name was written with everlasting ink
In the Lamb’s Book of Life

By Susan Bunts Wachtel
February 4, 2009

Dedicated to Terri…thank you for so faithfully preaching the full counsel of God’s word!

Cause & Effect

The week didn’t start out that way…and it surely was not my intent to not complete my Bible Study Fellowship homework. But there it was…Sunday night and well after 11 pm, and the only thing I had done was read the notes. Yikes…how did that happen?

Yes, I had a busy schedule. But not more than normal…not really. I’d be hard pressed to tell you what I did that supplanted the attention that I normally devote to Bible study time. After going through a week without that personal study time…I can tell you…there is a price to be paid for not studying.

Despite the fact my lesson was blank I wanted to go to class tonight. I got there just in time for the lecture. As usual…Terri’s lecture was compelling and convicting. The images and words that Terri shared… I could not get out of my head. Terri described how two young girls hung on the words of a hymn and were in awe when learning about Jesus for the first time. They were in awe. When’s the last time I was in awe of God…or enraptured by what I was learning?

Terry contrasted that with their mom…who sat a distance away…with her arms folded. Ears hearing…but not a listening heart. Is that me? I pray not.

But God drove home the point…as I drove home. The Holy Spirit convicted me of not putting God first this week. Yes…I was in church…and at my regular Bible studies…and even attended the prayer meeting. But I didn’t read the Book. Each day…I’m eager to put in CD’s to hear great preaching…I’m drinking from an abundant well…but I’m left thirsty.

Then I realized…that by not taking the time to do my study, to read the Bible for myself…I was neglecting my personal relationship with God. There is a time and place for all the above activities. They are very good…but not when they take the place of personal Bible study time.

God brought to mind the analogy of a husband saying he was knows and is communicating with his wife…but he has no personal or direct contact with her. Instead of seeing her and talking with her face to face…or speaking directly to her on the phone…he’s satisfied with talking to her friends or family to find out how she’s doing. They may even be giving an accurate assessment of how his wife is doing…but it in no way substitutes for personal interaction. To know and see her for himself.

That’s exactly what I was doing. Listening to sermons or Bible studies is a good. But it never should replace my own personal Bible study time. Even if the Pastor is accurate and effective in preaching the word of God…I’m hearing it through someone else’s filter. I’m not hearing God speak directly to me through the study of His word.

The husband and wife analogy is an apt description. Just as husband would more inclined to start looking elsewhere and be tempted to stray when he doesn’t foster and maintain that personal relationship…so too am I vulnerable to wandering.

As the old hymn goes, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love”. But the remedy is simple, yet not easy. “Here’s my heart, Oh take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above”. That sealing…that binding takes place when I’m studying and reading His word for myself…daily.

Costly Sin

It has been my privilege to participate in Bible Study Fellowship for nearly nine years. I thank God for BSF because it provides me the study and discipline that I would not achieve on my own.

I learn from the answers the other ladies on our group share. I learn from our Teaching Leader Terri de la Vega…who has a real heart for God and people. She is uncompromising in teaching the word of God and doesn’t duck when it comes to sharing hard truths.

I also learn when answering the question for our study each week. Some questions are straight forward and direct. Some cause me to think and mull over the question. In this week’s lesson we are studying Matthew 18 and the questions that really got me to thinking were about sin in the life of a Christian and how it effects the church. How sin reflects on Christ and the Gospel message.

Be it me or another Christian…sin infects the body of Christ and the church.

It’s all too easy to laugh at sin…especially as portrayed on sitcoms and movies. Shows that make sin and doing what God has declared sinful, the norm and common place. Thing like sex outside of marriage…both for singles and married people. What about homosexuality. Most shows depict homosexuals in a humorous way. To lie, cheat and steal is normal…and fails to shock people these days. Even when it comes from a respected leader.

The church in America today has become so influenced by our godless culture that we fail to see sin as sin…and declare it as such. When that happens…we are not effective instruments to share the Gospel. When I take it in stride when my friend is living with someone outside of marriage I will fail to confront them. There will be no reason to let them know that what they are doing is against God’s word…after all, “They aren’t hurting anyone, are they?”. Wrong! In fact they are. They are lost in their sin…perishing and will go to hell if they don’t accept God’s one and only acceptable sin offering…Jesus Christ and his atoning death on the cross. Part of accepting Christ is recognizing that I’m a sinner, repenting and turning away from my sin.

When a Christian steps across that line…when a Christian sins…we fail to be a useful and effective instrument in the hands of God. We buy into the lies of the enemy…who will later condemn us as a hypocrite.

As Pastor Philip De Courcy warned a couple of weeks ago, yes it is, “Once saved, always saved”. But he admonished… “Once saved, always saved…if you are truly saved.” If I say I’m a Christian, but can walk in sin, make excuses for it and not repent…I need to ask myself if I’m truly saved.

Below are some thoughts about the cost of sin to a Christian, the body of Christ and Christ Jesus my Lord.

  • I’m saying Jesus Christ saves me…but can’t deliver me from my sins.
  • That Jesus Christ is my Savior…but not my Lord and Master.
  • I put myself above God as I seek which pleases me, even when God has strictly prohibited it in scripture.
  • I don’t care that I give the body of Christ a black eye and bad reputation…and that my tainted sin casts a pall over every Christian.
  • I want my cake…and eat it too. To sin and enjoy it for a season…but not pay the price and consequences for my sin.
  • I don’t care if my sin causes another one to stumble, sin and go to destruction.
  • I’m saying to hell with you unbeliever who rejects the Gospel of Jesus Christ because you see me as just another hypocrite professing Christ but not walking in obedience.
  • I’m saying Jesus…let me let me drive another nail in Your hand. Let me add more of my sin upon You. Sin that You willingly, in obedience to the Father, took upon Yourself.
  • I’m believing the one who was a liar from the beginning. Taking him at his word and doubting God and His word.
  • I’m saying I want to belong to God…but not serve Him.
  • I stop seeing what God has declared wrong as sinful.
  • When I don’t see someone without Christ as dead in their sins…I won’t share the Gospel message.
  • When I’m sinning…I will be less likely to confront another Christian who is in sin. I feel guilty and don’t want to be confronted about my own sin.

Trustworthy Guide

Not too long ago I found myself shifting uncomfortably in my seat as a new class member in my Bible Study Fellowship group spoke. She shared that she found the lessons so challenging that she was able to answer them only when she started her lesson by praying. Praying for God to give her wisdom and guide her as she studied the passage and answered the questions.

Since I’ve been in BSF for so many years…the answers usually come easy…perhaps too easy. As a result I may fail to begin my lesson in prayer…and my first thought is not always…let me pray to God for wisdom in answering this question.

When my new classmate said that she has to begin her lesson in prayer…I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit…a nudge…a reminder. I should not be presumptuous, but instead come humbly before the Lord and ask for His guidance, wisdom and discernment.

I can tell I’m off track…when I’m completing my lesson and I come to a question that is difficult and I get frustrated. Instead of excited that God is going to show me something new…I start stressing. The frustration factor is multiplied when I’m doing my lesson late in the week, rather than daily.

Tonight I had a tough question…what does Matthew 11:11 mean?

“I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” – Matthew 11:11

And I had no idea what the answer was. At first…I thought I’d go on and come back and complete it later. Soon I had to leave for church. I chatted with folks at the prayer meeting to get their consensus. I listened…but it still didn’t connect.

When I got home…a visit to Bible Gateway afforded me the opportunity to read the passage in several different versions. The snag with Bible Study Fellowship is that you can’t use commentaries to help you answer your question. You must only use the Bible. You can also look up definitions in the dictionary…but that’s it. After reading the passages…I asked God for wisdom and stepped away from the computer.

As I did so…God brought to mind the passage in Matthew 20:26 which states that if we are to be great in God’s kingdom…we are to be a servant of all. That seemed to answer most of the question…but I was still uncertain what God meant when he said we would be “great”. After all how could we greater than John the Baptist?

Will I was off to my second tool…Webster’s online dictionary to look up the word “great”. There were several definitions that seemed to fit: remarkable in magnitude, degree, or effectiveness”, “superior in character or quality”, or “used as a generalized term of approval”.

While not 100% sure of my answer…I believe that Matthew 11:11 tells us that if we serve others, consider others more valuable than ourselves and serve them…then we will be considered great in God’s kingdom. Effective in carrying out God’s work and that work will be approved by God.

Jesus himself came to serve others. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:45

If Jesus…the Son of God served…how much more should I serve others?

I look forward to hearing the other woman think this passage means, as well as our leader Terri…and of course the lesson’s notes.

Even if my answer varies…I still learned a valuable lesson that when I seek to know God and His word, I need to go to Him in prayer first. For He will be faithful to answer that prayer.


“Susan…are you going to be defined by your past…or by your future?”

That was God’s challenge to me following an evening of wrestling with God. I was assailed by thoughts as I listened to Pastor Philip De Courcy’s message at Kindred’s recent Men’s Retreat. He talked about among other things priorities…with time and family…and the most importantly…God.

Upon hearing this I was reminded of my own poor choices for many years. Perhaps it was because I had worked late this evening that I was especially sensitive to God’s gentle reminder. You see there was time in my life it was not uncommon for me to work 10, 11, 12 hour days. I didn’t give it a second thought. After all I wanted to do my job with excellence.

But God brought me to an end of my misplaced priorities. After doing what I thought was a job well…at the end of the day…it counted for precious little. While I was fast at work…my bosses and co-workers were home with families…living a balanced life.

I on other hand exchanged a spreadsheet for relationships. I exchanged preparing a report to studying God’s word and growing deep in my relationship with the Lord. I exchanged the eternal for temporary praise from people.

Hindsight is always 20/20. If only I knew then…what I know now…I might have avoided some of those pitfalls.

I then stared down the rabbit trail of why. Why I was so foolish and why did I make such bad choices. I got to thinking about my past. What had shaped me….what drove me. That’s much more than what I want to get in to here and now. But let it suffice…that life can be very painful.

Not only did feel the weight of my own sin…but also from those who had sinned against me. Feeling quite desperate and overwhelmed about the prospect of my life changing…I cried out to God. “I can do something about the present…I can do something about the future…through Your power, guidance, wisdom and strength. But I can’t do a blessed thing about the past. I feel so scared and broken.

Then God said, “Susan…yes you can do something about your past. You can let it go. Let go of those wrongs done to you. Let them go. I’ve got them securely in my hands…and I’ll handle it. Just as you received my forgiveness in my Son Jesus Christ…so too…you can give Me this. You gave me your sins…and I washed you white as snow. Give me your hurts and wrongs done to you. Give me your loneliness and pain and sorrow…I’ve got you covered. You see I do have good plan for you…a perfect plan I’m working out in you. My timeframe is a little different than yours…but you can trust me on this.”

God went on to bring it full circle…and showed me that in the past…I was focused on my past…and let it define my present. I had no vision of my future. And then I was born again…and behold all things were new.

Only now am I beginning to grasp a vision of His future plans for me. My victory…is not solely in heaven…but in here an now.

“Behold I have made all things new. You are a new creation in Christ. The old things have passed away. I have given you a future and hope. Susan…will you take hold that hope that is in Christ Jesus your Lord?”

Yes Lord I will…help me please.

Pass You By

I never rightly know where God will touch me when I’m doing my Bible Study Fellowship lesson each week. Sometimes I’m encouraged or challenged…but more often than not…I’m convicted. Usually it’s not over some overt sin in my life…but instead God is dealing with a heart issue.

This week we’ve been studying Matthew chapter 8 and the question that really stuck me asked “what points were particularly meaningful”. I answered the question for the passage it pertained to…but it stuck with me.

In reflecting about Jesus…I was struck with the thought that Jesus never passes people by.

He always stops and reaches out to them. He touches them…He heals them…He even restores life to the dead. In this chapter…we find a leper cleansed, a servant paralyzed and a mother lying ill with fever are both healed, a raging storm stilled with just His word, and two men freed from bondage of demon possession.

Jesus was filled with compassion…and reached out to those who came to Him in need. He didn’t hesitate. He didn’t say He was too busy. He didn’t say… you’re not important enough, wait in line…or that impossible.

Instead Jesus’ compassion moved Him…to do that which only God could do. From a mere touch…or words spoken these peoples lives were changed, made whole, restored.

Today…while Jesus sits enthroned at the right hand of the Father…He still reaches out and touches people. He still cares…and is moved with compassion. Do I like the leper or demon possessed men cry out to Jesus to heal me? When the storms of life threaten to overtake me…do I cry out to Jesus…trusting and knowing His is able to cause the wind and waves to cease?

When I encounter hurting people…people in need…do I pass them by? Do I make time to listen to them? If I’m able to meet that need…do I? Or do I find an excuse and reason why I can’t? Do I pray for them? Do I encourage them? Do I point them to the wise counsel found in the word of God? When I see a soul lost in their sin…do I remain silent or do I share the life giving message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Or dear Lord…may I be mindful of what it’s like to be passed by, ignored…and the pain of being invisible. May I instead reach out to those whom You bring in my path.

Can We Talk?

Hey there my Abba Father…my Daddy. Do you have a minute? Can we talk?

It seems like the last couple of weeks I have been so busy…I’ve been racing around doing a lot of stuff…even good things but haven’t made enough time for You.

I feel like You are doing a work in my life. I’ve had some extreme highs and lows these last two weeks. On those mountain top highs…I feel like floating on cloud and will never come down and my faith has never been higher.

Before I know it the next day or next hour…doubt creeps in and my faith fails me. That which I believed You were doing is now in doubt. Lord…if the work You are doing in my life and if answering my one and only prayer is based on my faith…I might as well pack it up. But if it’s based on Your goodness and mercy towards…albeit so very undeserved…then my prayer will be answered.

You know Father…when I go to Bible Study Fellowship each week I never know if I’m going to be convicted or encouraged in my spirit. The last couple of weeks…I must confess were conviction. Both times…I barely made it to class on time…and both weeks…completing my lesson had been put off until the very last day…and I was writing down my last answers before I got into the car to go to class. I start out good by reading the notes the first day…then I’ve been getting off track after that.

Last week…I wasn’t sitting in our group for more than a few minutes when You dealt with me. The new girl shared how hard the first few lessons were so hard for her to complete. That she only was able to do so by praying and relying upon Your Holy Spirit to guide her. If You would have hit me upside the head…I don’t think I would have felt it more. I realized that I take for granted completing the lessons. I’ve been in BSF now for a number of years. Even when don’t take the time to genuinely see what You are saying in your word…I can come up with the “right answer”. But in doing so…in studying the Bible based on my own wisdom and knowledge, by failing to come to You in prayer and ask the Holy Spirit guide me…I’m missing it. I’m missing You Jesus.

It’s kind of like going so see a friend, to talk and catch up…but instead I’m looking out the window, not paying attention and not listening to a word they say.

I’m sure it was my guilty conscience that caused me to feel like you were punishing me by making me sit in the back row. You know how much I love to sit in the front row…no distractions…I can focus. I felt like You were saying, “Susan…you put Me in the back row this week. Now tell Me, how does it feel?” You know what…it doesn’t feel good God.

To top it off…I was distracted. Focused on the girl that offended me when I walked in. I know she didn’t mean it that way. I do know that…but You had me working on issues of forgiveness while I listened to the lecture. You know how they say hindsight is 20/20…well ain’t that the truth? If had been quick to forgive the offence, and quickly come to You and asked for forgiveness for putting You in the back row…I would have been able to concentrate and hear what Your word had to say to me that night.

On Monday night…You had another lesson waiting for me. They always seem to take me by surprise or are from the most unexpected sources. Sometimes during the lecture…sometimes in class when sharing our answers.

I guess I could analyze why I didn’t answer the question right…but bottom line…it never even crossed my mind. I’m the one that missed out because I didn’t seek You, I didn’t make the time to study diligently Your word so that I could know You better.

Jesus…how could I have missed it? How? The question…what are your treasures stored up in heaven? Obviously I knew that my salvation is secured in heaven because of Your sacrifice on the cross. I thought I was being humble when I dared not presume to state what treasures I have stored up in heaven. How dare I…I don’t even deserve to be there.

But I missed it….You Jesus are my treasure in heaven. How could I have missed that? As soon as I heard it…I knew it!

Jesus…now for the hard question…did I not know it because I have failed to make You my treasure here on earth?

Jesus…I don’t want to do that ever again. I don’t care if I get every answer wrong on my lesson…as long as I find You that is all that I want.

Jesus…this week You revealed Yourself to me in the most marvelous way. Words can not describe it. I have never in my life felt Your presence like I did Sunday night. I bathed in Your glory and I never wanted to leave.

I’m tired of letting the distractions of this world bid me to set You aside for them. Now I’m not saying I want to go live on some mountaintop and live a life with no demands competing for my time and attention. But I want to make time for You each day…in prayer…in the study of Your word. I don’t want to rush through a lesson in order answer all the questions…only to miss The Answer.

But I can’t do this on my own. The demands of life will keep nipping at my heals demanding attention. Now Jesus…You dealt with this when You walked this earthy…so I know You know the pressures and can help me.

God…why did You choose me before the foundations of this world? One who is so weak and such a failure? I feel like such a hypocrite just like the Pharisees. I put on a good act on the outside…but there are times when there is little going on within me.

Jesus…I don’t want to miss You. Will You hold on to me and promise to never let go? Because I can’t promise I’ll do the same. I am so weak. I want to bring You glory…I want to do good…but I can’t do it on my own God. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit…and never, ever let me go. In Jesus holy name I pray…Amen!

I Wonder…Just Who Was This Child?

As we study the book of Matthew in Bible Study Fellowship I find myself reading familiar passages with a fresh eye and desire to better know my God and my Savior Christ Jesus. This last week…we read about how the Magi followed the star to Jerusalem seeking to find the one who was born “King of the Jews”. After receiving direction from Herod the Magi headed to Bethlehem.

There they found the Christ child…no longer an infant…but perhaps around two years old. As I read the well known passage…my imagination was sparked…and I wondered what it would have been like. What was Jesus…the two year old like? How did He receive them?

Was he a curious child and friendly? When these strangers from strange land came…as Mary opened the door…did Jesus run into the arms of these visitors from afar? Did he have a strange affection for persons He had never met? Did He want to sit in their laps…as they brought forth the gifts for the Christ Child? Did He touch the gifts and smile? Did He say thank you? Did He hug them…and wipe the tears from their eyes? Tears shed in overwhelming joy.

Or was He quite and reserved…maybe a little shy? Standing in the background…in the shadows of the kitchen as His mother and father received these visitors?

How long did the Magi stay? Did they tell of their adventure…and how God had directed and guided them? Did they have meal together with Joseph, Mary and Jesus? Did Jesus…the precious one pray as only a two year old can do? Did He exhibit and intimacy with the Creator…even as a young child…that we all long for?

Did the Magi have a lump in their throat? You know the one I mean…when you have an overwhelming feeling of the presence of God in your midst. How were these men changed? How did they live out their lives following an encounter of God in the flesh? Did they have a premonition…a sadness at the pain and suffer this child would endure 31 years later when he would be despised, rejected and hang on the cross? Did they weep when they had to leave…and long to return one day? What testimony did they take home to their families? Did any of them…name their own child Jesus following this encounter to be remembered? Did they write it down…who did they tell it to?

Did Mary and Joseph have child on the way by then? Was Mary expecting…and telling Jesus that one day soon He would have a little brother or sister? How did Jesus react when He first beheld and touched that little brother or sister? One whom He the Creator had made…knit together in His mother’s womb. One whom He had planned for and knew before the foundation of this world…in His Deity. One that He knew would be bound for hell if they remained in their sins. Were His brothers and sisters faces etched in His mind as He closed His eyes while He hung on the cross? He knew the only way they would be saved was through His sacrifice on the cross. While nails could not hold Him…the love that He had kept Him there.

Did he like to hear bedtime stories? Did fall fast asleep…or stay up into the wee hours of the morn? When His family and friends hurt His feelings…was Jesus quick to forgive…and never bring up the offense again? Did He like to cook…and help mom in the kitchen? Did His brothers and sisters tease Jesus…about being a goodie two shoes…and wonder why He never got in trouble? Did He offer then wise counsel on how to avoid the error of their ways? Did they listen or just dismiss Him as being Mary’s favorite? Did Jesus have a lot of friends…or just a close few? When He talked…did people hang upon His every word? Did Jesus walk around talking to Himself and His Heavenly Father? Did people make comments to Mary…that her boy sure talked to Himself a lot? When He prayed…did people long to have Jesus offer a prayer on their behalf? When He touched them…or reached out and held their hand…did people have a jolt…a recognition that this was no ordinary man?

When Joseph died…was Jesus there to hold his hand? Did He place a kiss upon his forehead and assure him that one day soon…He’d see him in heaven? What words did Jesus speak to comfort His mother Mary at the time of her loss?

Mmmm…I wonder…what was He like?

A Fresh Work

As Bible Study Fellowship was about to begin this fall…I found myself quite ready to begin our study in Matthew. Only this time…I desire and look forward to a fresh work that God will do in my life as I study His word.

Last year I really struggled to get through the year…for numerous reasons. But this year…I wanted to start clean.

My friend Jo shared that recently she threw away many years of her Bible studies from Community Bible Study. Like me…she found herself just plain running out of space. Not only was space an issue…but I realized that I never go back and reference them again. If I looked back at old lessons and notes that would be one thing…but instead they sit on the shelf and collect dust. Are there times when I let my relationship with God sit on the shelf and collect dust?

So that’s why I bite the bullet and pitched out all my years of Bible Study Fellowship lessons. As I did so…I realized that I didn’t want to rest on my laurels…and take God for granted. I don’t want my relationship with God to sit on the shelf and collect duct. I fear I will be prideful and think well gee wiz I’ve been doing BSF for 8 or 9 years now…I’ve got my relationship with God dialed. When in fact…nothing could be further from the truth.

At times my faith walk…hits the perfect stride. But I can be sure that won’t last. At times…my walk slows down a bit and I get my eyes off the path. Other times…I’m stumble, get lazy or sit by the wayside.

I can’t afford to take God for granted and in all honesty…at times I think I do just that. He’s there for when I need Him…but if things are going good I develop the attitude that “I’ll get back to you later God…have a nice day.” Or worse when things are bit turbulent I find myself angry with God because I know He could intervene if He so chose to do so. I want to make God my “big genie in the sky” and snap his fingers at my command…rather than to humbly submit to God and His plan for me. To obey the very God who created me. To put God first…over and above me. To have a high view of Him and a low view of me.

Good gracious…how can I have been a Christian for all these years and have studied the Bible and yet find myself getting so far afield? Like Paul…I find my sin nature if very much alive and well this side of eternity.

That’s why I don’t want this all too important relationship getting dusty or to take it for granted. I want to start fresh and see God do a new and present work in my life. What does He have to say to me today? What does He want to do in me and my life today? When I’m focused on the past…both the good and bad…I’ll miss God’s work today.

The past doesn’t mean anything in so far as God is a now and present God. I can have a whole lifetime and resume of accomplishments that will amount to nothing if God is not active, alive and at work in me today.

Now I’m trying to focus on what is God trying to show me through this lesson…this week. What is He saying to me today…as I study His word?

This week…He’s made it abundantly clear that I can do nothing…not a blessed thing without Him. I can’t even get through a normal day on my own power and strength. When I’m not reading and studying His word daily…I am not equipped for what I will encounter. When I am not in daily prayer with God…I’m not able to go to God and seek Him, His peace, His wisdom, power and strength. Life is just too plain hard to do it alone.

So Jesus…I desire for You to daily do a fresh, new work in both me and in my life. Keep me close to You Jesus…even if I go astray…draw me back to You.

Just like the dawning of a new day…I’m excited to see what You Lord will do in my life today. As You set the morning sky ablaze…may You set my heart on fire for You.