Why Grace Brings Us To True Rest (Hebrews Bible Study: Week 4)

Why Grace Brings Us To True Rest

Welcome to week 4 of the Summer Hebrews Bible Study, everyone!

 

If you’re new, I’d just like to say that I’m so happy to have you here, and you’re welcome to join right now, even if you haven’t participated before. I post a new Bible Study installment every Tuesday of the summer, and a regular post here on Saturdays.

 

For those of you who have been following along, you know the drill. We review the last week’s main points, read the new chapter, read through the study guide, and review the discussion questions, which you can answer in the comments or just for yourself.

Continue reading

Why Should I Read the Bible?

Why Should I Read the Bible?

Why should I read the Bible? That’s a question I’ve been pondering ever since my parents gave me a real Bible when I was five. Oh, I’d flip through the devotionals and read a few chapters I was familiar with, but I didn’t totally have the desire to dig in and devour it like I would a pleasure book.

 

I said to myself, “I love Jesus, and I know He died on the cross to forgive my sins and rose from the dead. I accept His forgiveness, and now I can go to Heaven someday. Do I really need to read the Bible now that I basically know it all?”

 

And that’s the question that so many of us wrestle with regularly. Why should we even bother?

 

My parents are both heavily involved in Christian radio, and that means that growing up, we always had the Christian radio station on (and usually still do). I distinctly remember being nine or ten when I was listening to a sermon on the radio and the preacher said, “Christians that do not read the Bible at least four times a week will most likely not have a strong faith.”

 

While that’s not always the case, the point stuck out to me that I wasn’t reading my Bible that often, and oh, I did NOT want to have a weak faith! It woke me up, in a sense, and I decided that I had to do something.

 

But my prompting to read the Bible didn’t just make my regular Bible-reading “happen.” I felt guiltier that I was only reading my Bible when I felt like it than I was actually motivated to read it more. I might read it five days one week, then the next week maybe three times, and the next maybe twice. My fear of having a weak faith was my motivation, and it didn’t work.

 

Want to know why? Because fear is not a good motivator. But grace is. More on this in a minute.

 

Fast forward to the beginning of 2013. I decided to make a New Year’s Resolution and stick to it. Starting in Genesis 1, I resolved to read four chapters a day until I finished the Bible. And you know what? I did it.

 

Now, don’t congratulate me – that’s not why I’m telling you. I’m telling you this because reading the Bible regularly changed my life.

 

Oh, of course I was a Christian before all this. I loved God with my entire heart and even got baptized in 2012. That was not the issue here. The issue was that I wasn’t really growing. But something stirred in my heart around 2012 – when I was twelve – that made me want to really know who God is.

 

I knew alllll about Him before. I could answer every question in Sunday school correctly. And I did love Him. I wanted to serve Him. But I couldn’t really grow in my faith until I understood for myself how much God loved me.

 

My eyes were opened in the year I was thirteen or so. Things really started to click. Through the whole Old Testament, I saw how holy and pure God is, and how sinful we are. Six hundred commands in the Mosaic law, and we broke all of them.

 

But God never gave up on us.

 

In fact, He proceeded to send His ONLY and blameless Son to take away the sins of the world. Jesus did not come to abolish the law that we broke, He didn’t come to earth to say that it didn’t matter anymore, but to fulfill it 100%. He came to show that the Old Testament Law was what God required of all people, and because we obviously couldn’t keep it, he kept it for us. He then gave up His life – a punishment that we all deserved – and paid for the sins of all mankind.

 

His perfection became ours. All the time, I hear the analogy of Jesus’ sacrifice being the equivalent of ‘cleaning us up.’ But that’s the wrong look at it. We aren’t just a cleaned up version of our sinful selves anymore, for we have been transformed. We are new creations! And only by reading the Bible can we see all these truths unfold.

 

2 Corinthians 5:17

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

 

Day after day, I saw this truth – God’s grace is greater than anything in this world. This is what makes me want to learn more about Him. I wasn’t afraid of losing my faith anymore, I was inspired to strengthen it of my own free will.

One of my favorite twenty øne piløts songs is called Addict With A Pen. You can watch the acoustic studio version here. I love this song because it talks about how far we can feel like we are from God – but that doesn’t change how much He loves us or how He is always willing to save us and wash us with His grace.

(By the way, for all of you who appreciate poetic metaphors, the ‘water’ Tyler sings about in this song is God’s grace. The ‘sand’ is the trials of life.)

 

So, I bet you’re still wondering about the question I addressed in the opening paragraph. To be honest, it’s a good question. Why should we even read the Bible?

 

Reading the Bible shows us who God is and who we are.

 

When we see this crazy dynamic between us and God, we can appreciate His grace. Sinners in need of a Savor? That’s us. And we were saved.

 

Reading the Bible helps us discern God’s will for our lives.

 

How will we know how to live a life pleasing to God if we don’t read what He has given us? The Bible is the holy, God-breathed Word of God. It’s a gift and a how-to guide for the Christian life.

 

Reading the Bible is the way that we can grow in Christ.

 

The Bible doesn’t end with the Gospel. In fact, the New Testament only starts with it. The early Church comes together, and we are taught through the rest of the New Testament how to move forward in our faith. By reading the Bible, we renew our minds. We can be guided to love a life after Christ that isn’t of the world, but rather of the Holy Spirit.

 

Romans 12:2

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

 

I know this has been a long post. I’ll be back on Tuesday with a post explaining how to implement this into our daily lives. If you take one thing away from this 1200+ word post, take this:

 

The Bible is a gift to us. If we feel guilted into reading it, and yet have no desire to examine it for ourselves, we are looking at it wrong. The Bible is life-changing! It’s transforming and eye-opening. Let’s stop thinking of reading the Bible as a chore and start seeing it for what it is – a blessing from our Creator – we will have a whole new experience.

 

*aj

A Spark of Hope

A Spark of Hope

 

We all know the feeling of utter hopelessness. Dark situations surround us in so many times of our lives, and sometimes, it feels like there’s no way out.

 

I get it.

 

Hope is a spark. Sometimes it’s like a burning ember: so subtle, almost invisible, but still there. Yet other times, it’s a stick of dynamite that can make a world of difference in our lives.

 

Hope is a spark, and what we do with that spark is important.

 

I understand the feeling of hopelessness. That inner nagging that nothing will ever get better. Those lies in our heads that say no one cares. You’re stuck with this life. Trust in God all you want, but nothing will improve.

 

I hate it, because almost every single time, I believe those lies. It’s such a sickening feeling to believe that nothing will ever be bright again. I have to remind myself of all the times that God has never left me – namely, my entire life.

 

But I think that behind the smiles, we all can have feelings of doubt inside our hearts. Not necessarily Is God real? but more like Will God really never leave me? Is His best really being worked out in my life? Because I know I’ve felt those things at times.

 

Hope is a spark. But that hope can only grow from the light we find through trust in God.

 

Psalm 31:14-15

“But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!”

 

God is our God no matter what. Our times are in His hand no matter how we feel about the situation. God is our deliverer, and the only One we can find true hope in.

 

Psalm 9:10

“And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.”

 

God doesn’t guarantee us a pain-free life, but He does promise never to forsake us. I love Psalm 9:10 so much because of that promise – that in the midst of our doubts and worries, we can know with absolute assurance that GOD DOES NOT FORSAKE US. HE NEVER HAS, AND HE NEVER WILL.

 

Psalm 61:1-3

“Hear my cry, O God,

listen to my prayer;

from the end of the earth I call to you

when my heart is faint.

Lead me to the rock

that is higher than I,

for you have been my refuge,

a strong tower against the enemy.”

 

If you know me, or you know about my love for books and movies, you’ll know that I am an extreme fangirl. (Morgan, Kendra, Leah, Gabriela, Jaye, you guys know. My word, how you know.) I tend to flip out over quotes and passages and emotional scenes, and over things that I can relate to. It’s like breathing for me. When I find a quote that is so sweet or perfect for my situation…I jump up and down and squeal “YESSSSS!”

 

Psalm 61 is one of my favorite Psalms because it is so ME. Maybe it’s weird to say this about the Bible, but these first few verses have me shouting “YESSSSS!” to them because I can relate so much.

 

My heart is faint sometimes. I’m pretty sure I’ve admitted that before. This passage encourages me so much because I get to say, “God, YOU are the only One who I can run to. YOU are higher than me. YOU are my refuge. When I encounter enemies, YOU are the only one that can rescue me. I cannot do this on my own, but YOU can.”

 

This spark of hope is what we need. We need to trust God, regardless of whether it’s easy or not.

 

I was thinking the other day (yep, that’s what I do) and I figured something out.

 

Trusting God is easy when life is straightforward and simple, because it requires NO TRUST WHATSOEVER.

 

In other words, trust is easy when it’s not actually trust.

 

Interesting concept, right?

 

Psalm 28:7

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.”

 

We aren’t hopeless. We just need to ignite that spark with trust in God through all circumstances. By no means is it easy. Haha, it’s not easy at all.

 

But that trust will combat the greatest of doubts and fears. It’ll ignite the spark of hope in our hearts to press on, even when it feels like life is crumbling. No, trust isn’t easy. But hope, oh beautiful hope, is so worth it.

 

*aj

Finding Security in a Messy World

Finding Security in a Messy World

You don’t need to be a genius to realize that the world is a mess.

 

I’m not a genius. I know that the world is a mess.

 

Last week, we witnessed the ISIS terrorist attack on Paris. Innocent lives slain. Families torn to pieces. Countless injuries.

 

And things like this leave us all saying, what if that was me? What if I went on vacation in Paris and never came back? What then?

 

It’s kind of scary. To think that anyone of us could be having the best day of our lives but then wind up in a hospital room, devoid of functioning limbs. Or in a funeral home, lying in a casket ready to be buried in the ground.

 

What then?

 

Tragedy is known so well to this world. There is no escape from the inevitable: death. Hurt. Pain. Loss.

 

For so many of us, we soak up reality and embrace insecurity. Kids, don’t forget to wear your SPF 1567 sunblock, hockey helmet, and bulletproof bathing suit. You wouldn’t want the chance of death on a beautiful summer day, now would you.

 

Hey, the apocalypse might come in a few months. EVERYONE, QUICK, BUY CANNED FOOD AND LOTS OF BUBBLE-WRAP WITH EXTRA INSULATED SWEATERS.

 

As much as this is ridiculously satirical, it’s how so much of us think – just on a smaller scale.

 

What if I go out to school one day and never come home?

 

What if I walk to work next week and wind up in a wheelchair?

 

What if I go to the gym tomorrow and end up dead?

 

And how can I prevent that?

 

I get it. Life isn’t safe. Every time we take a breath, we run the risk of it being our last. It’s the curse of life, and there is no reverse. Take a look at the news (or, don’t) and see all the destruction.

 

This world is messed up. Security is just about impossible.

 

But you want to know what?

 

My lack of security in my own life leads me to one of two things. Either I can roll around in freakoutishness (don’t argue, that’s totally a word) and fear, or I can put my hope in security that is greater than any threat to my human life.

 

Listen to what Jesus says here.

 

Luke 12:4

“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do.”

 

Our lives are but a blip on the face of eternity. If death is inevitable, eternity is even more inevitable. When this blip of life ends – and trust me, it will – we need assurance of real security.

 

This security comes from the Gospel. I wrote about it recently here, read it if you haven’t already.

 

With the forgiveness of our sins by Jesus’ sacrifice, we are given ETERNAL LIFE.

 

Also, read this one where I talk about our choice of eternity.

 

Life is super scary, I know! But we don’t need to be afraid.

 

Knowing that I’m not “safe” in this life doesn’t increase my paranoia. It challenges me to remember that worrying doesn’t fix things. It reminds me that my life is in God’s hands, and His plan is always best, even if I can’t see it. It hammers into me that eternity is honestly all that ultimately matters.

 

Significance and security go hand in hand. (Read this post here about that.)

 

The world is a mess, but this is only our temporary home.

 

We shouldn’t dwell on the insecurity of our lives, but the security of heaven when we trust in Jesus to forgive our sins.

 

So don’t be consumed with fear. It’s not worth it when our lives prove to be so short. But focus on what’s really important – eternity.

 

Where will you be in 100 years?

 

*aj

That Scary Thing Called Waiting

Misty Mountain Top

Being a Christian can be scary.

Scratch that. Being a Christian is quite scary.

But it’s exhilarating. And so, so, worth it.

Life…it’s an adventure. Need I say more?

And sometimes it’s not very clear what we should do. And that feels scary, doesn’t it?

To me, it sometimes does. Because, to put it plainly, I’m not the one in control. Most times, when things seem bleak, it’s totally not in my power to change any of it.

So before you say that life is hopeless and all that, wait. Because as uncomfortable any and every aspect of life may seem, and we are totally not in control, we know who is.

We Christians have something that the rest of the world does not. What’s that, you ask?

Peace. Assurance. Hope.

And the scary part?

God calls us to wait on Him.

The excuse that “patience is a virtue that I don’t have” doesn’t go far with God.

Isaiah 40:28-31

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

Psalm 27:14

“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”

Lamentations 3:25-26

“The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”

Psalm 37:34

“Wait for the Lord and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off.”

Does anyone else feel like it’s a bit scary to wait on God? I’m pretty sure we all do. But here’s the interesting thing.

Waiting is associated with strength, and goodness, and salvation, and exaltation.

Whoa. That is quite mind-blowing to me.

Because as tough as it is to be a Christian, and as hard it is at times to wait, our waiting is not in vain.

Like those verses say, God is faithful! Our strength shall be renewed; we will be saved; we will be exalted.

It might feel at times like God doesn’t know what He’s doing.

But that’s never the case.

A favorite quote of mine says this:

I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know the One who holds my future.

So, I’m realizing this more and more: waiting is the good part. It’s only scary if we let ourselves be afraid. God has it all under control. It’s His universe, after all. His will, His plans, and we are His people.

Should we let ourselves be afraid, though?

Isaiah 41:10

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Suddenly, this whole Christianity thing isn’t looking as hopeless, dark, and scary as before…

*aj