In His Word – with the Poets

psalm 119 103

This week we are looking into the importance of God’s Word as well as some of the goodies we are rewarded with when we open the book.  First, we had an overview of the 5 books of Law.  Yesterday we considered the 12 books of History, so today we are up to the 5 books of Poetry.

When I was a school kid eating up my history classes, I was yawning during my poetry course.  And, I still haven’t matured enough to really enjoy a ‘good book of poetry’ whatever that means.  However, I truly love opening up my Bible to these inspired books of poetry.  So many times when I reach for my Bible – it is to the books of Poetry that I go, and I am not disappointed.

Often when reading the books of law and history you get the facts of the events.  And from there you can piece together the likely thoughts or emotions of the characters and what their relationship with God was like at the time.  But, in many of the books of poetry you get the poet’s raw emotion: disappointment, anger, depression, elation, thankfulness, etc… And, through it all – God is there.  Along with the poet’s emotion, you get to read of his personal testimony of God’s faithfulness.  Psalm 13 is one short example – it starts out with quite a bit of pain and anguish and questions for God – but it ends with a beautiful statement of God’s unfailing love and goodness.

I really appreciated Andrew Cheatwood’s devotions two weeks ago when he wrote candidly about his struggle with spiritual depression and the help he found in the Psalms.  I applaud his wisdom in looking to God’s Word.

Here’s a brief overview of the 5 books of Poetry

JOB – Suffering, But Still Trusting

Satan attacks Job.  He loses everything except his trust in God – and that is enough.  He prospers again, even more than before.

PSALMS – Jewish Songbook

Songs, prayers and praises to God in poetry.  The longest book of the Bible, mostly written by David.  Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible – all about the greatness of the Word of God

PROVERBS – Wisdom!

Wise King Solomon shares his wisdom on many matters: work, money, temptation, discipline, etc…These 31 chapters can be read one chapter a day every month and you will find yourself a wiser person.

ECCLESIASTES – Search for the Meaning of Life

Solomon found pleasures, riches, and fame don’t satisfy.  Instead, revere God, follow Him and let God be God

SONG OF SOLOMON – Love Songs

Poems by Solomon celebrating the beauty of married love, also called Song of Songs

 

Which is your favorite book of Poetry?  Go ahead – read some God-inspired poetry today!

Marcia Railton

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In His Word – the 1st 5

Deut 8 3

Can you imagine giving an algebra book to a preschooler and expecting the child to start solving intricate problems on their own?  I think some searching and new Christians (and even some old ones) may feel a bit like that preschooler when they think about reading the Bible.  They have heard and might even believe it can be helpful to their Christian walk.  But, it still seems like such a large, overwhelming book – they would prefer the pastor just tells them what they need to know.  The good news is that our little preschooler can learn to count, and then add, subtract, multiply, divide, replace numbers with variables and before you know it – they have grown in their math skills and are solving algebraic equations.  And, even better news, it doesn’t need to take 10 plus years to get better acquainted with God’s Word and benefit from the countless opportunities to grow in our knowledge, faith and relationship with our Heavenly Father through his words.  We can each continue growing today, no matter where we are in our current understanding of His Word, we can and ought to be dedicated to knowing God more and more as he reveals himself in His Word – daily.

 

A basic understanding of how the Bible is organized can help greatly in knowing the big picture of God’s story – which is profitable in also seeing how it applies to our daily lives as well since it is the same God at work.  The 66 books are divided into the Old Testament (39 books covering creation through Israel’s history up to 400 years before the birth of Jesus) and the New Testament (27 books detailing the life, death & resurrection of Jesus, the acts of the early church, letters to the various churches and church leaders, and finally, a vision of the end times and coming kingdom).  Each testament can be further subdivided into helpful divisions.  For example:
THE OLD TESTAMENT

Law (5 books)

History (12 books)

Poetry (12 books)

Major Prophets (5 books)

Minor Prophets (12 books)

 

Today we will give a quick overview of the 5 books of the Law

The Books of the Law were mostly written by Moses and for many years they were the only sacred scriptures of God’s word for his people.  These 5 books cover a great deal of the early years of the Jewish and Christian faith and it is here that God first reveals himself to his creation.  While the setting includes many ancient cultures – beginning about 6,000 years ago – which can seem rather foreign at first, it doesn’t take long before we recognize many human characteristics we still see in ourselves and our neighbors today: selfishness, greed, pride, envy, as well as faithfulness, dedication, patience, and compassion.  And, we also see GOD – the creative, all-powerful, jealous, wise, holy God of all the ages.  Too often the Old Testament is sadly regarded as too old to be useful.  However, Jesus knew much of the Old Testament, and in the Gospels he quoted from or referenced passages from all 5 of the books of Law.  They were important to Jesus.  These Scriptures helped him fight temptation, teach about God and live a holy life.  If the Son of God found them so useful – it seems well worth my time to look into them further.

These are some of the exciting things you can look forward to reading and learning from in the Books of the Law . . .

 

Genesis – A Book of Beginnings!

Starting with Creation, Adam and Eve and the Fall (first sin), Noah and the Flood, and the Tower of Babel.  Then, enters Abraham who would be the father of a great nation, and so begins the patriarchal family and the following generations, each with their own story to tell: Isaac, Jacob/Esau, and Joseph.  This book covers the beginning of the universe, life, mankind, marriage, family, sacrifice, sin, death, redemption and more.  This book of 50 chapters spans more years than the rest of the 65 books of the Bible put together – and in it we get our first predictions of the promised Messiah – Jesus.  God’s story begins.

Exodus – The Exit Out of Egypt!

Hebrews enslaved in Egypt.  Baby Moses saved in a basket – grows up in Pharoah’s house – leaves Egypt  – burning bush – back to Egypt to free his countrymen – 10 plagues – the first Passover – crossing the Red Sea – manna – the Ten Commandments (chapter 20) – other laws – golden calf – preparing the tabernacle

Leviticus – Holiness

Now that God’s people were called out to be a rescued people for him – with their own tabernacle where they were to worship him – they needed direction.  This book includes the rules for worship of a holy God and for the Levites – the tribe of priests who would serve in the tabernacle.

Numbers – Counting in the Desert

12 tribes of Israel counted, 12 spies sent into the Promised Land (10 were bad and 2 were good), faithless Israel listens to the majority and wanders in the wilderness 40 years

Deuteronomy – Repeating the Law

Moses reminds the Israelites of their history and God’s laws as they prepare to enter the Promised Land – Moses dies.

 

And – God is there – in it all!  Through the ups and the downs.  Just as He is with you, today – and yesterday and tomorrow.  If you are looking for one chapter to read today to sum up the books of the law – Deuteronomy 32 is a good choice – or Deuteronomy 30 – or 28 – or Exodus 20.  Maybe you can listen to a few chapters on your way to work, or during your bike ride.   God put good stuff in there just for you – thousands of years ago.  Thanks, God!

 

May I Find You There, God,

Marcia Railton

In His Word

psalm 119 18

GOD’s Story is the best story.  GOD’s words are the best words.  If I want to live my life to please Him, I must be grounded in His Word, for that is where I find Him, where I learn about Him, and where I begin to grow my relationship with Him.  The world is full of false gods and it becomes so easy to be led astray by what the glittery, selfish world offers instead of taking ahold of the solid promises and expectations God lays out in His Word.  I believe Satan is pretty happy to see people who enjoy calling themselves Christians who spend very little time in God’s Word.

Can you imagine a person who loves Marvel – wears Marvel, spouts Marvel trivia, plays Marvel games, etc …… but has never seen any Marvel movies – not even a trailer.   It seems ridiculous, doesn’t it!   So too, is the Christ follower who doesn’t look to the book that Christ followed – ridiculous – and even dangerous – for himself and for those who would follow that poor example.

If we know God’s Word is important… what gets in the way?  Time, of course, is the number one answer.  But, not a very valid one.  We all find time to do what we really want to do – including perhaps a few movies or TV shows every week to unwind, some “brain games” (ie-device time) to keep us mentally sharp, some physical activity to keep our shape (or lose our current shape), but how do we remember to do the daily upkeep for our most important spiritual life?

I think sometimes our problem is that is just seems so overwhelming to open the big book.  Where do I start?  What if I don’t understand it?  It is such a big book!  This week we are going to do an overview of the importance of God’s Word – as well as providing an outline for how the book is laid out.  Where do I find the stories of Jesus?  Of Moses and David?  What makes the book of James different from Esther?   Where in the world is the book of Habakkuk – and why is it there?

Today – read as much of Psalm 119 as you can (go ahead, I challenge you – read the whole chapter).  Be looking for what good comes from God’s Word (and his laws, statutes, promises, commandments, which are all found in the gift of God – the Bible).

 

God bless you as you seek Him in His Word!
Marcia Railton

ON PURPOSE – Evangelism

Luke 15 6b

The past five days we have been looking at how to live our lives on purpose.  We don’t want to drift through life not accomplishing what God has prepared for us to do.  We don’t want worldly goals that pull us away from what really matters.

First, we looked at the Greatest Commandment and said that to love God is to worship God.  Next, we discussed the importance of following Christ by being a devoted disciple: the on-going process of becoming mature in Christ (discipleship) which begins with time in God’s Word – and will include other godly habits as well.  And, a disciple remembers they are not alone but are connected to other disciples as the body of Christ so they are eager to fellowship with and encourage one another.  Life in the encouraging body leads to seeing other’s needs and being willing to use our God-given gifts in ministry to others.

So far, we have created an individual who deeply loves God, is growing in their walk with God’s Son, has healthy connections to the church family and seeks to serve others.  That is a GREAT and beautiful start!  But, too often, we are content to stop right there and remain committed to just these 4 purposes – and stay inside our safe little church bubble (myself included).

When church members were surveyed, 89% said, “The church’s purpose is to take care of my family’s and my needs… Only 11% said the purpose of the church is to win the world for Jesus Christ.” (Purpose Driven Church – Rick Warren – p 82).  And we wonder why the church isn’t growing.  This selfish, inward focus is not healthy, and is not what God intended for us as individuals, or as the church.

The Great Commission did not tell us to just go and BE a good disciple – it commands us, “Go and MAKE disciples of all nations.”  It is not enough to only be concerned for my own salvation.  To truly love God and others includes a desire to share a great and glorious God with those who are lost and hurting and oblivious without Him.  God wants His lost sheep found and most often he chooses to use people to do that.  Only God can save the lost, but He relies on us to share the good news.  Read Luke 15 to see God’s heart for the lost – and pray that becomes your heart, too.

When Jesus said, “Come, follow me” he wasn’t just inviting you to his church pew on Sunday morning.  He said, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19.).  He is asking you to invite others to your church pew.

Who do you know who needs to know God’s saving power and plan?  Who do you know who is not ready for Christ’s return and the Kingdom of God?  Start by naming them and then praying for them and watching for God-given opportunities to speak and act with God’s love and truth.  Then, jump in there and do it.

For Him,

Marcia Railton

 

ON PURPOSE – Ministry

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I had the privilege of attending the Atlanta Bible College graduation this week.  How exciting to celebrate these men and women who have dedicated years of their life to learning at a special institution specifically designed to create disciples of Jesus – who know and use God’s Word.  And, how exciting to think of these men and women going into ministry, in various forms, armed with their knowledge and experiences.

But, imagine the problems that would develop if we send them out into churches where they were expected to be the only ones ministering – the only ones caring for the church body, the only ones serving others as the hands and feet of Christ, the only ones showing love in a practical way in their community.  This would be a recipe for disaster – and certain burn-out.

How exciting that no degree is needed for ministry….and in fact, it is expected from each one of us.  God has already given gifts, talents and passions to each one of us so that we can minister to others!  But it won’t get done if we aren’t living on purpose – making it a priority to seek out ways to serve.

We are by nature selfish people who like to be served.  We are by nature prideful people who want to be recognized for our greatness.  Jesus knew that when he gave his disciples these instructions: “Not so with you.  Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26-28).

How will you give your life to others today – on purpose?

God Bless,
Marcia Railton

ON PURPOSE – Fellowship

1 Cor 12 27

We have been looking at living our life on purpose – choosing goals that are pleasing to God and then striving to live by them.  So far, we have covered the purposes of Worship and Discipleship.

 

Today, we consider the exciting fact that we are not the only disciple of Christ.  Rather, we are a part of a body of believers – the body of Christ.  It is God’s desire that we remain connected to the body of Christ in order to be more effective and to better fulfill the 2nd Commandment: love others.  This purpose can be called Fellowship.

 

Hebrews 10:25 gives great counsel to the family of God: “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”   Unfortunately, sometimes the church body fails at this.  In a survey of people who have stopped attending church, 75% said they gave up meeting together because they didn’t feel like people cared if they were at church or not.  They failed to get encouragement from the body of Christ.  This should not be!   As disciples of Christ we have a responsibility to each other – to encourage, to listen, to greet, to show concern, to value the other members of God’s family.  The church is no place for cliques or loneliness.  And each one of us can be part of the solution.

 

Take a minute today to read Acts 2 (particularly verses 36-47).  Look for what the early church was doing together.  How were they creating a powerful body of believers that were on fire for God’s truth and a love for one another?   What will you do today and throughout the week to strengthen your bonds with God’s family?  They need you – and you just might find out you are better off with them, too.

 

A Part of His Body,

Marcia Railton

 

ON PURPOSE – Discipleship

Hebrews 12_2a

How well do you play Follow the Leader?   Do you watch carefully to mimic every movement, or do you get frustrated and jump to the front eager to blaze your own trail and display your fine leadership skills?  When Jesus called his disciples he said, “Come, follow me.” (Matthew 4:19). And the job description for Disciple has not changed in the last 2,000 years.  The CHRISTian church is called to be disciples and to follow Christ, and not just on Sunday mornings.  God sent his son to offer us a way to salvation, to prepare us for a life in the kingdom, and to show us how to love and how to live.

The angels rejoice with each and every new Christian – but there are warnings against remaining an infant in Christ.  The goal is to be mature in Christ.  This comes from developing the discipline (habit) of spending time studying every movement, thought, teaching, and attitude of Christ in order to follow his lead. Discipleship will include other disciplines, but it must begin and continue to grow with a constant diet of God’s word. Jesus studied, knew, and used scriptures well, which built the foundation for him to follow his Father. So we should do the same!

Hebrews 12:1-3 says,

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Make time today to fix your gaze on Jesus so you will be able to mirror his moves. The sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7) would be a great place to start. You could listen to it while driving, mowing, cleaning, eating… whatever your day has in store.

Be a follower!

Marcia