Do you find it hard to relate to the Bible? 5 Tips to Open Your Eyes.
I used to say that the Bible was like Shakespeare to me. I don’t “get” either of them. It’s written in English but in a foreign tongue that my mind just can’t grasp.
But with some mindful actions, I’ve begun to de-mystify the Bible and appreciate how the Word is actually speaking to me.
The Bible is meant to guide us on our earthly journey. If we keep this simple fact in mind, we’re more open to listening for the lessons, hearing the guidance, and growing our faith.
Decide to read one small bit per day, maybe one chapter. Start with the Gospels. They chronicle the story of Jesus’ life, so they’re straightforward language and relatable context – as relatable as God in flesh can be!
If you go to church, you’re already familiar with the Gospels, so you can focus on discerning how they’re speaking to you today versus deciphering the language.
A study bible contains “Cliff Notes” that explain the context of a verse. It might contain an explanation as to the customs at the time or explain the wording that was used at the time versus current wording. These notations attempt to demystify the Word.
I’ll show you links to the Study Bible my husband and I use, plus other options, at the end of this post.
Bible studies focus on one particular aspect of the Bible and the leaders guide the group through detailed discussion of the context and meaning.
A Bible study will help improve your overall understanding of the Bible. You may find that this group environment works well for your learning style and choose to attend another Bible Study of a different topic.
Perhaps your church or a neighboring church offers them. If not, join an online group.
Once you’ve focused on deciphering the Word into language you can understand, make it personal. Sometimes it can feel that the message from over two thousand years ago is no longer relevant. After all, life as it exists now could never even been foreseen at that time.
But are things really different? Yes, the mode of transportation we use is very different and the technology advances since then are incredible.
But at the core of the human condition, have we really changed? We still struggle in relationships with others, to forgive those who’ve wronged us, to support our families, to decide if or how to help the less fortunate, to deal with the challenges of life, such as sickness and death. These and many other conditions transcend time and place.
We’re not as different today as you might have thought. Try to put the Bible into that context instead of imagining it to be some foreign world, incongruent to today’s culture.
A book by Jeannie Kendall beautifully portrays this truth. In Finding Our Voice: Unsung Lives from the Bible Resonating with Stories from Today, Kendall weaves the poignant and difficult human challenges from unsung biblical characters along with contemporary voices with similar circumstances and challenges.
You can find my detailed book review of her book HERE.
Don’t forget to ask Jesus to open your heart and mind to understanding His Word. After reading, spend quiet time reflecting on what the personal message has been for you.
I hope you’ll find that using these techniques demystifies the Bible and you’ll see that His Words recorded so long ago are speaking directly to you today.
How do you let the Bible speak to you? How do you keep it relevant in your life? Let me know in the comments.
This is the study Bible my husband and I use. It’s a small personal size. Note: The print is very small.
Some other options:
Jesus asks us to follow Him. Are you willing to say YES?
As a life-long Christian, I (usually) strive to live a life pleasing to God. But when it comes to turning my life over to God, well, that’s a different story. As I prayerfully consider taking my journey to the next level, I wonder what it would truly involve to say YES to Jesus and turn my life over to Him.
But, frankly, I’m afraid.
It scares me because I don’t want to be asked to do something I don’t want to do. Something that catapults me out of my comfort zone. Something that takes me away from my family.
I think of Mother Teresa and her difficult journey. I imagine the disciples who left their families and everything they had behind. Those who lost their lives for Jesus.
I’m not ready for that. I’m not willing to leave my husband, move to Uganda, and give away all my possessions.
But maybe that’s not what Jesus expects of me.
I can say YES within the context of my life, right? Isn’t that better than saying No? I certainly hope so, because that’s my current goal.
Are you ready to say YES? Here’s how you can do it:
God can only lead you if you talk to Him and listen for His answers. Pray for discernment. Pray for guidance. Then LISTEN.
When I decided that “writing for Jesus” was my calling and children’s books were one of the means I would use, I was pumped. My first Christian book would be a Good Samaritan story. Except I couldn’t get my story to gel. I couldn’t pull the plot together. It was a piece of junk. I became discouraged thinking it was what God wanted me to do, but I just couldn’t plan a worthy plot.
After a couple of weeks of unsuccessfully planning the Good Samaritan story, I sulked in utter frustration. Finally, I pleaded. “God, if You really want me to do this, You have to help me. This just isn’t working. Help me listen to You.”
Within minutes of that prayer, I had a completely new concept and by the end of the hour, I’d completed the first draft of “Heaven is Better.” I can’t explain how the concept came to me, besides a fleeting “knowing” out of thin air.
If I hadn’t been listening closely, I’m sure I would have missed God’s whisper.
Pray, then Listen.
We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. God is ever-near and opportunities to serve Him in our daily life abound. We don’t have to worry about going to Uganda to find worthy causes.
What charitable causes pull at your heartstrings? Children, animals, the homeless, the environment, or the unborn? The possibilities are endless. Decide which are most important to you, then find ways to get involved.
If you don’t have time to volunteer because of work or family obligations, you can help financially. One of my personal favorites is the Guatemalan girl that my husband and I have been sponsoring for years. Getting to know her through our letters and knowing how our donation dollars have helped her family is extremely rewarding.
If you can’t help financially, how else can you help? One way I love to feel helpful online is to sign petitions for causes I care about. It’s a free and easy way to help. Social sharing of posts is another free method that supports organizations who are doing God’s work.
What opportunities do you have in your local area? What about online opportunities?
PS – Use caution when donating to causes. Charitynavigator.org can help ensure the cause you select is worthy of your support.
What are you good at? What makes your heart sing? How can you combine those things to do God’s work?
God has been leading me down the path to writing ever since my breast cancer diagnosis when He prompted my sister to suggest I write my story. That was a major detour from the industrial management job I held at the time. Since then, He’s been leading me down a winding writing path, but I’m finally feeling like all the wandering has led me to and prepared me for this series of Christian children’s books. I don’t know what the future holds for me after that, but I know He’s been preparing me for whatever it is.
What are your God-given talents? How could He be leading you to use them for His good?
I’ve broken out of my shy shell over the years, but I’d still avoid crowds of strangers if I had a choice. We each have a comfort zone and mine is being behind the scene.
What if I’m asked to step into the forefront? I know God will lead me, even if I get sweaty and tongue-tied. He’s been preparing me over the course of my writing journey to step out of the shadows to say what I want and need to say.
If God asks you to step out of your comfort zone, listen to Him. He will guide you and He’s always by your side. And I guarantee that anything He asks you to do you can handle. Chances are, these challenges will help you grow into your next level of service to Him.
Are you ready to say YES to Jesus? Are you afraid to say YES? Have you already said YES? What was the result? Tell me in the comments!
If I had to pick a cornerstone directive from Jesus that is most actionable and applicable to everyday life, it would be to Love One Another.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.John 13:34 NIV
His three simple words are a very basic concept, but can be a monumental challenge.
It’s easy to love the people who are easy to love. It’s easy to love the people who love us. Usually loving our spouse, our parents, and our children is not a difficult challenge (although to some it is).
I assure you that I love my husband dearly, but I still haven’t figured out how to control my temper from flaring over our ‘hot button topics’. My argumentative approach isn’t loving. Jesus asks me to do better.
Perhaps you can find shortcomings in the way you show love to those whom you love.
Do you give hugs and kisses and say “I love you”? Do you criticize? Do your words and actions convey your love?
Every day is a chance to do better and act more lovingly.
Why is that necessary? There are a whole bunch of people in this world we don’t know. From the homeless guy who hangs out in Lowe’s parking lot, to the hurricane victims in Puerto Rico.
How do you show love to people you don’t know, but who are struggling?
We all have limited financial resources and taking care of our family comes first, but there are also non-financial ways to show love by helping. Volunteering at worthy organizations that help people (and animals) in need shows love. Using social media to promote organizations doing God’s work shows love. Holding the door for the elderly woman at the post office shows love.
There are countless ways to show love to those in need who we don’t even know.
Ouch. This one’s tough.
Not everyone will love us. Let’s face it, we don’t love everyone either. But how do we still obey Jesus’ command to love?
My approach is two steps.
Forgiveness. Not holding a grudge. Moving on with my life and leaving my offender behind. Not letting the bad memories take up valuable real-estate in my mind.
Perhaps your struggle boils down to forgiveness. If you’re struggling with forgiveness, you might take a peek at my post about it: https://findinggodamongus.com/forgiveness/
Develop a “live and let live” mentality. No gossip. No dragging down the other person’s reputation. No recruiting your friends to pick your side over hers (or his).
I find that sticking to the “Kind and True” philosophy of only saying things that are BOTH kind and true keeps me in check and prevents me from spreading ill will.
Forgiveness plus speaking about a person in a way that is both kind and true are loving acts.
We don’t have to associate with people to treat them lovingly and respectfully. With this in mind, loving someone who doesn’t love you becomes a more attainable goal.
Jesus implored us to love one another. He is speaking to me. He is speaking to you. Start with this basic directive and it will strengthen the foundation on which to grow your faith.
Let the following passages speak to your soul and give you the motivation you need to love even when it’s a challenge.
And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.1 John 3:23 NIV
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.John 13:34-35 NIV
No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.1 John 4:12 NIV
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.Romans 13:8 NIV
Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.Romans 12:10 NIV
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.Ephesians 4:2 NIV
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.1 Peter 1:22 NIV
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.1 John 4:7 NIV
Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.1 Thessalonians 4:9 NIV
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.Galatians 5:13 NIV
What’s your most difficult aspect of loving? Let me know in the comments.
I’ve always loved Mother Teresa, or Momma T as I call her. I believe she’s the closest human-form of Jesus that we’ll ever see in our lifetime. Her life exemplified everything that Jesus taught us about the way to live a life pleasing to God.
These are the 7 key lessons that Mother Teresa taught me by living her life according to God’s will:
Nothing about Mother Teresa’s mission was easy. As a matter of fact, she worked under dire conditions, in poverty-stricken areas, with sickly people, few financial resources, and lacking the latest medical technology. Every aspect of her work was a challenge. She had no break, no vacations, no weekends off at the beach, no holiday getaways. No spouse and kids to take her mind off her worries when she went home at the end of a long day. She lived her life mission.
If we think God’s calling for us is hard, most of us don’t even know what “hard” is, by Mother Teresa’s example.
I certainly don’t have the strength or determination to do what Mother Teresa did with her life, but her example pushes me to limits beyond which I thought I was capable.
By the end of her life, she was a crumpled elderly lady. Do you think her work was easy?
God doesn’t ask us to do only what is easy. But we can use Mother Teresa as an example and step up to the challenge.
Key Mother Teresa quotes:
He has made us for a purpose. He will fulfill it if we don’t put any obstacle in his way.
Do not let the past disturb you – just bury everything in the Sacred Heart and begin again with joy.
If you do your work with joy, you can bring many souls to God. Joy is prayer, a sign of our generosity, evident in our eyes, our faces, our actions.
Mother Teresa’s mission was to serve God by serving His people. She understood the calling to her ministry and performed expertly.
Some of us, myself included, have a harder time discerning our calling, or maybe we just aren’t ready to accept the calling yet, so we’ve tuned out the request.
Mother Teresa can be our example of the extraordinary bond that is possible with God when we offer ourselves over to be used in His service.
Key Mother Teresa quote:
God’s language is silence. “Be still and know that I am God.” He requires us to be silent to discover him.
Many of Mother Teresa’s notable quotes involve acting with love.
Mother Teresa didn’t judge the people she helped. She didn’t scold them for their past sins, she didn’t refuse to help them because they weren’t Christian, she didn’t require them to repent before she helped. She just helped them by loving them.
Mother Teresa’s service was the epitome of Christianity and one that we can easily emulate. Loving her neighbor as herself. Loving her neighbor as if he were Jesus. Serving her neighbor without judgement. Without throwing stones. Mother Teresa lived her life exactly as Jesus has instructed us, with faith, hope, and love. The greatest of those being love. Most of us find it pretty easy to love our family and friends. But do we lead with love and without judgment when it comes to strangers, as Mother Teresa did?
It is not enough to say, “I love.” We must put that love into a living action.
We are commanded to love God and our neighbor equally, without difference. We don’t have to look for ways to fill this command, they’re all around us.
Jesus wants us to love each other as the Father has loved him. There is no greater love than the love for one another in our families, but there is so much hurt instead of love, bitterness instead of sweetness… If there is no love in our home, first let us examine our prayer life.
We must reach the heart. To reach the heart, we must do – love is proven in deeds.
When we are tempted to speak uncharitably or to bring up someone’s past failures, let us hear Jesus say: Throw the stone only if you are free from sin.
The world’s problems can feel overwhelming and insurmountable. They are. We aren’t called to solve the world’s problems. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make a difference.
Maybe the difference is only in our classroom, or in our church ministry group, or in our neighborhood association, or maybe the only difference is the way we love our child or our spouse or our parent. Even a small difference is worth the effort. Small differences stack up to big differences.
Mother Teresa shows us that one person can make a huge difference, and that certainly means that each of us is capable of making a small difference. Small differences are still differences! Don’t be defeated because you can’t change the world. Change your world.
In spite of all our defects, God is in love with us and keeps using us to light the light of love and compassion in the world.
How much easier would it have been for Mother Teresa to just live her life as a typical citizen in her community? Or maybe as a nun or a counselor to wayward youth?
How many times must Mother Teresa have doubted God’s calling? How many times must she have wished for God to “take the cup” from her, as Jesus did before his crucifixion? Yet Jesus and Mother Teresa both accepted the will of God and plowed through the fear, the doubt, the pain, the loneliness, and the suffering to fulfill God’s wishes.
This is true obedience. Can we accept our calling and show a fraction of that obedience?
We will be the happiest people in the world if we belong to God, if we place ourselves at his disposal, if we let him use us as he pleases.
Prompt, simple, blind, cheerful obedience to God is the proof of faith.
Jesus said, again and again, “Thy will be done,” and we say the same thing through our obedience to him
It all starts at home. Being an extraordinary spouse, parent, son or daughter, mother or father, sister or brother, friend, and neighbor. We have hundreds of interactions daily with people. Do we interact with love? If not, find the source of the issue and change it, because without being extraordinary at home, we’ll struggle to make impact beyond our home.
Being extraordinary in our daily life should be our goal and is the foundation for larger impact in the world.
We shall not waste our time in looking for extraordinary experiences in our life of prayer… but do our day-to-day ordinary duties with extraordinary love and devotion.
Be a true follower of God in thought, word, and deed: if you do this in your family, it will overflow to all.
Find at least one good point in the other person and build from there. In the family, you should thank each other, mentioning the good you have seen others do. In short, an understanding love – a love that sees the good in others – will be our goal
Let us make our homes real places of love so that we can overcome any hatreds. Love begins at home – everything depends on how we love one another at home
Jesus said, “Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you did it to me.” If in my name you give a glass of water, you gave it to me… Jesus came to teach us how to love one another. Not big things. Small things, but with great love.
Mother Teresa gave of everything she had. Financially, emotionally, spiritually. It might seem as if that was a torturous sacrifice, but she found her greatest satisfaction there.
Sometimes we stress over not having enough money, or stress over being snubbed by a neighbor or flubbing an exam.
When we turn our focus outward, we can feel the joy Mother Teresa felt when she gave her life in service to others rather than keeping herself as the center of her world.
How much more satisfaction would we feel to give as Mother Teresa did?
I believe that poverty will be over when you and I share of ourselves, of what we have and what we are. Let us give until it hurts.
We must be like St. Paul. Once he realized Jesus’s love for him, he no longer cared about anything else.
To love, it is necessary to give. To give, it is necessary to be free from selfishness, to have the courage of poverty
If your heart is full of worldly things, you cannot hear the voice of God.
Mother Teresa is one example of a contemporary Christian hero who’s worth emulating. May her life provide the encouragement you need to say “Yes!” to God’s calling.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments!
As a child, I always prayed for what I wanted. For my Mom to be cured of cancer, for my brother who died when he was sixteen to be resting in heaven, to pass a test in school.
7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.Matthew 7:7-8 NIV
During adulthood, I realized I’d missed the mark on praying for God’s will to be done, even though I’d prayed it a million times during The Lord’s Prayer.
10 your kingdom come,Matthew 6:10 NIV
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
The beauty of God’s gift of free will allows us to make choices independently of God’s wishes.
Once I grasped the conflict of “God’s Will” versus “Ask and you shall receive,” I was stymied.
Should I really ask if my wishes weren’t in line with God’s will? If my wishes didn’t seem possible or probable?
One day the answer jumped off the pages and knocked me upside the head.
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”Matthew 26:39 NIV
When Jesus was about to be turned over to His inevitable death, He was scared and sad. He was agonizing over the path before Him. He was human. It was the last thing He wanted to do. Even though everything in His human life had led Him to that moment, He wasn’t ready. He didn’t want it.
And in two sentences, He taught us everything we need to know about praying, about asking and receiving, about praying for God’s will to be done.
He asked for what He wanted:
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.”Matthew 26:39 NIV
And immediately after He also surrendered to the will of God.
“Yet not as I will, but as you will.”Matthew 26:39 NIV
It’s really how a respectful child would react to a parent. “Mom, I want to go to the movies, but if you say I need to stay home and do my homework, I will respect that and not be mad and throw a tantrum, even if I’m disappointed.”
“Ask and you shall receive” doesn’t mean we’ll always get our way. It means our prayers will be answered in one way or another, probably not in the way we imagine or hope or pray they’ll be answered.
Follow Jesus’ lead and ask God for your wants and needs, but surrender to His supreme power and be open-minded to the answer He gives.
Do you pray for your wishes or God’s will? Let me know in the comments below!
This beautiful musical rendition is good for meditative reflection:
Would you like to try our Lord’s Prayer Devotional?
The Lord’s Prayer 10-Day Devotional. The ‘Breaking it Down’ devotional savors one bite-sized piece each day.
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5 tips to help restore faith during times of doubt.
I’m not one of those fortunate people who hears God speaking clearly to me, but the gift I have been blessed with is unshakable faith. As unshakable as human faith can possibly be. Maybe 99%.
Most of us have doubts at one time or another. My 1% doubt sometimes surfaces even though I’ve been looking forward to the afterlife since I was a teenager. Yet when I recently awaited test results that might tell me I had terminal cancer (I didn’t), I felt a dread that maybe I wasn’t ready for the afterlife after all.
Doubt is human nature.
So how can we rebound when our faith and hope are shaken?
1. Look at God’s amazing creation.
Getting out in nature is the best way I know to find the presence of God. His handiwork is unfathomable. When I think about the intricacies of human beings and the entire world and galaxies around us, I simply cannot accept that it was all created by happenstance. Everything created seems to have a purpose of one sort or another – except sunrise and sunset. To me, the only ‘purpose’ of those is their beauty, a gift from God to His people. When in doubt, get out into nature. Really see and feel Him. He’s there.
2. Consider the cycle of life.
I think it’s impossible to hold a baby and not marvel at the idea of procreation. That matter from two different beings can create a cell that transforms into a human, or an octopus, or a giraffe. The incredible intelligence that designed and created such a process is beyond my comprehension. How can this be anything but divine?
3. Go back to the Bible.
So, what about the Bible itself? Some of the things included in the Old Testament might seem a little far-fetched. Can it possibly be true? I, for one, cannot vouch for the validity of the Bible, but I know there are many intelligent and determined historians who’ve tried to disprove it for centuries. What remains in the Bible has been deemed valid by numerous historians and religious scholars. If we trust the Bible as being God’s Word, then open it up and find Him there.
4. You need facts? Look at history.
Jesus was a real person. It’s undisputed by historians. Even most religions acknowledge the presence of Jesus and his divine connections. Most non-Christians consider Him a prophet – connected to God. If you want to get to know Jesus and hear His Word, read the Gospels in the Bible. The message that He gave to His people over 2,000 years ago still applies to us today. He tells us in the Gospels that He died for our sins, so that we may be forgiven. The story of His crucifixion and resurrection is for each one of us. He was different than a martyr who dies for God. He was our Savior, dying for us.
Go to Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John and meet Jesus there.
5. Read a book!
One of my favorite ways to get a faith mini-makeover is to read inspirational books. My favorites are stories of doubters who’ve set out to disprove Christianity and end up concluding that there is no other answer than Christianity. The people who say that Christians are weak and grasping at shadows find that Christianity is anything but that! I find those fascinating.
There are many different types of books you can use. From devotions, memoirs, and historical nonfiction to textbooks and how-to’s. Grab one that suits you and let it rejuvenate your faith.
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