Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Why I am a Bible Lover?

The Christian Bible is a selection of books, separated into two parts; the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament is the Jewish Bible, The Torah (or the Pentateuch). Each book written between 1200 and 165 BC. It is in The Old Testament that you can find well - known stories such as the story of Adam & Eve, Noah's Ark, Moses, David and Goliath...to name but a few. The Old Testament records the history of the world and of God's people, from creation to Jesus. The New Testament books were written by the early Christians in the first century AD and starts with the Gospels, which record the life, death and resurrection  of Jesus,and move onto to the early church being formed, the Holy Spirit coming, and ends with Revelation...Jesus' return.

The bible is God- breathed, which means that through the Holy Spirit, God has inspired the people who wrote the bible to include everything that he wanted to be in there. Atheists believe that the bible was completely man- made, made to control the masses. I'm unsure what these men would gain for themselves by telling people to love and help each other. The bible is so full of perfectly written, amazing teachings which could not have come from man alone. Romans 15:4 says "For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope".
The bible gives us hope through Jesus. The stories in The Old Testament tell us how people got it wrong, how they failed God and ruined His plans for us. The Old Testament gives us sneak peeks of what is to come, the Prophets saw Jesus coming. Jesus came and paid the price for all of our failings and set us free...we don't have to do anything in return other than believe in Jesus.

In the 14th century, the bible was only available in England in Latin, for only the learned scholars to read. That is until a man named John Wycliffe and his friend John Purvey translated the bible into English and made it available to all...much to the distaste of the authorities at the time...they didn't want the average Joe and the women to have access to such sacred texts. So much for wanting to control the masses, eh?

The bible has inspired some well known sayings in the English language, such as "bite the dust", "The blind leading the blind", "by the skin of your teeth", "a leopard can't change it's spots", "eat, drink and be merry", "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth", "go the extra mile", "see eye to eye", "the root of the matter", "put words in one's mouth", "scapegoat", "rise and shine", "straight and narrow"...I could go on and on! I won't tell you where to find these, try spotting them as you read through your bible, like a type of scripture version of "Where's Wally". The bible is so important and it is so widely read that it's sayings have been integrated into our language and our lives without us even knowing it!

It's a common misconception that the bible isn't relevant to our lives today, if you read through it, you can find passages that will inspire, amaze and comfort you. God speaks to us through his word; you can read the same chapters or books over and over again and each time a different passage or verse might jump out at you, depending on what is happening in your life and what He wants to reveal to you at that time.

The reason that I love the bible is this; God wrote us a survival guide to life! There is literally a piece of scripture for every single moment of our lives! His word is read at our Baptisms, our Weddings and our Funerals. God gives us advice and instruction on ALL things, so we can turn to Him and His word for everything. He loves us so much that He made sure that we weren't left to wander blindly through life...though He made it possible to do so if we choose.

2 Timothy 3:14-17 "But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."


I am delighted (and shocked!) to announce that The Bible Lover has been featured in the list of Top 60 Bible Study Blogs 2019!

God is amazing, and through us He does amazing things!


Sunday, July 14, 2019

Undone in God's Presence - Guest Blogger

Here in Your Presence, we are undone are lyrics from a New Life Worship song. I have been marvelling at this phrase and wanted to briefly explore what that really means and what vulnerability looks like and in turn the privilege that carries.

So, one of my favourite American series is Grey’s Anatomy. It’s a medical drama set in Seattle; originally based around a group of interns trying to make it as surgeons – though it does tend to focus heavily on love, sex, arguments and drama rather than medicine! A phrase was given birth through the show; “my person”. This is a phrase that two characters in the show use to define their friendship. Basically “my person” means "that one single soul that you can depend on”. They are more than a friend, they are with you through thick and thin, they are the one person you turn to in a crisis and the one person who would always have your back. That’s quite a friendship goal!
Now if I wanted to be vague, I’d wrap up there and say “well God wants to be your person” – job done. But I think we need to go deeper.

See, with God you cannot fake it. If you are fortunate enough to have an earthly “person” who you can turn to (spouse, parent, sibling, friend for example), let’s consider whether you really could go freely to them with all of life’s worries? Do you really allow yourself the complete freedom to be “undone” in their presence? Would you reveal your deepest hidden secrets, fears and failings to them? Those longings, dreams and desires that burn deep? How about those dark thoughts that creep in and take you unaware? Now, if hand on heart you can say yes to all of this – stop reading. Because I know, personally, that there’s hidden stuff within me that’s hidden; hidden from my spouse, family and my closest friends. What would she think if she knew I thought that? Would that hurt him if he knew I felt that? They could never know I’d done that. Can I really trust someone that much?

You see we all have a stowaway place within our hearts that is secret. But with God you don’t need to hold things back because God knows everything about us. David tells us in Psalm 139 that God knows us, He is familiar with all our ways. The writer of Hebrews writes “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything in uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13 NIV Translation). In the NLT translation the phrase used is “naked and exposed”, whilst the NKJ translation says, “naked and opened”. Laid bare, exposed, naked, opened – sounds pretty vulnerable right? Pretty undone.

How does that make you feel to know that God sees everything? That he knows our hearts? That nothing is hidden? I know that could make me feel quite concerned, embarrassed, ashamed and vulnerable. But then I’d be judging God on man’s attributes. Expecting him to be shocked, disappointed, hurt, judgemental, uncompassionate and unforgiving.

I have been richly blessed with an earthly father who, when life has gotten hard for me would enwrap me in his arms and that would enough to make me feel safe. Though when I was in trouble just the thought of him telling me that I had disappointed him broke my heart.

What is your image of our Heavenly Father? Is it modelled on what your earthly dad was like? Maybe you don’t have an experience of that relationship, so struggle to get an image to compare. Well stop! Stop comparing what we can fathom here on earth with what our Heavenly Father is like. Stop trying to build a box sized image of what God is like because you cannot put that into a man-made box. God’s love is unmeasurable, unfathomable. Paul presses this incredible, unfathomable image of our Father’s love in Ephesians; “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of God” (Ephesians 3:18). John puts it in a mind-blowing way, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sin” (1 John 4:10).

A thought for another day – could you sacrifice your only child for the lives of a bunch of wretched, sinful, ungrateful people? Well that’s our Heavenly Father right there – “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ dies for us” (Romans 5:8). God knows all our trash; all our baggage, all those dark thoughts, disappointments, deep scarred hearts – God knows all of this. We cannot shock him.

He is not unforgiving. He is not going to say we’re on our own. On the contrary, “The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love” (Psalm 145:8). God knows us. Christ died for us whilst we were still sinners – not when we were blameless, not when we had everything sorted and figured out or going well. He accepts us as we are; he doesn’t say “Oh, you’re a mess, I’ll walk off and leave you in your mess”. He says “Come to me. Talk to me. Be yourself. Scream at me, cry at me, questions me. Tell me what’s going on in your heart and what’s on your mind. You are free to be undone with me.”

The creator of the universe cares about what is going on with you. Whether big or small – the grand designer who cares about the detail in creation cares about the detail in your life.

“Here in Your presence, we are undone” We are vulnerable, we are exposed; there are no hidden chambers, no locked thoughts – God sees all of us and he still loves us and cares for us. What an amazing and incredible privilege. That no matter how far gone we think we are; God is right there still wanting a relationship with us. Still loving us. Still never letting us down.

Dear Lord, thank you that in your presence we are undone. Thank you that nothing can separate us from your love and that we can truly be ourselves with you. As we come and talk with you; freely and openly – I pray you will work within us to help us become who you created us to be. Amen.

~Written by Nikki Carter.

Friday, July 12, 2019

God Knows!

Isaiah 30:21 says, "Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.' ".
This is so significant...
Did you catch that God isn't saying "Go this way" or "Go that Way"?
What God is saying here is that no matter which way you walk, no matter where you go, or which path you take...God will be right behind you. He knows that you will still end up right where you are supposed to be.
Another verse that I think highlights this point perfectly is Proverbs 19:21 "many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the LORD'S purpose that prevails".
You might feel God guiding you down one path or another. If you feel peace about a decision then that's great! You know exactly what to do!
Sometimes we might not know what God wants us to do, we don't always feel his hand gently guiding us in the right direction and we can become stuck.
Sometimes we might know what God wants us to do, but it isn't what WE want to do. He might be asking us to do something difficult, or something that is the complete opposite of what we have planned for our lives.
Well here's some good news...it doesn't matter which path you take, because "it is the LORD's purpose that prevails"! You will still end up where you are supposed be, where God needs you to be.
God knows you better than you know yourself, he knows what you can and can't do. He knows what is in your heart, what is in your past and what is in your future.
Jeremiah 29:11 says " 'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future' ".
If you are currently at a crossroads in your life, take a deep breath and step out in faith, God's got this!

The One Lost Sheep

Luke 15:3-7 "Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent."
I have heard it said in the Church recently that too much is being done for the young people, and not enough is being done for the older folk.
Churches are upgrading and modernising with new technology, new music and new ideas. This is great news for the older Church member who prefers a more traditional service...and I will tell you why!
We have all heard the Parable of the Lost Sheep, most of us since we were children. So how are so many of us missing the point of the story?
Older and more experienced Christians are generally quite sturdy in their faith. They have a lifetime of testimonies and experiences to strengthen them. They still need fuel for their fire, of course, though they do not need convincing and evangelising (generally!).
These people are like the 99 righteous people.
Luke 5:32 says  "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
The one lost sheep is like a younger Christian, younger in age or perhaps younger in their faith. Perhaps a person with no faith at all.
The 99 can stand together and be secure in the open field whilst the Shepherd chases down the 1, and when the 1 is brought back to the flock, it will be the flock who influence and encourage the 1 so that it does not stray again. The 1 will follow the flock.
It is the honour and the privalige of the more experienced and knowledgable of us to do as God told us and support and mentor the inexperienced and unenlightened.
Through traditional services we sing, we praise God  and we pray for the same things as in the modern services...for His Kingdom to come and for His will to be done. We pray for change and revival, we promise to go out into the world and make disciples of the people.
Those who have a strong faith do not need to be convinced of the existence of God, but can help testify to the faithless.
Those who already walk with Jesus can help to guide others to him.
That's not to say that the older church members are not important...they are extremely instrumental in God's plan! He gave us the job of spreading the Good News of Jesus, and in spreading that news we bring others to Him.
Surely we can all agree that the fact that there are more and more younger people coming to faith and coming to the church means that we are doing an amazing job!
By nature I am an old soul, though as a "millennial" I understand today's attitude of the young people to live life to its fullest...YOLO! You only live once. If it's not fun then don't waste time on it.
We as Christian's need to reach out to these young people and entice them with fun...before we drop the bombshell that through Jesus they can actually have eternal life! YOLF! You only live forever!
Through having fun and engaging with the younger generations, through involving them in church life and through events and modern Worship music, we will bring these people to Jesus and that is our only goal. That is our purpose. To bring others to Him.
We can learn from each other and have meaningful friendships across the divides of age, and eventually that one sheep will become one of the flock, ready to stand with the others while the shepherd chases down another wayward sheep. And so it goes on as it has done for generations as our Church continues to grow.
Luke 14:23 "And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled."

The Power of Prayer

Ephesians 6:18 "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people."
Prayer is something that is so simple to do, and yet we find it so hard. It is described by the online dictionary as "a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or another deity." 
We are told to pray on ALL occasions and with ALL kinds of prayers and requests. So, for everything!
Some people pray aloud, some people pray silently in their hearts and thoughts, some put their hands together and some open their hands and hold them out. Some people pray every morning or every evening, and some only pray occasionally as a last resort. There isn't a right or wrong way to pray, though i'm sure most of us don't pray anywhere near as much as we should.
So why is prayer so important?
According to the NIV Exhaustive Concordance, the word pray is used 121 times in the bible, not including the various conjugations of the verb. After pray, you have prayed at 68 times, prayer at 106 times, prayers at 32 times, praying at 36 times and prays at 12 times, for a total of 375 times (quora.com). The bible is God-breathed, written through man by the Spirit, so God must have felt it was extremely important to drum this into us, using examples of what amazing things can happen as a result of prayer. It is so drilled into us that even non-Christians pray! They "send prayers" to people in need of prayer, they say things like "God help me", they put their hands together, eyes closed and say "please please please" when they are waiting for an answer to something important...we've all seen examples of this. Prayer is hard-wired into our souls.
The early Christians show us throughout the bible that prayer is central to their faith.
Jesus Himself prayed and told us to pray. He gave us The Lord's Prayer when asked how we should pray, just to simplify this for us.
I, like many others, struggle to pray aloud in public. I think this stems more from what other people would think of my prayer rather than what God would think. Capturing the requests of the people present can be tricky and it's easy to feel worried that you will miss something important. Prayer can be quite personal, and the thought of people listening in on mine is nerve wracking! Am I using the right words? Is my prayer long and elaborate enough? Truth is, God doesn't care about what words we use, and He tells us that we should pray in private as well as with others. He knows what we are trying to say, He just wants to hear us say it.
I was told that prayer is "just talking to God", and that's so true. It's a conversation; we talk to Him and He replies. 
One of the most important parts of prayer is listening to His answers. It could come as a thought; your mind could wander through your prayer and you will find you know the answer before you have finished! Sometimes it takes a lot longer, in God's perfect timing, to recognise the answers. Answers could come from anywhere, from a sermon, scripture, music lyrics, other people...it's hard to know where to look sometimes, but when God wants to talk to you, He will find a way! Keeping a prayer journal can be handy to remember those past prayers that we have forgotten about, but have been answered without us even realising or remembering!
Through prayer, God gets to know us better. You may be thinking "but God knows what's in our hearts! He already knows us!" and you would be right...but what we choose to put before God, what problems we prioritise probably shows Him a much clearer picture.
Do we pray for ourselves more than others? Do we pray for towns and countries other than our own? Do we say thank you and sorry, or just please? I think this tells US alot about ourselves too. We have this direct line to God, who can do literally anything! Jesus suffered so immensely on that cross so that we could come before God in prayer! So what do we use this amazing privalige for?? We can move mountains through our Faith and our prayers. Our God can do anything and He wants to know what He can do for YOU! We can help so many people through our prayers, if it is His will, people who are sick can be prayed for and healed, people who are sad can be prayed for and filled with His joy and His peace. We have been given a powerful tool and so we have a duty to use it! "Be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people".
Prayer isn't a one sided conversation, God uses our prayers to talk to us and to speak to the people around us.
When God answers our prayers He is giving us an amazing gift, He is showing Himself to us. If we told people what we were praying for, they too could see our answered prayers and be encouraged. If we pray for and on behalf of someone else then we should tell them, so that they can see God at work in their own lives and encourage them to pray themselves! 
A great example of God speaking to others through our own answered prayers is 1 Kings 18:36-39 "At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be knowntoday that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!”
God uses answered prayers for His Glory, though we often forget to give that to Him by keeping our prayers to ourselves. Through Elijah's prayer, many people were brought to God! I think we should be telling people what we are praying for more often, or even better,  praying with others more often so that other people can see God working in our lives. It's great to give our testimonies, they are so encouraging, but how much more encouraging would it be to have others witness first hand the power and love of God? What an awesome way to bring others to Him...by letting them see His love for us all themselves. 
Prayer keeps us dependant on God. By letting Him into our lives fully, by handing over all of our worries and fears, and letting Him guide us and strengthen us, we are opening up our lives for God to use for His Glory. We weren't designed to battle through life alone, which is why we find life so hard sometimes. By leaving our problems in God's hands we un-burdon ourselves and are set free from our troubles. If something is not God's Will then we can rest assured that it wasn't meant to be for us, and not be brought down with feelings of our own failings.
So as you can see, prayer is essential to Christian life, for reassurance, for peace and for testimonies of God's power. 
Next time YOU pray, remember to tell someone about your prayers and share God's love and power with others. Share revelations that God gives you, share stories of how He has helped you in your life. You may pray silently in thought, but don't be silent about what or who you have prayed for, so that ALL people can see God's awesome work! 
Just a little note here, thank you all so much for your support and for reading these posts! It means so much to me that you are enjoying reading these! Please feel free to connect with me through comments on here, through my Facebook page "The Bible Lover" and through Twitter @thebiblelover1. I love to hear other people's opinions and faith stories so do come and say hi! Tiff x