Psalm 121

“I lift my eyes to the hills —

    where does my help come from?

My help comes from the LORD,

    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip —

    he who watches over you will not slumber;

indeed, he who watches over Israel

    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD watches over you —

    the LORD is your shade at your right hand;

the sun will not harm you by day,

    nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all harm —

    he will watch over your life;

the LORD will watch over your coming and going

    both now and forevermore.”

I’m using a new (to me) devotional this year — The Heart of the Matter. The short entries are written by various CCEF writers. I really appreciated today’s entry written by David Powlison. Here is what he wrote concerning Psalm 121:

The peace of God guarding and watching over us is a theme that runs through the entire Bible. In Psalm 121, for example, David says seven different times that God is watching over you. Who is watching you? The Lord, the Creator of the whole universe, and the one who has ultimate power over every circumstance. And when is he watching? By day and by night. Nothing that happens during the day or the night can harm you, because the Lord, your Good Shepherd, is on guard. When the Good Shepherd is present, his peace is present. Paul says, “The God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:9) When you read about David in the Bible, the constant refrain is that the Lord was with him. His life was blessed because the Lord was with him. He failed, he sinned big, he often blew it, and yet the Lord was with him. He grew very frail, and yet the Lord was with him. His life was a picture of living faith — a faith that faced trouble squarely and still knew the peace of God because he knew that God was with him.

I am so thankful that God is not only not surprised by all the twists and turns in our lives, but He also has control over every circumstance. And not only does he have control over every circumstance, He also will always be with us. Not going it alone. ALWAYS with us. Thankful.

How to S.O.A.P. your quiet time

SOAP-Quiet-TimeOver the years, I have been involved in many MANY Bible studies. I’ve always appreciated the accountability that studying together brings with it. Whether the facilitator or participant, I enjoyed the fellowship and the insights/questions from others in the group.

For the past couple of years I have been blessed to be part of an online study group called Good Morning Girls. It is designed to get women into the Word by reading small sections of Scripture and then meditating on a few assigned verses. I can honestly say that this S.O.A.P. approach to Bible study has been a delightful discovery for me.

The next study begins on January 20. Please click this link to the Good Morning Girls blog and learn what S.O.A.P. is all about.

And, if you’re interested in joining a group, let me know. I co-facilitate an international group on facebook…we would love to have you join us!

Lessons from Mark

“…rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.”

mark02So many important lessons learned from just the first chapter of Mark.

But probably none so crucial as the fact that Jesus was a man of prayer.

Or should I better say:  Jesus IS a man of prayer. Sitting at the right hand of the Father and interceding for you and for me.

How can any one of us believe that we can do anything of value without prayer?

Make a plan. Work hard. Reassess. Work. Work. Work.

Jesus certainly didn’t just work, work, work. He sought the will of his Father and through prayer he discerned what to do next. Why wouldn’t we??

Lord, help me to remember that it’s YOUR strength that I need, not mine.

And it’s YOUR sovereign plan, not mine.

And it’s for YOUR glory, not mine.

Why read the Bible?

I was just reading an article about why to have babies…and the reasons that people give for delaying starting their families (Why Have Babies?). I am always a bit sad when I realize that I was listening to people/culture when we stopped having children after only three in just under two years. Yes, twins were first. Then a handsome singleton to go with his beautiful sisters. Not being a believer at that time, we could only wrestle with financial/energy/whatever issues from our own experience and those around us.

But that’s not what hit me in the article. A closing paragraph spoke such truth about ANY issues, not just whether or when to bear children:

“It’s not that we weren’t reading the Bible. We were, but we were reading with an eye toward what we hoped to get out of it, rather than coming to it to learn what the Bible says about God. We are people of our age — influenced by the world around us that says you read the Bible for what you can get from it. God calls us to something different. Scripture tells us that we are responsible for studying God’s Word, for hiding it in our hearts, for knowing what God commands and obeying Him.”

191How often we ‘use’ the Bible to support our personal agendas (or ignore it if it conflicts with already-made decisions). As we start a new year — often with fresh goals of digging into God’s Word on a regular basis — may we pray for each other to slowly taste the WHOLE counsel. Chew on what you’re reading. Meditate. Pray for understanding. Get to know God this year. He has so much to tell you about what He’s already done for you. Throw away your agenda. His is so much better. And He will be with you to give you the strength and wisdom and joy to see all things through. After all, He did ordain all things.

So looking forward to amazing insights this year.

Church of the Holy Trinity

Give thanksSunday. A day to rest. A day to gather for corporate worship with like-minded Believers. Refreshing, restorative.

I know we’re blessed to join others in Kyiv to worship through music and preaching at Church of the Holy Trinity. Pastor Ivan Bespalov typically preaches straight through specific books of the Bible so that we are aware of the whole of Scripture and not simply hand-picked favorite passages. Passages that encourage, exhort, challenge. And a blend of hymns and more contemporary praise music. And, of course, the gospel is central.

Since the Spring, Pastor Ivan has added a second service each Sunday. We especially are thankful for this service because he preaches in English at 5:00. We now have a service that allows us not only to worship in our native language, but we can also invite other English speakers to hear solid biblical preaching…not everyone is here long enough to learn the language, so this is certainly filling a void: adopting couples, short-term visitors, English teachers, business professionals. We also love the opportunity to offer Ukrainians who are studying English the chance to worship with us. A wonderful tradition at the end of the English service is a time of prayer for each others’ needs.

Yes, two services a day. We attend them both. And we’re thankful.

Good Morning Girls fall study

Gods-Word-SOAPToday marks the beginning of the latest online Bible study through Good Morning Girls. This session we are looking at Luke 17-24, one chapter each week. It is designed to be accomplished by looking at small sections of scripture each day — and really considering what is meant and how it applies to each one of us.

I am once again co-leading a group on facebook — basically we try to hold each other accountable to staying in God’s word every day. We share what we’re learning and are free to ask questions in a safe environment. We pray for each other and encourage each other in our daily walk. I have been involved in several of these studies, and highly recommend them. Though we don’t get to meet the other participants face-to-face (maybe some of them we do!), we DO have the freedom to do the study each day as it fits our individual schedules. That’s a huge plus for busy women around the world!

If you’d like to join the group for this 8-week session, let me know and I’ll put you in immediately. Either way, please be praying for the ladies involved…that we will be not just informed but truly transformed by what we read in God’s word.

The will of God and evil

220px-John_Calvin_2As we continue going through John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, I find myself thinking and rethinking what we are reading. Like, for example, this excerpt from a section on God, His will, providence and evil.

“For it would not be done if he did not permit it; yet he does not unwillingly permit it, but willingly; nor would he, being good, allow evil to be done, unless being also almighty he could make good even out of evil.”

And this:

“For our wisdom ought to be nothing else than to embrace with humble teachableness, and at least without finding fault, whatever is taught in Sacred Scripture.”

Just because we might not understand everything that is written in Scripture concerning God — some will always be a mystery — does not give us the right to change it. Oh, we hear so often about how a good God wouldn’t allow that, or an almighty God would certainly prevent that from happening, or a loving God would never permit that. (Not to mention the oft-stated comment that a loving God will certainly not send anyone to Hell.)

God reveals Himself to us through His Word, His creation and His Son. It is not for us to make God into the God we would prefer, but to ponder who He says He is.

And then fall on our knees as we realize the love and grace He abundantly pours out on us, his rebellious children.

Lord, have mercy.

Good Morning Girls winter study

2014_10151312379669492_440454881_nI am actively involved in another Good Morning Girls online Bible study. Over the next 8 weeks, women from around the world (and in 9 languages) will be studying the first eight chapters in the gospel as recorded by Luke.

Study groups interact either through e-mails, blogs or facebook groups. I’m involved in a group that meets via facebook and if someone reading this would like to take part, please let me know. We are quite a varied group from all around the globe.

W1D1 (week 1, Day 1) started today, so you are not too far behind to join us. We have five readings a week and study using a program called SOAP…Scripture, Observation, Application and Prayer. Some days take longer than others, and there is a focus on slow meditative reading. Short but oh so sweet.

I am so looking forward to slowly concentrating on what Luke, the physician, has to say. Being married to a pediatrician I know that doctors are trained to notice details, ask penetrating questions and draw logical conclusions. They also meticulously record EVERYTHING that may have importance. This will be interesting! (Meticulously recording does NOT necessarily mean legibly recording…just to keep things honest…)

To learn more about this group, click through to the Good Morning Girls website here.

And for those with children, explore the website to learn about materials put together for you to use with your children as you look at this book of Luke!

Growing in grace and knowledge

Justin McGuire brought this to my attention through Jeanne. The post was written two years ago, but the suggestions are relevant always.

191If you truly want to grow in grace and knowledge in this new year, may I recommend you read this article and put the suggestions into practice. The first four:

1. Read your Bible before you read your email, log in to Facebook, turn on
the radio, etc.

2. Start attending the church events you normally miss.

3. Begin and stick to a pattern of daily family worship.

4. Start reading systematically through the Bible.

Read why the author suggests these things and also the other six points by reading the whole article here.

Daniel’s Prayer

In our devotions this morning, we read Daniel’s prayer as found in the book of Daniel, Chapter 9. Good words then and good words now.

“Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, O Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, listen! O, Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”