Jan 23, 2018

Dear Christian | Read the Word

Dear Christian,

You know you're supposed to read the Bible.  You know it's the inspired Word of God and sharper than a double edged sword.  But maybe you're struggling along and don't know where to start.

Well, guess what - I'm right there with you.  Reading the Bible can become a tedious chore that we do every day to cross off a box and feel good about ourselves.

It doesn't have to stay that way.

Reading the Bible isn't a chore.  Relationships don't work if we have a list of "do"s and "don't"s.  If we live with that perspective, we have it all wrong.

Here's why:  God didn't have to create the world.  He chose to.  He wanted to make people who willingly chose to love and serve Him.  When we instead raised our tiny fists in anger, He gave us a second chance.  God created a way for us to return to Him so we could be restored to Eden one day.  The Bible is His letter of love, faithfulness, forgiveness, and salvation.

When we read the Bible, we're reading the Words of eternal, mighty God.  It's not drudgery - it's a blessing beyond words.

That Creator wants to have a relationship with you.  He wrote a long, passionate letter that tells the story of His love.  It shares stories of people He loved who made decisions.  Some embraced and followed Him; others treated Him with scorn.

The Bible shares the songs of praise that fellow Believers lifted up to heaven.  It offers practical advice in living in His presence.  It directs us to the path of Salvation.  Beyond our wildest imagination, God finished His letter with a peek into the future when evil would be overthrown and we would return to Eden to live in His presence.

It's a love letter.  Because He wants to be your Best Friend.

Some people make rigid structures in how you need to read that love letter.  You start here and read until there.  You highlight these verses or underlines those ones.

That's all good in and of itself.  If you need a schedule to motivate yourself to keep being in His Word, use one by all means!

I haven't found a verse or chapter in the Bible that tells me how to read it.  But it does tell us that His Word should always be in our hearts.

And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.

Go find yourself a quiet place.  Turn on soft music or push away the noise.  Pull out pens, highlighters, notebooks, dictionaries, or concordances.  You could study original Hebrew or Greek text through online sources such as this one.

You could sing.  You could dance.  You could pray, or memorize, or read.

But dear Christian, be in the Bible.  Read from cover to cover.  Pray through verses and hide God's Word in your heart.

Sometimes I read chapters end upon end.  I race through books and then sit back, soaking in the beauty of the overarching story.

Several weeks ago, I decided to see what it's like for so many of our brothers and sisters across the globe.  I took four loose pages of a book of the Bible that happened to be Romans.  I then spent my time digging through these few chapters as if that was all the Bible I had.  For some people, it is all they have.

My friend, read and write and pray away!  Sweep through entire books or chew on every word.  How you read the Bible or where you start doesn't matter.  Just do it.  Don't put it off for later, because, if you do, you'll never going to start.

Being a Christian is so much more than reading an old book and going to Church.  It's a relationship.  Let's seek after Jesus.

If you've discovered a Bible reading plan or method that works for you, please share it in the comments.  This is the most important Book we'll ever read.  I want to receive it with gladness and embrace the message God wrote for us.  I hope you do too.

How can a young man cleanse his way?
By taking heed according to Your word. 
- Psalm 119:9

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17

Jan 16, 2018

Dear Writer | Live for More

Dear Writer,

Your words have power.  They have purpose - if you use them wisely.  Remember that.

If you're a writer, you've already been giving a huge blessing.  God's given you the gift of words.  Maybe you don't think so, because English can trip anyone up (trust me).  However, there's something so much more important than grammar and a flowing story-line.

There is something we often forget.

We can't define ourselves as merely "writers".  We're people.  We have schedules and families and friends.  We can't bury ourselves in our writing and miss out on all the rest.  What would it matter if we gained the whole world and lost our soul?  Or what would it matter if we wrote a best-selling book, got published on a renowned website, or created a story that brought tears to someone's eyes if at home our lives were falling apart?

Writing is important.  Maybe it's your calling.  But don't forget that Jesus is what matters.  If you spend your life doing things for Jesus, you'll miss out on having a relationship with Jesus.  He wants you.  Not your writing.  You.

Jesus will often use your talents to do amazing things.  Make Him your priority.  Then you'll be writing something worth reading.

I'm just starting to learn this lesson.  I'm still struggling.  Inwardly, I want to live my life for myself.  I want comfort and schedules and routine.  But we're made for so much more.

A real Christian's life should be lived from the outflow of her relationship with Jesus.

Everything.  Writing, reading, words, it should all be because of a passionate love that overwhelms their life and seeps out from them every time they open their mouth.  This isn't writing.  This is so much more.

There are no meaningless moments in life - even writing.  Every one counts.  Let's make sure we don't waste them.

You're more important as a person than a writer.  So take a break.  Focus on relationships.  Sit alone in God's presence.  Maybe then you'll be ready to write with enthusiasm without forgetting what matters most.

I want to share one last piece of encouragement.

It's easy to get into "author mode" and look over everything with a critical eye.  Sometimes we forget to like our writing.  We pick out commas and stress about character flaws.  We wonder what a reader would think.  Or we erase yet another email and wonder how to share what we really want to say.

Guess what?  First drafts aren't beautiful.  Neither are second or third drafts.  Don't let yourself get carried away with perfectionism.  Sometimes the best thing you can do is explore your writings as a reader.  Turn off editing and wrap yourself into the story.  Read.  Feel the emotion of the story and embrace where God has already led you.

Then get back into editing mode with a bounce in your fingers.  Embrace every stage of writing knowing that there's a purpose in it.  If we wait to live life until a certain point, we'll never truly live.  So live right now.  Give yourself away to Jesus and write up a storm to His glory.

Dear Writer, I know it's hard, and you might feel discouraged.  If life was easy, we would never achieve anything worth success.  Start today.  Life for more.  Don't be just a writer, but when you do set your pen on paper, let it fly from fingers eager to share a message of hope with the world.

I'm cheering you on.

Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
- Psalm 46:10

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord!
- Psalm 150:6

Jan 9, 2018

Dear Reader | See Words Differently

I'm a reader.  I read novels and blogs.  I read emails and essays.  I read textbooks and letters.  And I read my Bible.

If you're here, you must be a reader too.

I've discovered that when my eyes scan over written words, I fall into similar patterns.  I read books quickly without going in depth.  I click on an email, my eyes scan over it, and I click away.  When I get into a routine, it's dangerous.  I'm threatened to miss out on so much.

I want to change that.  I want to read things differently and reach their full potential.  As a reader and writer and Christian, I don't want to live in routine.

Over the course of the next three weeks, my goal is to encourage you to see things differently, namely reading.  I'm going to cover three different labels we give ourselves and see if we can discover something more.

At the end, perhaps we can have a discussion to tie it all together.  But let's jump in and find out how to read differently.

Dear Reader,

It's easy to take words for granted.  I do it all the time.  We live in an age where knowledge is readily available.  At the touch of our fingers, we have access to the endless world of the internet, which can open us up to great opportunities and great danger.

One of the dangers is this: we start to take people for granted.  We read blogs, reply to emails, and scan over articles flippantly.  We scroll through the many avenues of social media to fill our time.  Maybe we do this to fill an emptiness deep inside that would otherwise tear us apart.

But we can't do this anymore.  Haven't we hidden long enough?  There's a real world out there, and we can't run to the temporary world of novels and media to hide what's inside us.

Words are powerful, but we can't let them take us away from what's most important.

True Believers in love with Jesus are told to love the Lord their God with all (Deuteronomy 6:5).  Are we filling our heart and soul and using our strength to read what is building us up?  Are we joyfully filling our minds as Christ wants us to with,

Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy - meditate on these things.

Is reading merely an excuse to run away from life and embrace the exciting world of fictional characters or social media?

Reading in and of itself is not bad.  I have been encouraged many times by written words.  That's also why I seek to write words that bring hope to others.

The question is why do we read?

But there's another problem readers often run into.

We're surrounded by words.  Information runs around us begging for our attention.  Authors struggle to find willing publishers because many of them are overwhelmed by the amounts of stories turned in.

The internet is overflowing with articles and blogs and other forms of media.  Twenty-six little letters can form millions of words that are twined together to create messages and stories and meanings beyond numbers.

However, we can't let the overflow of words drown out the truth that someone wrote them.  An author out there poured their heart into the words.  Every sentence you read has meaning and purpose.

A name isn't a number.  It's a person.  Every message you read and every person you come in contact with has dreams.  They're looking for something.  So share a little bit of Jesus with them.

A book has an author.  An email has a sender.  We can't read every story or encourage every person in the world, but we can make a difference in that one person.  That doesn't mean you can't leave a negative review when you read a poorly-written book, but in everything we do we must do it to bring a smile to Jesus' face and spread His story of Love.

My friend, don't read because you're "a reader".  If you read, do it to grow in Christ or draw others towards His heart.

Each day is made up of minutes, and our lives consist of days.  We must live each minute in a way that counts. If we don't, how will our lives ever make a difference?

So teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.