Studying Bible vs. Spending time with God

RMlogo Four excellent parenting tips that you can use today!

“How much time are you spending with God …and His Word?”

This is a good assessment question you want to ask those you are discipling. You will want to frame your question differently for each person as you try to find out how much time they have spent in God’s Word, which means with God.

There can be an other-world difference between doing devotions, reading the Bible, or going to a Bible study versus SPENDING TIME WITH GOD IN HIS WORD.

The former disciplines can easily turn to rote, “check this off my list” work while the latter can ignite the soul, setting it ablaze as you cuddle with your LORD and His Word. Be a “cuddler” with your Father and His Words.

Most folks who struggle do not have regular snuggle time with God. The LORD and His Words are a side item at best. It is rare to counsel a person who saturates in God on an almost daily basis, and if they are not daily saturating, they are walking with Him (keeping in step with the Spirit), side-by-side, praying without ceasing, enjoying a “God is at my elbow” kind of life.

And even when they are knocked off their feet, they rebound quickly because “the LORD was there” in their moment of sorrow.

In the middle of Joseph’s drama it says in Genesis 39:20, “The Lord was with Joseph…”. I love those five words. They are simply profound. That “with” part was no accident. Neither was it because of Joseph’s passivity. He had a walking, talking, living, breathing, adventurous relationship with the LORD. God was big and everything else was small.

As you care for others you will find that that is not the case with many of them. They do not have that kind of relationship with God—the kind that leads to an other-worldly living that is broadly practicalized in the milieu—the contexts in which they do life.

Carefully discern this in those within your care and carefully bring them back to their most important love.

Ansa’s story about Alaska

My family traveled to Alaska for a week in February. We were able to see Mt. Rainer in Seattle, Washington, which was astounding! Alaska is larger than the entire midwest. (Pic 1)

Landing in Anchorage took us over the Alaskan Mountain Range (Pic 2), the biggest mountains I have ever seen. We were staying in Soldotna, and the drive there took us around the Cook Inlet.

We witnessed a “bore tide”. This tide is a “rush of seawater that returns to a shallow and narrowing inlet from a broad bay. It happens after an extreme minus low tide created by the full or new moon”

We toured a wildlife preserve and saw all the local animals. (Pic 3) Our home for the week was on the Kenai River. The sunrise occurred at 9:30 am! Notice the long afternoon-like shadows. (Pic 4)

Midweek, in the middle of the night, we were able to see the northern lights (aurora borealis). It was amazing to see greenish clouds wiggling in the sky. The glaciers’ residue gives some of the rivers an amazing color. (Pic 5)

We went North to Seward, named from William H. Seward, the Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln. He helped with the purchase of Alaska from Russia. The Iditarod Trail starts here and it is a big fishing and tourist town. (Pic 6)

We went south to Homer, the halibut fishing capital of the world. A popular spot in the summer is the Homer Spit. It is crowded with campers and fishermen. (Pic 7) We also saw a moose, in town, across from a local coffee shop. (Pic 8) We also went to Anchor Point – the furthest west you can travel on any road in America! With all we saw, we barely scratched the surface.

Alaska Trip - Ansa Thomas

There is no passing or failing in our program

It is impossible to fail our program. There is not an A to F grading system because the Christian training world view is counter-intuitive to secular systems (1 Corinthians 1:25). I supervise the work, but I do not put a student in an A or F category.

I have to ask, “Who am I to grade another person; what do I know?”

Especially in light of Jesus placing the widow woman with two copper coins at the head of the line and the rich blue bloods at the back of the line (Mark 12:42). And then He said the first will be last and the last will be first (Matthew 20:16).

Paul followed up when he talked about the hand or eye not being any better than the foot (1 Corinthians 12:15). Or something like that. Truly His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9).

As we collectively spend time around the cross, we are humbly aware how similar we are (Romans 3:23). There is neither Jew or Gentile or smart or dumb (Galatians 3:28). Therefore, a person who flunked out of high school and the post-graduate with honors are the same in our program.

It’s not about a grading scale at all. It’s about the student fulfilling the preordained, God-given capacities that the good LORD has graciously given to them. Everybody is a jar (of clay) (2 Corinthians 4:7) that is to be filled with goodness and knowledge (Romans 15:14) so he or she can care for other people. I am not the person who determines the capacity of the jar or the boundaries of people (Acts 17:26). I’m not the person to determine if the student has a so-called small or large jar, pristine or dented jar.

But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” – Romans 9:20 (ESV)

My job is to come alongside each student, according to who he/she is and how God has made them to help them become all the LORD has shaped them to be (Genesis 2:7). Perhaps a student goes through our program and it becomes apparent that formal counseling is not their thing. That is perfect. Their goal is not to be anything but the person the LORD has equipped them to be.

Regardless of who you are you will be equipped according to the LORD’s good purposes for you. As to whether a student (1) stays in the program, (2) disciplines themselves through the program, (3) receives supervision with humility, or (4) honestly tries to do the work is between them and the LORD. My job is to honor the LORD by doing my best to serve them. They, like me, have to determine if they are going to give it their all–whatever that may be.

Christians do not “grade” Christians on a pass or fail system (Philippians 1:6). What have any of us received that was not given to us (1 Corinthians 4:7)? We are patient with all people (1 Thessalonians 5:14), while counting others more significant than ourselves (Philippians 2:3-4) because we are aware that even our best goodness is unrighteous goodness (Isaiah 64:6).

Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further. – Job 40:4-5 (ESV)

It is on the student to humbly, diligently, and practically work out what the good LORD has (and is) working into them (Philippians 2:12-13). And that is how you “pass” our program for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

On seeing invisible things

The essentialness of “seeing what is not clear” so you can care for those within your care responsibilities.

When you are caring for someone, whether that person is your husband, wife, child, parent, friend, neighbor, workmate, etc., you must lead them by giving them more than what they have already presented to you. This is a huge thought that will require careful analysis.

To lead them is to give them something they have not already presented and/or something that is not clearly perceived by them. It is asking the LORD for the gift of analysis (discernment) to see beyond what has been presented.

How well am I being illuminated by the Spirit of God to help this person see what they cannot see?

To lead is to go beyond — to see beyond what is presented or what can’t be seen is something to pray for.

It’s like looking at the problem, but rather than focusing exclusively on the problem you’re looking around it, over it, under it, through it, and beside it so you can see what is not visible. This is illustrated in the book of Hebrews 11:27.

By faith [Moses] left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.

Moses saw the problem — his imminent death — but he was able to find a solution by seeing what was invisible.

A constant prayer: “Dear LORD, help me to see what I cannot see.”

Marriage, parenting, discipling, and friendship are leadership contexts where we have to see things that are invisible to the person we are called to care for. Then we help them to see those things. Typically, the main thing a person does not see is the LORD.

May Moses instruct us.

The most effective spouses, parents, and friends are the ones who can do this well. This means the first two commandments — love God and love others — must authentically transcend all other loves, esp. our love for and allegiance to ourselves.