How to Read the Bible for Spiritual Food

How to Read the Bible for Spiritual Food

The reasons people read the Bible fall into two main categories. There are those who study the Bible, comparing one verse with another, researching the original language and setting, looking for answers to intellectual questions, preparing for a class or Bible study or sermon. And then there are those who go to the Bible for spiritual food.

There’s nothing wrong with studying the Bible. Most of us need to do more of that. The Bible itself talks a lot about the benefits God’s word provides to those who study it diligently. I’ve studied the Bible since I was a little girl. I’ve read it through many times. I’ve studied the original languages and culture and setting. I’ve read books, taken classes, and listened to countless expository sermons and teachings. And I’m grateful for every one of those things.

But it’s possible to do all those things and still not have your heart changed. There are professors at divinity schools who know as much or more about the Bible than you or I do, and still do not believe in God. Satan himself knows the Bible better than we do, and even believes in God. “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe — and tremble!” (James 2:19)

There is a huge difference between studying the Bible for knowledge and going to the Bible as a starving person looking for nourishment.     Tweet that.

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When You Can’t Feel the Presence of God

When You Can’t Feel the Presence of God

You’ve experienced those moments. Perhaps it was when you first came to know Jesus and your whole being seemed engulfed by His joy. Perhaps it was in a time of crisis and you unmistakably knew that God had come through for you. Perhaps it was in a beautiful nature environment and God’s peace flooded your soul. Perhaps it was at a Christian service or event and your heart was filled to overflowing with inspiration and courage to do God’s work. There have been times when you knew the presence of God, and it was sweet.

But right now you don’t. Your mind may be filled with confusion and worry, and you can’t seem to hear God’s voice. Your financial circumstances are dismal, and there’s no miracle on the horizon. Your marriage is in trouble, and your prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling. Sickness or grief or pain characterize your days, and God seems nowhere to be found. Your soul is dry. If only you could feel Him with you it would make everything better.

You’re trying as hard as you can, but you can’t feel the presence of God.

If you’ve been a Christian for very long, you can almost certainly relate to those feelings. Your head may believe what God says, but your heart craves to sense His presence when things get tough. You want to hear His voice telling you what to do next. You want to feel His comfort for your aching soul. You want Him to bring you relief and reassurance and refreshing.

But nothing happens. And you may be tempted to question, “Where is He?”

There’s a truth that came to mean a great deal to me during some of my own dry periods, and it’s this: The teacher is always silent during a test. TWEET THAT.  It could be that God is allowing a test so that you – and the universe – can see what you’re truly made of. Will you still trust Him?

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What to Do With the Question, “Why God?”

What to Do With the Question, “Why God?”

Man MourningAt some point you will face difficulties that will cause your faith to be challenged. You may or may not question the existence, goodness, or power of God outright. But when you become overwhelmed, there will come a time when you ask some version of the question, “Why, God?”

The cause of your question may be current or long past, a single incident or long-term suffering. It may not seem that devastating to someone looking on from the outside, but it wrenches and tears at you in the deepest places of your soul. It might be:

  • Child abuse – your own, or that of someone you care about
  • Domestic violence
  • Betrayal in your marriage
  • The death of someone you care about
  • A child’s sickness, disability, or serious injury
  • A news report such as the terrorist shootings in San Bernardino, CA

You may ask your WHY in a number of ways: Why didn’t You stop this from happening? Why can’t You bring relief or healing? How could You allow something so evil to happen? How long will this suffering go on? Couldn’t You have fulfilled Your plan some other way?

You know the Bible stories of those who asked some variation of that question.

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When You Pray and are Still Sick

When You Pray and are Still Sick

God is a Healer. That’s His very nature. And yet there are many believers who are still sick. If you’re one of them, you know the internal heart struggle. “He has healed others. Why not me?” “Am I doing something wrong? Should I pray harder?” “It’s my own fault. That’s why I’m not healed.” “Perhaps God really doesn’t still heal today.”

As a physician I’ve seen believers struggle with chronic illness even while they kept on praying. As a wife I continue to pray for my husband’s healing while watching him fight his illness daily. As a minister I’ve prayed for many people who are sick; some of them have been healed, but some of them have not.

One of the strongest impressions I hold in my heart came from an interview I watched some years ago between a middle-aged terminally ill woman and a healing evangelist. I don’t remember the woman’s name, but I know she died a few months later. She told the preacher, “Don’t pray for me to get well. The intimacy I have found with Jesus through my illness is more precious than anything else, and I don’t want to lose that.”

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A New Year’s Prayer

A New Year’s Prayer

New Year's PrayerOver the past couple weeks your inbox has probably been filled with emails promoting goal-setting programs and ways to guarantee “your best year ever” if only you will follow this given plan. At least 100 million Americans make some kind of New Year’s resolutions – and within six weeks most have already failed to keep those resolutions. Those ways of beginning a new year are fine, but I think there’s one way to begin that trumps them all: starting the year with prayer.

The best gift I can offer you this January 1 is my New Years prayer for you:

Heavenly Father, Precious Jesus, Gracious Holy Spirit,

How great You are! You who set our world in its orbit around the sun – that marks our years – we lift our hearts to You as this year begins.

We can’t see tomorrow, but You see all our tomorrows, and every day of this New Year. Your hands are the only ones big enough to carry us through the uncertain and often frightening days ahead. I ask that each one seeing this right now will sense Your hands holding them, guiding them, strengthening them to complete the mission You have given them to do.

Without You we are nothing. And all our efforts to do things on our own prove fruitless. But with You, there is nothing more that we need or desire in heaven or on earth. (Psalm 73:25)

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