In the spirit of Titus 2 I write this... had I known this sooner in my walk, it would have prevented so many skid marks on my face from hitting the ground at full speed ahead! (I'm grateful YHVH is a healing God!) Have you ever found yourself going to study the Bible and nothing sinks in like you are trying to read through a thick cloud of smoke? You may have read and re-read it again to "make it sink in". Or maybe you can't even bring yourself to do what you know you "ought to" and study the Bible? Maybe everything else comes first, so you do open your Bible, only to wake up with slobber marks on the page you last saw! Maybe you struggle to see the "life" that others have spoken about in the text. Or maybe you come across things that just don't make sense! Or they seem to contradict what you read last week!! My friend you are not alone. I've been there, my husband has been there and everyone I seem to ask these questions to in person, tell me they have been there!!
Beloved - we don't want to stay there!! As a matter of fact if - we can overcome that "Vail" so well that it is considered a thing of the past life - then we know we are really connecting to God in His Word. By the transforming power of His Truth, we are changed and the words which used be scrambled and "detached" are now intimate cool clear water to a thirsty soul. It becomes a place were we run to for refuge, strength and comfort. This time in The Word becomes a time that we protect and prioritize over the things of this world. It becomes a place to "get lost in HIM" a "time warp" with God. It's so awesome!! I want to encourage you in it.
Here a bunch of things that I have learned - and again - wish someone had pulled me aside and shared with me in my earlier years. Relationship with God is not Bible Study - let me explain: Even though Studying the Bible brings us closer to God - intimately - It alone is not our relationship with Him. Our prayer, our worship, our service, our daily offerings (obedience) - are the things which form our relationship with God. Don't get me wrong - The WORD is the FOUNDATION that is imperative to our understanding of who God is, and where we fit into His great plan. It is the very map by which we plan our course! It is a alive and is packed with mysteries I run to discover! But do not forget that IT is a not relationship with God. I pray that you have intimacy with the King of the Universe that you talk with Him and LISTEN to Him as regularly as you take in breath!
- When approaching Scripture - pray that HE make it come alive and root it's truth into your whole being.
- Learn about the Bible: After you understand that Jesus died for you and bridges the gap to give you access into God's Holy Kingdom - and you receive forgiveness. Then it's time to understand the big picture: Who wrote the books? What kind of book is it? Who was it written to? For what purpose? What is it's context? Don't pull scripture out of context. When your attention is brought to a scripture for whatever reason - read it, read around it, before and after. The whole chapter, even the whole book. This in itself can bring better clarity and certainly helps connect the dots in the long run. This is how it was written and intended to be read. The "organization" of chapters and verses being numbered came later, and is very helpful in may ways, but segregating and choppy in others. So don't forget to read whole portions at a time, even several times in a row, then go back and pick things out for further study.
- Define words that you don't know. Use that dictionary - don't just skip over it in the hopes that you 'll "get the gist". If you find yourself asking, "WHAT does that MEAN?????". Ask yourself many questions: Is this translation I am using one which I understand? If not - what is the point? A translation that is hard to understand defeats the purpose. Cross referencing other translations can be very helpful in understanding. You can find them at Goodwill for a dollar! You don't have to pay $50 for a Bible.
- What is the Old Testament? Is it old news? Does it apply to the "New Testament Church"? YES YES YES!! It is the very foundation on which the New Testament stands. Not understanding it from the Hebrew perspective is similar to watching a foreign film with really really bad subtitles. We miss so much and are open to misinterpretation and unsound doctrine. Most of our teachers are "gentiles", seminary trained with a "Gentile's perspective". I can't stress enough - how important it is to learn the Scriptures in context in which it was written. It is a new revelation - something that we are just walking out. Something that is so profound and transforming - that I almost get angry at "the church" for missing it. My husband and I are taking free classes online - every chance we get from this amazing site called http://www.torahclass.com/ (got to Studies and then choose the format you prefer) go through the first 10 classes and see if you agree. (There are many many many classes that plot through the OT word for word) with Messianic commentary. A dear friend referred me to it - I am so grateful! I want to walk in truth, no matter the cost. (The truth will set us free!) The whole Bible is true and YHVH/God does NOT contradict Himself.
- Topical Bibles are so handy in finding topics in Scripture to help transform heart attitudes that we know do not glorify God. (Remember to read the context though - you'll get so much out of it!) Be careful not to be tempted to manipulate Scripture out of context. There is nothing more transforming than the full understanding of what is written. Topical Bibles have their place - they can be handy.
- Learn Church History! Not just your church history, but THE church history. Your eyes will be opened. Don't stop at the founder of your church/denomination go all the way back to Constantine, then after you have processed that - go back to the New Testament and see what it was like in the earliest days. It is very easy for Protestants see how the Catholics are "way off base", (or vice verso) but pray the Lord humbles you and open your eyes to the misconceptions that we have all fallen pray to. Folks, there is no perfect denomination. "Churches" are filled with people and well...we fall short from perfect. I believe the LORD is calling us closer to Himself in TRUTH. I believe that He has made this "Information Age" to gather more people to Himself in the last days. We have access to information our parents and grandparents did not. In a split second we can access information about anything right from the comfort of our home and it's free. I don't believe this to be a coincidence. Why have we made up a different "day of rest" and called it the Lord's Day? Why are our biggest Holidays (Christmas and Easter) set on Pagan holidays/names/and rituals? Who set them? What does Easter mean? What does it have to do with Jesus? How about eggs and bunnies? Why do we use only 9 of the 10 commandments? Recognizing these truths, helped me really see things as they are. It inspired me to find the truth and follow it from the Scriptures, OVER church doctrine. It taught me to take a stand for truth and increase the sincerity of on my "walk". The church has gotten quite good at "explaining away" the things we do that do not match Scripture. It is a very dangerous game we are playing, whether we know it or not. Please seek after truth not the approval of man.
- Redefine "the Church" back to Biblical Example: The church is not a denomination, or a building or a doctrine. It is simply a collection of Disciples - people who follow after and devote their lives to YHVH/God. A collection of people that takes responsibility for their own spiritual condition, individually and as a group. A group of people that form true community to aid one another in times of need and share what they have. Strong in family, strong in relationships, ever growing and learning. Their lives revolve around YHVH/God, then community - not work, not money, not politics, not leisure/hobbies, not pursuits of happiness, not "the world" but God/YHVH. Is this an accurate portrait of the everyone in your local assembly? OK, how about the majority? How about you?
Be willing to see God for who He is. In other words be very careful not to conform God to fit you. It is natural that we all see through our own color lens. This lens is tinted by our experiences, our circumstances, our personalities, etc. This is very natural, very real. However, we need to realize that and learn to regularly ask God to open our eyes to TRUTH, not just what want to see.
- Take a Stand: It's not easy to take a stand against things that are common, popular, accepted as "normal" in this world. It's not easy to give up things that tickle our fancy and bring us pleasure. But we all need to understand that no one is going to be standing beside you on judgement day. Not your pastor, nor your spouse, nor your parents, nor your friends - no one will be there, just you and Him. You will need to stand account for the time He has given you. He is just and righteous - all people must stand account.
May Yahweh bless you and keep you. May He make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May He turn His face toward you and give you His Shalom.