Bible Study Basics: God First.

It is entirely possible to live with someone and never see them. Most parents understand this to a degree. Our children often have no earthly idea who we are outside of being parents.

Discussing parent-teen relationships in Sunday school once, this truth bomb was dropped: your parents are not just alive for you. They will have a life before and after you. My teens were shocked. It never occurred to most of these kids that the center of the universe wasn’t (or shouldn’t) be themselves.

I’ve been guilty of looking at Scripture much the same way, and I suspect you have as well. We look inside this big Book and try to root around for a morsel that will help us, that will change us, that will teach us about us.

But that is so not what the Bible is about. Don’t get me wrong, we will find help and transformation and self-reflection as we study the Word. It is a wonderful by product of fixing our gaze on the main subject: God.

We must start reading scripture looking for God.

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He’s on every page. He is in every account. His message is pressed into every word that was breathed out and inscribed (2 Peter 1:21). He didn’t have holy men write out His words simply to reveal the temporal world. He wrote it so we could know Him personally.

He made all this. Genesis 1 tells us so. He spoke and it happened. It all has purpose and meaning and worth because God declared it all good in those first six days of history.

If I want to know about a work of art, I must know something of its creator. If I try to interpret without knowing the of the artist, I am missing out on much of the significance in the message of the masterpiece.

Much the same is true of our Maker. He brings significance to creation. To know Him is to know more about… everything. And since He made mankind in His own image, when we read about God in His revealed Word, we actually do learn about ourselves in the process.

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”‭‭‬

Genesis‬ ‭1:26-27

In Eden, we find that God had a close relationship with Adam and Eve. Genesis 3:8 implies that He walked with them on a regular basis or in a way that they were familiar with. We were intended to have a personal relationship with our Creator. But sin marred that once close relationship.

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Part of God revealing himself to us in the Bible is the desire for a relationship again. Let me be clear: God did not make us because He needed us. He was not lonely. He was not needy. He made us because it delighted Him to do so.

It delights God that we hunger to know more of Him. The desire to study a person is a mark of a growing relationship with that person.

When my kids started in their new school, they didn’t know the other kids very well. They had not relationship. As the year progressed, I would hear all the information they learned about their classmates. Eventually those classmate became friends. They formed a relationship based on mutual knowledge of one another.

God has the upper hand in my relationship with Him: He made me. He literally knows my thoughts as I am thinking them. He is aware of my frailty and my secrets. He knows me on a personal level.

“O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭139:1-4‬ ‭

Because of the sin that blocks my vision, I have more legwork to do to gain knowledge of Him. It’s not that God makes it extremely difficult to know Himself. I make it difficult.

Sometimes, I just am not motivated to pursue the knowledge, the relationship. Perhaps I have sin issues that blur my concept of who God is. A heart of pride can make relationship building hard, because we are so focused on self that we don’t have the capacity to see God until we remove ourselves from the equation.

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The possibilities are endless.

But in the end, God wants us. He wants us to know Him so we can have a meaningful relationship with Him. And our knowledge of God comes from the source that He provides- His Word. His “Autobiography”. And since God is incapable of lying (Titus 1:2), we can rely on His accounting of Himself.

Jen Wilkin said it best in her book, Women in the Word. “The heart cannot love what the mind does not know.” We cannot truly love something or someone we know very little about. God knows that. He has given us these 66 books wrapped into one to show us Himself so we can truly love Him.

So as you read the Word, look for God. Look at His attributes. See how He interacts with His creation. Look for His plan of redemption stamped on every page. The gaze fixed on God puts everything else in the right place.

Why My Kids Aren’t “My Whole World”

I love kids. You don’t have seven of them if you hate children. For as much as they can drive you up the wall and challenge everything you ever believed about humanity, they are amazing!

We love their sense of humor and their imaginations and the funny things they say. We adore the snuggles and kisses and “I love yous”. We breathe deep each stage, enjoying their milestones and cherishing the memories of their better moments.

Seeing as these little sweeties need so much of our time and attention- especially at the beginning of their lives- it is so easy to let their little lives consume us. They can become our whole world.

My kids have been my whole world many times. The most obvious time was after the twins were born. It seemed for at least a year that there was time for nothing else but them! Feeding two, changing two, bathing two, cherishing two… and then add the other five that still needed a mom as well.

There are seasons where we must spend a majority of our time wearing the hat of Mom. It is a worthy and God-blessed position to hold. But there does come a line where motherhood and family becomes idolatry.

Idolatry is when we put any person or thing or idea above the Creator. The basic commandment is Exodus 20:3- “You shall have no other gods before me.” The sentence presupposes that something or someone else can be put before God.

Sure, there are obvious examples. Wooden or metal sculptures representing lesser deities being bowed to and venerated. In Luke 16:14-15, Jesus calls out the Pharisees for making money an idol. Verse 13 points out that money can be served instead of God.

Matthew 6:21 tells us that what we place the most value in is where our heart is. Now, don’t mistake me here- our kids are precious. More precious than possessions and fame. Worth the investment of our time and energy and prayers…. but should they be our entire heart? Our whole world?

It really comes down to this: who do we love most and how is that apparent in our lives? In one of the harshest portions of Scripture, Jesus seemingly puts off his flesh and blood and declares that whoever follows God wholeheartedly is His family. (Luke 8:38-39) Never mind the countless times He talks about leaving family to take His cross.

So let’s set this straight. Your kids are an eternal work. They are precious souls you have been loaned to bring up in the ways of their Creator. You are a steward of souls-just as your parents were for you. You teach them the ways of God through your lifestyle, speech, and behavior towards them.

This is a vital calling. It is crucial to civilization and the eternal purposes of God. But parenthood is not the only calling you have. And I think, amidst the pouring of ourselves into these little ones, we need to remember God comes first.

When God comes before kids, we are going to make time to learn more about Him. We will make corporate worship a priority for every member of our family instead of making our kids the excuse for sitting out. We will say yes to the non kid tasks God has for us: whether it is discipling that new believer, or singing in the choir, or cleaning the church. Even if it takes time away from our babies.

This is all part of your training of their souls too- they need God first to be patterned in your life so they know what it looks like for their lives. They need to know that they are not the center of anyone’s world, and if they want to be great in God’s Kingdom, they must become a servant.

We have raised a generation that is, by and large, convinced that they are the center of the universe. They believe their parents are there for them alone. When diminished in any way- which will happen- their self worth crumbles. And the rest of the world is held hostage to maintaining their fragile egos.

You see, this idea of family idolatry isn’t an either/or situation. You can and should love your family. They ought to have your time and attention and affection in ways that no other earthly thing should. But not above God. And your utter devotion to God is not to the detriment of you family, but to their ultimate benefit.

I say that as someone who has been there. I have made my kids the excuse. I have not modeled a servant of Christ for them perfectly. And God gives grace… so much grace. But I fooled myself into thinking that my only job on earth was to be their mom… nothing else. And, eventually, the prospect is maddening because I knew that I was created to be their mom- and other things as well.

I’m a wife. I’m a very part-time accounts receivable person. I’m a writer. I’m a Sunday school teacher. I’m a comedian (in my head). I’m an Uber driver (for the kids). I’m a sewer and baker and historian and counselor and…. I’ve got other callings. They help me to be a better mom to my kids, but ultimately they help me to be a better servant for my Lord.

But guilt. Guilt will do a number on you. Make you do things that make no sense. Create a martyr instead of a mentor. I have thought that it is selfish of me to need a break from the kids. I have thought that getting together for a Bible study or coffee with friends was not something I needed. That my kids needed me more.

Truth reveals. It reveals that, in my case, I have plenty of time with my kids. I’m a stay at home parent. The few hours they are out of my sight are not likely to undo the countless hours I have poured into them. They need a mom who has her cup filled with Jesus more than they need her to watch another movie or play another game with them.

Another truth revealed: I am not raising children to stay children forever. They will become adults before you know it. And yeah, we can share lessons and formally teach them things about being an adult. The most they will learn is from the patterns you show in your own life. So what kind of adult do you want your kids to be? Model that, as best you can. You want them to make no time for individual pursuits? You want them not to be a faithful church member? You want them to be a taker and not a giver?

And since we must raise kids to be adults someday, we do have to teach them independence from us, painful though it is. Why? I, personally, want to be able to sleep when my kids leave the house. If I don’t start giving them independence at appropriate intervals, I will always doubt that they are able to handle the real world. Brief separation is healthy. Most seasoned parents never share this difficult but real part of raising children.

So, yes, I’m going to say it: Your kids shouldn’t be your whole world. It isn’t healthy for them and it isn’t healthy for you. Point your kids to the One we should be doing all things for- let Him be everything to you.

Get in the Word.

We live in a great age. Information is more accessible than any other time in the course of civilization, Creation being the exception.

I can open my browser and type in any topic and find articles and stories and news related to that subject. Fifty years ago, this seemed impossible. Today it is reality.

But there is a problem that comes into the world of endless data and words. Where is the source? Is it reliable? Is it bias? Perceptions also can mar… truth is really a needle in a haystack in our generation.

So where do we turn? How do we find honest to goodness facts in a world that is so subjective, so individualistic, so relativistic. It’s just so… ick.

If you are a Christian of any sort, most likely, you know the answer. The Word of God is a believer’s primary guide, not only to truth itself, but to sifting through all the “stuff” we are taught on this planet.

And in this age where we can get God’s Word in almost any language, hundreds of translations, and even original language codex, we are so illiterate and unskillful in this amazing Guide.

We take little snippets- a verse here, and a verse there. A well designed meme or subway art. A truthful quote from a personality or spiritual guide. We turn these into our meat when really they are just droplets of milk.

I’ll be the first in line to admit, I have treated the Bible as a go to to find a little something for a spiritual boost instead of an actual meal. I’ve nibbled and not fully eaten and thought I was getting satisfaction.

In reality, I was living on meager rations compared to what God has given in His Word. And honestly, I thought it was all I could take in. I mean, I am a woman. Deep theological thought is man’s role, isn’t it? I’m supposed to be busy with my household responsibilities and just subsist on dainty morsels. The whole of Scripture is a man-sized meal.

But really God makes no delineation for how well men or women are to know the Scriptures. We are simply told to feast. We are commanded to obey it. We are urged to love it. These are not gender specific instructions.

And I will tell you, consistent Bible study hasn’t been an easy habit for me. It is hard to want to read the Word when you’ve been up half the night with a fussy baby. It is more scintillating to open Facebook or Insta and catch up on what your friends are doing. There are chores to do and mouths to feed and work to go to and people to drive around… there is life to be done.

And cracking open this Book in a time and place where you can actually give it the attention it deserves? Yeah, right.

We have excuses galore…. but do we love God more?

Desire will make things happen. We make time for what we love. I make time for my kids. I will drop almost anything if my husband says, “Let’s go out tonight.” Putting aside chores to read that latest novel or watch the newest show… yes please!

It hurts to say, but here it is: If we love God we will make time for Him. We will put aside time to worship Him with other believers. We will stop our hectic pace to pray. We will prioritize learning more of Him in His Word. Because we truly love our Creator.

And maybe you already do these things. Perhaps you are checking off that list and still finding these disciplines tedious. I know I have.

I am hoping to help you here, sister. In the past few years, the Word of God has become more precious to me than it ever has been before. It didn’t happen by chance or just trying harder, but through a renewing of my mind that I am still in the process of. It has been exciting and life changing and I hope to share some of that journey with you.

It’s a new year. A new page has turned and we get to start fresh. Make sure that you prioritize truth as you wade through this world of misinformation. Get in the Word.

Franklin Post-Christmas Greetings 2019!

The hustle and bustle of this short Christmas season has been replaced with a quiet enjoyment of the blessings we have been given. As I sit in my jammies at noon-thirty reflecting on the year, I am so grateful for God’s hand on our lives.

Here’s a snippet of our year:

Natalie in her kayak.

Natalie is now 15 and a Sophomore at MBA. She loves sports and is playing both volleyball and basketball this year. When she isn’t playing sports, she’s watching them or working on her homework like it is a competitive event. We are starting to discuss college and futures and it is a sad and exciting time.

Mere at the coffee shop.

Meredith just turned 13 and is in 7th grade at CBCS. She enjoys playing her flute and basketball. She is funny and full of thoughts and just a unique personality. Her fashion sense is still impeccable.

Sophie and Ethan… best friends and worst enemies!

Sophie is 11 and in 6th grade. She plays both volleyball and basketball, but she really loves her trumpet. She reads voraciously and is growing to be as tall as her sisters!

Ethan is 10 and in 5th grade. He loves his legos and mischief and jokes. This year he was excited to be on both the soccer and basketball teams for school. He is a big help to me and his dad, and knows how to be a good big brother to Owen.

Evie hiking at High Cliff State Park!

Evelyn is 5. This has been quite the year for her as she started Kindergarten. It is all day, but she has a great teacher and is starting to read! Still smart as a whip. Still loves Paw Patrol. Still shy, but definitely braver when mom isn’t around. It is fun to watch her grow!

Laney is 2 and into everything. EVERYTHING. Toys are boring when there is actual stuff you can be making a mess with, or climbing on, or watching. She copies big siblings for better and worse. Laney still sucks her thumb and loves to cuddle T-shirts at naptime. Wild at heart but she loves her mom. I’m good with it.

Snuggling or smuggling? Probably both.

Owen is also 2. That’s what happens when you have twins. He loves to play with toys, especially trains and cars. Unfortunately, he is also up for any mayhem Laney gets into. So he stays busy. He’s a grumpy old man in a toddler body, and I think it’s charming.

Stephen is still amazing. I could brag on him and how he is running the business while my dad builds a house. Or how he is also helping the church a lot since our Pastor resigned. Or how he tries to make most of the kids’ sport events. But I won’t, because he does not want to be praised for any of these things.

16 years and still oh so happy!

I’m chasing people. Twins tornadoes. Teen athletes. Really children of all ages. I read and clean and try to write and clean some more and drive all over the place and try to conjure dinner from thin air. It’s a crazy time in our lives, but I love it.

My view most days.

The greatest gift we have been given is another year to walk with our Savior. Another year of learning more about Him and allowing Him to change us from the inside out. It is exciting and messy and satisfying.

Here’s to another year of life under the sun! May your eyes be open to the fullness of the riches we have in Christ this year!

Love,

Stephen and Leah and Family

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