by BJ | Jan 13, 2021 | Bible Studies, Life
I am incredibly grateful that, as a newborn believer, I was taught to read the Word of God every day. At first, I would sit down each morning, open my Bible, and read wherever it opened. However, my motives were not always the best. I read because I was told this is what God expected, and I wanted to be obedient. But I also wanted to check the box on the back of the offering envelope. In those days, we had offering envelopes with a checklist of things on the back that we should do each week. We were expected to pray, read our Bible, talk to others about Jesus, attend Sunday School, attend worship services, and give. And we were expected to check those boxes so the pastor would know we were doing what we were supposed to do. Those were all things a good Christian did. So, I dutifully read my Bible to “check the box.” For me, those early days were more about God establishing a habit in me of being in the Word daily than it was about me getting to know God.
About a year later, my mentor taught me a simple method to help me be more intentional about my daily Bible reading. They shared with me that they read five Psalms each day, beginning with the Psalm of the day. For example, today is January 11, 2021, so I would read Psalm 11. But they read a total of five Psalms and a chapter of Proverbs each day. The way to do this is to read the Psalm of the day, today being Psalm 11, and add 30 to the date read Psalms 41. Then add 30 and read Psalm 71, then 101, and finally 131. Since Proverbs has 31 chapters, we would read the chapter corresponding to the date, or for today, chapter 11. I would often write down things I learned about God or truths that struck me.
Over the years, I have learned to read with a purpose by slowing down and engaging the text interactively. We’ll talk more about that in a moment.
However, today I was captivated by Psalm 11.
David is in a desperate situation. He was surrounded by the wicked, and his life was in danger. Despite his circumstances, David stands firm because of his confidence in the Lord. It was a confidence born out of years of walking with God from the time he was a young shepherd boy in the fields to his present situation as King ruling Israel.
His well-meaning but fearful advisors counseled him to “flee like a bird,” in other words, “run!” But David refused to run away from danger. He marveled at the suggestion from the fainthearted advisors because running denied his faith in the Lord, and they should have known better. He wondered where their faith was when they counseled him to run.
When faced with the temptation to flee or not to flee from the wicked who surrounded him, David held fast to his faith in the Lord. Instead of fleeing like a bird to a mountain where he would be safe, he fled to the Lord for refuge. Escape was out of the question! He made that point crystal clear in his message to them. “In the Lord I take refuge!” (v 1)
Out of their fear, his advisors began to argue the facts of his situation in order to convince him to do so.
- The wicked slander and stalk-like predators for the kill.
- They lie in ambush with their tongues ready to hurl abuse at the godly. (v. 2) (Cross-reference Ps 10:8-9)
- The wicked lurk in the dark. The battle is not out in the open where you could see it. Evil is ubiquitous and yet not easy to spot. The wicked are treacherous, stealthy, and intent on maligning and making the godly fall. They are intent on making anarchy a way of life. (Ps 10:7-10, 37:14)
- The foundations are destroyed. These foundations refer to the law and order of society established by God at creation. This is the belief that God is sovereign over all of His creation and is sustaining the order of the world. God’s justice and law are being replaced by self-rule resulting in anarchy/chaos.
The fearful focus on their surrounding circumstances and ask, “What can the righteous do?” That is a horizontal focus. David, however, has a vertical focus, as we see in verses 4-6.
David was a strong leader; whose confidence was in the Lord. When the fainthearted asked, “What can the righteous do?” David responded that the righteous can trust in the one and only source of secure government – the Lord who
- has not left His holy temple.
- is still on His throne in heaven.
- is sovereignly ruling over His creation.
- sees and examines closely the activities of both the righteous and the wicked.
- tests and refines the righteous.
- hates the wicked and people who love violence. God is opposed to all who choose wickedness and violence in opposition to His will.
- will reward each according to their deeds.
- will destroy the wicked.
- will allow the upright to see His face.
David tried to help the fainthearted advisors see their circumstances from God’s perspective. Like a good leader, David wanted to move them from a horizontal focus to a vertical focus so that they would not be overwhelmed.
The kind of Godly confidence David displayed can withstand trials, persecutions, and temptations. David not only knows the truth about who is Sovereign over all the earth, but he also lives the truth so others may know God. Jesus also had confidence in the Father when He faced Satan’s temptations and the hostility of people. We can trust God to do what He said He would do!
Confidence in the Lord is a mark of Christian maturity!
Earlier I mentioned that I learned to read with a purpose by slowing down and engaging the text interactively. In doing so, my time in the Word was no longer merely an “academic” pursuit of knowledge. As I slowed down and interacted with the Word, both my mind and heart were engaged. In interacting in this way, the Word not only instructed and trained me how to be righteous, but it also reprimanded and corrected me in my thoughts and behaviors. But it didn’t stop there! The more I applied the truths I was learning, living in obedience to the Truth of the Word, the more I knew God intimately, and I grew spiritually. That growth has given me the confidence to stand firm in whatever situation I find myself in and to make Jesus known from those platforms.
Engaging the Scriptures
Here are some simple steps to help you interactively engage the scriptures.
Read Psalm 11 (It’s at the end of this blog)
Note: David is the one speaking, and he is speaking to his advisors.
This time mark LORD including pronouns.
(I use a triangle. However, you can color it, circle it, etc. The point is to slow you down and see what you are reading.) When reading scripture, I always mark God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
Re-read it. (I know, you’ve already read it twice, but it’s ok, it’s God’s Word.)
This time mark
wicked, including pronouns and synonyms. I use a W over the word.
righteous, including synonyms with a circle.
Now the fun begins as you engage more with the scripture!
Make a list. Look at each place you marked LORD and write down all you learn about the LORD. For example:
The Lord is
in His Holy temple
Make another list. This time write what you learn about the wicked.
Now we will drill down a little deeper by asking some questions using the 5 Ws and H questions. (Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?)
David is in a desperate situation surrounded by the wicked, and his life was in danger. What point does David make before addressing his advisors in verse 1?
What advice have his advisors given him according to verse 1?
Who are they worried about, and why are they concerned?
To get a better understanding of what the wicked are doing, read Psalm 10:8-9, and write down what you learn.
Note: These foundations in verse 3 refer to the law and order of society established by God at creation. This is the belief that God is sovereign over all of His creation and is sustaining the order of the world. God’s justice and law are being replaced by self-rule resulting in anarchy/chaos.
According to verse 3, what is the concern of the advisors?
Where is the focus of David’s advisors? Explain your answer.
From all you have seen so far, how would you describe/characterize David’s advisors?
What is David’s response, according to verses 4-6?
Where is David’s focus?
What do you learn about the Lord in verse 7, and how does that relate to the upright?
Something to think about
Do you look more like the advisors or David? What would others say?
Look at today’s culture. Do you see any similarities to the culture David was living in? Don’t just answer with yes or no, if so write out the similarities.
If so, what have you learned from Psalm 11 that will help you stand in confidence in an evil and corrupt society?
How mature are you? What do you need to do to grow in maturity?
1 In the LORD I take refuge; how can you say to my soul, “Flee like a bird to your mountain,
2 for behold, the wicked bend the bow; they have fitted their arrow to the string to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart;
3 if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?”
4 The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD’s throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.
5 The LORD tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
6 Let him rain coals on the wicked; fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
7 For the LORD is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face.
by BJ | Aug 21, 2020 | Life
Last Monday morning I woke up to the following headline
Looters smash business windows along Chicago’s Magnificent Mile
after police-involved shooting
A Sunday afternoon shooting of the man who had opened fire on officers, set off a firestorm of misinformation spread across social media. The reports alleged a police-involved killing of a black teen on the city’s South Side late Sunday afternoon and appeared to encourage people to head downtown to create violence.
Hundreds of people descended on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile of upscale stores early Monday, with vandals smashing the windows of dozens of businesses and making off with merchandise, cash machines and anything else they could carry, and some pulled up with U-Haul trucks.
With tongue in cheek, someone said, “Nothing screams justice, like looting a Louis Vuitton store!”
“Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown said Monday that officers responded to a call about a man with a gun in the Englewood area; once spotting the man, they pursued him on foot after the man shot at them, police said, the officers returned fire.” – The Washington Post
Latrell Allen, 20, was charged with attempted murder Monday for allegedly firing on officer.
I watched in disbelief to a scene that is becoming way too common. In my heart I asked the Lord, “What in the world are they thinking?”
In these days of Covid-19, protests, riots, cries calling for the “De-funding” of police, conspiracy theories, fake news and political scheming, I have asked this question a lot. As I read and listen to the news each day, I am tempted to stop paying attention to all things news in my life.
But recently, God reminded me of the sons and daughters of Issachar, men and women who understood the times and knew what Israel should do. (1 Chronicles 12:32)
The sons of Issachar understood the times they lived in, but they also understood the political and spiritual times. They were a unique group of people that could discern what God was doing and when He was doing it. They excelled in knowledge of God’s law and were full of wisdom. The sons of Issachar were so sharp, and so spiritually in tune, that the whole nation depended on them to know what they ought to do and when they ought to do it.
Their ability to discern the times and seasons was an incredible advantage:
- That ability gave them inside knowledge and understanding of God’s activities.
- They were not taken by surprise when things happened.
- They had influence as a result of their unique ability to understand times and seasons.
- They knew what Israel should do and when it should be done.
- The nation followed their example.
The answer is not to stick our head in the sand! Rather, we need to be like the sons and daughters of Issachar! We need to understand the times we live in, excel in the knowledge of God’s Word in order to be wise and spiritually in tune with what God is up to.
So, what does that have to do with my question and where do I start?
God answered my question by refocusing me. He took my focus off the horizontal, the headlines I was consumed with that morning, and reminded me of the truths I read last week in Psalm 36, He changed my focus to vertical. As I remembered what God said in His Word, my focus went from horizontal to vertical.
Start by becoming like the sons and daughters of Issachar.
- Immerse yourself in the Word of God, not just reading it, but prayerfully studying it.
- Pray. Ask God to give you wisdom, discernment and understanding. Also, ask Him what He is up to in the circumstances you’re engulfed in.
- Become familiar with current events. It’s only as you filter your circumstances through the truth found in the word, you are able to understand what is going on around you.
- Take that understanding and apply it to your daily life.
- Help others refocus and see God’s hand at work.
As I said earlier God took me back to Psalm 36, which I had studied the week before, for the answer to my question. I often read a couple of Psalms daily to set my focus for the day, its a practice I started as a young believer and have continued to do. I read the Psalm that coincides with the date, then add 30 to it and read the next one, until I’ve read to the end of Psalms.(Ex. last week on August 6 i read psalms 6, 36, 66, 96, 126. If I have time I may read the Proverb that coincides with the day)
Last week as I read Psalm 36 I just wasn’t grasping it, so I read it a couple of times and then decided to study it rather than simply read it. It was only after engaging the text in that way did I see what the Psalm was really about. Others who had written about the Psalm focused solely on God’s steadfast love, which is amazing. But, God showed me much more!
Rather than tell you what I learned from studying it myself, which is like feeding you already chewed food, I suggest you read it for yourself. If you are having a hard time grasping it, like I did, and want to see it clearly for yourself I am going to include a link to a Bible study which will walk you through Psalm 36 enabling you to see truth for yourself. The Word is powerful, when we see truth for ourselves it is imprinted on our hearts forever.
Click here –> Take a closer look at Psalm 36
by BJ | Aug 17, 2020 | Life
Facts not Fear, has been the mantra about Covid-19 over the past few months. It’s ubiquitous! However, despite its presence all around us, I can’t help but think it doesn’t have the impact it once did. In these days of Covid-19, it is easy to become myopic in our approach to the days we live in. In fact, as I listen to the media, read social media posts, and engage in conversations with people literally around the world, I am convinced that fear, not facts, is the rule of the day.
So, with that said, I would like to take a look at the facts we are given from a perspective that is often overlooked, in the hope of encouraging you today.
In photography the term ‘selective focus’ refers to a technique where the photographer selectively focuses on the subject of an image, essentially ignoring all other aspects of the scene. … The contrast of the sharp subject against the soft image background creates powerful, contemplative images. Yet, at the same time skews the image in a way that distorts or changes it, like in the way the image of the city is turned upside down in the selective focus shot, misrepresenting the image as a whole.
Context rules in interpretation
It is important to remember that context rules in interpretation. I have taught this truth regarding studying the Bible for nearly 40 years. However, it is also a life principle.
Let me illustrate this for you.
Your child asks you what R-E-A-D means. You ask them how it is used in the sentence; they look at you as if you have two heads. They read the sentence to you, and only then can you understand and give them an accurate interpretation of the word.
One of your children comes in crying, saying that their sibling just punched them. So, you call the other child into the room, ready to discipline them. When you investigate further, you find out that the tattling child actually destroyed a “building project” the other had been working on all morning. Understanding the context changes the way you handle it.
You see a Facebook post telling you about Christians being persecuted. You are immediately caught up in the emotion of anger and want to find a way to help. But then you find out the news is twelve years old.
Understanding the context changes everything.
We need to bring our emotions in line with the truth.
In recent months I began to realize I was gaining a very narrow focus of the culture of the day. It seemed as if everything was being filtered through the “truth” of Covid-19. I suspect I am not the only one that this happened to. I desperately needed to change my focus if I was going to live by the facts and not fear. I needed some help to know where to start. So, I responded to that need by asking the One in Whom there is no fear.
This is what came to mind.
- What if I approached the COVID updates from a different perspective than the media and other sources present it? (Looking at life rather than death)
- What if I start by putting it into context, rather than lifting it out of context?
- Finally, when I understand the facts in this way, I need not focus on the sources of misinformation, whatever they might be, but instead on the truth from God’s perspective.
So, I started doing just that, and have been for several months now. To help you see the truth for yourself, I want to show you what I found as I played with some numbers this morning.
It is possible we may survive!
Less than 2% of the US has contracted COVID, and 97% of those have recovered.
August 17, 2020
Population of the US – 331,240,477
COVID cases 5,410,000
COVID deaths 170,000
Hamilton County 367,804
COVID cases 6801
COVID deaths 61
If my stats are right:
In the US
1.63% of the population has contracted COVID
3.1% death rate from COVID
0.05 % of the US population has died from COVID
Only 7% of the COVID tests in the US are positive.
1.85% of the population has contracted COVID
0.9% death rate from COVID
0.016% of Hamilton County has died from COVID
98.37% of the US has not contracted COVID
96.9% of those who do have COVID recover.
97.15% of Hamilton County, TN has not contracted COVID
99% of those in Hamilton County recover.
When I refocus and look at Covid-19 in my county and my country from this perspective, rather than focus on all the media reports, articles or interviews with a variety of “experts” from the medical community, I get a better understanding of the truth. But head knowledge of the truth alone doesn’t affect change. Knowledge needs to be accompanied by action; I begin to bring my emotions (fear) in line with the truth and walk as though I believe it to be true. Only then will the fear begin to subside. With each step that I take, to control my emotions and change my focus, the peace of God that exceeds anything we can understand will guard my heart and mind as I live in Christ Jesus. The fear will be gone.
To be afraid is to behave as if the truth were not true.
So, when the reports of Covid-19 around you begin to stir up fear
Respond – by taking it to the One who has no fear, in prayer. – Philippians 4:6
Refocus – by looking at the truth from God’s perspective and not the world’s. This also means I need to stop focusing on the sources of misinformation that play to my emotions. Colossians 3:2
Remember what God has already done, and what He says He is going to do in regard to life. Do this by setting your mind on things above, not things below. Colossians 3:2
Rest – in knowing that God will do what He said He would do – Psalm 37:7
As I close this out, I do want to say that we aren’t to throw caution to the wind. We are still to be cautious. David and I continue to wash our hands (as we have done since childhood), practice social distancing, wear a mask when we leave the house or in situations where it is impossible to social distance. What we don’t do is fixate on the horizontal, instead we fix our eyes on the vertical, Jesus.
by BJ | Jan 16, 2018 | Life
At some point in my childhood I learned the “Worm Song”, you know the one that says
Nobody likes me! Everybody hates me! Guess I’ll go eat worms!
If you’ve never heard it click here.
by BJ | Jul 17, 2016 | Life, Life
I would like to present today’s guest blogger, my husband David Lawson. In light of recent headlines I asked him to address the issue from a perspective that most people are not familiar with.
The Thin Blue Line
There is a thin line between anarchy and civilization, between peace and terror. It is a thin line that allows me to play with my grandkids in the park during the day and then sleep well that night with only a flimsy wooden door between me and the world. And today it is a very thin blue line.
In the last week it seems that all out war has been declared against the police. This is not a war simply against the men and women that form that thin blue line, but against society, against civilization, and ultimately against God Himself. Every assault, every killing, strikes at the heart of our society and at the heart of God.
With every murder of a police officer the people they protect become more and more fearful. More citizens arm themselves, which is their right, and more, not less, racial tension is created. With every murder of an officer people take sides and look suspiciously at people they think might not be on their side. With every assault the police become more fearful and there is a greater chance of a mistake happening in the heat of the moment.
The attack on the thin blue line cannot be justified or excused. This is not a “they killed one of ours so we killed two of theirs” situation. It cannot be tolerated. Instead it must be met with overwhelming support from the society. The civilians must rush to that one place where the line is assaulted and back up the officers on the front line.
In 1977, when trying the murder of Dallas Police officer Robert Wood, District Attorney Doug Mulder borrowed a line from Rudyard Kipling, and referred to the police as a thin blue line that separated the public from anarchy. Ronald Reagan later referred to police officers as “manning the thin blue line that holds back a jungle which threatens to reclaim this clearing we call civilization.”
Police officers are the only thing that stands between civilization and total anarchy. They are ordained of God for that very purpose.
They are, whether they are Christian or not, ministers of God The apostle Paul, in Romans 13:1-7, said that all authority is from God and we as Christians are obligated to obey those authorities. We do not have the right to take matters into our own hands. The police, described in these verses as the one who “does not bear the sword in vain” are ministers of God. The sword, by the way, was not a tool for punishment, but a weapon of deadly force. To assault them is to challenge civilization, challenge the government, and challenge the authority of God Himself.
God ordained the thin blue line to preserve society, to protect us when we cannot protect ourselves. In the ancient days cities had walls surrounding them. At night the walls were manned with watchmen and the gates were locked. The city slept in peace because the walls kept the evil away from their homes and families. Today, we have no physical walls, but we do have a blue line that patrols our world and keeps the evil away from our homes and families. At night I lock my door knowing that the locks will not really keep the bad guys out. But, it will slow them down while the blue line responds to protect its citizen.
The thin blue line. You can mock them, scream at them, hate them, and curse them to their face. But, at night when you go to bed they are the ones that keep your world safe from anarchy. If you doubt that total anarchy is only one very thin blue line away, remember New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina. Civilization lost that day and the world was in anarchy.
I am not arguing that the police are perfect. They are no more perfect than you or I. I am saying that there are many ways to address a grievance, but killing a minister of God is NOT one of them.
God will hold accountable those who assault the thin blue line. If this is war, it is a war with your Creator.
David Lawson – Author, Pastor/Teacher, Former Atlanta Police Officer
by BJ | Apr 8, 2016 | Bible Studies, Life
Remember playing hide and seek as a kid? The games could go on for hours. You didn’t want to be found, at least right away, but you wanted them looking for you. It was “Look for me! Look for me! But, don’t find me too quickly.”
Sometimes people think God is like that. They see Him as the cosmic hide and seek master, and Jeremiah 29:13 as His mantra “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”
If we try really really hard, maybe we will find Him and connect with Him in some way. But, that is not the way the God behaves!
But, in the context of Jeremiah 29:13 (the immediate context starts back in verse 10 and goes through 14) God is saying that at the end of the 70 years of captivity in Babylon you will seek after Me and I will reveal myself to you. In other words, I will turn your hearts to seek Me and I will make certain you find Me.
God is the God who refuses to hide Himself
God wants you to know Him. From the beginning of human history He has been revealing Himself. Before Adam and Eve sinned God walked with them in the garden (Genesis 3:8-11). Now, you would expect this, they were after all His creation. But, what happens next in the story is what makes me stop and wonder. God refused to hide Himself from them AFTER they sinned. Adam and Eve only had one rule, one law to obey in the garden and they broke it. But, even after they sinned God sought them out. And He has been revealing Himself ever since.
With Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob the name was God Almighty. He revealed Himself as the almighty God, the protector and sustainer (Exodus 6:2-3). He was a shield to Abraham (Genesis 15:1). He was the promise keeper and interpreter of dreams to Joseph. He was the one present with Joseph, Joshua, and Samuel, and David.
God is always revealing Himself to us
He revealed Himself in a burning bush to Moses and told him to challenge Pharaoh. In Exodus 6 we catch just glance of the intensity with which God reveals Himself.
God spoke further to Moses and said to him, “Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel,
‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. (Exodus 6:6-7)
God said He revealed Himself as God Almighty to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob but to Moses and the nation of Israel He is going to reveal Himself by His personal name, Yahweh or Yhwh, the word we translate as LORD.
How is He going to reveal Himself? He will deliver them from their bondage (Exodus 6:6-7). Their freedom is how they will know that He is God. God’s deliverance becomes the revelation to the people of Israel. In the story of the Exodus God declares at least 13 more times in the next six chapters that the miracles or plagues He brings on Egypt are for one reason only – so that Egypt, Israel, the rest of the world would know that the LORD alone is God.
This is important. The plagues were not because God needed to convince Pharaoh to let Israel go. God did not need Pharaoh’s permission. God is capable of accomplishing His will without the okay of any king. God’s purpose was to reveal Himself.
God’s actions revealed His existence and His character! Who God is was seen in what God did!
I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea that as Christians we should discover who we were created to be. We will never understand who we are aside from understanding Who created us. And, the good news is that God is always in the business of revealing Himself. He refuses to be hidden.
What steps can you take to understand the God who refuses to be hidden?
This sounds terribly simple, but the Bible is the Word of God. It is His revelation of Himself to us. By reading and studying the Scriptures you will see the revelation of God Himself to you.
Mark references to God in your Bible.
As you are reading draw a triangle around each reference to God and shade it yellow. The symbol and color are just a suggestion, but marking God as you read the Bible is a personal charge from me to you. Marking as you read slows you down and makes you pay close attention to the text. The results are amazing. You will see things you have never noticed before and ponder things you had only breezed by.
In a journal keep a list of what you are learning about God from your study or reading. There is no need to list every little detail, just list some of the things you see. God will guide you as write.
In your journal keep a very specific list of the things you see God in your life and the world around you. Over and over in Scripture the actions of God prove the character of God. Watch for His actions in your life. Note, what God did, when and where He did it. The journal will become a testimony for you, your children, and your grandchildren to the faithfulness of God.
Every few months review your notes. Take time to remember an enjoy what God has done in your life.
God is the God who refuses to be hidden. Watch for His hand at work in your life. He is working everywhere, but sometimes our eyes are too blind to see, our ears too dull hear Him. But taking time and being intentional you will be amazed at the revelation going on all around you.