Tag Archives: Bible Study

Burnout

In a recent therapy session, we talked about everything going on in the world.  From pandemics and protests to family and the daily stresses in life.  It can be so overwhelming, and my therapist replied, “That’s why self-care is important.  It means taking care of yourself so you can be 100% when opportunities that really matter come along, instead of only having 50% to give.”

This reminded me of a story that Jesus told his disciples.  The story begins in Matthew 25:

“At that time, the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.  Five of them were foolish and five were wise.  The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them.  The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

“At midnight, the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

“‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

“Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’

 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you; I don’t know you.’

“Therefore, keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”

Matthew 25:1-14

It sounds like Jesus favors the prepared, but what does it mean to be prepared for the kingdom of God?  I don’t think it means keeping a lamp burning and a pantry full of oil jars.  Look at the previous verses:

“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns.  Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.  But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Matthew 24:45-51

We aren’t just sitting and waiting, but we are called to take care of the things God has put in our charge.  Friends, family, community.  And sometimes these things can come in the form of unexpected opportunities.  Like a bridegroom at midnight.

I think that the burning lamps are like our influence, our responsibilities to love others in various ways. 

And what is the oil that keeps that flame going?  My ability alone to l love isn’t sustainable, but God’s love is.  And the only way I can utilize the love of God to love others is to stay connected to Him.  I need my jar of oil to keep that lamp of love burning.  Whether it is spending time in prayer, in study, in meditation, in nature, in Holy conversation, in Spirit-led sacrifice, I must continue to remain connected to God.  Maybe that means slowing down, getting less busy, making more room, but whatever it takes, I need to stay connected.

It is vital to my survival.  Because when hard things happen, when needs arise in my community, in the places that God has entrusted to me, even in small ways, I want to give my all.  I want to lean on the strength of the Spirit to accomplish the things He has planned for me.  And I can only do that if I bring that jar, if I devote that time to keeping that light burning.

Maybe you are feeling spent, exhausted, depleted.  There is a God who is present and waiting to fill your jar with oil, to keep that light from going out.  Because the suffering and injustice will not go on forever, it is nearing midnight and bridegroom is on his way.

Bible Goals

Last year, I read all the way through the Bible.  I would like to say this goal was well thought out and planned for months before the year started.  But honestly, I was looking for a New Year devotional on my Bible App, and a “read through the Bible” option was available.  So, I was like, why not?

I’ve never actually attempted to read through the entire Bible, but I now get the appeal.  There is so much hidden in all of it.  The Kings and Chronicles books give context to the minor prophets who give context to the letters from Paul.  It’s all one really big picture.  And I like reading things that are all connected.

However, I don’t want to do it again this year.  Instead, I would like to try a few other types of Bible study, primarily verse mapping and memorization.  Verse mapping was introduced to me last year, though I don’t remember exactly where I read about it.  But I did copy the how-to onto a word document on my computer, so I’m excited to try it out. 

Verse mapping is basically just selecting a verse and then really digging into it.  Look at it in different translations.  Pick out certain words and check them out in the Hebrew or Greek.  Read for context.  Read for revelation.

And while I’m digging into these verses, I might as well memorize them.  I would like to memorize a few books of the Bible this year.  And I’m going to go easy with the first one and pick a book with one or two chapters in it.  Build up my confidence. 

In addition to all of this, I want to do shorter, topical or seasonal devotionals.  There are a few I have in book form, but most of them will probably be from my Bible app.  And of course, whatever I find neat or insightful, I plan to share with you all throughout the year – whether from the verse mapping or devotionals.

Looking forward to digging deep in 2020! 

Genesis 2:3


Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

Genesis 2:3 (NIV)

I thought this would be an appropriate verse to enter into the sort of Sabbath I’m doing this month, taking a break from blogging for a bit.

It can never be said enough how important rest can be. And yet, rest always seems to be last on the list. Or, if I do manage to get rest, I tend to feel guilty afterwards because I could have been doing things.

To be transparent, I struggled with this idea of resting for the month of May, even though I have done it in years past. I love writing, but I also know that I can burn out with the best of them. And it can be weeks past the burnout before I even know that I have burned out. Because I just keep moving from one checked box to the next until I break.

America doesn’t really do rest well. We aren’t taught how to rest in school or church. Colleges don’t encourage rest on transcripts. Every hour is filled with extra curricular or community service or productive hobbies (the kind that can make you a little extra money on the side). And as an adult, I find myself patterning my life in a similar way.

So, this month, I’m going to try to rest. God did it. And after he rested, he continued on with his creative work. Rest is not the end. It’s a continuing. So, I choose to embrace it, and I will talk to you again next month.

1 John 4:10-11

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.

I John 4:10-11 (NIV)

Somewhere in my childhood, I learned about the meaning of retaliation. If I hurt someone else, then they will hurt me. And it might come when I least expect it. They could hold this hurt over me until they deemed that I had paid for it.

So, I embraced it for myself. Retaliation seemed like a way to hurt someone else so they would never hurt me again. Though, really, it didn’t seem like the hurt ever really stopped, but instead just kept cycling.

This verse is saying that retaliation, or punishment, is sourced from fear. That fear I knew well. But there is a perfect love can drive out that fear, leaving forgiveness. It ends the cycle.

And this love that enables me to forgive others doesn’t come from being a really awesome person. In fact, I doubt I could really forgive well without the Holy Spirit guiding me through it. It is the love of Christ that teaches us how to forgive, a love that pours into our spirit so that it can overflow into the people around us. The ones who need to experience compassion, forgiveness, and a respite from fear so they can be freed from their own cycle of pain, retaliation, and punishment.

Psalm 37:7

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Psalm 37:7 (NIV)

This verse feels like the opposite of the American reaction to adversity. The “pull yourself up by your bootstraps and outwit the enemy” mentality. Instead this Psalm encourages stillness and putting trust in God, letting go of jealousy.

We want to see the bad guys lose, the underdogs win, but it doesn’t always happen that way. And we get frustrated. But we don’t understand the bigger plan the way God does.

Ultimately, there is a bigger picture. Whether we are called to be still or called to move forward, whether or not we overcome the obstacles and defeat the adversaries, may we continually wait on the Lord, be still in his presence and put our trust in him.

Psalm 143:8-10


Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
    for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
    for to you I entrust my life.
Rescue me from my enemies, Lord,
    for I hide myself in you.
1Teach me to do your will,
    for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
    lead me on level ground.

Psalm 143:8-10

Since we just celebrated Valentine’s Day, I wanted to do something that had to do with love this week. What better love story than the one between David and God. David pours his heart out in these Psalms. In some, he is angry and in others, he is praising the name of the Lord.

In this Psalm, David is being pursued by an enemy. I’m not sure when in his life he wrote this particular one. It could have been when Saul was after him, or when he was fighting in many of the wars during his reign, or when his own son was pursuing him. But he comes back to the Lord in this time of need.

I like that first stanza, “Let the morning bring word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.” I imagine David is going to sleep after a long, hard day of fighting or fleeing. He sets up camp and before he closes his eyes, these words are on his lips. This trust isn’t completely blind. David remembers the things God has done for him in the past. But it is a trust that walks out into the darkness without knowing what is there.

But even in that darkness of the unknown, David continues his song proclaiming that God is with him, showing him the way he should go and leading him on solid ground. That is faith. It’s knowing in the unknown that God is there.

I am so thankful for a God who walks with us in the low places, in the unknown parts, and even at times in the darkness. He is the light of unfailing love that will continue to show us the way home.

Psalm 10

Why, Lord, do you stand far off?
    Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

Psalm 10:1

I like this Psalm because it seems to be working through a problem. It starts out with this question. Sometimes it feels like God is so far away. In my darkest times, my lowest points, my prayer is always that God draws near. The feeling of being forsaken is, in my opinion, one of the worst.

The psalm goes on to describe the wicked who seem to get away with everything:

In his arrogance, the wicked man hunts down the weak,
    who are caught in the schemes he devises.
He boasts about the cravings of his heart;
    he blesses the greedy and reviles the Lord.
In his pride the wicked man does not seek him;
    in all his thoughts there is no room for God.
His ways are always prosperous;
    your laws are rejected by him;
    he sneers at all his enemies.
 He says to himself, “Nothing will ever shake me.”
    He swears, “No one will ever do me harm.”
His mouth is full of lies and threats;
    trouble and evil are under his tongue.
He lies in wait near the villages;
    from ambush, he murders the innocent.
His eyes watch in secret for his victims;
    like a lion in cover he lies in wait.
He lies in wait to catch the helpless;
    he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net.
His victims are crushed, they collapse;
    they fall under his strength.
He says to himself, “God will never notice;
    he covers his face and never sees.”

Psalm 10:2-13

Even though I don’t consider myself wicked (I mean, who does?), this is also convicting me. No, I’m not catching people in nets, but do I reject the laws of God at times? Do I lean towards prosperity and security instead of dependence on God? Are there thoughts or actions I do in secret thinking no one will know so what is the harm? I may not be actively oppressing anyone, but am I trying to help them? If I’m not part of the solution, doesn’t that make me complicit as part of the problem?

But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted;
    you consider their grief and take it in hand.
The victims commit themselves to you;
    you are the helper of the fatherless.
Break the arm of the wicked man;
    call the evildoer to account for his wickedness
    that would not otherwise be found out.
1The Lord is King for ever and ever;
    the nations will perish from his land.
You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;
    you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
    so that mere earthly mortals
    will never again strike terror.

Psalm 10:14-18

By the end of the Psalm, the writer acknowledges the truth. That God is forever and “nations will perish.” God will redeem the broken and the hurt of the world. Terror will end. Oppression will end. The wrong will be made right.

And if you are hurting and you feel isolated and ignored, here is the truth. You are seen. You are heard. You are not forgotten. And you are not alone.

Comforting: Finding Purpose

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”  – John 9:1-5

When bad things happen, a very common question is “why”.  Whether it’s in search of a scientific answer or a spiritual one, we want an answer.  An answer that can hopefully avoid any further suffering or horrible outcome.  And something that can make us feel better in the meantime.

In Jesus’s time, a lot of people thought suffering was a direct consequence of sin.  In John 9, his disciples reveal this line of thinking when they approached a man who had been born blind.  Who sinned?  His parents or would it be something the man did in his lifetime?

But Jesus flips that script.  Instead, he responds, this happened that the “works of God might be displayed in him.”  And then he heals the man.  It turns out the wrong question was being asked.

Instead of why it should be “what must I do?”  Not what must I do so I don’t suffer, but what must I do in the midst of suffering.  Just like when a job is handed to you or a new life stage, any major event good or bad, I believe as a Christian that it is my responsibility to respond with “What would you have me do with this?”  It’s when I ask that question and seek out the answer with open eyes and heart that I get to see God work through the suffering to reach others.

That man woke up that day not knowing the miracle that he would get to experience.  We don’t know what is in store for us in this life.  But good or bad, I know that God can give purpose to it all.

Comforting: Seeing the Bigger Picture

Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.”  – Job 42:3

Job had lost everything.  His money, children, reputation, even his marriage was rocky.  And his friends that came to encourage him ended up heaping more coals on the fire by blaming him for all of his misfortune.  Job continuously cries out to God, but only hears the accusations of his friends.

Until the end of the book.  God shows up and speaks to Job.  He reminds Job just who He is and what he has done and can do.  Job realizes that he can’t see the bigger picture, but God can.  And God is working continuously for good of those who love him (Romans 8:28).  All He asks is that we trust.

It’s comforting to know that the Creator of the universe loves me and wants the best for me.  That He is at the helm, in the ultimate control, and He can see the horizons much better than I can.  He is painting with each stroke, knowing that it will end up His greatest masterpiece.

Comforting: Won’t Be Forsaken

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.  – Deuteronomy 31:8

It was the end of Moses’s life and the end of his time as the leader of Israel.  After he gave a little pep talk to the people, he called Joshua, his successor, in for a private meeting where he uttered the above words.  Joshua was going to lead the people of Israel into the promised land, fight battles, lose battles, see the people fall away and turn back to God.  And through it all, Moses says, God will never leave him.

God is always with us.  I think it is a good practice to look for God no matter what my life circumstances may be.  It’s easier after a win to believe God is with you, but I think it’s just as important to see him during the losses as well.

After my first daughter passed away, I prayed that God would make his presence obvious to me.  And he did.  In the many messages that I received from friends and family, from the nurses and doctors who showed me complete compassion to simple things like a sunrise.  To know that the almighty, powerful God would stoop down to comfort me was a miraculous blessing.  I knew that no matter what happened, I could curl up in the arms of my Heavenly Father and cry out to him.

Through both the good times and the bad, God is there.  And in that, I take great comfort.