If you’re wondering what God is doing in the world … and in our lives

Once upon a time …
just four months ago, actually,
in this living room where I’m now sitting
there began ….
not a fairy tale.
But a story of promises fulfilled,
hope renewed,
faith foundations fortified.

December 2013. I was searching for the “perfect” study for our newly-formed small group to use in the coming months. With no idea what to suggest, I prayed for brilliant ideas.

Sometime during that week, I stumbled across a website by a man who does yearly Bible read-thrus. Every January, he issues a challenge to readers to join him reading through the Bible – in four months!

I read his challenge and could not forget it. I wanted to do it.

But such an intense reading schedule seemed like a daunting task to present to very busy people. Sometimes we even had trouble finding times to meet.

So I gave my group the information and the website link along with three other possible studies and asked them to consider which of the four they would like to do.

The next week, the vote was unanimous: Bible Read-Thru in four months!

That astonished me. I was flabbergasted when they said, “We want to do it.” I thought we’d all be too busy to commit to such a thing. But, like me, they had been grabbed by the excitement of what could happen.

We were going to do it! Yippee!


And so we began on January 1.

Now, what word conveys “Yippee!” times ten … or times one hundred?

I have yet to think of a word to fully describe what the last three months have been for us as we’ve read through God’s Word together.

But I want to tell you about this intense experience because it’s a blessing we would wish for every child of God. (And it’s also why you haven’t seen many posts from me recently.)

Keith Ferrin schedules these read-thru challenges each year from January to April. You may not want to wait until January 2015 to do this, because I will guarantee you that you can start this right now and it will be every bit as powerful as joining his BRT in 2015.


Here are the three guidelines for Keith’s BRT challenge:

Commit to read the Bible through in four months. Seems like a big bite to chew, doesn’t it? But about 45 minutes a day will get you there.

Read and note. Record thoughts and inspirations in a journal (paper or digital) or highlight as you read.

Talk about it. That is, make the commitment with others. Read. Then get together once a week and simply talk about how God’s Word has spoken to each of you in that week’s reading. You’ll be amazed, inspired, and energized by this sharing.

May I add two more things that have meant so much to me? —

Each day, ask the Spirit for new eyes and ears as you read. Do you wonder how the old, familiar passages could possibly have new things for you to hear and see? Try it ….

Read the Bible chronologically. Some things make more sense (and have more meaning ) when you read them in chronological order.


What will happen if you plunge into a Bible read-thru?

I cannot predict exact details of what will happen in your group. God will have for you exactly what you need. I am certain of that.

I can tell you some of the things that have happened to me.

* I’m walkin’ around these days, overwhelmed by the hugeness of what God’s Word says to us. And since I am a writer by mission, my thoughts now are, How can I ever capture this, write the wonder and excitement and hope of it all? I will spend the rest of my life trying …

* Familiar Scriptures open up in new dimensions, and, believe it or not, even in books like Leviticus and Obadiah, we saw new things, hearing words of God that breathed into our lives today.

* In this season of Lent, I want more of the one relationship that is life to me. The One I call Lord is showing Himself to me in a new way. I see Him now as He walked into our history to say, “I’ve come to tell you what God is doing.” (And by the way, you do realize He is alive today, right?)

* I am in awe of God’s persistent call, generation after generation, for people to come back to Him and find LIFE. A history of nations that is God’s plan to draw the world to Himself also becomes incredibly personal.

One example. And then I will try to close this post, I promise.

You’ve read the story of Simeon, the elderly, devout Jew who, in spite of God’s silence for 400 years, was holding on to the promises that God would send a Messiah. (Luke says he was “eagerly” waiting… I had to wonder if that word would apply to me when things looked rather hopeless…after 400 years.)

Simeon is not a great king David or a powerful prophet Elijah. He seems an ordinary man who knew the promises of God and made up his mind to wait and believe and hope … And somehow the Spirit of God gave him assurance that he would see the promises fulfilled; he would not die until he saw the Messiah. Wow. What a promise to keep one going!

So Simeon kept hoping and waiting… and living.

Until one day, “the Spirit led him to the Temple.” And that was the very day that Joseph and Mary appeared at the Temple to present their baby to the Lord as the traditional law required. God orchestrated the time so Simeon was there and could see his hope finally fulfilled.

This may sound like a nice little story – but it brought tears when I read it.

We’d just spent three months reading about God dealing with nations, wars, kings, and the entire history of the world. Now, after all that turbulence, we see God so tenderly and lovingly moving in one man’s life to reassure and comfort him. Simeon was an ordinary man who had tenaciously clung to God’s promises for many long years–and now God gives him a privileged preview of His Big Move. God tenderly rewarded the devotion and hope in one ordinary man’s heart!

Within God’s great love for all of His creation, He comes into every minute of each of our lives to draw us home to Himself.

This story we are reading becomes our story as we are included in all the covenant promises of God.

With all my heart, I believe I did not “stumble” on Keith’s challenge to a Bible read-thru. I believe, like Simeon being led to the Temple on one day at a one particular time, I was led through everything else on the internet to one website on one particular day because it was exactly what our small group—and each one of us individually—needed right now. (Yes, God uses the internet. And Facebook and Twitter.)


If you’re young, reading through the Bible in this way will give you God’s perspective on everything that is happening in the world around you, will give you a peek into what God is thinking and doing with nations, history, and the life of His world—and what He is doing in your own life! You’ll have solid ground on which to plant your feet as you go forward to meet whatever waits ahead. It will give you God’s gift of hope.

If you’re old, a four-month BRT shared with friends will surprise and delight and satisfy and comfort you. Scriptures you have read and treasured all of your life hold still more to be discovered! We have confirmation, again and again from our faithful God, that we have built on solid rock… and our hope is sure.

And if you are somewhere in between, juggling many things in the busiest and perhaps the most grueling part of your lives—then a BRT will shore up defenses against despair, give you new energy, and keep hope alive and shining.

To you, fellow pilgrim, child of the Lord God, I recommend a four-month read-thru of His Words.

Keith runs his BRT program from January to April. But don’t wait for him to do another. Do your own. Now. Get two or three friends to join you and get started. I can guarantee the journey will be just as powerful in May or August or October.

And I know, I know, that in ways far beyond anything you expect or hope for, God will bless the reading of His Word.


Keith offers a free chronological reading outline and gives us permission to share it. I’ll be happy to forward it to you.

If you do a read-thru, let me know some of the wonderful things that come of it!

Here’s the post that began it all for our group:

The 4-Month Challenge That Could Change Everything

And a p.s. promise–

Next month I’ll be back to a more normal routine in posting here — after Revelation!

The Sword of the Spirit

The Scripture was so accurate, I laughed aloud.

Psalm 119:25
I lie in the dust;
    revive me by your word.

I saw the picture immediately — me, lying face down in the dirt, too discouraged to even move. Just about as low as I could get. Almost ready to throw in the towel.

Yup, that’s how I felt that morning.

OK, I confess, before that morning, I don’t think I had ever read through the entire chapter of Psalm 119 at one sitting. Sometime long ago, I had learned the obvious fact that this is the longest chapter in the Bible. That could be why I’ve avoided sitting down and reading it, beginning to end.

I also know that every one of those 176 verses has a reference to God’s word.

God certainly got my attention by throwing that verse at me on that blue morning. As I read through all of chapter 119 (yes, I did) I began to notice all the things the Word of God does in our lives: It is a light for my path, it makes me wise, it guides my steps, it revives me (I needed that), it brings encouragement, renews my life, and leads me to joy and freedom.

Why not saturate myself with the power that does all those things?

And then my ten-year-old grandson wanted to teach me to play a new Wii game. When we were young, my siblings and I sat in front of the TV and watched Bugs Bunny blow up Yosemite Sam or Roadrunner smash Wile E Coyote. Now, two generations down, the kids are blowing up droids with a lightsaber. (Do I have those terms right?)

So on that day, I picked up the little white control thingie, trying to understand which button or movement makes me, the good guy on the screen, jump, twirl, kick, run, or change into some super-hero.

And then I discover a secret. One push at the right time on the right button shoots a shining, pulsating stream of light that looks like a sword (to my old-fashioned mind) straight toward the nasty creature advancing to attack me. I flick my wrist and … slice! slice! slice! I’ve chopped up the menace and dispensed with that danger. On to the next alien!

I was grinning as I sliced and chopped all advancing threats. (Oh dear, that’s a horrible thing for a Mennonite pacifist to admit!)  But I was smiling because, in the middle of that Wii game, the Spirit was reminding me:  “This is exactly what the Scriptures can do to all those things that attack you.”

Eph 6:17
Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

The Spirit lives in me, and His weapon, that with which He does battle against my enemies, is the lightsaber of the Word of God. When I am under attack from things without and within, the Word can slice up and dispatch those threats.

The Word fights our discouragement, our doubt, our fears, our tendency toward envy and jealousy and anger and malice, our insecurities, our pride, our lack of faith, our blindness, our stubbornness, our bitterness, our hunger, our cynicism, our forgetfulness of God … I could go on and on.

All of those things that Satan, hoping for our defeat, sends to attack us, the Spirit can vanquish. His weapon is the Word.

Put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil … Take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.




Scripture: Ephesians 6:13,17

Recommended Read: Psalm 18 is one of my favorites. It begins with the writer entangled by the ropes of death, overwhelmed, caught in a trap, helpless. He cries out to God, who dramatically comes to save him, and then God arms him with strength, trains him for battle, gives him a shield of victory. The psalm ends with the writer saying he chased down his enemies and struck them down, put his foot on their necks, ground them fine as dust, and swept them into the gutter like dirt. What a victory story!

Spirit, give us those victories, too!

Hear the voice of someone who loves you

Someone dear to me was caught in a storm of conflicts that had been going on for weeks. I was a thousand miles away, but I called to see how she was doing. I could hear her voice break as she said, “It’s so good to hear the voice of someone who loves me.”

This post is for those who need to hear the voice of someone who loves them.

When we are feeling battered, overwhelmed, besieged, brokenhearted, trampled … often we need only two things: to hear how much God loves us and to know how He cares for those He loves.

And the one place you will hear that is in the Scriptures. I know that we sometimes seek comfort in other people, in music, in distracting activity, in … all sorts of things. But the one lifeline that can reach to the depth of our pain or worry or despair or exhaustion is the Word of God, the very words of the One who made you, speaking to you through the Scriptures.

If you feel like your boat has capsized and you’re drowning today, you need to know that

…unfailing love surrounds those who trust the LORD.   (Psalm 32:10)

God tells us over and over again that He loves us. He comes to our rescue. He cares about the brokenhearted. He provides protection and refuge. And it’s all there, in the Word that gives us hope.

You are my refuge and my shield;
   your word is my source of hope.
(Psalm 119:114)

Once you start looking, you’ll find God’s promises and assurances and comfort everywhere in Scripture. I was going to use some of my favorites, but then I had far too long a list. So, I’ll give the references at the end of this post. Read the Scriptures yourself, and hear the voice of one who loves you.

The verses from Psalms say we are always under God’s watchful eye. He will be our refuge, our rescue. Isaiah’s passages talk about God never leaving us, holding our hand, answering our cries for help, making us strong. You are mine, He says, and I will be with you.

The LORD says, “I will rescue those who
        love me,
    I will protect those who trust in my name.
When they call on me, I will answer.
    I will be with them in trouble.
    I will rescue and honor them.”
(Psalm 91:14-15)

Our Father has promised that when you walk through the fire you will not be burned or when the floods threaten to wash you away, He will be with you, holding you fast (Is. 43:1-2), because you belong to Him!

And during those times, it is so good to hear the voice of Someone who loves you.


This is just a short list of some of my favorites. But it’s a place to start when you don’t know where to go. And don’t stop with Psalms and Isaiah! The Spirit will have passages just for you in your time of trouble.

Psalm 9:10; Psalm 13:5; Psalm 16:1, 8; All of Psalm 18; All of Psalm 25; Psalm 27:4-5; Psalm 31:2,4; Psalm 33:18-22; Psalm 34:17-18; Psalm 44:5; Psalm 62; Psalm 73:23-26; Psalm 77:14; Psalm 84:5-7; all of Psalm 91; Psalm 103:11-14, 17; Psalm 119:76; Psalm 143:3-4,6; Isaiah 40:29-31; Isaiah 41:10, 12-14, 17-18; Isaiah 43:1,2; Isaiah 43:18-19; Isaiah 53:5; Isaiah 57:15; Isaiah 58:9,11; Isaiah 61:1-3; Lamentations 3:19-25