Running With the Horses

By Jennifer Hallmark

Jeremiah.

The Weeping prophet.

A man commanded by God not to marry or have children. Scorned by many because of his message of doom he continually cried out to the people of Israel.

A man on a mission.

Why do I consider Jeremiah my favorite book in the Bible? His genuineness and honesty. I see a man who was real and obeyed God. Jeremiah showed compassion toward his homeland, Israel, and yet wasn’t afraid to address the rulers, priests, and false prophets who had led the people into idolatry. He was called as a youth and admitted trying to avoid the call but couldn’t.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations. Then said I: ‘Ah, Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth.'” Jeremiah 1: 5 NKJV

“Then I said, ‘I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name.’
But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not.'” Jeremiah 20:9 NKJV

As a writer, Jeremiah’s words are beautiful, full of melancholy, yet memorable. He uses repetition and symbolism throughout the book, along with poetry. He thinks and feels deeply.

My love of this book increased after reading Eugene H. Peterson’s book, Run with the Horses: The Quest for Life at its Best. This study parallels the book of Jeremiah to our lives today. Here’s a little more about it…

In Jeremiah 12:5, God says to the prophet, “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?” 

We all long to live life at its best–to take freedom and spontaneity with purpose and meaning. Why then do we often find our lives so humdrum, so unadventuresome, so routine? Or else so frantic, so full of activity, but still devoid of fulfillment? How do we learn to risk, to trust, to pursue wholeness and excellence–to run with the horses in the jungle of life?

In a series of profound reflections on the life of Jeremiah the prophet, Eugene Peterson explores the heart of what it means to be fully and genuinely human. His writing is full of humor and self-reflection, insight and wisdom, helping to set a course for others in the quest for life at its best.

As a rule, I’m cautious and reserved but I read this book at a time when I was newer to writing and it helped me move forward when I wasn’t sure I could.

This year, I’ve been reading through the Old Testament and in August I came to Jeremiah. I’m reminded again why I love this beautifully written, hauntingly sad reflection penned in a day and time when false peace covered the land.

A time much like today.

Who among us will cry out against injustice today?

Who is willing to run with the horses?

Click to tweet: Why do I consider Jeremiah my favorite book in the Bible? #BibleStudy #amwriting

Writing prompt: Leila stopped. Once again the neighbor across the street had pulled up her sign proclaiming God is Love. What was his problem? This was her yard. She…

Freedom, Focus and Joy in Philippians

By Lisa Worthey Smith

Which book of the Bible is my favorite? The one I am studying at the time! No matter how many times I have read or studied any book or section of His Word, God always presents a new and fresh application for my life at that moment. There is one book that I tend to re-read pretty often.

Freedom

Philippians is the first book of the Bible that I studied in-depth, so it has an extra special place in my heart. With threads of joy woven throughout, it is the favorite of many and a great place to spend some time.

God spoke to me in the very first chapter (verse 6) about His faithfulness – “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” At the time I was struggling with not being good enough, perhaps even failing in my responsibilities and He gave me this personal note of freedom right there in the first verses!

Then, in the third chapter all the success and failures of the past and present, simply vanished when I looked at Paul’s comment about his own resume’. He was so proud of his righteous, law-abiding resume’ until he met Christ. Then he threw out his “righteousness” in exchange for righteousness from God through faith! While I knew that in theory, it became very real to me when Paul explained his experience. That’s part of the beauty of Philippians. Paul used his life as a relatable example.

I realized that my life was more than what I cooked for dinner, my job description, my parenting efforts, how my hair looked, what my house was like, my clothes, or any other goal of perfection I may have sought before. Any reward for those goals would be short-lived and of little lasting value. My mission became to walk in a manner worthy of what Christ did for me, to share that good news with all those around me, no matter where I was.

Focus

Paul finished that passage with an encouragement to press on. If his life was a race toward a goal, the finish line was heaven, and he was diligently reaching out toward that finish line. Not to end his life quickly, but to live it in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ…standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel 1:27” No distractions, no detours, no slacking off, but moving forward toward heaven, remembering that Christ paid my sin debt so that I could gain entrance.

Like Paul, during the study of Philippians, I determined that my life focus would be to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel that Christ paid for my entrance into heaven. Every aspect of my life simplified when I took on this “eternal perspective.”

Then, there are those days…you know the ones I mean…the days when worry, and dread, and even fear, creep into my heart and mind and I get bogged down, and even wallow (think pig in muddy pit) in discouragement, robbed of all joy.

Paul knew about those days too. In the fourth chapter he reminds us to

1 – Give it to Him  – “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

2 – He will guard your heart and mind“And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

3 – Remember His goodness “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

Paul’s remedy for the battle in our mind? Get out of the muddy pit, give it to God, and get focused.

Joy

Peace with God (and of God) allowed Paul to retain his joy – not just peace, but joy – in all circumstances, even while he was in prison and likely to die soon. His freedom and focus allowed him to keep his eternal perspective so that he could look death in the face and proclaim…“But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.” Philippians 2:17

So, you and I can rejoice and press on today and all our remaining days, to encourage others to find freedom, and focus, and joy, in their race to the finish line!

“Brethren… one thing I do:

forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

 Philippians 3:14

Click to tweet: Philippians has threads of joy woven throughout. #Bible #Faith

Writing prompt – The words that changed my heart, and direction of my life….


Lisa Worthey Smith

Lisa is a long-time Bible study leader and author of Oscar the Extraordinary Hummingbird (voted in the 50 Indie Books Worth Reading for 2016), a non-fiction account of a severely injured hummingbird she rehabilitated, and her own time of suffering. It includes a Study Guide with lessons on suffering in the life of a Christian.

Her newest work, The Wisdom Tree, scheduled to be released fall 2017, is the parable of an olive tree planted in the Garden of Gethsemane for a special purpose during the time of Jesus. He is fed nutrients (Scripture) by his wise worm-friend, Herm, and tenderly cared for by the Master of the garden. There are questions about our relationship with God and basic Christianity at the end of each chapter with Scripture answers in a Study Guide at the end – suitable for book clubs, homeschool, small group study, or personal growth.

Lisa, her husband, and their 21 pounds of cuteness wrapped in a Schnauzer suit, live in north Alabama.

 

 

Genesis – Back to the Beginning

By Tammy Trail

Our family was never big on going to church. We did attend a local Lutheran church down the street  for an occasional Sunday School class, or Vacation Bible School during the summer breaks. I learned about Jesus through this sporadic exposure to the Bible.

In 1994, when I worked as a paraprofessional at a local grade school, I was invited by a small group of teachers to join their Bible study group. Just like all things that are meant to happen for a reason, it changed my life and set me on my path of true healing.

Our first study was a survey of the Old Testament. My love of history and genealogy made the book of Genesis my favorite Old Testament book. Granted there are parts of this narrative that have always made me scratch my head, but what great stories of  God’s promises to his  people.

Examples of incredible faith are found in the pages of this book. Of course, Creation is the main story everyone remembers from the book of Genesis, but you’ll also find plenty of heroes and heroines. This is the beginning history of God’s chosen people, the Hebrew nation.

The story of Abraham and Sarah is a great testament of faith, and obedience. What an adventure God sent them on, and all the while he blessed them with wealth, knowledge, protection, and wisdom. Noah is a favorite of my grandsons now. I asked my four-year-old grandson, Kayden why he thought it was good to remember Noah. He didn’t know, so I told him that Noah listened to God and did what God told him. That is why we remember Noah. Kayden told me he wants to listen to God too. Yep, I’m starting them young!

Who could forget the story of Jacob? His story reminds me of the soap operas on daytime television not so long ago, the exception being that God was involved with Jacob’s life. Jacob’s youngest son, Joseph, had an equally amazing story to tell. God’s fingerprints were all over this young man from the very beginning. He had set a plan in motion from the time Joseph was born. I especially like Josephs’ story.

Everyone usually associates Joseph with his coat of many colors gifted to him by his father, Jacob. Like Joseph, my life growing up was not all roses and sunshine, and having excuses to hold grudges or unforgiveness was understandable. God had other plans for me, just like he did for Joseph. Forgiveness can be a learned experience, and blessings may come out of following God’s plan for it.

 I have continued to learn from studying my Bible. I confess I don’t do it as much as I should these days, but I will always be grateful for the invitation to attend that first small group Bible study. It set me on a good path.

Click to tweet: A small group Bible study changed my life and set me on my path of true healing. #Bible #smallgroups

Writing Prompt: Fanny Mae wanted to stay home on this rainy, chilly day. Her only reason to go out was she didn’t want to get behind in the Bible study of …………

Ease on Down the Romans Road

By Carlton Hughes

On a warm Sunday morning nineteen years ago, I knelt to pray to receive Christ as my Savior. When the service ended I left the church as if floating on a cloud. What a feeling! I knew my life was changed forever, and I figured the rest of that life would be filled with sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows.

Boy, was I wrong.

Mind you, choosing to serve Christ was the best decision I have ever made and is the only way to live, but even Jesus said we would have trouble in this world. My transition into the Christian life was not easy—it took a while for me to figure it out. I’m actually still figuring it out, and one thing that has helped me is reading the book of Romans.
As I stumbled through those first few months of my new life, I didn’t know where to begin in reading the Bible. Someone suggested I read Romans, and I dug in. I found it’s a powerful book on how to live the Christian life.

The richest chapter that I latched onto was Romans 8. The first verse I ever memorized was verse 2—For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from sin and death—but there are so many more that provide insight and direction.

Further in Romans 8, I found that the sufferings of our present life cannot even be compared to the glory that will be revealed in us (verse 18). Just think, our current troubles will pale in comparison to what lies ahead. What a promise! On and on there are rich nuggets of wisdom, reminding me God is for me and not against me and nothing can separate me from His love.

I could go on and on, and I toyed with the idea of copying and pasting the whole book into this blog post. But then the administrators would complain the post was too long and not tweetable. Suffice to say, if you need some encouragement and direction, get yourself over to Romans.

Click to tweet: Salvation on the Romans road. #faith #Bible

WRITING PROMPT: Think back to your salvation experience. What struggles did you have? Find a verse in the book of Romans and relate it to your life.

My Favorite Book of Bible Is…

The Holy Bible is made up of sixty-six books, including history, poetry, prophecy, the gospels, and letters…in three languages, written by numerous authors, inspired by God.

It’s called the Word of God. No other book has lasted as long, or sold as well. During the month of August, the Writing Prompts Crew will discuss their favorite books of the Bible. We hope you’ll join the conversation. Comment and ask questions. Tell us your favorite(s) – quote a beloved scripture – let us know why you love the passage.

My favorite book will come as no surprise to those who know me. Ruth is situated between Judges and 1 Samuel. The lead character is not Hebrew, she’s a convert to Judaism. She loves her mother-in-law, Naomi, like a mother–well enough that she takes Naomi’s faith and promises to stay beside her in one of the most quoted passages of the Bible.

But Ruth said, “Don’t force me to leave you; don’t make me go home. Where you go, I go; and where you live, I’ll live. Your people are my people, your God is my god; where you die, I’ll die, and that’s where I’ll be buried, so help me God—not even death itself is going to come between us! Ruth 1:16-17 The Message Bible

The calling of God was so strong in Ruth’s heart, she felt compelled to go.

Click to Tweet: She gave up everything to follow, but look what she gained in return. #BookofRuth #BibleStudy

Ruth’s story may seem like a romantic tale, but it’s so much more. It’s a foreshadowing, a type, both symbolic and prophetic. In Ruth, we see the story of God’s grace and redemption. When she found her way to the fields owned by Boaz (a type of Christ), the kinsman redeemer, he offered his protection. He invited her to drink of his servants’ water, and dine at their table.

Sound familiar? I’m reminded of the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus offered her living water. I’m reminded of the marriage supper of the Lamb. I’m reminded that you can’t always see what lies ahead. You can’t know that what you’re leaving behind is nothing compared to what God has in mind for your future. If you will trust Him, He will lead you to it.

This is the message of the book of Ruth. It’s a foreshadowing of the walk of faith–giving up our old lives for what God has planned.

I did a two-part study of the book of Ruth on my personal blog, if you’re interested: Beyond the Book of Ruth and Ruth’s Legacy.

Kinsman Redeemer The book of Ruth is the inspiration for my Kinsman Redeemer series, which includes Annabelle’s Ruth and Sutter’s Landing, and will continue in a third installment. Annabelle is the Naomi character in the story. Her daughter-in-law, Connie, is Annabelle’s Ruth. Because of my love for the story of Ruth, I thoroughly enjoyed writing this story.

I’ve continued to study the book of Ruth, and I’m amazed that with each new read, I learn something more. But that’s kind of standard with the Holy Bible, isn’t it?


Instead of a writing prompt, do you have a question about the book of Ruth? Have you read something in the book that inspired you? Who is your favorite character in the book?

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