What Does the Bible Say About Retirement?

Retirement is often perceived as a well-earned reward after a long career. The sudden influx of disposable time unlocks many opportunities to pursue life’s pleasures. Travel more. Golf each morning. Set off in an RV across America.

However, is that a cultural or biblical concept of retirement?

The word “retire” is mentioned only once in Scripture, appearing exclusively in the NIV translation:

The Lord said to Moses, “This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the tent of meeting, but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the tent of meeting, but they themselves must not do the work. This, then, is how you are to assign the responsibilities of the Levites” Numbers 8:23-26 (NIV).

The Levites were responsible for all aspects of the worship of God, mainly service of the tent of meeting (Tabernacle) and later in the Temple. Only Levite males ages 25-50 were assigned this God-given responsibility.

After age 50, the older men transitioned to serving outside the Tabernacle and Temple. Their responsibilities changed but did not end. They were not exempt from their time of service in later years just because the younger generations stepped up.

Where Did Our Concept of Retirement Originate?

Historically, people worked as long as they were able due to economic necessity. It was common for several generations of a family to live under one roof so that they could pool resources and look after each other. Their life span was shorter. If people could no longer work, they usually died not long after.

Photo by Abbilyn Zavgorodniaia on Unsplash

Retirement originated mainly in the United States around the 1950s and is predominantly an American concept. As America gained wealth and developed better medical care, increased food supply, and more accessible transportation, the elderly lived longer. Hence, their kids eventually purchased their own homes.

As Americans entered retirement age, they initially had five to ten years to enjoy travel and various relaxing pursuits before health issues (whether theirs or family members) slowed them down.

What Does 21st Century Retirement Look Like?

Due to modern medical improvements, a person may actually live in retirement as long as they worked during their career. It is not uncommon to hear of a person being retired twenty to thirty years or more.

Modern-day retirement usually focuses on hobbies or pleasures that people did not have the time or money to pursue during their working and family-raising years. The mindset shifts from contributor to consumer.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

In June 2021, I accepted early retirement from the law firm where I had worked for thirty years. At 53 years old with a six-month retirement package in hand, I had two choices: (1) tuck that away into savings and find another 9-5 job, or (2) leverage everything to follow God’s clear calling to establish a full time 501(c)(3) non-profit ministry. God clearly led me to walk through door #2 and I have not looked back.

Embarking on this good work of “retirement” (I prefer to call it my encore career) meant that I needed to understand God’s perspective about retirement for Christians. My research process began. Hence this post.

A Biblical Perspective of Retirement

The Bible was written long before retirement existed. According to the Numbers passage above, retirement focuses on a shift of work responsibilities not an end to them.

The Bible never instructs us to stop working. However, it also does not mean that we make bricks for the rest of our days. Our workdays simply look different in our golden years.

Photo by Z on Unsplash

Today’s understanding of retirement as a permanent vacation is a cultural, not a biblical concept. As Christians, our goal is to serve the living God with gladness as long as we are able.

Our encore years are the time we can use our gifts, honed skills, and experiential wisdom to serve God differently than when we worked full time.

Now that does not mean that we shouldn’t play golf or travel. However, if pleasurable pursuits fill our agenda, we can miss out on so much joy that God still has for us.

Adjusting Our Focus

Christians never truly retire – we merely adjust our focus and adapt our duties as we age. After all, gray hair does not equal diminished capacity!

My days are now filled with researching, writing, and teaching new Bible studies, speaking at retreats and conferences, mentoring the next generation, and creating new biblical literacy materials in line with Artesian Ministries’ mission statement.

As an aside, I thoroughly enjoy not getting up at 5:00 a.m. on weekdays to catch the bus going downtown. It is a delicious blessing to finally embrace my night owl tendencies and wake up naturally without a blaring alarm clock.

I have always loved to travel, but now much of it has a primary focus: leading tours to the Holy Land to walk where Jesus walked, to Germany to trace Martin Luther’s footsteps, or to Greece and Turkey to see where God used the Apostle Paul.

How Do We Seek New Opportunities to Serve?

1. Pray Through and Set a Plan.

Being good stewards of our encore career is important in all areas: time, talent, and treasure. Many older people today face difficult times and need to remain in the workforce as long as possible.

If God has provided financial security so that you can fully retire or only work part-time, it is a privilege that historically was only available to the wealthy.

Photo by Dose Media on Unsplash

Prayerful planning provides the godly purpose and focus so that we can serve the Lord with excellence. Setting a plan reveals patterns of available time in your relaxed schedule to consider new ministry opportunities to serve in different ways. I created a personal weekly planner that you may find useful at the end of this post.

The retirement planning process encourages us to seek counsel and wisdom from Christians who have already walked that path. I have learned first-hand the infinite value of their wise decisions gleaned from years of experience.

2. Schedule Your Time.

Like younger children, God’s older children benefit from structure. Retirement means flexibility, but I learned very fast that no plan often results in many purposeless days.

In those initial retirement days, I needed that schedule-free rest. However, living a life of any value that honors God means utilizing the time He has given us to help others and point people to the hope of salvation in Christ Jesus.

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

It is important to find activities that engage us spiritually, mentally, and physically. They keep our facilities sharp instead of suffering atrophy. For the first time in my life, I have embraced vegetable gardening. How satisfying!

This Fall I will be attending a daytime women’s Bible study at my church. Not to teach, just to participate, learn, and soak. Intentional soaking time in the Word is a crucial element for Christians in every stage of life.

3. Be Open to Serve in New Ways.

Perhaps that openness looks like care for others, such as transporting elderly neighbors or family members to medical appointments, mentoring a college student, or volunteering on a mission trip.

I have dear friends who now spend their days building homes for the needy. Other friends volunteer their time to train and deploy LCC’s K-9 Comfort Dogs to disaster relief areas. My church regularly goes on mission trips to Honduras and Kenya, where everyone is welcome to join.

Photo by Zach Vessels on Unsplash

Stepping out of the 9-5 rat race invites us to breathe deeply, slow our pace a bit, and open our eyes to see God’s blessings afresh. Investing time to seek God’s will and plan for our encore years is an invaluable endeavor.

The Shift from Consumer to Contributor

Resisting that cultural mindset shift from a contributor to a consumer can be challenging indeed. We can certainly choose to play the retirement card, languish in unending free time, and engage only in social functions.

However, our retirement years are both a gift and a responsibility.

There is still God’s great big mission field of good work to be done with no age limit before we receive our crown of glory.

Photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash

Armed with these godly principles for retirement will enable us to understand on a deeper personal level what the Apostle Paul meant in 1 Corinthians 15:58:

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

A quick closing thought: your retirement years may well be more spiritually significant than any other time in your life. Trust God to guide your steps and watch Him move!

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What is Maundy Thursday?

The first time I was invited to attend a Maundy Thursday service over 25 years ago, I had no clue what it was. They tried valiantly to explain the significance.

But I had to experience it first-hand to understand the true meaning.

HOLY THURSDAY

Maundy Thursday, also called Holy Thursday, recalls the events that took place the night Jesus was betrayed in the upper room.

The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke reveal how Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper for the first time. That life-altering table of forgiveness laid out for us.

JOHN’S GOSPEL FOCUSES ON SOMETHING DIFFERENT

The gospel of John hones in on Jesus’ final teachings to His disciples — this band of men who had followed Him, served Him, and witnessed three years of His ministry.

John realized that those who know their remaining time is short choose words carefully to ensure only the essential gets conveyed.

The word maundy is derived from the Latin phrase mandatum novum, meaning “new commandment.” So, what were Jesus’ instructions that night? 

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” John 13:34

SERVING JESUS REQUIRES LOVE

John doesn’t simply end his account with men enjoying a meal and hearing Jesus speak. He tells how Jesus dramatically punctuated His words with action.

In a shocking turn of events that almost sent Peter over the edge, Jesus — God in the flesh — stooped to wash the disciples’ feet. Including Judas. (A good point to keep in mind the next time we have trouble extending forgiveness.)

SERVING JESUS REQUIRES SERVING OTHERS

We can opt to serve others from a safe distance by sending money or supplies. However, serving to make a kingdom impact as His hands and feet requires us to get in close.

Get our hands dirty.

Get on our knees and pray.

Do the lowliest job.

That’s what foot washing represented in Biblical times. Only the lowest servant was relegated to the task of washing feet encased in sandals and thick desert dust. The job stunk. Literally.

That’s where Jesus meets us on Maundy Thursday — in the middle of our smelly lives.

He washes our feet in love and welcomes us to His table of forgiveness. And as we draw close, we hear Him remind us of His mandatum novum: “Love one another, just as I have loved you.”

The heart of Maundy Thursday reflects the heart of God: love.

Love instituted in a meal of forgiveness and redemption.

Love demonstrated by a foot washing, life-giving love.

If you have the opportunity to attend a Maundy Thursday service tonight, don’t miss out. It provides a beautiful glimpse into God’s everlasting love for us.

Be the Donkey

Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt (donkey) tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?” tell him, “The Lord needs it.” (Luke 19:30-31).

That donkey did not do anything special. He was simply chosen. Then he obeyed a very simple instruction: follow where the master led.

They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it” (Luke 19:35).

Scripture does not say anything else about that particular donkey. We do not see where the donkey felt that his time in the spotlight was long overdue. Or that he deserved the pomp and circumstance of that occasion. No donkey selfies.

The donkey realized that it was not about him.

It was about the Messiah that he carried: the Word who became flesh to dwell among us.

It was about the message that the Messiah came to tell: the Light of the world who came to shine hope into our darkness.

In a world obsessed with fame we need to be the donkey.

When we grab after our own glory or fifteen minutes of fame, it is helpful to remember that we are just message-carriers. The picture frame and spotlight belong only on the One who gave us the message to share: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall no perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

As we enter Holy Week today with Palm Sunday, it is vital to remember our place in the story: to hold the spotlight on Jesus. To shine the light on what He accomplished for us on the cross.

We need God-given willingness to let Him untie us from the mundane to carry His extraordinary message wherever He leads us.

The story of Easter is not about us.

We did not do anything special.

By God’s grace, we are simply chosen.

And He asks us to obey a very simple instruction: Follow Me.

We are conduits of the message – not seekers of the spotlight.

Only Jesus deserves the accolades.

Code Blue and Ash Wednesday

Once again, the darkened wee hours are startled awake as “Code Blue!” rings loud over the hospital’s ICU intercom. The staff rushes as one to battle the emergency.

I selfishly thank God that they are not rushing into mom’s room.

It’s 3am as I hear them working to save a life. As my prayers ascend each time Code Blue rings out, I know that God is already in each room.

God was in mom’s room before we were, as well. And He will be there after we are gone, whether the inhabitants acknowledge Him or not.

Prayer moves the heart of God, but faith reminds us that God is already moving.

The season of Lent begins this week with Ash Wednesday. Isaiah 53:5 tells us, “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.”

Jesus was crushed for our sin. And the most amazing thing? He did it willingly. He deliberately put Himself in harm’s way to save our lives – literally.

God positioned Jesus in a certain place and time to be the Savior of the world. Before Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we were in a spiritually life-threatening situation.

We weren’t going to make it out alive.

We were bleeding to death in our sin.

We were going to lose the fight for life.

But because our Savior stepped in to take God’s wrath on our behalf, we have been extended the extraordinary promise to have eternal life.

If you would like to ponder more deeply the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made for you and me, you can download my 4-lesson Bible study on Isaiah 53:5.

DOWNLOAD HERE.

Jesus loves us more than we can possibly imagine. God’s blessings as you travel toward Calvary during Lent.

What Does the Bible Say About Adultery and Forgiveness?

It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful” (2 Samuel 11:2, ESV).

Old Testament: King David’s Sin of Adultery

He was supposed to be out with the army. That’s what 2 Samuel 11:1 says about King David. But he decided to stay home.

He took a stroll along the rooftop and saw a beautiful young woman taking a bath. And he decided was “all in.” The rest, as they say, is history.

David lusted. Bathsheba succumbed, even though she was a married woman. David had Bathsheba’s husband Uriah murdered so he could marry her. Their sexual relationship resulted in a child. But God did not forget what took place. The price of David’s sexual immorality was the death penalty for their child.

The Collateral Damage of Adultery

So much collateral damage from one person’s act of adultery. David mistakenly thought that defiling Bathsheba’s marriage bed was above the reproach, law, or reprimand of a king.

Are you and I any different when we believe we have ultimate sovereignty over our own lives?

Adultery plagues our world today. The Ten Commandments are treated as suggestions. Whether we know a family member or friend who has suffered a wayward spouse, infidelity will likely affect every human being at one point or another. 

Teachers feel the effects and consequences of adultery in their classrooms. Kids tend to act out or their grades suffer as they process the emotional hurricane caused by their parents’ divorces. Pastors’ and counselors’ schedules stay full as they walk the victims of adultery toward God’s healing.

I do not use the word “victim” lightly. That is what adultery feels like. I know. My ex-husband was a repeat offender. The one person to whom you opened your heart, body, and mind decided on some level that you were insufficient. Whether that insufficiency stems from within or is persuaded from without, it decimates intimacy. And it decimates marriages.

What is the Definition of Adultery?

Although spiritual adultery certainly happens, I am specifically talking about sexual sins. Webster defines adultery as: “voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and someone other than that person’s current spouse.”

If you have been the victim of adultery, you struggle with your identity in the world. Discarded. Less than. Not good enough. Those labels kept me up some nights. Yet Christ Jesus has given us a much more beautiful identity. Take time to memorize these Bible verses:

  • But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12, ESV).
  • See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:1-2, ESV).

Since our identity is in Christ, extending forgiveness to someone who has committed adultery is not optional.

So How Do We Begin the Process of Extending Forgiveness?

Forgiving the deep betrayal of adultery seems impossible. It is perfectly normal to ask God how you even begin such a daunting process. Your life just exploded and all you can see is the debris. That’s when professional Christian counselors become vital.

When our emotions are screaming for vengeance, entertaining thoughts of forgiveness seems impossible. We want to cast the first stone. We may be tempted to inflate the circumstances and bear false witness.

But as God’s children, with the Spirit of our God dwelling inside of us, we understand that we do not operate in our own strength:

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31, ESV).

Holding on to unforgiveness creates a cage of anger and bitterness around our hearts. Taking the first step toward forgiving that betrayal is the first step to unlocking that cage toward freedom.

Adultery: One of the Hardest Acts to Forgive

Adultery ranks among the top significant hurts that are the most difficult to forgive. In fact, getting over such thing took me a solid year of counseling. Yet through the power of the Holy Spirit during that difficult time, God’s steadfast love won and forgiveness was extended.

If your marriage ended in divorce as a result of your spouse’s adultery and you are contemplating a second marriage, ensure that you have truly forgiven your ex-spouse. Otherwise, you will carry all of that ugly baggage, hurt, and bitterness into a new relationship. And that’s a recipe for disaster.

The same goes for an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend if you have engaged in premarital sex. If you are considering a new marriage (or getting married for the first time), the consequences of your ex’s lack of self-control will cause you to be suspicious of any future spouse.

New Testament: What Did Jesus Say About Forgiveness?

As Jesus was walking with His disciples in Luke 17, He paused by a sycamine tree to make a specific point about forgiveness. Why should we care about this tree and what does it have to do with forgiveness?

And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you” (Luke 17:6, KJV).

The sycamine tree had a robust root structure that plunged deep into the desert soil to tap into underground water sources. Because of its deep roots, drought or sheering it off at the base posed little threat. It was incredibly difficult to eradicate once established. It would inevitably resurface.

Scripture talks about not allowing any bitterness to take root in our hearts because eradicating unforgiveness is incredibly difficult. It grows deep, watered by any offense that lies hidden in the soil of our hearts.

Left alone, unforgiveness will establish deep roots and produce bitter fruit that surfaces through angry thoughts, words, and deeds.

But there is more. Much more.

The Sycamine Tree and Unforgiveness

The spiritual parallels between unforgiveness and the properties of the sycamine tree are chilling.

Wood from the sycamine tree was the preferred material for building coffins and caskets.

Sycamine trees grew quickly and were readily available in many places. In fact, Egyptian archaeologists have discovered small boxes made from sycamine wood at the base of mummified sarcophagi. These sycamine boxes remained uncorrupted for at least 3,000 years.

Unforgiveness remains in us, corrupting our hearts and mind until we allow God access to eradicate it.

The sycamine tree was only pollinated by wasps.

The wasp stuck its stinger into the heart of the fruit to initiate the pollination process. The tree had to be “stung” in order to reproduce. Think of how many times you have heard someone say, “I’ve been stung by that person once, but I’m not going to be stung like that again!”

You can almost see the poison of unforgiveness pollinate every bitter word they utter. Can you hear the pounding of the casket maker’s hammers?

Finally, the sycamine tree was planted where two paths met.

Its large trunk and stout branches offered shade to travelers as they paused to decide which path to take. When you and I get hurt – emotionally, mentally, or spiritually – we stand at a crossroads.

We Have a Choice

We have the choice between the dark, burdensome spiritual death sentence of unforgiveness or the Son-drenched, freeing path of forgiveness. The choice really is ours.

As children of the living God, we must believe that the process of eradicating bitter roots is never a hopeless endeavor. Jesus told His disciples in Luke 17:6 that uprooting unforgiveness is possible if a person has the faith of a grain of mustard seed.

In Him is our only hope of freedom from destructive bitterness: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8, ESV).

Since that gift of hope that the Apostle Paul talks about comes from God we have access to an abundant, unlimited supply of the poison’s antidote.

If you have ever signed a certificate of divorce, worn the label “divorced woman” or “divorced man”, the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and the blood He shed to redeem us gives us new life – eternal life. He alone is our best friend. In the kingdom of God, we wear the label, “redeemed.”

Regardless of how deep the hurt or how long we have let it reside, it is never too late to surrender our unforgiveness to God for permanent eradication.

In God’s hands, the casket maker’s career is short-lived.

I have written an entire Bible study on Forgiveness that you can find here, as well as a book/Bible study on surviving the thriving after divorce here.

Forgiveness
Without This Ring by Donna Snow

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Tidbit Thursday: Epiphany Around the World

People around the world are celebrating Epiphany today, January 6th. Meaning “manifestation” in Greek, Epiphany has been celebrated since around 361 A.D.

To Western Christianity, it marks the arrival of the Magi (or Three Kings) to the toddler Jesus in Bethlehem. In Eastern Orthodoxy, Epiphany commemorates Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River.

Since Epiphany arrives twelve days after Christmas, it is also known as Twelfth Night. People across the globe celebrate it in many interesting ways:

  • In the United States and the United Kingdom, Epiphany marks the day to take down Christmas decorations since many believe that it is bad luck to do so before January 6th.
  • In some Eastern Orthodox countries, Greece, and Bulgaria, priests bless crosses and throw them into frigid waters. Young men dive in after them believing that the first to find the cross will be blessed with good luck for the new year.
  • In Spain, the Philippines, and some Latin American countries, Epiphany is known as “Dia de los Reyes Magos” where Three Kings bring gifts to good boys and girls who leave out their straw-filled shoes the night before. It is traditional to bake a Rosa de Reyes cake and hide a small doll inside that represents the baby Jesus.
  • In Italy, children eagerly await the arrival of a kind, wise witch named “La Befana”, who leaves gifts for them.
  • In Belgium and the Netherlands, Epiphany is called “Drie Koningen.” Children dress as the Three Kings then visit neighbors’ homes to sing songs and receive treats and coins.
  • In Ethiopia, Epiphany is called “Timkat“, where tradition holds that Three Kings brought the Ark of the Covenant to their country. A miniature Ark is placed on the church altar, and they re-enact Jesus’ baptism. Since Ethiopians do not follow the Gregorian calendar, they celebrate two weeks after January 6th.

For Christians, Epiphany – also called the “Thirteenth Day” of Christmas – centers on the visit of the Magi from the East. Epiphany emphasizes the manifestation of God in the flesh of Jesus Christ. Jesus has entered our darkness and shines His true Light (Isaiah 60:1–2).

There is beautiful symbolism in the Magi’s three gifts to Jesus: With gold they confess His royalty; with incense, His deity; and with myrrh, His priestly sacrifice (Matthew 2:11).

As the Magi were guided by the star find and worship the newborn King (Matthew 2:5–11), so God calls us to look to Him to find and worship the Lord (Isaiah 60:3–6).

I pray that we diligently seek Him in 2022, full of His hope, His love, and His light.

Tidbit Thursday: Beekeeping at Notre-Dame

Visiting cathedrals around the world is a passion. I love their centuries-old architecture, Bible stories captured in stained glass, and their stunning beauty. As I work on a special 2022 ministry project involving cathedrals, my favorite one came to mind: Notre-Dame in Paris, France.

The first time I visited Notre-Dame was in October 2008. While my friend headed to the Louvre, I spent an entire day absorbing every inch of that magnificent cathedral, inside and out. I could have easily spent a week.

When Notre-Dame was engulfed in a devastating fire on April 15, 2019, I watched the television coverage with tears streaming down my face. The original stone had been laid on December 12, 1163. The world was witnessing almost 900 years of history going up in smoke.

But like a phoenix rising out of the ashes, so is Notre-Dame. Over $1 billion in worldwide contributions sparked one of the most famous and expensive restorations in history.

During my research process about Notre-Dame, I discovered a delightful tidbit. Since 2013, 35,000-40,000 honeybees have called Notre-Dame Cathedral home. The bees are of the Brother Adam Buckfast variety, and they live in three hives on the sacristy roof. The bees miraculously escaped the fire and are thriving.

The beautiful connection between God and honey appears throughout Scripture.

  • The Promised Land was described to the Israelites as a land flowing with milk and honey – a sign of abundance, ease, and prosperity (Exodus 3:6-8).
  • Honey was often given as a special gift between friends (Genesis 43:11).
  • Two places describe God’s Word as sweeter than honey (Ezekiel 3:3 and Revelation 10:9-10).

Notre-Dame is a stunning house of worship. God’s praises have been sung there for nearly nine centuries. That is what makes any cathedral truly beautiful: God’s people lifting their voices in prayer and praise to our triune God.

If you enjoy Advent calendars, Notre-Dame Cathedral is offering a free Advent calendar online that reveals interesting facts about the cathedral each day through December 25th. You can find it here.

This Christmas, as we enter our beautiful houses of worship to celebrate the birth of our Savior, I pray that God’s light shines bright in your soul as you hear His sweetest words:

For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

Tidbit Thursday: Bible Reading Checklists

As 2022 approaches, many people resolve to read the Bible daily – or at least more often. Recently, I have been asked repeatedly what guide I use for reading through the Bible.

Reading, studying, and memorizing God’s Word is vital to how we love, forgive, and serve as Christ followers. Hebrews 4:12 tells us: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

Scripture is not just a Christian checklist – it is hope on the page. “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

Encouragement and hope.

Who doesn’t need more of both? Especially nowadays.

Whether we need the grace in Romans or the love in John’s Gospel, we need God’s Word to take root in our heart. I don’t know about you, but as I read the Bible, it often reads me. Convicts me. Transforms me. That is precisely what it is supposed to do through the Holy Spirit’s power.

God faithfully guides us to the precise verse we need each day – often before we realize just how much we needed it. Sometimes He equips us with a verse that someone around us needs to hear that day.

God always knows our needs.

Years ago, I created four Bible study checklists that I still use interchangeably to this day. I have already printed fresh copies for when the calendar turns to 2022.

The four choices are: (1) a general Bible Reading Checklist to read at your own pace; (2) a 90-Day Bible Reading Plan to hear Scripture’s overarching story; (3) an Historical Overview Bible Reading Plan that is lined out a bit differently; and (4) a One Year Bible Reading Plan.

Download one or all four here.

If you have resolved to read the Bible more in 2022, I pray that these tools are useful along your journey. Share them with a friend or two. They just might want to walk the journey with you.

Advent blessings!

The Significance of the Sling and the Stone

David vs. Goliath is one of the most iconic stories in the Old Testament. Our culture has latched onto this story to describe any time we root for an underdog. But the original story is much more dramatic considering the weapon used.

Goliath Steps Out

As the Philistines square off against Israel, Goliath steps out to engage the Israelites in a battle technique known as “representative combat.” Each side picks one man to represent their army and whichever man triumphs gains victory for the entire army. There is a lot at stake.

Goliath taunts Israel twice a day for forty days, but King Saul only cowers. Then a small shepherd boy shows up on a cheese run to bring refreshments to his brothers and check on them at the battlefront. David was like an old-school Uber Eats.

Photo by Nik Shuliahin 💛💙 on Unsplash

David shows up as a courier, not a warrior.

As he talked with them, behold, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him” (1 Samuel 17:23).

David had probably never heard anyone curse God. I mean who would have the nerve? As David demands to know what will be done to the one who insulted God, Saul overhears the fuss and summons David.

And David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God” (1 Samuel 17:32, 36). 

Photo by Yael Edery on Unsplash

David Steps Up

Saul knows the stakes are high. If he sends David into representative combat and David meets defeat, they all lose. And even though Saul is the tallest Israelite and looks most capable, God looks at the heart.

Saul finally agrees to send David to face Goliath. No armor is needed.

I wonder if Saul started dictating his last will and testament as soon as David stepped onto the battlefield. And can you imagine the Israelite army’s reaction to their representative? Wait…what?

Photo by Andrea De Santis on Unsplash

Goliath Never Saw It Coming

Years ago I watched a documentary describing weapons used in ancient times. The demonstration regarding the sling and stone was riveting. The scientists set up a watermelon on a pole to represent someone’s head.

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Then they picked up a sling and stone similar to what David would have used. The stone would have been anywhere from a golf ball to a baseball in size.

The scientists placed the stone in the sling, backed away to a good distance, wound it up, and let it fly. The cameras clocked the stone at over 100 mph. The watermelon exploded on impact.

Goliath literally never saw it coming.

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Goliath relied on his size. David relied on the size of his God.

The next time you face a battle of any kind, remember that God has gifted you with special tools that the enemy severely underestimates. Love, compassion, forgiveness, and His mighty power within you provide the strength you need to be victorious.

The enemy may see you as a courier, not a warrior.

But God looks at your heart.

Stand strong, mighty warrior!

Ministry Update

I’m excited to share with you very soon about amazing new developments at Artesian Ministries. As I have transitioned into full-time ministry, God has opened many wonderful opportunities, including ways we can partner together.

I’ll be reaching out soon. In the meantime, please meet my new Board of Directors here. I am so honored to serve with them and you. God’s blessings!

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Sunrise on the Sea of Galilee

Today was simply incredible! My morning began by watching the sun rise over the Sea of Galilee as its cool breezes and lapping waves provides the soundtrack to my prayers. As I looked out over the calm waters, the realization hit home hard: Jesus walked on THIS water. Jesus performed miracles on and around THIS water. Jesus preached by THIS water. JOY!!

We enjoyed another incredible breakfast at the hotel, then it was “All Aboard!” in a replica wooden “Jesus boat” to set sail across the Sea of Galilee. The captain welcomed us by turning the boat into an American vessel for our journey by playing the Star Spangled Banner. The American and Jerusalem flags waved majestically side-by-side in the morning sun as we sang our national anthem.

I read the account from Matthew 14 of Jesus (and Peter) walking on the very waters on which we sailed. The captain played several familiar worship songs as we sang, visited, sat in silent awe, or let emotions roll down our cheeks. Meanwhile, these words rang fresh in our minds: And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” Matthew 14:32-33

We disembarked to tour through the Jesus boat museum where we saw a beautifully preserved fishing boat that had been discovered and excavated in the 1980s that dated back to Jesus’ day. The archaeologists identified 12 different types of wood used on that boat, indicating its constant fishing use over a long period of time. There is a good chance that Jesus knew or came in contact with the owners of this very boat!

By 10:30 am, we were back on the bus headed to the Mount of Beatitudes. It was a busy, bustling place. Wayne gathered us on the steps facing the front of the church and led a powerful devotion while reading the beatitudes from Matthew 5.

As we drove away from the Mount of Beatitudes toward Capernaum, the panoramic view of the rolling hills and mountains around the Sea of Galilee was simply stunning.

Capernaum is the seaside location where Jesus spent much time with Peter and teaching in the synagogue. Built over the original black stone synagogue of Jesus’ day, the remains of a white stone synagogue stood dramatically. A boat-shaped church has been built over the site of Peter’s home to help preserve it.

We had worked up quite an appetite, so we stopped at a local establishment and ordered the famous “Peter’s Fish.” Yes, they serve it head and all! I’m not accustomed to my food staring back at me, but this was a special exception.

All gone! 😂

Our next stop was Tabgha, a Byzantine church dating from 350 AD, commemorating the place where Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes to feed the 5,000. We walked on intricate mosaic tiles that were over 1,500 years old!

Our final stop for the day was at the Jordan River where John the Baptist baptized Jesus. We remembered our baptisms in a special ceremony in the Jordan River. God’s gift of baptism was celebrated with joy, tears, and raw, beautiful emotion. How very appropriate that the Jordan River ends at the Dead Sea — the lowest place on Earth. “Our sins are carried to the depths of the sea to be remembered no more.” Micah 7:18-20

We are back at the hotel on the Sea of Galilee for the night, my mind still whirling at what we experienced today. It is sobering and surreal to walk the very same places as Jesus and His disciples walked over 2,000 years ago. Sweet dreams, fellow disciples.