Hoshea & Hezekiah: Day 4

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DAY 4: Hezekiah’s Blunder

Imagine living in a culture in which you don’t turn away strangers at your door. A culture in which you invite them into your home, feed them your best food, and make them feel as welcome as possible before they continue on their journey. Where do you draw the line between being hospitable, and giving away too much information about your family, or other items of value in your home? 

Late in Hezekiah’s life, he’s ill. Some messengers from a foreign land arrive asking about his well-being, and offering gifts. He receives the messengers well, and shows them tremendous hospitality. Unfortunately, Hezekiah is a bit too eager to please his guests, taking time to show off everything he owns. He avails to them all of his gold and silver, large storages of fine oil and spices, and everything else of value.

But Isaiah the prophet sees the foolishness in Hezekiah’s decision, and reveals to him that because of his lack of wisdom, the Kingdom of Judah will fall. Not to the Assyrian Empire, but to the coming Babylonian Empire. 

As you read today, consider this: How can you grow in being more hospitable to others? 

READING & JOURNALING:

     2 Kings 20:1-21, 1 Peter 4:8-9, Luke 14:12-14

How can you grow in being more hospitable to others?

What are some good boundaries to have in place that still provide you opportunities to be overtly hospitable, yet safeguard your family or other items of value? 

F260 READING: (A Scripture Reading Plan for Busy Believers)

Read: Leviticus 8 & 9

Journal: Write it out. Following the pattern from 7 Arrows Page (click here) what did you learn from today’s reading?

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, even though the culture in which Hezekiah lived in much different than our own, I recognize that he offered a level of hospitality to foreigners and outsiders from which I can learn. I pray that You would stretch me in such a way that I grow in this area, yet also pray that You would provide me wisdom to not blunder in the same way Hezekiah blundered. Finally, as the end of the week draws near, I pray that You would continue to help me know You more, and know the plans You have for me. In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

 

Note: Are you looking for a Study Bible to help you engage with the Scriptures at a deeper level? If so, click here for some recommendations.

Hoshea & Hezekiah: Day 3

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DAY 3: Hezekiah’s Prayer

Do you spend more time in prayer for the things you want in life, or more time in prayer for God’s will to be done? 

As the Assyrians began to surround Jerusalem, king Hezekiah could have prayed that God would protect his life. Instead, Hezekiah prayed that God would miraculously save Jerusalem so that all of the world would know that God alone is the true God. This is a much bigger prayer, and God would respond to Hezekiah’s prayer in a really big way. 

Archaeology has confirmed that Hezekiah had a tunnel constructed in order to keep fresh water in the city while the Assyrians surrounded it. (You can still walk through this tunnel in Jerusalem today.) Archaeology has also confirmed that the Assyrian army left Jerusalem without overthrowing it. In fact, of the dozens, even hundreds of cities overthrown by the Assyrians, Jerusalem is the only city they failed to conquer.

What the Scriptures tell us is that God performed a miracle, sending his angel to slay 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. Indeed, God answered Hezekiah’s prayer in a big way! As you read today, consider this: What is one prayer God has answered in your life in a big way? 

READING & JOURNALING:

     2 Kings 19:1-37

What do you find most interesting about Hezekiah’s prayer (2 Kings 19:14-19)? 

What is one prayer God has answered in your life in a big way? (Perhaps you or others may consider it a “miracle.”)

What do you find most interesting about this story as a whole?

F260 READING: (A Scripture Reading Plan for Busy Believers)

Read: Exodus 40

Journal: Write it out. Following the pattern from 7 Arrows Page (click here) what did you learn from today’s reading?

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, it’s hard for me to think of just one prayer You’ve answered in my life in a big way, because as I dwell on it, I realize that You have answered many of my prayers in a big way. Whether it happens today, in the coming weeks, or even years from now, I pray that You will continue to work in my life in a significant way. Not so that others would see me better, but so that all others would see that You and You alone are God. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

 

Note: Are you looking for a Study Bible to help you engage with the Scriptures at a deeper level? If so, click here for some recommendations.

Hoshea & Hezekiah: Day 2

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DAY 2: Judah (the Southern Kingdom) vs. Assyria

Imagine being confronted with a bully who seems wiling to do just about anything in order to get what he wants. How would you respond? 

In the days of king Hezekiah, Judah was perhaps the most valuable piece of property on the planet. Sandwiched between the stronghold of Egypt and the Assyrian Empire, Judah was a significant trade route that connected three continents. When Hezekiah became king, he was upset that Assyria was controlling and receiving the financial benefits of this trade route, so he rebelled. The Assyrians swiftly responded, demanding a huge financial tribute from Hezekiah. 

Hezekiah paid the tribute, but the Assyrians wanted more. They still wanted full control of Judah’s lands. King Hezekiah is stuck between a rock and a hard place. He knows that the Northern Kingdom of Israel has already fallen and the people were taken off into captivity. Now, some of Judah’s key cities were being overthrown as well. Only Judah’s capital city of Jerusalem remained. How would Hezekiah respond? 

As you read today, consider this: What is the most difficult decision you’ve ever had to make? 

READING & JOURNALING:

     2 Kings 18:1-37

What is the most difficult decision you’ve ever had to make? As you wrestled with it, how did you eventually come to the decision that you made? 

In what ways did this experience help you to grow individually? Were there any ways in which this experience helped you be able to help others? 

F260 READING: (A Scripture Reading Plan for Busy Believers)

Read: Exodus 34:1 – 36:1

Journal: Write it out. Following the pattern from 7 Arrows Page (click here) what did you learn from today’s reading?

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, it’s not always easy for me to read about these ancient kings and recognize that some of the things they struggled with are some of the same things I struggle with. Today, I realize that Hezekiah had some really difficult decisions to make, and in the end he called on You and other godly people for wisdom. As difficult circumstances come my way, may I also come to You and other godly people for wisdom and direction. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

 

Note: Are you looking for a Study Bible to help you engage with the Scriptures at a deeper level? If so, click here for some recommendations.

Hoshea & Hezekiah: Day 1

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DAY 1: Israel (the Northern Kingdom) Falls

The Assyrian Empire had one of the most proficient militaries in history. When the Assyrian Army came knocking on your city door, chances are high that they came to knock it down. When Hoshea was king of Israel (the Northern Kingdom), the people of Israel had already received not one, but two strong warnings from the Assyrians. All they needed to do was pay tribute to the Assyrians and not rebel against them. Well, all they really need to do was turn back to God. But the people refused to see that their situation was of their own making. 

Because of their refusal to turn back to God, in 722 BC the Assyrian Empire completely overthrew the Kingdom of Israel. Not only did they overthrow Israel, they deported the people to other cities. 

At this point in time, Judah (the Southern Kingdom) is still functioning outside of Assyrian rule. Will the people there remain faithful to God? 

As you read today, consider this: When do you find it most difficult to be faithful to God? Is it when things are going well for you or when things are going poorly? 

READING & JOURNALING:

     2 Kings 17:1-15

When do you find it most difficult to be faithful to God? Is it when things are going well for you or when things are going poorly? 

Have you ever experienced such a strong tragedy that you questioned if God was real, or if He was listening? Looking back, how did He respond to that level of pain and hurt you were experiencing? 

F260 READING: (A Scripture Reading Plan for Busy Believers)

Read: Exodus 32 & 33

Journal: Write it out. Following the pattern from 7 Arrows Page (click here) what did you learn from today’s reading?

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, I confess that it’s more natural for me to turn to You regularly in times of chaos or hurt than it is for me to turn to You when things are going well. But I also confess there have been times when things have been so bleak that I have doubted your presence. Today, I simply rejoice in knowing that You are with me through everything. Whether good times or bad, You are always there! Thank You! In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

 

Note: Are you looking for a Study Bible to help you engage with the Scriptures at a deeper level? If so, click here for some recommendations.

Azariah / Uzziah: Day 5

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DAY 5: Weekly Reflection

JOURNALING:

What’s getting in the way of you growing in your relationship with God? (e.g., your view of God, your view of yourself, self-centeredness, entertainment, lustful pleasures, jealousy, envy, etc.).

Write down at least 2-3 steps you’ll take over the next week to remove these obstacles and grow in your relationship with God.

F260 READING: (A Scripture Reading Plan for Busy Believers)

Read: Exodus 30 & 31

Journal: Write it out. Following the pattern from 7 Arrows Page (click here) what did you learn from today’s reading?

 

Note: Are you looking for a Study Bible to help you engage with the Scriptures at a deeper level? If so, click here for some recommendations.

Azariah / Uzziah: Day 4

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DAY 4: Focus on the Positives

Think about a time when somebody said something or did something that really bothered you. In general, is it easier for you to remember that one thing they did, or is it easier for you to remember many of the positive things they said or did? 

Whether it’s an aspect of our broken world or perhaps just a part of our culture, it seems easier to remember negative experiences than positive ones. In fact, counselors and therapists today are in agreement that there needs to be a 7:1 ratio of positive experiences vs. negative ones in order to manage tension well. In other words, you need to offer seven encouraging statements to others for every one disagreement you may have with them, in order for you to be able to navigate through a disagreement in a healthy way. 

For king Uzziah, he had done a lot of really good things for the nation of Judah. He was remembered as a king who did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. But the one moment his pride got the best of him was also something he was remembered for. 

As you read today, consider this: Is it easier for you to focus on the positive or the negative things people say and/or do? 

READING & JOURNALING:

     2 Kings 15:1-7

Is it easier for you to focus on the positive or the negative things people say and/or do? 

How difficult do you find it to share appreciations or words of encouragement to others? 

Will you commit to sharing 7 x more appreciations or words of encouragement than constructive criticism with others over the next week? 

F260 READING: (A Scripture Reading Plan for Busy Believers)

Read: Exodus 28 & 29

Journal: Write it out. Following the pattern from 7 Arrows Page (click here) what did you learn from today’s reading?

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, I know that I had others who loved me deeply throughout my childhood, but I confess that I haven’t really learned how to share appreciations well. Help me to grow in sharing appreciations and words of encouragement with others. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

 

Note: Are you looking for a Study Bible to help you engage with the Scriptures at a deeper level? If so, click here for some recommendations.

Azariah / Uzziah: Day 3

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DAY 3: Pride Comes Before the Fall

Think about a time when there was something you really wanted to do, and you felt like you deserved to do it. 

Because king Uzziah was brought up in the fear of the LORD,  he made a lot of wise decisions. As a result, the Kingdom of Judah was at peace and experienced a season of tremendous blessing from God. But this level of prosperity and power led to Uzziah growing in pride. Later in his life, he made a decision to do something that only the priests were permitted to do. Reading the story, it really doesn’t seem like it would be a big deal. Uzziah wanted to burn incense in the sanctuary — so what? 

It’s important to remember, however, that Uzziah wasn’t being punished for burning incense. Instead, he was being punished because of his pride. After his many successes in life, he failed to be grateful to God for the many blessings he had. Instead, he felt that he deserved to be able to do anything he wanted. We, too, must be careful not to fall into the same trap.

As you read today, consider this: How regularly do you take opportunity to thank God for the many blessings you have?

READING & JOURNALING:

     2 Chronicles 26:11-23

How regularly do you take opportunity to thank God for the many blessings you have?

Think about it: What are some of the dangers of thinking you deserve to have something (or you deserve to do something)? Where might this kind of thinking lead? 

Today, take the opportunity to write out your own prayer/praise to God. Thank Him for the many blessings in your life.

F260 READING: (A Scripture Reading Plan for Busy Believers)

Read: Exodus 26 & 27

Journal: Write it out. Following the pattern from 7 Arrows Page (click here) what did you learn from today’s reading?

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, I acknowledge that I live in a world in which people do feel like they deserve to have something they want. Because I live in this world too, I confess that I sometimes feel like I deserve something I haven’t actually earned. Today, help me to see that even though there’s little I’ve done to deserve Your love, You have loved me infinitely more that I could ever hope to be loved. I rejoice in that today! In Jesus’ name.

 

Note: Are you looking for a Study Bible to help you engage with the Scriptures at a deeper level? If so, click here for some recommendations.

A Closer Look at the NLT Life Application Study Bible (Third Edition)

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Way back in 1988, Tyndale Publishers released the first edition of the Life Application Study Bible. At the time, the Study Bible market was fairly slim. By releasing a quality Study Bible with commentary, charts, notes, and profiles of over 100 different people throughout the Scriptures, Tyndale did an admirable job of helping the Bible make sense to the modern reader.

Over 30 years later (October 2019), Tyndale has now released the Third Edition of the NLT or NIV Life Application Study Bible. And even though the Study Bible market today is flooded, the Life Application Study Bible continues to set a very high standard, and it remains the best-selling Study Bible on the market.

What’s new in the Life Application Study Bible?

According to the publisher, somewhere between 30-40% of the Third Edition is new compared to the First and/or Second Edition. This is primarily because there are major topics of conversation today (such as shame, equality, gender, etc.) that were not well represented in the commentary notes 30 years ago. As such, Tyndale reassembled the original Life Application Study Bible team, hired additional young women to help with the editing, and revamped the look, feel, and commentary notes throughout the Study Bible to make it even more applicable to today.

Who is the NLT (or NIV) Life Application Study Bible for?

Personally, I would wholeheartedly recommend the The NLT (or NIV) Life Application Study Bible as somebody’s first Study Bible. Even if it’s not your first Study Bible, it’s worth having one of these on your shelf.

From a marketing perspective, the publisher notes that the LASB is the most complete Bible ever compiled. Even though this is nothing more than marketing hype, there’s a lot to love about the NLT (or NIV) LASB.

All in all, the LASB is an excellent all around Study Bible that does a great job of explaining how to apply each passage by answering the question, “So what? What does this really mean? Why is this important for my life? How can I actually apply this in my life?” Below are a number of examples that show how the LASB answers these questions by encouraging the reader to live out the Biblical text well.

Example #1: Deuteronomy 5:7

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Both Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 list the Ten Commandments. Deuteronomy 5:7 is the first commandment, “You must not have any other god but me.”

The LASB Commentary note reads, “A god is whatever people use as the driving force in their lives. Some people literally worship other gods by joining cults or false religions. In a more subtle way, many worship other gods by building their lives around something other than the one true God. If your greatest desire is for popularity, power, money, relationships, or even a healthy lifestyle, you are devoting yourself to something other than God. To put God first, (1) recognize what is taking his place in your life, (2) renounce this substitute god as unworthy of your devotion, (3) ask God for forgiveness, (4) restructure your priorities so that love for God is the motive for everything you do, and (5) examine yourself daily to be sure you are giving God first place.”

Admittedly, this is quite a detailed commentary note! Whether somebody is a young Christian, or has matured deeply in the faith, there is plenty here for any reader to reflect on when thinking about whether or not she is worshiping another ‘god’ or not.

Example #2: Exodus 20

The other passage on the Ten Commandments includes this commentary note:

“Why were the Ten Commandments necessary for God’s new nation? At the foot of Mount Sinai, God showed his people the true function and beauty of His laws. The commandments were designed to lead Israel to a life of practical holiness. In them, people could see the nature of God and his plan for how they should live. The commands and guidelines were intended to direct the community to meet the needs of each individual in a loving and responsible manner. By Jesus’ time, however, most people had come to look at the law the wrong way. They saw it as a means to prosperity in both this world and the next. And they thought that obeying every law was the way to earn God’s protection from foreign invasion and natural disaster. They failed to see that keeping the law should be the means to fulfill God’s ultimate law of love.”

Example #3: Psalm 1:1-2

Psalm 1 is one of my favorite Psalms, as it has a lot of helpful reminders about life transformation. The first two verses read, “Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.”

The LASB Commentary note reads, “We can learn how to follow God by meditating on his Word. This has become difficult in an age of sound bites and banner headlines. Meditating means spending time reading, thinking, marking, and reviewing what we have read. It means asking how we must change and grow so we will live as God wants. Meditating on and understanding God’s Word are the first steps toward applying it to your everyday life. If you want to follow God more closely, you must take time to know what he says.” 

Once again, this applies well to both the young and the mature Christian.

Example #4: Matthew 4:3-4

Matthew 4:3-4 reads, “During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

The LASB Commentary note reads, “The devil tried to get Jesus to doubt his Father’s love, protection, and provision. Jesus was able to resist all of the devil’s temptations because he not only knew Scripture but obeyed it. Ephesians 6:17 says that God’s Word is a sword to use in spiritual combat. Knowing Bible verses is an important step in helping us resist the devil’s attacks, but we must also obey what the Bible teaches. Satan knew Scripture, too, but he purposely misquoted it, disregarded its real meaning, and had no intention of obeying it. Continuing to study and know what the Bible says and what it really means helps us follow God’s desires rather than the devil’s.”

Remembering that the Scriptures can be used for both good and evil is an important reminder. God has an enemy, and that enemy will use anything – even twisting God’s own words – in order to accomplish evil objectives. Commentary notes such as this one and the one for Psalm 1 are excellent because they encourage the reader to not only read the text, but to memorize it, meditate on it, and review it regularly.

What about the other features of the Life Application Study Bible?

JeroboamThere are nearly 150 profiles of different people throughout the text, as well as hundreds of charts and maps. Having just completed a 10-week series on some of the kings of Israel and Judah, the Life Application Study Bible had a profile for at least 8 of them.

This picture of Jeroboam’s profile  provides a good example of this.

 

Are there any negatives to the Life Application Study Bible? 

This is a really hard question to answer, as preferences are very subjective. As I’ve been reading primarily from the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible over the past year, I can offer the following observations.

  • The paper weight of the Life Application Study Bible is quite thin, which does allow bleed through from other pages. Though this is generally common among major study bibles today.
  • The NLT or NIV Life Application Study Bible is 2-color. The NLT has more Green for charts, maps, and profiles, and the NIV has more Red for charts, maps, and profiles. Compared with the 4-color (full color) printings of other major Study Bibles available today, it would’ve been nice to have more color. But given the significant amount of content, this is a very minor quibble. Full color likely would’ve required a slightly heavier weighted paper, which would make it too heavy to comfortably hold.
  • Perhaps my biggest gripe is that some of the charts use hard to read fonts. Below is an example of a chart provided in 1 Kings 6 on Solomon’s Temple. The light green font on a light green background is really hard to read. I’m honestly not sure how this passed through the printing editors without being noticed.
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The top portion of the picture reads 1. Most Holy Place with Ark of the Covenant. The bolded font is easy to read. The other is a light green font with a light green background.

Is there anything else I should know?

Hmmm…let me think.

  1. If you want to have a closer look, here is a sampler that offers additional insights into the NLT LASB. You can also click here to see some videos and additional graphics about the Third Edition of the LASB.
  2. My copy of the NLT LASB weighs in at around 4 pounds. I think my NIV Cultural Background Study Bible in fairly similar in both dimensions and weight. As such, reading at a desk or table is easier than holding it in hand.
  3. The font is fairly small, but as a 42 year old I’m able to read it without much difficulty. The Biblical text is a fairly dark-weighted font which stands out well against the white paper. Biblical text: 8.5 point font. Commentary Notes: 7 point font.
  4. The LASB contains one ribbon marker. So having an additional bookmark on hand would be helpful for most readers.
  5. There are both Red Letter Editions and Black Letter Editions available. The primary difference is that Red Letter = Jesus’ words being printed in red font. I find the red font more difficult to read, so I purchased a black letter edition.
  6. As of November 2019, there is not a digital edition of the LASB Third Edition available. The Second Edition is still widely available with software or Bible apps such as Olive Tree. Personally, I prefer reading a paper Bible as I’m less likely to get distracted. (I imagine a digital edition will be made available at some point in the future.)
  7. My opinion is that the NLT (or NIV) Life Application Study Bible is an excellent resource, and one I’ll be utilizing on a regular basis.

Azariah / Uzziah: Day 2

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DAY 2: The Fear of the Lord Brings Wisdom

Think for a moment about your greatest fear. What exactly is your greatest fear? 

Generally speaking, if you think about what you most desire in life, you can then discover your greatest fear. For example, if your greatest desire is to be liked and appreciated by others, then your greatest fear is rejection. If your greatest desire is success or power, then your greatest fear is likely humiliation. If the thing you most love is money, your career, your children, there’s almost certainly a fear that is driving that desire forward. Your greatest fear, therefore, is about losing that which you most hold dear.

The Scriptures teach that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). This may be best understood as, “When God is what you most hold dear; when God is what you are most living for, it is then that you’re on the path towards wisdom. But you cannot have wisdom without God being the absolute central part of your life.” 

As you read today, consider this: What would you say you most hold dear? What are you most living for? 

READING & JOURNALING:

     Psalm 25 & Proverbs 9:10

What would you say you most hold dear? What are you most living for?

What would you say you’re most afraid of?

What two or three verses stick out to you most from Psalm 25? Take the opportunity to write them down, and commit to sharing one or more of them with somebody else this week.

F260 READING: (A Scripture Reading Plan for Busy Believers)

Read: Exodus 24 & 25

Journal: Write it out. Following the pattern from 7 Arrows Page (click here) what did you learn from today’s reading?

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, I confess that I don’t regularly think about what I fear. I also confess that I do want to be liked and appreciated by others, and I do want to experience success in life, but I haven’t really taken the time to evaluate if I want those things more than I want to know You. Today, help me to see anything I may desire more than You. And help me to see that losing that which I desire is really no big deal as long as You are with me. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

 

Note: Are you looking for a Study Bible to help you engage with the Scriptures at a deeper level? If so, click here for some recommendations.

Azariah / Uzziah: Day 1

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DAY 1: Instructed in the Fear of the Lord

There’s a phrase or statement that comes up several times throughout the Bible, and many pastors or churches will use the phrase regularly without fully discussing what it means. The Scriptures repeatedly say that it’s important to fear the Lord? But what exactly does it mean to fear the Lord? 

Does it mean to be scared or afraid of God? That wouldn’t make much sense, as there are other passages which indicate the more we fear God, the more we love Him. Surely we couldn’t become more afraid of God by loving Him more, right? 

Pastor and author Timothy Keller once taught, “Fear of the Lord is life rearranging, joyful awe and wonder before the greatness of who God is and what He has done.”

King Uzziah was raised and instructed in the fear of the LORD. From early in his life, he was taught to be in joyful awe and wonder before the greatness of who God is and what He has done. 

As you read today, consider this: How has your relationship with God completely rearranged your life?

READING & JOURNALING:

     2 Chronicles 26:1-10

How has your relationship with God completely rearranged your life? (Your view of marriage or singleness? Your view of parenting? Other relationships? Finances? Sex? …other?) 

What are at least three times in which you were brought into joyful awe and wonder before the greatness of who God is and what He has done?

F260 READING: (A Scripture Reading Plan for Busy Believers)

Read: Exodus 19 & 20

Journal: Write it out. Following the pattern from 7 Arrows Page (click here) what did you learn from today’s reading?

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, it’s sometimes easy for me to separate my life into chunks. I have my “church life.” I have my “family life.” I have my “work life.” But I don’t always live in such a way that my relationship with You is front-and-center in every aspect of life. This week, my desire is take another step forward in fearing you – that is, having a life rearranging joyful awe and wonder of who You are and all You have done. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

 

Note: Are you looking for a Study Bible to help you engage with the Scriptures at a deeper level? If so, click here for some recommendations.