Best. Gift. Ever

I’ve been thinking a lot about gifts lately. Probably because it’s less than 3 weeks until Christmas and there are only 2 presents beneath my tree. Why do I always procrastinate? It’s not that I don’t enjoy giving gifts to  the special people in my life, I just don’t particularly enjoy shopping for those gifts.

Thankfully, gifts aren’t really that big of deal in our family, although our children might disagree. As my husband would say, “It’s Christmas all year long at our house.” We both grew up in homes where pennies were pinched and non-essentials were rarely purchased. But as time has passed and we’ve been able to loosen our financial belt a little and no longer cross our fingers until the paycheck is deposited, we tend to buy things when we “need” them and not wait for a holiday to roll around. That being said, I still can’t convince myself that there doesn’t need to be at least a few festively wrapped packages under the tree on Christmas Eve.

Maybe my struggle with gift-giving is less about my dislike of crowds and shopping malls and more about the challenge of trying to find the perfect gift. You know, the one that causes their eyes to twinkle and a smile to erupt and makes them squeal with delight! That’s the reaction I enjoy, but I’m also a practical gift giver. Without exception, each year packages under our tree contain socks, underwear, hygiene products, clothes, food, and other necessities. These are good gifts, just not ones that create excitement.

As I pondered all this gift giving, Matthew 7:11 came to mind. Jesus says, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” And in James 1:17 we read that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

So what makes a gift good? Are good gifts only those that we ask for or the thing that we desire the most? I’m not convinced. Some of the best gifts I ever received are ones I didn’t even know I wanted. In some instances, they seemed to be the exact opposite of my request.

Maybe some of you have been presenting your wish list to the Father hoping that he will come through. Maybe you’ve been praying for a Christmas miracle, but you feel like all you are getting is socks and underwear. Your requests are good, but don’t miss out on the love of the Giver because the gift isn’t what you expected or asked for.

Regardless of what lies beneath your Christmas tree when December 25 rolls around, there’s one gift that’s guaranteed to be perfect. Paul tells about this gift in Romans 6:23. “The wages of sin is death, but the free GIFT of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This gift has been given to all people, but just like the other presents under your tree, it must be received. Nobody leaves a present under the Christmas tree because they didn’t feel like opening it or because they thought it could wait until next year. Yet many have set aside the most amazing gift of love ever given. God loves you so much that he gave his one and only Son so that if you believe in him you will not perish but have everlasting life.

Open up your heart this year and receive Jesus. Best. Gift. Ever.

Erin Jacobsma

 


Value

This past weekend, the Jacobsma clan gathered together at Grand Prairie Events for an auction of my late father-in-law’s treasures. Bernie was an avid collector of toys—tractors, implements, trucks, horse drawn carriages and more. The 2-day event was fun; fun to be together, fun to assist the auctioneers, fun to see familiar faces, and fun to imagine how much Dad would have enjoyed being there.

Some family members are also involved in collecting toys and know a good deal when they see one, but that is not the case for me. I am in the same category as my sister in law who said, “I clearly know nothing about toy auctions. Things that I thought would go cheap brought a higher dollar and things that I thought would do well, sold low.” We just couldn’t make sense of it.

As I reflected on the weekend, VALUE seemed to be the theme that kept coming up for bid in my mind. Ultimately the value of each item was determined by the highest bidder. Some bidders saw the possibility of  an item increasing in value or maybe re-selling it for a profit. Some saw the value in buying a gift for a loved one at a discounted price. Other bidders determined value based on sentimental reasons. Such was the case for my daughter. She loves horses and loves Grandpa and she was not going to stop bidding until the set of Appaloosa horses and wagon was hers. Regardless of the reason, in the end, each toy sold for an amount that someone was willing to pay.

There’s a story in the Bible about an auction. It’s found in the book of Hosea. Hosea was a prophet to the people of Israel, warning them of the calamity that was going to come if they continued to be unfaithful to their covenant with God. In an unusual “object lesson”, God commands Hosea to take a prostitute as his wife. Hosea obeys the Lord and marries Gomer. The local people must have thought he was crazy. Hosea and Gomer have 3 children together before old habits resurfaced. She walks away from Hosea and returns to her former ways of prostitution. But God isn’t finished with this lesson. He tells Hosea to go after his wife even though she is unfaithful, and to love her as the Lord loves the Israelites even though they also have been unfaithful and worship other gods. So Hosea goes to the local auction and purchases Gomer for 15 shekels of silver and some barley. Now, I can’t tell you the value of a shekel, and I’m not sure that it’s important, but we do know from Exodus 21:32 that the going rate for a slave was 30 shekels. This gives us a pretty good idea of what the other bidders thought Gomer was worth. I have to wonder if there were even others that were interested, or if Hosea offered the only bid.

This story gives us a beautiful illustration of God’s unrelenting pursuit and love for us. God loves us in spite of our unfaithfulness, and in spite of what value others see in us. He loves us with an everlasting love and paid a high price. John 3:16-17 says “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save (purchase) the world through him.”

You, my friend, are valuable to the Lord. Maybe you think your value is limited and you feel like a half-priced clearance item like Gomer, but our value is not determined by our achievements or our failures. Our value is determined by the One who paid it all! “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So Glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). And just as Hosea said to Gomer, our Father says to us, “You must dwell as mine… You will not belong to another.”

Erin Jacobsma

 


Get Naked

“Today is a Good Day for a Good Day.” That is one of two sayings you would see on the wall if you asked to use the bathroom at our house. It reminds me of the words of Psalm 118:24 “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Every morning, the statement suggests to me that no matter what happened yesterday or what my concerns for today might be, each day has the potential to be a good day. And even if it doesn’t feel like it has been a good day when I’m ready to retreat to my pillow at night, each day is a gift from God and His goodness is woven into it.

The second saying that you will see on my bathroom wall is “Get Naked”. Some guests have questioned  my sanity regarding those words. But the words have a double meaning to me, both practical and spiritual. They are fitting, in my opinion, to scroll across the bathroom wall, because they tell exactly what is required before one would enter the shower. They also remind me exactly what is necessary in my relationship with God. Obviously the definition of being naked in the shower is to be without clothes. However, when I crack open my thesaurus and look up additional words with similar meanings, I read these definitions: undisguised, plain, unadorned, open, exposed, bare, stripped, unveiled, without covering.

For most of our lives, we have been taught to hide our emotional and spiritual brokenness and scars. Cover up. Put a smile on your face. Wear the mask. But I’m learning that if we really want to have an intimate relationship with Father, we need to get naked and bring all of who we are before Him. The good, the bad, the ugly. Even the saggy.

Some time ago, I received an email containing an article from Ann Voskamp titled “Brutally Honest Psalms.” Her words feel naked.

“How long, O Lord?
Have You dropped your watch, lost Your cosmic phone, forgotten that we are kinda just dying here, kinda just waiting here for You to rouse, wake up and finally do something, anything, for crying out loud?
How long till you see the blasted hands of the clock ticking down, like an atomic bomb, while You seem to just sit on Your hands?
How long till you peel back an eyelid up there and see that we’ve got people hurting like the dickens down here, and that open window with its sliver of possibility, it’s closing right before our eyes, and hear us: 
Our endurance is flat out of breath, and our hope is withering up.
You may have all of forever, but we, sure as Sheol, do not.
How long till we see some light at the end of the tunnel — but what if that light turns out to be a train come barreling our way?”

Could you be this honest with God?

The shower might seem like an unlikely altar, but Hebrews 4:13 reminds us that “no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (ESV) Father knows everything anyway. Stop trying to cover up. I dare you to sit with Him and get naked.

Erin Jacobsma

 


I Am Who God Says I Am

Over the past couple of months we have been singing a song called “Child of God” by Hillsong during some of our worship services. Every time the music begins and the screen comes to life, I get choked up thinking about these words. “Who am I that the highest King would welcome me? I was lost but He brought me in; oh His love for me.” I cannot even begin to comprehend why God would want anything to do with a sinner like me and I am overwhelmed by his love! Tears fill my eyes, and I can hardly utter the words out loud. But within the 30 seconds that it takes to get to the next phrase in the song – “Who the Son sets free, oh is free indeed. I’m a child of God, Yes I am” – I want to raise my hands and my “hallelujah” and run through the aisles proclaiming my freedom!

But it’s the words that come next that I’ve been contemplating this week. “I am chosen, not forsaken. I am who You say I am. You are for me; not against me. I am who You say I am.”

I am who you say I am? Who does God say that I am?

Since the beginning of 2018, in response to Saul’s question in Acts 9:5 “Who are you, Lord” I have been going through the book of Psalms writing down everything that I know and can be certain of and proclaim about my Lord. My search has assured me that he is a shield around me, he hears my weeping, he searches minds and hearts, he watches over the way of the righteous, he laughs at those who plot against him, his love is unfailing, he does not disappoint, he is my Shepherd, all his ways are loving and faithful, he is my hope, he is King forever and ever. I could go on and on. My pen has lined many pages with my confidence about who God is.

But who am I? I was introduced to this world as Erin Gayle Teunissen. But that’s just a name. Over my lifetime, the enemy has led me to believe that I am less than, average, unimportant, insignificant, and worthless. For many years those were the words I believed. But that’s not the truth. God sees me in a different light. I am his beloved. I am chosen. I am forgiven. I am holy. I am free from condemnation through Christ’s death.

I started going back through the book of Psalms to see if there were things that I could be certain of about who I am. I discovered that I am blessed, I am set apart, I am crowned with glory and honor, I have a delightful inheritance, I am the apple of his eye, I am protected, I am armed with God’s strength, I will not be in want, I am blessed because my transgressions are forgiven and my sins are covered. I am a child of God.

So who are you? Do you believe what the lies of the enemy say about you or are you going to believe the Truth? Satan knows your name, but calls you by your sin. Jesus knows your sins, but calls you by your name. You are valued and loved.

I have been called many names over the years, some names of affection and some I’d like to forget. As a child, I hated my given name. But listen to this from Revelation 2:17: “To him who overcomes, I will give a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.”

Imagine that… God has a pet name for you. A term of endearment. Maybe it’s a descriptive name, but it will be yours and only yours. Today, choose to believe that you are who he says you are. You are a child of God. Live like it! Erin Jacobsma

 


Examine Our Ways

It’s that time of year again… Annual Staff Reviews.

One by one the staff members of American Reformed Church enter a small, dimly light room and brace ourselves for the impending interrogation. We are instructed to sit on the far side of the room facing our examiners; four of them to be exact. The room is dry and hot, and nothing is offered to quench our thirst. The investigators whisper quietly to each other, before the official examination begins. I take a deep breath and try to prepare myself for what’s to come…

Okay, okay, it’s not that bad. It does in some ways feel a little like getting called into the principal’s office and in other ways it’s like having coffee with close friends. Merlin, Willis, Codie and Nadine do a wonderful job of putting us at ease and encouraging each of us in the roles that we fill and I appreciate their willingness to be on the Staff Support Team.

Staff reviews have taken several different routes over the nine years that I have participated in them. Some years we have been asked to assess our co-workers, other times members of the congregation have been called upon to share their opinions and experiences regarding the staff. This year we were asked to do a self-assessment based on an idea from Marcus Buckingham, an author, motivational speaker and business consultant, who would argue that the best person to assess your performance at work is you. Staff members were given a list of questions and statements in which we could share our thoughts about our strengths and weaknesses in regards to our duties, our team, the consistory and the church.

Doing a self-assessment is not necessarily an easy task, but it is beneficial. Spending time thinking through the questions helps me reflect on the past year and brings to light areas where I have fallen short and could improve upon in the future. It also reminds me of tasks that I have done well and where I have used the gifts and strengths that God has given me.

God’s Word also instructs us to examine ourselves. As sin-filled human beings we are quick to examine other people and point out their shortcomings, but we tend to shy away from critiquing ourselves in the same way. Jesus cautioned his followers concerning this in Matthew 7:3-5. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

This doesn’t mean that we can never assist others by gently pointing out their blind spots, but if we aren’t doing the work of examining our own hearts and taking care of the sin in our lives, we have no business confronting someone else about theirs or making conversation about it with others.

As we enter a new week, I encourage each of you to spend some time examining yourself, not as a  comparison activity to see if you are better or worse than your neighbor, but an analysis to learn about yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, and to draw near to God.

Lamentations 3:4 “Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.”

Erin Jacobsma

 


Good Church Members

A friend recently shared this newspaper clipping with me:

What kind of church member are you?

  • Some members are like wheel barrows—no good unless pushed.
  • Some are like kites—if a string isn’t kept on them, they fly away.
  • Some are like kittens—they are content when petted.
  • Some are like footballs—you can’t tell which way they’ll bounce next.
  • Some are like trailers—they have to be pulled.
  • Some are like balloons—full of wind and ready to blow up.
  • Some are like lights—they keep going off and on.
  • Many are thankful and are like the North Star—there when you need them, dependable, ever loyal, and a guide to all people.

Like me, you probably smiled when you read these descriptions and could think of someone you know that would fit into each category. Maybe you felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit and recognized yourself as a kitten or a trailer. Maybe you could even come up with a few more descriptions of the various church members that you have encountered.

As I laid the paper aside, I was saddened by the characterizations of people that are members of the Body of Christ. ALL of God’s people should be dependable and loyal and a guide that points people to Christ, not flighty and reluctant and temperamental.

What saddened me more is thinking about when did we exchange following Jesus and being disciples for being good church members? I can think of many clubs and co-ops and organizations that have members, but Jesus clearly did not commission the disciples to make great church members. His specific words are recorded in Matthew 28:18-20. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make DISCIPLES of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.”

Now I’m sure there was a variety of commitment levels and understanding among the new disciples in the early church and they didn’t do everything perfectly. In fact, if the first century Christians lived life as Jesus intended, half of the New Testament would never have needed to be written. But where have we gotten the idea that the goal is to be a good church member rather than a disciple? Maybe as a member, it’s easy to focus on the perks and benefits. As a disciple, we are called to focus on who it is that we are following. William Kynes offers an expanded definition of what it means to be a disciple: “A disciple is one who responds to the call of Jesus in faith, resulting in a relationship of absolute allegiance and supreme loyalty through which Jesus shares his own life and the disciple embarks on a lifetime of learning to become like  his Master.”

When I shared some of my own spiritual struggles with a friend, they brushed off my concerns and sarcastically replied, “What do you want to be, a disciple?” Actually, yes, I do. And it would be my prayer that all church members would desire to be a disciple of Jesus Christ and a follower of The Way.

Erin Jacobsma

 


Be Positive or Be Quiet

If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all. This seems to be a favorite line of mothers. In the movie Bambi, Thumper’s mother reminds him of this wisdom and I have repeated this saying to my own family more than once. A new version that I recently heard is “If you can’t be positive, then at least be quiet.”

The tongue is a popular topic in the Bible, especially in the book of Proverbs. Listen to these words from Proverbs 6:16-19 “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.” Is it any surprise that 3 of the 7 things that the Lord finds detestable have to do with our mouth and the words we say?

The Wisdom Writer continues with more insight regarding our tongue:

  • “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” Proverbs 10:19
  • “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18-19
  • “He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.” Proverbs 13:3
  • “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.” Proverbs 15:1-2
  • “The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.” Proverbs 15:28
  • “A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered. Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.” Proverbs 17:27-28
  • “He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.” Proverbs 21:23

I have had multiple conversations in the past weeks with people who have witnessed the Body of Christ using reckless words and gushing evil from their mouth, criticizing other Christians and bashing the Church. This saddens me greatly, and yet I am convicted that my tongue is also sometimes more like a sword than an instrument of healing. It is so easy to open our mouth and let our words fly. But James reminds us that “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. (James 1:26)

As it was in the time of the early church, so it is today. “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” (James 3:9-10)

Another phrase you have probably heard is “think before you speak”. Using the letters of the word THINK, examine your heart and think about whether what you are going to say is True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary, and Kind. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)

If you agree with 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, then we would be wise to evaluate and correct our words. May we all pray the words of David, “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.”

Erin Jacobsma

 


Compartments

This week many of us will celebrate the 4th of July holiday with some fireworks, camping, activities at the lake, or a family get-together. There is an abundance of options for the extra day off from work, but picnics are my favorite. Not only do they provide a connection with family and friends, but there seems to be a never ending supply of delicacies that tempt my tummy. Grilled meats, fruit salads, veggies, homemade pies, chips, dips… all spread before my eyes on a gingham draped picnic table. There is just one problem with a feast like this: no regular plate will do. I can deal with foam, Tupperware, Chinet, plastic, or paper, but no matter what the plate is made of, it must have compartments. It is a gross misdemeanor to have a sweet, fruit salad nestled up against a spicy taco salad, or even worse, salty condiments finding their way onto Grandma’s homemade pie. And who wants their salad dressing making a soggy mess of their bun? Yuck! I know that it all goes to the same place, but I like the things I put in my mouth to be separate from each other. I don’t want one flavor to overlap another.

We tend to do the same thing with our lives. We isolate and divide. We separate our space, desiring our own bedroom, our own bathroom, our own vehicle, and our own office space. We divide our commitments, not wanting our job to interfere with our family time, or our kids to interfere with “me” time. We segregate our loyalties and don’t want political views and spiritual beliefs to overlap and get messy. Everything is easiest if we can keep it compartmentalized and evenly distributed.

But God isn’t big on compartments, he’s a God of wholeness. He wants our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Not one piece, once in a while. He wants all of us all the time. He can’t be contained to Sunday morning and Wednesday nights. He doesn’t just fit our schedules on Christmas Eve and Easter morning. He is God yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He is God at church, at our workplace, at the bar, at the playground, at the prison, at the hospital, at home.

Philippians 1:27 says “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” It doesn’t excuse our words and actions when someone cuts us off in traffic, or when it’s been a long week and we just need to unwind, or when we just need a bit of sunshine and the rain to stop, or when the kids are driving us nuts. We are called to live our lives completely connected to Jesus Christ. No matter what. No divisions. No compartments. No categories.

In the 86th Psalm, David prays these words: “Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name”. David knows the aimless tendencies of the human heart. He asks God to unify and inhabit all areas of his life. May the same be said of us.

So go ahead and separate your pickles and your pie. Keep your pudding away from your pasta. But don’t try to keep your spiritual life separate from the rest of your life. Let God’s love for you and your gratitude to him flow and mingle and affect everything that you think, say, and do.

Erin Jacobsma

 


Alignment

I recently downloaded a Dictionary app on my phone (don’t judge) and since then I have received a daily notification for a Word of the Day. It has made me feel a bit uneducated and uncivilized since I have not been familiar with any of the words so far. For example, today was the word “antigodlin”. If I had to make a guess, I might reason that it has something to do with being ungodly or against God. However, the actual definition of the word is 1) lopsided or at an angle; out of alignment, 2) diagonal or cater-cornered.

My car has been a bit antigodlin lately. I purchased new tires a few weeks ago and paid for an alignment, but it just wasn’t good. As I drove down the highway and let go of the wheel, it would quickly pull to the right. We made an appointment to recheck the alignment. The mechanic tweaked a few things and thought it was fixed, but upon further driving on the open road it continued to pull to the right. After yet another appointment at the repair shop, the mechanic thought that switching the front tires would help. It did. But now the car pulled to the left. The decision was made to order a new tire and try that. Thankfully, the new tire seems to have done the trick. The car is no longer antigodlin, but drives down the road in a relatively straight line.

A wheel alignment sounds like a simple thing, but when I googled the method I realized it is actually an elaborate process that brings the car’s suspension into proper configuration, positioning and adjusting components so the wheels are aligned with one another and the road surface. When your wheels are out of alignment, the tires aren’t pointing in the right direction. This affects steering and suspension, but could also affect your safety and the durability of your tires and other parts of your car.

Sometimes my life seems to be a bit antigodlin also. I feel a bit lopsided and like I can’t get things straight. I try to go forward, but there are distractions and detours. I veer to the right and then to the left and struggle with advancing in a linear direction. Like the alignment on my car, I continually need to check and recheck my alignment with God. His Word gives us many insights into the process and the proper configuration:

  • Proverbs 4:23 Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
  • Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
  • Hebrews 13:5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have.
  • Ephesians 5:11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.
  • 2 Corinthians 10:5 We demolish arguments and every lofty opinion that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.
  • Philippians 4:8 Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
  • Philippians 1:27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.

So wherever you find yourself on the road of life, it is my prayer that you would align yourself with God according to his Instruction Manual, that you would be diligent about rechecking that alignment until you get it right, that you would finish the race and keep the faith.

Erin Jacobsma

 

 


How I Love Your Words

“Turn left…turn left…left again…turn right…stop…proceed…turn right…right again…slow down…brake…Brake…BRAKE!”

These are the words that have become the language spoken inside our car over the past year. Our daughter has her learning permit and is required to log 40 driving hours before she can test and proceed to her provisional driver’s license. We started out driving in the church parking lot, proceeded to city streets, then advanced to highways and the Interstate. We have practiced left turns and right turns, accelerating smoothly, stopping gently, following at a safe distance, controlled and uncontrolled intersections, lane changes, maintaining speed, driving defensively, backing up, and parallel parking. She has improved greatly. However, it occurred to me several weeks ago that while her skills have become more refined, the day is approaching where she will be the only one in the car and, up until this point, I have been making most of the decisions for her. Therefore, our driving instructions have now evolved into “Drive to the church; take us to the park; proceed to the grocery store; go to Grandpa and Grandma’s house.” Instead of me telling her how to get to where we need to go, she has had to enlist her brain and her own thought process to make the decisions required to help us arrive at our destination.

This week I had a similar experience of employing my mind. Wednesday was the first morning of the Community Women’s Bible Study at the Christian Reformed Church. Twenty or so women from multiple area churches gathered for Jen Wilkin’s study of the book of 1st Peter. The opening video was interesting and Jen warned us that this study might be different than studies we had done in the past. We would be looking at the Bible as a book about God-discovery, not self-discovery. We would be engaging not only our heart and emotions, but most of all our mind. Then the author laid out a few guidelines, the first of which made me hesitate: no commentaries, no study notes, no paraphrases. Wait, what? My NIV Study Bible is an old companion that she was asking me to leave at home for this journey. The Study Bible is printed with the scripture at the top of the page and explanations printed underneath for almost every single verse.

As I held my breath, I listened to her reasoning. She likened the use of study notes to a driver using a GPS device. We mindlessly listen to the automated voice telling us to turn left or right until we arrive at our destination without much trouble and without really knowing how we got there. However, if our GPS were to lose signal and we had to think about where we actually were and struggle with our confusion and dwell in the “I don’t know”, it would actually be a good thing and we would probably remember that route and destination in the future. As Jen Wilkins explained, “Nobody likes to feel lost or confused, but it is an important step in the acquisition and retention of understanding.” I began to evaluate how often I read a passage in scripture and then jump straight to the study guide for an explanation of what I read instead of mentally chewing on it for a while and letting the Holy Spirit speak to me personally.

In Psalm 119:97 David says, “Oh, how I love Your words.” While I can say that I love the Word, I am convicted that all too often I spend more time reading books and devotionals about God’s Word than the Word itself. Devotionals, study guides, and commentaries can be helpful, but I would like to grow in allowing the Holy Spirit to lead me into truth before I listen to someone else’s insight or direction. Scripture also warns us in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 that there will come a time when the truth will be disregarded and people will surround themselves with others who tell us what our itching ears want to hear. I think that time has come. And how easy it is to be deceived when you haven’t learned the truth firsthand.

My challenge to you and myself is to get in the Word. Read, struggle, listen, think. As Jen Wilkin reminded me, “The heart can’t love what the mind doesn’t know.” May God’s Word be the lamp to your feet and the light to your path! Erin Jacobsma