-by Judy Wallace.  This is article five in our series on drawing closer to God.
Let me explain. Probably at some point you, like I, have determined to follow a ‘read- through-the-Bible-in-one-year’ plan. Then you get to Leviticus. There is the peace offering, the guilt offering, the sin offering, the trespass offering, the grain offering etc. That is when you start to read the Bible, scan the words, and simply let your eyes go over the text so you can mark off that box for the day.
For the Bible study discipline of our CLOSER theme, it states: Learn to STUDY and UNDERSTAND the Bible. Reading through the Bible in a year is a wonderful goal. I think everyone should do that at least once in their lifetime. But instead of just reading your Bible, study and strive to understand it.
As an example, let’s do a word study on the word “study”! This word ’study’ is translated that way only twice in the New Testament and both times they are found in the letters Paul wrote.
To the church at Thessalonica he said, “And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands as we commanded you,” (1 Thessalonians 4:11). Then, in 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul writes,  “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
The interesting thing about that is, the words used in these two verses are not the same word!
The word used in Thessalonians means to “strive earnestly, make it one’s aim, to move into action by a love of honor.” That particular word is used two other times in scripture and is translated both as ‘strive’ and as ‘labor.’ Paul wanted this church to know that it should be their aim to live out an honorable life of service, equipped with their own God given gifts, and motivated by love to obey these commands.
The word used in Timothy means “to hasten and exert one’s self, endeavor, give diligence.” As his mentor, Paul encourages Timothy to put in the time and effort to know the scripture as a way of honoring God and being confident in sharing the truth. 
Each word for “study” is best suited for each situation and recipient. I didn’t know the difference and would have assumed they both meant the common meaning of study and gone on. But when you take the time to dig just a little, what a blessing is ours to see that our Almighty God inspired each word to give an exact message to the writer to pass along!
Now you see why I say, don’t just read your Bible. Study to understand it and see how the message God had for those people at that time has application for us as well.
SCRIPTURE: John 16:13; 2 Timothy 3:16,17; Psalm 119:105
PRAYER: “Father, without your word I would be clueless. Thank you for writing it! Thank you for preserving it throughout the millennia. Thank you for allowing the precious Holy Spirit to live inside of me. Who better than the author Himself to lead and guide me into all truth? May I never take it for granted. May I never neglect it. May I always hunger and thirst after righteousness. Time spent with You in Your Word is what fuels my life. Speak to me each day as I search for guidance and enjoy Your presence.”
RESPOND: Do a word search in a Bible concordance from a verse that you read this week. Download a Bible app that contains several helps for your study. There are many good ones! I use the Blue Letter Bible. It is free and offers a concordance and commentaries, it tells you all the other verses that contain that word, it will read the passage to you if you learn best by listening, and it offers several other helps.
“Without spending time in God’s Word, we tend to forget what matters to Him.” -Charles Stanley
For Such a Time as This
-by Susie Edgar.  This is article four in our series on drawing closer to God.

“Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this.”  (Esther 4:14)

God has placed His children, wherever we are at this moment, in the midst of a battle: a huge conflict involving good versus evil. Esther was faced with such a time and her decision became an example for us to follow.
Esther, a Jew, was raised by her cousin Mordecai after her parents’ death. When she was made Queen of Persia, she had no idea that God would give her the opportunity to save her people.  Her Jewish nation had been put into a position to be killed by the Kings degree.  Mordecai told Esther, “Who knows if you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this. “
The first thing she did was fast and pray, then she asked all the Jews to do the same. What a great first step!  They were very grateful for Esther’s response to Mordecai’s plea to think not just of herself but her people as well. As a result, she glorified God, and many lives were spared.
When God asks us to do something, we stand at a crossroads, a crisis of belief. We sometimes believe we are not able to accomplish what God has ask us to do. The question is, will we do it or will we refuse?  Often, we have only minutes or maybe seconds to decide our direction before the opportunity is gone. God will find someone to do His will if we don’t.  If we choose to allow God to work through us, the blessings will be above and beyond our imagination. Our faith will increase and God will be glorified.  That’s the goal.
How many souls can be spared in our culture when we choose to step up and do a service for the Lord?  Don’t give up on our nation. Remember, we have God on our side. We must pray, fast and humble ourselves before our God for deliverance. Never doubt God is in control.  
Since God has chosen to work through his people, we have been given all we need to accomplish great things for His glory.  God is always working around us. He invites us to become involved with what He is doing. Listen carefully to His voice. To miss a kingdom assignment because we’ve become too caught up in our own personal kingdom is one of the greatest tragedies we could ever face.
Never forget. God sees and God will answer!
Lord, help us to be willing to obey and glorify you when we sense your direction. In your Son’s name we pray. Amen.


Are You Listening? 
-by Valarie Fish.  This is article three in our series on drawing closer to God.

When both my boys were toddlers they would often not pay attention to me when I would give an instruction. Especially an instruction they didn’t want to follow right at that moment. Sometimes they would respond, but I knew they weren’t really listening. The parenting books all agree when talking with children you should get down to their level. “Look right here, at my face,” I would say and then make eye contact. Often I would make them repeat what I said so that I knew they understood.

Early on toddlers also learn “face time” means you are listening to them. If I were distracted they would get up in my face sometimes to the point of holding their little hands on each side of my cheeks and looking me right in the eye “mommy, you have to listen!”

God took on human flesh as Immanuel – God with us – so He could come down and get on your level. He says “Look right here, at my face…” and He gives clear distinct instructions. Sometimes He waits for you to repeat the instructions back to Him so He knows you understand.
“I love the Lord because He has heard my voice… because He inclined His ear to me…” (Psalm 116:1-2)

Each day, if you take a few moments to commune with your Father you can be certain He hears you. The above passage says He inclined His ear, which means He leans in and gives you His undivided attention! If you have ever experienced this then you understand why the Psalmist wrote the next phrase – “Therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live.” When you really know God is listening you will learn to take every concern and every care and crawl up into His lap to talk to Him. 

Even as my children got older giving too many instructions at a time could be a problem, so with my youngest son we started what we called “practice listening.” I would give an instruction and say “now, practice listening” and he would reply with “so what you are saying is…” and repeat back what he understood the instruction to be. Finally, the most important step is following through with the instruction given. This is how I know my son really heard me – when he follows the instruction!
Be doers of the Word and not hearers only… James 1:22 says.

Sometimes God takes this approach with you and me. He has given all the instructions. He wants you to read them and then practice listening! Repeat back the instruction so He knows you understand. This is what makes studying the written Word of God so important. You have to read it to hear it. You have to understand it to be able to follow. You have to follow through to prove you heard the instruction in the first place.

Beloved, are you listening?


-by Jackie Ricks.  This is article two in our series on drawing closer to God. 
One of our goals this year is to draw closer to God. In the acrostic CLOSER, the first letter
stands for “Communicate with God through prayer.” Prayer is the main thing that has carried
me through life. Just as one wants to talk to her best friend, husband, child, or whomever, she
should want to talk to God in the same way. I know when something exciting happens, I
immediately want to share it. By the same token, when problems arise, I need to discuss
matters with someone. Although I love to talk to my loved ones, God is the best One to talk to
in either case. God already knows exactly what has happened, but there is a comfort in
thanking Him for the good things and asking for His help to discern what to do in any situation.
Psalm 145:18 states, “The Lord is near unto all those who call upon Him, to all who call
upon Him in truth.” The more I talk to God, the closer I feel to Him, just as I would to anyone
with whom I communicate.
Many times driving down the road I talk to God aloud. People driving near me may think I’ve lost my mind, but the truth is I’m finding peace and comfort in my quiet time with my friend, God. (Obviously, don’t close your eyes when you do this!)  Some conversations with God are long, but some are as short as “Thanks” or “Help!” Quite often I simply think of a situation where I say, “Lord, Your will.” There is no correct formula for prayer.
However, with that being said, let me tell you something that I came up with years ago as I was writing Sunday School literature for Baptist Publishing House. It has helped me many
times to remember not to monopolize God’s time by only asking for help or by not
acknowledging that He will take care of everything in His own will. Since I love acrostics, I came
up with this one for PRAYER. Maybe it will help you as you draw closer to God through prayer.

Scriptures to Read:
Praise: Psalm 107:31-32
Repent: 1 John 1:9
Ask: Matthew 21:22
Yield: Matthew 26:39-45
Expect: 1 John 5:14-15
Rest: Matthew 11:28

Prayer: “Lord, that You for being there no matter what time or day or night that I come to You.
You listen faithfully to everything I say or think. Since I don’t have to talk aloud, I can pray even
in the midst of a crowded room. Please help me to remember to come to You first whether it’s
to rejoice or to cry. Show me, Lord, what You would have me do and how to be more faithful in
bringing You all of my hopes, dreams, and desires as well as my troubles. Thank You, again, for
being God. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Respond: to God in prayer every chance you get today. Learn to communicate with Him on a regular basis.
-by Judy Wallace.  This is article one in our series on drawing closer to God.  

Our purpose in life is to pursue a closer, more intimate relationship with Christ under the leadership and power of the Holy Spirit through the development of spiritual disciplines set forth in the acronym, C.L.O.S.E.R.

It was a long engagement: one year and two months to be exact.  Tommy was in Bald Knob farming and I was finishing my senior year of college by student teaching in Ft Smith. It was hard to stay connected but we certainly made the effort. 

There were no cell phones and to call long distance cost extra. So instead, we wrote letters.  The letters were not just occasionally, they were daily! We ‘talked’ on paper and shared our daily activities.  I would often beat the mailman to the mail box and received the precious writing straight into my hand.  Immediately, I opened each letter knowing it was from the one who loved me deeply and wanted me to spend the rest of my life with him.  It was how we stayed CLOSER while apart.

This year the Inspirational Resource Committee wants to post weekly blogs to our website all for the purpose of helping you draw CLOSER to our God.  Our responsibility as a group is to recommend godly resources that help you grow, mature, and continue to pursue a more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.  What better resource for this than the Bible! It is God’s precious letter to us.  It is from the one who loves us deeply and wants us to spend the rest of our lives with Him! It is the source and foundation of many disciplines we need to pursue.

This year we will be using the acronym C.L.O.S.E.R.* to guide our writings and more importantly to encourage you in incorporating these spiritual endeavors into your daily lives.

C = Communicate with God through prayer

L = Learn to study and understand God’s Word

O = Obey

S = Store God’s word in your heart through memorization and meditation

E = Evangelize

R = Renew daily

Your writers will be our committee members: Valerie Fish, Susie Edgar, Jackie Ricks, and myself, Judy Wallace.

Join us weekly. Pray for us daily. Incorporate these disciplines regularly. It is what He has called us to do!

Scriptures to Read: James 4:8; Isaiah 26:3; Psalm 119:10; Matthew 5:6

Prayer: “Father, You are our Rock, our Shield, our Redeemer, Savior, and Friend.  You are Lord of all, our Creator, our Shepherd, and Your presence is always with us.  Even Your names bring peace into our lives. Plus, there is the wonder that You loved us enough to send Your Son to die for us as unworthy as we are.  How is it that You invite us into Your Presence? That You long to fellowship with us?  That You want us close to Your heart and partakers of Your Spirit’s power?  How is it that we would dare refuse Your invitation to draw closer; to take time to study Your word, hide it in our hearts and minds, and seek Your face as a daily True North to follow? We cannot follow Your words unless we know them so help us on this journey to draw CLOSER each day to You and Your path for our lives.  Help us love You more so that we may obey You fully.  In Christ’s precious name, Amen.”

Respond to God with your own prayer from what you have read today.

[*C.L.O.S.E.R. Was developed by Rob Gallaty in his discipleship series Growing Up, Firmly Planted, Bearing Fruit.]