Throw Away the Measuring Stick

6 Tips for Success for the Godly Woman

(When my church, GFBC, was doing the Rachel & Leah study, by Nicki Koziarz, this fall, I wrote some encouragement notes to the ladies that were going through the study with me.  One of those notes developed into this blog post.)

In the study we took a deep look into the lives of Rachel & Leah and learned how to combat comparisons in our own lives.  The last week topic or truth was “Let the success of others encourage you, not discourage you.”

So how do you measure success?

Do you measure it by the worlds standards of Fame and Fortune?  Do you let the success you see around you discourage you in pursuing your own desires and goals?  Has your road to success become your idol?  We are all constantly taking out a measuring stick and measuring our lives up against those around us.  The problem is, we use the world’s standards as our measuring stick instead of God’s standards.   Here are just a few things to remember when you are looking at your measuring stick:

  1. God already has a successful plan mapped out for your life; you just have to be obedient and follow it. When King David was dying he told his son, Solomon, “Do what God tells you. Walk in the paths he shows you: Follow the life-map absolutely, keep an eye out for the signposts, his course for life set out in the revelation to Moses; then you’ll get on well in whatever you do and wherever you go.” (1 Kings 2:3 The Message) We have to do things God’s way not the world’s. God’s course is always the best, and we will succeed when we follow His plan.
  2. You have to start somewhere. Don’t forget it is your journey. Not your neighbors’, friends’ or the person that is doing exactly what you want to succeed in doing.   Zechariah 4:10 says “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.”  If God has called you to do something, don’t be discouraged when you see others succeeding more rapidly in the same task. Their journey may have a different purpose in God’s master plan.  You will never progress on your journey unless you start.  God rejoices when you take the steps of obeying and following His plan.
  3. You have to stay focused on the Goal and know that God is the source of your success. Don’t let the success of others remove your focus from what God has called you to accomplish.  Paul says in Philippians 3:13-14 “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.”   Don’t look back – keep your eyes focused forward and know that God is the source of “every good and perfect gift (James 1:17)”
  4. Let the success of others spur you on in your journey, not hinder you. “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24)  “This saying is trustworthy. I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed God might be careful to devote themselves to good works. These are good and profitable for everyone.” ( Titus 3:8 )  “Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us.” (Hebrews 12:1)  Look in Hebrews 11 to see all that have come before us, to encourage us in our walk of Faith.  We can see how God used each one in his plan, but don’t stop there, look around you and let the success of others encourage you to succeed.
  5. God has gifted you with all you need to succeed. God gifted you with talents when he formed you in the womb.  When you became a believer, He gifted you with a Spiritual gift.  He has already equipped you with all you need to bring Him Glory and become a success in His eyes.
  6. Your Ultimate Goal is for your success to bring Glory to God. Success is knowing that you have done everything you can do, both in thoughts and actions, to become the best that you are capable of becoming.  Colossians 3:17 says “And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  When you pull out that measuring tape to measure your success, ask yourself, “Am I doing everything I possibly can to bring glorify to God?”

So throw away the measuring stick with the world’s ideas of success, and pick up your Bible and study God’s idea of success.

blackboard-board-chalk-21696.jpg

Putting Together the Pieces

My grandmother has always loved to work jigsaw puzzles.  I have many fond memories of us spending hours in front of a puzzle working well into the night to finish the picture.  Even today at the age of 91 with her being almost completely blind and dealing with Alzheimer’s, she still sits for hours working puzzles.  The puzzles may have become fewer in pieces, but she still loves fitting the pieces together.  When she completes a puzzle she is always excited to show it off, to let you see what she has accomplished of taking all the pieces and fitting them together to reveal the complete picture.

51ktrzbp0il-_sx326_bo1204203200_That is what we are doing when we study God’s Word.  We are taking each piece of knowledge we receive from reading God’s Word and placing it in its proper place to see God’s story being revealed.  We are becoming more Bible literate.  Jen Wilkins in her book Women of the Word: How to STUDY the BIBLE with Both OUR HEARTS and OUR MINDS gives her definition of Bible Literacy: “Bible literacy occurs when a person has access to a Bible in a language she understands and is steadily moving toward knowledge and understanding of the text…Bible literacy stitches patchwork knowledge into a seamless garment of understanding.”

I need to be up front and say I do not have it all together and I am not perfect!   It is not easy trying to be diligent and faithful in spending time in God’s Word on a daily basis.  Let’s be honest, it is a struggle for me and I am sure for many of you.  I get in a routine and then something comes along and messes it up.  One day becomes two and before long it has been a week.  One thing I do know is My God is faithful to forgive me and prompt me to spend time with him.

cbt-52-lessons-cover

The other thing I struggle with is how to approach the study of God’s Word.  No book, study plan, or Bible study book can replace just digging in and reading God’s Word and letting the Holy Spirit direct you.  That being said, I am always interested in seeing, hearing and reading how other people approach the study of God’s Word. Are you one that reads the Bible through once a year or do you select a book at a time?  Do you follow a daily devotion or reading plan?  Do you write verses down and meditate on them?  Or do you just let the Holy Spirit lead you in your reading.  Do you use Iva May’s approach in Chronological Bible Teaching reading the Bible Chronologically?  How about Jen Wilkin’s 5 P’s of Sound Study approach in her book: Women of the Word: How to STUDY the BIBLE with Both OUR HEARTS and OUR MINDS?  In Angie Smith’s study Seamless she streams all of the major stories in the Bible together in one thread.  There are so many ways to approach the study of God’s Word, but what are we doing with our knowledge and understanding?  Are all the pieces of the puzzle fitting together?

51jyryn98ul-_sx366_bo1204203200_As we start 2018, do you have a plan?  Did you make a New Year’s resolution to Study God’s Word more?   So how is it going?  No matter what plan you use, make sure that you are seeing God’s complete picture.  Don’t shy away from the things you don’t understand?  I have many times written or said to God, “I don’t understand this passage.”  You know, it is usually not long before I hear someone preach on the same passage or read a book where the verse I don’t understand is revealed to me with more understanding.  As Women of the Word let’s be more intentional in becoming more Bible Literate this next year.

Lord, may we make a commitment to spend more time in your Word.  Not just to gain head knowledge, but to gain understanding so that when the end of 2018 comes around we may be able to see each piece of your Word revealed as a beautiful picture of YOUR LOVE for us from Genesis to Revelation.

stock_photo_cross_against_the_sky_puzzle

Back to Basics: Bible Reading

It’s that time again! Skip the decaf and go straight for the good stuff! Grab your Bible, pen, and journal, and Wake Up! Today we’re going back to a very simple basic: reading your Bible.

In January we challenged you to pick your favorite Bible translation, find a Bible reading plan, and begin to dig in to God’s Word for 2017.

Did you do it?

Did you start it and not stick with it possibly? (I’ve done that many times myself.) If you started a plan to read the entire Bible in 2017 and stayed the course, you will now find yourself, here in mid-November, having pexels-photo-289689read over 90% of the whole Bible. Nine-tenths! Ninety percent of God’s word full of love and wisdom, peace, history, and instruction. You are a different person now than you were 10 1/2 months ago. I know this because Isaiah 55:11 tells us, “My word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” As you have been reading and feeding yourself on His word this year, He has been changing you, achieving His purposes for you and accomplishing His desired work in your heart! Isn’t that encouraging? You may not see the growth and change when you look at yourself today as compared to yesterday, but think back to a year ago. You may be surprised by what changes you see that God has worked in your life!

Now, for those of us, like me, who are a little behind in what we hoped for this year, it’s time to wake up and re-focus. I have gottten 6 days behind over the course of the year. I know because I keep a list and check it off. I’m lazy if I don’t take measures to keep myself faithful in seeking Him. But I’m not quitting; I’m reading a little extra each day. Not that my goal is to check off a check list, but in pursuit of my goal to know God more intimately and know His word more fully, I press on.

So, if you find you haven’t been as faithful in coming to sit at Jesus feet each day as you wish you had been this year, do you give up and say, “Oh well.”? No. You recommit, dig in deeper, wake up earlier, and read His word more each day. The great thing about the Father is that we never run out of fresh starts with Him.

unnamedWhen you sit down with the Scriptures, pen in hand, if you only read and don’t think or take notes or pray, you won’t get as much out of it. Recently, I have picked up the habit of listening to the scripture as I read it visually. I use the Bible Gateway app on my phone. When you click on the menu icon at the top left you get a drop down menu that has “Audio Bible” as an option. It allows you to choose the version you want to listen to, the Bible book and chapter, and the person reading it aloud. I use Max McLean who has a great voice that helps you hear the meaning.

For the rest of this post I want to give you some ideas for a fresh start at approaching the Word of God. The first one is the one I use, though they are all somewhat similar.

1 – Prayer followed by Observation-Interpretation-Application. Each morning as I open my Bible, I begin by praying that the Father will open the eyes of my heart to see and understand the truths I’m reading that day. This gets my mind engaged and my heart focused on Him, and it let’s Him know I’m ready and willing to hear and obey.

Second, I read a portion of scripture making simple observations: Who is the passage about? What’s going on? What lessons are being taught? What promises are given? What does it reveal about God or human nature or sin, etc.?

Third, I try to interpret the meaning of the passage asking myself what the deeper meaning and implications of the scripture are. How does this portion of scripture fit in with what all I already know about scripture? Does it enlighten me on a deep truth I haven’t understood? Sometimes it expands my understanding of God’s love, mercy, and grace. Without doubt,  it will help me interpret the overall message of scripture more clearly: scripture is the best commentary on scripture.

And finally, I try to see how to apply it to my life. Does it give me a list of practical helps that I can seek to live out that week? Or perhaps it reminds me to walk in faith or step out in service to others or praise him in the middle of our tough circumstances. Does it correct error in me, perhaps in an area of theology where I have followed the ways of the world without ever really considering what His word implied?

soap-1509963_1920

S.O.A.P.

2 – SOAP – Scripture-Observe-Apply-Pray – The SOAP method starts and ends differently than our first method, but has some of the same components.. First you go to scripture. But you don’t just read it, you write out on paper the passage you are reading! (When we write things out we remember them better.) Then you follow a similar path as in the first option, You observe and apply God’s word as instructed above. In this model, you end with prayer asking for God’s wisdom and equipping that you can live out what you’ve learned.

boy-1846612_1920

F.L.I.P.

3 – FLIP – Facts-Lessons-“I need to apply this”-Pray – In this one, you read the Word searching out the Facts: who, what, when, where, why, and how. The you read back through looking for Lessons (promises, principles, instructions, etc.) in that same scripture portion. After that you you consider how I need to apply this to my life. And once again you end with the prayers of your heart.

Whichever method you can remember most easily is probably a good place to start.

Wherever you find yourself in your spiritual journey right here at Thanksgiving, it’s never too late to seek God. Today is the time to start. Whether you are finishing up a year’s commitment to read a portion of scripture or you are just deciding to get started reading scripture methodically, go for it. As you immerse yourself in God’s word you will grow closer to the Father, find solutions to your challenges, understand the world better, and walk in a more Christlike manner. Scripture changes you! So don’t quit. And don’t make excuses or put off starting. Just do it!

book-2073023_1920

Back to Basics: Doing a Topical Study

Grab your coffee! It’s time to learn to do some Bible researching. It’s not hard! Don’t panic!

Ever been at the office or out with friends and a subject comes up that gets uncomfortable for you? Maybe it’s a hot topic from the news that has spiritual overtones, or perhaps a spoken opinion on a moral issue that goes against what you believe. Whatever it is, it pricks your heart, or conscience. You feel internal distress. You know you disagree with what is being promoted, but you can’t pull up the scriptural principles you need to be able to support your point, so you sit in tacit agreement even though you know you disagree. Most likely, we’ve all found ourself in this position at one time or another.

Fast forward 2 hours. Dinner is over and you’re home mulling over your regrets about not speaking up. What do you do?

May I suggest doing a topical study of the subject in scripture? You may have felt a bit like you failed because you could not or did not speak up. But as my sweet husband says, those failures or problems are just creative opportunities. So NOW is your opportunity to make sure you are never caught in that place again (on that subject, at least)! Let this “failure” move you to take action, and take an hour to dig into the Word of God to see what it has to say, so that the next time you will be prepared.

Topical studies are easy-peasy! Here is the scoop:

  1. Grab your Bible, a pen & paper, and a Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, either paper or online.
  2. Jot down on the paper key words related to the topic you want to discover more about.
  3. Look up each word in your concordance and jot down the scripture references that use this word.
  4. Take time to read each scripture on your list.
  5. As you read a scripture write down facts you learn. (Realize that these may support what you believe, or they may not. In the latter case, they may cause you to change your belief.)
  6. Pray over what you have learned and tuck away those ideas for the next time you feel challenged to speak about what you believe on this subject.

Example:

At a wedding shower yesterday you found out the bride-to-be has been living with the groom-to-be and they’re not married yet. You were always taught this was wrong, but you know it’s very acceptable in today’s society. You feel tongue-tied, can’t really remember why you believe what you believe, and it’s not the place to speak up anyway.

So you go home with these thoughts nagging at your brain. You drag out your commentary and Bible. (This is step 1.) You write down general words having to do with the topic: marry, marriage, wife, husband, and virgin. And then you think of more specific words and Biblical words: sex, unfaithful, chaste, fornication, etc. (Step 2) As you go to the Strong’s you find L-O-N-G lists of scriptures. You notice that the Strong’s also gives you a phrase beside each scripture reference so you can get the gist of the meaning of that verse. The phrases that don’t seem to relate directly to your topic you skip over and just record the most pertinent ones. (Step 3.) Then you grab your Bible and paper and notate that a man and wife become one flesh (Matthew 19:5-6), that there should not be any impurity or any hint of sexual immorality in our lives (Ephesians 5:3), and that in Ephesians 5:22-33 husbands and wives are seen as a picture of Christ and the church – and you are very aware that Christ would never be seen in an immoral act like sex before marriage. (There are many, many more scriptures on this subject area, but these give us a view of what steps 4 & 5 might look like.) You end your study with prayer for wisdom, prayer for your own strength of character to obey in this area, and prayer for the bride and groom-to-be that triggered your interest in this study. (Step 6.) Notice that there is no “Step 7” that has you go back and bash-with-scripture the people who disagreed with you earlier. You are NOT their Holy Spirit. But you are now better equipped in this area to speak your beliefs in love if the appropriate opportunity arises in the future.

So I challenge you, as you drain that last sip of cafe-au-lait out of your cup, dig into God’s Word in areas where questions have come up in your daily life. Do topical studies. Try it! Today even. Don’t wallow in your ignorance as my grandmama used to say, but take time to learn and “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18) We don’t grow in knowledge to be able to correct others or put them in their place. That mentality comes from a heart of pride. Rather, we grow and learn to know God more intimately and to become more like Jesus Christ, thereby being lights to the world that draw people to Jesus like a moth to a flame.

moth_into_flame

Back to Basics: How to Study Your Bible 101

pexels-photo-269399

Grab a strong cup of coffee – it may be a long week! Get cozy. We’re putting together the pieces of life as we study the Word of God.

***************

We were blessed to hear Mike Satterfield preach this past week at GFBC. And did he ever step on my toes! How about you? When he began by asking us to think back over our last week…

Has anything changed? If I have not progressed, why?

Wow! Stopped me dead in my tracks. I long to see slight changes from year to year, but from week to week?! Methinks I’m to easy on myself? How about you? Let’s examine ourselves together?

How have you done so far this year at developing the spiritual disciplines you desire? Are you in the Word more now than you were this past January? How about more than last month? Last week? Yikes! Are you praying without ceasing more now than last January? Than last month? Last week? Yikes! Are you memorizing scripture and witnessing and obeying scripture more now than last January? Than last month? Last week? Yikes!

It puts me a bit on the defensive. I want to say, “But hey, you don’t know how busy I am! I’m a good person, a real Christian. Really!”

The bottom line is that our good intentions to live a godly life are not the same thing as living a godly life. So join me today as I choose to be tough on myself. To recommit to that one most central spiritual discipline – Bible reading and study. Let’s seek to live to a higher calling.

In light of that here are a few simple things to keep in mind as you dig deep into God’s word. There’s something in this list for you, no matter where you find your level of commitment to Bible reading or Bible study or applying the Bible to life.

  • Read the Bible every day. Even if it is only 1 verse. Develop the habit.

 

  • Ask the 5 W’s and an H (who, what, when, where, why, how) when you read God’s Word. These give you a frame-work for what you are reading, similar to filling in the corners and edges to a puzzle. Especially ask these type questions: What does this teach me about God/Jesus? About people? About women? About sin? About the world?

 

  • Read with a pencil (and possibly paper) on hand. Ideas you may want to try: Underline or mark key words or thoughts.Take notes in your Bible. Mark things that apply to you.Put question marks in the margin beside what you do not yet understand. In the margin, date and make notes on promises or commands that you sense are specifically for you that day. You may want to use a journal to record longer thoughts or prayers concerning the scripture you have read.

 

  • Train yourself to systematically read the Word of God. Start today. Ideas: †Read one proverb a day for a month. †Read all 4 Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, John over the course of a year. †Read one Psalm a day.  †Read the Bible chronologically. †Read through the whole Bible from Genesis through Revelation in a year or 2 years.

 

  • Use the study Bible notes at he bottom of the page which explain meanings of names, or the historical or cultural implications we may not be aware of today.

 

  • Refer to the scriptures listed in the margins of study Bibles to find other scriptures throughout God’s word that mention the same word. For example: beside Genesis 1:1 about God creating the heaven and the earth, my study Bible lists in the margin 13 scripture references for verse 1, the first one is Psalm 102:25 which says that the heavens are the work of His hands. This type of searching for scriptures that help us understand similar scriptures is called cross-referencing. The best commentary on scripture is other scriptures.

 

 

  • Pray before you read your Bible. Always. Ask the Lord to teach you, to open your eyes to the truth, and to help you live out what you are learning. John 14:26 tells us “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

Grasp onto one of these tools. Get in the Word. Let it change you!

Expect yourself to be better next week than you are today!

pexels-photo-273011

Back to Basics: God’s Word 2

Hey! Good to see you again! Grab your Jasmine Tea or whatever your favorite beverage is. I’ve got my cup of Breakfast Blend.

So… have you just been doin’ it? Your personal Quiet Time alone with God each day, that is. Have you? This stuff builds upon itself you know. Walk in obedience to the truth you’ve already been shown.

Enough check up and lecture, on to business. A couple of months back Michele mentioned some of these ideas, but there is much to be gained from examining differing perspectives.

A huge part of our quiet time each day is reading and studying God’s word. I hope you chose a Bible reading plan and are well into it. If you’ve kept up with a monthly whole Bible reading plan, you’re probably about 20% Of the way through! On fifth! Way to go! If you haven’t started but would like to, jump in! There’s never a bad time to begin searching out the Father’s Word.

Here are some tips and ideas that may help you read & get the most from scripture study:

  • What version of the Bible should you use? King James version is lovely and poetic, but difficult for some to read because of its archaic English. NASB, ESV, NLT, and NIV are all quality translations, NIV being the easiest of the 4 to read. Modern day versions (The Living Bible, The Message) are acceptable for reading but more difficult to use for deep study. Choose what works best for you. You can try them out online at Bible Gateway.
  • Always pray for God to open your eyes and heart before you begin studying His word. Ask for a teachable spirit. John 14:26 tells us that “the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” Ask the Holy Spirit to do that for you each time you study.
  • Journal. Write down questions, insights, and things you want to study more later, as well as prayer needs and answers.
  • Mark in your Bible. 
    1. Underline verses the Lord has “written there just for you” or so it seemspexels-photo-38048
    2. Put the date in the margin beside important lessons God has shown you, words of encouragement, or answers to prayers.
    3. Also jot in definitions of words or brief explanations of the test that you pick up from sermons or devotionals.
    4. Put a simple question mark in the margin beside things you don’t understand. As you read scripture day after day, week after week, and year after year, the Lord will instruct you and you will one day look back on that little question mark and think, “Wow, that is so clear now. I remember when I didn’t understand that spiritual concept.”
  • Bible Reading Plans. Consider using one of the many Bible Reading Plans available to keep you on track and consistent. Whether you want to read the New Testament in a year, read the whole Bible chronologically through in a year, read more leisurely savoring every verse, or completely read the Bible in 26 days (Yes! There is a plan for that!), a Bible reading plan you choose to fit your needs and desires will help hold you accountable. Here are a few websites that offer these plans: Bible PlanBible Reading Project, or even check out Pinterest for more.
  • Search for other scriptures on a topic. Use Bible Gateway to search for more scriptures. If you read a verse about “baptism” and think “I need to know more about Baptism”. Then go to Bible Gateway and type “baptism” into the search box at the top of the page. It will provide other verses you can read for more insight.
  • Read commentaries for explanation of a text. Commentaries can be purchased at a book store or accessed online. Precept Austin is a good site that offers in-depth information. There is a search engine for the site on the main page where you can look for more info on a scripture.
  • Do a word study of the original Greek or Hebrew term. What? You don’t read Greek & Hebrew? Neither do I. But Stong’s Exhaustive Concordance contains every word from scripture listed alphabetically. Use it to look up a specific word and find the original meaning. For instance, you read John 16:7 about Jesus going away and sending “another comforter.” You wonder what exactly the word “comforter” implies, so you look it up in Strong’s and find the Greek word paraklētos. You then study the definition and it broadens your understanding of the words of Christ. (More on how to do word studies in a later post.)
  • Memorize it! We are instructed to hide God’s word in our heart. What? You say you CAN’T?! You Can! Here are some ideas:
    1. Write a verse on your bathroom mirror with a marker and read it every day while you brush your teeth. (I’ve memorized whole chapters this way!)
    2. A variation of the above: On day 2 or 3 of reading the verse, erase 3-5 key words and see if you can say the verse. Every couple of days erase a few more words until you can finally say it with nothing on the mirror.
    3. Use the app Fighter Verses on your smart phone, iPad, or computer. It offers memory helps, games, etc.
    4. Set your screen saver or lock screen to display your memory verse until it is learned.
    5. Sing the verse!
  • Listen to it! Either on audio Bible or sermon podcasts. Listen when you commute to work or while you’re working out or cleaning house or rocking the baby. And of course, attend your local church and listen to your pastor teach on scripture, hear Sunday School lessons, and participate in women’s Bible studies available in your area.
  • Live it! “So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.” James 1:21-25

For more ideas check out this article from the Navigators on how to study your Bible.

Mmmm! My coffee was so good! But sharing Bible study tips was even better. What about you? Do you have specific Bible study tips you’d like to share with the rest of us? We’d love to hear from you!

 
word20hand202005
 Hand image courtesy of Bible.org. https://bible.org/seriespage/22-hand-illustration-first-finger-hearing

Bible Resources for Children in Your Home (Back to Basics)

In our series on developing spiritual disciplines, I wanted to share with you some of my favorite children’s Bibles and teaching resources.

I am a sucker for children’s Bibles. However, not all are created equal. I’m no expert on all children’s biblical materials, but as a teacher and mother, I have some criteria for choosing quality resources for my children. I’m usually looking for resources from authors and sources whose views on theology I trust. I like children’s materials that are not dumbed-down, even though their audience is children. I like biblically accurate stories in a children’s Bible, not stories that have been overly shortened leaving out important theology. Beautiful illustrations are important to me, too. I have 4 children ages 8 and under, and we have a number of materials that we use or have used to teach the Bible and biblical doctrines. I am hoping that if you don’t already have some good books to teach the Bible to your children, maybe these ideas will be of help. Of course there is no substitute for the actual word of God. These are just additional resources for you.  And if you have some really good resources you’d like to share, please do so in the comments!

img_0471

The Jesus Storybook Bible

The Jesus Storybook Bible is my favorite children’s Bible.  Every story shows how God is always pointing us to Jesus. It’s wonderfully illustrated, with sound theology and engaging retellings of the stories throughout the Bible. In fact, I’ve been known to read selections from this Bible in some of my adult classes, because it’s such a well-written book.

img_0472

The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden

Affectionately called “The Snake Crusher,” this book uses brightly colored, geometric graphics as it takes the reader through ten chapters chronicling the highlights of the Bible. It ends with the Snake Crusher returning to wipe away the bad and restore the good. Isn’t that the wonderful truth of God’s word?!

 

img_0473

The Garden the Curtain and the Cross

This is a short book with bright, lively illustrations explaining why Jesus died and came back to life. Using the phrase “Keep Out!” to describe man’s separation from God due to sin, the author beautifully explains the significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection so that man can be restored to God.

img_0475

Leading Little Ones to God

This book is an “oldie” but a goody.  Using short readings, it teaches children basic biblical doctrines like the trinity, the omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence of God, angels, sin, the Law, forgiveness of sin through Jesus, etc.  We homeschool and used this as a Bible curriculum last year, but it would be perfect for family devotionals or for dinnertime readings where parents want to disciple their children. I used it with a 4 and 7-year-old, but it could be used for children much older, as well.

img_0477

The Ology- Ancient Truths Ever New

The Ology Music CD

This one I haven’t actually used yet, but have read through and find it looks to be a wonderful resource to teach Bible doctrines and basic catechism.  It has short readings, and lots of scripture paired with beautiful illustrations. This, too, would be a great book to use for parents seeking to disciple children with short lessons at meal-times or bed time. It has a partner CD you can order with children’s songs that correspond to the book to help expand understanding and remember the material.

And finally, check out Egermeier’s Bible Story Book.  I haven’t personally read this one, but a friend suggested it when she found out I was writing this post. I trust her judgment and she’s raised some amazing children, so I will definitely be checking into this one as well!

Do you have favorite Children’s Bible resources that you’ve used? Leave a comment for the rest of us! And stay tuned for a coming post about memorizing scripture with children!

pexels-photo-256548

But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Luke 18:16 

 

 

 

Sola Scriptura: Romans 8

No dialog. No frills. No personal annotations. Simply truths from Romans 8 which can guide us through this path of life. Pray, read, and allow God to speak to your heart.

  • There is now no condemnation in Christ.
  • The law of the Spirit of Life has set you free from the law of sin and death.
  • We do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
  • The mind set on the flesh is death but on the Spirit is Life and Peace.
  • Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
  • All who are being led by the Spirit, these are the sons of God.
  • You are not slaves to fear, you are adopted daughters of God.
  • Our present sufferings are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come.
  • The Spirit intercedes for us when we don’t know what to pray.
  • All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
  • If God is for us who can be against us?! (Rhetorical Question! Answer: no one!)
  • What can separate us from the love of Christ?! (Rhetorical Question! Answer: nothing!)
  • We are more than conquerors in Christ. I am. You are.

Bible Gateway – Romans 8

Continue reading

Back to Basics: God’s Word

I’ve got my steamy cup of coffee with Peppermint Mocha creamer, so grab you a cuppa and let’s get going again…

So have you been meeting with God each day? Have you found your time and place that works for you? Are you getting into the routine, a routine as common as family dinner around the table at 6:00 or getting up for work at 5:30? I hope so! Have you found a Bible version you enjoy reading or studying in?

Last week Michele shared some great logistics and organization tips on Bible study with you. Check it out here if you missed it. Later we will have some more articles on Bible study from our other writers sharing how they handle Bible study. But for today, I want to talk more heart stuff, once again with a focus on Bible study.

I remember vividly my mom & dad sitting down every night during my childhood and doing their “Daily Bible Reading.” In those days Sunday morning lesson books had recommended scriptures to read for each day of the week. I honestly can’t remember a single night not seeing them sitting at the kitchen table, each reading their individual Bibles, as I kissed them goodnight and headed off to bed. What a great heritage I had and I didn’t even realize that as a child!

A photo by Ben White. unsplash.com/photos/4K2lIP0zc_kSo with a heritage like that and having a compliant personality I started to read my Bible daily as soon as I accepted Christ at age eight. Now I didn’t understand much of it. I usually just read one or two verses. But I was learning to feed myself spiritually. Just like a little messy baby reaching for the baby food spoon or trying to feed himself Cheerios the first time, I didn’t have great success, but I was on the path to grow and learn. I missed days. I took notes in my diary on what I read. I was able to check the box of Bible reading and was making those foundational moves to be what my child eyes saw a Christian to be.

In 3rd grade I had Mrs. Mamie Latham as my Sunday School teacher. She was a godly woman with a heart for scripture memory! She gave us treats every Sunday if we memorized a new verse. I got a treat nearly every Sunday (but we won’t talk about my struggle even today with treats!) God was working into me a foundation of scripture for my life. Many of these verses I remember today.

In my teens I started reading more scripture and understanding it more. I began to see how God’s Word could be applied in my everyday life. I was very self-focused. I searched out scripture verses to help me out when I was discouraged or fearful or in need in any other way. My Bible reading was mostly about what was in it for me. But as Isaiah 55:10-11 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAtells us “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” God was working a purpose in me even when I was reading His Word for self gain.

In college, older godly friends of mine began to disciple me through Navigator Bible studies. They challenged me to study the Bible deeply and memorize scripture. The “Design for Discipleship” series dug into foundational truths of scripture that built in me a knowledge of what His Word said about God and sin and man and life. During this time I was very rigid and legalistic. I either mentally berated myself for missing my quiet time or felt very sanctimonious that I was meeting with the Lord every day.

During my 20s, I began longing to really know God. I’d grown up with religion and I loved God, but during this time I began a real relationship with Him. My quiet time became something I desired to do, not just something I “should” do. I wanted to read all of His word, and to know Him like I saw more mature believers knowing HIm, and to become all He wanted me to be. I wanted Him to be my friend and to see Him move in my life.

As I grew up and married and had kids, I was invited by another young mom to a Precepts Bible study in the home of a more mature woman. I learned how to study His Word deeply, turning to research on the Greek and Hebrew words to bring scripture to life! I learned Bible history, word studies, and all sorts of “academic” means of learning about God. I got quite proud of my Biblical knowledge and though I couldn’t see myself this way at the time, I was judgmental, condescending, and a know-it-all. But God was patient with me. Trials came and the academics couldn’t get me through. I turned my heart back to having a relationship with Him.

pexels-photo-27633Over the next decade or so I grew steadily, reading His Word and journaling and praying fairly consistently, just as I had seen my parents. I went through trials and found Him faithful. And enough! I worked through insecurity and fears and character issues. His word was alive and active in me. I began to hear Him speak through His Word to specific situations. I learned to love myself “warts and all” because He does. It seemed certain verses jumped off the page or were in bold print at just the time I needed to read them. My daily Bible reading schedule astounded me that God could speak so specifically through verses that had “randomly” been scheduled months ago as the “verse of that day.”

And now I find myself an older woman.

Now I am sharing what I’ve learned. I’m still learning. Still being stretched. Still being rebuked. Still being comforted. Still discovering new things in His Word. It never ends! So take my word for this, at whatever stage you find yourself in reading God’s Word, it will not return void. It will achieve what He wants in your life, even if you are hit and miss in meeting with Him. Even if you are reading it for selfish or legalistic motives. God’s Word is alive and active in our lives. But as with many things, we may not notice the small day-to-day changes it has caused until we reflect back on who we were a year or two or ten ago!

So hang in there. READ HIS WORD! It is His love letter, instruction book, recipe book, secret message, and rare treasure in our lives. It is your bread for the problems of today and your seed that will bear much fruit in the future if you read it. It is truth. Cling to His promises for your day. I challenge you to not be like me, don’t be sporadic and undisciplined and miss out on the wealth of what God has to show you. There’s grace for that if you are, but it’s not the Best thing. Be like a Bible leader I look up to who has read the entire Bible every year since she was a teen, and she’s now in her 50’s! Oh the wisdom and joy and depth of relationship with the Father!

red-love-heart-old

Prepare a Feast (Back to Basics)

When I was a newlywed, I was a disaster in the kitchen. Couldn’t boil an egg, couldn’t bake a cake, couldn’t whip up mashed potatoes kind of disaster. Growing up I lived with a wonderful grandmother who enjoyed cooking, but I was too foolish and preoccupied to learn. As a new wife, our growing stack of take out menus only served to feed my frustration about my lack of culinary skill. Ironically, my first job was in the editorial department of a cooking magazine. It was a perfect place to study cooking, to find resources, and to ask questions. I was determined to figure out this cooking thing. Slowly, I began to learn the basics. Once I gained some confidence, I moved on to learn more advanced techniques. I’m certainly no Rachel Ray, but I am continually learning the skills I need to make a pretty yummy meal—all on my own. And while making a home cooked meal takes more time and attention, the results are undeniably more satisfying.

When it comes to Bible Study, many of us have the same problem I had in the kitchen. We never learned the skills necessary to study the Bible on our own. We become content with grabbing something from the drive through or just ordering something off the take out menu. We get fed, yes, but we’re constantly dependent on someone else to do the preparing and cooking. We appreciate the end result, but since we didn’t help prepare the food, the satisfaction is superficial and fleeting, and it can be costly. As followers of Christ, we need to learn how to feast on the Word of God, not just eat from a table someone else has prepared. There are delicacies God created for you alone to enjoy; food that nourishes your soul in a way nothing else can.

So how do we learn how to feast of the Word of God?
If you’re brand new to Bible study, or you’ve spent far too long eating from someone else’s table, here are a few tips to help you inventory your spiritual “kitchen” as you learn to prepare your own feast.

Keep it simple.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYour first attempts in the kitchen shouldn’t involve a four course gourmet meal. It takes time and practice to gain confidence as a cook. It’s the same with Bible study, but getting started isn’t as intimidating as it seems. In fact, Bible study is often best if you start simply.

First, pray. Ask the Lord to lead your mind, your heart, your spirit.

Second, listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit as you study.

Your first attempts may seem overwhelming or unproductive (just like my first attempt at roasting a chicken), but be diligent. Over time you’ll become more comfortable starting out with just the Word and the Spirit.

Be Sure You Have the Necessities.

spices-flavorings-seasoning-foodJust like it’s important to have your pantry stocked with the necessities, it’s vital you have the essentials for studying the Word. Unlike the pantry, the essentials for Bible study are few—just two things really–a Bible and a journal (and your favorite pen, of course). If you’re overwhelmed with the choices available, here are some helps for choosing a Bible that is the most beneficial for you.

Pick a translation: There are many translations of the Bible available—which can be a bit intimidating and overwhelming. If you were to rank them on a scale of closest to the original Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic texts, the King James Version would be closest, with paraphrases of the Biblical text, like The Message, on the other end of the spectrum. Since the language of the King James version is antiquated, an easier-to-understand, but closer to original translation text like the English Standard Version (ESV) or the New International Version (NIV) is a great choice for Bible Study.

Study Bible or no Study Bible? Study Bibles typically have additional text that includes commentary on scripture. While these Bibles are good resources, it keeps you in the habit of depending on someone else’s interpretation of a passage of scripture. It’s a comfort and help to have instant access to delving deeper in a passage, but the goal is to learn how to discover truth on your own. Study Bibles are useful, but for your main study, use a commentary-free Bible.

Why keep a journal? There will be some days God reveals an amazing insight. There will be days you discover a new connection or revelation. There will be days you wonder why a verse or chapter is even included in the scripture text. No matter what you learn or what you’re pondering, write it down. Recording your thoughts and what you’re learning may lead you to a new discovery down the road, or it may provide some much-needed encouragement and exhortation as you continue to learn and grow.

Don’t Be Afraid to Use New Tools.

pexels-photo-211760Every cook knows having good tools makes preparing a meal much easier, but sometimes the tools can be a bit intimidating. It’s the same with Bible Study. Though using them well may take time and practice, having the right tools turns Bible Study into a great adventure in discovery.

Concordance. A concordance can help in understanding the nuances of language in the Bible. You can take any verse and look up the original translation in Hebrew or Greek. The translation gives more specific and precise definitions to the words used in the English text. This can help tremendously in gaining deeper understanding of a verse or passage. You can also use a concordance to discover where a specific word is used in other places in scripture, which helps in finding connections and giving a richer understanding.

Commentary. An excellent commentary is an essential Bible study tool. But it should only be used after you have spent ample time wading through a passage. Be cautious in choosing a Bible commentary. There are great overall commentaries by a variety of authors, like Moody Bible Commentary, or commentaries by specific authors, like Matthew Henry or Warren Wiersbe, available. Ask your pastor or a Bible study teacher who they use most often.

Bible Dictionary. A Bible dictionary will help give more insight on some of the practical details of the Bible. Say you’re unsure about the preparation of the drink offering or looking for some historical insight on Herod the Great. A Bible dictionary will offer needed details to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

Bible Atlas. So much of what happens in the Bible has to do with place. When I discovered the Garden of Gethsemane was in the shadow of Herod’s temple, the anguish of Christ in the garden before his trial and execution was even more powerful. And when I discovered how close the Israelites were to the Promised Land as they wandered in the desert those 40 years, I took away a much deeper spiritual principle from the text.

Be Sure to Share

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the best things about cooking is finding a new recipe and sharing it with friends. It’s the same with Bible Study. Whether it’s a formal Bible study or simply getting together with a group of friends, it is essential to have a place to pour out your heart. Growing with a group provides accountability and iron sharpening, and you learn much more as you listen to what God is teaching others. We were made for relationship and studying God’s Word together is a beautiful way to grow in knowledge and understanding of the Word, and a wonderful place to practice the truths you’re learning.

One of my favorite Bible study teachers Jen Wilkins says, “The heart can’t love what the mind doesn’t know.” In our relationship with God, it is so important that we get to know Him. That we develop our own deep, abiding communion with Him. The Bible is His gift to us. It is His love letter to us. It is His invitation to taste and see that the Lord is good. Too long I depended on what other’s learned about God. I sat at their table and ate of their delights. And it never satisfied my soul. When I learned to step in the kitchen and prepare my own table with the Lord, I found the morsels God gives are sweet and filling. Pulling up a seat and feasting on the Word of God truly does satisfy the soul like nothing else.

“How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life, in your light do we see light.” Psalm 36:7-9

blur-old-antique-book