Monthly Archives: May 2013

Pictures of Selfless Love for a (future) Mama, Part 2: Pregnancy

pregnancy

This week, God has led me to explore the pictures of God’s love through parenthood. Many of my friends will be celebrating Mother’s Day in a few weeks, which lends to me thinking more and more about the idea. I am not a parent yet, but the Holy Spirit is definitely rearranging my perspective of having children.

In the last post, I explained my view of adoption as the most beautiful picture of God’s unconditional love. Recently, the Holy Spirit has opened my eyes to another, equally beautiful, reflection of God’s perfect relationship offered to us: pregnancy.

So here it is…. Pictures of Selfless Love for a (future) Mama, Part 2: Pregnancy 

As usual, the transformation of my mind came through God’s Word. In bed with a sore throat, I spent some time with my podcast app in effort to engage my spirit and mind, though my body was out of commission (it was an epic sore throat, ok). I listened to this sermon on Philippians 2, from Timothy Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church:

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love,   if any fellowship with the Spirit,   if any affection and mercy,     fulfill my joy by thinking the same way,   having the same love,   sharing the same feelings, focusing on one goal.  Do nothing out of rivalry   or conceit,   but in humility   consider others as more important   than yourselves.  Everyone should look out not only for his own interests,  but also for the interests of others.  Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God  as something to be used for His own advantage.  Instead He emptied Himself  by assuming the form of a slave,  taking on the likeness of men.  And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death — even to death on a cross.  For this reason God highly exalted Him  and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow   — of those who are in heaven   and on earth and under the earth   — and every tongue   should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,  to the glory   of God the Father. (Philippians 2:1-11 HCSB)

Keller explained that many of us do not actually love or serve others out of selfless motives. He theorized that most of us love others as a means to meet our own needs: the need for love in return, the need for relationship, the need to be needed. As Keller puts it, God is calling us to love from a place of having already been satisfied, as Christ did.

God–Father, Son and Spirit–did not create man out of a need for relationship. As a complete trinity, the Three had already experienced perfect satisfaction in their friendship… before the beginning of time! Thus, God’s willingness to create was an overflow of His love and relationship from within.

His satisfaction inspired creation! God created that He might share that perfection of love and friendship with more beings: angels, humanity, etc. His love is not just displayed in redemption of creation (adoption) but the creation of humanity for relationship in the first place (conception).

Keller’s point, of course, was that we should be so completely satisfied in our relationship with the Lord (as Jesus was), that our “considering others greater than ourselves” is an outpour from satisfaction, not a pursuit to fill a need.

But God works in funny ways. What Keller meant for general Christian charity, the Holy Spirit meant for a dramatic shaping of my perspective of pregnancy and childbirth. The Holy Spirit used this message to show how creation of another human being is not always rooted in selfish motives (as was my fear). How incredible is God’s Word!

I am now grasping the depth of these pictures of God’s love for us. His first act of love was creation in the first place! He conceived humanity as the fruit of perfect connection and relationship within the trinity. God was so pregnant with love, so expectant to sharing that relationship with others, that He created! What a picture of love. What a picture of God and relationship.

His second act of love was redemption. The overwhelming longing to bring in the lost and broken children of the world, He sacrificed everything to adopt us.

Both creation and redemption are equally beautiful and both equally necessary for relationship.

Both conception and adoption are equally beautiful pictures of that relationship we have with Christ.

So, I guess what I am trying to say is, I am starting to get this whole “having a baby” thing. All my misgivings, doubts, and frustration with the idea vanish in light of the sweet selflessness of God to both create and redeem me.

Again, this is not a pregnancy announcement (I’ll be way more creative when that time comes). This is just me, being transparent with what God is doing in my life, in hopes to encourage you.

By God’s grace and undeserved blessings, we will get to experience both pictures of unconditional love as parents: through the overflow of love that inspires creation of a new being, and the overflow of love that inspires adoption and redemption of a lost one.

I’ll keep you posted on the journey till then.

What do you think about pregnancy and adoption? Have a different perspective? Please share!

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Pictures of Selfless Love for a (future) Mama: My journey to celebrating both pregnancy and adoption.

adoption

 

I think I might be finally getting this whole “home-made” kid thing. “Home-made” meaning, having a baby (vs. adoption).

It has been a long journey of confusion, fear, selfishness, doubt, excitement, and waiting… of course the waiting. And no-this is not a pregnancy announcement. I simply wish to be transparent with how God is shaping my heart and mind for His glory. (Sorry if I got your hopes up; not just yet.)

So here it is: Pictures of Selfless Love for a (future) Mama, Part 1: Adoption.

God has blessed me with a heavy heart for the orphan. I have longed to be a part of adoption for a very long time. I still look forward to the day God leads Shane and I to step in that direction.

I have always seen adoption as an exceptional picture of God’s unconditional love for humanity. The Bible refers to adoption several times as an example of how God invites us into His family (Galatians 4, Ephesians 1, Romans 8).

I am overwhelmed with the thought: that God would take in this dirty, homeless child and make me His daughter. Washing me clean of all the stains of broken relationship, He made me His own; giving me full inheritance to His kingdom, He invited me to take part in the family business. Complete and whole, I have been given a new name in Christ, declared worthy and accepted.

I can’t wait to offer that to a child someday! I pray that the day Shane and I adopt a child will be celebrated as a divine picture of God’s love.

But…. there is another picture of love that I have been ignoring. Love is not just displayed in adoption, but also in creation.

I will admit something here: I have been turned off to pregnancy and having a “baby of my own” for a long time. My disposition to this miraculous process has various roots:

First, my own sinful rebellion. Always wanting to “take the path less traveled,” I saw having a “home-made baby” as following the crowd. It sounds ridiculous (it is), and I know that this reason is not God-honoring. I confess my inclination to deviate from the “norm” (even a God-honoring norm) is sinful and fleshly.

I also experience a plethora of fears in this area. God has used many wonderful mothers (who make a lot of graceful mistakes) to help me trust God instead of give in to fear. This blog post, from Women Living Well, was particularly helpful.

After repenting from my prideful attitude and my fear, I realized I still felt hung up on the idea. Almost every argument in the favor of having a baby still sounded so selfish to me:

“Don’t you want to have kids that look like you?”

“Don’t you want to feel what its like to be pregnant?”

“Don’t you want to raise kids with your traits and talents?”

“Having your own children is better than adoption, because you have control from the beginning how they are raised.”

Again, God has blessed me with an overwhelmed heart for adoption. I see the need of a thousand children all over the world who aren’t privileged with parents who believed (or could fulfill) the above comments.

In the face of such a need, each question sounded very self-serving. All about me: what I see, feel, experience, or have an easier time with. After repenting from my original prideful reason for preferring adoption over pregnancy, I wanted to steer far away from the idea of pregnancy again, just to avoid a new motive of pride and selfishness.

I came “to terms” with the idea of having a baby, knowing it would be glorifying to how God made my body, and honoring to my husband, who wouldn’t mind have babies with me (what an amazing guy!).

But I was still wrestling with the perspective of all those precious babies already waiting for a home. Sure, God says that children are a blessing; but that includes HIS babies, orphaned out there somewhere, waiting for someone to be the tangible display of our Father’s selfless love.

My intentions are not to belittle anyone’s desire to have a baby. I love my friends and family (and my parents) for having that desire! I am simply trying to be brave by communicating my journey in this area. It has been a difficult road to be open about my misgivings and doubts about pregnancy vs. adoption, without sensing negative criticism from others.

Also, I do not mean to lessen the importance of womanhood or “be fruitful and multiply.” For whatever reason, my perspective has just been in favor of adoption.

Till now…

…Stay tuned for my conclusion on having a “home-made” baby…

*Does anyone else LOVE the photograph above? Head over to the blog, Adding a Burden,  to read about her beautiful story of adoption.

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10 Go-To Excuses to Avoid Studying the Bible (and practical ways to overcome them!)

A few months ago, I asked a question via Facebook: “Why do you typically avoid studying the Bible?”

I received some insightful responses, and joyfully ventured into dangerous territory: debunking the excuses.

While I enjoyed the idea of helping others overcome their Bible study blockades, I was not so happy when God brought up some of my own common excuses, like boredom and lack of motivation.

I still do not have a consistent time studying the Bible. I still struggle to apply and obey what I read. But, thank the Lord, God’s not done with me yet.

I can say with confidence that He’s not done with you either. Can you find your go-to excuse in the following list? Most of these are the direct answers from my little FB survey. 

1. I’m a Beginner

Bible Study Tips and Resources for Beginners: 10 Helpful Tips and Resources to Study the Bible for YourselfYou might say: “I’ve never studied the Bible before. I don’t know where to start.”

Click HERE for tools and tips to start your own adventure in God’s Word! (It will change your life!)

2. I Feel Stuck

Bible Study Tips for the StuckYou might say: “I feel like I don’t know what I’m looking for. I have trouble understanding the relevance of what I’m reading to my life without some sort of sermon, bible notes, etc.”*

Click HERE for 3 simple ways to get going, or KEEP going, when you feel overwhelmed by Scripture.

3. I’m a Devotional Book Junkie (ie: I can’t “feed” myself):

Bible Study Tips: For The Devotional Book Junkie

You might say: “I feel like I don’t get much from just reading the Bible. I feel like devotional books apply to me more.”*

Click here to discover where the devotional book fits in a Christ-centered Bible study.

 

4. I’m Easily-Distracted:

Bible Study Tips For The Easily DistractedYou might say: “My weakness is doing *anything* consistently. Daily habits work for 2……maybe 3 weeks (including Bible) and then I forget about it for months, and then I read it again.”*

Click HERE to understand 6 distractions that keep us from being filled with the Spirit, and how to overcome them.

 

5. I Don’t like to Read:

Bible Study Tips for People who Don't like to ReadYou might say: “I’ve never liked studying or reading.”*

Click HERE to see how the non-reader types study the Bible for themselves (It’s possible!).

 

6. I’m Unmotivated:

Bible Study Tips for the UnmotivatedYou might admit you don’t read the Bible because of: “Laziness.”*

or: “I hate to admit it but I don’t feel like it.“*

Click HERE for 5 reasons to “labor and strive because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men…” 1 Timothy 4:10

 

7. I’m Too Busy: 

Bible Study Tips for Busy PeopleYou might say: “My life is a rush without a minute to spare!”

Click HERE for help in making time for God in the rush of 21 Century living.

 

8. It’s So Boring:

Bible Study Tips for those of us who get bored reading scriptureYou might say: “I find it really uninteresting and hard to get into.” *

or “When I do try, I end up falling asleep.” *

Click HERE to get out of a “Bible Study boredom” rut, and on the path to finally interested!

 

9. Don’t Care:

Bible Study Tips For those who don't really care what the Bible saysYou might say: “I’m not ready for the conviction.”* “[When I am] avoiding sins I have not confessed that God is working on in me, it hurts less sometimes to avoid reading His Word.”*

or: “[When I am] avoiding sins I have not confessed that God is working on in me, it hurts less sometimes to avoid reading His Word.”*

Click HERE for Bible study tips for when you, honest to goodness, just don’t care what the Bible says.

 

10. Not Relevant:

Bible Study Tips for the #SelfieYou might say: “other than encouragement and prayer, how is reading Leviticus going to help me manage my time better so that I can maintain my 3.8 GPA while taking 21 credits?”*

Click HERE for how to study God’s Word in a #selfie world.

I greatly appreciate everyone’s honesty regarding these reasons we don’t study God’s Word. It takes courage to ‘fess up to our excuses. That’s the first step: to recognize what justifications we mentally conjure up, then knock them down to pursue deeper knowledge of God.

I think these quotes, also from the Facebook questionnaire, sum it up nicely:

“At some level, disbelief is a part of the problem. I.e. “If I really believed that this was the inspired Word of the Almighty Holy God, how could I NOT read it.” All the other answers also apply in some measure. However if you TRULY believe the Word of God is what you SAY you believe it is… then all the other explanations look pretty shallow and/or unbelievable. And yes I am preaching to myself a bit here too!”* -S

“I know that if God didn’t want us to follow or gain knowledge from a book he wouldn’t have had it written. So I really should stop being a greedy, selfish, sinful human & just do something as simple as read a book. A little a day if that’s what it takes.” * -A

I find it very difficult to overcome many of these excuses. But I know God’s Word is good. Living and Active. Trustworthy. Filled with promises. Loaded with truth. Crucial to my understanding, and therefore worship, of the God I claim to believe. Join me in ditching the excuses. Click on any of the above links for tools and encouragement in your particular struggle.

What is your go-to excuse? Is there an excuse you typically use that wasn’t mentioned here? Share your thoughts by commenting below.

*These are actual comments I received from my question forum on facebook.

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Bible Study Tips for the #Selfie

photo-1450835118805-29790bcd9125

#newOutfit #Selfie

#HairCut #Selfie

#concert #alldolledup #selfie

#bored #selfie

#LookatME #selfie

Breaking news, people, the selfie culture has arrived!

(Definition: “#selfie” [pronounced: hash-tag-self-ie)… the term used in social network to identify a picture taken as a self-portait, often using a bathroom mirror or awkward stretching/smartphone balancing skills.)*

Ok, lets face it, humanity has always lived in a #selfie habitat. We are EXTREMELY interested in ourselves. From basic instincts to current media activity, the “I’s” of our world are always looking out for #1 (pronounced “Number-one”, not “hash-tag-one,” confused yet?)*

But now, humans are apt to be more self-attentive than ever before. Paul’s letter to Timothy explains it well:

“But know this: Difficult times will come in the last days. For people will be lovers of self….” (2 Timothy 3:1, 2 HCSB)

#SelfieExample #fakeSelfie #notProudOfit #soManyHashtags
#SelfieExample #fakeSelfies #notProudOfit #soManyHashtags

Now, there is soooooo much more in this chapter that I believe addresses a “last days” obsession with social media, but I’ll save that for another post. (Believe me, I was convicted).

The crucial point we need to realize is this: self-focused people also tend to reduce the study God’s own Word into a self-promoting activity.

Like Instagram, we use the Bible like a self-portrait camera:

  • We open our Bibles when it makes us feel good; we discard what we learned in Bible study when it displays our faults, just like de-tagging ourselves in ugly pics posted on Facebook.
  • Or we “crop” scripture to hide embarrassing traits.
  • We only apply certain scriptures to our lives, as if they were our favorite filters.
  • If the scriptures don’t display our highlight-real, it’s not worth telling others about it.

This makes objective Bible study very difficult; probably because the Bible is not about us!!! 

It is not the story of humanity climbing out of the deep dark pit of despair. It is not a highlight-reel of epic Biblical heroes who progressively got closer to God till Jesus came and made everything perfect. It is CERTAINLY not the narration of Becky Rosty: saving the animals on the ark, slaying Goliath with a sling-shot and stones, resisting temptation in pharaoh’s palace, finding true love in the Song of Solomon, and walking on water with the faith of a mustard seed.

Also, the Bible is not a subjective list of suggestions or ideas, displayed in a store front for us to pick and choose during a Sunday morning window-shopping spree. God Almighty dictated each concept for a reason.

Still, how often do we insert “me” into the truths of Scripture. The Bible becomes a reflection of me: how I think, what I would do, who I would be in the story. God’s Word becomes just another app with the same purpose: to reflect my awesome ideas and highlight my epic life.

#Selfie

Subjective study, reading out of context, and implying our fixed ideas onto scripture is called eisegesis. Objective studying the Bible, allowing it’s fixed truth shape our ideas, is called exegesis.

If we choose to study Scripture using eisegesis, we are doing ourselves a great disservice. More importantly, we are not honoring God or becoming more like Him. Philippians 2 explains how we can be more like Jesus, but it involves putting away the self-promotion:

Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God  as something to be used for His own advantage.  Instead He emptied Himself  by assuming the form of a slave,  taking on the likeness of men.  And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death — even to death on a cross.  For this reason God highly exalted Him  and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow   — of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth  — and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.  For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose. (Philippians 2:3, 5-13 HCSB)

Let us choose to clear our minds of “me” before studying God’s Word. Let’s make ourselves available to the work of the Holy Spirit, to bend and to shape us to be more like Jesus. Using exegesis, we will learn more about God, the real hero of the story. In the end, studying the Bible with an objective perspective will better equip us to worship HIM!

Still not “getting there?” If you are still frustrated as a student of God’s Word, perhaps you are struggling with a different issue. Press the “Follow” button to get updates on more topics for the Bible Study Struggle.

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Bible Study Tips… For the apathetic

A photo by Léa Dubedout. unsplash.com/photos/N6STB5KbRUUProbably the most common, yet least vocalized, excuse about reading the Bible is apathy.

Think about it, when asked, “how is your time with God?”, we give the typical cop-outs:

Too busy/ don’t like to read/ can’t understand it/ etc.

When, in fact, we have plenty of down-time to surf Netflix. We consumed all 3 Hunger Games books in 1 week. We study fascinating theories on greek mythology in our spare time.

Yep, for many of us, apathy is the honest-to-goodness reason we avoid God’s Word. This is probably true for 1 of 3 reasons:

  1. We do not care what the Bible says. Our opinion satisfies, so we do not search the Scriptures for God’s.
  2. We are unprepared for conviction and unwilling to change. By not reading truth, we can claim “out of sight, out of mind,” and stay oblivious to God’s leading (or at least we think we can.)
  3. We actually don’t like what the Bible says. Our Christianity is based on the parts we like (which we can summarize on a colorful little 3×5 card.) As Mark Driscoll, of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, says: we say “I don’t believe that” when really, we just don’t like it. Disbelief sounds less rebellious and challenging to God than “I don’t like what You have to say.”

Understandably, apathy towards the Word of God can be paralyzing to our Christian walk!

The people of God in the Old Testament, the Israelites, faced great destruction for their apathy toward God’s Word. They went so far as to ignore the Law of God altogether. When a certain “book” was re-discovered during King Josiah’s reign, the response was shock and amazement:

When the king heard what was written in the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes in despair. Then he gave these orders … “Go to the Temple and speak to the Lord for me and for the people and for all Judah. Inquire about the words written in this scroll that has been found. For the Lord’s great anger is burning against us because our ancestors have not obeyed the words in this scroll. We have not been doing everything it says we must do.” 2 Kings 22:11-13

If we continue to live apathetically toward Scripture, we too might face devastation in our lives. Not only are we missing out on the undeserved blessing of KNOWING God Almighty, our Savior; but we are also denying the Lord our attention and obedience.

Based on Josiah’s experience, we too can return to right devotion to the Lord by reading Scripture.

Ready: Josiah was ready and available to receive God’s Word. We see this in his words and actions in 2 Kings 22:

  • Unlike his father, Josiah was living in righteousness. Even as a little boy, he was seeking to please God. (v. 1-2)
    • A question to ask yourself (and that I am asking myself): Have I made my heart ready to receive the Word of God? Josiah was already seeking to please God; am I seeking to preserve my own opinions?
  • Josiah was striving to rebuild the temple when the book of the Law was rediscovered (v. 3-8)
    • How can I seek to rebuild my relationship with God in preparation to receive His Word? (Sing a song like “Lead me to the Cross” by Hillsong United or “Over my Head” by Starfield.)
    • Read Job 38. Recognize again how HOLY God truly is. Shed the apathetic attitude and “brace yourself like a man,” in the presence of God.

Receive: Josiah was not hard-hearted when he encountered truth.

  • When Josiah heard the truth of God’s Word, he tore his clothes and immediately sought after the Lord. (v.11)
    • As I read God’s Word, I will ask God to help me understand it. Can I humble myself to seek God’s Will for my life, my heart, my mind?
      • Pay attention to the words of Scripture, and leading your sense of the Holy Spirit. Remember, the Holy Spirit will always lead us in the same direction of Scripture.

ephesians-5-15

Repent

Immediately, after seeking the Lord about the revealed truth, Josiah enforced change. His actions are recorded in 2 Kings 23:

  • Not willing for others to remain ignorant, Josiah read the truth to his nation (v. 1-2)
    • How can I share the truth I read in God’s Word with others? Or will I be cowardly and value false “tolerance” in the face of truth?
  • “He pledged to obey the Lord by keeping all his commands, laws, and decrees with all his heart and soul.” (v.3)
    • In what ways has my heart become rock-hard to God’s commands? I will pray for reconciliation, and a willingness to obey. Then I must have the perseverance to actually do it!
  • He removed from the temple everything used to worship other gods. (vs. 4, 6, 8, 10-16, 19)
    • What do I need to remove from my homes, my bedroom, my mind, my smartphone? What idols come between me and God? (I’m thinking Pinterest, just saying.)
  • He redirected or executed the people who led his nation astray (vs. 5, 7, 9, 20)
    • Are there people in my life that lead me astray? Can I resolve to have a greater influence on that person, stopping my ears from the lies they lead me to believe? If not, I may have to sever relationship to maintain wholehearted devotion to God. This applies to friends, family, role models (other bloggers), and media.
  • He celebrated the things that God celebrates (v. 21-23)
    • Have I been to church lately? Have I gathered with God’s people, lifting up His praise through singing? Does my conversation gravitate toward negativity? Or am I celebrating and thanking God, remembering all He has done?
  • He got rid of “mediums and psychics… and every other kind of detestable practice” (v. 24)
    • Do I read my horoscope, forward emails for good luck, knock on wood, or use the words “karma,” “jinx,” and “bad omen?” While I know they are silly and meaningless, Should I easily speak these detestable practices with the same lips that I praise God? (James 3:7-12)

Josiah’s story is also recorded in 2 Chronicles 34-35. You can also read about the devastation Israel faced for ignoring God during Josiah’s reign in the prophetic book of Jeremiah.

Still not “getting there?” If you still feel apathetic, perhaps you are struggling with a different issue. Press the “Follow” button to get updates on more topics for the Bible Study Struggle.

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Bible Study Tips: for the bored

What is keeping you bored with the Bible? Perhaps you need a change of scenery or some spark in the situation. Use the helpful tips to get you out of a “Bible-study boredom” rut and on the path to “finally interested.”

A photo by Steinar La Engeland. unsplash.com/photos/GwVmBgpP-PQ

1. Asses your atmosphere: Where do you typically end up reading your Bible? Could it be that your physical location is adding to the boredom? Meander down to a cozy coffee shop. View your Bible as a “good book for a rainy day.” You don’t have to sit at your desk to study; curl up in front of the fire.

Or maybe you tend to fall asleep the second you break open God’s Word. Change your scenery by sitting at a desk, a library, or a study room. Posture yourself to be attentive.

Got cabin fever? Go outside. Take a break from your routine, grab your Bible, head to a park, or go on a hike. Spend time in God’s great creation, soaking in the sun and the Word of God.

2. Explore new pages: It is so easy to hover around the pages we are familiar with in our Bibles. For instance, if you find encouragement in the book of Philippians, you may find yourself gravitating toward it repeatedly. I believe this can be incredibly helpful, and a constant companion you can trust.

But if you sense a gap between seeing words on a page and comprehending their meaning, it might be time to go on an adventure. Get outside of your comfort zone and read something new. Try reading Genesis, 1 & 2 Samuel, or the Gospels of the New Testament. These books tell stories that might keep your mind engaged.

Or study the words of the Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel through Malachi. These books are (generally) the words of God to His people. They can be very insightful for people today; if you feel overwhelmed, grab some resources and keep going.

3. Add some Spark: Still having a hard time feeling engaged in scripture? Get creative. Find maps or pictures from the location you are reading about (e.g. Jesus’ travels in Galilee or Samaria). Put on a movie soundtrack to give life to what you are reading about. Listen to “Gladiator” or battle scene music from “Lord of the Rings” while reading 1 & 2 Kings. Just don’t get so caught up in the “spark” that you forget to engage in the Word of God.

4. Get active: Perhaps the reason you feel bored is because you have taken in so much reading without putting the words into practice. Do not turn your “devotional time” into an idol or excuse for laziness. Take the advice from James:

“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 1:22-25

5. Still not “getting there?” If you are still feeling bored, perhaps you are struggling with something else. Press the “Follow” button to get updates on more topics for the Bible Study Struggle.

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Bible Study Tips: for the Busy

 

So, you are too busy to read your Bible? I completely understand (I’m an American). We are such a busy society, we need Pinterest to remind us to put normal everyday things on our schedule! Maybe it is time we pencil in a chunk of time with God, to really listen to His Word.

No Time? If you are looking at your calendar thinking, “blank space is non-existent,” again, I understand (I’m a 21 century American). You have already heard the spiel: wake up earlier, stay up an hour later, give God your lunch hour, etc.

So often we tend to make the imaginary “devotional-patrol team” happy, instead of really engaging with God.

If God is worthy, let us make time for Him! We can do more than just squeeze a quick devo into our schedule. Our Savior, Sustainer, Life-giver deserves our first-fruits. A great spiritual practice is to tithe the first 10% of your time to God.

Yes, I think we need to prioritize time with God, studying our Bibles. Putting it in the schedule might feel “cheap,” but its a good practice to begin a habit. Eventually, it will turn into a desire to spend time with God, not just a forced habit that’s good for you (like eating healthy).

“But He walks with me and He talks with me….” We need to be cautious of the attitude that says, “well, I walk with God all day, and pray to Him on the way to work; He is always with me!” If you think your life is a living, walking, intimate time with God, check your motives.

  • Are you saying this because you don’t want to sacrifice your agenda to “be still and know that I am God”? (Psalm 46:10)
  • Is your heart truly in tune with God throughout the day? Or is your motive a selfish way to invite God into your life, instead of stepping outside of yourself into His plan?

Easter 2013Even if our motives are pure, and we aim to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17), we might still be missing out. I have spent entire days connected electronically with my husband. We will send each other sweet loving texts throughout the morning. Maybe have a phone call during lunch and Facebook message in the afternoon. When he gets home from work, we sometimes have to skip eating dinner together; then we stay out late for ministry. We come home, crash into our pillows and start snoring.

Those days, I don’t get to hear my husband’s heart. I don’t have the chance to sit down and just be with him, listen to his stories, his ups and downs from the day. There isn’t a chance for him to clarify a text he sent, or to remind me how much he loves me. Lack of intimate communication leaves room for doubt in our relationship.

Does that ring true for your relationship with God?

Does the lack of intimate communication leave room for doubt in your relationship with God? Do you find yourself asking whether He cares or really does have a plan for you?

Making time in our busy schedule provides for both intimate worship and needed reassurance!

Here is the amazing part: God can make time for all your other needs. He owns time. He alone can actually provide another hour in the day if you really need it. He has done it before…

The sun can stand still: There is a fascinating story in the Bible about how God paused time for His people:

Then the five kings of the Amorites—the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon—joined forces. They moved up with all their troops and took up positions against Gibeon and attacked it.

The Gibeonites then sent word to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal: “Do not abandon your servants. Come up to us quickly and save us! Help us, because all the Amorite kings from the hill country have joined forces against us.”

So Joshua marched up from Gilgal with his entire army, including all the best fighting men. The Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them; I have given them into your hand. Not one of them will be able to withstand you.”

After an all-night march from Gilgal, Joshua took them by surprise. The Lord threw them into confusion before Israel, so Joshua and the Israelites defeated them completely at Gibeon. Israel pursued them along the road going up to Beth Horon and cut them down all the way to Azekah and Makkedah. As they fled before Israel on the road down from Beth Horon to Azekah, the Lord hurled large hailstones down on them, and more of them died from the hail than were killed by the swords of the Israelites.

On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel:

“Sun, stand still over Gibeon,
and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.”

So the sun stood still,
and the moon stopped,
till the nation avenged itself on its enemies,

as it is written in the Book of Jashar.

The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a human being. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel!

Joshua 10:5-14

Not only did God provide more hours in the day for Joshua and his men, but God did most of the task for them.

Joshua did not just plunge into the day, thinking, “well, it is going to be a busy one; better get going.” Joshua chose to listen to the Lord. And God responded with relationship. God didn’t just give directions; He spoke intimately into the situation and revealed Himself (verse 8).

Can we prioritize time with God, truly reading His Word, listening to Him? Can our time with God be the one thing we don’t habitually compromise on? I have a feeling that when we do, we will still have enough time in our day to accomplish all He has planned for us. He might even accomplish the work for us!

The Lord will accomplish what concerns me;
Your lovingkindness, O Lord, is everlasting;
Do not forsake the works of Your hands.

Psalm 138:8

Still not “getting there?” If you still feel like you can’t make time to pursue God’s Word, perhaps you are struggling with a different issue. Press the “Follow” button to get updates on more topics for the Bible Study Struggle.

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Bible Study Tips: for the Unmotivated

A photo by Benjamin Combs. unsplash.com/photos/5L4XAgMSno0

I believe our Lord longs for us to be “constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine.” (1 Timothy 4:6)

Unfortunately, the main reason we are unmotivated to read our Bibles is that we are lazy.

Sometimes, studying the Bible is like exercising. It is exceptionally good for our health, but it is difficult sometimes. Still, 1 Timothy 4 has more to say about our study of Scripture:

“for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.” 1 Tim 4:8-10

Here are 5 ways to apply advice about going to the gym to studying God’s Word:

1. Take a lesson from Nike: Just do it.

2. Be Accountable: “Hire a trainer.” Recruit someone to ask you the hard questions: did you spend time in God’s Word this week? Knowing that question is coming can be a helpful reminder to make time. Your accountability partner also might be able to help you through the difficult parts of scripture (like learning the weight machines at the gym).

3. Get together: Grab a friend to “exercise” your scripture reading with you. Join a “Scripture work-out class” (Sunday school or Bible study).

4. Habits never die: An active life starts by forming healthy habits; then it turns into second nature. Studying your Bible is the same way. It only takes 30 days to form a habit, they say. Stick with it!

5. Study to teach: My friend is naturally thin, so she rarely works out. Interestingly, she applied for a job as a work-out instructor at the gym where she works. She had to attend lots of classes to learn the moves to teach when she became and instructor.

I have a tendency to avoid reading scripture because I’m feeling “naturally healthy” in my spiritual walk. It is a sneaky form of laziness, but after all, it takes work to study and receive the teaching of the Holy Spirit from the Scriptures.

One way that almost forces me to engage in scripture is when I am in a leadership position. I know that teaching Sunday school requires some prep, so I study God’s Word throughout the week. I study, not just to learn for myself, but to help teach others.

If you are a parent, big brother or big sister, friend, mentor, or peer… you have someone to teach!  Study for them (Titus 2).

Still not “getting there?” If you still feel unmotivated, perhaps you are struggling with a different issue. It might be more likely that you have a distraction issue, an unprepared heart, or shuffled list of priorities.

But if you truly have a motivation problem, you will probably just go back to Facebook scrolling. Sorry to be harsh (I’m preaching to the choir here), but even pinning this helpful tip to Pinterest won’t help you actually get in the Word. We need to get off our lazy butts, repent, and get back into the Word of God.*

If lack of motivation isn’t the issue, I hope this link will help you move forward in discovering the Bible for yourself.

*Please remember, no matter how much you study the Bible, you will never grow more “lovable” or “righteous” in God’s eyes. If you are a Christian, you have received the righteousness of Christ. In short, you get Jesus’ resume. He already measured up to a thorough study of the Scriptures (He wrote them). Your studying will increase your understanding of God, and grow in your love for Him, but you must remember that HIS love for you is already fixed in Christ. Studying His Word is the best way to remember that, and a good way to share it with others.

 

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Bible study tips: for people who don’t like to read

Bible Study Tips for People Who Don't Like to Read

Here is a quick one for the non-readers:

Grab a Bible app that dictates the Bible audibly. Listen to it at the gym, or during a morning quiet time.

The Youversion app has some translations that have both Old and New Testament available for audio.

Your church might have a dramatized Bible on CD or MP3 that could become a great companion for your commute to work or cleaning day. Just ask your pastor or church secretary.

If you CAN read, exercise the blessing and privilege to read the Bible for yourself. Be grateful; not everybody has both the education to read and a copy of the Bible to study for themselves.

Guilt trip aside, you might even learn to love reading the more you try (someone told me this in elementary school and it totally worked!)

Still not “getting there?” If your Bible study regiment is still void, perhaps you are struggling with a different issue besides the reading part. Press the “Follow” button to get updates on more topics for the Bible Study Struggle.

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Bible Study Tips For The Easily Distracted

Bible Study Tips for the Easily DistractedWhat is keeping us from studying our Bibles? Could it be that we 21 century Americans are a teensy bit distracted?

It’s not just a 21 century problem. Paul saw that the Ephesians were struggling with a similar issue. His words to them apply to us as well:

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. Ephesians 5:15-21

From this passage, we can identify a few distractions that keep us from being filled with the Spirit, along with ways to overcome them:

1. Time and space challenged: My husband says I’m directionally challenged. Well I am also time challenged and space challenged. Paul says be careful how you walk, making the most of your time. How long do you walk, or linger, on a path of pointlessness? For me, I tend to linger on social media… definitely not making the most of my time.

It distracts me from reading my Bible. I will be studying God’s Word, decide to look up a verse via the internet, then pop on over to facebook to post it; 20 minutes later I have scrolled through too many ridiculous political memes, teenager-posts, and comparison-pictures. My mind is distracted and it will take a LOT to get back into a focused study of the Scriptures.

Remedy: lets expose our “lingering spots” and stay away from them while studying scripture.

2. Pity the Fool: Our own opinions can be a huge distraction as well. Paul reminds us to “not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

I think for many of us, our own will distracts us. We read scripture, and immediately form an opinion about it. We decide if we like it or don’t like it. If we like it, we keep reading. If we don’t like it, we skip to a different chapter or verse that feels more comfy.

Our will is a distraction that eventually leads to foolishness.

RemedyLet us echo Jesus’ prayer before studying Scripture: “not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22:42

Also, try memorizing Proverbs 1:7: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

3. Over-Consumed: Most of us live in a consumer-culture. It is natural to take in everything life has to offer, but it is not always helpful. Though we may not be getting “drunk with wine,” we are consuming something. Whatever that thing is, could it be taking the place of God’s Word? Are we feasting so much on the world that we have no room to be filled with the filled with the Spirit? 

RemedyLets take some time away from the things that consume us? This might look like “fasting” from TV, certain hobbies, books, social circles, maybe even food. By not filling up on these things, we will have room to fill up on the Word of God. Our minds will not be so distracted; rather, we will be hungry to be filled.

4. ADHD Mind: Often we are distracted because we just haven’t prepared our heart or mind. We think we can rush from a work out, getting ready for the day, and checking our emails to a posture of quiet stillness before the Lord.

Paul knows how music helps our brains to focus on a concept. Our church gatherings get it too. We sing songs before a sermon to help prepare and focus our minds to receive teaching from God’s Word. In a hurried society, making melodies is an active way to quiet a busy mind and focus on God.

Remedy: Make a worship playlist and play it regularly before studying the Bible. (Have a helpful worship song? Share it with us in a comment below).

5. Bitter heart: Do you carry ungratefulness or bitterness in your heart? I know that my bitterness always distracts me from a fruitful study time in the Bible.

See James 3:13-18 for more on this.

Remedy: Pauls says to always give thanks! Lets start our Bible study with a heart of gratefulness. Write a list of 5 things you are thankful of God for. We also need to remember to extend forgiveness quickly so as not to be distracted by the Devil’s schemes (more on this in 2 Corinthians 2:10-11).

6. Going Solo: I tend to get distracted just by my own wandering thoughts, shiny things around, even squirrels (saw that one coming didn’t you). In the end, if we are pursuing a deeper relationship with God, longing to be filled with the Spirit, through the study of God’s Word, maybe we need a buddy. Paul reminds us to gather with other Christians, encourage them and be encouraged by them. His commendation, to submit to each other, reminds us of our need for accountability.

RemedySome of my favorite times in God’s Word has been sitting quietly next to my husband or a dear sister in Christ. Meet a friend at a coffee shop, or schedule a time with your spouse or roommate to study God’s word together. Remind your companion that you aren’t necessarily meeting to focus on each other, but to be a presence of accountability to staying focused on God. After a set amount of time, ask each other what God is speaking through His Word.

Still not focused? If you still feel unable to engage in God’s Word, perhaps you are struggling with a different issue. Press the “Follow” button to get updates on more topics for the Bible Study Struggle.

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