3 Important Questions for Bible Study

It is easy to get stuck in a routine without even realizing it has happened. If you have a routine that includes reading your Bible, has it become just that–routine? Don’t forget that this book is alive and each word was inspired for a reason. Here are 3 questions to ask yourself whenever you read a passage of Scripture. Asking these questions will elevate your study time from routine to challenging. Give it a try!

How does this passage apply to me?

Whenever you study God’s Word, you should ask Him to show you how it applies to your own life. That is your first (and most important) task. I challenge you to not only ask how but to do the work of appling the lessons you learn from studying God’s Word.

How can I use this passage to encourage another believer?

How can you use today’s lessons to encourage a fellow Christian. Did the passage you read today talk about the Jesus who overcame? How can you use that to encourage another believer? Was the passage about worry? Who can you share the lessons with? Take the time to widen your vision to include others.

How can I use this message to introduce someone to Jesus? And who will it be?

Finally, I challenge you to ask God to show you someone who does not know Jesus and to show you how you can share what you learned with them. Use the things you are learning to introduce others to the Jesus they don’t know.

Pray through each question!

Spend some time each day praying that God will reveal how your current study text applies to you, who you can encourage with it’s message, and who you can introduce to Jesus using what you have learned. Then, act on those discoveries.

I’m praying for you!

 

7 Tips to Improve Your Bible Study Time

Do you need some help starting a Bible study journey? Have you been on the journey for a while, but find yourself in a Bible study rut? Are you between Bible study sessions and just need some direction? Wherever you find yourself, here are 7 Tips that will help improve the time you spend in God's Word.

1. Pray

Always begin your time in prayer. Recognize the One who inspired and preserved His Word for you. Ask God to help you understand what you are about to read. Ask Him to help you have a teachable spirit so you will be able to learn and apply what you discover. Thank Him for placing His Word in your hands.

2. Read It Intentionally

Slow down and pay close attention to what you are reading. Try reading it in a version you are not familiar with. Force yourself to slow down and pay attention. Consider hand-copying what you are reading.

3. Read It Straight Through

Read the book (or passage) you are studying from start to finish. Don’t stop. Don’t look at commentaries or other study aids. Just read it.

photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash[/caption]4. Read It Again

When you read it the second time, note any interesting facts, record your personal insights, and jot down any questions you have.

Photograph by Bev Pomering5. Choose a few verses to memorize.

Concentrate on verses that summarize the theme of each passage.

Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplas6. Seek Answers

Now that you have read through it and written down the interesting facts, personal insights, and questions, seek more information. This is when you can look at the notes in your study Bible, commentary, or Bible study guide. A concordance and lexicon are also great tools for topic and word studies. Pastors and Bible teachers are also valuable resources. Try using resources from various theological viewpoints to challenge yourself to think about what you believe and why.

7. Read It Again

Now what you have answers to questions, and you have thought about what the passage means, read through it again to see if your understanding of the whole passage has deepened.

Find a Treasure

Looking for an excuse to get out of the house and walk off some of that candy you scored last week? Well, consider going on a treasure hunt. Who doesn’t love a good puzzle and treasure hunt? I can guarantee your kids do for sure. So use this as an excuse to get out there and do a geocache with your family. If you’ve never done a geocache, it’s a great way to open up some God conversation with your kids.

All over the country, people have hidden containers filled with little trinkets. They post the GPS coordinates and some clues, then hikers using a GPS unit go on a treasure hunt to find what’s hidden.

You’ll discover things like erasers, pens, key chains and other trinkets in weather proof containers hidden along trails all over the country. When you find the cache, you put a treasure in, and take one out, then sign the “I found it” log and read what others have written. We’ve cached all over the country, from Mt Rushmore to an island off the Florida keys. It’s always fun. Here is a picture of Uncle Gene and Grandma finding a cache in North Carolina.

Here are a few websites if you need some help getting started

https://www.geocaching.com/guide/
https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/gps-geocaching.html

I encourage you to try it out with your kids and use some of these questions to start conversation along the way:

  • Was finding the cache easy or difficult? – Did you feel like giving up? – Why/When?
  • Did you notice there weren’t a lot of people out here looking for the treasure? – It’s like that with God too. Why do you think not many people look for him?
  • Do you know other Christians at school?
  • Do others know you are a Christian?- Why or why not?

Here are some verses to think about too:

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

Matthew 7:7

I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.

Psalm 34:4-5

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Hebrews 11:6

Get out there, find a treasure!  The real treasure is connecting with your kid and opening real conversation about the God who is so easy to find.

Don’t Overlook this Weed

If you have ever taken a hike in a park, or just wandered through the woods, you have likely passed one of my favorite flowers. It’s not flashy, you never see them in a bouquet, but these happy little orange slipper-shaped flowers are a quiet unassuming messenger from the creator who loves you.

It’s called Jewel Weed, or Impatiens Cenesis. They grow about waist high where the shadowy woods gives way to the light of an open area. When you ask the experts why it’s called Jewel Weed you get a variety of answers.

First if you take a leaf and immerse it in water, you’ll find it turns a silver color.  A second reason it may be called Jewel Weed is that when water from rain or dew sits on the leaves the water beads up and looks like thousand shining diamonds in the sun.  But my personal favorite reason it may be called Jewel Weed is found in the best part of the plant, the way it re-seeds itself.

Jewel Weed develops long pods that contain tiny seeds, and in the fall months the seeds ripen and turn brown. When that happens, the pods become highly sensitive, and a light brushing against a ripe pod will cause it to explode and throw seeds far and wide. This is why it is sometimes called a “Touch-Me-Not”.  As a kid (and I admit still as an adult) I loved touching the pods and watching them scatter their seeds.  When your out next time, give it a try, just find a pod like you see here and put your fingers on the top and bottom.  If its ripe enough you won’t even have to squeeze!

Jewelweed flowers, ripe seed pod, exploded seed pod, ripe seed and peeled ripe seeds

Now, to the jewel.  The ripe seeds are very small and brown, but if you carefully peel back that top layer and look beneath it, you find a lovely turquois nut at the center. I’m told this is the only place the color turquois occurs in any plant.

God has packed many lessons in this little flower if we pause and take the time to think about it.

The leaves turning silver when immersed.

When we allow ourselves to be immersed in Christ, completely saturated with His Spirit, we are transformed into something priceless. God no longer sees the way we’ve messed up, or our faults, he sees Jesus. Paul says it like this

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ

Galatians 3:27

Raindrops

You may have heard it said that in every life a little rain must fall. Trying times can be a difficult thing in life, but when we follow Jesus those difficulties don’t beat us down, or make us lose heart.  Instead they can sit on our lives like the beads of water on a leaf, and when the light hits our momentary troubles, they can shine like diamonds for the glory of God. Because we know that life doesn’t end here. We rest in the confidence of something better waiting for us.

 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.

2 Corinthians 4:8-10

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 1:2-4

Why?

Many of us feel like we don’t have much to offer. We view our lives like the Jewel Weed’s seeds… small….brown…. unremarkable. But God knows differently. He knows that hidden just below the surface is a beauty that doesn’t exist anywhere else but inside YOU! And he wants you to brush up against the lives of others around you:

  • so they can see how  you are as valuable as silver when you are immersed in Jesus
  • so they can learn how troubles don’t defeat you but shine like diamonds in your life

And when you do engage with others around you, you will scatter the seeds of God’s Good News to a world that needs it desperately.  You will say like David:

Come and hear, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me.

Psalm 66:16

The next time you go past this happy little flower…. pause….. make one of the seed pods explode and let your heart remember who you are.

Take a Hike

IMG_0647

This time of year in Ohio is spectacular. The air starts to cool down, the trees start to put on their colorful clothes, and I feel the pull to get out of the house and onto the trails. I love to hit the parks, fields and other places to just get away and connect with God.

The God we serve is a very interactive God. He put his fingerprints all over creation, and calls to us to come and find Him. Everything in nature tells us about who He is, and what He's like. God knows we need the opportunity to search for him, and he promises that when we search, we will find him.

It reminds me of how kids play hide and seek. You know what I mean, they sit in the middle of the room, giggling away under a blanket. When we go looking for God, there He is in the middle of everything, plainly visible to anyone looking. That's exactly how he designed it. He wants us to see him and talk about him, especially with our kids.

I'd love for you to go with me on a couple walks, metaphorically of course. So pack up your water bottle, and grab your kids. Let's take a hike and explore what we can learn about God. Because you see, we are called to talk about Him, to discuss his principles while we do life. Deuteronomy 11:18-91 says it like this:

 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

So come with me as we walk along life's road and talk about the God who loves us so much.

Over the next couple weeks we'll explore simple lessons you can learn along the trail. Things that can teach lessons to your kids and maybe you will gain some insight too.

When We Finally Decide to Pray

Today we are honored to have my friend, Julie Shirkey, as our guest blogger. Welcome, Julie!

When We Finally Decide to Pray
About Our Problems

When do you reach the point that you fall to your knees and pray?
Is it when you are desperate and everything else has failed?
When all the wisdom from your family or friends has failed you?
When you have no where else to turn?
Is this when you finally pray?

In the book of Jonah we see a man who was disobedient to God and thought he could run from God’s sight. You see, God sent Jonah to Nineveh to warn them of His upcoming judgement against their wickedness and the need for the people of Nineveh to repented. What did Jonah do instead? He ran to a boat that was going in the opposite direction from where God wanted him to go.

Did God ignore Jonah?
No, He didn’t.

Jonah faced a great storm on this boat. The crew on the boat asked why such a storm was happening and why Jonah was below deck sleeping! They inquired of Jonah and after casting lots it fell on Jonah to explain. Jonah confessed it was his fault and they should throw him, a prophet of The One True God, into the sea and the storm would end.

Wow! What did the crew do? They tried with all their might to row back to shore, but the storm was too great, the waves too high and the wind too forceful to row against them. They finally relented and threw Jonah overboard. But to everyone’s surprise, especially Jonah’s, a big fish swallowed him whole. Now I believe this not only shocked each person on board but probably Jonah the most! The crew on the boat believed this was the end of Jonah, and the storm ceased.

This might seem the end of the story,
but, alas, it is not.

What I find most fascinating is it took Jonah three days before he prayed while in the belly of this fish. Yuck! But if Jonah wasn’t praying before about where to go, which city, which boat or what direction, I’m sure it never entered his mind to pray about this fish!

How about you?
Do you pray about what you might face today?
Has it entered your mind to pray over any situation you might face?

There are many situations I have faced that I never thought to pray about. Oh, we all say those blanket prayers: for safe travels or like some like to say “for travel mercies.” Or to protect us as we go about our day, “put a hedge around it.” Keep my family safe. These prayers are all good, but when God gives you instructions, it’s best to do those instructions rather than not pray about it and run from God.

Back to Jonah…

can you imagine what might be in the belly of that fish? It’s lunch from that day, digestive fluids, darkness, and the stench? And Jonah waited three days to pray! But that’s what Jonah did. “And he said: ‘I cried out to the LORD because of my affliction. And He answered me.'” (Jonah 2:1-2 NKJV)

Do your circumstances seem like Jonah’s?
Are you in a smelly, messy, dark situation because of your disobedience?

We all have been there, don’t deny it. And some of you are there now, in the stench and mess of disobedience, in a smelly fish belly of your own. But you know what?! God heard Jonah in the belly of that fish! Wow! Isn’t that great!

God heard Jonah,
and that gives us hope that God hears us too.
Even in our mess.

How desperate are you for help? Have you hit the bottom and all you can see is a dark hole?

It doesn’t matter the mistakes you have made,
God will make a way.

What a sight we must be when we emerge from our dark hole. I can see Jonah, vomited up on the beach by this big fish, bleached white from stomach acids, seaweed dripping from his head and shoulders. He must have been quite a sight. “The waters encompassed me, even to my soul; the deep closed around me; weeds were wrapped around my head.” (Jonah 2:5 NKJV) And yet, God still used Jonah for His purpose. God still sent Jonah to Nineveh. “Yet You have brought up my life from the pit, O Lord, my God.” (Jonah 2:6 NKJV)

When we pray, we might still be in our mess.
We might look a mess.
We might be a mess,
but when we truly pray and are obedient, we are victorious!
What is keeping you from obedience and praying?
Don’t wait until you are in a great mess to cry out to God.

 

Julie and her husband Steve reside in Jacksonville, IL. They enjoy the outdoors, working on their cars and seeking and sharing Jesus Christ through their ministry. Julie is not only a Christian author, she is also an audio technician, is self taught in the art of stained glass, and enjoys building her own furniture. Steve is an over the road truck driver who he enjoys hunting, fishing, and drag racing. (And helping Julie move her big, heavy, homemade furniture!) Their goal is to reach the world for Christ by sharing their testimonies and God’s Word. Visit julieshirkey.com/ to learn more about Julie’s ministry and to order her book, A Life in Christ: Seeking God’s Will.

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What’s So Good About Good Friday?

What is so good about Good Friday?

Have you ever considered this question? Have you perchance asked this question of someone? There are all sorts of “good Fridays.” There is rejoicing because Friday, for most, is the last day of the work week, and the next two days are days to relax or take care of other things that you need to tend to. There are the Fridays that lead to extended weekends. We all love those 3 or 4 day weekends. There are those Fridays that are actually a Thursday. You know, you have Friday off so Thursday is your Friday. There is Black Friday. That’s a really good one. Just think of all the great deals you get.

However, there is only one Friday that is “Good Friday.” Why is it “Good Friday?” Jesus was arrested, tortured, beaten, spat upon, mocked, and so much more. He was hung on a cruel and rough hewn cross after having been tortured and having carried His cross through the crowded streets. He was nailed to the cross through His wrists and feet. He was bleeding, bruised, beaten. How can you call this good?

Before any of this, Jesus was in the Garden with His disciples. He asked them to wait and pray with Him. He went off to talk to His Father. When He returned they had fallen asleep. This was repeated 3 times. One of His very own betrayed Him to the soldiers to be arrested and dragged off. He was denied by another of His disciples 3 different times after pledging his undying love and following. How can you call this good?

Yet in the Garden, Jesus prayed, “…My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me, yet not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39, NASB) He came and checked on His disciples, found them sleeping, woke them up, admonished them, and went off once again. Once again He prayed to His Father, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it. Your will be done.” (Matthew 26:42) How can you call this good?

We can call this good. God is so good. It’s hard to understand. From our human point of view we have trouble reconciling all of this with the fact that we call this Good Friday. Oh, my friend, this IS Good Friday. Did you read those words that Jesus said to His Father? “Your will be done.” Jesus told God, “I don’t necessarily want to do it this way. It’s going to hurt bad, but God, I want to do your will.” It is good because it was for you and me that He did this. God loves you so much that He sent His Son to die for you and for me. It is good because Jesus willingly walked the path to the cross to pay the price for our sins.

My friend, the best is yet to come though. S.M. Lockridge coined the phrase, “It’s Friday but Sunday’s comin’.” If we didn’t have Good Friday, we wouldn’t be able to have Resurrection Sunday. Because of Good Friday, we have the opportunity to repent of our sins and accept Christ’s finished work on Calvary. We have the opportunity to go to heaven one day. There was a price that needed to be paid. Jesus paid that price. We have a sales slip so to speak with all our sins listed. When Jesus died that sales slip was stamped, “Paid in Full.”

So here is the most wonderful part: Jesus ROSE from the dead!. He did not stay dead but He arose. He is alive. Jesus bears the marks of our sins upon His body, but my friend, He is alive!
So what’s so good about Good Friday.

The answer is pure and simple: Because of Good Friday, we have Resurrection Sunday and the opportunity to live forever in Heaven with the One who loved us so very much that He did this for us.

Have you received Jesus as Lord and Savior of your life? Do you know that one day you will live in Heaven? If you can’t answer yes, please contact us, and we can help you know how this promise can be yours. God is good all the time, and He wants you to share everlasting life with Him in heaven.

Have a blessed Good Friday and Easter.

Praising God this Palm Sunday

On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.’” “For this reason also the people went and met Him, because they heard that He had performed this sign.” (John 12:12-13, 18)

They took the palm branches to meet Jesus. They went to praise and adore Him. Why? The Bible tells us it was because of the mighty deeds He had done. The people of Israel had seen all the things He did, all the miracles He performed. They spent time with Him. Many came to see what else He would do. I imagine that many came thinking He was going to overthrow Rome and be their ruler. Verses 14-15 read, “Jesus, finding a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written ‘Fear not daughter of Zion; Behold, your King is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” Whatever their reasoning for this display, they sang praises to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is and was Messiah.

Sometimes we hear these stories and think, “Well, I know that. What can you tell me that is new?” Let me challenge you to view this Palm Sunday with a new perspective. The story holds true and it never changes. It is God’s word. However, maybe we can change our heart as we celebrate the beginning of Holy Week.

Praise to the King. The people sang “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” “Hosanna is used to express adoration, praise, or joy (especially in biblical, Judaic, and Christian use).” It is defined as “an expression of adoration, praise or joy” [1]( Internet Dictionary)Jesus is the King of Kings. There is none other like Him. He is loving, just, caring, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, faithful, and holy, just to name a few. Spend some time in worship praising the Lord for Who He is.

Adoration. While praise is defined in the internet dictionary as “the expression of approval or admiration for someone or something,”[2] adoration is defined as “deep love and respect and worship. Synonyms include worship, glorify, praise, revere, reverence, exalt, laud, extol, esteem, pay homage to.”[3] Adoration goes deeper. It brings us to the very throne of God. In the Christmas story, we see the wise men (magi) coming to “adore” the baby Jesus. Do we have that kind of deep love for Jesus? When we spend time with Jesus do we want to fall to our knees in worship and adoration?

Lifting holy hands. In I Timothy 2:1-8 we read, “I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.” “Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. And all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen!’ while lifting up their hands; and they knelt down and worshiped the Lord with their faces toward the ground.” (Nehemiah 8:6) “Let my prayer be counted as incense before You; the lifting up of my hands as the evening offering.” (Psalm 141:2)

In each of these verses, we see that the lifting of hands is equal to an offering of praise and worship to God. Some of us feel awkward at lifting our hands in public worship. It makes me wonder why? Why do we shy away from it? Are we simply afraid of what those around us may think? We need to realize that this is an act of worship. This worship is to God. May I challenge you on this Palm Sunday, this first day of the Holy Week, when you spend time with your Creator and Savior in praise and adoration to allow yourself to raise your hands as an act of worship?

Marvel. Dictionary.com defines marvel as “to be filled with wonder, admiration, or astonishment, as at something surprising or extraordinary.”[4] Have you ever been to the Grand Canyon in Arizona? I have once. I remember the moment I laid on eyes on it. I wanted to cry and sing and praise God all at the same time. In fact I started singing How Great Thou Art and How Great is Our God. My heart was so full that all I could do was pour out all I was feeling in worship of the One who created that magnificent sight. I marveled at it.

Do we marvel at God and all He has done? When we see God working in our lives and the lives of those around us do we say ‘I know that was you God” or do we think, cool? We need to make sure our praise and thanksgiving goes where it belongs. “…Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations!” (Revelation 15:3)

As we celebrate Palm Sunday may each of us come in Praise and Adoration, lifting holy hands as we Marvel at all God has done and continues do in our lives. Hallelujah to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

 

Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible® (NASB), Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.lockman.org

1 Hosanna
2 Praise
3 Adoration
Marvel

The Struggle

Him [Jesus Christ] we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

-Colossians 1:28-29

Serving God may require toil, the kind of hard work that wears us out. Doing God’s work can be a struggle because we are fighting an enemy (Satan) and overcoming obstacles.

Throughout our work for God, throughout the toil and struggle of our labor, we also know that it is God’s energy that keeps us going. He will work through us during our labor in a powerful way.

We must persist in the work of the Lord because others need to know the One who saved us and who is able to save them!

 

 

[Adapted from ELIJAH: Lessons on God and Godly Living From One Flawed Human to Another by Trisha L. Knaul.]

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved. ESV Text Edition: 2016 The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (ESV) is adapted from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. All rights reserved.