Take a Hike


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.

Defining Blessing

This journey we’ve taken together to explore some of the important words we use in our relationship with God has been a thoroughly satisfying adventure for me. We’ve looked at “sin” and “saint”, “repentance” and “redemption”. But I saved this word for the last…”bless, blessing, or blessed”.

When a word in scripture puzzles me I wrestle with it, thinking I must be missing some key idea in the meaning. Many times I find an idea or thought which brings life to a passage and “Blessing” is a perfect example. Here is a word that on the surface is defined as “Happy”. Seems simple, right? Well, I struggle for a couple reasons….

First if it really means “happy” why not translate it that way? If you do, Matthew 5 would have phrases like “happy are those that mourn…” and “happy are you when men insult and persecute you…” When we are saying a blessing for our meals, are we saying a “happy”?…When fathers speak a blessing over the life of their sons, are they saying a “happy”? It doesn’t make sense. I’m missing something in the idea, so let’s search to better understand the concept of blessing.

There are a couple words translated blessing in the New Testament. One is “Eulogeo” this is a compound word “Eu” – which means good and “Logeo” which means speak. So literally it means to “speak well of”. The idea is to give approval, or congratulations. It’s like a thumbs up or 5-star rating. Often approval from God shows up in good things, like gifts.

How differently some passages look with this word! When fathers are blessing their sons, they are speaking approval over their lives, saying “Congratulations! I’m proud of you, and here is why”. Or when we say the “blessing” over or meal, what we are really saying is “Lord, thank you for this food, and we ask that you approve of what we are eating”. (Maybe I’ll think twice about of french-fries and milk shakes!)

The second word translated blessing in the New Testament is “makarios” we find this word in the famous Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 5. The literal translation is to “make large”, and the idea behind it is to be envied because God is pleased and extends His benefits.

Foundational to both of these Greek words is the idea of God’s approval. This adds an entirely different dimension to the phrases in the Sermon on the Mount.. They could look like this:

The poor in spirit have God’s approval,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

God approves of those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

God approves of the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.

Thumbs up to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.

God approves of the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.

Envied are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.

Congratulations to the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.

God approves of those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

You have God’s approval when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven…

So where does “happy” come in? -Well,  I can think of no greater joy, than knowing my God is pleased with me. The result of His approval is my pleasure, joy, it’s a gift of happiness…blessing!

See all of the definitions we explored during this series by clicking HERE

Defining Righteousness

In Washington DC, is the National Institute of Standards and Technology. It is responsible for storing the perfect samples for weights and measures. There you will find the prototypes used to define feet, and measure pounds, liters and meters. Measurement is so precise that they use a bar of Platinum with exactly 10% iridium, cooled to 0 degrees Celsius at sea level in the 45 degree of latitude, to calculate the length of a meter. This is the standard.

The root of the word righteousness is to be straight – or to act like the standard – live up to the standard.

What is the standard? –

 “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…”Romans 8:29

Our standard is Jesus. To be like Him is our goal.

So the measure of your righteousness, is how close you mirror the Savior. If you are like me, that is not very close at all. Still, there is hope because

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

The Chinese character for “righteousness” is fascinating. It’s composed of two separate characters one that by itself means” a lamb”, the other for “me”. When “lamb” is placed directly above “me,” a new character “righteousness” is formed. So when the Lamb covers me…I become righteous.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

Define Repentance

Want to know what repentance is? – stand up, turn to the right, keep going…a little farther. Now stop at 180 degrees, facing opposite direction from where you started. Repentance is to turn around, if you’re in the military, it’s “about face”. To go the other way. To change the direction of your life and your heart.

Repentance begins with a sorrow or regret that happens when we become aware of having offended or hurt someone, and is completed with a commitment to live differently.

Scripture talks about it a lot.

I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended… Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret… (I Corinthians 7:9-10)

Over and over in the words of Scripture repentance is linked with forgiveness:

  • God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins (acts 5:31)
  • And He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and in His name repentance and forgiveness of sins will be proclaimed to all nations (Luke 24:47)
  • Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)

Repentance is an emotional reaction to the realization that we have fallen short, and don’t deserve the favor of a perfect, holy God. That Godly sorrow is then paired with a commitment to change direction.

In the Kingdom of God, we find that as soon as we turn and take a first step toward Him, God comes running to us. Like the father of the prodigal son, our Heavenly Father sees us while we are “far off” and meets us on our way home.

So, don’t wait. Don’t put off making the turn. Start now!

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord (Acts 3:19)

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

Defining Atonement

The Hebrew word for Atonement is Kaphar (Kaw-Far), it literally means to “cover over”, or to appease. The idea is to pacify an authority for a wrong that has been done, to give a gift that may cause the judge to look past the offense.

From the third chapter of the Bible, we learn the lesson, “If you sin, then you will die.” Romans 6:23 repeats this message:

“for the wages of sin is death…”

This causes our Loving God a big problem because we all have sinned, and deserve the punishment for our sins, eternal death. Yet his great desire is for a relationship with us. He needed something that will cover over our sin.

In 1987 there was a movie titled “The Last Emperor” this movie told the story of Pu Yi the last Emperor of China, crowned when just a child. In one scene his brother asked him, what happens when you do something wrong? Yi reply’s, someone else is punished. To demonstrate, Yi breaks a jar, and one of his many servants is brought in and beaten for the transgression.

That was the answer for us. Someone else would be punished for our transgressions. The only one qualified to put back together what sin has torn apart is Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of God. The sacrifice of his life on the cross covers over our sin.

“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2)

Even though the Hebrew word for atonement means to “cover over”, I like our English word at-one-ment. Atonement puts our relationship with God back together. Jesus’ sacrifice makes everything right with the law of God, gives us a clean slate, and makes us “at one” with God.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

Words: Making “Churchy” Words Simple

God has this thing about the spoken word. When you get right down to it, words are what God uses to actually create things.

Go back to Genesis, and we learn:

”In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep and the Spirit God was hovering over the waters. And God SAID “let there be light” (Genesis 1:1)

What did God use to create? – Words. Over and over the phrase “God Said” is repeated.

What God wanted, expressed out loud with words, brought all of creation into being.

If we fast forward to the Gospel of John, and read the first part of the first chapter.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the word was God. He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made.” (John 1:1-3)

What God wanted… expressed out loud, in the person of Jesus, brought all of history into relationship with Him.

You see, God has a thing about words. And if God thinks words are important, then we should too.

I understand, it’s hard enough trying to figure what’s going on today when you’re ‘earjacking’ your ‘hipster’ ‘boomerang child’ making a ‘duckface’ wearing her new ‘kicks’ while she’s ‘chillin’ with her ‘bestie’.  And yet, we expect ourselves to fully understand what a middle eastern, nomad who lived over 3,000 years ago, meant when he wrote part of the Bible!  Don’t be so hard on yourself! It takes work, and time, and often a friend to walk alongside you.

So let’s go on a journey together.

Over the next few weeks we’ll feature common “religious” vocabulary words and take a deeper dive into what they mean.  We’ll look at how they are used in scripture and sometimes even outside of scripture.  We’ll try to look at things in simple terms and stories, so whether you have been in church your whole life, or are just starting out in your God walk, you’ll find something to help you.

Hey, drop us a line if there is a word you want us to explore. We want to hear from you. After all, we’re on this journey together!

Go to the GPS page, and see the “Words: Making Churchy Words Simple” article to follow our study.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™


Project Prayer Giveaway Reminder

Only 12 days left to sign up!

Deadline is Monday, November 19, at 11:59 pm.
Don’t forget to enter the Project Prayer Giveaway to win a beautiful framed print
and note card set (We have 2 sets to give away!) by Bible Study Journey contributor and photographer, Cindy Snyder!


If you are just joining us for Project Prayer, you can begin (or browse) the series here.
Download all the Project Prayer extras here.

Lord, Teach Me to Pray

Have you ever gone to a prayer meeting and you sit there listening to others pray and you feel as though you will never measure up in your prayer? You feel “Oh, that person prays so eloquently. I love listening to them pray. I sure wish I could pray like them. I’d best not pray out loud…”

Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught His disciples.
∼Luke 11:1 (KJV)

Jesus’ disciples walked with Him on a daily basis and heard Him pray frequently, yet, they still asked Him to teach them how to pray. We have looked at many aspects of prayer during Project Prayer. Today we are going to look at few ways to pray.

Conversation with God

The most important thing to remember is that prayer is a conversation between you and God. You must pray from your heart. You may be thinking, “but God already knows.” He does, but He wants you to visit with Him. Part of prayer is talking to God; however, part of prayer is being still and listening to what He has to tell you.

Tell God what you are feeling, confess your sins asking for forgiveness, praise Him for Who He is and what He has done in your life, and ask Him for what others’ needs are as well as your own.

The Lord’s Prayer

Jesus taught His disciples to pray what we now call The Lord’s Prayer. (Matthew 6:9-13, Luke 11:2-4). He started with acknowledging Who He was praying to (“Our Father in heaven”). He then praised His Father. (“Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”) After this time of worship, our Lord started asking for needs for all in His hearing (“give us this day our daily bread”). There was a time of confession. Jesus, as we know, did not need forgiveness, but He knew we did so He included “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” Jesus then closed with another time of worship (“for Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen”)


Another ‘method’ of prayer is similar but is broken down into an acrostic to make it simple to remember:

A – Adoration
Take time to acknowledge God and just worship Him, praising Him for Who He is and what He has done.

C – Confession
Confess your sins. Name your sins to God. Acknowledge you know what you’ve done and you are sorry for those sins. Remember, my friend, that God forgives those sins and separates them away from us. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12 – NASB).

T – Thanksgiving
There is so much for which we need to thank God. Come before Him with thanksgiving.

S – Supplication
Lastly, come before God with your and others’ needs.

Lord, Help!

And He said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, “Lord, save me.”
∼Matthew 14:29-30 (KJV)

I like to call this the “Lord, Help!” prayer. It is so very important to spend time in prayer with worship, confession, and supplication. However, there are times throughout our days where we need immediate help from God. It’s one of those quick “I need help now” type prayers. There is nothing wrong with these. “Lord, help!” is all we have time to pray. When Peter was sinking into the sea he looked into Jesus’ eyes and said, “Lord, help!”

Peter prayed from his heart with a very immediate and specific need. In this one short prayer, he acknowledged Who God was (the One Who could save him). He confessed his sin of taking his eyes off of God. And, Peter told God his need. It was a short prayer with so much packed into it.

Your Prayers

My friend, have you had a conversation with God lately? Have you prayed a “Lord, Help!” prayer? If not, God is waiting for you to come to Him and have a good visit. Just as a parent longs to hear from their child, so God longs to hear from you. There is so much more that we could unpack here but we are limited by time and space. Come today, friend. Talk to your heavenly Father. He’s waiting.

We would love to hear from you! Do you find a particular method or “formula” for prayer works for you? Tell us about it in the comments below.


Don’t forget to enter the Project Prayer Giveaway to win a beautiful framed print and note card set by Cindy!

Download all the Project Prayer extras here.

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