Study with Purpose

Good day! I know, it’s been a while. It’s been almost 2 months since I’ve started working a part-time job, in addition to my full-time position, and I’ve just been really tired, lately. So, I apologize.

A few weeks ago, I posted on my Facebook wall, that we must beware confusing faith with superstition and that I would write more on this at a later date. Well, today is that day…lol.

I’m always left speechless when I see/hear things about people flipping randomly through their Bible and expecting to land on the perfect passage for their current state of life. While there may be a few instances when the Holy Spirit leads you to the perfect passage for the particular moment, this is not usually the case. We should not be randomly flipping through the Scriptures to find our daily passages of study. There’s a specific way to study the Word and it’s not randomly selecting verses or passages.

I’ve heard it said that you should always read 12 verses before, and 12 verses after, when reading any particular verse or passage of Scripture, so as to read the verse within context; but I feel like this is too simplified, and while this may help, there’s still a better way. Let’s take a look at a few things we need to take into consideration when we study the Bible…

Motives

In my Multiply: Week 7 post we talked about our motives for studying the Word. We talked about studying the Bible so that we can learn more about who God is, as well as learn more about ourselves and the world we live in. We talked about studying the Word so that we can be changed by it, and exalt Jesus in our daily lives; so that our relationship with God is strengthened; and so that we are prepared for our God-given mission. If we’re randomly choosing Scripture to study, we’re not exactly going to grasp the full meaning and purpose behind the text. How can we recognize and understand the heart of God, without reading the rest of the book and comparing the passages?

Prayerfully & Obediently

Many people complain that the Word of God is too difficult for the ordinary believer to understand. I usually respond by repeating, “Make sure your praying for understanding from the Holy Spirit, when studying the Word.” The only way we’re going to grasp the meaning of Scripture is by allowing the One who wrote it, to reveal it to our hearts. As 1 Corinthians 2:9-14 states:

But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

We are absolutely dependent upon the Holy Spirit to reveal the wisdom found in the Word and to help establish it in our lives. Francis Chan puts it this way, “Perhaps the strongest reason for saturating our Bible study in prayer is that we desperately need the Spirit to make our lives align with the truths we are studying” (Multiply). The truth of the Word means absolutely nothing if it doesn’t change us and we don’t apply it to our lives.

Study Logically

We study logically by considering the context of the scripture. We ask questions such as:

  • Who wrote this passage?
  • To whom was it written?
  • What was going on during this time period?
  • Where was this taking place?
  • Why did this happen?

We study logically when we recognize that there’s a difference between interpretation and application. Interpretation means that we ask what the passage actually says and means. Whereas application means we apply that meaning to a specific situation. “Ultimately, each passage has one meaning, but it might have many different applications…We should all read the same passage and walk away with the same meaning” (Chan, Multiply).

Sometimes there are passages in Scripture that contain metaphors, parables, poems, prophecies, and other literary devices, and when that’s the case, it’s simply stated. However, for the most part, we should be looking for the plain meaning of the Scripture and take the Bible literally, rather than allowing our personal agendas or assumptions divert us from what God is saying in a passage. “We need to learn to take Scripture at face value” (Chan, Multiply).

Lastly, two of the most important aspects of studying the Scripture is to let go of our presuppositions, and allow the Word of God to transform our way of thinking, our lifestyle, and actions.

*For more on how to study the Bible, I highly recommend Francis Chan’s Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples.
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Dead Men Walking

Hello friends! I know, it’s been a while. There have been some pretty crazy changes going on in my life. If you recall, my husband and I are expecting our first baby (it’s a girl!) in July, so I’ve had a lot going on, but I really wanted to share this with you…

I’m currently 21 weeks, and during this pregnancy there have been certain times where I’ve had some pretty strange dreams. But none stick out more prominently, than the one I had early in my second trimester, because it seemed to have spiritual significance.

In this dream, I was in a town, where everybody was dead, but they didn’t know it. They were walking around like zombies (without all the gross bodily changes that occur in the sci-fi/fantasy world). They were just trying to go on about their daily routines, but were failing. Oddly enough, some realized that they were dead and wanted to leave this town with me, even trying to take some of their children with them, but the other dead people tried their best to prevent them from leaving.

For the next couple days I pondered this dream and realized, this is reality. We walk by people who are dead in their sin every day. They just don’t know it!

In fact, Ephesians 2:1-3 states that we were all dead in our sins, walked in disobedience, and lived according to the desires of our flesh (we did what felt good/right in our own eyes); and Romans 8:7 says we were actually actively/willfully hostile to God. But God…

But God, being [so very] rich in mercy, because of His great and wonderful love with which He loved us, even when we were [spiritually] dead and separated from Him because of our sins, He made us [spiritually] alive together with Christ (for by His grace—His undeserved favor and mercy—you have been saved from God’s judgment). And He raised us up together with Him [when we believed], and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, [because we are] in Christ Jesus, [and He did this] so that in the ages to come He might [clearly] show the immeasurable and unsurpassed riches of His grace in [His] kindness toward us in Christ Jesus [by providing for our redemption]. ~ Ephesians 2: 4-7, Amplified

God gives us new LIFE, hope, joy, and peace! This isn’t to say that there won’t be tough days or troubles/obstacles in our life, but that He’ll be with us every step of the way; if only we’ll believe and accept Him as Lord and Savior. There’s hope for the walking dead, found only in Christ Jesus.

But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” ~ Romans 10:14-15, NLT

So, who are the dead men/women walking in our lives? Could it be our co-worker, our classmate, or relative? Could it be our neighbor, our doctor, or cashier?

May we be the bringers of good news!! May we guard our tongue and speak truth in love. May our actions line up with our words and beliefs. And may we boldly proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ wherever we go!

The Counsel of Elders

The other day I was flipping through my Flipboard (lol) when I came across this article about Silicon Valley and its Peter Pan Syndrome. Basically it’s a commentary, by Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, on how most technology firms these days like to keep a staff of young employees and often force out their older employees (or refuse to hire them). Sonnenfeld noted that the median age of Google employees, for instance, is 29. He then went on to describe why this is a mistake and how much we can gain and have gained from people over age 35 in various industries. It was actually a great commentary that I shared on my Twitter feed. (Additionally, just after I began working on this blog, I came across a similar article in the Washington Post discussing ageism in the workplace.)

After reading and contemplating the content of the article, I began thinking about another person who thought that those older than him brought little to the table: King Rehoboam.

Now, king Rehoboam took the throne after his father Solomon, son of David, son of Jesse (don’t ask me why I felt like providing the geneology, lol, maybe I had too much coffee), and Rehoboam had some pretty big shoes to fill. But in 2 Chronicles 10, we read about how after Solomon’s death, the people of Israel come to Rehoboam and request that their load be lightened–labor and tax-wise–and he tells them to let him think about it, and he’d have a response for them in three days. King Rehoboam first asks his father’s advisors as to how he should respond…

 The older counselors replied, “If you are good to these people and do your best to please them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your loyal subjects.” But Rehoboam rejected the advice of the older men and instead asked the opinion of the young men who had grown up with him and were now his advisers. “What is your advice?” he asked them. “How should I answer these people who want me to lighten the burdens imposed by my father?” The young men replied, “This is what you should tell those complainers who want a lighter burden: ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist! Yes, my father laid heavy burdens on you, but I’m going to make them even heavier! My father beat you with whips, but I will beat you with scorpions!’” ~ 2 Chronicles 10:7-11, NLT

We all know how this story ends. Rehoboam, rejects the advice given by his elders and responds as his peers told him to, and this was the wrong answer! In fact, this is the determining factor of Israel’s split from Judah; creating the northern and southern kingdoms.

When I first read this, I thought, “what a spoiled rotten, thoughtless, stubborn, little teenager!” but then, I went on to read in 2 Chronicles 12 that Rehoboam was actually 41 years old when he took over the kingdom! He was a grown adult behaving as a child!

So, here I am, having just read these two things–the article/commentary and 2 Chronicles 10–and I’m recognizing how we can, at any age, fall into this trap of ignoring and holding in contempt, the wisdom of our elders. I believe that we can become so consumed in the way we do things now and doing things “the right way,” or our way, or improving upon the way things have been done, that we negate the people who have been doing those same things in generations past. By doing so we attempt to deny the skill, wisdom, and knowledge of those who came before us; when the truth is, we couldn’t do or wouldn’t have most of the things we do today, if they weren’t out there “doing” before us. We don’t create from scratch…we simply build upon the foundation that’s been laid before us.

Proverbs 4:6-9, NIV

Rehoboam’s elderly counsel were the same men that counseled his father; and according to the Bible, Solomon was the wisest person to have ever lived. So, why do we, like Rehoboam, think that our way is best, and deny the wisdom and counsel of those who’ve gone before us? Why do we think that those older than us have nothing to bring to the table or have nothing of value to offer us?

Now, this isn’t to say that we don’t have something new or better to offer, but that we respect and accept the fact that our elders laid the foundation for us to have what we have, have provided a path for the future, and are still capable of providing much insight and wisdom; much like we are doing for those who will follow us. Neither does it mean that we neglect to seek the counsel and wisdom of God, for as the Word says, “true wisdom and power are found in God; counsel and understanding are His” (Job 12:13, NLT) and “God looks down from heaven on the entire human race; He looks to see if anyone is truly wise, if anyone seeks God” (Psalm 53:2, NLT).

Therefore, let us not neglect or scorn the wisdom of our elders, but take it into consideration, contemplate upon the words and advice of those who’ve gone before us, and compare it to what the Bible says and let’s not act harshly, rebelliously, or rashly, but be considerate and respectful of the opinions of others.

If you become wise, you will be the one to benefit.
If you scorn wisdom, you will be the one to suffer. ~ Proverbs 9:12, NLT

Fools think their own way is right,
but the wise listen to others. ~ Proverbs 12:15, NLT

Pride leads to conflict;
those who take advice are wise. – Proverbs 13:10, NLT

Wise people think before they act;
fools don’t—and even brag about their foolishness. ~ Proverbs 13:16, NLT

Walk with the wise and become wise;
associate with fools and get in trouble. ~ Proverbs 13:20, NLT

If you listen to constructive criticism,
you will be at home among the wise. ~ Proverbs 15:31, NLT

An Endless Supply

One day the widow of a member of the group of prophets came to Elisha and cried out, “My husband who served you is dead, and you know how he feared the Lord. But now a creditor has come, threatening to take my two sons as slaves.”

“What can I do to help you?” Elisha asked. “Tell me, what do you have in the house?”

“Nothing at all, except a flask of olive oil,” she replied.

And Elisha said, “Borrow as many empty jars as you can from your friends and neighbors. Then go into your house with your sons and shut the door behind you. Pour olive oil from your flask into the jars, setting each one aside when it is filled.”

So she did as she was told. Her sons kept bringing jars to her, and she filled one after another. Soon every container was full to the brim!

“Bring me another jar,” she said to one of her sons.

“There aren’t any more!” he told her. And then the olive oil stopped flowing.

When she told the man of God what had happened, he said to her, “Now sell the olive oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on what is left over.”

(2 Kings 4:1-7, NLT)

This evening, as I read over 2 Kings 4 I noticed that the widow’s oil only stopped flowing after she ran out of containers to put it in. I thought to myself, “the oil probably never have run out if she had an endless supply of containers!”

Olive OilThroughout the Bible, oil is used to symbolize the Spirit of God, the anointing, and the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We see this as the priests are anointed in Exodus (30:30-32), when Saul & David are anointed King of Israel in 1 Samuel 10 & 16, and we see this in the Parable of the 10 Virgins in Matthew 25 (1-13). So, I couldn’t help but view the story of the widow and Elisha in 2 Kings, in light of what I know about the oil being symbolic of the Holy Spirit.

God tells us that He wants to pour out His Spirit on all people and I can’t help but wonder, are we prepared?

“Then, after doing all those things,
    I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
    Your old men will dream dreams,
    and your young men will see visions.
In those days I will pour out my Spirit
    even on servants—men and women alike.

(Joel 2:28-29, NLT)

I mean, God offers us an endless supply, but I often feel like we’re satisfied with just a few measly drops of the Holy Spirit’s power and authority in our lives. The widow ran out of containers; but that’s impossible for us, because according to 2 Corinthians 4:7, we are the containers! The only limitation put on God, in our case, is our willingness to be filled. So, the question is, are we going to allow God to fill us to the brim, to overflowing? Or are we okay with the few drops we received a few weeks ago? Because if we’re okay with just a few drops of the Spirit’s power and authority in our lives, we are, in essence, telling God, “Oh, no thanks! I still have a little oil leftover from last week?” when He desires to make us overflow! 

And ladies and gents…The Holy Spirit is as necessary to the believer as air is to every living creature who walks the earth, and we could never have too much of Him in our lives! It is the Spirit Who leads us, convicts us, draws us near to God, teaches us, gives us understanding of the Word and authority to teach and share the gospel, and so much more. Therefore, let us not be satisfied with the meager leftovers of the Spirit’s power in our lives, but let us seek His face by studying the Holy Word of God, seeking His will in prayer, and lifting Him up in praise, that His power and authority may be evident in our lives and overflowing into the lives of those around us.

Book Review – Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit

I finished Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit, by Francis Chan, a few weeks ago and have been meaning to work on this book review, but I’ve just been so busy. On top of that, I wasn’t really sure how I felt about this book. Coming from a background, in which we recognize the Holy Spirit as part of the trinity, and on equal footing with God the Father and God the Son, it was a little difficult for me to understand where Chan was coming from. However, after I thought a little more about it, I realized that even coming from this background, even I sometimes forget the true power of the Holy Spirit in my life and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

So how do you know if this book is for you? First off, if you have no idea what I’m talking about when I mention the Holy Spirit, then this book is definitely for you. If you’ve never studied or heard of the theology of the Holy Spirit (see below), then book is for you.

Theology of the Holy Spirit510f+LEaDML._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

  1. The Holy Spirit is a Person.
  2. The Holy Spirit is God.
  3. The Holy Spirit is eternal and holy.
  4. The Spirit has His own mind, and He prays for us.
  5. The Spirit has emotions.
  6. The Spirit has His own desires and will.
  7. The Spirit is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient.

If you’re afraid of the Holy Spirit, because of things you’ve heard or have been previously taught, then this book is for you. If you take a look at your life and can’t see a difference between the life you’re living and the lives of unbelievers around you, then this book is for you. If you want to better understand the Bible, then this book is for you. If you want help surrendering and submitting your life to God, then this book is for you. If you want to align your life with the will of God, and see the world from His perspective, then this book is for you. If you want to love people more, then this book is for you. If you desire an intimate relationship with the Lord, then this book is for you. If you want to experience joy and peace in your heart, then this book is for you. If you need help turning away from sin, and walking towards the Father, then this book is for you; because the power of the Holy Spirit living inside us is absolutely necessary for all of these things, and more!

So…is this book for you??

Book Review – Refresh: The Road to Revival

Last Monday we finished a 9-week study on Michael Catt’s Refresh: The Road to Revival. It took us a little longer than 9 weeks due to some cruddy winter weather; and although, we started out with a pretty large group, most of the time it was just the fiancé and me. (Which, actually turned out to be a blessing, because it taught us how to study the Word together. 😉 )

From the moment I picked up the book in my local Life Way store, I knew that it was a Refresh imagestudy that I really wanted to do. I don’t want to give away too much information, but I want you to have enough, so you’ll want to go and pick up the study for yourself. The introduction is as follows:

There is a path to revival worn throughout the pages of Scripture and the annals of church history. Churches across America are realizing that we need a fresh touch from God. The principles contained in this study will help your church focus on the essential elements of revival.

What are those essential elements, you ask? Desperation, surrender and persistence.

Weeks 1-3 focus on the importance of desperation and brokenness before God. Weeks 4-6 focus on repentance and surrender. And weeks 7-8 focus on prayer and persistence.

I’m telling you, guys, I highly recommend you pick up this study. And don’t let it be just “another study,” instead, be desperate, be surrendered, and be persistent. Let God change your heart and your perspective, and earnestly seek Him and His will; and not just during the study, but allow your entire life to reflect an attitude of brokenness, humility, and desire for the things of God.

Who knows! Perhaps we will see revival in our churches, cities, and nations much sooner than we think.

Take care and God bless!

Unplug – part 2

Back in December I wrote a post about learning to unplug. In that post I was focused on unplugging from technology, but today, I want to focus more on scheduling quiet time for privately studying the Word, prayer, and worship.

Today, upon reviewing past journal entries during my personal quiet time, I noticed a pattern, and from this pattern, God reminded me of something very important.

First, I realized that every few months I schedule these days—often mornings—of quiet solitude and prayer, out of necessity. I find that I’m forced to schedule such days because I’m exhausted, depressed, and unmotivated. I don’t want to get out of bed, I don’t want to go to work, and I don’t want to be around people. I become short-tempered, refuse to answer my phone, and I don’t want to talk to anybody. I’ve finally come to the realization that if I just scheduled these quiet times more often, I wouldn’t have to take an entire day off from work to rest.

I study the Word, I pray, and I attend church and bible studies regularly, but these quiet moments are worth so much more to me because I’m not rushed, there’s no one around to interrupt me, and I’m focused on only one thing—pouring my heart out to God and listening for His voice. My prayers during these times resemble a conversation one would have with an intimate counselor or closest friend. These are the moments in which I confide my deepest fears and struggles, ask clarifying questions, and seek direction. And I hear His voice!

These moments are so precious to me. He comforts me, covers me with peace, reassures and corrects me, and points the way. And so I question, why don’t I schedule these moments every evening, when I come home from work? Why don’t I release everything over to Him and let Him renew and refresh me, every day?

The truth is, life is hectic. It’s busy and stressful and we’re often consumed by the next activity, the next meeting or party, or the next thing on our to-do list. We’re easily distracted and focused on so many other things that we often neglect the most important thing. More important than the relationships with the people around us, more important than our job, more important than whatever we have planned to do, is the relationship we have with our heavenly Father. I don’t know about you, but I can’t do life alone; I need His presence with me wherever I go and in whatever I do. It’s time we stop pretending we can get by without Him! If we think that we can get by on a few crumbs we receive on Sunday mornings, or Wednesday nights, or the scraps we pick up elsewhere, we’re sadly mistaken. It’s what we do in our personal time to deepen our relationship with Christ that satisfies, strengthens, and changes us.

Second, as I realized that this is what I needed to do, God reminded me that it’s what we all need to do. Whether we have a secular job or work in a ministry setting, God desires these quiet moments with each of us to remind us Who He is, to recharge and refresh us, and to change our perspective about our lives in terms of His kingdom. God wants to do amazing things in and through us for the glory of His Name, and if we’re distracted by our desire and plans, we can’t see the bigger picture and what His desires and plans are. If we’re exhausted and stressed out because of our over commitments, traditions, and lifestyle, then when God calls us to do something, are we willing to be used with joyful heart? Or are we too tired? Too grumpy? Too distracted by all the other things on our to-do list?

To conclude, I recommend we all take a good, hard look at what our current commitments and lifestyle looks like, and make a purposeful stance to schedule absolute alone time with our heavenly Father. If this means heading to our car for an hour, hiding in our prayer closet, locking our bedroom or bathroom door, or heading to a secluded spot in a park, so be it. We need this time with God, our Father, as much as we need food or water, and honestly, many of us are slowly dying of hunger and dehydration. Let’s stop making excuses, and give God the very best of our lives, time, and resources, instead of the leftovers.

As Michael Catt says in his study, Refresh: The Road to Revival, “What we bring to God is a reflection of what we think of Him.” What are our lives reflecting?

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness

for His Name’s sake.

~ Psalm 23:1-3, ESV