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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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 – Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God

A week ago, I finished reading Francis Chan’s Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God. I was reading through it for a second time; this time, with a friend from work. The first time I read Crazy Love was back in 2010 after I rededicated my life to Christ. It was the perfect read for someone who had been walking in the world. It showed me what it meant to be loved by a holy God, and what it looks like to be in love with Him, and to follow Him.Crazy Love

This time, as I read Crazy Love from the perspective of someone who’s been walking with the Lord for some time, I felt convicted for my complacency. Many people criticize Francis Chan for his “unrealistic” views of what it looks like to be a follower of Christ; but when I read the New Testament, I find everything he says to be biblically accurate. Chan challenges his readers to rise above the comfortable life of the “normal American Christian,” to open their eyes to the true heart and calling of Christ, and to follow the examples of the early Church. God doesn’t want lukewarm Christians (Revelation 3:15-16)! He wants us hot! He wants us passionate about Him and passionate about reaching the lost. We’re not called to just meet once or twice a week and study the word, we’re called to be doers of the word (James 1:22-25)!

The fact that Chan had to write a book to tell us this, when we could just pick up the Bible and read it for ourselves, says a lot about the state of the American Church. I finished this book being reminded that my job as a follower of Christ isn’t to just sit in a pew, it’s to be Christ’s hands and feet in the world, to share His truth and love, to be intentional. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be “normal” and I don’t want to serve “leftovers to a Holy God” (Chan, 2013). He deserves my best, my all!

So, whether you’re a new believer, or someone who’s been walking with Christ for some time, be sure to check out this book for a quick spiritual check-up.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

A few weeks ago I was listening to a message about biblical manhood and womanhood, and how the two intersect, by Matt Chandler (which you can find here if you’re interested). Chandler begins this series by talking about how we’re made in the image of God; known as the Imago Dei. The term has its roots in Genesis 1:27, wherein “God created man in his own image. . .” Most Christians believe this scriptural passage refers to the fact that humans are in the image of God in their moral, spiritual, and intellectual nature.

Remember how I just finished Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples? Well, Francis Chan wrote that God has given humanity the responsibility to reflect Him to the world (Chan, pp. 144-145). (This can be found in the Word, as well. Check out Genesis 1:26-27; Romans 8:29; Colossians 3:10; and Ephesians 2:10, 4:24.) Chandler’s message reminded me of something that I remember studying a while ago in a Wednesday night Bible study: because we’re all made in the image of God, we all deserve to be treated with respect and should treat others with respect.Fish Pic

Interestingly enough, this is considered countercultural in the world we live in now. The world tells us that respect is earned, but the Word tells us that respect is given because God created us in His image. This means that everyone is to be treated with respect, regardless of who they are, what they believe, or what they do or don’t do. I have this little metal fish on my desk at work with scripture cards and I flipped the little card this week (side note: I actually began this post two weeks ago.) to the following scripture: “Do to others as you would like them to do to you” (Luke 6:31). As I meditated over this scripture I noted that this doesn’t say, treat others as they treat you. It says you treat them like you want them to treat you! To me, that means being gracious, generous, kind, loving, and compassionate regardless of how they treat you. Recall that Jesus said the following in Luke…

If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return. Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for He is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate. ~ Luke 6:32-36

I love how verse 36 reminds us that God is “kind to those who are unthankful and wicked” because so often I feel that we treat people based on what we think they “deserve.” However, I’m reminded of Jonah—we were studying the book of Jonah last week in our ladies’ Bible study—and how he didn’t believe the people of Ninevah deserved God’s grace and mercy, but upon their repentance, God granted just that!

Some of my favorite verses this year can be found in Exodus; in 33:19 God tells Moses that He will have mercy on whom He has mercy and compassion on whom He shows compassion. Peter says something along these lines in Acts 10:34-35 when he says “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. In every nation he accepts those who fear Him and do what is right.” As does James in James 2:1, “My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?” God desires that we treat all people with equal love and respect!

In the end what will we do? Be angry like Jonah because God shows love and grace? Or will we realize that God extends that same love and grace towards us, though, we too are undeserving? The truth is, we’re all on equal standing before the cross…not one of us “deserves” His grace; in fact, the amplified Bible defines grace as free and unmerited favor. Unmerited meaning undeserving, unwarranted, and unearned. We must remember that just as Paul wrote to the Corinthians “…whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me—and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by His grace” (1 Corinthians 15:10, emphasis added) and we are saved by our faith in Christ Jesus, not based on ourselves or anything that we do (Ephesians 2:8-9).

In conclusion, we must remember that we were all made in the image of God. Therefore, we are to respect those around us and treat them as we want to be treated; and remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:44 and Luke 6:28, where He tells us to love our enemies, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who persecute and/or hurt us. I’m going to end with the famous “love is” passage from 1 Corinthians. For some reason we tend to believe that this passage only applies to marriages, but it doesn’t; it describes what love is and how we are to apply it in all areas of our lives.

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Book Review – Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples

multiply_square_black1[1]Welcome to my first book review! Yesterday, as I was browsing the isles of my local Lifeway Christian Bookstore, I noticed a woman perusing through the Francis Chan section and reading the back covers of CrazyLove and Multiply and I got really excited. So excited, in fact, that I proceeded to tell this poor woman about how our Friday night women’s Bible study group just finished up Multiply and I proceeded to give her a synopsis of the book. This made me think that I really needed to post this blog, lol.

Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples is a great book! It asks tough questions that get you thinking about what it means to be a disciple–a follower of Christ–and discusses the purposes and need for the church body, both local and global. Then it goes on to describe why and how we should study the Bible, and briefly covers the Old and New Testaments, leaving the reader with a better understanding of the Word, God’s plan for redeeming mankind, and the call God has placed on our lives to “go forth and preach the gospel.” I believe what this book does best is it encourages the reader to be more confident and more intentional about sharing the Word.

One of the questions asked towards the end of the book was, “What does it mean to be a fisher of men?” Immediately, I realized I’ve been missing it! Fishing requires work! The fish don’t just jump in the boat. We have to cast the net and hook the line!

If you haven’t realized it so far, I highly recommend this book. It’s basically a small group study, so work through it with a small group (don’t have one? create one!) and be sure to check out the website for handouts for those who don’t have access to the book.

The Power of Presence

This week has been a little rough…Hahaha, that’s putting it a little lightly. Let’s face it I’ve been an emotional wreck this week. What started it? Oh, I don’t know, I suppose I started taking stock of my financial situation (as I began working on my taxes), which turned my attention towards my job, and then I started feeling a bit left out of certain discussions and decisions that were being made, and frustrated regarding some ministries I’m involved in. So, it’s just been a tough week.

Friday morning, I didn’t even want to get out of bed to go to work, I was feeling so low. I messaged my boyfriend in the morning, about how I was having a “my life doesn’t matter and I don’t make a difference in the world” type of week, and he did his best to tell me that that’s not true. Now, I know this isn’t true, but sometimes I really need to be reminded, which is what happened as the day progressed…

Last night, while meeting with a few young women for a Bible study (we’ve been working on the final half of Multiply, by Francis Chan; check out my previous posts for the first half of the book), we were talking about Moses and Israel’s exodus from Egypt; and our host/leader commented on how as Israel crossed the desert towards Canaan, they complained about how good they had it back in Egypt—where they were slaves! She asked us, what things are we holding on to back in Egypt that are preventing us from taking over our Canaan? I had to think long and hard, and ultimately decided that it’s my fear. Fear of failing, fear of not meeting my own expectations, fear of being left out and not fitting in, fear of never accomplishing the visions God’s given me, and never making any sort of impact on the world.

Which brought to mind a message I heard this week, by Judah Smith, titled Jesus is With You Always (yes, I was doing a lot of thinking this week and last night about how all of this fit together). Judah actually talks about how one of his chores growing up was taking out the garbage and how afraid he was of going outside in the dark alone to do this. However, when a friend went with him to throw out the garbage, his fears went away. Judah called this “the power of presence,” and referenced 1 John 4:15 which states that “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.”

Bam! The power of God’s presence. I suddenly recognized that if we could truly grasp the fact that God is with us in every circumstance and every situation, and recognize that we are never alone, what a difference that would make in our lives, and how different our perspective of the world would be.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

The Multiply study is based on the Great Commission, which is our calling, as believers, to share the love of Christ with the world; Judah calls this missionary living. Basically, we’re called to be missionaries to our neighbors! And let me tell you something; the enemy doesn’t like that! Judah tells a story about a seasoned pastor taking a younger pastor hunting, and the younger pastor asks the age-old question: why do bad things happen to good people? The seasoned pastor points to a dead animal in the field and says, “Do we shoot that animal? No, because it’s dead; only the living are hunted.” We have a target on our back (and this week I felt like this season’s game).

Next week, our new Young Adult ministry, The Gathering, will kick off, and I feel like the next point explains my week. I know that there are times when I feel like I’m not making any type of headway or difference in the world, but then God reminds me that I have a very unique perspective of the world and have experienced some situations that not many are willing to share or understand. For instance, because I often feel like an outcast, I never want others to feel like an outcast, so I make every effort to make everyone feel included, heard, and loved. It’s not wrong to feel different, but as another friend of mine recently wrote in her blog (Fire and Refinement) don’t let your differences isolate you, but let them be used for God’s glory, because it’s our uniqueness that opens doors to reach those in our life that others couldn’t connect with. God will use me (and you) to reach a specific audience and as scared and uncomfortable as I am, I know that God is with me.

Multiply: Week 7

Part III: How to Study the Biblemultiply_square_black1[1]

1: Why Study the Bible?

I’m going to write this discussion on Francis Chan & Mark Beuving’s book Multiply a little differently than usual; there are going to be lots of bullets because there’s just so much to cover! I love to study God’s Word, but earlier in my walk this wasn’t the case, and neither is it the case amongst many other believers; and then, sometimes, even when we do take the time to study God’s Word, we may do so with wrong motives, which, we’ll discuss here.

Francis Chan starts off this chapter by describing how the original disciples appeared to have the advantage of actually being in Jesus’s presence as He developed His ministry. But in reality we are not at a disadvantage “because God has recorded His words and the testimony of Jesus’s followers in a book–the Bible” (Chan & Beuving, 2012, p. 91)

For a Christian, nothing should seem more natural than reading the Bible. Peter, one of Jesus’s first disciples, compared it to a baby’s natural craving for milk: “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation–if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:2-3). (Chan & Beuving, 2012, p. 91)

We should be craving God’s Word like a baby craves for milk. What an amazing idea! When was the last time you had a craving to read God’s Word?! I know when I go a day or two without opening His Word, I have a longing for it, a passion that sometimes keeps me up after midnight just to study it. Francis Chan, next points out how important it is that we understand what the Bible is. When we say that it’s the “Word of God” we ought to recognize that “we’re actually talking about something that the all-powerful, all-knowing, transcendent God decided to write to us” (Chan & Beuving, 2012, p. 92)!

If we really believe that the Bible is the Word of God, then it should be much more than a book that we are familiar with. It ought to shape every aspect of our existence. It should guide the decisions we make in life. If God is the designer and creator of this world, if He made us and placed us on this earth, and if He has taken the time to tell us who He is, who we are, and how this world operates, then what could be more important to us than the Bible? (Chan & Beuving, 2012, p. 92)

Now that we’ve identified that we ought to be studying God’s Word, let’s discuss our motives. According to Francis Chan most Christians study the Bible for the wrong reasons.

Wrong Motives for Studying God’s Word

  • Guilt: Many people feel that we have to study God’s Word simply because we’re told it’s what Christians are supposed to do. God doesn’t want us to be motivated out of guilt to study His Word. He wants us to have a love and desire for His Word and His presence. (pp.93-94)
  • Status: Too often Christians are motivated by status, or a desire to appear intelligent, wise, or more spiritual than others. In reality we should be motivated by a desire to know God, to be changed by His Word, and to love and serve the people around us. (pp. 94-95)
  • Teaching Material: This is when we begin to approach the Bible only as a source for teaching material. The truth is however, we must also search the Scriptures on a regular basis because of what they have to say to us, individually. (p. 95)

Okay, now that we’ve covered some of the wrong motives for studying God’s Word, let’s take a step back and look at why God gave us the Bible in the first place.

Why Did God Give Us the Bible?

  • To Teach Us about Himself: We should study in order to understand God better. We search diligently to know the truth about God and to rid ourselves of any misconceptions we hold about Him. (pp. 96-97)
  • To Teach Us about Ourselves and the World We Live In: The God who wrote the Bible is the God who designed this world. Since this is His world, it only makes sense to view the world from His perspective and live according to His principles. (p. 97)
  • To Enable Us to Live Godly Lives: This means that as we study the Bible, we should be looking to change. If you ever find yourself reading your Bible and not changing, then you can be sure that you’re approaching the Bible in the wrong way. It’s not about finding support for our lifestyle or way of thinking; it’s about approaching the mind of God and letting Him change and redefine who we are. (pp. 98-99)
  • To Facilitate a Relationship with God: Every relationship requires communication–the loving expression of each person’s thoughts, emotions, concerns, and dreams that strengthens the relationship and deepens intimacy. The Bible is God’s way of sharing His thoughts and desires with us. Every time we read the Bible we are strengthening our relationship with God. (pp. 99-100)
  • To Exalt Jesus: God’s Word should move us to exalt Jesus in our everyday lives. (p. 100)
  • To Prepare Us for Our God-Given Mission: We are here to be God’s servants, His ambassadors: “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). Rather than coming to the Bible with our own agenda and trying to find verses that support what we’d like to do, we need to allow the Bible to shape our hopes and dreams. Every time we read the Bible, we should understand our mission a little better. (pp. 100-102)

And finally, Francis Chan leaves us with these final words regarding the study of God’s Word…

Ultimately, when we read the Bible, we are approaching the mind of God. Every time you open the Bible, you ought to prepare yourself for an encounter with the Creator of the universe. ..[Therefore,] it should go without saying that we ought to approach God with humility…Reading your Bible with humility means that you’re assuming the role of a student…Approaching the Bible with humility means that we’re laying aside our agendas and looking for what God will teach us. Every time you find yourself struggling to accept something the Bible says, you’ve found an area of your life that needs to be brought into submission to Christ. (Chan & Beuving, 2012, pp. 102-103)

This is not easy! For as long as I’ve known Christ as my personal savior and as much as I’ve studied God’s Word, I continue to come across things in His Word that speak to me and are cause for me to submit areas of my life to Him. As Paul wrote to the church at Philippi: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14)