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.
Advertisements

The Lamp of the Body

The eye is the light of the body. If your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. If your eye is bad, your whole body will be dark. If the light in you is dark, how dark it will be! ~ Matthew 6:22-23, NLV

 

When I was little there was a song that we used to sing that quoted the verse above. It went as follows…

Be careful little eyes what you see/There’s a lot of bad things on your TV/Be careful little ears what you hear/Turn the channel if you think the Devil is near

For the eye is the lamp of the body/In Matthew 6:22, we’re told/And if the eyes are good/Your whole body will be full of light

Years later I still recall those verses of truth. The song, so simple; yet, it taught us, even as children, to guard our hearts & minds from things we shouldn’t be watching or listening to. I think that often, as adults, we think we can watch or listen to whatever we want because we’re adults, mature, or because we have the “freedom” to do so. However, the Bible teaches us otherwise.

In Galatians 5:13a Paul reminds us that we “were chosen to be free. Be careful that you do not please your old selves by sinning because you are free.” Peter also reminds us, in 1 Peter 2:16 (NLT) “For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil.”

And let’s not forget that Philippians 4:8 tells us to “keep your minds thinking about whatever is true, whatever is respected, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever can be loved, and whatever is well thought of. If there is anything good and worth giving thanks for, think about these things.”

These verses make me very particular about what I watch, read, or listen to, and they should! Have you ever heard of that saying, “garbage in, garbage out”? The Bible also calls it reaping what you sow (Galatians 6:7-8). When we fill up on impure garbage, it infiltrates every area of our lives: our relationship with Christ, our marriage, and our relationship with our children, neighbors, and friends. Luke 6:45 (NIV) says that “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart,” and “the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Which begs the questions: what are you filling up on? What’s coming out of your mouth? And how are you treating the people around you?

“But everybody’s watching/reading/listening to it! I don’t want to be left out!” you may be thinking.

However, the Bible calls us to be holy and set apart for His good works (2 Timothy 2:21). It doesn’t call us to be like everybody else or to fit in with everybody else. In 1 Peter 2:9, in fact, we’re called a chosen people, royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession, some versions even call us a peculiar people. (We’re supposed to be weird!) 😀

Lastly, let’s nail our final excuse to the cross…”but that’s so hard!!” The Word never tells us to do anything on our own. We’re to be led and empowered by the Spirit to live according to His plan and purpose for us. And we’re not talking about some meek powerless god we serve here, we’re talking about the Creator of the universe, the same Spirit of God which raised Christ from the dead, for which nothing is impossible!

I say this to you: Let the Holy Spirit lead you in each step. Then you will not please your sinful old selves.  The things our old selves want to do are against what the Holy Spirit wants. The Holy Spirit does not agree with what our sinful old selves want. These two are against each other. So you cannot do what you want to do.  If you let the Holy Spirit lead you, the Law no longer has power over you.  The things your sinful old self wants to do are: sex sins, sinful desires, wild living,  worshiping false gods, witchcraft, hating, fighting, being jealous, being angry, arguing, dividing into little groups and thinking the other groups are wrong, false teaching,  wanting something someone else has, killing other people, using strong drink, wild parties, and all things like these. I told you before and I am telling you again that those who do these things will have no place in the holy nation of God.  But the fruit that comes from having the Holy Spirit in our lives is: love, joy, peace, not giving up, being kind, being good, having faith,  being gentle, and being the boss over our own desires. The Law is not against these things.  Those of us who belong to Christ have nailed our sinful old selves on His cross. Our sinful desires are now dead. ~ Galatians 6:16-24, NLV

“So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls” (James 1:21, 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??

How desperate are we…really?

Monday nights we host a Bible study at our local Starbucks. It’s a nine-week study on Michael Catt’s Refresh, which focuses on three areas of our spiritual journey: desperation, surrender, and persistence. So far, we’ve only been focusing on what it means to be desperate.

The power of desperation is something the world cannot comprehend. In a world where strength is lauded, we see that broken people have unexpected power with God. ~Michael Catt, Refresh

Tonight, as we finished up and I began making my way home, I started thinking about Psalm 119. I think it’s the longest psalm, so I’ll just highlight some of the verses that came to mind…

  • Oh, how I love your instructions! I think about them all day long (verse 27, NLT).
  • How sweet your words taste to me; they are sweeter than honey (verse 103, NLT).
  • Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path (verse 105, NLT).
  • Your laws are wonderful. No wonder I obey them (verse 129, NLT)!
  • I pant with expectation, longing for your commands (verse 131, NLT).
  • I rejoice in your word like one who discovers a great treasure (verse 162, NLT).

If you’ve read this chapter, you know that the author is talking about the Word of God; the Law of the Old Testament. But it got me thinking, is this how we feel about the Word of God? Do we pant with expectation and longing for the Word? Do we rejoice as we study the Word, as if we’ve found a great treasure in every verse read? Are we excited by it? Are we desperate for it?

The Word of God is how we get to know God, intimately. It’s how we learn His character, how we learn to understand His heart, and it’s through His Word that we are challenged and transformed into His image. If we claim to be desperate for God, but won’t open a Bible, then are we really desperate for Him? If we claim to be desperate for Him but won’t turn off our television or computer, or we won’t put down our cell phones long enough to spend quality time with Him, then are we really desperate for Him?

Some may be thinking, “But I just can’t. I can’t find the time. I can’t understand the Word. I can’t get excited about the Bible.” These are excuses. I believe that we use the word can’t way too liberally. The word can’t states an impossibility; that we’re mentally or physically incapable of learning, studying, reading, praying. That’s obviously not the case if you’re reading this. The truth is, anything we truly WANT to do, we’ll make time for. We have the freedom to choose how we spend our time–yes, the Holy Spirit can, and often does, prompt us–but we, alone, are responsible for our choices. We can choose to study the Bible. We can choose to spend time in prayer, and ask God to give us a hunger for His Word and to help us understand it. We can choose to worship Him and show Him how truly thankful we are for His grace and mercy. We can choose to be obedient and allow Him to direct our paths and write our story. But we can also make the choice not to. The question is do we really want to?

Desperation for God comes when we recognize that we’re nothing without Him; for without Him we have no hope, no future, no purpose. Desperation for God comes when our heart is overwhelmed and overflowing with gratitude for all He’s done, all He’s doing, and all He’s promised to do! When we’re truly desperate to know God, to have fellowship with Him in an intimate way, we’re not going to let anything come between us and Him. We’re not going to give Him the leftovers of our day, we’re going to give Him the first fruits! We’re not going to find time for Him, we’re going to schedule time for Him; because otherwise all the other things in our busy lives will push Him out.

So, I ask again…how desperate are we…really?

Unrealistic Expectations

A day hasn’t gone by this week that I haven’t heard or read something about how people hurt each other, are untrustworthy, or are undeserving of something or other. The reality is…it’s true. Humanity is imperfect. We often do or say things to one another that we may or may not realize hurts the other person. However, not everybody is out to get us. Sometimes we just take things the wrong way. More often than not the other person doesn’t even know that they hurt us!

Most importantly, whether or not the other person meant to hurt us, doesn’t really matter, because as children of the most High, we’re called to love other people…period. It doesn’t matter how badly they treat us, God has called us to love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, and do good to those who hate us (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27). He also tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Galatians 5:14); that means to treat others as we want to be treated, regardless of how they treat us. (We’ve already talked a lot about this in my R-E-S-P-E-C-T post back in July.)

Now, I understand full well that this isn’t always easy. When people hurt us a common desire is to hurt them back, to treat them the way they treated us, or to play the victim and tell the world how we’ve been mistreated. Sometimes we’re spiteful, vindictive, judgmental or cruel; and the world tells us we have a “right” to be. But as believers, we’ve lost our so-called “rights.” When we choose to follow Christ, we choose to give the Holy Spirit full access to every part or our lives, to change us from the inside out (John 3:30). Our behavior and thoughts shouldn’t be the same as the worlds!

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2, NLT)

Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from Him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. (Ephesians 4:21-24, NLT)

An example of unrealistic expectations.

What does changing the way you think entail? I know for me, I now recognize the brokenness of humanity. I recognize that people are lost, broken, hurting, and don’t know the truth. Therefore, how can they make good choices, or treat people with love and respect, when they don’t understand or haven’t accepted the love of the Creator? When it comes to people and relationships, our expectations often exceed reality. Meaning, we expect them to be up to par with our personal standards, but that’s unrealistic. While the world may believe that people should “just know” these things, the truth is, humans are selfish at heart, and like I wrote in a previous blog, due to our relativistic culture, we do what seems right in our own eyes. That’s why when Jesus called people to follow Him, He told them to turn away from their selfish ways, deny themselves, and pick up their cross (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23).

This is the world we live in; one in which none of us is perfect and we all fall short (Romans 3:10, 23). But let that not be an excuse to give in to sin and treat others poorly, to complain, or to give up on people altogether, because we have the power of the Holy Spirit within us; and through Him we can do all things! Furthermore, we’re made to be in relationship with others, why else would God say loving our neighbors is as equally as important as loving Him? (By the way, you can’t do one without the other.) So, remember, the next time that person cuts you off in traffic, talks about you behind your back, or gives you an attitude, to treat them as you would want to be treated: with grace, mercy, and kindness. And remember to pray for them, in love.

Responsibilities of Parenthood

This post has been a while in the making. I’ve been slow to post it because A) I’m not a mother (yet) and B) I don’t want anybody to think I’m telling them how they should raise their children. However, this is something that’s been on my heart lately; especially, since if you’ve read my last post, you know that I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the future.

Recently, a TON of my friends (and my sister–I’m going to be an aunt again!) have announced pregnancies. While I may not currently be in the same boat, that doesn’t mean that I haven’t thought about the responsibilities we have as parents (from here on out, just accept that I’m going to speak in the future tense in regards to myself, lol).

As parents, there are a lot of things that we’re in charge of when it comes to our children, the most obvious being food, shelter, clothing, protection, love and encouragement. And as they age, we encourage them to walk, teach them how to use the restroom on their own, how to share, the difference between right and wrong, and how to ride a bike, just to name a few. We are deliberate in these lessons and experiences because we want our children to grow up to be capable adults one day. The same should be said in regards to sharing the gospel with our children.

My sisters and nephews at the Botanical Garden in SC.

My sisters and nephews at the Botanical Garden in SC.

I heard a pastor a few weeks ago, on the radio, talking about how when interacting with his son, he and his son practiced what he called “Say, Play, and Pray.” They would read Biblical stories together, act them out, and then pray. When I heard this, I thought, “Wow! What an amazing way to be intentional about sharing the gospel and studying the Word with your child.” I decided right then that that was something I would love to do with my future children. Just as it’s our responsibility to provide, care, and teach our children other life lessons, we ought to be responsible for teaching our children the Word and how to apply the Word in their lives.

This couldn’t have been made more clear to me as I’ve read Deuteronomy chapters 6 & 11 these past few weeks, in which, Moses tells the Israelites to remember that their children didn’t get to see all the great and wonderful miracles God did while extracting them from Egypt. Therefore, as men and women chosen by God, they’re to not only obey the Lord, but to teach their children about Him and His commands, as well. As parents, we’ve seen and experienced many great and wonderful things ourselves, and God calls us to be intentional about teaching our children. Just like Moses told the Isralites:

And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:6-9, NLT; repeated again in 11:18-21)

So what does that mean? To be intentional? I think sometimes we think that our children will just “get it” or understand things without us explaining to them. However, just like we have to teach them how to share, or play fair, or how to treat people with respect, we should be teaching them the how’s and why’s of studying the Word, teaching them to seek the Lord in prayer, teaching them to be worshipers, and how to walk and be lead by the Spirit, in word and in deed. We are their parents, the people our children look up to and observe every day. Who’s in a better position to do so than us!? It’s a responsibility given to us by God, and is not to be taken lightly.

I may not currently have children of my own—I’m not even married yet—but I know I plan to be intentional, what about you? How are you being (or how do you plan to be) intentional about sharing the Word with your children? Do you read a children’s Bible with your children before bed? Do you share how God has blessed you and your family over dinner? Does your family have devotional time? Or a quiet time, where everybody reads on their own and then shares what they’ve been studying? Let me know in the comments below! I’m sure all of us could use some inspiration. Take care and God bless!