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 – 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)

Multiply: Week 6

Part II: Living as the Church

3: The Global Church

I, again, apologize for not writing on a more regular basis. I’ve started riding the train to and from work, which means I leave my home earlier and get home later in the evenings, leaving me less time to do other things during the week. It’s going to take some getting used to and some serious time management skills, since I’ll be returning to school in a few weeks, as well. Before I begin chapter 14 of Romans I thought I’d continue our discussion of Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples, because chapter 6 is about the global church and I feel it has much in common with previous chapters of Romans.

As important as the local church is, God’s plan extends way beyond your town. As much as God wants you to reach the people in your community, He has no intention of stopping there. God’s plan of redemption reaches into your neighborhood–and to every other city, village, and jungle around the globe! (Chan & Beuving, 2012, p.77)

The Bible makes a point to explain that the fall of Adam and Eve affected all of humanity; not just a certain ethnic or geographical group. In the same manner, the life, death, and resurrection of Christ–the grace of God–is meant for all! If we’re not trying to make some sort of effort to reach those in other parts of the world, then we’re not truly being obedient to the call of Christ, through the Great Commission to share the gospel.

A few days ago I was reading Romans chapter 10…

As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile–the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:11-15)

The word “believe” in Greek is pisteuo, which means “to adhere to, cleave to; to trust, to have faith in; to rely on, to depend on.” Therefore, how can anybody have a relationship with–adhere to, cleave to, trust, rely, or depend on–Christ if they don’t believe that He exists? They have no faith. How can they have faith (or a relationship) with Christ if no one has ever told them about what God has done for them? And how can they hear about God’s grace and mercy if someone doesn’t tell them? God commands us to share the gospel with the world. We must tell others, so that they may hear and believe (adhere to, cleave to; to trust, to have faith in; to rely on, to depend on).

“But how can I reach the globe?” you may be thinking to yourself. I had to ask myself the same question. Francis Chan answers it this way:

We all need to consider whether God is calling us to follow Him onto the mission field, but we have to remember that this is not the only way of working to fulfill God’s plan to reach every nation. If we decide that God wants us to remain in the area in which He has placed us for the time being, then we need to be using our resources to further the mission around the world. Even if we find our primary ministry in the people directly surrounding us, we need to be praying for our fellow workers in other parts of the world. (Chan & Beuving, 2012, p. 85)

In other words, “The question is not whether or not we will be working to spread the gospel around the world, but what role we will play in this” (Chan & Beuving, 2012, p. 86).

I would love to take a missions trip one day, but until that day comes I’ll continue to share the gospel through other means. For me, that means continuing to write this blog. I’ve delightfully discovered that many of my readers are from various places around the globe; from countries that can be found in Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America. This excites me and motivates me to focus my writing solely on what God wants me to share. I also do my part by supporting a child through World Vision, and although my financial situation is a little sticky, I continue to give because I know that my gifts have a great impact on the life of my little friend and his community. And every time I see a Facebook post or Tweet about fellow believers suffering persecution or imprisonment for their faith, I send out a prayer for their protection and ask that God would envelop them with His love and peace; I also send out retweets and sign petitions for their release. But this is just how I reach the world.

In what ways do you attempt to reach the globe and share the message of Christ?

Multiply: Week 5

Part II: Living as the Church

IMG_34042: The Local Church

Before we begin, I’d like to start off by apologizing for not keeping up with our discussion on Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples by Francis Chan & Mark Beuving. The last few weeks have been extremely busy and draining for me, and it’s kept me from writing much of anything–besides what I’ve been writing in my personal notebook on my study of Romans.

With that being said, Week 4 of our discussion brought up some questions regarding my ministry and where my gifts and time would best be applied. I’ve made a few decisions in my life, some of which I’ve already revealed to my leaders and some of which I will soon be discussing with others. I pray that the same could be said for you; that the words that are being written here are not just for my benefit, but for yours as well; and that we’re all putting them into practice.

While Week 4 discussed the importance of being an active member in a local church, this week’s focus is on being actively involved–as a church–in reaching out to our community. Francis Chan states that “an inwardly focused church is an unhealthy church. It is a dying church. Biblically, a church that fails to look at the world around it is no church at all” (p. 66).

We are called, as believers, to reach out to our lost and dying world. Jesus, himself, said that His purpose on earth was to “seek and save the lost” and we are called to a similar purpose.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

“God has placed your church in the midst of a broader community so that He can spread His love, hope, and healing into the lives of the people around you” (Chan & Beuving, 2012, p. 66); and we do this out of the love for others that God has placed upon our hearts. Remember, the world will know that we belong to God based on our love (for God and for people) (John 13:34-35). Love must be our compelling force.

This means that have to step out of our comfort zone. We can’t keep our Christianity behind closed doors. We can’t keep the gift of Grace to ourselves! “If your church is not actively blessing the surrounding community, then you are ignoring God’s mission” and “if your church does not pursue God’s mission, then your community misses out on being exposed to the hope that God offers them in the gospel” (Chan & Beuving, 2012, pp. 74-75).

Francis Chan’s concludes with this statement:”There’s a reason God has you in this church at this point in history. You can help your church become an attractive community that exhibits Christ’s love, unity, and hope” (p. 75).

I listened to a message a few weeks ago by Beth Moore, as she talked about “God’s Purpose for Your Life in Your Generation,” and it’s what came to mind as I read Francis Chan’s conclusion. There are many of us in our churches with gifts and experiences which God has blessed us with and walked us through, which are very specific to the current generation in which we live. We may have all sorts of excuses that we use to prevent us from sharing those gifts or experiences, but God is asking that we use them! I understand that sometimes we feel inadequate, held back by others, frustrated, or even judged; but within us lives the power of the Holy Spirit! The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives in us! He empowers us, strengthens us, and qualifies us for the roles He has for us.

I’m sure you’ve heard the statement, “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.” It’s so true! God has been preparing you and I for a particular purpose, over time God will reveal that purpose to us and when He does, it’s our job to be obedient and take action regarding that purpose. We need to find the roles to which we are called within our church and community and step into them in obedience, faith, and, most importantly, love.

Multiply: Week 4

Part II: Living as the Churchmultiply_square_black1[1]

1: Life in the Church

Thanks for returning while we read/work through Francis Chan & Mark Beuving’s Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples.

This week, Francis Chan discusses our need to belong to a body of believers (a church), the purpose of the church, and where we fit in, as believers. He begins by stating that  “While every individual needs to obey Jesus’s call to follow, we cannot follow Jesus as individuals. The proper context for every disciple maker is the church.” In other words, we cannot make disciples without being part of a larger church community, because we cannot follow all of Jesus’s commands if we’re not in relationship with other believers.

Look at if from this perspective: the New Testament is full of commands to do this or that for “one another.” Love one another, pray for one another, encourage one another, etc. So how can we teach people to “observe all that I have commanded” if they have no one to love, pray for, or encourage? It’s impossible to “one another” yourself. It’s impossible to follow Jesus alone. We can’t claim to follow Jesus if we neglect the church He created, the church He died for, the church He entrusted His mission to. (Chan & Bueving, 2012, pp. 51-52)

It is incredibly important for every Christian to find and commit themselves to a local body of believers. As Francis Chan states, “The church is a group of redeemed people that live and serve together in such a way that their lives and communities are transformed…If you are not connected with other Christians, serving and being served, challenging and being challenged, then you are not living as He desires, and the church is not functioning as He intended” (p. 53). This can also be applied to finding a church. If you’re attending a church where God’s word is not being taught and applied in a way that challenges you or in which serving others isn’t a priority, maybe you should rethink where you’re attending. You don’t want to remain in spiritual immaturity forever and you want to be able to serve as God has called you to. And, as Francis Chan states, “A pastor’s job is not to do all of the ministry in a church, but to ‘equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ’ (Ephesians 4:12)” (p. 55).

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 5:1-2)

As believers we are called to “encourage, challenge, and help” other Christians in our lives, and they should do the same for us; and as we minister to others we are sanctified by Christ.

Now, here is the challenging part…We need to be ministering wholeheartedly and walking in love; the love that comes from the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s easy to throw some money towards a particular church activity or service, but to set aside time to get to know the individuals involved (those serving or being served), to be involved with them on a daily basis, to really care for their spiritual, physical, and emotional well-being–that’s the challenge.

Yet God has supplied us with everything we need in order to fulfill His calling. The power to transform hearts and change lives comes from the Holy Spirit (John 6:63), through the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and through prayer (James 5:16-20). As we use the Scriptures to give counsel to others, there is power (Hebrews 4:12). As we pray passionately for their hearts to change, there is power. (Chan & Beuving, 2012, p. 60)

God places each of us in our particular situation so that we can minister specifically to the people around us. Until every person in our church is using the particular spiritual gift(s) that the Holy Spirit has empowered each of us with, the church won’t be functioning at its full potential.

I’m still sitting here trying to fully comprehend all that this chapter discusses. I have a certain set of spiritual gifts, but where they can be applied in my church, is something of a challenge to me. Strangely enough, I’ve been praying about this since just before the new year…Where can my gifts be best used/applied? Where should I focus my time and energy? How do I best love/serve others?

I’m sure you’re now asking yourself some of the same questions. This is good! This study should challenge and encourage us to make change, so that we can become disciples who make disciples.