Monday, January 31, 2011

5 Questions For Deeper Bible Study

As I delve into the reading of the Bible again this year, I am praying for even greater understanding, and also for deeper insights into how God's Word applies to my every day life.

But most importantly, I want to open God's Word with excitement, not obligation.

Reading the Bible daily readings as arranged in the Chronological Bible, or in any yearly Bible reading schedule, can easily become a job instead of a joy; or a chore instead of a challenge. Even with the best intentions.

My pastor recently stated from the pulpit, that when we go to open God's Word, we should say "OH MY! I AM ABOUT TO MEET WITH GOD!" I loved that!

He also gave the example that if we saw an email in our inbox that was delivered from God, we would eagerly open it with great excitement. We would not wait, put it on the back burner, or procrastinate about it. We would open it immediately!

In essence, the Bible is really an email from God, quietly sitting there, waiting for us to open it every day. An email chocked full of vital information that we desperately need.

The key to spiritual growth and deeper Bible study - is choosing to open up that 'email' - and discover the truths and promises within.

Last year I followed Wendy Pope's suggestion for daily Bible reading, which was to pull out something old and something new from each passage that I read. She also challenged us to find one nugget of truth that we could apply to our lives from that day's readings. I treasure the journal that I kept which holds those thoughts.

This year my pastor offered up a new idea, which I believe will help me dig even deeper. He suggested we ask ourselves the following five questions each day as we go through the daily readings. They are as follows:

1. Is there a promise to believe in the passage you are reading?
2. Is there a sin to avoid?
3. Is there something about God to learn?
4. Is there a timeless principle to apply?
5. How should I pray in regards to this scripture?

Don't you just love those questions?! They really make you think!

It is easy to read a passage of scripture and check it off our to-do list, but when we delve into the meaning of the readings by answering these questions and applying them to our own personal lives, only then can life change really happen.

Psalm 119:97-104 says:

97 Oh, how I love your instructions!
I think about them all day long.
98 Your commands make me wiser than my enemies,
for they are my constant guide.
99 Yes, I have more insight than my teachers,
for I am always thinking of your laws.
100 I am even wiser than my elders,
for I have kept your commandments.
101 I have refused to walk on any evil path,
so that I may remain obedient to your word.
102 I haven’t turned away from your regulations,
for you have taught me well.
103 How sweet your words taste to me;
they are sweeter than honey.
104 Your commandments give me understanding;
no wonder I hate every false way of life

We are to treasure God's Word, and deem it sweeter than honey to our lips.

We are called to obey God's Word, and allow it to shape our heart, mind and life.

When we do these two things, then we can truly experience the reality of God in our life.

Special Idea:
Think it will be too hard to remember these 5 questions each day while you are doing your reading? Make your own Bible reading journal!

*Choose landscape format in a Word document.
*Create two large text boxes on the left and right hand side of the document
*At the top of each textbox, insert a line for the date, and a line to record the main scripture or chapters for the day.
*Type up these five questions above in a textbox, evenly spaced out, on the left side of the paper, then copy and paste them into the right side text box.
*Print off 183 copies, cut them in half, and bind them together in a binder or spiral bound notebook.
*Now you have your own personalized journal, ready to go!

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

No More If's, And's and But's....Putting All Excuses Aside

Ever since God truly grabbed hold of my heart about ten years ago, I have wanted to read the Bible in its entirety...... but.....

- it seemed so large
- and, it appeared so overwhelming
- I really did not have any extra time
- I worried about my lack of commitment
- I was sure it would be too confusing
- what if I didn't understand it?
- and I had heard some chapters about genealogy were really boring
- I was sure reading random bible verses or devotions was sufficient
- if I just prayed a lot I would be fine
- listening to my preacher's sermons would surely give me enough wisdom
- and I assumed I could still be close with God, without actually reading it

But... boy, was I wrong. How I wish I had put aside all my if's and but's much sooner.

I began reading the Chronological Bible last January, and this week I finally finished reading the entire Bible - and boy, am I blessed!

I tell you this not to get any accolades or pats on the back.

I have nothing to brag about, but much to regret. I want to profess my mistake of allowing the enemy to fill my head with countless reasons of why I could not, and should not, attempt to read God's entire Word. I have asked for God's forgiveness for taking for granted the beautiful gift of His Word.

I share this personal struggle with you, in the hopes that it might speak to someone who may be struggling with similar feelings, and encourage you to push past those excuses too!

You see, not only did I waste years of my life listening to those deceiving excuses from the enemy, but I also missed out on the rewarding, intimate relationship that God wanted to have with me.

I was a Christian. I went to church. I tried to be a Godly parent. I tried to be a good wife. I tried to keep my moral compass in check. I prayed. I read daily devotions and memorized important verses. I did bible studies. I even began speaking and writing in ministry... all the while defending my own excuses for not giving God my all.

But... deep inside, it was never enough for my heart.

And... I did not realize that my heart was longing for the inspiration that was to be found in all those black and white pages. Inspiration from spending time with the living God, through the living Word.

If only... I had known what was I was missing.

Hebrews 4:12 says "For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (NIV)

The Word truly is alive. All those black and white pages tell the story of God, and are packed with Words that are literally dripping with life.... saturated with wisdom.... soaked with guidance and encouragement... fueled by love and grace.

And that Life has filled me more life than I could have ever expected.

I cannot count how many times that God's Word pierced my heart as I read through the daily readings. I cannot recount how many days that I needed to hear a special encouragement, reflection or clarity from God, and He was waiting to tell me exactly what I needed on the specific day I needed it.

There were days when verses would jump off the page, right into my soul, giving me the exact inspiration and wisdom that I needed for a specific circumstance or trial.

Irony? Absolutely not. Supernaturally time-orchestrated Life giving Words of God?

Most definitely.

I just did not know what I was missing, until God showed me what I was missing. He could not open my spiritual eyes, until I closed my earthly list of excuses.

Have you secretly expressed some of the same excuses I touted, for not reading the Bible?

Has the enemy spent years convincing you of why you cannot read the whole Bible?

Has God been calling you to this task, but you have been hesitant or even afraid to get started?

Friend - push aside those excuses today! Throw out those lies. Toss aside those earthly reasons. Shatter those chains that have been holding you back.

Embrace the opportunity to get to know God in a fresh, new, exciting and unbelievable way this year. And allow Him to get know you.

Seriously , with God, all things are possible.... even when it comes to reading 66 books in the most exciting, adventurous, meaningful and life changing book you will ever pick up.

Over the next twelve months, I am so excited to share with you many of the things that pricked my heart over the past year as I read through the Bible. I cant wait to tell you about some really cool things that God taught me and some new meanings that I pulled out of familiar verses.

But most importantly, how He wove Himself into my every day life, and can do the same for you. It was so much fun, and this year is going to be even better!

With all excuses aside, we really can get to know our Jesus better this year.

No more if's, and's and but's for us...... let's allow His Word and His life to make a difference in our hearts.

I welcome your comments, feedback and questions this year, and pray that we can be an encouragement to each other as our hearts join together and we walk through this journey of faith together in 2011.

(Click here if you want to order the Chronological Bible, and visit Wendy's blog if you are interested in participating in her daily video chronological bible study)

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

If Life Had A Handbook, Con't.

Health. Physical health. Emotional health. Mental health. Spiritual health.

Each of these areas are critically and equally important for our overall health, and each area demands our attention if we want to enjoy life to the fullest.

If we were to look at the list of life handbook tips in its entirety, it would seem a little overwhelming, which is why I broke it out into several days! But if we look at the big picture, all these little tips, can make a life time of difference.

Little tips that can determine whether we live life to the fullest, or simply live.

I think there is an umbrella verse that all of these tips could be lumped under. One verse that states the reason why we should care our health, in every area.

Luke 10:27 says "He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’"

Below are the final health/life handbook tips for 2011. What better way to kick off a new year than by focusing on trusting Jesus?!

1. Do the right thing!
2. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.
3. GOD heals everything.
4. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
5. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
6. The best is yet to come.
7. When you awake alive in the morning, thank GOD for it.
8. Your Inner most is always happy. So, be happy because He lives.

Funny how a few simple tips, can improve our health, inside and out.

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Monday, January 17, 2011

If Life Had A Handbook, Con't.

Last week, I shared some tips for improving our physical health and our mental health, by making some minor changes in the things that we do every day.

Today, I want to focus on an important facet of staying healthy when it comes to our relationships and serving others.

Sometimes we think we have to provide a meal for a sick neighbor, or serve on a committee at church, to really feel as if we are "serving".

We tend to internally categorize our service into how well, or how often, we are meeting the needs of others, and whether or not other people would agree with our opinions of our servanthood.

God does call us to serve others, however, there are service-oriented tasks that are so important to our every day emotional health, but that we often overlook inadvertently because we get hung up on our own definitions of service.

So today, I want to plant a few ideas in your hearts about some good "adjustments" to make in 2011, when it comes to relationships with others, and cultivating a true servants heart.

Sometimes it is the little things that we do, that can have the most impact.

1. Call your family often.
2. Each day give something good to others.
3. Forgive everyone for everything.
4. Spend time with people over the age of 70 & under the age of 6.
5. Try to make at least three people smile each day.
6. What other people think of you is none of your business.
7. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.

Moral of today's tips: Love your neighbor as yourself. Sounds easy enough huh?

Let's give it a try.

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Friday, January 14, 2011

If Life Had A Handbook, Con't.

Have you given much thought to your mental health lately? If you are like me, the answer is probably no. Our mental state of mind is not something that us women typically sit around thinking about, especially when we spend most of our time caring and worrying over the ones that we love.

So today, lets focus on us. We are worth it, right? Yes! God said so.

So here are a few more tips (original author unknown) to tuck into our hearts, about loving ourselves, living an honorable life, and remembering that God is God, and we are not.

1. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
2. Don't have negative thoughts or things you cannot control. Instead invest your energy in the positive present moment.
3. Don't over do. Keep your limits.
4. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
5. Don't waste your precious energy on gossip.
6. Dream more while you are awake.
7. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
8. Forget issues of the past. Don't remind your partner with His/her mistakes of the past. That will ruin your present happiness.
9. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
10. Make peace with your past so it won't spoil the present.
11. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.
12. Realize that life is a school and you are here to learn. Problems are simply part of the curriculum that appear and fade away like algebra class but the lessons you learn will last a lifetime.
13. Smile and laugh more.
14. You don't have to win every argument. Sometimes, just agree to disagree...

Hmmmm. This is a lot to take in, but if we took all these tips seriously, I feel confident that our hearts and spirits will be deeply changed.

Are you hungry for the spiritual freedom, and mental peace, that these changes could bring? I know I am. :)

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

If Life Had A Handbook....

Wouldn't it be great if life came with a handbook?

A handbook to prepare us for the challenges of adolescence, the concerns in marriage, the difficulties in parenting, the pain of heartbreak, the sorrow of death, and the never ending struggles that come with each and every day?

The closest thing we have to a life handbook is obviously the Bible. It is packed full of instruction for how to live life, from beginning to end. And last year I discovered the real treasure of this handbook when I committed to reading the Chronological Bible in its entirety. What a blessing that was for 2010, and it truly shaped my heart, my life and my ministry in a new way.

This year, 2011, I am starting over again, and so excited about seeing what new nuggets of truth that God is going to show me as I kick off this new year of Bible reading. If you are interested in taking on this challenge this year, and want to have a community of people to do it with, hop over to my friend Wendy's blog where she does an awesome online Bible study the entire year.

In the meantime, there are some tips that we can tuck into our hearts as we walk through the Bible this year. In fact, someone forwarded me an email with a list of tips, which seemed a great way to kick off a new year....a mini life- handbook, you might say....and I thought it was worth sharing.

Since health is the buzz word of the month, as it is every January when we all make New Year's resolutions, let's start off by focusing on some tips about health first. Each one of these things is something that we should all take into consideration, to make 2011 a more healthier year - physically, emotionally and spiritually!

1. Drink plenty of water.
2. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a beggar.
3. Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants, and eat less food that is manufactured in plants.
4. Live with the 3 E's -- Energy, Enthusiasm and Empathy
5. Make time to pray.
6. Play more games.
7. Read more books than you did in 2010.
8. Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day.
9. Sleep for 7 hours.
10. Take a 10-30 minutes walk daily. And while you walk, smile.

And to save the best for last............

11. Get involved with Lysa Terkeursts Made To Crave free webcasts on Monday nights! Click here to get more information about it. This is not a diet for the body, but a diet for the spirit which will lead to a more healthier, beautiful you - inside and out. If you have been wondering how to make this year different - this could be it. Learn how to satisfy your deepest desires with God, and not food. Check it out.

*Tomorrow - tips on having a healthy mentality about yourself and your life.

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Friday, January 7, 2011

I Want A Golden Voice Too

The story of Ted Williams, a homeless man from Columbus, OH, has saturated the news this week, and has seriously captivated not only my attention, but my heart as well.

If you are not familiar with this headline story, then below is a brief movie clip about how Ted's story began: (email subscribers: visit to view)

Yes, Ted does have an amazing voice. A voice that is distinct, noticeable, and unique. A voice that makes people notice him. A voice that is truly a "God-given gift", as it has been called.

But in my opinion, it is not the pitch, tone, smoothness or depth of his voice that makes his voice golden.

It is not his amazing story of drug and alcohol recovery, that makes his voice golden.

It is not the fact that someone recorded him on a street corner, and revealed his gift to the country.

It is not even about his unbelievable, overnight, rags to riches story.

Instead, the words that are being spoken by that voice are what take my breath away.

Golden words that have eternal significance, and earthly impact.

Ted Williams - despite all of his hardships, addictions, desperation, exasperation, homelessness, hunger, discouragement, shattered dreams - LOVES the Lord Jesus Christ, and his voice has made sure that millions of people know it.

He is not ashamed of the One who gave him life. He is bubbling over with thankfulness and joy for the One who allowed him to be homeless, and the One who has now blessed him beyond belief, pulling him from his deepest pit.

Despite the stigma attached to him as being a homeless person - despite the history of drugs and alcohol - despite the fact that his family and children were estranged -despite the fact that he made some serious mistakes - he knew Jesus loved him, and he was proud to shout His praise.

This story has affected me in lots of ways, but if I had to pick two, they would be this:

First, this story has really made me think, about my own life, my own heart, my own faith. Just recently, I was pondering all the things in my life that I wished were different or improved. I was praying and asking God to fix some things, make some dreams come true, answer some prayers....... but then I see Ted Williams.

A man who was at the lowest of low. A man with nothing.

Except a Savior.

He was a man who trusted in Gods promises, and whose faith kept him going - even when things were not obviously going very well on the surface.

How ashamed I felt to be complaining to God, asking for things, and worrying about circumstances, when I should instead be trusting God and praising Him for who He is.

Secondly, this story has reminded me of the joy that sharing Christ can bring. I have been starkly reminded that I need to remember to share Christ in my every day life, in the smallest of situations, and whenever possible.

God reaffirmed this reminder today when I was shopping at Target (one of my favorite stores!).

The customer in front of me paid for her items, and as she began to put her bags in her cart, the checkout lady proceeded to tell her about what a great day in the Lord it was, that He was our Savior, that God is good all the time, and she ended with,
"have a great day!".

The customer looked at me, smirked and rolled her eyes and went about her way.

After the checkout lady rang up my items, she said the same exact things to me, probably expecting the same response -- but instead I said "Amen to that!".

She gleamed with a bright smile and seemed a little shocked. But little does she know how God is using her to touch the hearts of those who are lost, but also those who are saved, and in need of a little reminding about the importance of sharing the news of our Savior with everyone we can.

In the interviews done with Ted Williams, he has been heard saying that 2010 was the year that he became reacquainted with his God.

Getting reacquainted with God - wow - what a simple statement, but a profound challenge for all who heard his story.

And to quote Ted's mom when she was saying what she used to tell Ted when he was struggling: "Get your life together, and don't leave God out."

Do you agree, that if we added both of those things to our new year's adjustments - 1) getting reacquainted with God in fresh, new and dependent ways, and 2)living a life full of God - that we too could have a golden voice?

I certainly do. Lets give it a try.

Good Morning America interview, Ted Williams and his estranged mother:


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Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year's Adjustments, Not Resolutions

Well, well, well....2011 has begun! I bet that many of you have made at least a few new year's resolutions, with either excitement and enthusiasm, or dread and anxiety.

New Years resolutions have been taking place for over 3000 years, ever since the Babylonians started the practice. There is just something about kicking off a new year and ripping off the paper of a crisp new calendar, that brings on a little twinge of excitement and anticipation.

Each year, millions of people find themselves trying to figure out what they can do differently, and better, this year than last year. And every year, millions of people typically fall short in meeting those resolutions.

I thought I might try something different this year. Instead of engaging in the age old practice of setting myself up for disappointment when I fall short of meeting my goals.

So this year, I am making some new year's "adjustments", instead of new year's "resolutions". Lets look at the difference between the two:

resolution: a solution, accommodation, or settling of a problem, controversy, etc.

adjustment: harmony achieved by modification or change of a position

Hmmmm.. would you rather start out the year thinking about all your problems and what you can do to resolve them, or the things that might need a little tweaking to bring more harmony into your heart and life? As for me, I choose tweaking and harmony!

As we start out this year, what a great idea for us, as Christians, to think about the adjustments that God might be calling us to make in our lives, instead of simply focusing on the physical things that we are unhappy with or view as problems.

Most people typically make new year's resolutions that affect physical things, such as appearance, weight, quit smoking/drinking, have better habits, etc. Since God does encourage us to care of His temple - our bodies - those resolutions are good.

However, God also calls us to consider the adjustments we can make with the intangibles in our life - such as our walk with Christ, living out our beliefs, and seeking wisdom and guidance from God in all of our daily decisions and goals.

Adjustments that if given the right focus, can have huge impact on our spiritual and physical well-being.

In Timothy 4:8, we read "For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come."

It seems this verse is not saying that we should not care about our physical state, but that we should care about our spiritual state more. It encourages us to find balance, between making physical goals and spiritual goals.

As we set spiritual, Christian-oriented goals, I find it important to make sure that the motivation behind the goal setting is fueled by knowing that what I am doing is pleasing and glorifying to God, and not just myself.

So what "adjustments" is God calling you to make this year?

Regardless of whether He is calling you to make tiny adjustments, or huge adjustments, we can all rely on one specific verse in His Word for encouragement and strength to persevere.

Philippians 4:13 "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."

Whew - not just some things... but ALL things! What a relief! God is so good. :)

Happy New Year!

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