Monthly Archives: September 2016

How We Prepare a Bible Study: The Process of LOVING God’s Word

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I want to let you in on a process that happens when writing a bible study (and sometimes even a blog post).

First, you determine your text. In my case I teach with two other ladies, so our women’s minister suggests the direction she wants to go, including some passages that would fit into that category, and then we prayerfully choose where we sense God is leading the bible study. This semester we are studying Titus, and I was not immediately excited like I would have been if we had chosen Hebrews. This is important. I was not as excited as I could have been.

Second, we break down the text according to natural breaks in the text (I know that sentence is ridiculous, but it’s what we do! seriously!). In our case we also divvy out the sections for each of us to teach, and it just so happened to work that each of us would teach three times (making a total of nine lessons for those less math savvy). We also pair a main idea with each section of the text to keep us focused. Because we are studying a smaller book, each section is obviously smaller with only a few verses to elaborate on at times. When this happens, I always think that it will be next to impossible to fill up an entire week of study (after all, you may only have four verses to work with). I am always pleasantly surprised (and somewhat stressed) that I find more than enough to fill up a 45 minute teaching time slot (let it be noted that my last talk was over 7,000 words!).

Third, I go home and POUR over the text. {Notice my picture above? This is an Orthodox Jew copying the Scripture. Do you see how close he is to the paper?! This is how carefully I want to handle the Scriptures.} I read the whole book several times (since it is short, it’s an easier task than if it were a longer book), and then I begin to look at my own sections through a microscope. I look up cross references, the original Greek words, other helpful Scripture references that God brings to mind that might relate to my text. I jump on Ebscohost, and I find articles and books about my passage. If I’m lucky, I’ll even go to the library (Lanier Theological Library here in Houston is a teacher’s heaven) and find commentaries for the book I’m studying. As I’m studying, I’m also praying. In one moment, I’m erasing and in the next I’m rewriting. I’m crying and laughing. I’m staring at the screen blankly, and I’m typing furiously when a deluge of inspiration hits me. I’m nervous about what I’m finding and second guessing myself, and then I’m fully confident and about to explode because I want to share everything I’m learning with SOMEONE. Just anyone!

Then all of the sudden, Titus has become the most exciting book I’ve ever studied. My thoughts are consumed with the ideas from Titus that God has sent bouncing around in my head. Everything that happens every day somehow relates to Titus. All answers lead back to Titus. Everything I read has a tinge of Titus, or some connection to Titus. I’m wearing Titus-colored glasses. And this doesn’t just happen with Titus – oh no, it happens with everything I study. What is more, I want EVERYONE to know what I know, because I want them to be excited just like I’m excited! Because every word that is brought to illumination by the working of the Holy Spirit becomes my water and my food. They become my direct line to my Father who continually desires to reveal more of Himself to you and to me.

THIS is why I hunger and thirst for more of His Word. THIS is why I have a love and passion for teaching what I’ve learned. The knowledge of His Word means a knowledge of who God is and who I am in relation to Him. His Word quickens my heart and spirit for a deeper love for Him. The knowledge of His Word breaks down ignorance and excuse so that when I’m confronted with how to respond to sin or to a person who has hurt me or whatever, I am equipped with the right answer and through His Spirit that can be rightly applied in my life. His Word divides me up, carves away at those things that don’t belong in this child of the King, and it transforms this new creation to conform to the image of His Son.

Don’t be afraid of knowledge. Neither let it be your goal. Knowledge can be the vehicle that drives you straight to the Father.

One final word on the process. I spend all summer prepping for the fall bible study. That means I’m completely stoked about the study, fairly bursting at the seams all summer, and then have to WAIT to talk about it with the bible study group. This is quite possibly the hardest part for me in the bible study process. I don’t ever want the fervor I have felt during the studying process to melt away when I’m giving my talk to the group. I also don’t want it to become too familiar and lose its flavor. I spend hours rehearsing what I’m going to say for each talk. No joke. My husband makes fun of me because of how anal I can be about it! Almost every time God reveals multiple, important points that need to be added or else nudges me to take something out that isn’t going in the right direction. Inevitably I get crazy nervous about sharing my work even though I have diligently prepared for every moment. But in the end, I walk up to the podium to pour myself out like a drink offering, and all the nerves calm down, and God speaks. Somehow I get to be His mouthpiece, and there’s nothing more humbling and yet terrifying at the same time.

At the end of my talk, I’m a zombie. The walking dead. The offering has been licked up by the fire. I have left everything up there with no regrets. And all I want to do is go home and sleep so that I can reset for the next time I get to open up His Word and speak His truth to His Church. And thus the cycle continues…

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Strength and Dignity

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I have a dear friend who posted this meme on Facebook the other day:

strong-woman

I love the message! Don’t you? When you think of a strong person, you imagine someone with great physical strength who can rip apart lions (King David) or wield a donkey’s jawbone in a heated battle (Samson). Strong people are capable of tearing right through their obstacles, right? A sign of strength is how easily you can defeat an opponent or enemy. A person who shows weakness is the one who is meek and bows out of the fight, right? Uh. no. Not in this case.

Why is it that we buy into the lie that in order to be a strong person, we need to make everyone else around us feel weak? A brother or sister in Christ is not an obstacle to tear right through. We do not need to try to defeat one another in an effort to show how strong we are. Likewise we do not show weakness when we are meek and defer to another. On the contrary, this is great strength indeed.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:12-13)

Both Moses (Numbers 12:3) and Jesus (2 Corinthians 10:1) are described as meek or humble. There’s no way anyone would consider either of these men as being weak.

You do not prove your strength by belittling another person. You actually prove that you have weak character for it is in the way you treat another that reveals your heart.

I am grieved by what I hear week after week about the way women treat one another. The comparison game is deadly. It’s more like Russian Roulette than Candy Land. What I’ve seen is a twisted form of religious pompousness rather than a real life relationship with another sister. {Don’t get me wrong, I’ve also seen the real life relationships that genuinely bring encouragement and love to each person.}

Here’s what I mean: convictions for an individual quickly become measuring sticks for spiritual maturity.Well, I’m a stay at home mom, and if you aren’t a stay at home mom, that means you’re not a good Christian” “I homeschool my children because it’s the best way to raise a child, and if you don’t homeschool then you must be a lesser Christian.” “You aren’t married? Why not? You don’t have children? Why not?” I am giving up all I know to be a missionary and if you don’t want to do missions that means you don’t really love Christ or the lost.” 

Do I need to go on? Now I doubt that any thinking person would actually say any of those statements. But attitudes can speak for themselves. None of these convictions ever need to be a badge we wear to reveal how spiritual or devoted to God we are. God forbid.

Another dear friend of mine used to always say “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Why do we compare ourselves at all? If we compare ourselves in order to puff ourselves up, we have failed. If we compare ourselves to heap guilt on ourselves, we have failed. Put your measuring sticks far away, and instead of spending your time scrutinizing yourself or another person, take the time to appreciate another sister or appreciate the gifts and path God has given to you.

You can have your convictions and still value another sister’s obedience to God, even if it looks completely different from your own! And let me not even get started on how utterly arrogant it is to think that you or I have anything to do with our holiness or acceptance before God. We don’t wear badges, we actually receive crowns and even then we acknowledge that those crowns deserve to be at the feet of Jesus.

And we sing,

Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created. (Revelation 4:11)

{So technically that passage is referring to the 24 elders, but you get the idea.}

He alone is worthy. And it is God who created us to the Body of Christ who serves one another with special gifts in order to edify the whole Church. Edify, not tear down. Nourish and lift up, not weaken or destroy.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

God prepared good works for each of us before we even knew we belonged to Him in order that we could walk around on His earth as the hands and feet of Jesus. We are His ambassadors with marching orders to reconcile people back to Him (2 Corinthians 5:18-20). To reconcile! Not to draw people away from Him with our selfish motives.

We don’t need to clamor for His attention, trying to draw His gaze toward us, hoping that He’ll take notice of how great we are. No! We humbly submit to the One who is worthy of all glory and honor and power. We can do this by walking in those good works that He’s prepared for us to do. And some of those good works involve building up our brothers and sisters in Christ.

25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
    and she laughs at the time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,
    and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. (Proverbs 31:25-26)

A woman with strength and dignity is wise and kind. Ironically she also recognizes her own weaknesses and even relishes in them, knowing that when she is weak, [He is] strong (2 Corinthians 12:10).

My sweet friend reminded me too that we need to be women full of grace for ourselves and for one another. We’re all going to fall, sometimes in small ways and other times in large ways. Wouldn’t you want someone to come alongside you and help you along rather than be put to shame by a sideways glance or a disappointed shaking of the head?

In case you’ve ever been hurt by a careless statement, consider first to give that person the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps that woman did not mean to hurt your feelings nor make you feel like a lesser Christian. Sometimes people say stupid things, and those aren’t necessarily judgments about you. More often than not, that individual hasn’t considered the implications of her words and is simply expressing her (not-so-tactful) opinion or strongly held conviction.

Let us all be careful with our words for it is by those words that we will be judged (Matthew 12:37). Wouldn’t you rather spend your limited time here on earth using your words to build up and encourage? I thought so.

(P.S. I know more women who are getting this right than women who are getting this wrong. Christ has given us a beautiful and perfect example of love for His bride, and He’s called us to this same kind of love for each other. We are the bride of Christ, and the world will know we are His based on our love for each other! So go love!!) John 13:35