Uncategorized

Reader’s Question: What are Your Habits Surrounding Scripture Study?

*These notes come from a talk I gave at Women of the Word in Los Gatos, CA. This group studies scripture at a pace of around 8 chapters each week.

What is the purpose of all Bible study? Beyond gathering data and increasing knowledge, our purpose is to know Christ and be transformed by Him. In our reading and studying, whether it is for ten minutes or for hours, we start with a prayer like God I am coming to Your word because I want to know You. Please open my eyes to spiritual truth and open my heart to friendship with You. Let my life be transformed by what You say.

Here are a few suggestions to help our studying:

  1. Repetition is our friend. The more times we can simply read the assigned chapters, the better our insights and study will be. Merely reading and combing through the chapters will drop fruit in our lap. If time to study is limited, I recommend reading through the assigned chapters and then rereading the one or two chapters that seemed most significant. Reading and rereading a group of 6-8 chapters at a time greatly increases comprehension compared to a single look. 
  2. Make it a habit. Quietly sitting down to pray, read, and commit our day to God every day, even if it is only 15 minutes is more effective than an hour cramming on Tuesday night before a Wednesday group meeting. Here’s a rhythm that I live by: spend time with God every day, once a week (usually the weekend for me) I spend a longer time studying, once a month I take a Saturday morning to myself to pray and study about the issues that have been simmering in my mind that month. This is a time to go deeper with God. Then, once a year I take a spiritual retreat for two full days where I am alone with my Bible and a notebook. I am there to worship and get down to business with God. The vision for parenting, for marriage, identity, life direction and so on have been established in these retreats. 
  3. Ask good questions. Here are two possible ways to study: as we read the chapters, ask the questionswhat does this passage reveal about God? What does it reveal about people? What does this passage reveal about the interaction between God and people? Or, another direction to take is to follow the pattern of observation, interpretation, application. This means first reading the chapters almost like literature and making observations throughout. For ex, these words or phrases are repeated, or these phrases are in contrast with those. This passage sounds similar to previous ones or it points to future events etc. After all observations are noted, then take time to interpret what is the significance of these words being repeated, or contrasted. What does this passage mean? Finally, after observing the text and interpreting it, ask how it can be applied. Is there something we should DO in response to this chapter or anything to emulate?
  4. Fatter is better. I know we all like a thinline Bible to carry around but a big fat study Bible is nice to have! At minimum, get a Bible that has cross references (every page should list all the other verses that use the same or similar words). I adore the Spirit-Filled Life Study Bible compiled by Jack Hayford. It has helpful maps, charts, cross references, and commentary. With my large print version it is thick as a brick but absolutely beautiful and helpful! Online, Bible HUB is a wonderful resource. After studying scripture for myself, I like to read all the com (commentary) on Bible HUB for the passages I either didn’t understand or was drawn to. Using these tools of a study Bible and an online commentary provide yet another layer to our interaction with scripture and thus deepen our understanding.

I’ve never met a dynamic Christ-follower who wasn’t a student of the Word. Hear it spoken, read and study it, memorize key verses, meditate on it and apply it. When we do this, our experience in relationship with Christ grows even sweeter and our impact in the world deepens. May God bless you this week dear friends. My Monthly Mashup is coming next week with some of my favorite products yet!

Uncategorized

Beginnings

Today is a big day for me. Maybe it’s a big day for you as well. June 1 is my day of beginnings. I became a Christ-follower on June 1, 1978. Huge deal. I married Andy Allen on June 1, 1991. Beautiful deal! And I chose that special date because my parent’s wedding anniversary is also June 1. Now, my book Gracious Living, serendipitously launches on June 1. I didn’t plan this availability date but I take it as a wink from God. He who knows the end from the beginning, who sat with me and encouraged me through many hours seated at a computer (not my favorite place), just wanted me to know that He is with me, ahead of me, for me.

God placed a cool story in front of my face this week. It comes from the biblical book of Joshua in chapter 3. God informs Joshua that he is to lead the people across the Jordan river into the promised land. “And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, that the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off, the waters that come down from upstream, and they shall stand as a heap.” (Joshua 3:13) And sure enough, a few verses later it says, “and as those who bore the ark came to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests who bore the ark dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks during the whole time of harvest), that the waters which came down from upstream stood still, and rose in a heap…” (v. 15-16) The priests, carrying the precious Ark of the Covenant, end up standing on dry ground smack in the middle of the Jordan riverbed until the entire nation could cross over on dry ground.

Come on! Can you imagine what those priests were thinking as they walked up to a rushing river with their precious cargo? The miracle didn’t occur until their feet were in the water. And that’s where God got my attention: the miracle didn’t occur until their feet were in the water!

Is there a rushing river you need to cross today? A dream, a promise, a change to make? We all cling to safety, to guarantees, to smooth sailing. My friend, it takes faith to step into the water. It takes a bold faith in God’s goodness to move toward that dream or promise. I don’t know about you, but I’m facing a rushing river. I just wrote a book and now it’s out there! Am I afraid, vulnerable, uncertain? Yes, I am! I don’t know what is going to happen next or how I am to cross this rushing river in front of me, but I’m steppin’ in!

God will not put a dream in your heart without also empowering you to fulfill it. What obstacles are you facing today? I encourage you to lock eyes with God, get His vision for your life, and step in! Will you be frightened and vulnerable? Probably yes, but there’s a promised land waiting for you on the other side.

Uncategorized

What We Feed Grows

Where our attention goes, energy follows. If we feed any habit, good or bad, it grows with the feeding. To create culture, we must focus on the things we want. Right now, we have the incredible opportunity to slow down and choose our focus. We can clarify what really matters and shift our attention to make it happen! Are you interested in creating a culture where the people in your life feel honored and understood, valued and appreciated?

This coming Sunday is a scheduled day of focusing honor on one person: our moms. I believe in going all out on Mother’s Day, and here’s why: I believe in creating a culture filled with honor, love, and compassion. I believe we must intentionally foster honor for women as our society often marginalizes or objectifies them. In many households it is the mom who serves the family the most, and yet receives the least amount of thanks. I believe in creating a culture that honors service and responds with gratitude.

What happens when Mother’s Day is no big deal? Everyone loses! Our children don’t learn how to demonstrate honor and respect. A watching community fails to perceive the value of motherhood. And let’s face it, us moms are giving it all we’ve got 24/7 and a genuine expression of love would be like oxygen to our soul!

But let’s get practical, what does going all out look like? This is a day to hit all the love languages. Don’t hold back! Encourage her with words of affirmation in what you say or write. Create quality time together. Make or buy a gift that shows your thoughtfulness toward her. Find a chore that could be done without her having to ask. And hug her! We all long to know that we are loved and appreciated for who we are, not just what we do.

It took me a few years as a mother to realize that I need to communicate in the week leading up to Mother’s Day what I would like to see happen. Moms, set the expectations for your day! No one can read your mind or guess what feels honoring to you. Let your family know ahead of time what makes you feel uniquely loved, appreciated, and honored.

One of the many, many things I love about Jesus is that He provided for His mother at the end of His life. Hanging on the cross, Jesus looked at His mother and committed her care and provision to His closest disciple, John. (See John 19:26-27) Throughout His life on earth, and even while He was dying, Jesus created a culture of honor toward women. Women were the least and last in the society of His time and women continue to be the least in our society. I believe in following Jesus’ example of honor, love, compassion toward all women, but especially the women in our life today. Bless you this week my friend, and may you create a beautiful, honoring culture in your home.