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Posts Tagged ‘Bible Study’

Oh—you’ve never heard of yabbits? Not to worry. If I change the spelling and offer a few examples, you’ll instantly understand. Yabbits are the “Yeah, but . . .” statements that create havoc in our minds, much like rabbits create havoc in a backyard garden.

Who–ME?

For example:

  • YEAH, I know worry doesn’t help . . . BUT I can’t seem to shut it off.
  • YEAH, I know the Bible teaches that God is good . . . BUT what about all the evil in the world?
  • YEAH, I know I’m supposed to forgive . . . BUT this hurts!
  • YEAH, I know Romans 8:28 about all things working together for good . . . BUT I’m not seeing it in this situation, and it’s been going on a long time.
  • YEAH, I know some Christians seem to live in a bubble of joy . . . BUT I’m not feeling it!

These yabbits have names: Distrust, Disbelief, Disappointment, Discouragement, and Discontentment. They’re almost as challenging to keep out of our minds as rabbits are from our gardens.

Of course, the first line of defense against rabbits is a strong, deeply-implanted fence. For yabbits, that fence is scripture—promises and truths deeply implanted in our spirits, that can stand guard when those pesky Yeah-but statements come to devour our faith. Scriptures such as these:

For those times when DISTRUST wants to nibble at your faith, turn to Psalm 9:9-10.

Keep out the yabbits of DISBELIEF with Mark 9:24. [1]

When DISAPPOINTMENT tries to invade our thoughts, we need to remember such affirmations from God as Isaiah 55:8-9.

The yabbits of DISCOURAGEMENT can be turned away with 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.

And last, DISCONTENTMENT can be kept at bay when we adopt Habakkuk’s attitude.

We’d also do well to follow Rev. Charles F. Deems’ (1820-1893) recommendation, as we take on these yabbits:

Believe your beliefs and doubt your doubts.

Most people believe their doubts and doubt their beliefs.”

Of course, the scriptures mentioned above are just a few examples out of many. More scripture planks will create an even stronger fence.

Someone may ask, “How can we know our trust in scripture is well-placed?”

Whole books have been written about the reliability of scripture, but here’s a short, worthwhile article to introduce the topic: “Three Reasons Why the Bible Can Be Trusted.”

We can also bolster our faith with the testimonies of others who’ve embraced the power of scripture:

  • “Every year I live—in fact nearly every day—I seem to see more clearly how all the peace, happiness, and power of the Christian life hinges on one thing. That one thing is taking God at His word, believing He really means exactly what He says, and accepting the very words that reveal His goodness and grace.”—Frances Ridley Havergal, English poet and hymnwriter [2]
Frances Havergal (1836-1879)
  • “Take all of this Book that you can by reason and the balance by faith, and you will live and die a better man. It is the best Book which God has given to man.”—Abraham Lincoln [3]
  • “In the Bible I find a confidence mightier than the utmost evil.”—Helen Keller [4]
  • “The Bible is the book of my life. It’s the book I live with, the book I live by, the book I want to die by.”—N. T. Wright, Biblical scholar and Anglican bishop [5]
N. T. Wright (1950- ____)
  • “The Bible creates endurance. Its promises lift the heart and its panoramic insights strengthen the will.”—Pastor and author Timothy Keller with his wife Kathy [6]

Of course, the occasional reading of a scripture passage won’t suffice. That would be like trying to build a fence with slices of Swiss cheese–too flimsy and full of holes.

No, it’s Bible study and meditation that creates a sturdy fence.

Sound boring?  Hardly.

The Bible is worth all the other books

which have ever been printed.

–Patrick Henry

(1736-1799)

With faith, diligence, and a prayerful heart, every student of the Bible finds that Henry and countless others have been right. In fact, I’ve never met an earnest seeker of scripture-truth who later regretted the time they’d spent absorbing God’s Word.

And when we follow their example, the yabbits prove much less troublesome.

What Bible verse helps keep the yabbits out of your garden of faith? Please share in the comment section below!


Notes:

[1] The father speaking these words was admitting that doubts tainted his trust, yet Jesus still performed the miracle. We don’t have to be perfect pillars of faith for him to intervene for us!

[2] Quoted in Streams in the Desert by L. B. Cowman and edited by Jim Reimann, 127.

[3] Ibid.

[4] https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1070&context=owners_manual

[5] https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/spiritual-life/inspiring-quotes/25-quotes-from-influential-christians-about-the-bible.html

[6] The Songs of Jesus, 310.

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Stuffed pork tenderloin, prepared by our son.

Our son became interested in cooking while attending university, and he’s been experimenting ever since. Now guests often say his fare is better than what many restaurants offer.

Father’s Day last Sunday was no exception. We enjoyed a sumptuous dinner off the grill: perfectly-seasoned, tender steaks; thick, golden, onion slices sprinkled with bleu cheese and slivered almonds; and polenta squares topped with lightly-sauced mushrooms.

The big surprise came skewered: Brussel sprouts alternated with radishes. I’d never eaten the latter cooked, but these were amazing—nothing like their raw flavor.

Our daughter-in-law creates memorable desserts. One time she constructed a rainbow cake—six layers of jewel-toned deliciousness under a cloud of butter cream frosting. All from scratch of course.

H.’s cake looked every bit as perfect as this one.

Now what if E. and H. invited new guests unfamiliar with the stellar meals these two can produce. And what if E. shared that the menu would include onions with bleu cheese and cooked radishes.

These unaware invitees might say, “Uh, no thanks, our schedule is really tight, plus we have other plans.” Later to themselves they’d likely comment, “E. and H. actually eat that stuff?! It sounds awful!”

But they’d miss out on a memorable meal.

God offers us gourmet cuisine too, but of a different variety.

“Open wide your mouth and I will fill it,” he says. “I would feed you with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you” (Psalm 81:10, 16).

God offers fine food for our souls, found first of all in the Bible. Some people believe the Book is out-of-touch and irrelevant, containing whole sections of unintelligible gibberish.

These folks are like those invited dinner guests, turning down a marvelous opportunity because the offerings sound unappealing. If they’d only come and try the dishes new to them, they’d be more than pleasantly surprised.

God’s soul food also includes wonderful surprises: useful wisdom, uplifting encouragement, fortifying support, and sweet comfort. We miss so much if we let a busy schedule and other interests interfere with the feeding of our souls.

A well-read Bible is a sign of a well-fed soul.

–Unknown

Just one of my father’s well-read Bibles.
Note the numerous and tiny comments he wrote in the margins.

To make time, we may have to give up something—like those long minutes on social media or watching TV. During my years as a teacher, making time meant getting up earlier than everyone else in the house. And the ten years I commuted a half-hour each way, the alarm sounded at 4:30 a.m.

But it was not a hardship; I just went to bed earlier. The feast each morning was well worth it. (For an example of one feast, you can read from an earlier post, “Down the Aisle of Your Years.” Scroll down to just below the James 1:17 image.)  

Another problem: The Bible looks like a huge buffet to some. They wonder where to start. Add all those puzzling cultural and historical references, and it’s tempting to give up before turning the first page and taking the first bite. What we may need are a few utensils.

Just like a shrimp fork or steak knife make it easier to eat those foods, certain tools help us consume God’s Word. Many are available online. For example, www.biblestudytools.com or www.studylight.org offer word definitions, cultural and historical background, commentaries, and more.

Bible study guides also help us dig into the sustenance the Bible has to offer. A few recommendations include:

  • NavPress LifeChange series, with each study focused on a book or two of the Bible. Luke is a good place to begin, with its many stories and teachings of Jesus.
  • LifeWay Press also produces worthwhile Bible studies, including an overview by Angie Smith, titled Seamless. Others I’ve enjoyed include: Believing God by Beth Moore and Discerning the Voice of God by Priscilla Shirer. You can’t go wrong with studies by these women.
  • Another LifeWay Press classic? Experiencing God by Henry T. Blackaby and Claude V. King. Millions of people have already benefited from this study.
  • Harper Christian Resources offers 40 Days through the Bible from Lysa Terkehurst and her team. They provide an overview by theme, including: identity, freedom, and fulfillment.

What if, when E. and H. invited dinner guests and shared what’s on the menu, I was there to add, “Oh, you’ve GOT to come. I’ve eaten at their house numerous times, and it’s always delicious!” Might they be more likely to come? Perhaps.

In the same vein, consider this post my affirmation of what God has to offer in His Word. I’m here to say, “You’ve GOT to read it, study it, digest it. I’ve dined at God’s table of truth countless times over the decades and have never been disappointed!”

What Bible study materials or methods have you found nourishing to your soul? Please share in the comment section below!

Art & photo credits: Nancy Ruegg; http://www.flickr.com (2); Nancy Ruegg; http://www.picryl.com; http://www.freebibleimages.org; http://www.canva.com.

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My eyes scanned the short list of course-possibilities.  I needed three more science hours for my college degree. The one that best fit my schedule? Ornithology. I was not enthused.  Birds simply did not hold my interest.

I expected to just endure that class; instead I became enthralled, mainly because the professor was so enthusiastic. With humor and energy he shared his passion, and slowly his students became fascinated too. The more we learned, the more appreciative we became of the avian world.

To this day, I’m quick to grab my binoculars and study a pecking flicker or an upside down nuthatch dangling at the end of a branch. At least once a week my curiosity sends me to the bird guide so I can refresh my memory about habits (Should the robins still be here?) or exact names (Is that a downy woodpecker or a hairy?).

 

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(It’s a hairy!)

 

Delight has determined my direction toward bird enthusiast.

No doubt you’ve discovered delights that determined direction also–into hobbies, book genres, even careers.

Eons ago, an anonymous psalmist recommended a supreme delight that determines a positive, satisfying life-direction: taking pleasure in God’s Word (Psalm 1:2).

 

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“I don’t know about that,” someone might say. “I’ve tried reading the Bible. It simply does not hold my interest.”

After my transformation from bird-ignorer to bird enthusiast, I’d suggest that not only is interest possible, it is guaranteed if we:

  1. Attend class.

My professor, Dr. Burkholder, could not have changed my attitude if I had not been present. Neither can God perform his miracle of life-transformation if we don’t attend his class, in his Word. And our teacher is none other than the passionate Holy Spirit, who will guide us into all truth (John 16:13). How glorious is that?

 

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  1. Stay focused.

Mindless listening to a lecture or distracted reading of a textbook results in little learning. That’s why we were taught to take notes in school. The same strategy works well while listening to Bible teaching or reading scripture for ourselves. I’ve been amazed by the discoveries and questions that come to mind when pen and paper are handy, compared to when they aren’t.

  1. Seek treasure.

Dr. Burkholder shared with us astounding trivia from the bird world. For example, did you know young hummingbirds that have never migrated before know when to leave their northern homes, how far to travel south, and when to stop—without benefit of other hummers? They fly solo too, even the first time.  (Yet another proof of the genius of Creator God.)

 

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God’s Word includes treasure far more valuable than intriguing trivia—such gems as: faith-building promises, wise guidance, worthy examples to follow (and some examples of what to avoid!), and uplifting encouragement–all ready to be discovered by those who seek.

  1. Pray 

Here’s where the analogy to my ornithology class breaks down. I can’t imagine one of us going to Dr. Burkholder and saying:    “Open my eyes so that I will observe amazing things from your instruction.”

Yet those words make perfect sense when addressed to God. In fact, an anonymous psalmist said exactly that (119:18, ISV).

 

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To read the whole Bible may seem overwhelming—it’s long and some parts are difficult to understand. But who says we have to start from the beginning and read straight through?

The internet offers numerous plans. One site that intrigued me:

http://journeynyc.com/spiritual-growth/bible-reading-plans/

They offer a number of different options, sure to meet the needs of just about anyone—from biblical novice to scholar.

When questions arise, help is available at any number of websites. Two that I like include: www.bible.org and www.gotquestions.org.

Perhaps growing in our delight of God’s Word this year would be more impactful than any other resolution.  After all, he made us.  Developing delight in his Instruction Manual can’t help but lead us in a positive direction.

 

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What delights in the Bible have helped determine positive direction in your life?  Share an example in the Comments section below.

 

* “Delight determines direction”— a quote from Ray Pritchard, author and president of Keep Believing Ministries.

 

P.S.  For 2017 I’ll be posting just once a week in order to allow time for other projects and for assisting our son and daughter-in-law when Baby Girl #2 arrives (sometime mid-January).  I do hope you’ll still return each Thursday for a new post.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.pixabay.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pinterest.com (2); http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.pixabay.com.)

 

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“Who has known the mind of the Lord?” Paul asked (1 Corinthians 2:16).

That’s an easy question to answer: Nobody! His intellect and wisdom are far beyond our human ability to comprehend.

After all…

God has worked out the complexities of every living cell–with perfect precision.

 

yeast-front

(X-ray microscopy combine to picture interior of living cell)

 

He has engineered a staggering number of specialized plants and creatures, carefully interrelated in a web of reliance upon one another.

 

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He has created the unfathomable reaches of the universe filled with countless heavenly bodies of immeasurable proportions.

 

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(Spiral Galaxy M74)

 

Such intellect and wisdom to accomplish these feats is incredible.

Yet, at the end of that same verse above, Paul makes a statement even more astounding. In fact, at first glance it seems ludicrous.

 

Unknown

 “We have the mind of Christ.”

 

What? How is that possible? His knowledge and wisdom are infinite; ours is markedly limited.

But Paul makes clear:  we have the mind of Christ because he lives within us (Galatians 2:20).

 

Galatians-21

 

Not that we can know everything and respond with pure wisdom in all situations. Our perfection is a process that won’t be completed until Jesus returns (Philippians 1:6).

But my heart beats a little bit faster to realize that, each day and for all my tomorrows, I might think more like Jesus, understand more like Jesus, and react more like Jesus.

One particular action will encourage progress: spending time with him, especially in his Word.

 

Young woman reading bible

 

Here’s an analogy, though far from perfect. Steve and I have been married a very long time—forty-four years.  At this point, we can finish each other’s sentences, supply missing information or words in a conversation, and sometimes even know what the other is thinking.

It’s as if we’ve acquired a bit of the other person’s mind. And it’s happened bit by bit, over time.

So I repeat: We will have the mind of Christ as we spend time with him day by day– especially in his Word.

And how will we know that his way of thinking is becoming our way of thinking? After all, there’s no measuring stick for spiritual growth.

 

tapemeasure

 

Oswald Chambers, in My Utmost for His Highest, posed an excellent question that can help us determine our progress:

“Are other people beginning to see God in my life more and more (p. 78)?” Because a person with the mind of Christ will demonstrate Christ-like behavior.

Perhaps we could take an occasional inventory, based on the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). The attributes listed in these two verses characterize a person with the mind of Christ–someone who is loving, joyful, peace-filled, patient, kind, good, and so on.  We could ask ourselves, how have I demonstrated these attributes this week?

And what will be the result of cultivating the mind of Christ? “The mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6).

 

Romans8_6

 

Life that is characterized by vitality and purpose.

Peace that includes inner-contentment, freedom from guilt, and security for eternity.

That sounds awfully good to me.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Heavenly Father, we praise you for taking us into the high places of blessing in Jesus. That includes this gift: the mind of Christ. And day by day you are transforming us into his likeness, with ever-increasing glory. May I seize this day and its opportunities to think like you, understand like you, and react like you.  

(Ephesians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 3:18)

 

Art and photo credits:  www.lbl.gov; http://www.chesapeakebay.net; http://www.hubblesite.org; http://www.crosspointenwa.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.changingthefaceof christianity.com; http://www.footsoldier4christ.com; http://www.motivationalquotes.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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I love words. I love the rhythm of syllables, like automaticity or higgledy-piggledy.

I love the precise images words can create: glam-shackle house, iridescent skin, aquamarine waters.

I thought about water

                                                   (Photo credit:  www.flickr.com)

And some words I love for their depth of meaning.

LEARN is just such a word. (Leave it to this former teacher to notice the word LEARN!)

When curious about a word and its nuances of meaning, a good place to begin research is with the dictionary. LEARN means: 1) to gain knowledge, comprehension, or mastery of through study or experience, 2) to fix in the mind, 3) to become informed.

Those definitions certainly describe the LEARNing that is part of the Christian life. God wants us to:

• Gain knowledge of Him and His Word (Psalm 9:10; 119:24)
• Comprehend His ways for us (Psalm 25:4)
• Seek mastery over selfish impulses (Romans 13:14)
• Keep focused on Him (Psalm 141:8)
• Become informed about what pleases Him (Ephesians 5:10).

And God promises blessed dividends as we LEARN, like contentment, joy, and fulfillment in life. But how do we accomplish all this LEARNing?

A bit of research produced the following steps that also form an acronym of L.E.A.R.N.

L = Laws. “I will praise you with an upright heart as I LEARN your righteous laws” (Psalm 119:7). God’s Instruction Manual, the Bible, lays out the way to a rich, satisfying life. A wise person LEARNs all he/she can, because the Author is 100% trustworthy. He will never lead us astray.

Reading the Christmas Story

                                                   (Photo credit:  www.flickr.com)

E = Effort and Experience. “Continue in what you have LEARNed and have become convinced of” (2 Timothy 3:14a). What we learn from God’s Words we put into practice. Yes, it takes effort, but as our experience grows, so will our resolve.

I’m reminded of how I feel before my work-out most days. I hate exercising. But like so many distasteful tasks, getting started is the hardest part. Once I’m into the routine, it’s easier (not easy, just easier!) to keep going. The results of regular exercise are what motivate me: 1) The strength and energy I feel. 2) My back doesn’t give me as much trouble. 3) Moderately-firm flesh trumps flabby!

Exercise

Exercise (Photo credit: sanchom)

You see, I’ve LEARNed that effort (to exercise) leads to experience (the results are worth the effort). The same holds true in the spiritual realm. As I make the effort to apply God’s Word to my life, the experiences prove God’s way is best. And I like the results—the peace, joy, and contentment mentioned earlier.

Am I successful every day to apply God’s truth? No. But I take great encouragement from Philippians 1:6: The God who began this good work in me will keep at it and bring it to completion when Jesus returns.

A = Acclamation. “Blessed are those who have LEARNed to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord” (Psalm 89:15). Practice acclaiming—enthusiastically approving—your God. We can establish several “interludes of gratitude” into our daily routines—even leave notes here and there as reminders. Whatever it takes. According to the verse, great blessing awaits!

R = Righteousness. “Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still. Teach a righteous man and he will add to his LEARNing” (Proverbs 9:9). The more we LEARN, the more teachable we become. LEARNing accelerates. It gets easier.

I remember looking at my grandmother with admiration. She seemed perfect to me. How does she do it, I wondered. No doubt it came through years of attention to God’s Word, effort that produced experience, and much acclamation for her God.

Grandmother

Grandmother (Photo credit: Samantha Steele)

N = Notice. “Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you…Whatever you have LEARNed or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put into practice” (Philippians 3:17; 4:9).

Paul was not claiming to be a perfect. Back in verse 12 he had made clear, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect.” Paul, too, was LEARNing.

But his life of passionate pursuit after Christ-likeness was a worthy pattern to follow.

Perhaps there is someone in your family, church, or small group that would make a good role model. Look to him/her and LEARN.

And why is all this LEARNing about God’s Word and godly behavior worthwhile?

“Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord” (Proverbs 16:20). To flourish in my soul, to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit, to rest in trust—these are the ends that more than justify the means of LEARNing.

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