“Perfected: God’s Best Reserved for You”

Perfected_Book_Cover__76267.1443461480.1280.1280Colorado is lovely today with a blanket of fresh snow.  It’s ideal weather for staying by the fireplace with a good book and a hot drink, and I have the perfect book for the occasion!  I’ve been enjoying “Perfected:  God’s Best Reserved for You” by Erynn Sprouse.

I’ve been looking forward to this book because I love Erynn’s mind.  She’s the brilliant creator and editor of Come Fill Your Cup, and every time I hear her speak I think, “I wish I had her brain.”  She is a real student of the Bible, but even more impressive is her ability to present what she has learned from her studies in a practical and interesting way.  This is exactly what she does in Perfected, which is a study of Hebrews.

Whether you’re ready for growth and challenge in your personal Bible study or you’re looking for a new book for your ladies’ Bible class, I highly recommend Perfected.  For that matter, I think it would be a great study for teen girls, too.  They love to be challenged!  This book is no light-weight.  Erynn goes deep into the Word (both Old and New Testament, which is appropriate for Hebrews) to help us understand one of the most pivotal books of the Bible.  Why is this an important study?  The answer can be found in one of Erynn’s own comments on Hebrews 5:11-14:

“Did you know that if one stops consuming meat for long enough,the stomach will stop producing the acids required for their digestion?  Similarly, when we fail to challenge ourselves in learning God’s word, we begin to find difficulty in understanding.”

Here are some of the things I love about Perfected:

  • Wonderful, engaging writing style
  • Erynn’s delightful sense of humor
  • Thorough teaching on subjects such as the purpose of miracles, the purpose of Jesus’s suffering, and the possibility of falling away
  • Interesting illustrations for easier understanding of the text
  • Suggestions for Bible-marking in every chapter (yay!)
  • “Side Studies” sprinkled throughout
  • Variety of interactive opportunities, like thought-provoking questions, fill-in-the-blanks, charts, and outlines

Each chapter is noteworthy, but I particularly appreciated a couple of them.  Chapter three (“Confidence Required”) is about the hope and assurance we can have as heirs of God’s promise.  It is faith-building, comforting, and oh so needed in a world of doubt and insecurity.  Chapter five (“Beware of Complacency”) is a real eye-opener.  See for yourself:

“Failure to grow doesn’t just lead to falling away; failure to grow is falling away.  Take a moment to absorb that thought and reflect on your own spiritual life.  Are you growing?  Where are you now as compared to a year ago?  Are you stronger?  More able to resist temptation?  Bolder in proclaiming the faith?  Less anxious and more trusting of God? More apt to pray than worry?  If not, then you need to heed this warning!”

Erynn then includes a list to make it easier for personal introspection in areas of spiritual growth.  You will also enjoy the last chapter (“Tips on How to Run”), which includes several  suggestions and assignments for growth in the areas of hospitality, marriage, Christian sacrifice, and a renewed appreciation for the magnificent God we serve.

Thanks to Erynn’s hard work, I now have a greater understanding of the life-changing truths found in the book of Hebrews.  I also have a new Bible and can’t wait to mark up the pristine pages of Hebrews with Erynn’s Bible-marking suggestions!

Perfected:  God’s Best Reserved for You is a brand new book by Kaio Publications, Inc., and can be found here.

 

 

There’s a Verse for That

I can tell it’s time for some personal spiritual growth.  I’ve found myself leaning toward comfort over outreach and control over trust.  I’ve allowed pride to reign more than once recently.  When my heart is battling the flesh (Rom. 8:5-8), I know it’s time to fill it with more of the Word.

  • “Your Word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You” (Psa. 119:11).
  • Referring to the righteous…“The law of God is in his heart; his steps do not slip” (Psa. 37:31).
  • “I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart” (Psa. 40:8).

I need to be able to recall the perfect Law in each moment of temptation.  In order to resist the flesh, I need to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might” by arming myself with the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:10-18).  I need to memorize more of the Word.

Neal recently said, “If there’s a struggle, a difficulty, a problem, a situation that arises in life, there’s a text for that. There’s somewhere that God has dealt with that–at least in principle.”  So here are a few verses to fight specific temptations that I’m going to work to treasure in my heart.  If you find yourself struggling with some of them, too, perhaps you’d like to memorize them with me. Good news for the not-so-young–I recently learned that our brains never lose the ability to memorize new things (but I still tried to choose verses that are short and to the point)!

PRIDE

“Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord;
Assuredly, he will not be unpunished” (Prov. 16:5).

SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS

“But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God” (Rom. 14:10).

SELFISHNESS

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves” (Phil. 2:3).

ANGER

“He who is slow to anger has great understanding,
But he who is quick-tempered exalts folly” (Prov. 14:29).

COMPLAINING

“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:18).

BITTER SPEECH

“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29).

LAZINESS

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men” (Col. 3:23).

JEALOUSY

“For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing” (James 3:16).

CONTEMPT

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32).

GREED

“Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you'” (Heb. 13:5).

GRUDGE-BEARING

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).

Obviously there are many more fleshly temptations, but I tried to choose the ones that can so quickly sneak into our hearts.  If you can think of any others (and the verses that combat them), please share them with us!

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How to Read Your Compass

A compass is an instrument used for direction.  It helps determine where you are and how to get where you want to go.  Hopefully the Bible is your compass.

“Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).

In an article entitled, “How to Read a Compass,” the Compass Dude shares the benefits of owning one, “from telling which way is North to finding hidden treasure or following an unmarked path over wilderness terrain”  (http://www.compassdude.com/compass-reading.shtml). But to reap those benefits, you have to know how to accurately read a compass.

1.  Know Your Basic Compass Reading

The Compass Dude explains the essential basics of how to read a compass:

  • “Hold the compass steadily in your hand…”  The compass will be no use at all if we don’t pull it out and use it.  If it stays in our pocket or gets left at home, it will offer no direction whatsoever.  If we want the Bible to direct our lives, we must hold it steadily in our hands.  “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16,17).  To reap the guiding benefits of the Word, we will study it daily before taking our steps.
  • “Look down at the compass and see where the needle points.”  Sometimes we feel sure we’re going the right way or facing a certain direction only to pull out the compass and discover we’re way off course.  We must look at the Bible often to see how we’re doing and where we’re headed.
  • “Turn your body while keeping the compass right in front of you.”  In addition to studying God’s Word to know His direction for us, we need to follow through with our actions (James 1:22,25).
  • “Hold the compass level” and “read the correct end of the needle.”  These simple instructions make all the difference in accurately reading a compass.  In the same way, we must “accurately handle the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).
  • “Use common sense.”  Regardless of what the compass shows, some will continue going the wrong way or make choices based on their own misguided sense of direction.  We have the common sense to know and understand God’s Word.  We mustn’t twist it in order to try to conform it to our own feelings or to justify what we would like to believe is right (Prov. 14:12; 16:25).

2.  Check Your Bearing

“By simply moving your compass with your body and using the N-E-S-W markings, you can get a good idea which way you are going…The direction you are going is called your heading.”  Since we are constantly on the move, changing, and being influenced, we need to continually look to the Word to check our bearing to see which way we are heading.

This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success” (Joshua 1:8).

Heaven is where we want to go!   Let’s keep pulling out our Compass to make sure we’re heading in the right direction.

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Bible-Marking FAQs

Bible-marking is an easy way to prepare yourself to be able to study with others, answer questions, or teach a class or devotional.  If you’re unfamiliar it, check this out or check out the Bible-marking feature at Come Fill Your Cup.

Today’s post will consider some questions I hear most often.  If you think of another that isn’t mentioned, please share it with us!

How do you determine which topics to mark?

LISTEN.  Listen to what your friends, neighbors, family members or co-workers are discussing.  Is there something that confuses them, such as reconciling the existence of pain and suffering with a good God?  Is there something they’re struggling with, such as discouragement or a specific sin?  Also listen to sermons and classes.  When you hear a lesson on grace or prayer, start jotting down the Scripture references for later study.  Neal just preached “Parenting from Proverbs” this past Sunday and I thought, “That’d be a great Bible-marking topic!”

PREPARE.  Many topics will be geared toward your own personal Bible study opportunities.  You’ll want to be prepared to answer questions about salvation, worship, authority, the organization of the Lord’s church, etc.

PRACTICALITY.  You could Bible-mark just about any topic, but not every topic needs to be Bible-marked.  Ask yourself the purpose for marking.  Will it be helpful in teaching others?  Will it be beneficial for your own spiritual growth or encouragement?  Will it be something you could use when called on to give a devotional?  The purpose of Bible-marking is to be prepared for study, sharing, and growth.  If a topic doesn’t fulfill any of those goals, there’s really no need to Bible-mark it.

How do you keep from proof texting?

STUDY.  Proof texting is using Bible verses to try and prove a point without considering the entire context.  Passages pulled out of context can be used to prove just about any opinion or viewpoint and that can be very dangerous.  It’s vitally important that quality time is spent in study to make sure we’re never guilty of misusing Scripture (2 Tim. 2:15).  It’s easy to pull verses out of context.  It takes work to understand the context.  Because we’re accountable for what we teach (James 3:1), we better take the time and trouble to study, study, study.

When more than one topic uses the same passage, how do you know which verse goes with which topic?

COLOR.  The pigma micron pens come in a variety of colors.  Using different colors for each topic will allow you to keep your topics clearly marked.  For example, the topics “Plan of Salvation” and “Sinful Past” share a verse, so at the end of that verse there are two passages listed.  Because those topics have been marked in different colors, I know which verse to go to for the “Plan of Salvation” and which one to go to for “Sinful Past.”  If you ever find that you used the same color in that situation, simply note the topic initials next to the passages you’re supposed to go to next.  For instance, write “Acts 2:38 (PS)” at the end of the verse.

How do you know when to underline, circle, or draw a square around certain words?

STYLE.  It’s all completely personal.  Use your own style to determine what you’d like to mark in each verse.  The point is to draw attention to what needs to be emphasized for the topic you’re studying.  If you’d prefer to circle instead of underline, or use highlighters instead of pens, go for it.  If you don’t like to write notes in your margins, that’s okay.  Everyone has their own style and preferences.  When it comes to marking verses, you get to choose what works best for you.

How long does it take to put together a Bible-marking topic?

HOURS.  But how many depends on the topic itself.  If it’s a deeper subject, naturally it’ll take longer to study.  If it’s a topic you’re more familiar with or one that you’ve recently studied in a class, you can prepare it for Bible-marking in only a couple of hours.  Again, the time is mostly devoted to making sure no passages are misused or taken out of context.

With the exception of making sure all passages are used accurately, there’s really no right or wrong way to Bible-mark.  Everyone has their own learning style, study habits, and personal preferences.  The idea is to just get into the Word and look for ways to easily share it with others.

Prayer for Today:  Thank you for Your Word, Lord.  May we always be ready to share it!

 

 

4 P’s for Serious Bible Study

Denny Petrillo is the president of the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver.  One of the classes he teaches is “Biblical Exegesis.”  Exegesis in Bible study means to take out of the text what the text is intending to say.  An exegetical approach keeps us from bringing our own baggage or preconceived notions to the text.  What could be more important as we strive to gain wisdom (Col. 1:9,10) and seek God’s will for us (John 7:16-18)?

Dr. Petrillo looks for Four P’s when studying.  The following information about the Four P’s is from the notes I took in his class:

Prevalence 

If a word or phrase appears frequently in a book, it must be an important concept.  These “key words” help us understand the author’s focus.  They keep us on task and allow us to keep verses in context.  When we see a word that has a number of occurrences, we should ask, “Why does the author keep using this word?  What does it mean?”  From Genesis to Revelation, every book has key words.  The rule of thumb is if a word occurs at least one time per chapter, it’s probably a key word.  Color-coding the key words helps them jump out at you and remind you that they are important words in the book.  Here are some examples we were given in class:

  • “Faith” appears 63 times in Romans.  The serious Bible student will put together all of the faith passages to find out the meaning of the word and how it’s used in the book.
  • “Coming” appears 52 times in Matthew.  By paying attention to his word, the Bible student will learn that people have different reasons for coming to Jesus–some for healing, some to test, some to be a disciple, and some for teaching.
  • “Knowledge” appears 14 times in 2 Peter.  Since there are only three chapters in 2 Peter, it becomes apparent that “knowledge” is a major theme in the letter.

Purpose Statement

Sometimes an author will come right out and state why he is writing.

  • For example, John writes, “…these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ…” (John 20:30,31).    So the Bible student now knows the purpose of the book of John and will keep that in mind when studying.  Key words are often found in purpose statements.  In John 20:30, 31, there are at least five key words:  signs (15x), believe (99x), life (55x), disciple (79x), and Jesus (254x).
  • Another example of a purpose statement is 1 Tim. 3:15,16, “…I write so that you may know how to conduct yourself in the house of God…”

Denny Petrillo likes to put the purpose statement on a 3×5 card and keep it where he can frequently look at it.  He said, “This reminds me of one crucial point–he said this is why he is writing.  Therefore, whatever I say should clearly and easily fit into that statement!”

Prayers

When a writer says, “This is what I pray about concerning you…,” he will logically include important points.  If the writer’s praying about it, it’s what the book is probably about.  Examples are found in Ephesians 1:15-19 and 1 Thessalonians 1:2-5.  Some questions to ask when finding a prayer:

  • What are the two or three main points of his prayer?
  • What seem to be the predominant words in this prayer?

Petition Verbs

When we want to emphasize an important point, we will use bold type, italics, ALL CAPS, or underlining.  In the Greek, they used petition verbs.  Petition verbs are “I urge,” “I beg,” “I beseech,” etc.  When we come across a petition verb, the writer is letting us know that what he’s about to say is VERY important.

  • Rom. 12:1- “I beseech you therefore…that you present your bodies a living sacrifice…”  The petition verb clues us in to the importance of this statement and lets us know it’s a key thought in the letter.
  • 1 Cor. 1:10- “Now I plead with you, brethren…that you all speak the same thing…”
  • Phil. 4:2- “I implore Euodia and I implore Synteche to be of the same mind in the Lord.”  Two petition verbs in one verse means what he is about to say is especially significant!  The letter to the Philippians is about being of the same mind.  What mindset does Paul want them to have?  “Others about self” according to 2:3.  “Mind” appears 11 times in the book.  The serious Bible student will consider this while reading through the entire letter.

A list of petition verbs in New Testament letters can be found here.

Looking for these four P’s is one easy way to make sure we are striving to be serious students of the Word.  “Be diligent to present yourself to God, a workman that does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the Word of God” (2 Tim. 2:15).

Prayer for Today:  Thank you, Lord, for those who show us how to keep learning and growing in Your Word!

 

 

Serious Bible Study is Not Just for Men

The title of this post is one of the assignments I’ve been given for Polishing the Pulpit, and what a great study it has been!  I knew I would love it and need it.

Have you ever been to a ladies’ day or ladies’ retreat where the topic was fluffy?  Where it seemed like the decorating theme must’ve taken precedence over the study theme?  It’s all cotton candy and no meat (but it’s pretty!).  Well, there’s nothing wrong with that.  Ladies’ days and retreats are extras.  They’re sweet times of fellowship meant to encourage and uplift.  However, I think we sell ourselves (and our teen girls) short.  I think we need to thirst for deeper waters so that we can be “filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, that we may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him… and increasing in the knowledge of God.”  That was Paul’s prayer for the saints (Col. 1:9,10).

Knowledge, wisdom, and spiritual understanding.  We won’t gain any of those unless we become serious about Bible study.  Do you consider yourself a serious student of God’s Word?  If not, why not?  What could be more important?  What could possibly take precedence in our lives over “increasing in the knowledge of God”?  Believe you me, these   are questions I’m asking myself, too.

Let’s encourage each other and let’s challenge each other to study for ourselves instead of just relying on the study that others have done.  Serious Bible study is for all of us.

Prayer for Today:  Your Word, Lord, is living and powerful.  Help me be more convicted to spend quality time every day discovering its truths.

 

 

Teens in the Word

Some have asked what Teens in the Word is all about and I’m happy to discuss one of the highlights of our week.  There’s nothing out of the ordinary about it.  Very simply, we just wanted to provide an opportunity for our teens to learn how to study the Bible for themselves.  No matter what they hear in life or what they’re exposed to, if they know how to study, they’ll be able to discern between Truth and deception (2 Tim. 3:15).  They’ll know where to turn when their faith is shaky (Rom. 10:17).  And they’ll continue to grow spiritually as they are guided and molded by the powerful Word (Heb. 4:12).   Here’s the setup:

  • Teens in the Word meets in our home every Tuesday night.
  • The teens spend the first half hour or so enjoying a hot cooked meal and fellowshipping.
  • Then they spend an hour and a half getting into God’s Word.

That’s all there is to it!  Now for the fun facts:

-Michael Hite, one of the individuals who first came up with the idea, has devoted his time to teaching the teens every week.  He has done an outstanding job of showing them how to find and mark key words, how to understand context, how to ask questions of the text, and much more.  The few adults present are learning as much as the teens!  He has chosen Colossians 1: 9-12 as our theme, emphasizing “gaining knowledge to walk worthy.”  He even designed a great logo with this idea and had it placed on hoodies for each of the teens.  Michael provided a Question Box the very first week.  The questions submitted have given us a glimpse into the hearts of these young people.  They think deep and they care about souls.

-Lynn Hite and I were just going to take turns providing the meal each week.  Little did we know that parents would start volunteering to bring the meal (enough to feed 30).  Even members who don’t have teens have offered to help!  We’ve been so encouraged by all the ladies who have looked for ways to be involved.

-Honestly, we thought Teens in the Word would start out strong and then dwindle down to “the faithful few.”  How wrong we were!  The numbers continue to grow and we love seeing enthusiasm build.  Even though they have homework and extracurricular activities, these teens are still willing to devote an extra night each week to Bible study.  Some come straight from coaching, arriving too late for the meal but still wanting to participate in the study.  Their dedication has been humbling and inspiring.

-And finally, one of the most exciting developments….While originally intended for Bear Valley members, Teens in the Word has grown to include new friends from the community.  We are thrilled with the young men (and a mom) who have shown up each week to study God’s Word, even though they at first didn’t know any of the other teens.  These new relationships have greatly enriched our Tuesday nights together.

Occasionally we have to cancel a study because of scheduling conflicts or travel.  Tonight is one of those occasions.  I imagine I’m not the only one who will be missing the fellowship and study with such dear and genuine teens.  They want to be challenged spiritually.  They want to grow in the knowledge of Christ.  I thank God for them and for the way He is using them to bless us.

Prayer for Today:  Thank you, Lord, for all young people who love Your Word.

the very first Teens in the Word