Deeper and Deeper I Go

“It was when I walked alone with God that I learned the lessons He would teach.  I set aside a time and a place to meet Him, and I have never been disappointed.”  Oswald J. Smith wrote those words when he described what he called his “morning watch.”  Oh, how I want to know my Lord better!  I want to feel as close to Him as possible.  I want to be guided by Him, molded by Him, and secure in my relationship with Him.  I don’t want to be guilty of just going through the motions or coasting through Christianity.  I don’t want to have a faith that’s inherited or tied to associations.  I don’t want to have to wonder if my religion is genuine, personal, in my soul through and through.  How can I have the peace that comes from knowing I’m where I’m supposed to be in my faith, and in my relationship with God?

“This Book of Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it.  For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” Joshua 1:8.

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly…but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1a,2).

“I will meditate on Your precepts and contemplate Your ways.  I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your Word” (Psalm 119:15,16).

“Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97).

If I want to be sure I’m doing all God wants me to, I must meditate in His Word.  If I want to rejoice in my relationship with Him, and have His approval, I will meditate on His Word.  Combining these verses with the definitions of “meditate” from Merriam-Webster.com, here’s how I can have a confident, meaningful faith (Romans 10:17):

  • Engage in contemplation or reflection of the Word day and night
  • Engage in mental exercise for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness of the Word
  • Focus my thoughts on the Word so I don’t forget what it says
  • Plan or project in my mind what I find in the Word

So I need a “morning watch” with God.  I think it must be separate from time spent preparing to teach Bible classes, or writing articles or lessons.  It needs to be deliberate, one-on-one time with the Father for the sole purpose of letting His Word instruct and strengthen me for the day.  Meditation.  To be sure of my faith, I can “receive the Word with all readiness, and search the Scriptures daily” (Acts 17:11).  A practical way to meditate on God’s Word is to grab a clean spiral notebook and pen, and use the S.O.A.P. method.

S- “Scripture”- Jot down your Scripture text, and read it through a few times.

O- “Observations”- Write down all observations you can make about the text.  Don’t try to figure out what it means yet.  Just observe what it says, word by word.

A- “Application”- Write down what you learned, and how your life will be different because of it.  Is there an action to take?  A change to make?  Did you learn something different from what you’ve always been taught?

P- “Prayer”- Pray about what you read and your understanding of it.  Ask God to help you absorb, remember, and put into practice His will.

“Into the will of Jesus, deeper and deeper I go,

Praying for grace to follow, seeking His way to know;

Bowing in full surrender, low at His blessed feet,

Bidding Him take, break me and make,

Till I am molded, complete.”

(Oswald J. Smith, 1890-1986)

Prayer for Today:  May time in Your Word be a precious, daily priority in my life.

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Bible Study Treat

Ever since my mom started taking the Biblical Exegesis class by Denny Petrillo and Michael Hite, she has been all excited about marking key words.  I often see her with her Bible open, pad of paper close by, Bible-marking pens and colored pencils on hand, searching for recurring words like one digging for treasure.  Happily for me, she likes to compare notes.  Just yesterday she shared one of her discoveries with me, and because it’s too good to keep to myself, I’m going to share it with you, too.

In 2 Corinthians, the word “God” appears about 75 times, but the phrase “of God” appears some 32 times.  According to the World English Dictionary, the simple definition for the word “of” means “indicating possession, origin, or association.”  With that in mind, notice some of the words attached to our phrase “of God” in 2 Corinthians:

  • In 1:1, the “WILL of God” and the “CHURCH of God”
  • In 1:12, the “GRACE of God”
  • In 1:19, the “SON of God”
  • In 1:20, the “PROMISES of God” and the “GLORY of God”
  • In 2:17, the “WORD of God” and the “SIGHT of God”
  • In 4:2, the “SIGHT of God”
  • In 4:6, the “GLORY of God”
  • In 4:7, the “POWER will be of God”
  • In 4:15, the “GLORY of God”
  • In 5:21, the “RIGHTEOUSNESS of God”
  • In 6:1, the “GRACE of God”
  • In 6:4, the “SERVANTS of God”
  • In 6:7, the “POWER of God”
  • In 6:16, the “TEMPLE of God”
  • In 7:1, the “FEAR of God”
  • In 7:9, the “WILL of God”
  • In 7:10, the “WILL of God”
  • In 7:12, the “SIGHT of God”
  • In 8:1, the “GRACE of God”
  • In 8:5, the “WILL of God”
  • In 9:14, the “GRACE of God”
  • In 10:5, the “KNOWLEDGE of God”
  • In 11:7, the “GOSPEL of God”
  • In 12:19, the “SIGHT of God”
  • In 13:4, the “POWER of God” and again the “POWER of God”
  • In 13:14, the “LOVE of God”

Are you rubbing your hands together with anticipation?  This information is a great starting point for studying some big concepts that belong to/ originated with God.  It’s GOD’S grace, GOD’S temple, GOD’S gospel, GOD’S will.  So what does He have to say about them?  For instance, one glimpse at the verse that mentions the “knowledge of God” shows that it trumps every argument devised by man.  My mom pointed out that the specific phrases that recur the most are “will of God,” “grace of God,” “sight of God,” and “power of God,” each appearing 4 times.  I can’t wait to take a closer look at the passages surrounding those phrases to see what I can learn!

On a personal note, my mom has experienced some hardships, and still does.  I’m grateful anew for the ability of the “POWER of God” to bring joy and purpose to the lives of all His children (2 Cor. 6:4-10).  My mom thought it was interesting that the “love of God” was saved for the very last verse of the letter, which seems like an appropriate verse to end with here.  “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:14).

Prayer for Today- Help me, dear Lord, to be an eager student of Your Word all my life.  And thank You for my mom!

My beautiful mom and me

Marriage Builders from Proverbs- a Bible-marking topic

First, some Bible-marking reminders…

-I love Bible-marking for several reasons!  You’ll have topics handy for when you need a spiritual boost.  Has your prayer life been lagging?  If you’ve marked the topic of prayer in your Bible, you can easily study through some verses that will strengthen your prayer time.  Bible-marking also makes it easier for you to find verses that will encourage others.  If you’ve marked the topic of endurance, then you’ll have verses handy to share with someone who is discouraged or struggling.  Bible-marking several topics means that you’ll always be ready to give a devotional or teach a class at a moment’s notice.  And finally, Bible-marking allows you to be prepared to study with someone as soon as the opportunity arises.

-The tools:  you just need your Bible and a pen.  I use the same pen that was recommended by Wendell Winkler when I learned Bible-marking from him over 20 years ago.  It’s the Pigma Micron pen.  It comes in a variety of colors and won’t fade or bleed through your thin Bible pages.  The pen tips come in various sizes.  My favorite is “01” because it’s not too fat and it’s not too skinny.  It’s just right.  You can find these pens at craft or art stores and also Christian book stores.

So let’s get marking.  Go to one of the blank pages in the front of your Bible and list this topic as “Marriage Builders from Proverbs.”  Write your first verse next to it, which is Prov. 4:23-27.  Then turn to that passage.  I’m using the New King James version.

Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.  Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put perverse lips far from you.  Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you.  Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established.  Do not turn to the right or the left; remove your feet from evil.”

-In my Bible, I put a square around the word “heart” in vs. 23 and a square around the word “all” in vs. 26.  Then I underlined all the body parts mentioned (mouth, lips, eyes, feet).  If you guard your heart, everything else will follow.  Your mouth won’t say ugly things.  Your eyes won’t look at things they’re not supposed to.  Your feet won’t take you to places you shouldn’t be.  In other words, you will not stray in any way.  At the end of vs. 27, write the next verse, which is 10:19.  Since we’re staying in Proverbs, you only need to note the chapter and verse each time.

“In the multitude of words, sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.”

A lot of marital strife can be avoided simply by realizing we don’t have to SAY everything we think (see also Prov. 29:11).  You won’t have to regret thoughtless or hurtful remarks if you never say them in the first place.  At the end of this verse, write the next one, which is 11:13.

“A talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter.”

-Protect your marriage by keeping private matters private.  Don’t share your gripes with your best friend or your mom.  When you get into an argument, don’t seek sympathy from others.  When you and your spouse make up, you’ll regret involving outsiders.  At the end of this verse, write the next one, which is 14:29.

“He who is slow to wrath has great understanding, but he who is impulsive exalts folly.”

-Don’t get angry over small things.  Be patient and understanding.  I hate to see a man act easy-going around everyone except his wife, and vice versa.  Respect your spouse by treating them the same way you want to be treated.  At the end of this verse, write 15:13.

“A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.”

-Are you happy in your marriage?  Make sure your face reflects it.  Smile every time you see your spouse.  Never let them doubt whether or not you are happy to see them.  Joy keeps a marriage fresh and the interest alive.  The next verse is in the same chapter, so at the end of this passage just write “vs. 17.”

“Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a fatted calf with hatred.”

-Keep your priorities straight.  Make sure what truly matters in your marriage is what’s emphasized.  Don’t spend more time improving the quality of THINGS than the quality of your relationship.  You probably know a couple who has very little, materialistically speaking, but they are in love, always laughing, enjoying each other’s company.  And you probably know a couple who is well off, but they seem discontent, never having much to say to each other.  Which couple is happier?  At the end of this verse, write the next one, which is 17:9.

“He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates friends.”

-Don’t air your dirty laundry.  Don’t let indignation or hurt cause you to blab your spouse’s sins or mistakes.  Love protects and forgives.  Do you want all of your bad choices made known to others?  At the end of this verse, write  vs. 17.

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

-Stress, financial trouble, job loss, long-term illness, death.  As a couple, prepare to endure any hardships that come your way by staying close, leaning on God, and determining ahead of time that your marriage is for keeps.  At the end of this verse, write 19:11.

“The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression.”

-Don’t be overly sensitive.  Don’t take everything personally.  Don’t be easily hurt.  Your spouse will have less-than-stellar days because of tiredness, worry, or fear.  Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt and assume that all will be back to normal soon.  At the end of this verse, write the next one, which is 21:9.

“Better to dwell in a corner of a housetop, than in a house shared with a contentious woman.”

-My goal is to make sure my husband only chuckles when he comes across this verse.  I do not want him to read it and commiserate!  The word for “contentious” in the original language means one who causes strife or discord.  Is your home filled with strife?  Make sure you’re not the cause.  Go out of your way to create an atmosphere of peace and harmony.  At the end of this verse, write vs. 23.

“Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles.”

-A trouble-free marriage relies greatly on making sure the things we say are kind and loving.  We might say the right things, but are we saying them in the right way?  Do you find yourself being overly sarcastic?  Are you quick to ridicule?  Make sure everything that comes out of your mouth will promote closeness and build up your spouse.  At the end of this verse, write 25:28.

“Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls.”

-A city without walls has no protection, no defense against enemy attacks.  Protect your marriage by practicing self-control.  If you lack self-discipline when it comes to your speech and your emotions, you are making your marriage vulnerable.  At the end of this verse, write the last one, which is 27:1.

“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.”

-Treat every day with your spouse as if it were your last.  Spend time together.  Express your love and appreciation.  Discard any resentment.  Get over the past and embrace the present.  Thank God for your marriage.

Prayer for Today:  Thank you, Lord, for the wisdom and advice found in Your Word.  Help me apply it so I can do my part to build a strong and happy marriage.  

A Fun Way to Study

Treasure Hunting

A couple of years ago I took a class at BVBID called “Biblical Exegesis.”   Denny Petrillo was our instructor, and that class opened my eyes to a whole new way to study the Bible.  Periodically, I’ll share with you some of the things I learned.  My favorite part of the class was the homework assignments in which we were to find observations in a text.  This can be done in two ways:

1.  Choose a verse and list as many observations as you can possibly make from that verse.  For example, our very first assignment was Acts 1:8, which states, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  Even though it’s such a short verse, the task was to find a minimum of 30 observations.  The observations had to be strictly from the text, so no interpretations or applications could be used.  My first three observations were 1) “But”- ties it with vs. 7; 2) “you”- the apostles; and 3) “Will receive”- future promise.  Once you’ve stated all the obvious observations, you go back and keep looking.  I remember patting myself on the back for coming up with 34 observations, until Denny told us he found about twice that amount.

2.  Choose a short passage and print it off  triple spaced on a piece of paper.  This will allow you plenty of room for marking up your paper.  Then start treasure hunting!  Look for key words or terms, commands, contrasts, comparisons, -ing words, repetitive words, transitional words, prepositional phrases, etc.  Highlight, circle, underline, or draw boxes around the things you’re finding.  For example, one of our assignments was John 1:5-7.  The word “light” is used several times, so that would be circled in yellow.  The word “darkness” is used a couple of times, so that would be circled in black.  Marking up the text makes ideas stand out.  Once you’re done, your paper should be marked all over the place, and then you can draw some conclusions and write them all over the margins.  My margins on this passage have these notes:

The message:  –we heard (from Him); –we declare (to you)

Contrasts:  walk in darkness vs. walk in light

God= no darkness at all; Walk in darkness= no God (fellowship with Him)

In the light= fellowship with Him; Walk in the light= fellowship with one another

Several years ago, I taught a lesson using Jeremiah 13:1-11 as my text.  I wanted to use some of the same material for another lesson so I pulled it out.  I decided to print out the text and mark it up to see what I could find.  It was exciting to find all kinds of truths from a text I thought I had already studied and was very familiar with!

Denny Petrillo said, “The Word is like a well.  We’re dipping our bucket down into the well, and drawing out what it has to say.”

Prayer for Today:  May I ever be diligent to search the Scriptures to understand the eternal truths found in Your Word.