Categories
Digging Deeper into the Word Studying the Bible

The Best Books in the Bible

Author: Rachel Kidd

Study to present yourself approved unto God, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth. —2 Timothy 2:15 

Jesus said, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me.” 

—John 5:39 

Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. —Luke 24:27 

Importance of Studying 

Paul tells Timothy that he must study the scripture, exert himself in the pursuit of Scriptural knowledge so that he will be prepared when he meets the heavenly Father.  

Like any other knowledge base, scripture needs to be studied and pursued. It isn’t just a healing salve, it is wisdom that must be learned and taken to heart. This study of the New Testament is an excellent place to start, a structured course that can help you get into the Word of God.  

As Paul tells us, faith comes by hearing the Word of God. During his time, most in the Roman empire could not read and copies of the Torah were few and sacred. Most people heard the scripture read aloud instead.  

Today with the ability to read and write, we might understand this as faith comes by reading and understanding the Word of God. We have the privilege of accessing the Bible in so many different forms, from a physical copy to a digital one on an app. Take advantage of it and step into the New Testament with us! 

What’s in a Word? 

The first four books of the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, are referred to as the “gospels.”   

The word gospel is derived from the Anglo-Saxon god-spell, meaning “good story.” And god-spell is an early English rendering of the Latin evangelium and the Greek euangelion, meaning “good news” or “good telling.” 

The first three books, Matthew, Mark, and Luke have been referred to as the Synoptic Gospels since the end of the 18th century, due to their incredibly similar structure and narrative treatment of the life and ministry of Jesus.   

While these four gospels tell us about Jesus’ works and detail His teachings, they are far more than a biographical text because they also share the good news of redemption Jesus brought to the world.  

The gospels show us that the whole Bible—both the Old and New Testaments—is all about Jesus Christ. They are therefore the most important books in the Bible, the key to understanding all of Scripture. As we will see, Jesus declared that He is at the center of God’s plan from beginning to end. Everything in Scripture points to Him and His plan to redeem and save lost mankind. 

The Greatest Revelation  

No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. –John 1:17-18 

This verse in the first chapter of John explains the great revelation of Jesus, who through Him made God the Father known.  

In the original Greek, John used the word exegesis, which is a deep and critical interrogation into a text to ascertain the meaning. It is the act of bringing out in the verse what is in it, as opposed to inserting meaning that is not in the text.  

In this case, Jesus exegetes God, meaning He brought out all the meaning of God. This means that Jesus Christ is the greatest revelation of truth, of God, the world has ever been given.  

Everything that Jesus was, everything that Jesus said, and everything that Jesus did reveals God to us. And because the gospels are about Jesus, we can determine that these books are at the core or the heart of the scripture.  

Word became Flesh 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  

–John 1:1-5 

God had a word, truth, that He wanted to communicate with man. Yet, He struggled to communicate with humans, being God. Like humans trying to talk to animals and vice versa, the message gets lost.  

And so God made a great sacrifice because of His love for humanity. He sent Jesus to humble himself and become man. In order for those thoughts to be translated to earth to human comprehension, God had to become human too.  

Jesus is the embodiment of the word, the conductor of translation that became man so that humankind could understand the Word of God. Everything that He was, said, and did on earth revealed God to us.  

It Points to Jesus 

The religious leaders of the day didn’t believe Jesus’ claim that He was God, so they asked for proof, for evidence that He was who He claimed to be.  

In John chapter 5, Jesus lays out a defense, proving that He is in fact the Son of God. He references His miracles and explains the great prophet John the Baptist paved the way for Him.  

“You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.”  

–John 5:33-35 

He then says that the revered Moses wrote about Him, prophesying the coming of Jesus Christ generations earlier. In fact, Jesus cites the scriptures as a whole as a testimony to Him, they’re all about Him.  

When we understand this, we can appreciate that Jesus is the very heart and thread that connects the scripture together.  

Categories
Digging Deeper into the Word Spiritual Development

The Mysterious Masterpiece

Author: Rachel Kidd

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.  

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. —Hebrews 1:1-3 

Who’s the author? 

The book of Hebrews is a mysterious masterpiece, because it’s authorship is unknown. Some argue that Paul is author, like in the King James translation of the bible, but there isn’t a general consensus. Paul’s letters always start with his name, Hebrews does not.  

Paul also typically quoted from the Hebrew Old Testament, but the author of Hebrews quoted from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. The grammar used in Hebrews also doesn’t align with Paul’s typical style.  

The author of Hebrews also did not focus on justification by faith, which Paul always emphasized. Unlike Paul, this author does not claim to have personally seen Jesus Christ. 

We also aren’t sure if Hebrews is a letter at all or even what the literary form is, because it lacks a salutation and a discernable form. The group who is addressed in Hebrews is equally mysterious, as we cannot place them in a specific location.  

Bible scholars do not know who wrote it or who the specific Hebrews were, but we do know that they were Jewish Christians or Messianic believers who were suffering persecution. The author of Hebrews offers much-needed assurance of salvation, encouragement, and exhortation to believe. 

We include Hebrews in the general Epistles, not Paul’s Epistiles, because of these key differences. The author could have been Apollos, mentioned in the book of Acts, Barnabas, or even Luke. Whoever wrote this book was an inspired and eloquent scholar, threading intricate knowledge of the bible and the identity of Jesus throughout Hebrews.  

Content Speaks 

However, the authorship of the book is less important than it’s content. Asking ourselves; What does the book say? What does it mean? What does it mean to me?  

 Hebrews is a masterpiece in content. More than any other book, it ties together the Old and New Testaments. Cohesive from beginning to end, a clear argument is threaded throughout.  

 

Hebrews presents Jesus theologically as the Messiah who was prophesied in the Old Testament, the Lord has revealed in the New Testament, and the coming King of Kings. 

Better Belief 

Jesus Christ is better than the prophets. The message God revealed through His son is even better than the message He sent through the beloved and revered prophets. Because Jesus Christ is God’s Son, He is better than the angels, the priesthood, the covenants, the tabernacle, everything.  

Speaking to orthodox Jews, the author of Hebrews says that what they hold most sacred, most Holy, pales in comparison to Jesus. No more animal sacrifices need to be made at the temple, because Jesus’ death fulfilled them all in the same patterns of Jewish tradition.  

Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant. 

Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. 

–Hebrews 7: 22-25 

When Jesus died on the cross, He acted as high priest as in Jewish tradition and He was interceding for the sins of the whole world in the Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle of heaven. This tabernacle is not made of human hands and the blood offered was not that of an animal, but of Jesus Himself. 

From that time on, the sacrifice of Jesus fulfilled all the animal sacrifices and eliminated the need for the Jewish sacrificial system. He is better than even Solomon’s Temple, fulfilling every one of God’s promises.  

By reading and believing in Christ’s finished work on the cross, we can experience fulfilled salvation. The book of Hebrews is a wonderful place to start, meditating on the greatest promise ever made to humanity.  

 Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. –Romans 10:9-10 

Categories
Digging Deeper into the Word Studying the Bible

How to Read the Bible : Part II

Author: Rachel Kidd

In this second part of this series on how to read your bible, we’ll be focusing on how to create a practice that works for you.  

Whether you’re a morning person who reads scripture over a cup of coffee or someone who prefers reading late into the night, it’s about creating a sustainable practice for you. If your practice doesn’t fit well with your lifestyle or personality, you’ll be much less likely to stick to it.  

With busy lives spent running from one thing to the next, it can seem nearly impossible to find time to be still and soak in scripture. Developing a habit that sticks takes time and effort, but this practice of self-discipline is well worth it. 

The Purpose 

Before diving into how to create a sustainable bible reading practice, determining your purpose, your why is crucial. The scripture is clear from Old Testament to New, that reading and meditating on the Word is transformative and part of a strong faith.  

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. 

–Romans 12:2 

This verse in Romans reminds us that the Word, the written will of God, is perfect. By allowing it to permeate our minds and hearts, we are transformed and renewed.  

Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

–Proverbs 30:5 

Scripture also acts as a shield, like this Proverb tells us. It protects our hearts and provides a refuge, a safe haven from the harsh reality of the world we live in.  

But, in order to experience the transformative power of scripture, we need to spend time reading and meditating on the Word. We need to create time and space to spend time with God, just like we would with any other relationship. So, how do we do that? Where do you start?  

Lifestyle 

Think about your life, consider all the factors. Are you a busy mom without a spare minute to herself on school mornings? Are you a student with a packed schedule? Or are you retired with plenty of hard-earned time on your hands? 

 Consider your personality too, are you introverted or extroverted? Do you like to process new concepts and information alone or with others? Do you prefer independent study or study groups?  

 If you haven’t already, identifying  your learning style and personality type can be really helpful in building a life that is the most effective for you. 

No matter your age, stage in life, or circumstances, I am betting you can find a few minutes each day to dedicate to quiet time. Not only is it a great time to dig into scripture, but its a great time to recenter yourself and connect with both yourself and God.  

With who? 

It can also be a time to connect with others, like your spouse, children, roommates, or prayer group. Especially for extroverts and verbal processors, creating space to discuss scripture and pray with people you love can be so life-giving.  

If you’re like me, sometimes you like to be alone to process and sometimes you prefer to be with others. Create variety in your scripture reading practice by scheduling different groups. Maybe you have a prayer group you attend once a month, once a week you do a devotional with your spouse, and every morning when the house is quiet, you read alone with God.  

When? 

Determine when you have the most time in your day, week, or season and start small. Perhaps you find yourself finishing your lunch within the first thirty minutes of your lunch break and scroll on your phone for the next thirty.  

What if you took just fifteen of those thirty minutes to open your bible app instead? Or listened to an audio version of your bible?  

Finding those pockets of time in your busy day can be incredibly rewarding and helpful in creating a sustainable practice for you.  

How often?  

Maybe you only have time right now for a bible study for an hour once a week sitting in your car while your child is at soccer practice. And that is okay! If you already have a routine bible study, add to it! Build up from three times a week to four, then five. 

Life has seasons, times that are busy and times that are leisurely. Understanding the seasons of your life and patterns of behavior can be helpful in embracing the natural ebbs and flows. 

 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 

a time to be born, and a time to die; 

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted. 

–Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 

(read the rest of this chapter for a complete list of patterns) 

 It can also help you both take advantage of the good times, soaking in the Word, in preparation for the hard and busy times when you lack that time to read scripture.   

Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart. 

–Proverbs 4:21 

 The scripture reading practice you create and follow consistently will only support your faith journey and relationship with God.  

 

 

Categories
Church Development Digging Deeper into the Word Studying the Bible

The Teaching Ministry of Jesus

Author: Charles Hegwood

If you were to put all of Jesus’ teachings into one sentence what would it be? The writers of the gospels’ answer to that question may surprise you. If you listen today to many modern sermons you may think that Jesus was a teacher of ethics. Or you may be tempted to think that Jesus was a teacher of love. Perhaps you may think of Jesus as a fiery preacher condemning sinners and preaching repentance. While Jesus taught on all of these topics and more, individually they do not define His teaching ministry. The gospel writers boiled all of Jesus’ teaching down to a summary statement that goes something like this, “The Kingdom of God is coming therefore we must repent.” We see this summary statement primarily in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. So let us consider these two questions: Are we teaching as Jesus taught, and are we living in a way that reflects Jesus’ teaching? Jesus certainly taught on all the above mentioned topics. The coming Kingdom acts as a lens or filter for us to understand Jesus’ teaching on morality, love, and repentance toward God.  

Teaching Summation  

Matthew, Mark, and Luke each contain a summary statement of what Jesus taught. Jesus taught good news about the Kingdom and that as sinners, we need to repent, or turn away from our sins and run to God. Much of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and other teachings like it are about how we are to repent and live as citizens of God’s Kingdom. This summation statement also gives us an urgency to respond and herald Jesus’ message. “The Kingdom is at hand,” means that the time is short. Even as Jesus taught on earth, He was preparing His followers for the day He would return and bring the Kingdom with great finality.  

The gospel writers were saying that Jesus was teaching the “good news” of the Kingdom. God’s coming Kingdom is good news because He was making a way for His people to dwell with God forever. Repentance is our response to this good news. Jesus taught to prepare people for life in the Kingdom. Next, let us look at some of the more specific parts of Jesus’ message.  

Moral Teaching 

Jesus taught a lot of lessons with a theme of morality. However His teaching on morality was not for morality’s sake. That may strike us as odd, but remember Jesus’ teachings had a purpose. He was preparing people for Kingdom life . Consider the Sermon on the Mount, there is a lot of what you could call moral teaching. But the purpose of Jesus’ words was to call His followers to live lives that reflect life in the Kingdom. Matthew was telling the young church how they should live. Jesus taught people how to live a life that brings glory and worship to God. Implicit within Jesus’ moral teaching was the call to repent because we do not live up to His perfect standard. The good news is that where we fail, Jesus has succeeded. We can live according to Jesus’ Words knowing that when we fail we are forgiven and that the Holy Spirit is working in us to help us grow in maturity and godliness in Christ. So what does the way you live say about your love of God?  

Teaching on Love 

Jesus taught a lot about love. He taught people to love God above all else. If we love God above all else, we will also love people as well. However, Jesus did not teach about love for love’s sake alone. He had a purpose for His teaching. He was teaching people how to love God and each other in light of the Kingdom. If you take all of the messages Jesus taught on love and put them together you could say Jesus was saying, “You love God by how you love people.” A repentant follower of Jesus cannot love God and be hateful toward others. We are to love our neighbor and our enemy as well. This is a counter-cultural teaching on love. Jesus wants us to love with a godly love. This is a love that overcomes sin and our failures. Jesus wanted us to love others because this is what love looks like in the Kingdom. What does the way you love people say about your love for God?  

Teaching on Repentance 

One of the central themes of Jesus’ message was repentance. You cannot get around this word. All parts of Jesus’ teaching must be taken together as a whole. Numerous times in the gospels, we see Jesus preaching a message of repentance. “Repent because the Kingdom of God is near.” We repent because there is a purpose to repentance. The Kingdom of God is coming. We cannot live our lives of sin any longer. We live repentant lives and teach repentance in our churches. This message has fallen out of favor with modern audiences. I hope that as we consider Jesus’ teaching for our lives, let us not shy away from the call to repent.  

So you could say that Jesus was a fiery preacher with a message of repentance. But unlike many of the examples filling your head right now, Jesus backed up His message with a moral and loving life. While we must teach repentance and call on sinners to repent, we must model this life to the world. Our life and message should be a reflection of Jesus. How is the way you repent and teach repentance reflecting a love for God?  

Conclusion  

This is only the tip of the iceberg on the topic of Jesus’ teaching ministry. There have been books written about the subject. My purpose here was to illuminate three parts of Jesus’ teaching that we should take into consideration with how we live and teach. Let us live moral and loving lives full of repentance. Let what we teach be a reflection on how we live out our lives. Let your teaching ministry be a reflection of the teaching of Jesus. Do not just teach the comfortable parts. Teach other believers how to live life in light of God’s coming Kingdom. So what does your life and teaching say about your love for God and His Kingdom?  

 

Categories
Digging Deeper into the Word Spiritual Development Studying the Bible

What are Spiritual Gifts?

Author: Rachel Kidd

Gifts are always welcome in my book. I love to open a thoughtful present from someone I love, something that shows me they were thinking about me and what I like. It makes me feel valued, cared for, and special.  

God likes to give His loved ones gifts, too. He calls us chosen, beloved, and He has given us many gifts. The world we live in, the air we breathe, and the food that sustains us are incredible gifts from God.  

What are Spiritual Gifts? 

Beyond physical gifts, God also gives us intangible gifts. Most importantly these gifts are given through a relationship with Him. The Holy Spirit is a presence that we are gifted as part of our faith in Christ.  

The Spirit imbues us all with particular gifts, unique to our personalities and circumstances.  

These gifts are intended to not only help us as individuals, but to advance the kingdom of God and to be a blessing to others. By sharing our gifts and using them to uplift others, we are following God’s commandment to love one another well.  

This series on spiritual gifts will examine the various types of gifts, how to determine your own gifts, how we can use them to serve others well, and how to use our gifts to further God’s kingdom.  

Denominational Understanding 

Different denominations have varied understandings of spiritual gifts and what it means to be ‘baptized in the Spirit.’ 

Pentecostals believe the Holy Spirit is present in a believer’s body upon conversion. This presence is a powerful experience that manifests through physical expressions, like dancing and singing.  

Often, Pentecostal and Baptist believers express their faith conversion experience through a believer’s baptism, or credo-baptism.1 This is the practice of baptizing in water, whether in a church baptismal, pool, river, or even ocean.  

Different from an infant baptism, where babies are promised to the Lord by their parents, common in many Christian traditions, a believer’s baptism is defined by the agency of the believer. They are making a conscious choice to declare their faith in God.  

In the Charismatic movement, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is not of water, but of tongues. Theologically, charisma means a “divinely conferred gift or power.”  

Instead of being submerged in water to represent your faith in Christ, new believers are understood to be given the gift of speaking in tongues. They are imbued with the divinely conferred gift, or power, to speak in heavenly or unknown earthly languages.  

This understanding of the gift of tongues comes from Acts, where the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles, appearing like tongues of fire, filling them and granting them the ability to share the Gospel in unknown languages.  

The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost 

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. 

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans?Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?  

Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” 

Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” –Acts 2:1-13 

This gift at Pentecost enabled the apostles after the ascension of Jesus to preach to people in their own languages. It allowed them to connect to people for the glory of God.  

Some did not understand, blaming their unusual behavior on the wine. Likewise, some may not agree with or understand your God-given gifts. That does not detract from their God-given power or significance.  

Types of Gifts 

Beyond baptism, many denominations recognize the presence of others’ gifts given to believers by the Holy Spirit to fulfill God’s purpose. These gifts are also divinely conferred, though perhaps less obvious, than speaking in tongues.  

The important link is believing that spiritual gifts are given to help others, to give life, and to further the kingdom of God.  

This is just a brief overview of some spiritual gifts. Later posts in this series will delve deeper into each gift, what they mean, and how to recognize them.   

  • Discernment  
    • The unique ability to determine whether something is good or “of God” by sense. 
  • Evangelism & Ministry 
    • Those called to ministry often are blessed with the gift of evangelism. They have the unique ability to share the Gospel in a way that connects with people, minister to them, and love them well.  
  • Encouragement  
    • Encouragers have the ability to make others feel hopeful, to inspire renewed faith, and uplift the downtrodden.  
  • Leadership  
    • Good and Godly leaders are servant leaders, who lead with love and grace.  
  • Mercy  
    • It can be difficult to show mercy to others, even when God has shown us great mercy. Some believers have a particular heart for the hurting of others and are compelled to act in their aid.  
  • Service 
    • Acts of service is a love language and believers who show love this way often have the gift of service. They are humble in their work, often doing tasks that are crucial but unnoticed.  
  • Teaching  
    • Good teachers have the ability to connect with others and share new information in a way that makes sense to their students. They are able to communicate God’s word to others in a meaningful way.  

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
Digging Deeper into the Word Studying the Bible

How to Read the Bible

Author: Rachel Kidd

Nearly every Christian can attest to the benefits of spending time studying scripture. But for most of us who haven’t had formal theological training, it can be difficult to feel like you’re getting the most out of your study.  

This series is designed to be an introductory guide to help you begin a regular Bible study habit. Each blog will walk through a primary question associated with biblical study, a helpful tool while growing deeper in the Word and closer to God. 

What is the Bible?  

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. – Hebrews 4:12 

 First and foremost, the Bible is the living word of God. What we have today has been interpreted by His servants and passed down through the ages.  

It is also a collection of books, written in a few different genres, from poetry to historical text. It is important to understand the original context of the scripture as well as the original languages; ancient Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic.  

 Some translations are more accurate to the original languages than others. For example,  

The Why 

It’s helpful to start by considering why you want to read the Bible. Are you looking for wisdom? Comfort during difficult circumstances?   

Are there particular times you feel drawn to scripture? Is there a time of day or season when you tend to gravitate towards the Bible?  

Take some time to determine why you have decided to make Bible study a habit and use that to help you create your goals (more on that later).  

Helpful Tips 

  • Prayer and meditation are a great way to start this journey, as you refocus and recenter your relationship with God.  
  • Spending time in fellowship with others, especially a mentor or someone who’s habits you admire, is a great way to get motivated.  

Verses on the importance of Scripture

The Bible itself tells us how important it is to study the Word. Reading and meditating on a few key verses might be just what you need to spark the desire to read your Bible regularly.  

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. –Psalm 119:105 

This Psalm beautifully describes the Word of God as a lamp, the light that allows us to see and make our way down a dark path. A metaphor for how the scripture guides us through life, we see the Bible as illuminating and revelatory.   

But He answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ –Matthew 4:4 

 Similarly, many generations later, Jesus tells the devil in the wilderness that the word of God is like bread, crucial to the survival of man.  

This story as a whole reminds us that even Satan is capable of learning scripture, as he quotes them and manipulates the words back to Jesus. Words are so easily warped and twisted, even, and most especially, the scriptures.   

Reading and studying the Word for yourself ensures that you are not manipulated by false teachings or misinterpretations. Ask questions, talk to people and leaders you trust, and spend time with God, as you form your understanding of the Bible.  

Where do you start?  

Whether you are out of the habit or are just starting to grow your faith in this way, It can be daunting to start a Bible study routine.   

These steps can help guide you in creating a routine that works for you and your lifestyle, enabling you to get the most out of God’s word.  

1.Set (Realistic) Goals  

If you aren’t already reading your Bible daily, it isn’t realistic to expect yourself to suddenly start spending an hour in the word everyday.  

 Consider your goals and how you can work up to them in a realistic way. Maybe you want to have a morning quiet time, but feel rushed out the door on an average morning.  

Start by setting aside 10-15 minutes one morning a week for uninterrupted time. Find a quiet spot. I love sitting out on the porch on sunny mornings. Bring your journal, bible, and maybe a cup of coffee, open His word and take the first step in walking with Him.  

Once you’re in the habit of setting aside that time for bible study, it’ll become easier to make it longer or more frequent. Good habits are formed over time, be patient as you incorporate this practice in your life.  

Set SMART goals to set yourself up for success. 

Specific:  

  • Be specific about what you want to achieve.  
  • I want to read my Bible more.  

Measurable:  

  • How will you measure your success? 
  • I want to read my Bible three times a week for 10 minutes.  

Attainable:  

  • Is this a realistic goal for you and your life right now?  
  • I have morning’s available and like to have a slow start to the day with coffee and reading. 

Relevant: 

  • How will this add to your life? (Your why!) 
  • I look to the Bible for comfort during times of stress. 

Timely:   

  • When do you want to achieve this?  
  • I want to be regularly reading the Bible three days a week for 10 minutes by next month.  

More examples of SMART Bible Goals: 

  • Read the Bible every day for 15 minutes. 
  • Read the entire Bible in one year. 
  • Memorize one line of Scripture every week. 
  • Read the New Testament in one month. 

2. Monitor your Progress 

Check in with yourself periodically to make sure you are making progress on your goals. Take a few minutes at the end of each week or month to track your progress.  

 Tracking on a calendar, whether physical or digital, is a great way to see visually how often you’re studying.  

Ask yourself how many times this month did I do my Bible study? Do I feel satisfied with that number? And most importantly, what did I gain from this time? How did God speak to me this week/month? 

3. Re-asses  

At the end of each month, quarter, or year, revisit your goals and take a look at your progress. Look over your calendar or notes and see the progress you have made.  

Take notice of times when you may have spent more time in the Word or less. Do these times have anything in common? How can you help yourself during these times?  

Celebrate your successes and don’t dwell on your shortcomings, it’s okay if you didn’t meet your goal perfectly; anytime spent in scripture is beneficial!  

Forming good habits can be difficult, but making time to study scripture doesn’t have to be hard. Set goals for yourself as you work towards spending more quality time in the Word.  

Categories
Digging Deeper into the Word Spiritual Development Uncategorized

Living a Life of Grace and Freedom in Christ

Author: Charles Hegwood

When I was a student, I thought of the word ‘freedom’ as that one moment on the last day of school as I walked out the door. The promise of summer and all of the fun that it would bring could be felt riding on the breeze. I could wake up late with no real schedule. The chains of study and homework were at least temporarily loosened and I was free. Well, mostly free. Temporarily free. Thanks to God that freedom in Christ is much more permanent and much more valuable than a brief reprieve from schoolwork. Paul talked about freedom from sin and death. He talked about freedom in Christ. Hear the words of Paul as he pleads with his readers to stand firm in the freedom Christ gives and avoid placing the law’s yoke back around our necks.  

What is Freedom  

There is beauty in the freedom we have in Christ, but what does it mean to be set free? Freedom in Christ is not freedom to sin. We are not to think of being free as an excuse to sin and do whatever we want, all the while waving around the credit card of grace. Far from it. Paul’s definition of freedom is wrapped up in the context of Galatians chapter 5.  

The issue in the Galatian church was that they wanted to place the yoke of the law back on their shoulders. They wanted to be circumcised because they thought that circumcision would grant them favor in the eyes of the law and the eyes of God. Verse 2 helps the reader to understand the mindset of those seeking circumcision. Paul stated that “Jesus would be of no advantage.” This should alert us that these men were trying to obtain or add to their salvation in another way apart from Christ. The cultural law was familiar and therefore comfortable. Paul, however, relates their previous state to that slavery. Freedom was new and scary for these men. They were quick to retreat to what they knew. They wanted circumcision as a “faith and…” This desire displayed a lack of faith in Jesus according to Paul.  

For us today, it is not a question of circumcision. It is about us chaining ourselves to other practices with the hope of obtaining salvation or holiness apart from Jesus. The add-ons are often the former things we left behind before submitting our lives to Christ. Those things are comfortable and easy. These add-ons could also be extra behaviors too. We may feel insecure about our faith in Jesus and therefore try to add qualifications on top of Jesus’ sacrifice. This is an attempt to further be justified, which is our way of telling God, “you are not enough to save me, let me help.” This is textbook legalism, obsession over obedience apart from faith in Jesus.  

What Freedom Looks Like 

The freedom in Christ that Paul speaks of, frees us from sin and from trying to earn God’s favor. Paul said in many other places that we are not to crawl back to our sinful lifestyles. Some in the church at Galatia thought the blood of Christ was not sufficient for them and therefore they must do more to earn their own righteousness.They then crawled back to their old beliefs and practices. Paul called for freedom from the chains of earning God’s merit because the reality is you cannot. Freedom in Christ is the knowledge that because of Jesus, God is pleased with us. God sees the righteousness of Christ when he looks at us. This is great freedom. Freedom is the grace of God poured out on us. Do not throw extra steps into salvation. In verse seven, Paul called this action disobedience to Christ.  

Where Freedom Is  

Freedom in Christ is found in our daily lives. As I mentioned earlier, freedom from doing things to earn salvation does not equal doing nothing. A believer who is enjoying true freedom in Christ still lives an obedient life to Christ. This believer does not go through life uncaring about what they do, say, or think. Freedom manifests itself in your interactions with people and when no one is looking. Paul was saying that freedom in Christ was the freedom to obey Christ. This means we do good things to please Christ. Doing good things to please God is far different than doing good works to earn God’s favor. Do you see why this is freedom? We never have to wonder if we have done enough good to be righteous. So do not do what the believers in Galatia were doing. They were trying to add extra works to earn God’s salvation in their lives and in the lives of others. Be free to obey Christ because you love Him, and not to earn His love for you.  

3 Important Questions to Ask of Freedom and Grace 

As we wrap up this discussion of freedom in Christ, we must ask ourselves how we apply this text in particular and the freedom of Christ in general to our lives.  

  1. What freedom in Christ truly looks like? 

We have to be aware of the patterns in our lives that we tend to fall back to. If you are like me, a result-oriented person, your temptation might be to add results as a measure of salvation. This is folly and sinful according to Paul.  

  1. Where is freedom in Christ in our lives? 

We need to see this freedom in the good things that we do. It is refreshing to think that as believers, God already loves us . Doing good works is but the icing on the cake of our relationship with God.  

  1. Have I added works and actions to earn faith or call others’ to do so? 

Do good works as an outpouring of your love for God. Help your brothers and sisters embrace their freedom in Christ, breaking free of the shackles of legalism. It is after all, for freedom that Jesus set you free, so be free to live for Christ.  

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Digging Deeper into the Word Prayer Spiritual Development

Peace in Chaos

Author: Rachel Kidd

Joy is peace dancing. Chaos is peace undefined. 

-F.B. Myer  

Baptist minister and prophetic evangelist Frederick Brotherton Meyer is best known for his part in the revival. Fittingly, his words on peace describe not a still peace, but rather one that moves, a living, active sort of peace.  

Revival happens when God’s presence brings hope and new life to His people, a renewal of faith, energy, and worship. Revivals tend to be on a large scale, inciting broad social change and inspiring zealous action.  

In short, revivals are not typically associated with peace. Many would describe revivals as chaotic, even sometimes energetic, and impassioned. Yet, they are also places of profound joy and peace, springing with God’s presence.  

I understand Myer’s description of peace as a spectrum, where joy becomes abounding peace personified and defined by the act of dancing. On the other hand, peace can also be utter chaos in its undefined and unregulated state.  

Without a clear definition and boundaries, peace can easily descend into chaos. God has the unique power to create, define, and transcend peace. Without the scripture, peace lacks the anchor it needs to exist. God and His word are the grounding force that defines peace, breathing it into our lives.  

 Peace, Defined 

You turned my wailing into dancing, you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy. –Psalm 30:11 

Here in Psalms, God is described as a giver of joy, the source of a joy so profound, it overwhelms deep sadness and grief. A sackcloth was a piece of clothing made from rough, unfinished fabric worn by the Israelites in times of mourning.1  

By replacing the fabric associated with grief and death with fibers made from pure joy, we see God working to define peace as joy. This joy is manifested through dance, transforming into praise from tears.  

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,  a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. –Ecclesiastes 3:1-:4  

A scriptural support for the idea that peace exists on a continuum, this verse describes seasons of life. There is a time for everything, like the seasons change from summer to fall, from winter to spring, so we have times of sadness and times of joy. 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. –Romans 15:13  

Romans encourages us with the hope of believing, praying joy and peace over those who believe in Christ and are filled with the Holy Spirit. It’s a beautiful reminder of the power of faith and the peace that follows.  

For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. –Isaiah 55:12 

A prophecy of peace, this verse proclaims joy in the name of the Lord that is expressed through singing and clapping.  

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.  

—John 14:27  

Jesus reminds us that He leaves us in peace, that He is the source of peace. He calls us to live not in fear and worry, but in peace that is not of this world.  

Peace Framework 

The concept of the peace framework helps us break down what it means to curate a peaceful life and truly understand the steps needed to take towards peace. There are three sides to the peace framework triangle; place, provision, and physical health.  

Each month in this series, we will dive deeper into each piece of the framework and get a better understanding of how we can apply these concepts as we create a peaceful life.  

 Much like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the Peace Framework provides a structure that helps us understand the components of a broader concept. It breaks down something that can be difficult to grasp into pieces that are much easier to understand. 

  1. Place:  
    • Your environment, whether physical, mental, or social. 
    • Your place can impact your peace for the positive or negative. 
  2. Provision: 
    • Your belongings and monetary provisions that sustain you.  
    • Whether you have enough or not enough, the worry of providing for yourself and your family impacts your peace. 
  1. Physical Health 
    • Your well-being, safety, and mental stability.  
    • In times of sickness, whether physical or mental, people often experience a lack of peace.  

Each piece of the peace framework is applicable to everyone, regardless of where you live or your socioeconomic status. Helpful frameworks are broadly applicable and are easily adaptable to nearly anyone’s experience.  

 This series will delve deeper into each aspect of the peace framework and how we can apply the concepts to our lives, along with biblical knowledge, for a more peaceful and joy-filled life.  

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Digging Deeper into the Word Spiritual Development

That Sinking Feeling

Author: Rachel Kidd

Jesus Walks on Water 

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.  

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said.   

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”  

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.  

Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” –Matthew 14:25-29  

Many of us heard this bible story retold to us in Sunday School as kids, intended to encourage our budding faith in Christ. I don’t think it occurred to me then how miraculous, how frightening it would be to truly see someone walk on water in front of me.  

Sinking Feeling 

When I was 16, I had the privilege of traveling to Israel on a school trip. That incredible experience connected me in a very tangible way to the Bible that I grew up reading, making it come alive.  

My group took a bus to the Dead Sea, a greatly anticipated final stop on our educational tour. In our swimsuits and sandals, our tour guide made sure we understood that the salt concentration in the water would be unlike anything we’ve experienced before and would make our bodies buoyant. 

As prepared as I thought I was, I cannot quite describe to you the shock I felt when I slipped into the oily, crystalized water. Like a ball of dough being dropped in hot oil, you don’t sink. Instead, the thick water immediately pushes you back up and cradles you on the surface.  

 I had never felt anything like it, floating on the Dead Sea. It defies logic, upends everything you thought you knew, the principles of the universe you previously believed were concrete and unchanging.  

I can imagine that even though the disciples knew that Jesus performed miracles, seeing Him walk across the water would have been incredibly shocking. Defying the laws of gravity in front of their very eyes, upending everything they thought was true.  

 I probably would have screamed too, out of fear and disbelief. I can’t even imagine Jesus then asking me to walk out to Him, asking me to suspend my understanding of the world. I certainly would have been afraid, even knowing Jesus was right in front of me.  

Peter the Rock  

I think we are often judgmental of Peter, who’s failings are frequent throughout the Gospels. It can be easy to do, but we also should be mindful to remember Peter’s strengths and successes too.  

Peter was the only man in the boat on the Sea of Galilee to step off and into the storm. And yet, we only remember the fact that he sank because he took his eyes off of Jesus.  

Peter demonstrates incredible discernment, only walking on the water once he is sure that it is in fact Jesus, and that He has called him to do so.  

When Peter does stumble, he calls out to Jesus for help; “Lord save me!” and Jesus does. He models responding to Jesus’ call and asking for help when we need it.  

Peter is often the face of doubt, impulsivity, and misjudgement. But, he is also a great church leader, the one who Jesus called the rock. He becomes who Jesus called him, the Rock.  

Ordinary People, Extraordinary Purpose 

Like Peter and His other disciples, Jesus called ordinary people to His ministry. He used people who may have otherwise been discounted and ignored for His purposes, which often ran in opposition to the religious leaders of the time.  

In Mark 7, Jesus is sitting down to a meal with the Pharises.1 Instead of cleansing themselves in the proper way as per tradition, Jesus and His disciples simply sit down to eat.   

The Pharisees are appalled and rebuke Jesus, asking why He allows His followers to eat with unclean hands. Jesus takes this opportunity to teach, replying:  

“Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” 

You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions. –Mark 7:6-8 

Jesus explains that it is the soul, the inner part of man, that makes us reflections of God the Creator. It is not our outer bodies, our external appearances, our cleanliness that makes us righteous in the eyes of God.  

He then declares all food clean, again defying the Jewish tradition of eating Kosher.2  

“Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) –Mark 7:18-19 

Jesus says that nothing from the outside can defile a person, rather it is the inside that defiles them. It is not dirty hands, unclean foods, or unfit friends that we should be worried about. He instead places the blame on the internal and the spiritually dark.  

“…sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” –Mark 7: 21-23 

Jesus consistently and persistently flipped the rules and traditions of His time on their heads. He upturned natural laws like gravity even, calling Peter to walk on water and raising people from the dead.  

He calls ordinary people, people that will likely be scared by these abrupt changes to their world, to have faith. He calls even people like Peter, sinking Peter, to be the rock of the church and fulfill extraordinary purposes.  

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Can You Trust the Bible? Digging Deeper into the Word

Gospel Confidence: In an Age of Fear and Shame

Author: Charles Hegwood

Have you ever had this happen? You are talking to a friend and then an opportunity for the gospel pops into the conversation. Suddenly you are filled with a sense of dread and stress that you know you shouldn’t be feeling. You may later try to assess why you felt this way. Could it be shame? It could. Could it be fear about what to say? It could. Either way a good reminder for us today was captured by the apostle Paul almost 2,000 years ago. Paul reminds us why we should not be ashamed, but instead empowered by the gospel. That was his motivation and that should be our’s as well.  

Romans 1:15-17 is a well-known passage of Scripture. And it is vital for us in our gospel endeavors. Paul reminds us that we should be eager to share the gospel and unashamed of it because the gospel is the power and righteousness of God to save those who believe.  

Eagerness to Share the Gospel  

In verse 14, Paul told the Romans that he was obligated to share the gospel with Gentiles. This obligation is not one of burden but of mission. Like Paul, we do not remain on this Earth to simply exist and enjoy life, instead we have a mission; a gospel mission. For Paul this mission gave him an eagerness to share the gospel with the Gentiles in Rome. He longed to strengthen their faith. We never move beyond the beauty and power of the gospel. More on that later. Back to Paul. Paul was eager to get to Rome and preach the gospel. A mark of a healthy disciple is one who is eager to share the gospel with those around them. Gospel sharing is our mission. If you were wondering what to do with your life, or what God called you to do, it is simple and clear: Share the gospel with as many people as you can. And be eager to do so.  

Confident in the Gospel  

Maybe today you would say you are eager, but like I mentioned above you sometimes become nervous and maybe a little ashamed when sharing the gospel. I get nervous sometimes when I have a chance to share the gospel too. Paul’s letter to the Romans in general and these few verses in particular encourage me and I hope they encourage you as well. Why? Paul said the gospel is the “power of God.” We should not fear sharing the gospel because the power of God is displayed in it. We see that through the gospel, God has the power over sin and death. There is nothing that can overwhelm or overtake God. After all, Paul said that the gospel is the power of God to save. The gospel’s power saves a lost and dying people from a lost and dying world.  

Do not be ashamed and do not fear telling a lost and dying world there is hope in the gospel. The hope of the gospel does not balance on our ability or eloquence, though those are nice, but instead the power of the gospel rests on the shoulders of our mighty God. The gospel is His power to save. It is our mission to share it. So when you feel ashamed or when you feel fear when sharing the gospel, remind yourself of this great reality. Remind yourself of Romans 1:16. I am convinced that when we do remember that the gospel is the power of God to save, we will have confidence to share with our friends and family.  

The Scope of the Gospel 

We should be confident in sharing the gospel because it is God’s power to save. But save whom we may ask. “To save everyone who believes.” Paul talked about his obligation in verse 14, and we can call that mission. Paul talked about his eagerness in verse 15 and we can call that motivation. He talks about his confidence in the gospel as the power of God in verse 16, and we can call that encouragement. Then he expressed his hope and scope of the gospel. Paul’s motivation and confidence is that God has the power to save all that come to Him in faith. It is our mission, confidence and motivation to take that power and hope to all people. The scope of the gospel is global. It knows no cultural or geographical boundaries. “First to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” Here ‘gentile’ means the rest of the world. Paul here is not creating a new scope for a new message either. The Old Testament always showed God as having a global scope to His mercy and grace. The only thing that is new is the new covenant which is grounded in the blood of Jesus. It is with this gospel that we can go to all people with confidence!  

Hope of the Gospel 

 “For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.” Our confidence to share the gospel is in our hope of the gospel. We see that the gospel is the revelation of God’s righteousness and goodness. We can be confident and unashamed because when we share the gospel we are doing more than just speaking mere words. We are revealing the righteousness, justice, and moral uprightness of God to a lost and broken world. That should inspire hope that in the sharing of the gospel the light of God shines on a dark world. Have hope as you tell people about the powerful gospel that we have an eagerness to share.   

Go In Gospel Confidence 

This is just skimming the surface of this great and deep passage of Scripture. Even in skimming we should be encouraged in our gospel ventures. Again, this is a great reminder that when we feel ashamed or fear concerning the proclamation of the gospel, we must remember what the gospel is. The gospel should drive our mission and eagerness to tell others about this great truth. It is the power and righteousness of God to save all that come to Him. We are to go to all people and introduce them to the power of God and the hope within. Let these thoughts drive you to go to friends and family and tell them of the God who has the power to save all that come to Him. Do not be ashamed of the gospel, be empowered and emboldened by it.