Month: January 2016

Digging Deeper into the Word

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Are you looking for new or better ways to help you dig deeper into the Word of God? Then maybe you’d like to hear about a couple of resources I have discovered recently.

The first is Katie Orr, a blogger and Bible study leader. I can’t remember how I found her blog, but I am so glad I did. Katie excels in helping people to use just a few minutes a day to dig into a small portion of Scripture and to bring up the gems hidden there. You really need to take a look at her blog, particularly the Resources tab. My favorite part of Katie’s resources is the Online Bible Study Tools. Not only is a great to have this list of Bible study tools, but Katie teaches how to use the tools effectively.

But Katie has more than a blog – she now has three FOCUSed15 Bible studies in print. Everyday Faith: Drawing Near to His Presence, Everyday Hope: Holding Fast to His Promise, and Everyday Love: Bearing Witness to His Purpose. In these three books, Katie helps us to study the Word with her FOCUSed 15 Study Method.

Foundation: Enjoy Every Word

Observation: Look at the Details

Clarification: Uncover the Original Meaning

Utilization: Discover the Connections in Scripture

Summation: Respond to God’s Word

Are you reading those big words and then thinking, “I don’t have time for this!”? Think again, because one of the really great things about Katie’s method is that because you are only studying a small portion of Scripture each week, you can finish the study in 15 minutes 5 days a week! If you have more than 15 minutes to spend, Katie offers Bonus Studies every day. You have time for this, no matter what season of life you are in.

The second resource I have discovered is also flexible according to the amount of time you may have to invest in digging deeper every day. Scripture Typer Bible Memory System is a website and an app that will help you to memorize Scripture.

Now, I have to admit that when I first saw that the idea is to type the verse in order to memorize it, I thought that there was no way it would work for me. How could I learn the verse when I was busy typing it? I’m happy to say I am wrong and that the system really does work.

There are three steps.

The first is Type It. The entire verse is displayed and you just type it. On the app, you only type the first letter of each word.

Step 2 is Memorize It. The verse is displayed with every other word missing. You type the entire verse including the missing words. Then you get to try it again with the opposite words missing.

Step 3 is Master It. None of the verse is displayed and you type the whole thing from memory. Don’t worry  – you can still get hints and there are prompts when you make a mistake.

The program also gives you regular reminders to review the verses you have already learned. And one more bonus – you can join groups of people who are all memorizing the same verses/passages.

Why don’t you give one or both of these Bible study resources a try and let me know what you think? Do you have other resources you’d like to share? Let me know.

Read, Read, Read!

Read, Read, Read 2

At least as far back as junior high I have had a “books to read” list.

Elementary school, junior high and high school – I read everything I could find. And I loved the books that had lists of suggested books on the last pages. My first “books to read” lists were born from the back of high school library books.

Nowadays my “books to read” list gets longer and longer (I can never read all these books!)so I have tried to make some sense of it.

Two years ago, after John Stott died, I decided to read everything of his that I could get my hands on. Last year, my goal was less specific – it was just to read 75 books in a year. That was the year I was first introduced to Goodreads. This year, well, I’ve gone a little crazy and a lot less focused. My reading goal for 2016 has at least three parts.

First, I am now addicted to Goodreads and, of course, had to increase my goal to 80 books in a year. (By the way, Stephen King says he is a slow reader and only reads about 75 books a year!)

Second, eleven years ago I bought a book called The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had. It’s a reading program for adults which takes you through classic novels, autobiographies, histories, history with drama, and poetry. The idea is to journal while reading, so it took me about three years to get through the novel and autobiography lists, after which I got bogged down with history.

The first book on the history list is The Histories by Herodotus. The idea of keeping a journal while reading The Histories was just too much for my brain. If I had been paying for graduate courses and getting a grade, I would have soldiered on, but this was too much. So I put the book away and forgot about it. This year I decided to stifle my rule-keeping self and start on the list and forget the journal-keeping part of the program. So, one book on the history list per month.

Third, I am on a J.R.R. Tolkien/C.S. Lewis kick. I’ve been a Tolkien fan since the mid-70’s, but never branched beyond The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. As for Lewis, I’ve read a book here and a book there, but in December I read his Space Trilogy and saw that I needed to read and learn more of him.

A book I read over Christmas break renewed my interest in Tolkien – A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War: How J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship, and Heroism in the Cataclysm of 1914-18. It was a fascinating book that helped me to see where Middle Earth came into being. One more book – the one I am currently reading – The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings has solidified my determination to devour as much Tolkien and Lewis as I can this year.

This is how my “books to read” list for 2016 evolved and I am sure it isn’t finished changing and growing.

What about you? Do you have a “books to read” list? How do you decide what goes on the list? Do you stick to it or do you let it blow up like I do?

Community 101

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When my youngest son went to boot camp, I got an unexpected lesson in community.

You must understand that when your child goes to Marine boot camp, other than a frantic, scripted 30 second phone call, you have no contact with him for three weeks. And, even then contact is limited to sporadic letters.

That first three weeks seems endless!

To help parents through their suffering, a couple of Facebook groups have been established. I immediately joined one.

Now, I am not very patient when it comes to Facebook groups, especially with people I don’t know from Adam. However, this group was my lifeline for 13 weeks and it taught me a lot about community.

Looking back, I learned five lessons.

  1. Don’t judge ignorantly.

  2. Don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought.

  3. Recognize the worth of others.

  4. Be willing to learn from others.

  5. Look for ways to bless others rather than expecting them to bless you.

There are, of course, many stories behind these lessons. This Facebook group was an amazing mixture of people – every ethnicity, every religion, every standard of living, every level of education. You name it – I’m pretty sure our group had it. But we all had in common a group of young men in boot camp in San Diego, California. For most members, it was their first experience, but others had sent sons once or even twice before. Some were handling the experience stoically while others were posting desperate pleas for help almost from the very beginning.

I have to admit that my first reaction to the desperate ones was “buck up and get over yourself.” By the end of the 13 weeks, I was very glad that I had never publicly said anything of the kind to someone whose story I did not know. Learning not to judge ignorantly means that before I know a person’s story I have no right to judge them in relation to my own story.

My story is no more right or valid than that of anyone else. Therefore, it is ridiculous for me to think more highly of myself than of others. With that point of view, it is easier to see the worth of another person and to learn from that person.

It wasn’t until the end of the 13 weeks that these lessons actually pounced on me. One of the women was constantly posting negativity and she was getting on my last nerve.

Until…she shared with a small group that she had had cancer and it was back. She wasn’t sure that she was going be able to make the trip to California for graduation both because of her physical condition and because of the financial strain of medical bills. My heart sank. I had been judging this mom for weeks because she didn’t see things the way I did…and I didn’t know her at all.

The women in that group who had supported her all along jumped right in with words of hope and support. I guiltily added a few words too, but I mostly watched as women who had never met each other did all they could to bless a hurting mother. They had learned that this group was a place for them to support others more than they were supported themselves.

During that long 13 weeks, I had been studying the book of Philippians, getting ready to teach it in the fall.

It was all there, already written down by Paul so long ago.

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3

I knew that verse, but I didn’t know how far away I was from practicing it.

John Calvin, in his Commentary on Philippians, says that humility is

“the mother of moderation, yielding up our own right, we give the preference to others, and are not easily thrown into agitation.”

I wasn’t giving the preference to others and I was being thrown into agitation.

The dictionary says that humility is esteeming yourself less than others. And, in case you were wondering, it says that esteem is thinking very highly or favorably of or setting a high value on someone or something.

I don’t naturally think more highly of people I don’t understand. Apparently, Calvin had the same struggle for he wrote, “Now, if anything in our whole life is difficult, this above everything else is so.”

So, is there an answer? Is there a path to living in community with people we don’t understand?

May I suggest a couple of steps – a Community 101, if you will?

  1. Correctly view the gifts God has so graciously given us. My story has been given to me by God. He has molded and crafted me according to His plan. And the purpose for that molding and crafting was not to make me self-centered and unable to value others. My gifts were meant to work in community with others.
  2. Correctly view how imperfect and weak we truly are. Judging others against my own sinful standards is rather ridiculous.
  3. Correctly view the value of other people as creations of God. We are all gifted as He determined and yet flawed by sin.

If I consistently think through these steps, I believe that I will better learn how to live in community as God planned it – counting others more significant than myself.

As Eeyore put it,

“A little consideration, a little thought for others makes all the difference.”

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