How to Have a Bible Party, part 4

In this final post on how to develop a personal Bible study time, I’d like to offer three additional steps for those who wish to dig deeper.

A word of advise: these steps are optional and should only be considered after spending time on Reading, Receiving, and Responding. Let God’s Word speak directly to you before researching what other people have to say about it. If you have a study Bible with notes, I’d encourage you to use self-control and avoid reading them until the very end of your study time. When we don’t fight for understanding on our own, the learning process is short circuited. God might give you an insight unique to your situation that you won’t want to miss!

There are three websites I routinely visit when studying a passage:

1. www.biblegateway.com 
Enter the verse you are studying (ex: “Luke 8:22”) in the search bar. Below the verse you will see “Luke 8:22 in all English translations”. Click on the link and 59 translations of that verse will come up. It’s helpful to read other versions to catch nuance and expanded interpretation.

For instance, the Message Version of Luke 8:22 says, “One day he and his disciples got in a boat. ‘Let’s cross the lake,’ he said. And off they went.” Did you catch the difference? It’s subtle! Jesus got them into the boat first before saying, “Let’s go.” How does that impact your thoughts on this passage?

2. app.wordsearchbible.com/reader 
This site will give you access to the original language of the scriptures (Hebrew for Old Testament, Greek for New Testament).
Go to “Library” on the left menu and choose The Holy Bible: HCSB Digital Text Edition. Then go back to the “Reader”. Choose a book, chapter and verse from the drop down menu. Then click on the Greek symbol on the top toolbar. Numbers will be added to the text which you can click on and see definitions and usage.

Example: The word “cross over” in Luke 8:22 has “G1330” above it. Click on that and you will see other words that have that same number and how often they are used in the Bible. Included in the dictionary definition of the Greek word used here is the phrase “pierce through”. How does that aid in your understanding of what Jesus was doing? (He was crossing over the lake in order to pierce through the evil that was on the other side.)

3. www.blueletterbible.org/commentaries/guzik_david
This link takes you to a commentary written by David Guzik. There are many wonderful commentaries you can choose from, but I like this one because it explains things clearly and simply. There are cultural and historical insights that we wouldn’t otherwise be aware of without the research and knowledge of other scholars.

Guzik cited this fact about Luke 8:22 — ““The Lake of Galilee is 13 miles long at its longest, and 8 miles wide at its widest. At this particular part it was about 5 miles across.” That helpful information gives details to enhance our study. The disciples rowed for 5 miles while Jesus slept!

Feel free to take or leave these extra study ideas!
I’d love to hear about resources you find!

One last word: Many people love devotionals which contain inspirational thoughts and reflections based on scripture verses. I enjoy them too, and have even written some myself. But don’t let devotionals take the place of focused time engaging with God’s Word. Consider using devotionals in the evening (or in the bathroom!).

Blessings on you as you commit to becoming a student of the Word.
May you find much joy in the journey!

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How to Have a Bible Party, part 3

Enough already. Let’s get to it!

Plan to set aside 15-20 minutes in a place where you can have some peace and quiet.* I’m a fan of early morning because it sets the tone for the day. I like getting in some Good News before being hit with the bad news. I have found that once I turn on the TV or open up the newspaper or look at the news feed on my phone, I have entered the world. My spirit needs some bolstering up before entering that war zone.

My Best Tip for Staying Consistent

This is going to sound deceptively simple, but it is surprisingly effective.

Before going to bed at night, go to your chair or desk or wherever you plan to study, and set out your Bible, notebook, pencil and glasses. Open up your Bible to the passage you plan to read in the morning. That’s it.

There is something about the open book that produces expectancy. When tempted to skip a day and snuggle down into my warm bed for some extra sleep, the image of that book waiting for me is motivating. God is waiting. To speak to me. Treasures abound. I must go.

3 Step Method: Read, Receive, Respond

Let’s walk through an example together.  Let’s say Luke 8:22-25 is your passage for the day. Some Bibles are nicely divided up into sections with headings, but you can take one verse at a time, one paragraph each day or one section per week — whatever pace you want. As you get situated, pray “Lord, open my eyes to see wonderful things in your Word.” (Psalm 199:18)

1. Read the passage slowly and deliberately. Try to read it out loud or whisper it to yourself. Then, pick one verse to zero in on and copy it word for word into your open notebook. This helps you see every word and think about the meaning.

2. Receive, or take in the verse by doing 2 things: 1) make an observation, and 2) ask a question. Write them in your notebook. Start with one observation and one question. As you progress, you might make a list of observations and questions. The point is to engage with the words.

Here is Luke 8:22 — One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out.

Possible observations:

  • It must have been a pretty big boat to hold 13 men.
  • They didn’t just take somebody else’s boat – it must have belonged to Peter or James, the fishermen.
  • Jesus was the one calling the shots, in charge.
  • The disciples obeyed without questioning.
  • Jesus had a purpose for going but the disciples didn’t know the reason.
  • One day – Jesus chose the day for this trip.
  • Today Jesus wants me to get into His boat and let Him direct the course.

Possible questions:

  • Why did Jesus want to go to the other side of the lake?
  • What was on the other side?
  • Who did the rowing?
  • Did the boat smell like fish guts?
  • What did the men in the boat see, hear, smell?
  • How far was it to the other side? How long did it take them to cross?
  • Am I willing to get into the boat with Jesus, not knowing where He’ll take me?

The observations are meant to help us enter the scene and connect with the people in it. The questions are to help us dig into the passage. Don’t worry about the answers! Gradually move from the surface to deeper, underlying meanings.

3. Respond by turning your observations and questions into a prayer. You might consider using the acronym A.C.T.S. to give some form to your prayer. Example:

  • A (Adoration) — I praise You, Lord, for knowing where this day is going. You know everything. I love that about You.
  • C (Confession) — I admit there are times when I dig in my heels and don’t want to get in the boat. Forgive me for being resistant.
  • T (Thanksgiving) — Thank You for inviting me to come with You into this day. I don’t know what’s coming, but I know You’re with me. Thank You.
  • S (Supplication) — Help me to trust Your plan, Your purpose. Help me to jump in when You say, “Let’s go!”

There it is. Copy a verse, write an observation and a question, pray a 4-sentence prayer, and you have the beginning of a life-long habit of hearing God’s Word and letting it work its way into your heart and life.

Next Up: 3 Additional Steps to Deeper Study

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*15-20 minutes of peace and quiet are attainable for some people, but not everyone. If you are a mom of a newborn, in a household with several “littles”, or transitioning in life, you are in a season when personal study time is challenging. Grace abounds for you! There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! Snatching a prayer time during a 2:00 a.m. feeding or singing a praise song in the shower may be all you can manage for now. Someday, bigger blocks of time will come your way. Stay faithful in the small things now!

How to Have a Bible Party, part 2

Where Do I Start?

The old adage, “If you fail to plan, you can plan to fail,” is especially true when trying to develop a personal Bible study and devotion time. It doesn’t need to be a detailed or complicated plan, just a loose guide to help keep you on track. There’s not one right way to do this. Different personality types will be drawn to different methods, systems, or tools. Regardless of your temperament, regular time in God’s Word will prove to be life-changing.

Ephesians 4:16 says, “Grow and build yourself up…” God wants His people to step up and take some responsibility instead of depending on others to feed them spiritually. I’ll offer some suggestions but you can tweak them to fit your preferences. It may take some trial and error and you may want to change things up from season to season. Just start!

Where to start?
Ask God. You might be drawn to a book of the Bible after hearing a sermon or a podcast or a song — follow that lead. If you don’t sense any direction, start with one of the gospels. There’s wisdom in spending time in the gospels. We need to watch Jesus, hear His words, keep falling in love with Him. Some people think the gospels are “JV” material and that studying the deep theology in Paul’s letters is for the mature. I beg to differ. Get a front row seat and watch the Master. Start with Mark (the shortest gospel and most action-packed) or Luke (the only gospel written by a Gentile for a non-Jewish audience).

If you’d rather start with a shorter book, try Philippians, James or 1 John. You can’t go wrong! The main thing is to pick one and go straight through the book, taking a small passage or paragraph at a time. (Details coming in next post.)

There are two methods I would not recommend for personal study.

1. The Flip and Point Method
You are looking for help with a problem, so you flip open the Bible, close your eyes and land your finger on the page. This is not a good plan. This is how cults start because it is easy to take words out of context and make the Bible say anything you want. For instance, if your finger lands on Matthew 27:5 (“Judas went out and hanged himself”) and then for a second swipe at it, you land on Luke 10:37 (“Go and do likewise”), you could make a case for something the Bible doesn’t actually say. Context is key. Stay put in the same book for a while. Soak in it, savor it, take your time.

2. The Read Through the Bible in a Year Method
There is nothing wrong with reading the Bible from cover to cover. It’s just not conducive to lingering over passages and it’s hard to engage with the scripture at the pace required to get through it in one year. This is not a race. Take a long term view. Read slowly and deliberately. Volume doesn’t equal blessing. God want us to enjoy this!

Next: How to Have a Bible Party, part 3
My Best Tip for Staying Consistent
My 3 Step Method: Read, Receive, Respond

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How to Have Bible Party, part 1

Recently I led a one-hour class at our church on how to have a Bible party (a.k.a. a personal study and devotion time). The response was very positive.

Thank you so much for the class last night. It’s exactly what I was looking for! Everyone who goes to our church should have been there! It is that important!

I might need a bigger notebook. This just makes you more hungry for the Word!

Then I saw this comment:

I couldn’t make it, but would love the syllabus!

Umm, there was no syllabus.

However, I did give everyone the essential tools for putting on a great Bible party — a blank spiral notebook, a sharp pencil and a Bible. I believe with all my heart that developing the habit of consistent time in God’s Word is an absolute key to growing spiritually. Over the next few days, I’ll share the gist of what we talked about at the class.

It’s time to par-tay.

Bible sparkles

Three things to get straight before we dig in:

1. The Bible is about Jesus, not you. The goal in studying is not to find yourself in the pages, but to find God. This is not a self-help book where you will find 10 steps to your best life. When you open the Bible, you are putting yourself in a position to receive so much more. Moses said it: “These are not just idle words for you, they are your life.” Deut. 32:47

Study time is not meant to be like an ATM machine, where you withdraw a tidbit to get you through the day. Instead, think of it as making deposits into a savings account that will provide you with an astounding return on your investment.

2. The purpose of studying the Bible is not to accumulate information and facts so you can impress everyone at your next small group discussion. “God has not given the deep things to the smartest people, but to the most eager people.” (Matt Chandler) The goal to grow in biblical understanding is never to say, “I have answers,” but to say, “I love God more than ever.”

3. We desperately need a solid grounding in The Word. In a confusing culture where truth is relative, we need to anchor ourselves in God’s truth. The current secular worldview believes truth is inside of us and is ever-changing. In reality, the truth is outside of us and is fixed. If we give 90% of our time and attention to the world’s interpretation of truth, we will become confused with a skewed understanding. Instead, we need to steep ourselves in the Bible, root ourselves in its teaching, take a stand on its solid ground.

When officials at the federal Bureau of Engraving and Printing are trained to spot counterfeit money, they only study the real thing. They don’t pour over every fake dollar bill. By knowing the genuine article inside and out, anything false that comes along is easily identified. Let’s do the same and commit to becoming students of the Real Thing.

Next:
How to Have a Bible Party, part 2: Where Do I Start?

Spinning Wheel

Today, I found this gem.

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The chore spinner.

Obviously, Jake was too small to contribute at the time.

Or maybe he was just the 4th child,
the baby of the family,
whose only job was to be cute.

Seeing this piece of history made me smile at how things have changed.

All that free labor has now become management.
They are teaching their own kids to set, clear, load and sweep.

Thank goodness I still have PB.
He’s making real progress.
I cook and he cleans up.
No spinning required.

Arbor Day

Last year, I declared Arbor Day to be the official holiday of the Biddick siblings. My two brothers, my sister, their spouses and PB and I gathered around the table for a meal and to catch up.

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We don’t get together for major holidays anymore. There are 29 grandchildren between the four of us, so the inevitable branching out has taken place, as it should. Yet, long stretches of time can go by without us seeing each other. We needed our own holiday. Arbor Day was perfect.

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Our grandfather was a tree man. Grandpa was chosen as “Woodsman of the Year” in 1982, at the age of 87. He loved trees and owned timber land in Mississippi and Wisconsin, where he operated a logging and timber sawing business for many years. He planted hundreds of trees in his lifetime.

This year, Arbor Day also happened to fall on what would have been our mother’s birthday. I think she would’ve been pleased to know we reminisced and laughed together over memories on her birthday.

I used the “farm dishes” for this year’s 2nd annual gathering. When my siblings saw the table settings, there was a collective “ahhhh”. These were our “Sunday only” dishes — usually piled with roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy, peas and homemade dinner rolls.

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It’s good to spend a day with people you love.
I hope you had a happy Arbor Day.
Mine was pretty great.

Word of Triumph #6

Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Revelation 5:11-12

   Angels took heavenly messages to Zechariah, to Mary and to Joseph, setting up the King’s arrival on earth. They announced the birth of the Messiah to lowly shepherds. Perhaps they watched over the Christ Child as he grew from an infant to a toddler to a young boy. Angels tended to Jesus after His forty day fast and confrontation in the wilderness with Satan. These celestial beings strengthened Christ after He wrestled with the crushing decision to go to the cross.

   I wonder if they watched in horror as their Lord writhed in pain from nails and thorns and verbal abuse. Did they look at the Father, hoping He would give them a sign to go and rescue the Beloved Son? Were they perplexed as to why He would go to such lengths for those simple and crude creatures who didn’t return His love?

   Angels do the Lord’s bidding, usually in quiet, behind-the-scenes ways. But when the Lamb of God and Lion of Judah enters the throne room of heaven as Victor, the heavenly beings will not be able to contain themselves. Too many to count, they will lift up a song with such loud voices, the skies will reverberate. They will add as many words as they can think of to heap on their praise.

   Jewish rabbis in the ancient world believed that whenever people gathered together to sing hymns of praise to God, they were joining their voices with the perpetual music of heaven. So let’s jump in.

   Worthy is our Jesus — worthy of power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise and ….. and…… and……

Lord, I’d like to add my voice to the throng singing Your praise. Well done! You fought the good fight and won the day! Bravo! Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.  

 

Thank you for reading along on this Lenten journey! Blessings on your Holy Week observance and your Resurrection Day celebration!