Diving Deeper into God’s Word 

imageI’ve been enjoying sharing some of my bible study methods in this blog series! Today I want to share some ways I dive deeper into God’s Word, and interact with it so I can better understand and apply it to my life.

It can be so discouraging to sit down with your bible, read it, and walk away feeling unmoved and  unchanged.  Sometimes all I have to do is read it and I hear God loud and clear. Other times, I have to dive below the surface, looking deeper to hear His voice.

The bible was originally recorded in the native language of the people who revorded it; Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.  If you want to dive deeper into bible study, then studying these languages is a great place to start.  You don’t have to learn the language, you can look into the word meanings and synonyms of the verse you are studying and gain a better insight in just a few minutes.  Let me show you how!

Pick a verse of scripture you would like to dive deeper into. For this post, I’ll be using John 15:8).

Then go to the Blue Letter Bible website.  Type in the verse and hit the green search button.image

Once you get to the chapter, click on the “verse address” again.  In this case, it was “Jhn 15:8.”

Here’s where it  can get tricky.  Click on the combo of a lower case letter and numbers under the “Strong’s” column of the word you would like to dig deeper into.


Now, you have found the REALLY GOOD STUFF!  This is where you get to see the Greek (in this case because it’s New Testament) word, listen to it pronounced if you would like, see it’s part of speech, other words in English used in the bible that came from this word, synonyms of this word, its definition, and every verse of the bible this root word shows up in.  This is the deep.  You could study the word “glorified” through this one page for hours and have your socks knocked off by how glorious our God is.

I really cannot downplay how much I love studying the Word in this way.  I have been using it for years.   It is the resource I use to write bible studies.  But it is not just for writing bible studies.
I use it in my personal quiet time too, to dive deeper and just KNOW GOD MORE DEEPLY.  Here’s how:

I pick words that are intriguing to me out of the verse.  Then, I write down the words that are listed under the “Strong’s Definition” to expand on the concept of this word, and help me really wrap my mind around what the Lord was trying to teach us when he included this in scripture.  For example, in this verse, the word “glorified” could also be translated “magnify.”  So I took away that I want to show how God is working in big ways even in small things, like a magnifying glass would magnify something.  Just by interchanging those two words, I was able to take that illustration with me and think on it all day, asking God to be magnified through little ol’ me.

The words I studied next were: disciples, produce, and fruit.

After I finish expanding on the most intriguing words in the verse, I use those words to paraphrase the verse, and I turn it into a prayer.  I really just ask God do whatever the verse at hand says.

I hope this post has inspired you to dive deeper into the Word on your own!  I just cannot relay enough how much I love this website!  I have a humongous concordance sitting on the shelf  that does the same thing, but having it at your fingertips to click is so much more convenient!

Have you ever used this site before?  What are your favorite websites to dive deeper into God’s Word?  I want to hear about it!  Comment below!

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Memorizing Scripture to Light Your Path

It was so dark that my flashlight was shedding just enough brightness to see the next steps in front of us.  The stars were shinning but they were only good for pretty jewels to look at in the heavens.  The crickets were singing their lullabies, but I wasn’t wrapped up snugly in my covers.  At 5:30 am yesterday, I was pounding the pavement, running 15 miles with my husband on his birthday.  That’s right, 15 miles!

But when your favorite smiles that smile at you and says,

“All I want for my birthday is for your to run that 15 mile run with me,”  you do it.  (Well, if you are me you do it, my friends at dinner last night had a different answer if their husband said this!  lol)

Running has always been a time for me to meditate on scripture, clear my head, and pray.  The Holy Spirit brought this scripture to my mind first, followed by a flood of others:

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet
and a light for my path.

Psalm 119:105

I saw this verse of scripture alive right in from of me.

 His Word, my light, revealing just enough of what I needed to see for my next two,three, or sometimes just the next step ahead.

We rounded the corner of the trail, where tall trees hovered over us on both sides, and it became even darker.  

“What if I didn’t have this light?  I would have to quit, because I’d be scared to death to trip and fall on a twig or worse, step on a snake!”

Have you ever been here friends?  Have you found yourself on a path (maybe even one that you were certain you followed Jesus on) and felt surrounded by darkness, and danger, trembling in fear?  Did you have His Word hidden in your heart?  Did the Spirit bring it to mind and give you enough light, faith, and hope to take the next step?

I have been there so many times!

Stuck in Africa, alone, separated from my family for months to finish our adoption process. Dark.  Scary.  But He  shed just enough light through his Word day by day to stay the course.

 Motherhood.  Do I need to expand on this?!

Ministry.  Living on half the salary that we used to. That was scary with some dark days.

Marriage. Let’s be honest, it’s not always easy.

There have been and are going to be some dark days.  And on those dark days, it’s going to be so much easier to grab our flashlight and shine it if we know where it is and how to use it!  And even easier if we have his Word hidden in our hearts (memorized) so all we have to do is recall it to mind, having a built in light to direct us when the path ahead is hard to see and treacherous.

So, here are some of my favorite ways to memorize scripture:

Write a verse on an index card.

 Highlight the key words (no more than 3 or 4).

 Memorize the highlighted words.

Use the highlighted words to be a springboard for recalling the words following.

Memorize a passage of scripture:

Print out the passage or chapter of scripture.

Highlight the key words in each verse of the passage.

Memorize a verse a day, as you carry the printed page with you wherever you go.  Pull it out of your purse instead of your phone when you have free moments.

 It’s amazing how His Word will transform your mind!  If you know it by heart, you can think on it wherever you are, and He will give you just enough light for the next steps on your journey!

Your Fellow Sojourner,

Amy ❤

Bible Study & Prayer 101: How To Read The Bible 

What would I tell someone who wanted to read the bible for the first time ever or just get back to the basics of bible study?

Reading the Word of God is so important to me. I could make a list of twenty different verses before I get started as to why I feel this way. But I will start with one:

But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” Matthew 4:4 NLT

Jesus was responding to the enemy who was trying to get him to turn rocks into loaves of bread when he was starving hungry.  It’s the way I feel every morning.  If I don’t get some of the Word with my coffee, I am hungry for something lasting that is not going to be consumable and dissipated by the end of the hour or the end of the day.  I need the Word to REFOCUS {pun intended} on what really matters, or else I will be running on empty by the time I reach the bottom of my coffee cup.  Sometimes it may be a quick read on the bible app on my phone.  This was my Word life when my babies were really babies.  But now I can count on them sleeping until at least 7:00am, so I have time to sit down and really drink Jesus in while the house is still quiet.  When I was thinking of what I would want to tell a friend face to face about getting back to the basics of bible study, this is where the Lord directed me:

 Get a  bible you like.  (If you can’t understand “thou shalt” and giveth and taketh, please for the love do not, I repeat, DO NOT TRY TO READ THAT BIBLE!  I think this prevents many, many people from reading the bible.  They have heard people say things like “King James Version” is the only true translation.

Here’s what I have to say about that:  Jesus spoke in a way the people surrounding him would understand.   The Word made flesh used words that were relatable personally to everyday people. He spoke and taught using parables that the crowds would internalize.  When he spoke to fisherman, he told stories about fishing for people.  When he was with shepherds, he spoke of sheep and following the Shepherd.

So please, find freedom to read a bible you can understand.  My favorite is the New Living Translation, which is a very modern language that is very similar to the way I speak.  I also enjoy looking at the Message Paraphrase.  My sweet husband got me a journaling bible for Christmas, and it is an ESV.  I tried ya’ll, I really did.  And I still reference  BIG BERT ( my hugemongous ESV study bible my home church gave me) {Big Bertha’s brother} at times.  But the Lord knows my mind wanders when I read it.

I would also suggest a bible that has footnotes and introductions to the different books, so that you are able to gain background knowledge of the person who wrote the book (through the inspiration and breath of God) and about the context of what was taking place during that time in history.

AND

Get a journal so you can remember what jumps out at you while you read and so that you can pray while you take notes.  Even if you can’t get into prayer journaling, writing down what you hear God speak to you is very important.

I always have a book I am “in.” I was in the prophets (middle of the bible) recently.  But my husband started a sermon series on Colossians so I jumped over there with him so I could follow along deeply and have more oneness with him.

Generally, I read a chapter a day.

From my own experience, I think spending a few minutes in prayer changes my perspective and allows me to {acknowledge the teacher} before I dive in.

“God I don’t know what to do about this…”

And a lot of times I confess things I have a poor attitude  about, “Lord, these kids are some messy children!”

And then I begin reading with purpose. 

I’m looking and listening for situations that are similar to things happening in my life. 

When I see a verse that fits that description, I write it down. I highlight it. Then I pray it over my situation and my family, my friends, etc.

I don’t leave the verse there. I memorize it, write it on a post it, take a pic of it on my phone, or stage my bible or journal somewhere I can remember, think, and pray about it throughout my day. 

Don’t you get hungry for snacks during the day? I get “hangry” (hungry/angry) without enough real food and without Word nourishment throughout my day. If I have memorized that one verse that stuck out to me, I can chew on it for hours and ingest a little at a time. It’s amazing how much God teaches me and helps me apply and live out by thinking about his Word.

“For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” Hebrews 4:12

The next post, I will go beyond the basics about how I dig deeper in the Word.

Deeper= knowing Jesus better! ❤

 

 

 

The Bible as a Textbook: The Greatest Story Ever

When I was in college, I took a class called “Literary Study of the Bible.” The entire semester we studied Proverbs, Psalms, and Eccelesiates for their literature quality alone. I have to admit, it was amazing. Inside the books of the bible you will find the most exciting stories, deepest metaphors, and most heartfelt letters that  have ever been composed. Each of the 66 books can stand alone as stories that seem larger than life…Because they are. 

The One who breathed the breath of life into Adam breathed every word written in scripture through the hand of a willing servant who penned it to paper, or scrolls :). This is the only explanation how all 66 books of the bible fit together in harmony. All the stories found in it tell a much bigger story, one whose main character is whispered throughout, sometimes so subtly that a reader can barely hear it spoken. But the more you read it, the louder his voice becomes.

“All Scripture is God-breathed…”

 2 Timothy  3:16

Maybe it’s because I am obsessed with good, timeless literature right now because I’m in the throngs of homeschooling my elementary-aged children, but for whatever reason, I can’t quit thinking about the Word of God as one long story; the story of Jesus from Genesis to Revelation.

This is the level my daughters are at of understanding the bible. I want them to see the beauty of His Word fully from beginning to end. {I’m reading “The Jesus Story Book Bible” to them now and it is such a good fit for this}. This is where I would encourage anyone to start:

Read the bible from cover to cover. (or chronologically) if you never have before. This first time I did this, it revolutionized my understanding of The Word. I printed off a chronological reading plan from the Internet, and simply read. I didn’t always understand what in the world was going on, and sometimes I skipped over weird names, but I kept going. It took me almost two years instead of one, but I finished. And afterwards, I sat back and thought, I get it now. This happened and then this happened and then that happened. 

The cross happened

All of it leads to the cross and then looks back at the cross. Jesus was always going to die for us and after he did, everything else would look back at a love so great that it would sacrifically, voluntarily and undeservedly die for the people he created. All the wayward sinners leading up to this point would cry out for a need to be cleansed by his blood.  Everything else would look back at a power so strong, it overcame death and returned to life.

As I read it, I realized it was the best story ever told, but that it was also

more than just a story. 

In post 3, I’ll be sharing how as I read it, it changed my life even before I had a great understanding of the story from start to finish. It will change your heart, your perspective ,  your days, and your life–even before you have a great grasp of its entirety. So grab a cup of your favorite, consult with your teacher {The Holy Spirit} and dig in to the greatest true story ever. ❤

Bible Study & Prayer 101: Meet the Teacher

Summer is almost officially over. Ugh, as depressing as that sentence is for me to write, I am pressing forward and getting excited about pumpkin spice lattes and scarves and school.  I’ve always been a teacher: first to stuffed animals, then real human children, and now to my own human children as a homeschool mom.  Plus, once a week, I teach a class of first graders at the homeschool co-op we are a part of.

About three weeks ago, we had back to school orientation and meet the teacher night.  I bought a few little tubs of play dough, made a list of rules and a letter introducing myself and we were all set.  I waited for my fresh little pupils to walk through the classroom door and wondered what the were thinking.  Were they nervous?  Were they going to size me up and figure out how to push my buttons and take over the class?   Were they going to give me hugs and tell me they were so excited for me to be their teacher?

Well, it was a pretty uneventful night.  They came in quietly and we exchanged names and a few words.  Then they played calmly with their play dough and went home.  A few days later we had a successful first day of first grade full of learning new things and growing friendships.

But what if THIS would have happened on the first day of school instead:  The children walked in, I had all the books and materials sitting on the tables, with a note that said,

“Let me know when you’re ready to learn.  I’ll be sitting in my chair, waiting to teach you everything you need to learn today.”

Well, you know some of them would be stubborn.  They would want to teach themselves because they already think  they know it all.

Some of them would be overwhelmed and decided they would rather play all day instead.

And so I,  the teacher, would just sit and wait.  I would sit and watch them waste their time that could be used gaining so much valuable knowledge for life.  I would lovingly watch them open their books and try to figure out how to read all by themselves, and my heart would hurt because I would want to help them.

I think this is how Jesus feels when we sit down to read our bibles without acknowledging him as our teacher.  Without realizing that HE IS IN THE ROOM WITH US.

I am guilty of this.

I walk to the coffee pot like a zombie, reach the couch, open up my bible and not once do I pray  to the One who is in fact the bible made flesh.  The One who knows exactly what I need to learn and remember for the day ahead.  The One who knows my needs before I even ask them.  I just read away, highlight some insightful sounding verses, jot some notes down that seem good, and check bible reading off my to do list for the day.

And I wonder why I rise from the couch to feed the masses in my house with a grumpy attitude and an unchanged heart!

BUT there are some mornings that go down like this:  I walk like a zombie to the coffee pot (that part is guaranteed), and I sit down and worship for a moment.  I look at this book and realize GOD wrote it.  He wrote it and he is alive–  like in the room with me at the moment.

–THE AUTHOR OF THE BIBLE IS IN THE ROOM WITH ME AS I READ IT.–

This is a profound thought.  I know I didn’t come up with it;  because my eight year old told me.  {But out of the mouths of babes, right?} This is a huge, I say paramount truth about reading the bible that should revolutionize a dry bible reading experience.

In John chapter 14, Jesus promises the Holy Spirit to his believers.

6 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you…

26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will TEACH you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.  John 14:26

Without the Holy Spirit, we are like first graders trying to teach ourselves. We aren’t going to grow very much.  We can copy phrases or verses, but we are not going to acclimate the material into our lives.  We need his help.  So what do we do?

  1.  Make sure you know your bible teacher.  Have you met Jesus?  I’m not asking if you are baptist or catholic.  I am asking if you know him.  He doesn’t care what you’ve done or where you’ve been.  He loves you and is waiting patiently for you to reach out and get to know him.  So if you don’t know him, now’s the time!  Introduce yourself to him now even though your eyes can’t see him.  Let him know you believe in Him and want to get to know him better.
  2. Acknowledge the Holy Spirit’s presence and worship the Lord before you read the Bible.  This does not necessarily mean you have to turn your favorite worship song on and raise your hands and sway side to side!  This is a matter of the heart.  Pray and talk to God before you open up your bible to read.  Acknowledge He is near, reflect on the fact that He is God, and give him praise for it!
  3. Ask God to show you what He wants you to learn from His Word for today.   As the scripture above tells us, the Spirit will guide us into all truth.  We don’t have to know everything about the bible before we sit down to read it.  Our teacher is with us.  He will show us what we need to learn for today. Then, tomorrow, he will teach us what we need to know for tomorrow. Isn’t that a relief?

Can you believe what a Good Teacher He really is?  He didn’t leave us by ourselves to figure out this enormous bible all on our own.  And it is a good thing.  Because we would have been missing out big time.  The treasures inside of it are more valuable than anything we could desire. So meet the teacher and enjoy His Word!  Check back next week for more posts on this series, or click the follow button to receive them via email. Praying it blesses your personal bible study!

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Study &  Book Club Ideas

Hello lovelies! I hope your summer has been the perfect mix of restful and adventurous thus far. How’s your soaking in of God’s Word been lately?

I’ll tell you how mine’s been. At the start of the summer, some ladies from my home church decided to have a casual bible study in the book of 1 John on a back porch while our kids all played in sight in the backyard.

Pros of this idea:

We didn’t need babysitters.

We didn’t take away from evening family time.

It was so nice & laid back!

Cons of this idea:

The kids were still there & some moms had a hard time focusing or were interrupted a lot.

One little boy got hurt & broke his arm on the swing set! 😦

After this group concluded and BASKING ended, I felt the nudge from the Spirit to read Hosea, and ladies, I loved it to pieces.

The theme that occurred to me over and over was just how good of a Father God is. He loves Israel & loves us so much, that he will allow us to wander into the wilderness, just like he allowed Israel to. Only so we can see our desperate need for him and be wooed back into his loving arms.

“I led Israel along with my ropes of kindness and love.  I lifted the yoke from his neck, and I myself stooped to feed him.”  Hosea 11:4

Another thing reading Hosea did for me was just get me excited about reading full books of the bible. To dig into the context of why it was written, who wrote it, what was happening when it was written, etc. The Word is so rich when you are able to study it layer by layer.

This book had me take a hard look at myself & my idols. I don’t have statues sitting around on shelves, but I had things taking God’s place in my heart & he was oh so faithful to point them out! Per usual, he helped me make a list of changes that needed to happen.

“So now, come back to the LORD your GOD!  Act on the principles of love and justice, and always live in confident dependence on the Lord your God.” Hosea 12:6

One action I needed to take was to dive back in to a bible study for my daughters and a group of their friends. Not just any old bible study,

{{Princess Bible  Study.}}


They wear princess dresses.  We talk about being daughters of the King of Kings and how that is a reality they can be sure of in this ever-changing world.

I LOVE the verses we have learned so far.  They answer the questions every girl will ask themselves.

WHO am I?  

Answer:

“I am CHOSEN. ROYAL {PRINCESS}. HOLY. A SPECIAL TREASURE TO GOD.

 But God chose you to be his people. You are royal priests. You are a holy nation. You are God’s special treasure. You are all these things so that you can give him praise. God brought you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9

I wish you could hear their sweet little voices saying it in their tiaras!

WHAT makes me beautiful?  

“My beauty’s on the inside, inside, inside, a gentle quiet spirit is precious to God.”

Instead, your beauty comes from inside you. It is the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. Beauty like this doesn’t fade away. God places great value on it. 1 Peter 3:4

What’s most important in life?  

“Love the Lord with all your heart, all your heart, all your heart, your soul and your mind.” Matthew 22:37

I’ve used a few resources for inspiration for what I’ve taught these little princesses, and I’ve included the links below:

http://www.adisneymomsthoughts.com/2011/11/faith-and-disney-little-mermaid.html

http://www.currclick.com/product/83448/Summer-Girls-Study-Being-a-Princess-of-the-KIng-of-Kings

We plan on carrying on this princess bible study for four more weeks this summer and I am praying for some o-so-sweet memories and truth that will last a lifetime.

I am also reading so great books that I plan on reviewing soon!  They include:  

Wild and Free by Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan

and Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst.

Stay tuned to hear about those and for what’s coming next here at Refocused Bible study.  I’ll give you a hint:  it’s almost time to go 

Back to school 

and

gain wisdom.

  Details coming soon!

 

ALIVE! A Bible Study Method

Happy first day of March!  Spring is on its way and new LIFE is soon to be seen springing up all around us.  I love how God gives us this reminder every year that he makes all things new.  Things that were dead will be coming back to life, just like Life Himself did!

God’s word gives us the opportunity to experience hope of new life every singe day.  Old, dead or hopeless situations in our lives can blossom when truth is breathed on them.  This is my prayer for everyone taking part in this bible reading and study plan for March!  Today we embark on a life giving journey through the book of John, using a simple pattern to read a chapter a day and write out and apply one verse from that chapter a day using the method in the video below.  If you missed the plan and journal, you can find them here:

https://refocusedbiblestudy.com/2016/02/27/alivebook-of-john-journey-for-march/

The video below walks you through the Alive bible study method:

 

Here is my #Write It Out verse for today:

 

Here is my ALIVE! Journal page for today:

 I pray you stay connected to the Source of Life and Light today as we start this new month and look forward to Easter!