Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Moving and stuff

Well friends, if you haven't seen this post on my other blog, then you may not know that we are in the process of moving. It's been a very crazy week because things are moving very quickly and our timeline is short for such a long move!

All this to say that I don't have a new study prepared for this week. I've spent hours and hours packing boxes, and my sandpaper hands and torn up fingernails can prove it. So I need your grace this week, please.

It is a great time, however, to catch up on your homework if you haven't finished the previous weeks. So how about it? Spend the week doing some reading or rereading, and working through the questions in your notebook? And if you feel so inspired, share some thoughts in the comments section of that post.

I especially loved the study on the life of David. Did you get to that one?

I'll have a new HW up next Wednesday, K?

Love to you all.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Week 5, JSB

Hi friends!

Okay this week, I'm finally getting this up on Friday, not Wednesday. So sorry. We are moving and I'm going crazy. More on that on my other blog soon enough!! But back to the study...

Can you believe we are already on WEEK 5 of this study!!? Have you been enjoying this simplified version of God's words? I hope so. In my face-to-face 101 Wed. study, we are on Week 11, with only one more to go of this book. I've loved it so much, and in each week's preparation, I find new things about which I'm so excited to share.

Well, here are some of my thoughts as I worked through the Week 4 questions.

In thinking about question 1, I was reminded of our recent election and the things mankind looks for in a leader. So much revolves around appearance, smooth speech, and popularity. But David was the least in his family, and God chose him based on his heart. I wonder if we'd make different choices in politics if we could see people's hearts like God can.  

I wrote question #2 with a post in mind that I wrote a while ago. The whole notion of David running out to meet Goliath really strikes me when I apply it in a metaphorical sense to my own life's "giants" and how I deal with them. Anyway, I shared a lot of thoughts on the subject here.

David's story has so much redemption in it. Did you happen to do some further reading on his life? Well, I wanted to share this passage in Isaiah with you because it speaks to me of the way God worked in David's life, how He alone can turn the messes we've made or the hurts we have sustained into something healed and lovely. Isaiah 61:1-4 says:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.

4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.

Isn't it so beautiful? I love the idea of God trading our ashes and replacing them with beauty. That is what He is all about, and bringing us closer to Himself in the process. Our times of greatest pain are when our hearts can be most open to His voice. I pray these truths speak to your heart today, friends.

Here is the HW for next week! Have a good weekend.

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Week 5
Chapters 17-21, to page 175

1. Read 2 Kings 5:10. What EXACTLY did Elisha the prophet tell Namaan to do? Think about that. Now, WHY would God require this seemingly unnecessary repetition when we know He could have healed Namaan with one dip in the water? As a reader of this story hundreds of years later, what does this tell you about the relationship between repetition and healing?

2. The next chapter we learn about talks about Isaiah the prophet. There were many prophets, but Isaiah is my favorite. Some of the chapters contain my favorite passages in the whole Bible. Read Isaiah chapters 40 and 41 in your spare time on a quiet morning or evening. You may recognize many famous verses in those chapters. Write down a few that speak to you personally.

3. Daniel is another very long and complex book of prophecy. But it also includes the wonderful story of his time in the lions’ den. What is one lesson we can learn from this story when we are persecuted for our faith?

4. Next we come to poor, rebellious little Jonah. Share at least one of the following:

·         A time when you knew the obedient choice, but went the other way

·         A time when you felt angry and unforgiving to someone who didn’t deserve forgiveness

·         A time when God saved you from worse consequences than you deserved

5. Knowing God’s standards is meant to bring conviction which leads to repentance and receiving forgiveness. But often, we take it a step further and let in guilt. Guilt is NEVER God’s plan for us. Guilt keeps us stuck and sorry, instead of joyful and hopeful that we are forgiven and have the power to change. Take a minute to pray, like God’s people did in Nehemiah chapter 9. Confess your tendency to wallow in guilt and forget about God’s huge love and forgiveness. Ask Him to teach you the healthy way to deal with your mistakes, and tell Him about your desire to follow Him.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Week 4, JSB

Well hello again, friends.

Yet another Wednesday is here. I hope you enjoyed this past week's reading. It covered some of my favorite parts of the Bible. If you ever want some page-turning reading, just start into the book of Exodus.

Being a captive is not an idea we like to entertain. But until we ask Jesus to take charge of our lives and forgive us for our mistakes, we are held in the clutches of sin. Even when we are walking with the Lord, sin and our enemy can try to bind us up in bad habits, bad relationships, bad thought patterns, and on the list goes. Freedom is one huge gift God offers us, and the moment we have it, it is the one thing Satan is hell bent on stealing.

So this week, did you get a better understanding of what the holiday Passover celebrates? I should say "remembers" as opposed to "celebrates" because the tradition is held with much reverence by the Jewish community. Every year, I'm itching to find a place to attend a Passover celebration, but have not been able to attend one yet. Regardless, I simply LOVE how much God loves symbolism and foreshadowing. He is truly THE best storyteller. The Israelites' exodus from Egypt after being passed over at the expense of a spotless lamb perfectly parallels the exodus of sorts that we can experience when we receive Jesus' death on the cross as the expense by which we can walk in freedom.

And if I may point out, Jesus' forgiveness:
  • is once and for all eternity
  • is enough to cover your past, present, and future sin
  • means your sins are forgotten by God
  • means as a promise of heaven, you then receive the Holy Spirit to be your ever present comfort and counselor
Who wouldn't want that?? And for free! You can't do anything good enough to earn those things, just like you can't do anything bad enough to lose them after you accept them and commit your life to Jesus. Even if you're just like those stubborn Israelites who messed up again and again and again (and yeah, same here), Jesus will never give up on you. Oh, the enemy will certainly try to suggest that you deserve abandonment, punishment, condemnation. But those are lies, meant to draw you away from Jesus' arms.

My question #4 answers were these. 3 unpleasant trials that grew my faith:

1. a conflict with a friend which required confrontation, communication, and love
2. the season when it took us 12 months to get pregnant with baby #2.
3. past seasons of financial strain and uncertainty

I look back with all three feeling that same pit in my stomach. None of those seasons were fun or enjoyable. But would I trade them at the expense of the lessons learned? Nope. God knew what I needed. He got me through every one.

Here is James 1:1-4 that you looked up this week. It is just so good.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 

Isn't that exactly what I want? To be mature and not lack anything?? Well then, guess what. I need to expect trails. Those times are where I am tested and stretched and matured the most. But when you are safe in the arms of Jesus, every trial comes with a promise: This all has a POINT. And perseverance will finish its work. Amen to that.

Love you all. Hope you're persevering today.

Week 4
Chapters 14-16, to p. 135

This week, we'll look at the person of King David. He is the only person in the Bible to earn the description "a man after God's own heart." He was loved by the Lord, used by the Lord, and stood as a forerunner of Jesus in many ways. Yet, at times, David's life was a total mess. He was a man of great faith and great failures.
1. Our first story is about how he was chosen by God to be King. Look up 1 Samuel 16 in your Bible. The prophet Samuel was supposed to find the king among many brothers in one family. Naturally, he went to the oldest, strongest brother and asked the Lord if this was to be he. Read verses 6-7. What does it say God uses as his criteria? What about man's criteria? How do you observe this same truth at work in our world today?
2. It is a surprise that David is chosen because he is only a boy and the youngest in a long line of brothers. The next glimpse we see of David is on the battlefield with Goliath. He was not a soldier, and the Philistines were Israel's greatest enemy. Look up 1 Samuel chapter 17 in your Bible to find the whole story. Read verses 45-49. In verse 48, what was David's reaction when Goliath started to advance at him? Now think about the giants in your life. What is your typical response to them? What would that kind of courageous faith look like for you?
3. Finally, the JSB takes us to the Psalms, which is another word for songs. David was a prolific songwriter and a great musician, did you know that? Go to your Bible and flip through the Psalms. You'll notice that many Psalms have the words "A Psalm of David" at the start of it. Find one that particularly speaks to your heart and write it out (or the portion that means most to you) in your notebook. Briefly share why you chose the one that you did.
4. If you want to learn more about David and his biggest failures, read 2 Samuel chapters 11 and 12 in your Bible. Among being an unbelievable warrior, leader, loving king, and man of faith, he was also an adulterer, murderer, and liar. Because of his great sin, God took the life of his child born through his adultery. But in amazing grace, God brought redemption to David's mistakes by blessing his later marriage to the same woman, Bathsheba (he had killed her husband, after all), and giving them Solomon for a son. Solomon came to be known as the wisest man who ever lived, and succeeded David on the throne. If you look in your Bible's table of contents, you'll see that after the Psalms comes Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. All three of these books were written by King Solomon. What does this legacy tell you about what God can do with, and in spite of, a person's shameful past?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Week 3, JSB

Last week, we looked at areas of our lives where God is perhaps asking us to believe in the impossible like He did Abraham. We looked at how hard it is to understand how God sees us compared to how we see ourselves, and how we resist believing He calls us chosen and beautiful when our shortcomings haunt us. Leah was no stranger to this identity crisis, and we read about her story too. Then there was Joseph. He had the worst series of unfortunate events happen in his life maybe ever. Yet God saw the bigger picture, and was coordinating circumstances to bless Joseph and redeem his past way beyond what anyone could have guessed.

Each week, I pray our hearts are softening to different ways of seeing God and seeing ourselves. If you've been following, don't you agree that after you spend time reading and processing, it's like your spirit does a big sigh of relief? That's how I feel, anyway. 

Here are some of my answers to the questions.

For #1, My favorite story from this week was of Joseph because it's such a seemingly awful story of misfortune. So many bad and unfair things happened to him, and yet ALL of them were part of God's good plans. All just steps on his journey, all for His glory. It helps me have a fresh perspective on unfair or unfortunate or painful events in my life, and reminds me that we have a God who is in the business of redemption and healing.

For #2, I said that wanting my kids to be spaced two years apart was my plan that was thwarted and turned out for my own good. If God had given me MY way, it would have been too much for me as a mom. Also, the 12 month period when I was unable to get pregnant became a really intense time of God showing me that He was in charge; he used that season to sort of break me of my desire to control everything. He also proved that He was trustworthy.

Did you guys do #4 where you had to write out ways you see yourself and replace those impressions with God's? I crossed out words like "indulgent," "difficult," and "harsh." I wrote 10 things about myself and the more I wrote and corrected with God's view of me, the more those negative definitions about who I am fell away from my heart. At least for the time being. This would be a good exercise for anytime I feel bogged down with shame or my own failures, forgetting who my Father says I am.

So this week, I've pasted the assignment below. I got a little flack for writing "hard" questions. But guys, this is the point. Not to confuse or frustrate you, but to encourage you to look inside your heart. Bring your issues to the table. Let God into your struggles. I want to make this short time each week worthwhile. It's not another activity to check off. It's meant to be powerful and equipping for our everyday lives. I really want for you to get a glimpse of how deeply God loves you and how relevant the Bible is to your life. Nothing else you spend time on during the week can fill you up in the same way as studying God's word. So yeah. The questions will make you think. Not sorry :)

* * *

This week, I'm asking you to look up three verses in a regular Bible. Do you have one? If not, I suggest picking one up in an easy to read, modern language translation such as NIV (phrase by phrase translation) or ESV (word for word translation). 

Week 3

Chapters 10-13, to page 115, JSB

When you have a quiet half hour or so when you’re less likely to get interrupted, briefly ask God to open your eyes and ears to what He wants to show you. Then, in your notebook, answer these questions. Try to answer them as honestly as you can.  Do the questions for yourself.

1. The story of Moses freeing the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt is one of the most important in the Bible mainly because of what it foreshadows. First, let’s talk about how God’s people were slaves. The Egyptian Pharaohs were harsh rulers, mercilessly oppressing the Israelite slaves for four hundred years. This whole scene will come to represent how without God, we all live in captivity to sin. And sin is a ruthless oppressor. In what ways do you at times feel oppressed by or captive to sin? (if you need help, think about how difficult it is to break a bad habit, or shake off guilt, or how discouraged you feel repeating the same mistake over and over…)

2. Look up John 8:31-34 where Jesus explains this to some skeptics. How does He say we can be freed from our captivity?

3. The last plague that God sent the Egyptians before Pharaoh finally let the people go was the plague of death. Once again, this is so important because of what it foreshadows. Moses told God’s people that during the night, the angel of death would take the lives of all the first born children of every home in Egypt EXCEPT those which had the blood of an innocent lamb painted on the doorposts. Those homes would be passed over by the angel (why the Jews celebrate Passover, and why they refer to the “Passover lamb”). The blood of the lamb on the doorposts that night in Egypt is what led to the slaves’ freedom from death and since it was the last plague, freedom from slavery. The Israelites walked out of the country that night, on their way to the promised land.

In John 1:29, what does John the Baptist call Jesus when he sees him for the first time?

In the exact same way, Jesus’ blood when He died on the cross became a covering for us, not only protecting us from (eternal spiritual) death, but also freeing us from the grip sin and darkness had on our lives. However, He doesn’t force us to accept this free gift of forgiveness. We are covered and freed if, and only if, we believe Him and entrust our lives to His care.

Have you entrusted your life to God and received His gift of forgiveness? If not, why not take a minute to talk to Him right now?

4. The stories about Moses parting the Red Sea, going hungry in the desert, the 10 commandments, and Jericho are all about God’s people facing impossibilities. Right after they were freed from slavery, they faced some HUGE challenges. God was certainly trying to grow their faith muscles now that they were walking with Him and giving them opportunities to trust Him in the face of impossible circumstances. Take a minute to recall three things you’ve experienced that may not have been pleasant at the time, but grew your faith in God. Are there any happening now?

Finish today by reading James 1:1-4 for one reason why trials are allowed in our lives.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Week 2, JSB

So how did you guys do?

Were you able to read the first few chapters of the JSB? I personally can't get through the beginning parts without tearing up. I find it so interesting that a Bible storybook written for kids can speak straight to the deepest parts of my heart. I think it's because God's words are literally alive through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Bible says that the words of God are living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, able to pierce our hearts with a message meant just for us. That's why sometimes a certain truth can seem to jump off the page, or strike us powerfully at just the right moment. That's the Holy Spirit at work, a living and active spirit who is engaged and intentional about giving us what we need. No other book of religious teachings can make such claims.

So here are some of my answers to the questions.

First of all, I said that the Bible can be a bit frustrating for me because a person can never be finished understanding it. Also, it's at times confusing. What were your impressions coming into this study?

I loved how the JSB talks about the terrible lie that came into the world when Adam and Eve ate the fruit and violated God's rules. Oh how that lie causes trouble today! I certainly have had seasons when I believed that lie. I felt tricked by God and trapped by what I thought was His plan, not understanding anything about His great love. If I had known, or currently, when I do make it a point to remember how loving He truly is, I get tangled up in fear, which leads to a tendency to control, which leads to nothing good!

And yes, right now, I need to be rescued by His love. Today, even. I needed it, floundered, didn't call on Him, but in the background, through Pandora, I heard Him speaking love over me; song after song, He whispered love to me. I bet I'm going to need to be rescued again tomorrow too, because I am very forgetful.

Okay your turn. Pretend we're in a small group, sitting around a living room with hot cups of coffee in our hands. I just shared the answers that meant the most to me from this week's questions. What do you have to share?

(And then after that, here's week 2's homework. So happy to be with you today.)

Week 2
Chapters 4-9, up to page 83, JSB

When you have a quiet half hour or so when you’re less likely to get interrupted, briefly ask God to open your eyes and ears to what He wants to show you. Then, in your notebook, answer these questions. Try to answer them as honestly as you can. You will never have to share anything you don’t want to share with the group. Do the questions for yourself.

1. Which story was your favorite this week? Why?

2. We read about the Tower of Babel and how God stopped the plans of His people when they were going to lead them down the wrong path. Can you recall a time when your plans got thwarted and things turned out better for you in the end? Explain.

3. In the story of Abraham, we saw that sometimes God asks us to believe in the impossible. What is something you have a hard time believing about Him? OR Describe a time when God asked you to believe in Him when a situation looked hopeless. 

 4. In the story of Rachel and Leah, we learned about how God sees His daughters. Make a brief list of some of your faults in your notebook. Then cross them out, one at a time, writing one of these words in its place: Chosen, Beautiful, Loved, Princess. If you feel your own heart resisting, if you find it hard to accept, keep lengthening the list until the truth of how God sees you starts to seep in.  

5. Joseph’s story is full of redemption. God used Joseph’s awful and unjust circumstances for His good purposes, and then brought healing and forgiveness back into his broken family. Share one circumstance or relationship that needs redeeming in your life. Take a minute to invite God into that hurt and ask Him to use this part of your story for something good. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Week 1, JSB

The first book we'll be reading together is the Jesus Storybook Bible. Yes, it is a children's Bible, and it is amazing. It will help us remember that God asks us to have faith like a child. And because I know most of you already have it or have purchased it, I will get right down to business.

Here is the assignment for Week 1:

Read Chapters 1-3 through page 36 (wait, go to the Table of Contents and NUMBER those chapters first).

Then, in your notebook, answer these questions.

1. List three impressions or feelings you already had about the Bible, either positive or negative.

2. So now that we know we will learn how the Bible is one big story, name one way you hope that this story may help you in your own personal story.

3. When Adam and Eve ate the fruit in the garden, they allowed a terrible lie to come into the hearts of mankind: God doesn’t love me. Describe a time in your life when you doubted that God saw or cared for you. How did you feel?

4. God didn’t want them to eat the fruit because He knew Adam and Eve would then think they knew everything. This is the definition of pride, thinking we know better than God does, living our own way. God knew we would stop trusting Him, and He knew what would happen in our hearts. Fear and control can set in when faith is absent. Describe a situation where you struggled with fear and/or control. If you had trusted God at the time, how might things have changed (even if only in your heart)?

5. Reread page 36. End your time by telling God in your heart or on paper how you feel about the story so far. Have you been running from Him? Do you miss Him? Are you needing to be rescued with His Never-Stopping Love?

Next Wednesday, I will review what we learned in those first few chapters, I hope you'll share some answers to your questions, and I'll give you the next reading assignment.

Sound good? This all making sense? I hope so.

Have a great day, friends. Love that we're doing this together.


Today is the launch of the 101 Wednesdsays blog.

Originally I started posting the studies on my regular blog, but not everyone reading top of the page was interested in following along. So I wanted to create a place for this study to flourish on it's own.

Last week, I announced on Instagram that I would be starting a new round of 101 Wednesdays and 20 more women expressed interest in joining! That showed me at last that a new space for the study needed to exist.

The problem with doing an online Bible study is that the benefit of Bible study is not just limited to studying the Bible. One huge benefit of being in a real life study is the fellowship and connection that takes place among women, and this is very hard to replicate online. Particularly in a "basics" study, it is very comforting to hear that there are so many other women who feel just like you do. A bit overwhelmed, a bit intimidated, a bit confused, and a bit excited to dive into God's word. That is why I am strongly encouraging each person following along to PARTICIPATE in the comments section of each post.

Imagine, as you come to this blog each week, that you are not sitting alone at your computer, but that you are sitting at a table with every other woman reading along. You all have something to teach one another, and you all need encouragement. Each week, I will post 4 or 5 questions to go along with a reading assignment. If something jumps out at you, or speaks to your heart as you read or work through the questions, please share it with the group in a comment. If you have a question, you can share that too. Of course, you'll be able to comment on others' comments as well.

Bible study is NOT a spectator sport, nor is it an individual sport. Well, it can be. But it is sometimes best studied in a community of people who have the same goal. 
The goal of 101 Wednesdays is to get back to the basics. If you didn't grow up in church, if you want to learn more about God but don't know where to start, if you need a review of the basics of the Christian faith, well, then this study is for you.

If you are, on the other hand, more seasoned in your faith and have been walking with God for a while now, then I'm going to tell you to think and pray about how you too may lead others younger in their faith. You only need to be one step ahead of someone else to have something to offer them. And you can use this exact study if you want. It is very simple and already written out for you.

For more information on how this study started (and how to go about leading one of your own), as well as suggestions on how to participate in this study, click on the links on the right side bar.

I'm so glad you have a desire to know God better, and to learn more about what the Bible says. Any amount of time you devote to seeking God will be worth it. Promise.