Tag Archives: Bible Study

4 Ways to Love God with Gusto (Part 2 of 2)

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Last week, author Kristen Hogrefe shared with us how we can love God volitionally. This week, she wraps up this two-part series by explaining how we can love God with all our strength. If these posts have encouraged your walk with the Lord, please let us know by leaving a comment below.


In September, my church hosted a 5K to raise money and awareness for foster care. For those not familiar with running terms, that’s a little over 3 miles.

Running didn’t come naturally to me, but now, it’s a lifestyle I’ve learned to enjoy. My boyfriend, though athletic, hates running. But to his credit, he ran the race with me, adopted my pace, and even smiled for photos. He got out his comfort zone, and it meant so much to me.

Last time, we looked at loving God volitionally, which involves a choice or act of the will. In my case, my boyfriend chose to run even though he didn’t want to. In addition, he invested time and physical energy to show up and finish.

This example, though perhaps cheesy, brings me to another way we can love God: with all our strength.

 

Loving God through Our Actions

As author Gary Chapman explains in his book The Five Love Languages, physical touch is one of the primary ways people express and receive love. Although we can’t physically “touch” God, we can still love him through our actions.

In Scripture, we see examples of believers performing acts of service again and again.

  • The Shunammite woman and her husband built an upper room for the Prophet Elisha so that he had a place to stay when he visited them (2 Kings 4).
  • Martha opened her home to Jesus and served him dinner (Luke 10). For all the bad rap she gets for being too busy to simply listen like her sister Mary, Martha deserves credit for her hospitality and generosity.
  • A widow gave everything she had to the temple treasury (Mark 12).

Of course, Jesus himself modeled service to others time and time again through miracles, washing his disciples’ feet, and ultimately dying on the cross.

No matter our situation, we all have varying degrees of physical ability. Some people can travel for mission trips or volunteer locally. Others serve behind-the-scenes doing preparation work no one seems to notice. For someone with limited physical ability, this action might look like a hand-written note of encouragement or even a whispered prayer.

The bottom line is that when we act to help others, we please God. When we love “the least” of the people who cross our paths, we’re loving him too (Matthew 25:31-40).

 

Loving God with Our Minds

During one of my friend’s weddings, the bride asked me to read Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116, which begins this way:

“Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments …”

That phrase, “the marriage of true minds,” sticks with me, because it suggests a unified purpose, set of values, and life focus. So too, when we love God with our minds, we’re saying we want to live “on the same page” with him.

Once again, Scripture sheds some light on what this unified mindset looks like:

  • We are to bring “every thought” into “captivity” or obedience to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).
  • We are to exercise humility, following Christ’s example (Philippians 2:5-8).
  • We are to focus our thoughts on things that are excellent and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8).
  • We are to guard our minds by not looking at something that will tempt us to stumble (Psalm 119:37).
  • We are to study God’s Word, the “word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Sure, there will be days we fall short, way short. That’s why Paul wrote that the goal here on earth is not perfection but to “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

 

Desiring to Love God More

When we seek to love God with our all, we love him with every part of ourselves. Preacher and poet Isaac Watts expressed this idea eloquently in his closing lines to the hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” He develops the idea of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross as the ultimate love. How can our response be anything less than everything?

“Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.”

Lord, may I love you with all that I am, all that I have, and all I can be. 

~ By Kristen of KristenHogrefe.com

Are you reading your Bible all wrong? (Part 2 of 2)

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Last week, I posed the question, “Are you reading your Bible all wrong?” We looked at two main approaches to studying the Bible: eisegesis (inserting your beliefs into the text) and exegesis (drawing understanding out of the text).

This week, let’s look at other ways we tend to approach the Word:

1. Pray and Flip – We pray for an answer to a question or dilemma, and we flip open our Bibles hoping to find the exact answer we need. If we don’t see it immediately, we flip to another page, and another, until we feel we’ve settled on a passage that gives us clarity.

Issue: While this method does involve prayer and the Bible, it leaves little room for God to actually speak to you and give you guidance as He sees fit. In fact, it can be quite manipulating if you approach it with the wrong spirit, so use this method with care.

2. Pick and Choose – We read our favorite books and passages over and over again. Usually, these involve Psalms, Proverbs, and parts of the Gospels—sections where we reaffirm God’s power and love for us.

Issue: Those warm-and-fuzzy Scriptures are literally a God-send! They’re God’s love letters to us. However, if you read those exclusively and avoid parts of the Bible you find challenging, it can limit your understanding of God and how you fit into His Kingdom. This approach can also lead to a skewed theology because you miss the history and context of the passages.

3. Stand Alone – We focus on a passage we’re drawn to but fail to read the whole chapter or book.

Issue: If God draws your attention to a specific passage, that’s great! However, don’t stop there. Be sure you understand the passage thoroughly by reading the entire chapter, and then the book. Otherwise, you can miss the meaning God’s trying to share with you.

4. Skim Along – We read the text, but we skim over the challenging parts or unknown words.

Issue: Skimming can be a great way to get a high-level view of a passage, especially if you’re reading it for the first time. However, you should then go back and read the text again so you can catch the context and nuances of the parts that seemed more challenging. If you don’t, you can easily miss—or misunderstand—the richer meaning of the passage.

5. Devoted to Devotions – We read a short devotion every morning, and let it set the tone for the day.

Issue: While devotions are a great way to get your mind focused on God, they are not a substitute for reading the Bible. Don’t rely on someone else to condense a passage and provide an application for you; study God’s Word first hand and let Him speak to you directly. You can still add those devotions as great pick-me-ups to your morning routine.

 

So how should you approach God’s Word?

1. Pray before you read.

We can understand God’s Word only because He gives us understanding. (See 2 Timothy 2:7.) Each time you pick up your Bible, pray something like this: “Lord, please give me understanding as I read your Word, and help me to see how to apply it to my life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

[Click to Tweet: We can understand God’s Word only because He gives us understanding. Each time you pick up your Bible, ask God to give you understanding and help you to apply it to your life. #bigsisterknows #faithlife #biblestudy] 

2. Pick your Bible version carefully.

There are so many versions of the Bible available today! Are you reading the best version for you?

If you’re new to Bible study, or you find it difficult to read the Bible for any length of time, you may want to get a translation that focuses on readability, such as The Message, The New Living Translation, or the New International Version. Unique formats, such as the Rainbow Bible (which is available in the New International Version or King James Version), can also make it easier to focus on the text. (My sister has ADHD, and she raves about her Rainbow Bible!)

However, if you’re more comfortable with reading the Bible, and you’re interested in deeper study, pick a version that translates the original Hebrew and Greek as closely as possible. My favorite is the New American Standard.

Media types are also important to consider. It’s fine to read your Bible on your mobile device, but be sure to buy a physical Bible in your favorite version because you never know when the power will go out or your phone will die (which is probably when you need your Bible the most). Also, you may want to write notes, underline, or highlight your text, and that’s easier to do—and to see later on—in a physical book.

3. Try to understand the context.

You can’t fully understand a passage if you don’t have a basic understanding of the context. As you read, ask questions like:

  • Who wrote this passage?
  • Who’s speaking?
  • Who is the audience?
  • What is the meaning of the passage?
  • How do I apply the meaning of the passage to my life today?

If there are unusual words or phrases, use a Concordance or Bible Dictionary to look them up. (You can buy these or use free search engines online.)

Also, avoid skipping around the Bible. Pick a book and read through it. You’ll be amazed at how much more you understand of the context when you immerse yourself in the story.

[Click to Tweet: When you study the Bible, pick a book and read through it. You’ll be amazed at how much more you understand of the context when you immerse yourself in the story. #bigsisterknows #biblestudy #faithlife]

4. Pay attention to the type of literary style being used.

There are many, many different literary styles used throughout the Bible, and each style is used to convey something different. If you’re reading historical excerpts (e.g. passages of Joshua and Matthew), the focus is on accurately relating historical events. You may notice much of the language used is literal, which can come across as dry and to-the-point.

On the other hand, books of poetry (e.g. Psalms and Proverbs) often use figurative language (like similes and metaphors) to express worship or to help the reader memorize the text. However, these may gloss over important events while focusing on the impact or meaning behind them.

Whatever passage you’re reading, try to understand the types of literary styles being used. This will help you draw meaning from the text and apply it to your life. (For more on this, check out the Literary Study Bible.)

5. Remember God’s Word is infallible…but man’s word is not.

As you read through God’s Word, remember that it is perfect and suitable for teaching and correction. (See 2 Timothy 3:16-17.) But dictionaries, commentaries, and notes in the margin of your Bible…these are all compiled by people, and people can make mistakes. If you read something that doesn’t seem to align with God’s Word, set it aside and focus on what the Bible says.

 

Time to Dig In!

This week, I challenge you to avoid flipping, skipping, picking and choosing, and just dig into a book you’re unfamiliar with. Take notes if you need to. Grab a Concordance if you have to. But dig in. You’ll never regret the time you spend in the Word and in the presence of God.

“Your words were found and I ate them, And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; For I have been called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts” (Jeremiah 15:16 NAS).

Do you have Bible study tips to share with our readers? We want to hear from you! Leave you tips in the comments below. Thanks!


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Are you reading your Bible all wrong? (Part 1 of 2)

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Are you stuck, spiritually speaking? Do you have a hard time understanding the Word or seeing how it applies to your life? That may be because you’re reading your Bible all wrong.

In this two-part series, I’ll share different ways that we can approach God’s Word. Some of these ways are beneficial, while others are not-so-helpful or even downright wrong.

 

In or Out?

In today’s post, I want to point out one of the biggest no-nos. I’m talking about the way we approach our Bible study, whether it’s using eisegesis or exegesis. Don’t be put off by these Greek words, though! The ideas behind them are quite simple.

  • eisegesis (ahy-si-jee-sis): interpreting a text in such a way that you introduce your own beliefs, presuppositions, agendas, and biases into the text. Referred to as reading into the text.
  • exegesis (ek-si-jee-sis): interpreting a text in a critical way using the text itself to provide explanation, without introducing your own beliefs into the text.

Exegesis is all about drawing out (ex) the true meaning of the Word, while eisegesis involves putting your own understanding into (eis) the Word.

You’re probably wondering who would ever try to insert their own understanding into the Word…and yet we all do it from time to time. Our beliefs and experiences shape our understanding of the world, so it makes sense that they would also affecting our understanding of Scripture. But when those Scriptures fail to line up with what we believe, we find ourselves in crisis.

We can either:

  1. Skim over the text and forget we ever read it
  2. Make excuses for why the text doesn’t align with our beliefs (e.g. it was a different context, it involved a different culture, it doesn’t apply to me or my circumstances)
  3. Change our understanding based on what we read in the Scriptures

Obviously, option three is the appropriate way to go. Still, change can be hard, especially when we’ve grown up believing something different…and it doesn’t even have to be a life-shattering change.

 

A New Understanding of an Old Story

I remember one such instance from Bible college. We were reading about Joseph and his multi-colored coat in one of my classes. Here’s the text in the NAS version:

“Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a varicolored tunic” (Genesis 37:3 NAS).

However, the Hebrew word for “varicolored” really means “flat (of the hands or foot).” This most likely means that the sleeves of Joseph’s coat went all the way to his hands; it was a long-sleeve coat, not a multi-colored coat. And this makes sense because back then, laborers wore shorter-sleeve garments while overseers wore longer sleeves. By giving Joseph a long-sleeve coat, Israel was effectively promoting him over his brothers. No wonder Joseph’s older brothers were mad at him!

This short Bible study provides greater clarity into this well-known story, but when I first learned the true meaning behind the text, it upset me a little. I had always been taught that Joseph had a beautiful, multi-colored coat. I’d even heard powerful sermons using the multi-colored coat as imagery for the various talents within the Church Body.

But the truth is the truth. And God’s (real) Truth is always better than our (make-believe) truth.

 

The Lessons of Truth

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NAS).

It’s not easy to change our beliefs or see things in a different way, but we must approach God’s Word with a willingness to do just that. We have to humble our hearts, accepting any reproof or correction we receive from the Word, which is our training for righteousness. If we don’t, then we eventually turn away from God’s Truth, make our own religion, and go our own way. No wonder we end up feeling spiritually stuck!

This week, I encourage you to humble yourself as you read your Bible. If you come across a Scripture that differs from what you’ve believed, ask the Lord to help you understand what it means and how to apply it to your life today. If you have to change your way of thinking, then do it. You’ll never regret aligning your life—and your beliefs—with God’s Truth.


Have you ever had to change a long-held belief because you learned it didn’t line up with God’s Word? Was it a struggle for you? How do you feel about it now? I’d love to hear from you! Just leave a comment below.

[Click to Tweet: True Bible study involves changing our beliefs to match what we read in the Word…not changing the Word to match our beliefs.]

 

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