Category: Bible Study

A Big Announcement

Come Back to Jesus and Don't Bring your Blackberry

To all my faithful readers:

I’m happy to announce I’ll be leading my Bible Study, Come Back to Jesus–and Don’t Bring your Blackberry online. I’ll do this at GoodReads (goodreads.com) on my author page. If you don’t have a GoodReads account, sign-up is quick and easy, I used my Google account and it simply connected. There’s a link in the right column if you are reading this on my blog page. Here is a direct link to the Book Club page.

“I find that the people who say they don’t need it turn out to be the ones who need it most“

I’ll also present it here on the blog as a duplication if you prefer; just let me know! I’m really excited because this will be my first time leading it online, except for the focus group that helped me correct it prior to publication; that group had several online participants.

The book is about how to clear out the unnecessary bits of your life so you have time to worship God better. I find that the people who say they don’t need it turn out to be the ones who need it most; they come up and thank me later. So, if you’re saying you don’t have time for it– perhaps this is exactly where you need to be?

You can get a copy of the book at Amazon or at your local bookstore. There are 2 versions: paperback and Kindle.

Also~ Another announcement. Some  readers subscribed through the RSS feed. Some subscribed another way and I’ve been inputting your emails manually. Just today I submitted them all to Feedburner so you can still get the posts via email, but you’ve received a subscription notice in your email. You need to click that to confirm the subscription. Trust me — Feedburner is a lot more reliable than me!

Til next time,

T.

Disagreements in the Church

I’m reading in 1 Corinthians this week.

Actually, it’s more than that. I am leading a group in a very brave Read The New Testament in 90 Days project—and I am behind.

I. Am. The Leader.

I’m behind.

Anyway. I can’t help it; I’m already there. So let’s move over to 1 Corinthians.

When this letter was written (somewhere around 56 BC) the city of Corinth was full of every sort of shameless, flagrant behavior. It was so horrid in fact that the phrase ‘to act the Corinthian’ – in Greek – meant “to practice fornication.”

Corinth was on a narrow isthmus between two seas; it served as a wealthy port center. Therefore, it had plenty of taverns. And a tiny, newly saved fledgling group of Christians had little say over what went on. Much like now.

So in the midst of all this, Paul visited Corinth and ended up staying 18 months. After that some mail was exchanged between him and the new church at Corinth, and he wrote the letter we call 1 Corinthians as a response to some of their questions.

Right up front, Paul addressed divisions within the church. Apparently the people were arguing. Perhaps some wanted to be led by a disciple who had actually been with Jesus. Perhaps some preferred Apollos’ way of preaching. Perhaps a new Tea Party had formed within the ranks.

Paul wasted no ink before diving into the fray. “Has Christ been divided?” He demanded (1 Cor. 1:13).

I love his in-your-face method. Nowadays in the church we see it, but don’t name it. We know it, but turn a blind eye. We live with it, like living with a favorite shoe that rubs the foot but is, nonetheless, a favorite so we put up with it.

Paul is not putting up with it.

Paul is having none of it. No division, no arguing, no classes, no I’m-better-because-I-was-baptized-by-(Cephas/Apollos/Paul/Christ).

“I thank God that I baptized none of you…that no man should say you were baptized in my name. For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel.”

Paul knows his purpose. He has a clear, laser-sharp focus on what he was sent to do. Some might say baptism was a part of it; he says no. He knows his job is only to preach.

Today, the divisions are about carpet color, music style, who should be a deacon, etc. Yet a division is a division, and by focusing on those we are losing our laser focus. We forget what we were called for, to whom we were called, and give those up in favor of … well, let’s read on.

Then he went on to lecture them about the base, worldly things that they probably…held dear. Whoops.

One of the things esteemed in Corinth was knowledge. The learned man, the one who was clever and smart; not that their group was full of this sort of man, but they would have admired them. This, Paul says, is the very antithesis of God’s wisdom:

“For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe…
“Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. God has chosen the foolish thing of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that he might nullify the things that are, that no man should boast before God.” * 1 Corinthians, parts of 1:17-31. Read in its entirety here.

Lest we get lost in that message, let’s just say that God uses those who we would normally consider weak, unimportant or even foolish to deliver his message. Paul then summarizes it beautifully in 2:2 :

”For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”

As we think of all the things we do and are and want, I wonder if we could say the same? Could I say “I know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”

Could you…

What if we…

Here’s another version:

“ I deliberately kept it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did—Jesus crucified.” *The Message

What if I took this as my mantra, and all I said or did to another – especially someone with whom I am apt to disagree, or argue—what if all was based on that one statement.

Jesus.

Jesus crucified.

Jesus and who he is.

Not:

whoyouare / whoIam

I’m better

I’m smarter

I’m more important.

Not: doggone it let me talk! I have something to say.

Not even: look at me.

Just this:

Look at Jesus.

Look at him.

See his crucifixion?

See his love?

What was I going to argue about, again? I seem to have forgotten.

5 Steps to a Great Bible Study

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
—James 1:12

It’s 10 pm, and I literally just walked in from one of the best Bibles study classes I’ve ever led, though it had nothing to do with me leading. Everyone opened up and shared from the heart. We had several new faces, and they were happy to talk about what was on their minds as well.
The topic is being loved by the Savior this week, plus we did discuss (briefly) being in a Valley, a time of sadness or grief, because somebody could be there right now and also EVERYBODY identifies with it. There’s no one who hasn’t had a hard time. Here’s a quote from the chapter:

When you feel like you’re in the bottom of the valley, it is important to remember that it’s only a passageway, not a destination. You aren’t going to stay there forever unless it’s by your own choice. Psalm 23:4 says, “I walk through the darkest valley.” It doesn’t say “I sit in the valley for months a time . . . holding pity parties . . . woe is me!” *page 62, Come Back to Jesus—and Don’t Bring your Blackberry.

I’d like to add– as you are moving in this Valley experience, pray through it. Literally pray your way from start to finish, until you are out, until the sadness and grief are gone and the bad thoughts that are like cobwebs in your brain go away.
When we got in the car to go home, my husband said, “That was one of the best classes I’ve ever been to.”
Excited, I wanted to pick apart the reason. I wanted to know! When something is “right” in God’s house, you want to keep doing it right over and over.
“Why?” I asked.
“I guess because I contributed,” he replied.
Oh, burst my bubble. I wasn’t expecting him to say it was about me, but I wanted to KNOW! What made it a good meeting?
So I’ll take a stab at it — here’s what I think (emphasize think) it takes to make a “good” Bible study class.
1. I had prayed a lot earlier in the day, and in fact had an encounter with the Holy Spirit, which I’ll tell you about sometime when it isn’t 10 pm.
2. I prayed over each chair around our table for the person who would be sitting in it. The Spirit actually gave me a couple of words to use, including ‘healing’ in one spot…I’d love to know about the need for healing but it’s none of my business!
3. The pastor always prays for me before we start, asking for anointing. I think this helps get God in the flow and me out of the way. I love it.
4. Everyone shared. They had a lot to say. This is week 4, and they’re getting comfortable with each other. They’re also becoming used to the way I blurt out whatever comes to mind. The pastor just shakes his head…he’s never heard somebody be as blunt as I am. 🙂
5. God showed up. This is the real crux of the matter, when we ALLOW the Lord’s presence among us and invite Him to work on our hearts He is there. This is a class of dedicated God-seekers. They care. He matters to them. It’s beautiful.

What do you think makes a great class?

As we neared the house, my husband patted my hand. “I feel blessed to even be a part of your ministry, even if it’s just a supporting role.”
OK so he kinda made up for the other statement. And he is my support! I couldn’t do it without his presence, his help…he’s the wind beneath my wings.
Want a copy of 5 Steps to a Great Bible Study? Click here for a pdf.

Book Review: Faith Dare

I finished `The Faith Dare: 30 Days to Live Your Life to the Fullest’ by Debbie Alsdorf only a couple of days late. Not bad for me, I usually fall way behind. This was supposed to be read Aug. 1-30 and I finished Sept. 2.

Here is a slightly-longer-than-usual review of the book:

What Would Happen If You Lived Out Your Faith Every Day, In Every Situation? Jesus came to give us abundant life, to give us freedom from worry, fear, and the constant search for significance.

In the Introduction, the author says,

“Trusting God is a spiritual lifestyle to be learned. Walking out that faith takes a lifetime of baby steps in the direction of spiritual trust. As we grow, we learn how to trust God. We develop new habits of looking to him, new habits of processing and digesting the Word of God, new habits of living our faith, and new habits of relating to other people in our lives. New habits don’t happen overnight; they happen over time.” (p. 10)

So creating or rebuilding these new habits usually involves overcoming deeply ingrained wrong habits and beliefs. Most of us put our faith in human wisdom/human understanding. We’ve allowed the world to infiltrate our thought patterns, living habits—to a point that we miss out on God’s best for us. This author is trying to get us away from our worldly selves and into a godly thinking frame of mind.

After a lengthy introduction, we get down to business with 3 sections of ten days each. Each day’s reading is about 5 pages. Each day includes Today’s Praise/Prayer, Today’s Truth, Today’s Dare, a Journal section, Today’s Prayer, and Today I Believe. (It’s not as much as it sounds like! You can do this in maybe 15 minutes)
The sections are:
* Live Up! In Relationship to God
* Live In! In Surrender of Self
* Live Out! In Relationship to Others

Day 10, which I already blogged about here, spoke to me more than any other. Near the end of the book it seemed as if the author had run out of dares; somehow the words felt more hurried.
From the conclusion:

“Your life is no longer your own. Your life is not random. It is hidden in Christ. You are protected, shielded, care for, provided for…by Christ. You are covered by his faithfulness and power. To look up, focus your attention on what is biblically true rather than on what you are feeling.” (p. 228)

The book was a pleasure to read with my online Bible study friends. We discussed it once a week, pushing one another for deeper meaning and insight. Personally, I wished that the dares could have had more than one day, more time to soak in and live in them and ruminate on them. But of course, we can’t have a 30-week dare, can we? 4 stars.

Christian Mind Management

Psalm 3418 copy

 

Day 10 of Faith Dare #FaithDare really spoke to me. It’s titled “Mind Management,” and I suspect it’s relevant to the majority of American Christian women. We bought into the women’s lib, do-it-all have-it-all lie and then we believed that we all had to emulate that annoying Proverbs 31 woman, and what we ended up with was a message: We have to do it all and we have to be perfect.

As a result, we talk unkindly to ourselves. We speak to Self in a way we would never, ever speak to our family or our best friend. We use an ugly tone of voice — try saying out loud sometime what you say to yourself in your head! Doesn’t it sound awful?

So, Day 10 likens our negative self-talk to flies: They are “disgusting, annoying, and downright frustrating,” author Debbie Alsdorf says. She mentions how they return again and again, and even become an overwhelming swarm. Has this woman been inside my head, or what?

If you have this sort of problem, what’s the answer? Focus, says Alsdorf. Handing over these thoughts to God, interrupting the lie with a Truth will stop it in its tracks. I never thought of this as a spiritual practice. I never thought of managing my mind just like I manage my household, spiritual life, relationships, and, errmm, my desk. Please don’t look at my desk.

It’s simple, but I’ve already put it to work and it is successful. Whenever you have a bad thought, look for the good of the situation. If your husband is driving you crazy, stop and think about the positive: He is a good provider, he is great with the kids, he helps with housework. He loves you. Or whatever you can find that’s good about your hubby. 🙂
Once you’ve replaced the bad thoughts, focus on the new, positive thoughts. This is mind management.

If the thought is too stubborn to leave, take it up a notch: Use Scripture. Yes, take out God’s Word and read it silently or aloud to shoo away those lie-flies. Better yet if you have memorized Scripture, you can quote it.

This works because you are able to take charge, you are able to stop the negativism and call on the Lord to help straighten out the oft-blurred line between truth and fiction. Only 4% of women in the US consider themselves beautiful, according to Dove, the “Real Women” proponents. We spend our days thinking, my thighs are fat, I need more makeup, don’t take my picture… Whew! We wear ourselves out just thinking.

As soon as I tried replacing the negative with positive and realized I could push these thoughts aside and make them never return—I felt more in control. I felt like I had found a special key and unlocked a secret door. Because I tend toward depression (part of the fun of having fibromyalgia) I find this especially helpful. I called my daughter, another fibro sufferer, and she was excited over it, too. “It’s not one of those just-get-over-it things, is it?” she asked.

No it’s not. This is reach up to God to reach the tools we need to get through this life. This is how to live on earth happily, how to simplify our own minds. Beautiful!

Philippians 4:8 ~ Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. [NASB]

I’m Not Behind, I Promise!

So I started the new Bible study two days ago, and I didn’t post yesterday. Here’s why: I went to the beach all day, and the group meeting wasn’t until 8 p.m. So I knew I’d prolly be too tired to blog afterward. It was a planned absence.
The group meeting went *so well* and it’s a group of people just like me— people who are passionate about the Lord, about following Him, about doing what we should and not what we could.
At the end of the group meeting, somebody said “can we partner up?” and suddenly we just were. I went to a new friend’s Facebook page to see if she would partner with me, and before I could type it she popped up on chat: “So nice to get to know you! Want to partner?”
Then we found out we had so much in common….and more…and finally she said “are you left handed?” and I burst out laughing, typing back YES. God has such a sense of humor. He put us together, and we fit like 2 peas in the proverbial (pun intended) pod.
Between the excitement of my new, much-like-me partner and the joy of my renewed faith that God will let me know what my ministry is–SOON– I thought I would never go to sleep.
I did find out that I was supposed to read the first 2 chapters first, and start with Day 1 on Aug. 1. So there will be a small delay here as I catch up. Maybe I will make a new video. 🙂
Be blessed!

Living from a New Heart Perspective

Something as simple as whether to blog about a book you’re reading can put you into a sort of tailspin. I read recently that if I’m blogging, as a Christian author, my posts should only be about: 1. me in relation to my book 2. the book itself 3. Christianity as it relates to my book. After giving this some serious thought, I decided that I’m a lot more dimensional than that, and my readers (ok. My one reader?) might appreciate some insight into the thought process. Besides, if I found a blog like that, it would be boring!

So this is my  first day reading a 30 Day book called The Faith Dare, by Debbi Alsdorf.  My online Bible Study group — a lifeline, now that I am without a church home (until we find one here in FL)–is doing it together. I’ll be journaling about it here on Hooked On Jesus throughout the entire month, though possibly not daily. 🙂

So. Today we’re talking about the heart: having an undivided heart, giving God access to all of your heart, becoming a woman of purpose (a single purpose!), and living out of your new heart. This truth is speaking to me strongly, as I know I need a single, focused purpose. Actually I have one–I just keep letting myself get blown around in the tide. I need to sail straighter. Living out of that heart…that’s a difficult thing; if you’ve had pain or trials in your life, sometimes you live out of the past instead of out of the glory in which God has made you.

Today, God asked me whether I was putting other things in front of my Bible reading. Not Bible studies — the actual  study of The Word. Obviously I’m guilty, or He would not have gently presented the question. So I think I’ll start the day with Bible reading, before I even get out of bed.

I also have some awesome CDs of the Bible narrated by some name actors, I love listening to it. It’s just since we moved there is no way to listen privately. I have to play it on my computer in the (shared) office, or in the living room. Blaring out through the entire house, as it’s an open floor plan. lol I’ll have to give that some more thought, as I really enjoy listening to the Bible on Cd. Sometimes I try to follow along in my Bible at the same time; other times I just sit back and enjoy the Word washing over me.

Goals:
Live from my new heart
Find a way to listen to Bible on CD
Read my Bible more
Stick with Faith Dare the whole 30 days

Whatever happened to the “H” in deity?

So, my Bible Study is in the hands of an editor. (Yay!) A real, live person who is finding all my mistakes and showing me girl, you might have been writing for that past 7 years, but you don’t know how to write.

Ahem.

Yeah ok, I usually have editors for that kind of thing. I had to laugh when I was researching editors (I finally picked one I knew, and who I knew had experience with Christian writing so she would speak the lingo). Anyway there was a suggestion someplace that you check out the potential editors for your manuscript at preditors & editors, that you check their references, that you make sure the person you talk to is really the one who will do the work and has a resume you can see. This is all very good advice. The final suggestion was this:

Take an English class.

Well. If I haven’t learned it by now (I created my first “book” in the 3rd grade, complete with a hard cover held together by yarn) I am probably not going to learn a whole lot in yet another English class. Not to mention that I’ve been repeating my mistakes for lo these many years. Also not to mention that there’s no way that in the next month I’m going to stop making them, English class or no. I’ll just shell out the bucks for an editor.

So back to the title of this post. My editor asked whether I wanted deity pronouns (that’s like “Him” or “His” when referring to God or Jesus) to be capitalized. I was taken aback. I thought that’s what we did! I thought everybody knew to cap the deities. Not the false ones, but the 2 real ones.

Turns out, that’s not even right. The writer’s guidelines say not to capitalize. Furthermore, she said only TWO VERSIONS of the Bible use caps for those pronouns these days. Are you as shocked as I am? Did you know this?

Color me stupid. I thought you always capitalized them, out of reverence. That’s what I’ve decided to do, and I’ll put some sort of disclaimer [disclaimer! What a word to have to use] in the front explaining why MY God still has a capital H in His name.

Do you have any time stealers?

Yep, time-stealers. Those little things that worm their way in and then suck up your time…or the things you begin to think about instead of what you’re supposed to be doing….or the things you begin to obsess about.

The thing is, they can easily turn into idols. But nobody wants to call them that. Idols seem too large, too much, too heavy…..time-stealers are just little annoyances, like no-seeums [tiny gnat-like things that bug you to death, pardon the pun].

Some people call them false gods, or functional gods because they are functioning as your god. Whatever you want to call it — let’s get it outta the way so you can go forward worshiping Jesus! Agreed?

This is a short lesson from my upcoming Bible Study, Come Back to Jesus — and Don’t Bring your Blackberry. It’s only a little premature; the book should be out in Feb. 2013 and will be available wherever books are sold. There is also an ebook version.

What you’ll need: a Bible, or you can use http://www.biblegateway.com to look up passages

To get the survey mentioned in the video, visit this link and click print page.

We’ll cover these verses

Ephesians 55
Ecclesiastes 9:7-10
Colossians 3:5-11
Psalm 1:1,2