The Knowledge of the Holy, The Pursuit of God, and God’s Pursuit of Man – A.W. Tozer

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Moody Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

This review is tricky to do because there are three separate books involved. However, this review is also very simple because Tozer is a fantastic author and each one of these “spiritual classics” had so much depth that I felt like a student under Tozer’s teaching.

Get a copy of the book here!

Before reading The Knowledge of the Holy, The Pursuit of God, and God’s Pursuit of Man, I had heard so much about each of these books and how they have changed the lives of many of the Christian men and women that I know. With such high expectations, I was unsure if I would have a similar experience. But I soon realized how life-changing these books are when I started reading them. I had a pen constantly in my hand ready to take notes and underline sentences. I gathered quotes from the three books that were just too good not to share, I started praying with a better realization of who God is, and I learned to not only enjoy reading the Bible but also to enjoy reading books about holiness and what it looks like to pursue God. Tozer did the amazing thing of giving information about the Bible that makes you want to learn more from it. All three books (but especially The Knowledge of the Holy) made me ask “does the Bible really say that?” and I would end up with my Bible open on my desk while I read through each book.

Get a copy of the book here!

These three books were each marvelous on their own but having them conveniently together in one bound book helped me stay on track and finish them all in a timely manner. Having the book hardbound kept me from folding back the covers and breaking the binding too.

Overall, I give this book a 5 out of 5 stars because of the authors content, the effects it has had on me as a Christian and the structure of the book.  

Get a copy of A.W. Tozer’s Three Spiritual Classics in One Volume by clicking right here!

The Weight of Singleness Part III: Praying While You Wait

Over the next few days, people all around the world will celebrate Valentine’s Day with their significant other. Chocolates and flowers and over-sized teddy bears will be given to show infatuation for someone. Restaurant tables will be reserved, hotel rooms booked, and babysitters hired. “Love” (by the world’s watered-down definition) is most definitely in the air this time of year.

Although Valentine’s Day is known as a day of showing love, there is a large demographic that often feels left out: singles. Many people will spend this Valentine’s Day alone, whether it be for the first time in a long time or for the 25th straight year. February 14th can be a really hard day for single people, especially those who are Christians.

Single Christians oftentimes do not know what they should do on Valentine’s Day. They are obviously not going to (read: shouldn’t) look for a hook-up last minute and do not want to tag along as a third- or fifth- or seventh-wheel with their friends. Maybe they’ll just buy a gallon of moose tracks and sit alone at home and catch up on Grey’s Anatomy (no? just me?). Or they could ride around in their car, bawling their eyes out, listening to the playlist they’ve created for their eventual wedding (that one can’t just be me).

As funny (or realistic) as those scenarios may be, there is no doubt about it: being a single person in a world where your relationship status holds just as much importance as the career you have or the property you own is extremely difficult. My biggest recommendation for people who are unhappy with their singleness is to pray about what the Lord is doing in their life.

If you have read either of my first two articles about singleness (The Weight of Singleness and The Weight of Singleness Part II), you know that I truly believe in the importance and power of prayer. Praying is one of the greatest gifts that the Lord has given us. We get to communicate with God the Father anytime, anywhere, for any reason. By praying when the weight of our singleness gets almost too heavy to bear, we are “casting [our] anxieties on Him, because He cares for [us],” (1 Peter 5:7, ESV).

However, I want to suggest some prayers to the single Christian that do not specifically pertain to singleness but, rather, holiness. I think a lot of us have forgotten that our end goal in life is not to have a family and a successful career and the nicest house on the block but to know Jesus and make Him known. One of my favorite theologians, A.W. Tozer, quoted this in his book The Pursuit of God: “The true Christian ideal is not to be happy but to be holy.” We should put our holiness far above our happiness. We should put our relationship with the Lord far above our want for a relationship here on earth.  When we take our eyes off of our current circumstance and focus on the greater picture of becoming who the Lord is calling us to be, we not only start to see our singleness as a blessing – more importantly, we start to see Christ as our greatest treasure. Use these years of singleness to start allowing the Lord to work on who you are becoming as an individual, Spirit-indwelt person. You may not have these years much longer.

1)    Pray for your sanctification

As Christians, the way that God makes us more like Jesus Christ is through the process of sanctification. In my first article on singleness, I stated: “Prayer is about being in awe of who the Lord is and surrendering everything to Him.” I should add, “prayer is also about becoming more like Jesus.” When we pray for the Lord to sanctify us, He gives us opportunities to become more like Jesus by the situations and circumstances He has put us in. Sometimes it may hurt to do the Christ-like thing, sometimes it may be awkward, sometimes it may result in embarrassment, but it is beneficial every time. Pray that the Lord would give you opportunities to be an example of Christ every day in your community, in your workplace, and in your home.

Verses for reference:

Romans 6:19, 22

“…For just as you offered the parts of yourselves as slaves to impurity, and to greater and greater lawlessness, so now offer them as slaves to righteousness, which results in sanctification…since you have been set free from sin and have become enslaved to God, you have your fruit, which results in sanctification – and the outcome is eternal life!”

Example prayer:

Father God, I pray that You would continue to sanctify me and make me more like Christ. Thank you for saving me from the sin I was in and giving me the gift eternal life! Give me opportunities to put Jesus on display in my everyday life and help me be an obedient slave to righteousness, no matter how hard or awkward or embarrassing it may get. Amen.

2)   Pray for your study of God’s Word

In your pursuit of the Lord, the only true way to know more about Him is by studying His Word. Although it is sometimes hard to understand and we can often get too busy to study the Bible, it is important to pray for the motivation to dig into God’s Word at some point during your day. Tell the Lord that you want to learn to love His Word and you long to better understand it. Once you start praying for it, let the Lord guide you to figure out the best time for you to read your Bible.

Verses for reference:

Psalm 119:105

“Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.”

2 Timothy 3:16-17

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

Hebrews 4:12

“For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

Example prayer:

Lord, thank You for Your Word and that You have given it to me in a language that I understand. God, I pray that You would give me the motivation to get out of bed early in the morning or stay up late in the afternoon to really dig deep into Scripture. I pray that I would see Your Word as a guiding light for me, showing me more of who You are and more of who You have called me to be. Lord, use Your Word to teach me, rebuke me, correct me, and train me in righteousness. I ask that You would judge the thoughts and intentions of my heart through Your Word, God. Amen.

3)   Pray that God would reveal your sin

Asking God to convict us of sin in our lives is never an easy thing to do. But in reality, sin is what separates us from God, and we should always want to be close to Him. When He reveals our sin to us, we are able to see His goodness at work in our lives. Sometimes our subconscious sin is so hard to see that we need the light of God’s holiness to shine on our hearts and reveal it to us so that we may be made clean. Then we can repent and ask for forgiveness knowing that He is gracious to forgive us through His Son, Jesus.

Verses for reference:

Luke 24:47

“… and repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”

Acts 2:38

“Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

2 Corinthians 7:10

“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, but worldly grief produces death.”

2 Peter 3:9

“The Lord does not delay his promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.”

Other Scriptures: Psalm 38, Psalm 51

Example prayer:

God, I know that I am a sinner and that there are things that You see in me that I do not even see in myself. I pray, Lord, that You would help me recognize my sin and give me a repentant heart so that I turn away from it. Father, thank You for sending Jesus to die on my behalf so that I may be forgiven of my sin. Help me fight the temptations that come my way and not fall back into the sin that once enslaved me. Amen.

4)   Pray for your ministry

One of the greatest things that we can become a part of is the local ministry. No matter where you are at in life, you have the opportunity to minister to the people around you. Ministry can be done with any group of people from any area of the neighborhood with any type of background. If you are part of a ministry already, thank God for giving you that opportunity. If you are not yet part of a local ministry, ask Him to open your eyes to see where you can be used in your community. Just like many of the things on this list, it is good to get started in ministry while you are still single as a lot of couples do not make time for it once they are married.

Verses for reference:

2 Corinthians 5:18

“Everything is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.”

Example prayer:

Dear Lord, show me how I can become more involved in a local ministry. I want to help people know more about You. Give me eyes to see where there is a need in the community around me. I do not want to neglect this time I have to get started in ministry. I pray that I would accurately share Your Gospel message with those in my community. Surround me with other ministry-minded people so that we may proclaim Your truth together. Amen.

5)   Pray for joy in your responsibilities

Whether we like it or not, we are all responsible for things in this earthly life. Though many of our responsibilities differ, there are a few things that we are all responsible for: our jobs/everyday tasks, our money, our health, and our relationships. By praying for our responsibilities, we are better able to understand them and take better care of them. We start to see our responsibilities as a gift to be enjoyed rather than a burden to be despised. Spend time in prayer asking the Lord to reveal your responsibilities to you and give you an appreciation for them each day.

Verses for reference:

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

“Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body.”

Proverbs 17:17

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a difficult time.”

John 15:13

“No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends.”

Other Scriptures: Genesis 24

Example prayer:

Father, thank You for this life you have given me and for the ways that You have blessed me. As I go throughout my day today, help me take care of the things that You have blessed me with. Give me wisdom when it comes to spending money, give me peace as I do my everyday job today, help me take better care of my body today, and show me how to be a better family member and friend. I know that these things can sometimes get stressful, but I pray that You would allow me to see the beauty in them all and that I would start to enjoy them. Amen.

6)   Pray that your distractions would be limited

As believers, our focus should be on Jesus always. When something gets in our way to disturb our view of Him, we have become distracted. This can happen when we spend too much time on social media scrolling through pictures of our crushes or pictures of random couples. We start to fill our minds with the relationship we want rather than filling our minds with truth. Do not allow yourself to get so preoccupied with this world that your relationship with Jesus starts to feel like second best. Pray that the Lord would limit your distractions so you may constantly keep your eyes on Jesus.

Verses for reference:

Matthew 6:33

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.”

Example prayer:

Dear God, I know that I can easily become distracted with everything going on in the world around me. Show me how to stay focused on You and seek Your Kingdom over everything else. Give me the motivation to stay off of social media and fill my mind with more of Your truth. You are my greatest treasure and I want to keep You in the forefront of my mind at all times. Amen.

7)   Pray for patience and contentment

Whenever we get anxious and worried about our current or future relationship status, we should ask the Lord to give us patience and contentment. These are two characteristics we see in the Bible a lot, but we don’t see them lived out well in the people around us. As a society, we have become less patient and less content with our circumstances. People have started to take things into their own hands rather than waiting patiently on the Lord to act. Being discontent is now an accepted state of mind for a lot of people throughout the world. Ask the Lord for a sense of patience that only He can give and for contentment in Christ alone.

Verses for reference:

Psalm 40:1

“I waited patiently for the Lord, and He turned to me and heard my cry for help.”

1 Corinthians 13:4

“Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not conceited,”

Galatians 5:22-23

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Philippians 4:11-13

“I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content- whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

Example prayer:

Lord, thank You for teaching me in the way of patience and contentment. I pray that You would give me patience that only comes from You and help me find the secret to contentment that Paul found: that Jesus alone should satisfy me. God, help me wait for the earthly love that You have prepared for me and not try to do things on my own. Let me be an example to the world around me that waiting for You to act and being satisfied in You alone is far greater than trying to do things on my own. Amen.

8)   Pray that you would trust God’s plan and His timing

I have a question: when it comes to God’s plan for your life, are you really okay with all that He may (or may not) have in store for you? God’s plan may not mean that you get a six-figure job, it may mean that He wants you to move overseas and be a missionary. His plan may not be that you use your beautiful voice in that singing competition but use it to teach worship in your community. God may not plan for you to be married and start a family but to start a singles group at a local church. If we are not okay with any of these three scenarios, we should pray that whatever God wants for our lives is what we want for our lives. We have to trust that God’s plan for us is greater than our plan for ourselves.

Verses for reference:

Proverbs 3:5

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths.”

Proverbs 16:3

“Commit your activities to the Lord, and your plans will be achieved.”

Proverbs 16:9

“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps.”

Luke 22:42

“Father, if You are willing, take this cup away from Me – nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.”

Example prayer:

Father, I’m sorry if I have questioned Your plan for my life lately. I know that You have a great life in store for me even if it looks nothing like what I expected it to. I pray that I would trust You with every single part of my life. I pray that not my will, but Thy will be done. I know that Your timing is perfect and that I will not miss out on anything as long as I am following You. Guide my steps so that I will be in accordance with Your plan and not my own. Amen.

I know that I did not spend a whole lot of time in these points discussing how to become a suitable spouse to your future husband or wife. The reality is that praying these things will help you become more like Jesus which will make you more than just a suitable spouse – they will make you a devoted follower of Christ. Strive to become a better Christian, not a more dateable person. The Lord will bless you with the amazing future He has already planned for you if you trust His plan and submit to His will.

As a single person, you have so much time to really seek out the Lord and understand more about yourself and more about Him. Remember that God has your best interest in mind all the time, regardless of whether or not it is something you want for yourself. God has ALWAYS been good, and He will ALWAYS continue to be good. Pray the above points with a heart that loves the Lord and wants to obey His calling. You will not be disappointed.

Grace and peace,

Bethany

Through My Father’s Eyes by Franklin Graham (with Donna Lee Toney)

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the Booklook Bloggers Book Review Program. The review below is my own honest opinion of the book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

I have provided a link to the book on Amazon at the bottom of the page

Summary:

“Through My Father’s Eyes” is a memoir written by the eldest son of Billy Graham about the man who was known to most people as “America’s Preacher”. Although he was known for the many crusades he held throughout the cities and states in this country, Graham also traveled to several different countries to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Preaching is what Billy Graham was known for and he boldly preached to millions of people, knowing that the Message he carried was far more important than the messenger.

After Billy Graham passed away last February, his eldest son Franklin wrote this biography of his father’s life, focusing on who Billy Graham was as a husband, father, and friend.  “Through My Father’s Eyes” includes stories of Billy’s childhood, his young adulthood, his coming to Christ, and his methods of parenting. Franklin provided fans of Billy Graham with a snapshot of what his life was like away from the pulpit.

Review:

Though Franklin Graham does a great job at providing people with a better understanding of who Billy Graham was outside of his ministerial duties, there were times where the book seemed to place unnecessary emphasis on the work that Billy Graham did as a preacher rather than the work that Jesus did THROUGH Billy Graham. It’s hard to determine if this was intended to come across that way but on many accounts, I had to mentally tell Franklin, “Yes, but Billy Graham is not Jesus”. (Disclaimer: I may have felt this way because I have gotten used to reading books written by theologians who discuss God’s character more than anything else, but I feel like Franklin had many opportunities to praise Jesus for what he has done in his father’s life and chose to glorify his father instead.)

If you read this in the same vein that you read Lewis or Tozer, you could get yourself and your theology into trouble. I know this is not the Bible and shouldn’t be read like gospel truth but as someone used by God to proclaim the name of Jesus to millions of people in many different places, I expected a greater spotlight to be placed on the Savior rather than the messenger. May “America’s Preacher” now rest in peace but may the message of the One who sent him never die.

Recommended for:

  • People who want to know more about Billy Graham
  • People who like biographies
  • People who want to know more about Christianity in recent history

Get “Through My Father’s Eyes” on Amazon today!

Why Studying the Bible is Important and Tips to Get You Started

“For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” – Hebrews 4:12

The Importance of the Bible

Have you ever sat down at your desk, opened up your Bible, and really thought about how amazing it is that we have the words from an all-knowing God written in a language that we understand? One of the greatest miracles God has ever performed was when He took His infinite vocabulary and pieced together words that could be comprehended by our very limited human minds.

I believe the daily reading, studying, and memorization of the Bible is of utmost importance in the life of a true Christian. By reading the Bible, we know that God is good, just, merciful, and loving. It tells us of God’s amazing grace and of His plan for our salvation. The Bible is our source of peace in a world that is passing away.

The Word of God is also “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12), breathing life into the souls of those who are faithful to read and study it. It’s no wonder that the longest chapter of the Bible (Psalm 119) is about having a deep desire for God’s Word. The psalmist spends 176 verses discussing all the ways that the Bible can be useful to believers if they simply spend time reading and studying it.

Misplaced Priorities

However, we often tend to forget how powerful the Bible is and how desperately we need it to sustain us during our everyday life. The Bible is the only book of its kind, yet we treat it as though it’s just another piece of paper with words on it. But why do we treat it that way?

Unfortunately, as much as people like to blame lack of time or lack of understanding for their neglect of reading the Bible, I believe it has more to do with misplaced priorities than anything else. We have started to prioritize sleeping in, making sure the house is clean, catching up on our favorite TV show, and having the perfect makeup routine over spending time reading the Bible. None of these things in and of themselves are sinfully bad but NONE of them should take priority over our personal relationship with Jesus. And until we believe that to be true, reading the Bible will not be at the top of our “to-do” list each day.

Getting Started

When I first started studying the Bible, I spent most of my study time feeling tired (because I was waking up earlier than I was used to) and confused (because I had no idea what was going on in what I was reading). But I remained faithful and kept reading, asking God to give me the clarity to understand and energy to stay awake. And through my remaining faithful, God revealed His faithfulness to me by giving me the clarity and energy I had asked for.

If you are stuck in a spot where you really want to begin studying the Bible but are having a hard time getting started, I want to offer a few tips that I have learned in my years of studying:

  1. GET A VERSION OF THE BIBLE THAT YOU CAN READ EASILY (BUT MAKE SURE IT IS NOT A PARAPHRASE VERSION)

In order to start studying the Bible, you need … well… a Bible. More than likely, someone in your family or in your church has gifted you with one at some point in your life. But if you are a 28-year-old woman and the only Bible you have is a KJV Teen Study Bible that has been collecting dust since you were in middle school, it may be time to go Bible shopping.

A few important things to consider when shopping for a Bible are: (1) what type of Bible you want/need (devotional Bible, reference Bible, study Bible, hardcover, softcover, etc.)  (2) the readability of the translation that you are wanting to purchase (how well you can understand it), and (3) the accuracy of the translation when compared to the original Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic manuscripts. (See chart below):

When picking out a Bible, I would suggest that you stay more toward the left side of the “Bible Translation Continuum”. However, it is important to consider that the readability of the translation may be compromised in order to make the translation more literal to the original manuscripts.

My personal go-to is the Christian Standard Bible (CSB; formerly Holman Christian Standard Bible – HCSB) but I also enjoy using the English Standard Version (ESV) every now and then. As you can see, the ESV is a more formal translation but the CSB is a more readable translation. The main reason that I have used the CSB more is that it was the only Bible translation I had when I wanted to really start studying the Bible.

Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t need the fanciest-looking Bible out there. Any Bible that you can read and understand is perfect. You can get a good Bible on Amazon for $20-$30 or you could go to your local Christian store and find one for around the same price.

Here are the Bibles that I use most often:

2. GET A NOTEBOOK OR JOURNAL AND YOUR FAVORITE PENS (HIGHLIGHTERS HELP TOO)

 Now, you don’t have to use a specific type of notebook to take notes in. I use the Moleskine Cahier journals because the paper quality is on point. But if you don’t care about paper quality as much as I do, you could use a regular school composition notebook which usually sells for less than $1 at most stores. I am also VERY picky about my pens but if you can write with regular stick pens, use those. God doesn’t need you to break your bank in order to have quality time with Him.

These are the notebooks/pens that I use while I study the Bible:

3. SET ASIDE TIME

 Every morning, the first thing I do is plan out my day. I grab my planner and my Frixion pens and write out everything I have to do, being sure to include a section for my quiet time. This really helps me keep my priorities straight. If I didn’t take time to plan my day, 4 times out of 5 I would skip spending time with the Lord so that I could start on something else that felt more important to me.

I don’t have to spend two hours in the morning trying to understand every concept in the Bible. Most days, I just set aside 30 to 45 minutes to pray, read the next section of what I’m studying (I’ll talk more about that later), and take notes on that section.

But I don’t have time throughout my day to study my Bible…” I know. I know. I hear ya.

Here’s the best advice I have for people who “don’t have enough time” to read the Bible: wake up 30 minutes earlier. As someone who likes to sleep in, I had to train myself to get out of bed as soon as my alarm went off and sit at my desk so that I wouldn’t be tempted to roll over and fall back asleep. Once I’m at my desk, I plan my day and read my Bible. That 30-45 minutes I spend meditating on God’s Word changes my mood for the entire day. I’m a completely different person when I wake up early and give the Lord the very first minutes of my day.

However, if you are a night person who can stay awake for an extra 30 minutes before going to bed, use that time to study instead. It doesn’t matter what part of your day you decide to study, it just matters that you set aside time to read God’s Word.

I have used the Day Designer to plan my days for the past few months and I absolutely love it:

4. PRAY

 Before I even open up my Bible to start reading, I spend a few minutes in prayer. I pray for anything that my friends or family have asked me to pray for and then I ask the Lord to bless the time I spend in His Word. This gets my heart and mind ready to receive whatever He has for me as I study. If you are a believer, asking the Holy Spirit to give you discernment and guidance as you read can be the biggest difference in whether or not you understand the passage(s).

Most of the time when I pray, I just sit at my desk and silently tell the Lord what’s on my heart. Sometimes I will feel the need to write prayers down so I will grab my prayer journal and a pen, and I will write out the words I want to say. I know people who write every prayer down and I know people who have never written a prayer down. It all just depends on your personal preference.

5. HAVE A PLAN

Don’t worry, I’m not going to copy and paste point #3 from above here. This planning is more about knowing what you are going to study.

It is important to know what you are going to study BEFORE you start reading. It is a common but dangerous practice to just flip to a page in the Bible, read a little section, and go on about your day. If we do that, we miss the major context of the verses we read and confuse ourselves even more.

The books I typically recommend to people who have never tried to study the Bible before are James, Romans, or the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). Once you understand more of who Jesus is and what it means to be a true follower of Him, you can move deeper into the New Testament or get into the Old Testament to understand more of what the world before Jesus was like.

The best advice I can give you is to choose a book of the Bible to start studying and read it from beginning to end. Each day, break the book down into small passages so that you aren’t overwhelmed by the amount you have to read. For instance, if you decide to start studying James, just stick to verses 1-11 of the first chapter so that you can dig deeper into those verses to get a better understanding of them. Then the next day, study through verses 12-18 and so on and so forth. Don’t worry if you get less than 10 verses done each day. The important thing is that you start to grasp the meaning of the text and understand why it is important for you as a Christian to know it.

6. BE INTENTIONAL

There will be times when you are studying, and you still don’t understand what the Lord is trying to teach you. Don’t give up! Those are the moments when He is cultivating your heart to really understand what is happening in that passage. There have been many moments where I have read a passage and thought “that makes no sense” and then I’ll reread it the next morning and the Lord has given me a greater understanding of it. In the Lord’s perfect timing, He will give us wisdom.

There are going to be times where you don’t really feel the Holy Spirit moving in you, but you have to remain faithful to read God’s Word; you are learning more than you may give yourself credit for.

7. GET SOME RESOURCES

If you ever get to a point where you say to yourself “Okay, I’ve read through this passage a few times and I want to know what other pastors/Bible teachers/theologians think about it…”, you should look into getting some type of resource to help you understand the passage even better. There are a few different types of resources out there that can be very beneficial for someone who is just starting to study the Bible. However, there are some false teachings in the world so you should ask your pastor or other solid Christians for their recommendations when it comes to each of the following:

  • Commentaries

One such resource is called a commentary. Essentially, commentaries are the Bible study notes of theologians, pastors, and other leaders in the church who have spent a lot of time reading and studying certain books of the Bible. Since commentaries are written by flawed humans, it is important not to use commentaries as a stand-alone substitution for the Bible itself. It is also important to only use commentaries from trusted Bible scholars who have studied the Bible for years and years.

The most effective way for me to use a commentary in conjunction with studying my Bible is to read the passage of Scripture in my Bible first and while I read, write down any questions that I may have or different points that really stand out to me. After reading through the passage in the Bible (sometimes 2 or 3 times), I open up the commentary I’m using to the respective section that I read through in the Bible and read what the commentary author had to say about the questions I had and the points I wrote down. Once I’m done reading through the commentary and taking notes on it, I go back through the passage in the Bible one more time to make sure that I understand the flow of it and, if necessary, I will make a note in the margins of my Bible of the most important point from that passage.

Right now, I am studying through Hebrews and have used the commentary linked below to help me understand different concepts in the passages throughout the book:

Exalting Jesus in Hebrews Christ-Centered Exposition

  • Bible dictionaries

Bible dictionaries are pretty self-explanatory. They are dictionaries that focus on words in the Bible. Knowing the true meanings of words in the Bible helps a great deal when trying to understand different passages in the Bible.

You don’t have to have a physical copy of a Bible dictionary to find the definition of a word in the Bible but for those of you who enjoy having a physical copy, I have linked one that I’ve seen pastors use during their sermon prep. For others of you who want the free online option, I have linked the website that I use to look up words:

Vines Complete Expository Dictionary

Bible Study Tools – Dictionary

  • Concordance

Concordances are another great tool to use when studying the Bible, especially if you want to know more about a specific topic. A concordance is a list of words found in the Bible and shows where each word is found in each book of the Bible. In addition to a dictionary, a concordance can help you better understand the definition and context of a word.

Like a Bible dictionary, there are a few concordances found online for free but I have also linked one of the most popular options of a physical copy of a concordance below. (Some Bibles also include a short concordance in the back):

Bible Study Tools – Concordance

Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance

  • Sermons on podcats/Sermon Audio

As someone who loves the Bible and tries to get as much out of it as I can, I have started listening to sermons on my Podcast app and online. This way I can just search the passage of Scripture that I read that day, find a sermon by a pastor that I know and trust, and listen to the sermon as I drive. This way, I get an even deeper understanding of the passage of Scripture and shouldn’t lack any knowledge of its importance.

(I will do a post on different podcasts I recommend soon!)

I recommend looking up sermons on the Podcast app on iPhone or iPad or using Sermon Audio to find sermons/pastors that have been recommended to you by your Christian friends. Sermon Audio has different filters you can use to find the perfect sermon for the part of the Bible you are studying but, again, don’t let words of men take the place of the Word of God. The Bible is the ultimate authority.

Sermon Audio is linked below:

Sermon Audio

8. TAKE GOOD NOTES

There are a lot of different ways you can take notes. Just Google Search “best note-taking method” and many options will pop up.

My favorite way to take notes is to write them out as if I am going to teach the passage that I’m reading to a small group of teenage girls. Now, I take notes this way because it isn’t unrealistic that I would eventually teach that passage to a group of teen girls. If I go ahead and set my notes up in a way that helps me flow through the passage while adding comments here and there, I will be more prepared to teach when given the opportunity. This also helps me make sure that the notes I take are accurate according to the Scriptures. I need to have a good, solid, foundational understanding of the passage so that I can discuss it with anyone at any time.

9. GET INVOLVED IN A LOCAL CHURCH

The last little piece of advice I have for someone who is wanting to study the Bible more is to get to church. Whether or not you are a regular attendee of your church or you haven’t gone to church in a long time, one of the best ways to know how to study your Bible is to go to the place where the Bible is being taught. Get involved in a Bible study that your church is doing or, if there isn’t one, start your own! It’s a great opportunity to be held accountable in your own study of the Bible and it gets other people digging into the Word too. If you are too young to start a Bible study in your home, talk to one of the older leaders in your church about getting one started.

Another thing you can do is to ask a leader in your church if they could help you walk through a book of the Bible with you. As a volunteer in a local church, I thoroughly enjoy when younger girls come up to me and ask me to study a book of the Bible with them. It gets me studying and it helps me really dig into the Word so that I can help the girl(s) understand it better.

Going to church and hearing sermons preached on the passages I am learning about helps me understand it so much better. Different people will glean different things from the same passage of Scripture because it can relate to us in different ways.

 

As you can see, there are many tips and tricks to start studying your Bible (believe it or not, there are many, many more tips I could add). I hope you have learned the importance of making Bible study the top priority in your life and how to get started on that journey.

Comment below and tell me which tip or trick you are most excited about trying and let me know what book of the Bible you are studying. If you have any questions, comment them below as well.

Sign up for email updates on the right side of your screen to be notified of when I post more Bible-related content. I plan on adding a few more posts about effectively studying the Bible and memorizing passages toward the beginning of the New Year.

Thank you for reading!

Grace and peace,

Bethany

Gay Girl, Good God – Jackie Hill Perry

After hearing a lot about Jackie Hill Perry and listening to some of her spoken word poems and interviews, I decided to buy her book Gay Girl, Good God. Don’t let the title fool you though – this book does a lot more than discuss Perry’s background as a homosexual girl who became straight. This book, at its core, is about the miracle of a person who was “dead in trespasses and sins” that has been brought to life by the Savior Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:1-9). This is a story of redemption and restoration. No matter who you are, what you’ve been through, what you struggle with – if you are a believer, this is your story too.

This is a story of redemption and restoration.

The beginning of the book is the story of Jackie’s past – who she was, how she was raised, what she did, what she thought about life – with relevant stories from the book of Genesis laced throughout. Perry uses a whole chapter to shed light on the fall of man and the effects of our sinful nature. From the introduction of Gay Girl, Good God, you can tell that Jackie Hill Perry knows just as well as anyone that there is no such thing as “good sin” or “bad sin”; ALL sin separates us from our Father and Creator.

Gay Girl, Good God

But don’t worry, the story has a happy ending. Jackie explains how she came to know Christ and how He rescued her from “the law of sin and death,” (Romans 8:2). She talks about the people who mentored her, the church she started going to, and the Gospel poetry she started writing. She was sure to include how she grew in her faith and how she was able to overcome temptations when they crept up. Toward the end of the book, Perry discusses our need for our Savior, Jesus Christ, and how God has “delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of His beloved Son,” (Colossians 1:13).

You will be challenged, encouraged, and overjoyed by reading Gay Girl, Good God.

I was deeply encouraged by this book even though Perry’s story is much different from mine. I now have a better understanding of what people who identify as “gay” need from the body of believers that make up the Church. Perry gives these believers a blueprint of sorts in how to most effectively preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people who are living in sin. By reading this book, I now understand what it is like for someone to feel rejected and uninvited by the church and what we as the body of Christ can do about that. Through Gay Girl, Good God, Perry encouraged me to be more accepting of others and show them Jesus rather than being hard-hearted and hoping they find Him through some other avenue.

If you or someone you know has ever committed a sin (which we all are guilty of), you should read this book. Be prepared to be challenged, encouraged, and overjoyed by the testimony of Jackie Hill Perry. Her story of being a sinner brought to life in Christ is no different from any other true believer’s story. I hope that you find as much beauty in your redemption story as Perry has unashamedly acknowledged in her book Gay Girl, Good God.

You can purchase a copy of Gay Girl, Good God by clicking here.

Grace and peace,

Bethany

The Weight of Singleness Part II: Goodness, Love, and Contentment

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Goodness

We’ve all heard the saying “God is good, all the time.” Many times, it is said during a moment of celebration and triumph. It is not as often used when someone close to you is diagnosed with cancer, or when a family member loses their job. These situations make it feel like God is good MOST of the time but definitely not ALL of the time. But if that were the case, then God would not be God and He would definitely not be good. Because if God is not good all the time, He is not good any of the time. God’s goodness is a vital part of who He is. It is not only a characteristic He has vowed to live by, it is the very essence of His being. God and goodness cannot be separated. Where God goes, goodness goes and where goodness goes, God goes.

“God is good, all the time.” Over the past few years, I have become more aware of the word “all” in this phrase. All… Every millisecond of my life – past, present, and future – God has been good, is still good, and will always be good. No matter what.

When I am weak, God is good. When I am strong, God is good.

When I am lazy, God is good. When I am productive, God is good.

When I am broken, God is good. When I am whole, God is good.

When I am hungry, God is good. When I am full, God is good.

When I feel hurt and rejected, God is good. When I feel loved and cherished, God is good.

If I (somehow) get married in the next two years, God is good and if I never get married, God is still good.

No matter how I feel or where I’m at, God is still good.

Even when I think that God may not be good, God is still good.

God’s goodness is not contingent upon His love for me. If He did not love me, God would still be good… But in His goodness, God has CHOSEN to love me.

Love

During this season of singleness, I have come to recognize God’s love for me in many different ways. Through fellowship with other believers, the simplicity of quiet time in the mornings, and the way that the sun sets over my family’s pasture I see glimpses not only of God Himself but of His love for me and the rest of His creation. Oftentimes, I am so captivated by the Lord that I lose my breath and am at a loss for words.

God’s love is absolutely unimaginable. No matter how hard we try, we could never even begin to fathom the love that the Father has for us.

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord,” (Romans 8:38-39, CSB).

Not a thing in this world (or the next) will make the Lord stop loving you. God’s love is like His goodness, it is a part of His divine make-up. He doesn’t go anywhere without it. Like layers of skin, God’s love and goodness hold together all that He is. Without these two parts, God would be just like the rest of us but because His love and goodness are holy by nature, He is far greater and far better than any person on this earth.

Just like goodness, love has started to obtain an inaccurate definition in today’s society. It’s actually not just one inaccurate definition, it is many inaccurate definitions. Love has been a catch-phrase of sorts rather than a meaningful word that actually carries weight for the ears that hear it. The word “love” has lost a lot of its power due to being overused and under-utilized. As humans, we can no longer grasp the significance of what the Bible means when it says “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace!” (Ephesians 2:4-5) or “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life,” (John 3:16). What splendor is lost in these verses when we can only think of “love” as a shallow, ambiguous term. God has proven His deep, immeasurable love for us by giving us His Son as a Savior that conquered sin and death so that we may know God and live forever in His Kingdom.

The gift of eternal life and a restored relationship with the Father gives us a greater understanding of God’s love and His goodness.

I have recently learned of another way that God has shown His love and goodness toward me: contentment.

Contentment

It’s an amazing thing to find yourself completely content in Yahweh Yireh – the God who Provides. Resting in the fact that He alone can satisfy my most anticipated desires enables me to have a deeper understanding of and longing for His Word and, ultimately, Him. When I put my trust in the God who knows what’s best for me, there is nothing I will miss out on. Philippians tells me that I don’t have to be anxious about anything because I’ve continually taken my worries to the Lord and He has given me the peace that passes understanding, (4:6). {Notice I did not say “He gives me what I pray for” but that’s for a different day.}

I used to hear the word “content” thrown around a lot to apply to certain situations in peoples’ lives. “Oh, you should be content with a 3.5 GPA!”… “You just need to be content while you are still single.”… “Once you become content with your current situation, you will get the [job, guy, house, etc.] that the Lord wants for you.” I don’t have a major problem with these too-often used phrases. I do, however, have a problem with the assumption here. The assumption is that our situations are what makes us discontent or content but, as a believer, I would have to disagree.

If I’m being honest, I don’t think I’ll ever find contentment in my singleness. I don’t want to be single. Period. I don’t like it, it hasn’t been good for me, I want out. BUT my singleness has been marked by a contentment that can be found in Christ alone. Just like the peace that passes understanding, I will find myself completely enthralled by the Lord too much to even care about my current situation.

I like to think that Paul was in this state of mind when he penned Philippians while imprisoned in Rome. He had a longing to go to the church in Philippi but his imprisonment kept him from leaving the house. After the Philippians had displayed how much they cared for Paul and his ministry, though they sent no material gift, Paul writes:

“… I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself. I know both how to make do with little and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content – whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through [Christ] who strengthens me,” (4:11-13).

Paul knew that only Jesus could give satisfaction during times of uncertainty. He was aware that his situation was rough but did not make excuses for losing hope in what Christ was capable of doing. Paul clung to the truth and was content while he was imprisoned. Notice I said while he was imprisoned… not in his imprisonment. Paul makes it clear that Christ is the root of contentment, not the circumstance he was in.

If we cling to Him, we will be content through and in spite of whatever circumstance we face. If we find our satisfaction in the Lord, we will never be let down. Surrender your desires to Him. He can see our future; we can’t. Jesus needs to be enough for us in ALL seasons of life.

All the Above

Through God’s love and goodness, He has gifted me with contentment. I could never be content on my own. If I did not know the love and goodness of God, I would constantly be trying to scratch and claw for the things that I want with no regard to who I was hurting or who I was becoming on my path to proverbial “success”.

But glory be to God that I no longer have to live like that. I can rest in the promises of my Lord and know that His plan for me is greater than anything I could choose for myself. My life is to be lived in pursuit of the One who gave His life to save mine. Contentment is founded and grounded in Christ alone.

Grace and peace,

Bethany

Calming the Storm – Resources

It is crazy that it’s already over but I have been personally challenged throughout the course of writing each post. I have learned so much about the Lord and about myself through looking at this story in Scripture. In this post, I am going to share with y’all the different resources I used as assistance for this series. I will be the first to admit that I didn’t use a ton of resources to help me with this study but the ones that I used were definitely effective.

IMG_2106

First of all, I obviously used my Bible. Not just one, though… I used four different Bibles to help me in the breaking down of this passage of Scripture.

The main Bible I used was my ESV. I used this translation at the beginning of each of the posts because it is really popular in Christian circles now. I do not normally read the ESV translation (I typically stick with the HCSB or CSB) so reading this passage in a translation that I am not used to helped me more effectively interpret the message.

The next Bible I used throughout this study was the HCSB Apologetics Study Bible. This is the Bible that I have always used to study so I have a lot of extra notes from previous sermons about this particular passage in the margins of this Bible. It was easy for me to just flip to the passage and see a bunch of previously recorded notes about Jesus calming the storm.

In addition to the two Bibles mentioned above, I used the She Reads Truth study bible as well as the HCSB Study Bible. I didn’t end up using these two Bibles a whole lot for this study because I used other resources that I will get to later in this post but I did use a bit of information from each of these Bibles which helped me in constructing my posts.

IMG_2109The only commentary that I used for this study was called “Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew”. The Christ-Centered Expostion series of commentaries has been one of my favorites for a while – I am currently studying through their Hebrews commentary – so I knew that this would be a good resource for me to use as I did the “Calming the Storm” series.

The last but probably most effective resource that I used for this study was the WordSearch Bible by Lifeway. I was gifted a subscription to the WordSearch Bible and have used it more throughout the course of this study than any other time. I have learned to love it and all of its’ features. The main thing that I have used it for is the “word study tool”. Knowing what each word of each of the verses that I went through actually meant made a huge difference for me in my interpretation of the passage. I would highly recommend the WordSeach Bible by Lifeway to anyone who wants access to countless resources at the touch of a button.Screen Shot 2018-08-07 at 12.08.19 PM

I hope that y’all find encouragement to seek out additional resources when you are studying different parts of the Bible but be sure that the resources you use are reputable and based on truth.

Thanks for reading!

– Bet