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

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.

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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

Calming the Storm – Part IV: Matthew 8:26b-27

“And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, ‘Save us, Lord; we are perishing.’ And he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?’ Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?’” – Matthew 8:23-27

This is the last part of the series! (*tear*) I hope everyone has enjoyed this series and been challenged by it just as I have. In the next few days I will post some closing remarks and include a few different resourses that I’ve used throughout the course of the series.

If you’ve been keeping up with the series, you know that I have been using questions for each of the previous three parts of the series but we’re going to drop them for this post. Hopefully this decision will make sense as you read it…But let’s go ahead and jump into the last part. This is where everything comes together, where it all makes sense.

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Click the picture to see more of Alison’s art!

Let’s do a quick recap before getting into the last part of verse 26 and verse 27.
1) Jesus had been preaching all day and wanted to cross the sea so He could preach to a different crowd. He calls the disciples onto the boat after telling them the importance of following Him. (Part I)
2) While they are at sea, there comes a storm that starts constantly swamping the boat with waves causing it to start sinking. During this time, Jesus is asleep. (Part II)
3) The disciples wake Jesus up because they need His help. He questions their lack of faith in Him. (Part III)

After Jesus is rudely woken up from His nap and then questions the disciples faith, some pretty crazy stuff happens:

Jesus stands up after exploiting the lack of faith in the disciples and shuts up a storm that is threatening the lives of the people with Him: “Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm,” (v. 26b). The guy SPEAKS to the storm and it LISTENS! I love the word “rebuked” here because it is translated to “correct” or “warn”. Only someone who has control over something is able to effectively correct or warn it. Jesus was in control of the storm from the beginning. With just three words – “Peace! Be still!” – the storm is put in its rightful place under the authority of Jesus Christ.

How amazing would this have been to witness first-hand?! You’re standing in the boat shoveling water out when Jesus stands up, says three simple words and the waves are stilled, the thunder is hushed, and the clouds are rolled away. I don’t know exactly what I would have done in that moment, but something tells me that my reaction would look something like: “I’m with that guy! I don’t care where He goes or what He does but He has authority and I’m going wherever He wants me to go and doing whatever He wants me to do.”

In verse 27 we see how the disciples react to Jesus’ authority. As Jewish men, they were very familiar with passages like Psalm 89:9 which says, “You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them,” and Psalm 107:29: “He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.” These were verses that the disciples had known about (and possibly memorized) from a very early age. They were aware that God was able to calm storms and settle waves and now that Jesus had demonstrated that same power in front of them, they were amazed at the possibility that Jesus could in fact be the God of the universe.

And now we come to the main point in the entire story: Jesus is God! The authority that belongs to Yahweh of the Old Testament is the same authority that belongs to Jesus the Messiah. Jesus is Creator and Ruler of the ENTIRE UNIVERSE. He is powerful, He is holy, He is perfection. He quiets the storms, He heals the lame, He raises the dead. Jesus is the God-Man who holds authority over all of nature. Jesus demonstrates this authority by correcting the actions of the storm. And He wants us to submit to His authority over our lives. He wants to bring us into the boat with Him so that He can demonstrate His power over the storms that often wreak havoc in our lives. He alone has the authority to settle them. No effort we could give will ever be enough to calm the storms. We can try our best to get the water out of the boat but as waves keep crashing in and our physical ability starts to decline, Jesus is the only one who can effectively say “Peace! Be still!” over the storms in our lives.

What a gracious God we have the opportunity to serve! Jesus continues to demonstrate His authority over the storms in my life and I pray that He is doing the same for you!

– Bet

Calming the Storm – Part I: Follow Him – Matthew 8:23

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, ‘Save us, Lord; we are perishing.’ And he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?’ Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?’” – Matthew 8:23-27

 

Throughout the course of the “Calming the Storm” series on the blog, I want to answer three questions for each part of the series:

1) What is happening in this verse?

2) What does this verse mean for me?

3) What does this verse teach me about Jesus?

I also want to encourage you to ask me questions in the comments or just email them to me if there is something that you are confused by or if you just have a question about the passage as a whole. My goal in this study is to encourage a deeper understanding of God’s Word and a longing to know Him better so that we may fall more in love our Creator each day.

Now, let’s get started…

 

1) What is happening in this verse?

Matthew 8:23 is a very simple sentence when you first read over it. It is pretty clear what is happening here: Jesus is leading His disciples onto a boat.

He had just finished preaching about parables and had healed quite a few people which resulted in a large following. As with most cases when Jesus started to inherit a large crowd, He wanted to leave, so they got into the boat to cross the Sea of Galilee.

But I want you to take a look at the previous two verses (21-22):

Another of the disciples said to him, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.’”

This makes verse 23 that much more important:

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him.

Jesus had just finished talking about the importance of following Him; how it should be the most important thing in our entire lives. We know this from other instances in Scripture (Matthew 4:19, Matthew 16:24, Luke 9:23) but I wanted to point out the hidden message in this passage and how each part of this story can apply to our lives.

 

2) What does this verse mean for me?

The correct response to Jesus’ leading us is to follow Him. We may not know where we are going or the condition of the boat we may be getting into but the application for us from verse 23 is to have enough faith to follow Jesus onto the boat. We will see later in this passage that having faith to follow Him onto the boat is not going to be enough. But it is the initial step of faith that the disciples demonstrate in this verse that we must also display in our own lives.

This could look a lot different for each one of us. For me, having enough faith to step onto the boat could mean that I take a job as a volunteer middle school girls youth leader. I could have made up excuses for reasons that I couldn’t be their youth leader or I could have just flat-out said “no” but I decided to follow Jesus into the boat that He has led me on to. It took a lot of faith in who He is for me to be able to say “yes” to that position but I know that I have a great opportunity to pour into the lives of these middle school girls and that Jesus is with me always.

For other people, stepping into the boat may be moving away from home for the first time. Freshmen in college will be moving into their dorms in about a month from now and I know that it is scary to move away from home for the first time. But if you have prayed about your college decision and have found a ministry to get plugged into while you are away from home, you have displayed enough faith to follow Jesus onto the boat.

For many of us, the biggest step of faith we ever had to take was confessing Jesus as our Lord and Savior. It may not seem like it for all of us but stepping onto that boat was the hardest decision in our entire life. Some people had to give up hobbies and interests, some people had to give up friends, and some people even had to give up family members and careers as a result of following Jesus onto the boat. It took a lot of faith to give up those things and follow Him.

The biggest point of this verse as far as what it means for us is that Jesus is worth following. It is the most important decision we will ever make this side of heaven and it is indeed one that we will regret if we decide not to follow Him.

I also want to point out that we should never stop following Jesus. Following Him onto the boat is one thing, and it is indeed a great thing. But once we get to the other shore, we can’t just say, “Okay, I followed Him onto the boat once so I’m done following Him.” Jesus tells us in Matthew 16:24 to take up our cross DAILY and follow Him. It isn’t something we do once and then forget about. Following Jesus is like a job: if we don’t show up, we don’t get rewarded. We either have faith to follow Him onto the boat and recognize the importance of that, or we don’t. There is no in between.

 

3) What does this verse teach me about Jesus?

Here is where I will park the “boat”, so to speak. This verse is very simple, as I said before, but there is SO MUCH to say about who Jesus is from these 11 words.

The first thing that I want to point out about Jesus in this verse is that He gets into the boat with the disciples. Now, this may be a very minor point if we didn’t know one other thing about Jesus. But in Matthew 14:22-34, we know that He possessed the ability to walk on water. Could he have walked on the water beside the boat in this passage in Matthew 8 too? I believe He could have if He had wanted to. But He opted to get into the boat with the disciples. Why?

I think it is no simpler than the fact that He knew the limitations of the disciples and that they were tired from walking around with Him all day. He met them where they were at and stooped down to their level. He knew that they didn’t have the ability to walk on the water like He did so He led them onto the boat. Now, Do I believe that Jesus could have helped them out onto the water as He did with Peter in Matthew 14:22-34? Absolutely. But we have to remember that the disciples had just started following Jesus only a few chapters earlier and maybe didn’t have that much faith in Him yet. Heck, they barely had enough faith to get into the boat with Him. I’m sure they would have thought He was crazy and dipped out if He had told them to walk on the water with Him.

I think that this story really demonstrates Jesus’ ability to relate to us as humans. I know that I often think of Jesus as much higher than us, reaching down to pull us up when we don’t have enough faith but that is not always the case. We need to understand that Jesus constantly reaches out to help us where we are. He relates to us so impeccably that He was able to take our place on the cross and bear God’s wrath for us. He does not reach down to help us, He reaches out to save us. He is standing in front of us, leading us onto the boat knowing that He is all we need to get through whatever comes next.

Like I said at the beginning of the post, please do not hesitate to ask me a question via comment or email. I will be glad to answer any question that comes my way!

I hope y’all enjoyed reading this first of four “main point” posts from the “Calming the Storm” series. I really enjoy writing about the Bible and showing people more of who Jesus is. If there is a topic that you would like for me to write about, let me know! I have ideas for upcoming series’ but I want to know what you guys want me to write about. Let me know in the comments!

Peace and Blessings,

Bet

The Weight of Singleness

Hello. My name is Bethany… I am 25 years old… and, yes, I’m still single. I have never even been on a date. Many times, I question what is wrong with me. Is it my personality or my attitude? Is it my face or my hair? Is it my weight or the way I dress? Is it my obsession with football or my incredibly inappropriate sense of humor? Many people would say that it’s none of these things and, most of the time, I’d have to agree with them. There are still some days though that I feel broken, I feel worthless, I feel helpless, I feel lonely, I feel unwanted, unneeded, and unloved.

It hasn’t been until recently that my singleness has weighed so heavily on me but in the past three years, I have wrestled with the Lord over my never-changing relationship status. I’ve prayed and cried myself to sleep for fifty-leven days, umpteen hours (catch the Usher reference?). I have read article upon article and book upon book about how to be content in my singleness. I have had many conversations with godly women about being single and how to be patient with the Lord. Sometimes these things work and sometimes I’m left even more confused than I was going into it. But I recently came to the realization that there is no person on this earth that can give me the perfect answer to my frustrations. The only One who can help me in my sorrow is the Lord.

He is the omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God. He is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-present. He knows the number of hairs on my head, the amount of money in my bank account, and my GPA. He knows the exact time and place that I will meet my future husband, where we will have our wedding, and how many children we will have. I do not need to provoke the Lord to act. He will act in His perfect timing. I need to trust Him in every season of my life. I need to understand that He knows what is best for me. While I can only see the moment I’m in, He sees my whole life. Though I try to wrestle this weight of singleness off of me, He is the only One who can make this burden light for me.

Singleness does not equal brokenness.

Singleness does not equal worthlessness.

Singleness does not equal loneliness.

Singleness does not equal punishment.

Singleness does not equal pain.

Singleness does not equal an inability to be loved.

Singleness does not mean that the Lord is holding out on you. It does not mean that you’ve done something wrong and does not mean that you aren’t doing the right things either. Singleness does not make you less important than being in a relationship does. Most importantly, singleness does not make you less qualified for salvation and sanctification than being in a relationship does. My identity is not found in my singleness. My identity is found in my Savior.

I find encouragement in passages like Hosea 2:19-20 which says: “I will take you to be My wife forever, I will take you to be My wife in righteousness, justice, love, and compassion. I will take you to be My wife in faithfulness, and you will know Yahweh.” These verses can seem kind of odd to some people, but as a believer, this is my hope. I need to be in love with Jesus first and foremost. He has forgiven me like no one else ever will. He has saved me from sin and death like no other man can. He has redeemed me and made me righteous and that is something I can never repay. Shannon Ethridge and Stephen Arterburn, authors of Every Young Woman’s Battle, put it this way:

“If you have asked Jesus to live inside your heart, He wants to live there permanently, not just rent a room there during seasons that you don’t have a boyfriend. Don’t force God to take a backseat to anyone. Keep guys in their rightful place in your heart, and make sure you keep Jesus as your first love. Of course, God wants you to love other people, but not more than you love Him.”

I have started to enjoy my singleness more and more as I think about the things the Lord has done for me. I have also been able to do a lot more for His Kingdom than I would be able to do if I had a husband and a family. There are some things that have helped me become more patient and content in my singleness and have helped me learn a lot about the things that I need to change in myself before I am able to effectively be in a relationship.

Here are the things that have helped me find my identity in the Lord rather than in my singleness and I hope they can help you too:

  1. Stop using “I want” statements when you pray. I started writing down my prayers and I realized how much I say the phrase “I want” while praying. “I want a relationship… I want to pass this test… I want my team to win…” But I soon found out that using “I want” statements is not what prayer should be about. Prayer is about being in awe of who the Lord is and surrendering everything to Him. If we pray out of reverence, we will be more pleased with our prayer. It turns our hearts toward the Lord and allows us to want what He wants for us. Though our wants may change, the Lord stays the same.
  2. See your singleness as an opportunity rather than a punishment. When I started to see my singleness as an opportunity rather than as a punishment, I felt freed from a lie that held me down for so long. I am able to work with a youth group, take more trips, and spend more time with my family. I wouldn’t have been able to do a lot of the things that I have done if I had been in a relationship.
  3. Fast from things that make you wish you were in a relationship. For me, this usually means fasting from social media and certain types of entertainment. The way that I fast from these things has changed over the past few months. The most effective way for me to fast from social media is to pick one or two days per week to completely avoid the social media apps on my phone. I have them all in a folder on the last page of my home screen. I can usually fast from music and movies by only allowing myself to listen to Christian music and watch family movies/TV shows. Just like a normal fast, fasting from social media and entertainment can be very helpful. It forces you to spend more time with the people around you and it forces you to ultimately spend more time with the Lord. Find out what triggers you to want a relationship and take a break from that thing. Fasting from social media and secular entertainment has provided me with seasons of growth and maturity.
  4. Read a book (or 6). I haven’t always enjoyed reading but lately, I have read quite a few books that have really challenged me in the way I think about my singleness:
    • Every Young Woman’s Battle – Shannon Ethridge and Stephen Arterburn (this is the book I referenced earlier in the article)
    • Passion and Purity – Elisabeth Elliot
    • Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? – Carolyn McCulley
    • Embracing the Love of God – James Bryan Smith
    • Biblical Femininity – Chrystie Cole
    • Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis
  5. The most helpful thing that I have done as a single woman and one of the most important things that I will ever do as a believer is memorizing Scripture. And I mean memorizing a lot of Scripture. I am able to recite whole passages to myself in difficult situations. I can easily have a conversation with someone about the Lord without having to pull out my Bible. I’ve been able to cross reference verses in my head when I’m listening to a sermon. Memorizing passages of Scripture has become one of the most under-rated tools in churches today and it has become one of my favorite things to do during my quiet time.

If you’re like me and you are constantly trying to fight to remain content in your singleness, remember that Jesus is near. When you’re fed up with the world questioning why you’re still single, remember that Jesus is right there with you. You only need to have faith that He will give you the patience and peace you need to get through this season of singleness in a way that will glorify and honor Him.

Grace and Peace,

Bethany

Influence on Young People

Let me preface this with a little back story: Recently, I’ve been writing songs. Songs about love, songs about hate, songs about friends, songs about guys, slow songs, fast songs, right in the middle songs, every kind of song imaginable. I don’t really know why I’ve started writing songs (but I must say that they are some of the greatest songs that the world may never know).

Anyway, my little sister Railey has been asking me to show her different songs that I’ve written. I didn’t want to at first because I was kind of reserved about them but I obliged to show her if she did me a favor (running out of toilet paper while you’re sitting on the toilet is no fun, but that’s what little siblings are for). After showing her a few of the songs that I had been working on, she mocked me and questioned their quality and that was the end, or so I thought…

I walked into our room later that night and on our desk was a piece of paper with a few lines of what looked like a song written on it with the heading “My Only”. I looked at Railey and said “Did you write this?!” She looked at me and then down at the paper and her eyes doubled in size. She looked back at me and shrugged her shoulders. I asked her again if she had written this song and she said yeah. So naturally, I took the paper, ran to my mother so we could both read it. We admired Railey’s creativity and laughed at how much she wanted to be like me. Then it hit me: she wants to impress me by doing what I’m doing.

If I started taking piano lessons, she would want to start taking piano lessons too. If I wanted to move to Maine, she would want to move to Maine too. If I started a business, she would want to be a part of it or start her own business. If I tell people about the Gospel, she wants to do that too.

I had forgotten how important my life was not only to the Lord but also to the people around me, especially Railey. I didn’t realize that she wanted so much to see me do well and see me succeed because in seeing me succeed, she believes that she can succeed. And not only Railey but so many other younger kids look up to me. So many that it’s overwhelming. There’s no telling how many people from the next generation I can have a direct impact on.

I think that a lot of us lose sight of this often and are selfish most of the time. We want what’s best for us but we don’t consider how our decisions can shape the decisions of a younger person. We are what we teach, meaning that the things that we do and the ways that we act teach for themselves. We don’t necessarily have to give a lecture on what we believe is right and what we believe is wrong, we simply express our feelings about those things by the way that we talk and behave. We teach respect by the way we treat other people. We teach modesty by the way we clothe ourselves. We teach obedience by doing what we are told to do. We teach the importance of health by the way we treat our own bodies.

In reality, we can teach the things that we want to see changed in the younger generation by the way that WE ACT, not by getting mad at them for being “too lazy”, “too inappropriate”, or “too immature”. We can work hard, we can be appropriate, and we can be the mature ones who show younger people how they should act. And, no, not every single person younger than you is going to start listening to you and acting like you but we all have a following of at least one person. If Railey was the only person in the world that looked up to me and wanted to be like me, that’s enough for me to want to do act right and be mature and respectful and modest. But I know that I can impact almost an entire community of young people from the central Georgia area.

The Bible says, “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God,” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Imagine if all of the believers in the world started doing EVERYTHING to the glory of God. What if the kids that look up to those people then start to see the glory of God and do everything for His glory? How long would it take for everyone in the world to glorify God with everything that they do?

When I think about the Gospel on a grand scale, I get super excited about the opportunities I have but then I get super mad because I know that I can’t tell every single person on the planet that Jesus is Lord and that they must call on His name and be saved. But if every believer starts discipling young believers who start discipling even younger believers, we can grow this band of brothers and sisters and spread the Gospel faster than a wildfire.

So look at your life. Think about the people you have an impact on. And live for the glory of God so that they too will want to live for the glory of God.

Peace and blessings,

Betty