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!

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

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