Oct 31, 2014

Digging Deep: It Is All Grace

I will write a few more practical tips on Bible reading later, but I wanted to wrap up the series today with this...

It is all grace, my friends.


Apart from Christ, there are a few ways your Bible reading endeavors might turn out...
  1. You continue to think "I should really read the Bible more" and then proceed to do nothing about it...
  2. You eagerly embark on an ambitious plan, read diligently for a few days or weeks, and then crash hard when unforeseen circumstances steer you off schedule and you stop reading altogether.
  3. You actually stick with it for quite a while, maybe indefinitely. But you do it on your own strength and it puffs your pride. As the days turn to months and you check off the boxes, your time in the Word slowly transforms from an act of worship to a mindless religious activity. Before you know it, you've read the whole Old Testament, but you haven't asked the God of the Book to change your heart.

Friends, I've experienced all these scenarios at different points of my life; sometimes I still struggle with my motives and my desire to read the Word.

But I now approach my Bible-reading with a completely different mindset. I approach God's Word with a heart of thanksgiving and humility. I meditate on the fact that the Bible is a gift to me - one of the best gifts I've ever received. And then I ask for God's help in accepting the gift, because I know I will misuse it without His guidance. Apart from Him, I will either neglect the Bible or turn it into a gospel-less benchmark to prove my own worth.

But knowing my weakness, I open my hands and invite Him in. When I pull my Bible onto my lap, before I open it, I turn my palms up toward heaven and say "Teach me, Lord." And before I ever write a study note, I literally hold out my pen and whisper "Spirit, Your words, not mine. Father, your will, not mine."

The goal is not to conquer Bible reading on your own. You will fail; I promise. You will become overwhelmed, discouraged, or prideful. The goal is to draw near to the Living God and be transformed by the power of His Word. The good news is He desires to meet you in His Word. All you have to do is ask. The Bible tells us that God delights in giving us good gifts {James 1:17, Luke 11:13}. So open your hands and ask Him for what you need. One minute. One verse. One page. A little energy. A little desire. A little clarity. His grace abounds. Just ask.

Oct 30, 2014

Digging Deep: Just Ask

I thought I would wrap up this series by asking you, reader friends, if you have any questions. I was prompted to write about Bible reading  after a number of you asked about my own Bible study habits on Instagram. I hope this series offered you some sound wisdom, practical tips for studying the Bible on your own, and encouragement as you seek to know God better through His Word.

But I know I can't cover the topic of personal Bible reading exhaustively in twenty or thirty blog posts, so if you still have questions, please let me know in the comments below. Do you keep running into some kind of roadblock with your study time? Let's talk about it. Are you overwhelmed with choosing a plan? Let's discuss why a certain plan might be best for you. Are you still trying to figure out a spot in your schedule for Bible time since your child wakes up at 5am? Let's troubleshoot. Is there any topic or burning question you have about the Bible or some Bible study method that I didn't cover. I'd love to write more. Really, any questions or topics are up for discussion.

Ask away...

Oct 29, 2014

Digging Deep: You Have Time

My professor once shared a bit of truth with our class that has always stuck with me, "You have time for whatever you make time for."

She was doing some research on Facebook games, so she would play a few of the games on and off throughout the day with her husband and some other friends. Knowing she was a busy professor, people would always ask incredulously, "How do you have time for that?!" And she would always answer the same way. She made time because the research was important to her.


I've personally never been a gamer. Even as a child, I rarely wanted to sit down to play a board game and I only made it past the entry levels of Donkey Kong on our Super Nintendo. But last night, as a tired 32 year old mom, I decided to try out a poker app on Micah's phone. I lost a few hundred {fake} dollars and spent the next hour of my life earning it back. {This is how gambling addictions start, right?}. Don't worry. I eventually won about $2,000, turned off the phone with the nearly dead battery, and went to bed. I'm not proud of it, but yesterday I "made" time to play online poker. In exchange, I gave up an hour of sleep or an hour of reading time in bed. Two things I dearly love.

When we make time for certain activities or priorities, it often means we have to give up something else. We have a finite number of hours each day and an exhaustible amount of energy and focus. Yesterday, I also made time to go on a date with Micah. He got off work early, and my sister-in-law was here to babysit, so we were able to sneak off to the driving range before 5pm for an unexpected weeknight date. In exchange, I gave up my usual afternoon dissertation time during Zianne's nap, but in this instance, getting to invest in my marriage during a rare early evening outing made the exchange worth it.

We do this all the time in life. Sometimes meeting up with a friend takes precedence over showering and you willingly roll out of the house with three day unwashed hair for some relationship time. Sometimes taking a shower trumps all else, and you neglect the laundry and the email and spend 20 minutes in the shower while the baby naps. We are constantly making decisions about how to spend our time. Sometimes we choose between working out or cleaning our house. Sometimes we must choose between catching up on Instagram or sitting down to meal plan for the week. Sometimes there is clearly a good choice {going to sleep} and a poor choice {playing online poker on your husband's phone}. Sometimes both options are good, but you choose the one that makes the most sense at the time or the one that has more value in the long run {dissertation vs. date night}.

This same concept applies to reading your Bible. You might look at your typical day right now and think, "My day is full. I am busy and tired. Where does the Bible fit in?" You have to make a choice. Something in your schedule can be eliminated or demoted to prioritize the Word of God. Something can take second place so studying the Bible can become first place in your schedule. Do you watch any TV shows? That's great... unless you watch TV shows instead of reading God's Word. Do you clean your house? I do too. But every morning I know that the cleansing power of the Bible is more important than the state of my floors, and I ignore the lingering crumbs from last night's dinner and sit down with the Lord instead. Do you reach out to friends on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram? Social media is fun and helpful, but it should never replace our time in Scripture. If we are daily directed by God's Word before we hop online, we can better use our time and influence on social media for His glory.

The truth of the matter is we have time for whatever we make time for. If you truly believe that God's Word is more valuable than gold {Psalm 19:10; 119:72}and that Scripture is living and active and transforms hearts {Hebrews 4:12} then it seems worth it to rearrange your schedule a bit, doesn't it? The Word is better than any TV show. It's better than a funny tweet or a Facebook message. It's even better than folded laundry or working out. Of course your day is busy. Of course cleaning and exercising and cooking and socializing are all good things, but they are not the best thing, so make time for what matters most.

Oct 27, 2014

Digging Deep: How the homiletic method works for me

I love the homiletic method because it's so adaptable to any lifestyle. Since it's so easily broken up into small portions, it's easy to press on with studying the Word, even on those crazy, tired mornings after the baby woke up three times in teething pain in the middle of the night.


On a normal morning, I will spend about 15-20 minutes doing my study. I will read the passage a few times if I'm just starting a new section, or I will write my passage facts for 5-10 verses if I'm in the middle of studying a passage. After I study, I am trying to get better about having a focused time of prayer {often by writing in my prayer journal}.

On crazy mornings when I have less than ten minutes to be in the Word {and sometimes less than five}, I will simply re-read the ten verses I'm studying once or twice. Even if I'm technically on one of the later steps such as application, I will pause for the day, re-read the section, and simply take a grace day to meditate further on the passage instead of forcing myself to continue with the detailed writing part of the study. 

If I'm going on a short trip, I often slow down my studying while I'm away from the house. Instead of packing my huge Bible, notebook, and pen when I travel, I simply bring my small Bible {or just use my phone} and reread the passage I'm currently studying each day that I'm gone. If I'm going on a longer trip I will bring all my supplies, but if I'm just traveling for a weekend, I'll use the time to meditate on the passage by reading it over and over again.

And then of course there are the fabulous mornings where I wake up extra early or the baby sleeps late, and I find myself with an hour to be in the Word. On these mornings I might write out all my passage facts, my three main points, and my passage summary all in one sitting. If I'm in the application stage. I might write out a prayer or journal a bit, and perhaps even write a blog post about what I'm learning or share some of my notes on Instagram. Sometimes, I'll even add onto my study process. For example, once I finished all of Romans 8, I wrote out three main takeaways for the entire chapter because my brain and heart needed a good conclusion after studying such a powerful passage of the Bible. When I was studying Galatians 5, I decided to do a word study {using Strong's Concordance online} to better understand the Fruit of the Spirit.{For example, did you know the fruit of "faithfulness" doesn't have to do with our faith in God, but instead means that we are reliable and trustworthy to those around us?}

It is all grace, dear friend. On the days when we are gifted an extra long time to be in the Word, it is grace. On the chaotic mornings when we can only glance at a verse or two, it is grace. What matters is your obedience. We are commanded to study Scripture, but every day and every season might look a bit different. There is no one right way to do it, but the homiletic method has helped me to press on with studying the Bible deeply and has increased my love for the Author of the Book.

Oct 26, 2014

Digging Deep: Homiletic Method {Part V - Wrap Up}

Here is one more example of the homiletic method from a different passage of the Bible. I've included every step in one post this time, so hopefully it's easier for you to get a sense of the process. For more details, see previous Digging Deep posts.


Romans 8:18-25

Content List: Put each verse into your own words. These are your "passage facts."

18. Our present suffering, though real, is not worth comparing to our future glory.
19. Creation waits for its redemption too.
20. Creation was subjected to decay by man's sin.
21. Creation will be set free from corruption when men are glorified by God.
22. Creation groans in expectation of this.
23. Although we've received the Spirit, believers still groan inwardly for glorification.
24. Part of being saved means hoping for our future redeemed bodies.
25. We wait patiently for God's salvation promises that we cannot yet see.

Content Divided: Three main points from the passage.

1. Our present suffering is minuscule when compared to the future glory promised to us by God.
2. Creation waits for redemption too, and one day the earth will be a more beautiful, productive place.
3. As believers, we should eagerly await the redemption of our bodies.

Content Summarized: A one sentence summary of the entire passage

*Although man and creation suffer and decay now, both eagerly await the day they will be fully redeemed and glorified by the Lord.

Content Principle: An overall piece of truth gleaned from the passage

*Even in the face of hardship or suffering, we have great hope in Christ.

Content Application: Thought-provoking questions to aid you in examining your heart and life

1. How can I "set my mind" on future glory during tribulation? 

 - Offer a prayer of thanksgiving
 - Memorize Scripture on my future glory
 - Harness my tongue from speaking out loud; instead, preach gospel truth to myself inwardly

2. How can I bring hope to others when they face trial or conviction?
 - Assure them of their identity in Christ if they are believers
 - OR share the Gospel with them if they don't know Jesus
 - Intentionally speak encouragement... tell them there is hope and why there is hope

Application Meditation: A prayer, journaling, art, or some other form of worship to help you meditate on the truth you learned in the passage

Help me apply these truths. Teach me how to set my mind on the Spirit when I am tempted, tired, or in trial. Harness my tongue and teach my mind to dwell on the hope I have in Jesus and the promises of Your Word. As these truths seep into my heart and mind, let me use my hope to encourage others. May the hope I have in Christ spill over in the form of gentle words that bring healing, peace, joy, and strength to others.
In Jesus' name,

Oct 25, 2014

Saturday Snippets


This is not an official "Digging Deep" post, but I'm intentionally sharing a bunch of great posts and articles on Bible reading below. I hope you enjoy the links and I'll be back next week to wrap up the Digging Deep series.

Jesus said to "leave her alone..."

Your music tastes might reveal how smart {or dumb} you are...

The best birth story I've ever read...

Great tips for Bible reading...

When dad doesn't disciple the kids...

9 tricks to put a spark in your Bible reading time...

Just open your Bible...

An interesting read on baby blankets and hospital births...

It's supposed to be over 90 degrees today, but I'm craving fall in the form of tunic sweatshirts like this one and this one...

Oct 24, 2014

Digging Deep: Homiletic Method {Part IV - Application}

This is the second half of the step-by-step overview of the homiletic method. You can see the first half in yesterday's post.

Yesterday I walked you through the first three steps of the homiletic method, which included a verse by verse list of the passage facts, dividing the passage into three main points, and writing a one-sentence summary of the passage. These were the observation steps that are focused entirely on the text. Today we are going to talk about the last three steps of the homiletic method, which are the application steps of this process.

We are working through John 16:5-15 and our summary of the passage was: The Spirit speaks truth to convict us of sin and righteousness for Christ's glory. Today we are going to apply the truth of Scripture to our daily lives and ask how the presence of the Holy Spirit should impact us as believers.

The first step in the application process is to write a Content Principle. This is an overall piece of truth that we can glean from the passage.

 *Believers should eagerly rely on the powerful Holy Spirit.

Next you will write your Content Applications, which are best when written in the form of thought-provoking questions {not yes/no} that ask you to examine your own life and heart. Here are some examples from John 16:

   1. How am I intimate with the Spirit? How could I actively invite him into areas of my life?
   2. In what areas is the Spirit convicting me of sin and/or righteousness?
   3. In what areas of my life is the Spirit guiding me to action in order to bring Christ greater glory?

The final step is one I made up on my own, because my heart needed time to process through my answers to the application questions. We'll call the last step Application Meditation. Basically this is a time to reflect on the truth of the passage and its application to your own life. I usually do this through writing out a prayer or journaling, but you could also do it through songwriting, singing, art, poetry, etc. If you follow me on Instagram, most of my #flowersfade posts come from this meditation time as the Lord reveals truths to me that I think will encourage other women. In my writing I reaffirm the truth of the passage and ask God to transform my life in light of this specific Scripture. Here is an example...

The Lord has given us a Helper who is strong, always-present, and all-knowing. He convicts the world of sin and righteousness and draws the hearts of men toward God. He reveals the very words of Jesus to those who believe and He is always at work to bring great glory to God on this earth. Lord, I know I have the Spirit. Thank you for that gift. May I not neglect His presence but eagerly invite Him into my life. I throw up my hands and say "invade my life." Invade the dark places and bring my sin into the light of Christ. Illuminate my laziness and apathy and show me how I can live and serve and love wholeheartedly for the glory of God. Reveal to me righteousness in my own life and in the lives of others, so I can praise God for the way He can use broken people for His good purposes. Teach me and lead me, Spirit. May my mind receive your truth with thanksgiving and may my heart always be responsive to your promptings.

And that's it. This is how I study Scripture deeply without using some type of published guide. It's not as time-consuming as an Inductive Bible Study {which are excellent by the way, but not a perfect fit for my current season of life}, and it's easy to spread the steps out over many days. On Monday I will give a review of the whole method and share a few more tips about how I adapt it for my daily life. 

Read the rest of the Digging Deep series here...

Oct 23, 2014

Digging Deep: Homiletic Method {Part III - Observations}


Once you've chosen the Scripture you are going to study {perhaps a book of the Bible or a specific chapter}, your first step is to read that passage multiple times. Usually I read the passage once or twice all the way through on my own, then I read it again along with the footnotes in my ESV Study Bible. I often spread this process out over two mornings.

Once I've saturated my mind in the passage for a couple days, I begin the process of studying it verse by verse. This is where I start writing things down. I use a small spiral journal, my favorite pen, and get to work. 

The first step in the homiletic method {after reading} is to create your Content List. This is a list of the "passage facts" where you write out what each verse is saying in your own words. This is the observation part of your study. Remember, it's best to work in chunks of approximately ten verses of a time when going through this process. The goal is to rewrite each verse very concisely. Here is an example from John 16:5-15 on the Holy Spirit:

   5. Jesus is going back to God the Father.
   6. The disciples are sorrowful that Jesus is leaving them.
   7. It's actually good that Jesus is leaving, because he will send a Helper in his place.
   8. The Helper will convict the world of sin and righteousness.
   9. It's a sin not to believe in Christ.
   10. Righteousness has to do with the presence of Christ.
   11. The ruler of this world {Satan} has already been judged.
   12. Jesus has more to tell the disciples, but they are not ready to hear his words.
   13. In due time, the Spirit speak the words of Jesus to them and tell them truths about the future.
   14. The Spirit will glorify Christ and declare things on his behalf.
   15. All that belongs to the Father also belongs to the Son and the Spirit will make this known.

The next step is called Content Divided. At this stage, you will look at your list of passage facts and divide it into three main points. Write these points out in complete sentences.

   1. Jesus will send his helper, the Holy Spirit (v. 5-7).
   2. The Spirit will convict the world of right and wrong (v.8-11).
   3. The Spirit will speak truth on behalf of the Father and the Son (v.12-15).

The final step of the observation portion of the study is to write a Content Statement. This is where you summarize the full passage in a single sentence. The goal is to keep it to 15 words or less, but if you go over a little bit, that's okay.

   *The Spirit speaks truth to convict us of sin and righteousness for Christ's glory.

These are the three steps to the observation part of the homiletic method. If you have time, you can do them all in a single sitting, but I often spread each step out over three days. One reason I love this method is that it's clearly segmented, so it's easy to spread out over multiple days if I have limited time, but it's also feasible to go through ten verses in a single day if I am blessed with an extra long quiet time. Tomorrow we'll go over the final two steps which are the application part of this Bible study method.

Read the rest of the Digging Deep series here...

Oct 22, 2014

Digging Deep: Homiletic Method {Part II}

The first part of the homiletic method is to choose which portion of Scripture you are going to study. If this is your first time doing a deep study you might want to pick a shorter book of the New Testament such as one of Paul's letter's, I Peter, or I John and go through it chapter by chapter, verse by verse. For the past year, I've been going through what I call "power chapters" of the Bible - chapters I consider extra powerful in their explanations of the gospel or in their descriptions of Christ {ex: Romans 8, Ephesians 1, Isaiah 53, Ezekiel 36}.

It's recommended that you study each chapter in chunks of approximately ten verses. I try to stick to ten verses but sometimes it's easier to do shorter or longer sections, depending on the length of the chapter.


I am going to start with an example from John 16, which is the passage I went through when I first learned this method. After we go through this ten verse section step by step, I'll then go through a chapter of the Bible I've gone through this year and show you how I've customized the method a bit.

Since I don't want this post to get too long, tomorrow I will be back with a verse by verse study of John 16:5-15. Get your Bibles ready!

Read the rest of the Digging Deep series here...

Oct 21, 2014

Digging Deep: Homiletic Method {Part I}


The method I've been using to study the Bible this year is a homiletic method. I like it because it allows me to emphasize both the content of Scripture and its applications for my life as I study. Basically, this method remains very focused on the text itself {which is best, because that's where the truth is}, but it's not quite as detailed as an inductive Bible study where you are circling, underlining, and defining almost every word. At the end of the homiletic method, you make a summary of the main point of the passage and apply its principles to your own life, but you only do this after you have studied the text line by line, so you aren't likely to take Scripture out of context to suit your own desires.

The method is based on the word "homily" which basically means "sermon." The process is similar to what pastors do if you go to a church that preaches through the Bible book by book. The pastor will study the text closely, usually focusing on ten or so verses at a time, and then come up with a few key points and some application questions to help the congregation prod their hearts and change their lives to keep in line with what Scripture says.

Basically, the homiletic method is not quite as detailed or time-consuming as an Inductive Bible Study, which can be helpful if you are just easing into deep study for the first time {or if you have a baby in the house and have limited amounts of time to study the Word}, but it's far more text-based than doing a topical study or a devotion, which means you are allowing God's powerful Word to work in you and teach you, and you are less likely to interpret the Bible incorrectly since you are studying it verse by verse. The homiletic method has been perfect for me in this season of life, and I hope it helps many of you dig deep into the Word as well.

Read the rest of the Digging Deep series here...

Oct 18, 2014

Saturday Snippets

{via Chasing Paper}

I love these flats and these ones too, but I've never worn the d'Orsay style before. If you have - do they stay on your feet? I'm curious... :)

On baby bumps...

An encouraging video for moms...

New-to-me shop with apartment-sized sofas. Perfect for smaller living rooms...

Loving this shop full of beautiful removable wallpaper as well...

A helpful article about how Christians should respond to the Ebola outbreak...

Thinking some power sheets might help me get through this next year of dissertation writing...

Oct 17, 2014

Digging Deep: Goose Bumps

II Corinthians 5:17

Sometimes the Word of God gives me chills. Like straight up messes with my biological system and gives me goose bumps. The story of a Savior who loves us so much that He offered Himself as a sacrifice for our sins... it's so profoundly beautiful. Some days I just read Scripture, more out of duty than delight, and I go on with my day. But other times, I stop dead in my tracks while my nervous system reacts to the Word of God whether through smiles, shivers, or tears. Jesus. He loves me.

Today, for example, I was reading II Corinthians 5. If I had been paying attention, I would have known. If I had stopped and looked at the big number five at the top of the chapter, I would have known that the goose bumps were coming. II Corinthians 5 is one of those power chapters of the Bible where the Gospel of Christ is painted so clearly with such heart-humbling and mind-transforming words that it's almost as if you can feel the brush of the Holy Spirit all around you as you read it. Other chapters of the Bible are like this... Psalm 16, John 15-17, Romans 8, Ephesians 1, Philippians {pretty much all of it}, and Revelation 21. That's just my opinion of course. But I highly recommend those chapters for some biologically impacting, Gospel-infused reading.

Anyway, I was reading II Corinthians 5 and I didn't pay attention to the fact that I was about to read a power chapter, because it was simply the next passage in my Bible reading plan and it was Friday morning and that was that. But then the words began. Words that rock you to your core. The goose bumps appeared and the joyful, awe-filled shiver made its way down my spine.

"The love of Christ controls us..." {v.14}. What? I don't have to be controlled by my selfish sense of entitlement? My desire for control? My futile seeking of perfection? My anxiety over circumstances? My volatile feelings? I am not controlled by those things, you say? I am controlled by the love of Christ. The love of one who would die on a cross. The one who conquered death. That wrecks me.

"If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come..." {v.17}. I am a new creation. I have died to my sin. That pride and fear that used to keep me in bondage? That is gone. That old me is gone forever because Christ defeated it forever. I am a new creation. I am free to love fully and serve gladly. I have joy forevermore in Christ. I have no shame. I have righteousness in Jesus.

"All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself..." {v.18}. God wanted me. He pursued me with no conditions. He loved me before I ever loved Him. He chose me to be His child. When I was dead, He made me alive and when I was His enemy, He made me His friend. Because I have been reconciled to God through Christ, I can approach the Father any time and know that He greets me as His beloved.

This. This is the stuff of goose bumps and shivers of joy. These are the truths that overwhelm my soul with gladness. God's Word. I love it. And I pray it messes with your nervous system today too.

Digging Deep: Resources for You

Over the next week or two I'm going to show you a method I've been using to study the Bible deeply this past year. My method is a combination of a few different methods, including some of the ones listed below. I customized a study plan that works great for me, and I'm excited to share it with you in detail.

Until then, here are a few other resources for studying the Bible deeply...

Precepts Inductive Bible Studies - These are the gold standard of Inductive Bible Studies. I was trained using this method in college, and I've never looked at the Bible the same way since. These studies will ask you to analyze the Bible more deeply than you ever have before by circling verbs, looking at tense and pronouns, and making all sorts of observations that seem minute but have great meaning. For example, it tells us repeatedly in the Bible that Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father {Luke 22:69}, but do you know when  a believer dies He actually stands for them as their advocate to welcome them into heaven {Acts 7:56}?

Look at the Book - This is a new video series by John Piper where he takes you through an in-depth Bible study. Instead of watching him preach, you actually watch his hand mark up the text of a Bible passage and you hear him explain his observations of the text. He is currently going through Romans 8 and it is awesome.

Bible Study Fellowship International  - I've never done BSF, but I've heard it's a great resource if you want to study the Bible deeply in community. BSF Bible studies exist all over the world, and there are probably a few to choose from in your community. Most of the classes are 30 weeks long and will go through one book of the Bible.

Gospel in Life - Tim Keller has a number of studies available. You do have to pay for them, but they are very affordable. Most of them work well for groups but can also be done individually. Some of them are topical but most of them go through a book of the Bible. I've done "Living in a Pluralistic Society: Judges, Daniel, and Joseph" and it was great.

Read the rest of the Digging Deep series here...

Oct 16, 2014

Digging Deep: And Digging Deeper

There are so many layers of rich truth in God's Word, reading it broadly is not enough. We must be willing to study Scripture deeply.


Anytime we are passionate about something, we are willing to learn deeply about that subject. For me, one of my passions has always been writing. Not only have I pursued quite a bit of formal education in this area, but I read informally in my spare time to learn more about writing, blogging, and publishing. For others their passion might be painting or photography or sewing. If this describes you, you've probably invested countless hours into learning your craft deeply... experimenting with your camera settings, reading tutorials, or watching instructional videos. If you are into computer programming, you have probably taken the time to learn computer languages such as Java or C++. Even small children show us that passion leads to deep learning. Just think of the preschooler you know who can recite 50 species of dinosaurs by name or can identify more heavy equipment vehicles than the average construction manager.

Passion leads to learning. So if we are truly passionate about the Lord, we should desire to know Him more. We should desire to learn about His character, to understand His promises, and to comprehend His commands. We should want His stories imprinted on our minds and His words to roll off our tongues. The only way to know God this well is by studying His Word deeply.

Read the rest of the Digging Deep series here...

Oct 15, 2014

Digging Deep: My Favorite Bibles

Today we will close out the portion of this series about how to read the Bible broadly. There is not a lot of advice I can give you other than to pick a plan, pray to the Holy Spirit for the discipline to complete that plan, continue in God's grace even if you get behind schedule, and finally just sit down everyday and read.

Below you will find a short list of some of my favorite Bibles. I hope this helps if you are looking to buy a new one as you begin your journey through the Word.

ESV Study Bible - This is my very favorite Bible... the one I read every morning. I call mine "Big Bertha" because this Bible is big and full of goodness. The footnotes are excellent and there are lots of additional resources in the front and back to help you understand the scope of God's story better.

ESV Pocket Bible - This is my on-the-go Bible. It's nice to take on vacation or to a community group meeting because it's small enough to stick in a purse, diaper bag, or carry-on.

Gospel Transformation Bible - I don't own this Bible yet, but it's on my wish list. This Bible is also full of footnotes that specifically focus on how Jesus shows up throughout Scripture - in both the Old and New Testaments.

NIV Chronological Bible - This is the Bible I used the first time I read the Bible in a year. It puts each passage in chronological order, so you read events in the order they most likely happened. For example, you read Genesis first and then Job, because it's likely Job preceded Moses. Also, you read David's Psalms along with the historical accounts that were taking place when he wrote them. And if any parables or miracles are repeated in the gospels, you read them side by side which allows you to see the similarities and differences of each narrator. 

ESV Journaling Bible - This Bible is also on my wish list. I really hope to journal through a Bible to give to my children someday and this version gives you ample space for margin notes.

Jesus Storybook Bible - If you are looking for a Bible for your children this is the best one out there. It's focused on Jesus and gives an overview of the whole Bible told as a story of God's great love for us. Adults can learn a lot from it too!

YouVersion - This is just a shout-out to my favorite Bible app. This is another way I read Scripture on the go, and it has lots of reading plans to follow right from your phone.

Tomorrow we will start talking about how to read the Bible deeply. This is a journey I've been on in 2014, and I'm excited to share some of my methods with you all!

Read the rest of the Digging Deep series here...

+Affiliate links used in this post.

Oct 14, 2014

Digging Deep: 76 Hours

Today I just want to share a visual to help you think about reading the Bible broadly. This chart shows approximately how long it takes to read each book of the Bible...

{via Desiring God}

It's not as overwhelming as it sounds, right? I could cover I and II Peter in under a half an hour. Even a long book like Genesis takes only 3.5 hours to read through. I have to admit I've binge-watched Downton Abbey for about the same amount of time on a sick day before.

With a good plan in place and daily prayer asking the Spirit for self-control, you can easily and joyfully read through the Bible this year. I promise you will never regret sacrificing those 76 hours of your life. The rewards far outweigh the minutes.

{Here is an interesting article giving ideas to help you read the Bible broadly}.

Read the rest of the Digging Deep series here...

Oct 13, 2014

Digging Deep: A Heavenly Habit

We've discovered you can finish the whole Bible in a year reading just 12.5 minutes per day. And let's stretch it to 15 minutes just to account for different reading speeds, distractions, etc.

So in 15 minutes a day you can read God's Word broadly. You can cover every chapter, every verse, and gain a richer understanding of how Jesus' story of redemption is woven into every word from Genesis to Revelation.

Where will you find this 15 minutes?

Deep Mink Velvet Couch £2,205.00 Graham & Green

This is where priorities come into play. This is where you must pray to the Spirit to reveal those 15 minutes to you and train your heart and mind to treat those 15 minutes as sacred. The Spirit must convict you to treasure and protect 15 minutes out of every day.

It shouldn't be hard. 15 minutes is a measly 1% of your day. But, sadly, it is hard. Satan does not want us to read God's Word, so he will create every distraction under the sun to prevent us from doing so. In our flesh, we are so weak that the comforts of our bed, the lure of the TV, the temptation of social media, the desire to eat, the call of the to-do list... all those things easily overcome our plan to read God's Word for 15 minutes daily.

That's why every plan and goal to read the Bible must begin with prayer. We are weak; He is strong. With Christ's Spirit in us, we can easily read for 15 minutes per day. With the Holy Spirit guiding us, we can push aside distractions, deny temptations, and make a habit of reading the Word every single day.

From a practical perspective, what does this look like? As I mentioned before, mornings are usually the best time to be filled with God's Word. Start with a minute and find a spot. Try to read the Bible in the same place every day. It helps your brain click into "Bible study mode." It can also be helpful if you have young children, because you can teach them "When mom is in the office/by the fireplace/in her big white chair with her Bible, you aren't allowed to talk to her unless there is an emergency." As you train your mind to protect the sacred 15 minutes, you can train your children to protect that time as well.

Additionally, you have to set up boundaries for yourself. The Gospel is not about rules; it's about freedom in Christ, but we are weak, and sometimes guidelines help us keep our flesh in check. For example, I have a "rule" for myself that I'm not allowed to look at social media before I have my quiet time. I wake up, brush my teeth, head out to the kitchen where I make Micah's lunch and my coffee, and then I plop down on the couch with my Bible, notebook, and latte. Sometimes I mess up and something on my phone lures me to take a peek before I'm done reading my Bible, but for the most part I follow my rule well. I don't want to stand before God's throne someday and admit that Instagram was more desirable to me than His Word.

What about you? In Christ, you are free to live without "rules" regarding your time and priorities, but in Christ, you are also free to choose the worthy thing. You are strong enough to choose the Bible over TV, to choose prayer over the to do list. You are free to make guidelines for yourself in order to give yourself 15 minutes a day in God's Word and you are strong enough to follow your guidelines because the Spirit of Christ dwells in you.

Because when your life is drawing to a close, do you think you'll look back fondly on your Instagram feed? Do you think you'll reminisce about a funny tweet or a suspenseful TV show? Do you think you'll pride yourself on how many baskets of laundry you folded? No. You won't. When your life is drawing to a close, you will want to dwell on the promises of God. You will meditate on what you know of His character and you will long to know Him face to face. You will thank him for the relationships He started for you in this life and you will be eager to continue those relationships in the life to come.

Do something for 15 minutes today that will matter for all of eternity.

Oct 12, 2014

Digging Deep: It Is Your Very Life

The politics of Bible translations

I know I often take the Bible for granted. I wake up every morning and take out my leather-bound copy of God's Word. All sixty-six books are there, telling me the story of God's love for me from start to finish. Telling of the redemption He offers me through His Son, Jesus Christ. Every passage, every verse is written in English, labeled and numbered, so I can navigate the pages with ease. There are carefully researched footnotes at the bottom of every page to clarify and explain any section I don't understand.

I am blessed.

I don't have to wait in sin and darkness until an obedient and faithful missionary comes to my land with the hope of the gospel. I don't have to pray fervently in hope that someone, someday will translate the Bible into my language. I don't have to strive to discern God's word through dreams, visions and signs as I wait for His written word to reach my culture.

I can read my Bible every day. At home if I please. Or at a coffee shop. Or at school. I can even take my Bible to work with me. I can read it anywhere without fear that someone will take it away or persecute me for my faith.

The Lord has given me a gift. The gift of His Word. Am I delighting in it? Thanking Him for it? Treasuring it? Obeying it? Sharing it?

Or am I taking for granted something for which so many have labored, suffered, or even died? Something that many long for but do not possess. Something that might not always be protected and accessible for me. Am I storing up God's Word in my heart, so I might always possess that which is my life and never fades?

For it is no empty word for you, but your very life...
Deuteronomy 32:47

The grass withers, the flower fades, 
but the word of our God will stand forever.

Isaiah 40:8

Read the rest of the Digging Deep series here...

Oct 11, 2014

Digging Deep: It Matters

To give myself a little rest and grace during this writing series, I've decided to re-post a few of my older Bible study posts on the weekends. Since readership over the weekends is much lower anyway, it makes sense to slow down my writing schedule and save the more hearty posts for the weekdays. Additionally, this will allow any new readers to see the older posts that brought this series to fruition, and it will help me get all my Bible study posts in one place as they will all be linked to this series.

 * * * * *

The longer I live and the older I get, the longer I am sanctified by the Spirit and see more of this crazy messed up world we live in and struggle and rejoice and wonder and suffer and sin like any other human being, the more I am convinced of one thing.

God's Word matters.

It really matters.

Like, a lot.

I don't even have words to describe how important God's Word is in my own life and heart, so I am going to use some of His...

God's Word is...
always good.

And this is what His Word does...
it created the universe {Heb. 11:3}
it causes us to be born again {I Peter 1:23}
it increases and multiplies {Acts 12:24}
it builds us up {Acts 20:32}
it teaches us {Col. 3:16}
it corrects and rebukes sin {2 Tim. 2:16}
it discerns the thoughts and intentions of the heart {Heb. 4:12}
it gives us certainty of our salvation {I John 2:5}
it upholds the universe {Heb. 1:3}

Hold it. Right there. The Word of God upholds the universe. The Word of God is Christ in the flesh. The Word... the Bible that I {and most likely you} am privileged to own and read and keep at an arm's length at all times and to pull up as an app on my phone... that Word... was breathed out by the living God.

So what about you? Do you read it or does your Bible sit dusty on your shelf? Do you thank God for it - His written gift of grace to you? Do you pray for those who don't have it? For those children growing up in Bible-less homes and for the natives living in other countries who have never seen or heard Scripture in their own language? Because I too often forget to pray those prayers...

But mostly, sister, do you love the Bible and the author of those true, eternal, unfailing words? Do you read it  and praise the writer? Do you read it and obey it? Do you let it wreck you and rock you as you face your own sin and selfishness? Do you let it comfort you and give you peace and hope when you are hurting and dismayed? Do you let it guide you and correct you when your mind is filled with angry thoughts and do you let the Word seal your lips with silence when you are tempted to speak out in bitterness or impatience?

I say all these things, not to condemn you, but to you encourage you. Because I am sure our stories must overlap a bit. I am a girl who used to read her Bible "enough" or when she "had the time" or "more than other people do." And I went on with my haughty little life, doing things the way I wanted to and teaching a Bible study once a week and reading my Bible for a few minutes before I fell asleep each night... most nights... some nights...

And it took 25 years for God's Word to rock me and wreck me and change me. It took 25 years to learn to rise early and meet with the Lord, sometimes before dawn, to cherish His Words, an undeserved gift to me. It took 25 years before God's Word became a part of who I was at the core. Before His Word would come to my mind in my moments of temptation, of selfishness, of impatience, and unrighteousness and gently rebuke me and correct me or prevent me from sinning.

But you know what? God's Word did all those things - corrected me and humbled me and gave me hope... because that is what God's Word does. Every time. He has promised it. 

So what about you? Are you in? Do you want to be wrecked and redeemed all at once? Do you want to take God up on His promises and make His Word the foundation of all you think and say and do?

Don't let it get dusty, girl...

Read the rest of the Digging Deep series here...

Saturday Snippets

The art of lingering - read this again.. and again. put into practice
{via The Art of Simple}

Why the vaccination debate doesn't need to be so vicious...

I need to learn the art of lingering...

On the intersection of eugenics and abortion...

On the boring parts of the Bible...

Biblical hospitality is about serving, not impressing...

On shifting our expectations...

A helpful little template to design your day...

Two large photo canvases for $49.00. Christmas is coming...

I'm into vests lately...

I know you guys are all about your scarves and pumpkin spice lattes right now, but in Arizona it's still 90 degrees and I'm already scheming next summer's wardrobe.

On sexual atheism in the church...

And finally, suffering is not the absence of goodness...

Oct 10, 2014

Digging Deep: Make a Plan

Reading through the entire Bible is no small feat. It will take time and it will take discipline. Thankfully, the Father ordains time and His Spirit gives us self-control, so in Christ we have access to both time and discipline. What I mean is... YOU, yes you, can read through the whole Bible.

Most full-Bible reading plans are spread out over the course of a year. Some stretch it to two. If you do a year-long plan expect to read roughly 3-4 chapters a day. That might sound like a lot, but it really only takes about 15-20 minutes. In fact, some estimates say the average reader could finish the entire Bible in a year by reading 12.5 minutes per day. I know you have 12.5 minutes somewhere in your day to read God's Word broadly.

You will probably never finish your goal of reading through the Bible without a plan. Reading it cover to cover is tough, especially if it's your first time through the whole book. Most humans have more success in completing large projects when focusing on small, clear tasks each day, and that's exactly what the following Bible plans provide - small, achievable daily goals to help you do one great, fruitful, glorious thing - read ALL of God's story.


  • Two Year Bible Reading Plan - This is nice because you read the whole Bible, but it's spread out over two years instead of crammed into one. There are also "catch up days" built into the schedule in case you get behind.
  • M'Cheyne Plan - The M'Cheyne reading plan goes through the whole Bible once and the New Testament and Psalms twice in a one year schedule. {M'Cheyne was a Scottish pastor in the mid 1800s who came up with a Bible reading plan for his congregation that has since become the most-used plan in history.} Basically it's 3-4 chapters a day from different places in the Bible. D.A. Carson wrote two devotional books to go along with the plan that have been transferred to the For the Love of God Blog.
  • Slackers and Shirkers - This is a super easy Bible reading plan. Basically, it just breaks up the year into days of the week, and then under each day there is check box with a few passages of Scripture next to it. You read for the first Sunday, check it off, and when the next Sunday rolls around, you do the next reading and check it off. Then it does the same for each day of the week. And each day of the week is a specific genre, so Sundays might be the Pentateuch and Mondays might be the Epistles and so on. Here a pastor explains why he likes it.
  • Checklist - This plan basically allows you go at your own pace. You can make up any reading plan you want, and this checklist has every book of the Bible listed with its number of chapters. You just cross them out as you go. My only concern with this plan is that it's so open-ended it might be hard to stay on track. But then again, the freedom is nice and it will make it easy to honor the Bible instead of idolizing the schedule!
  • ESV Study Bible - There are bunch of plans that go along with the ESV Study Bible, which is my favorite Bible.
  • Chronological Bible - The first time I ever read through the whole Bible, I used the Chronological Bible. It puts all the chapters of the Bible into their {most likely}chronological order instead of the order in which they are traditionally published. For example, when you read about Saul trying to kill David in the wilderness, you also read the Psalms that David wrote during that time as he cried out to God. The only difficult thing about this Bible is that you don't get to the New Testament until September {if you start in January}, but the awesome thing is that you will read the Old Testament with new eyes and gain so much understanding of the Gospel throughout history.
  • YouVersion - Do you have YouVersion on your iPhone? {Search "Bible" in the app store and it will be the first one to pop up. It will say "LifeChurch.tv" on it.} This app provides many different reading plans that you can conveniently read on your phone.
Read the rest of the Digging Deep series here...

Oct 9, 2014

Digging Deep: Deep and Wide

Now that we've talked a bit about why we should study the Bible, I want to move to the how. For the next few days I will give some practical tips and resources to help you to dig into the Word. I know it can feel intimidating to study Scripture, considering the Bible is thousands of years old and over a thousand pages long, but it doesn't have to be overwhelming. The Bible was written for you. God wants you to read it, understand it, and enjoy it. With a thoughtful plan in place and the help of the Holy Spirit, you can make reading the Word a daily part of your life and watch as God renews your mind and heart.

When considering how to approach the Bible, I think we need to go deep and wide {yes, this is a pun for the 80s and 90s Sunday School kids}. What I mean is that you should read the Bible both broadly and deeply. You should read the whole thing and you should also do in-depth studies of specific books and chapters. The good news is you don't have to do both these things at the same time.

Inductive Bible study markings
{via Doorposts}

If you have never read the whole Bible, I urge you to do it. The whole Bible is the story of Christ and to only know bits and pieces of His story is not only sad {because you are missing out on so much truth, goodness, and hope} but it also makes it hard to share the Gospel with others if the entire scope of Christ's story isn't firm in your mind. Did you know the first prophesy about Christ comes in Genesis 3? Did you know the Bible says Jesus created the world {John 1:3} and upholds the universe in His hand {Hebrews 1:3}, which means He was definitely around in Genesis 1? That's why you need to read the whole thing. The only way to understand God's commands, to comprehend His extravagantly loving salvation plan, and to share that story with  others is to know His Word... the covenant with Abraham, the Exodus, the importance of Israel's history and throne, the prophets, the genealogies, the parables, the apostolic letters, and the promises for the future. All of it. It all goes together. It's all important. You need to read every word.

But after {or before} your read the whole Bible, you also need to learn Bible study skills and methods so you can go deep into specific passages. Since the Bible was originally written in different languages and has been translated a number of times, even studying specific word definitions can be enlightening as to who God is and what He commands of us. Every verse is rich in meaning, so it's essential to go deep and study small portions of Scripture at a time.

Tomorrow, I will give you some resources for reading through the Bible broadly and then we will spend a number of days looking at how to study Scripture deeply. Personally, I've started alternating how I read the Bible on a yearly basis, meaning for one year I will read the entire book and the next year I will do a series of shorter, in-depth studies on specific passages. I will share my methods as a way to encourage you, but there is no one right way to do it. Make it a goal to know the Bible broadly and deeply, and pray to the Spirit for guidance and discipline  as you choose a plan that works best for you.

Read the rest of the Digging Deep series here...

Oct 8, 2014

Digging Deep: The Gift

Before we go any further with how to study the Bible, I want to pause for a second and talk about why we should study it.

The answer seems obvious enough... because the Lord commands us to. Throughout Scripture, God tells us to read the Word {Deuteronomy 17:19}, study the Word {Ezra 7:10}, share the Word {Romans 10:14-15}, obey the Word {Ezekiel 36:27}, and meditate on the Word {Psalm 1:1-2}. Not only Jesus himself, but also the prophets of the Old Testament and the apostles of the New Testament, memorized significant portions of Scripture and were able to recite it publicly in order to share the Gospel or defend their faith. The reality is if you are not in the Bible, you are sinning.

But sometimes that perspective, although true, doesn't feel encouraging. Perhaps you desire to read your Bible, and you already feel discouraged that you don't do it often enough. When you contemplate your lack of willingness to read Scripture, you mentally add it to a long list of your sins and you feel completely deflated.

But I think there is another perspective to take when we think about reading God's Word...

{via HGTV}

It's a gift.

It's truly a gift. We don't deserve the Bible. God wrote it and gave it to us, so we could know Him and His love for us more clearly. He preserved the words for centuries and protected His story, so it could sit in our laps each day, wispy and bound in leather. Some people in the world have never heard the story. Some people only a have access to bits and pieces of the Bible. Some people don't have Scripture written in their native language. Some people whisper verses to each other because the Bible is outlawed in their country and they constantly face the threat of persecution for their belief.

To have a Bible, perhaps multiple copies, sitting in our homes is a privilege, an honor, and gift from the Lord. Don't neglect the gift. Consider it the best one you've ever received. If you received a car for your sixteenth birthday, did you leave it parked in the driveway? If someone delivered a new iPhone to your door today, would you continue to use your old phone with the cracked screen? If your spouse bought you a sweater or shoes you had been eyeing for weeks, would you wear it or would you let it sit dusty in the closet?

I speak of these worldly images only to paint a picture of a more heavenly scene. The Father loves us. One of the main expressions of that love is through the words that He ordained, preserved, and passed down to His children, generation after generation. Through His words, He wants us to know we are cherished, we are protected, and we have a lasting hope. He put these truths in ink, so we could return to them again and again. He knew we would often feel confused, unloved, or downcast, so He gave us a book to remind us we are loved. And the gift is not some old artifact. The Words are alive and active, and they can change your heart and your life every time you read them.

Accept the gift. Open the gift. Enjoy the gift.

Read the rest of the Digging Deep series here...
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