More resources for Studying Scripture

I came across this during my online Bible study this morning and thought I would share it with you all too:  http://proverbs31.org/online-bible-studies/2015/07/15/bible-study-skills-character-study/

This is great!  I encourage you to grab your Bible Study gear right now and start a character study. Well, maybe not RIGHT NOW, but today.  Take time today to see what God can teach you (us) through the lives shared in Scripture.  :)

Enjoy!

Roller coasters and crashes

I love when the Bible study I am doing currently coincides with the activity in my daily life.  Boom!  Something terrible happened.  Crash!  God speaks truth into my life!  It took less than 24 hours for this to happen this time.

Yesterday morning, I had an “I really hate being diabetic” day.  I had listened to my body and taken less insulin than I normally do, and still something went topsy-turvy on me!  My blood sugar fell for no apparent reason.  I had to make some difficult decisions in the moment.  Thankfully, I had some glucose tablets with me that I quickly consumed, and even poured sugar into my hand and licked it out.  Disgusting, right?   Desperate times call for desperate measures.  And the roller coaster of blood sugars began.

As soon as I was stable enough, that’s when things began to fall apart.  As soon as I could, I got myself out of the situation.  Can I just say, PEOPLE ARE MEAN?!?!?  I don’t ever want people to have to experience what I experience, but yesterday was one of those, “I wish you could feel what I am feeling and experiencing right now” kind of moments.  In public, I balled like a baby.  Yes, I broke down in tears.  It took me a good hour and a lot of people talking truth into me to bring me back to baseline.  And in that process, God reminded me, “I am bigger than this, Kara.  I’ve got you.”

Then I read these words this morning:  “I NEED to open my Bible to see what God can teach me about peace and trust. Then He can show me how to become more than a good Bible study girl in my walk with Him. He’s shown me I can’t just read the verses. I have to understand and believe them, then put them into action by allowing His Truth to replace my anxiety.”  (Thank you, Walking the Daily Walk)

When I spend time with Jesus, He is able to remind me that He has the wheel.  He’s had it all along.  I try to take it from Him, try to be a backseat driver, but He NEVER LETS GO.  Even in the most chaotic of moments, He has it.  He never leaves my side.  And I know this.  I have experienced it time and time again.  I just needed yet another reminder!

How often do we all forget that though?  How many times in scripture does God remind His people, the Israelites, that He is in control?  That He is sovereign?  Oh, I don’t know, hundreds of thousands of times over the generations?  As He is providing Manna to them in the wilderness, or sending water out of the rock, or bringing them out of Egypt, or bringing them into the land of milk and honey, and even as He brings His Son to the cross, God reminds us that He provides, He loves, He is faithful.

Thank you, God, for reminding me that You are sovereign in all things, and that You call me to action through prayer.  So I pray for the people I interacted with yesterday.  I pray You remind them of Your truth.  I pray that Your Spirit will equip me with Your strength to forgive them before I interact with them again.  I pray that You will continue to walk me through this life of Type 1 diabetes, and continue giving me insights into the needs of my body.  You have brought me almost 30 years in this Type 1 journey, with minimal issues, and I am so thankful.  May I not forget that.  G0d, YOU ARE GOOD, in all things.  Teach me, mold me, make me.  I am Yours.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

How to Study the Bible, Part 2

“How do we get into God’s Word and get God’s Word into us?” (…the question from today’s Online Bible Study)
I love the verse Lysa shares from Ephesians 1:17, saying “…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him…”
So first, we pray. We ask God to take us deep.  We ask God to teach us, reveal His Truth to us.  We ask for Wisdom.  James 1:5 also says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him.”  Being open to the Spirit is a huge first step in Bible study.

Second, we open the Word. Just praying for God to teach us and then doing nothing is like a student coming to class without supplies! “What? No textbook? So if I ask you to open to page 98, how are you going to do the work from page 98???” (It is amazing what students think they can get away with; as a teacher, I would literally have photocopies of the textbook work, as well as extra pencils…we have access to the Bible EVERYWHERE!  Online, in actual, old fashioned book form, in spoken word, etc.)  So pray, set aside time and actually open the Bible (online or in front of us).

Third, as Lysa demonstrates in Becoming More than a Good Bible Study Girl, ask questions.  The example she gives us in Chapter 6 of her book is a character study of King David, before he becomes king.  Character studies bring up some good questions!  So do topical studies, and contextual studies. God’s Word truly is interactive. When we ask, God will reveal. Sometimes we have to investigate, find the answer within more scripture (later in that same chapter, in another chapter, in another section of the Bible), ask others, search online, post here and wait for a response, but God will reveal His Truth.

Fourth, wait.  Patience is a fruit of the Spirit.  If the answers you seek don’t come right away, wait.  Keep asking.  Keep praying.  God will ALWAYS answer.  That answer will come at the oddest of times, in the oddest of ways sometimes, but that answer WILL come.

We are not meant to understand God’s Word alone.  We need His Spirit, and we need each other to go deep.  There is so much richness on the surface levels, but so much meat and nutrients the deeper we dive!  Get ready to feast on God’s Word today, and every day!

(For the Character Study on David, Lysa takes us into 1 Samuel 16-17, with side trips to 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 and Psalm 23).

“Peace”

The Proverbs 31 Online Bible Study this morning had us diving into four specific verses.  So I am going to share what I posted to the OBS blog and then go a bit deeper after that.

From the OBS Blog:

O- Both my thoughts and external factors interrupt me.  I have such an active brain!  And I have a 1 year old and a 3 year old….And I have a husband….so interruptions here happen all the time.  But we get by.

B- Each of these verses speaks of peace.  When we gather in the name of Jesus, we find His peace.  And we find opportunities to build each other up, encourage each other, and hold each other accountable.  Which verse speaks loudest to me?  Good question!  Colossians 3:15-16, I think, because of how embedded this passage has become in my life over the last 6 years.  “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.  And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”  This to me is the image of gathering together to praise our mighty God for what He has done for us through the cross, the empty tomb, through Jesus Christ, His Son!  We are called to, as it says in Colossians 3:14, “And above all these put on love, which binds everything in perfect harmony.”  I love the ESV for that word, harmony, in this passage.  Not unity, not as one, but in harmony.  Sweet, musical harmony.  Can you hear it?  The bass, baritone, tenor, alto, second soprano, and soprano voices blending together singing in perfect harmony about the love and power and grace of God???  Each time I meet with Him, that is what I hear.  That is what I want to shout from my soul!

S- I feel like I am already making a habit of gathering together to encourage and uplift, to praise God together.  What I would like to do is find ways to be a source of Biblical encouragement daily, at work, at home, at the store, wherever I am.  So, Lord, may I be obedient to Your promptings!  Show me who I can encourage at work.  Let me be a beacon for You, for Your Grace.

Now to go DEEPER:

Let me share the four verses I was reflecting on in the “B” section above:

John 20:19 “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.'”

Colossians 3:15-16 “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.  And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

Romans 14:19 “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and mutual upbuilding.”

Proverbs 1:33 “…but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.”

Do you see how each of these passages speaks to peace?  And more than that, most of them speak of gathering together.  Fellowship.  We truly are not meant to do life alone.  Fellowship, encouragement, motivation, accountability, and harmony are essential to this journey!  (That is my opinion, anyway!)  If you don’t have the face-to-face fellowship, find some online!  That is the awesomeness that is social networking today.  We can feel so trapped and alone, especially if we are unable to move, drive, walk, etc.  The church I attend is a Network Church for Life Church in Oklahoma.  And I attend here in Illinois!  If you do not have a church home, check it out!  Here is the link:  http://www.life.church/

Explore the churches around you if you can get out and about.  If you go to one, give it 2-3 weeks in a row (unless God really speaks to you otherwise) to see if it is a place you can worship.  Then stay or move to the next!  Ask questions, go deep.

I have to speak to peace now.  Peace does not mean freedom from hardship and it does not mean an easy path.  Peace means assurance that whatever it is you are facing is surmountable.  It means Jesus is walking the path (mountain) with you.  We never walk alone, even when we feel like it.  So Proverbs 1:33, when it says “without dread of disaster” means that we walk through fire without fear because God is with us.  Just as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were in the fiery furnace and came out unscathed, that is God walking with us through life.  There are situations, sometimes daily, that have the potential to burn us deeply.  We get scarred, cut, bruised.  And God makes us stronger through it.  He purifies us.  He teaches us.  He equips us to help someone else through that same fire.

So we are not called to a life of perfection, but to a perfect eternity.  The hardships we face here deepen our peace and our reliance on God through Jesus Christ.  We are called to live a harmonious life with those around us.  We are not identical, but our lives will blend together in a beautiful symphony of sound in the presence of the King of kings.

And we walk this life together.  Cling to that truth.  Someone out there is listening.  Always God, and many of us as well.

May you find peace in the fires around you through Jesus Christ.  Amen.

How to study the Bible, Kara Miller Style

That’s right.  Here’s my outline to studying Scripture, for any of you who truly want to know what works for me.  And just that, THIS IS WHAT WORKS FOR ME.  If you have a different style, structure, time of day, method, whatever, that works for you, fantastic!  Experiment.  Talk about it.  Share in the comments!

Time in the Word is time spent in the presence of God.  Starting with prayer is always a great place to begin.  Lately, I have enjoyed studying specific books of the Bible (A study through Romans, through Psalms, through Isaiah…), but I used to do topical studies.  Either is fine.

I like to read scripture in context, so 1-3 chapters at a time rather than verse by verse.  I like to look at the scripture in a variety of translations.  My go-to resource for that is www.Biblegateway.com, and I like to compare the English Standard Version with the New Living Translation.  I have a study Bible here at home of each of them as well, and I like the commentaries in the margins.  What I also like about the study Bibles is the chain references.  In the margin, lists of verses that connect back to one of the verses I just read are all listed there for me to look them up and get a bigger picture.

It seems like this could take a lot of time!  Sometimes, it does.  Lately, I have been getting up about 5:15-5:30 a.m. and doing my study before my boys wake up at 6:30.  If you do a chapter at a time, you can get some good, solid study time in less than 30 minutes.

Then I like to pray over what I have read.  How can I live out God’s love and grace and apply what I have read in my everyday life?  How does what I read reveal God’s character and will?

That is just a glimpse into the thoughts that run through my mind as I sit down with scripture and God.  How about you?

…Perfection?

“Holiness is more about the devotion of my life than perfection in my life.  Jesus directs us to the object of our devotion in Matthew 6:33, ‘But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.’ As we seek Jesus we begin to bear a resemblance to our family heritage of holiness.” –Wendy Pope, First 5 app

This is what I read in my devotion this morning.  And I needed that reminder!  I am far from perfect, I will never be perfect…on my own.   Romans 8 starts off with, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.  For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.  By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit…”  My flesh is weak.  I have already sinned many times, even unknowingly (especially as a child in moments of disobedience), and perfection on my own, redemption on my own, is impossible.  There is nothing I can do to make up for the mistakes of my past.

Yet through those mistakes, those trips down various rabbit holes, God has never left me.  Even before I knew He was there, He was (and is) by my side, having sent His Son before me, to rescue me, to cover me with his cloak of righteousness.  I did nothing to earn that (in fact, I continue to fall further from that unattainable perfection).  Yet He wrapped me in His loving arms.

Why?  So many times in my life, I have asked Him, “How could you love me?  Why do you love me?”  Be honest, we’ve all asked at least one person that “Why do you love me” question in some form or another!  So, God, why?

“Because I love you.  I made you.  You are my creation, and I knit you together in your mother’s womb.”

In these words that God whispers through my soul, scripture comes alive.

On the sixth day of creation, Genesis 1:26-27, 31 reports God’s words as, “ Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them…And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”

Psalm 139:13-14 continue the whispers within me:  “For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.  My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

1 John 3 continues in this confirmation for me:  “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”  I encourage you to read the rest of 1 John 3 as well.

How thankful I am for the Voice of Truth!  How thankful I am to be covered by Jesus’ righteousness, that my sins, my mistakes, my shortcomings, have been covered, erased, removed as far as the east is from the west! (Psalm 103:11-12 “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is  his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”)

 

Reflections on “Give in or dig in?”

From the P31OBS: Give in or Dig in?

Observe — What’s been your favorite part of Week 1?

Bible — One great way to see what God has to say about us is through a topical study of the Bible. To learn what it is and how to apply it, click here, then ask yourself, “What are those ‘give in’ feelings I am struggling with now?”

Write those feelings down, then do a topical search and see what God’s Word has to say about each one. Write out what you find, then use that truth in combat. ThisFREE printable can help you map out your strategy.

Stretch — Chapter 3 of “Becoming More”is all about finding our identities in Christ and realizing that in any situation, He can still be found. How will you look for Him this week in those tough moments? What verse is currently helping you #LiveItOut?

My Reflections:

O- One of my favorite parts of week 1 so far has been the online interactions.  I did my first Facebook live event last night, and have been enjoying my small group!  #BecomingMoreGroup83 rocks!

B- I am going to use the rest of today to do by topical study.  There are so many “give in” feelings that flitter in and out, and a few that have taken root in the past.  Even when uprooted, the enemy likes to remind me of those feelings.  He is such a guilt-tripper!  Some examples are these: “You’re ugly.”  “You’re not good enough.”  “You need to do MORE.”  “If you say no, they won’t appreciate and love you anymore.”  “You’re not a good mom.”  The last one is the newest and hardest.  God’s truth:  “I am wonderfully and fearfully made. (Psalm 139), I am not good enough, but my Savior Jesus Christ IS and He covers me. (Isaiah 43:25), I need to rest in His presence and His thoughts should be all that matter to me (1 Peter 5:7 is a start), and as a mom, I am a work in progress.  James 1:5:  If anyone lacks wisdom, he should ask God…God will guide me, step by step.  And I am not in this alone.  I have an amazing husband, and for that, I am so thankful to our God!  When I remember that, it reminds me to pray for all our single parents out there.

S- Our verse from John 15:13 is helping me this week.  It is reminding me to #LiveOutLOVE and to #LiveOutGRACE.  It is easy to get envious, or to be bitter.  It is easy to throw my hands up and walk away.  God challenges us to ABIDE IN HIS LOVE.  And scripture continues to tell us that if we say we have love, but do not demonstrate that love, we are liars.  If I am going to abide in God’s love, I need the Spirit’s help to let that love radiate from me and fall on those around me.  That is my challenge this week and beyond.  Listen for the promptings of the Spirit so that God may be glorified and the gift of Salvation through Jesus Christ may be seen in me.

 

Let’s go back to those “Give in” feelings.  As suggested in the P31OBS Blog, I did a topical study on one of the lies Satan likes to whisper (and yell) to me. “I am not good enough, or worthy enough.”  “I am weak and incapable.”  This is what Satan likes to “remind” me of almost daily.  He has been doing this for decades now.  And the truth that sets me free from this lie is one I did not start to grasp until the last 7 years.  And God still teaches it to me.  I can be quite stubborn sometimes… :)

But let’s break this down.  I did a topic-search to find scripture about “not being good enough” and here is a glimpse of what I found:

2 Corinthians 3:5 says, “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God…”

John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches.  Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And it is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works so that no one may boast.”

Continuing into Ephesians 2:10 “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Isaiah 43:3 “For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.  I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Sheba in exchange for you.”

1 Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

So hear is what I am continuously learning:  It is ok to not be good enough, as compared the standards of this world.  Life is not about what I can achieve myself, because that gains me nothing.  It cannot gain me the love of my God.  It cannot gain me entrance into heaven.  God alone is the one who equips me, who works through me, who gives me my value and worth.  Nothing apart from Him can define me or transform me.  Why is this ok?  Look at Isaiah 43:4 again:  God bought me.  The Creator of this vast universe, the Author of life, looked at me, saw that His Creation is GOOD, and He purchased me!  He sent Jesus Christ, His perfect Son, to this earth to pay the ultimate price for my soul so that I can spend eternity in heaven with Him.  There is nothing I did to earn that love.  Seriously, I am a sinful, broken person.  I make mistakes all the time!  And yet, Jesus came for me.  Do you know how powerful it is to feel so worthless for so long, to have let people walk all over you, and then to all of a sudden realize how treasured you really are???  I still start crying every time I think of the depth of that truth!

I am never going to stop striving, as tempting as it is some days.  Just because I found my value in God does not mean I am going to now float through this life.  No.  It means that because I feel so loved by Him, I want to show others that same love!  This is where my purpose comes from.  This is now what drives me:  Christ living (and loving) through me.

Romans 8:39 is a good place to conclude:  “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all of creation, will be able to separate us form the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Nothing.  Once Christ, always Christ.  We are His, and He is ours.  Amen and amen!