From Me-Focused to God-Focused Bible Study

REBEKAH MATT|GUEST In the 25 years that I’ve been a Christian, I’ve participated in a lot of Bible studies. There was the Bible study that encouraged me to be more like David, someone after God’s own heart. The Bible study that took me from Genesis to Revelation in ten weeks. Homespun Bible studies written by gifted women in my church and shiny new Bible studies from major publishers. Bible studies that provided free childcare (thank you, Lord) and Bible studies that had me in tears of conviction on the drive home. Big Bible studies in a room full of women and small Bible studies in a church member’s living room. Over all these years with all these different studies (and in my own personal study), I regularly looked to the Bible for life-changing words that would transform my relationships, improve my spiritual self-discipline, or solve other problems in my life. This kind of “what’s in it for me?” way to study the Bible is the default setting even among longtime Christians. Reading the Bible and seeking God’s personal, problem-solving message to you is very common—try googling “what Bible verse should I read when” and you’ll see what I mean. I did learn from these Bible studies. I sometimes even found answers to my problems or inspiration to become a better person in some particular way. But for more than two decades, even though I enjoyed and learned from the Bible studies that I had done, none of them answered the question that I didn’t even know I had: how to study and Bible, and why. Finding a new (to me) approach to Bible study I believe that any Bible reading is worthwhile, but seeing the Bible merely as a helpful life resource is very limiting. I’d been short-changing myself on the full benefits of reading the Bible by not thinking about how or why I was doing it....

From Me-Focused to God-Focused Bible Study2022-05-04T23:25:29+00:00

Why Go to Bible Study

COURTNEY DOCTOR|CONTRIBUTOR I went to my first Bible study because I was lonely. I was in my early twenties with two small children at home and was desperate to meet other women and make new friends. The offer for free child-care only sweetened the deal and I signed up, eager for a few hours away from children and hungry for adult conversation. I did not go to this study because I had a burning desire to know God or his Word. However, while I did meet new friends and benefitted from a few hours away from the demands of small children, ultimately, I met God. And I have continued to attend Bible studies ever since. If you attend a weekly Bible study of some kind—in your church, neighborhood, or community—I want to ask you why? Like me in my twenties, perhaps you attend Bible study to make friends or enjoy child-care. The reasons that compel us to walk in the door will vary from person to person and from season to season. But the bigger question I want us to consider is, Why do we go to Bible study at all? It’s an important question because the answer shapes our expectations. What should we expect to be the result of going to Bible study? I’d like to propose that, while there are a myriad of good things that happen in and through Bible study—we deepen friendships, grow in our knowledge of God’s Word, invest in the lives of those around us—one of the ultimate things that happens is transformation. If you are a Christian, God is at work in your life transforming you. He is changing you into a woman who is better able to discern his will (Rom. 12:2). He is changing you so that you will be better equipped to join him on his mission to seek and save the lost. He is transforming you so that you will be more consumed with his kingdom than with your own, with his glory than with yours. And he is changing you to be increasingly more like Jesus in every way (Rom. 8:29). One of the most remarkable things about this extra-ordinary transformation is that it happens in very ordinary ways. And “going to Bible study” is one of the ordinary means God uses to do his extraordinary work. But this transformation does not just happen automatically—it requires your participation. Two ways you can actively participate with God in your transformation is by doing your homework and by showing up to discuss it with others. DO THE HOMEWORK A lot of women I talk with think of the homework provided in their Bible study as optional or something they will be better able to prioritize in a different stage of life. But time in God’s Word is vital at every stage of life! And a good Bible study will provide you with the structure and opportunity to spend that time productively. Most Bible study homework will ask you to read a passage of Scripture, answer questions about the passage, and consider how you are to respond to what you’ve read. The actual moments you use to go through these steps can feel so ordinary. Some of you do your study early in the morning while you’re still in your pajamas. Others study over lunch while sitting at your desk. Some of you try to finish it while you’re waiting in the carpool line. Very average moments for the most part. But, as we move through the homework of our study—reading, answering questions, reflecting, and thinking about how we are to respond—God is at work! Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16 that, “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” This list is not exhaustive. As you read God’s Word, he, by his Spirit, is instructing you, teaching you, convicting you, encouraging you, rebuking you, feeding you, calling you, reminding you, humbling you, lifting you, comforting you, and loving you...

Why Go to Bible Study2022-05-04T23:18:34+00:00

Bible Study is Better in Community

CHRISTINE GORDON|GUEST If only I had a nickel, (or maybe a Starbucks tall Americano with cream), for every time I’ve heard the following: “I decided to read through the Bible. I made it all the way to the first couple of chapters of Leviticus. Then I stopped.” Yup. I’ve been there. You started with great intentions and a real desire to meet God in his word. Then you came to a verse like this, “And from the peace offering he shall bring an offering made by fire to the LORD consisting of its fat: the entire fat tail cut off close to the backbone, the fat that covers the entrails, all the fat that is on them, both kidneys with the fat on them near the loins, and the lobe of the liver, which he is to remove with the kidneys” (Leviticus 3:9-10). At that point certain thoughts may have entered your mind. “Hm. Maybe I overestimated myself,” or “I mean, Bible reading is overrated, right?”  The Bible is a complicated book, and parts of it take real commitment to understand. It can be difficult to reach the point where the text is speaking to your heart and connecting you to the God you’re craving. How many genuinely Jesus-loving, God-seeking people have begun some sort of Bible study with great intentions only to stop a few days or weeks later? Then comes the shame and disappointment of quitting, along with the still present ache for a richer understanding of God’s word. Let’s step back for a moment from the world of Bible study and enter another field to help us understand what might help. A study reported by the National Institutes of Health found that 95% of those who started a weight loss program with friends completed the program, compared to a 76% completion rate for those who tackled the program alone.[1] A huge marketing push for many gyms includes a buddy program, or some sort of person-to-person accountability for those wanting to hit their fitness goals. These marketers aren’t just trying to help you make friends; they’ve tapped into something true about our God-imaging humanity: we do better together.  Genesis 1:26 reads, “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” God exists in trinity; he lives in community. We, his image bearers, flourish when we do the same....

Bible Study is Better in Community2022-05-04T23:18:53+00:00

Three Reasons to Study the Bible with Older Women

CHRISTINA FOX|EDITOR Over the years, I’ve participated in many Bible studies. Some were specifically for women in my age and stage of life, such as college and career, young marrieds, or those in the trenches of motherhood. Other studies included a mixture of women from varying ages. Yet even in those studies, I found myself gravitating toward my peers—women who were pursuing their careers or busy at home with young children or running everywhere with their pre-teens. I wanted to connect with women who knew what I was going through, who shared in a mutual understanding of the challenges of juggling work and home life or who were also wrangling little ones or navigating the challenges of the teen years.   Recent years have found me in a Bible study where the majority of women are not in my age or stage of life; rather, they are older than I. These women are at or near retirement. Their daily concerns are not centered on the logistics of family life with children. Their conversations don’t focus on the daily challenges of work at the office. In fact, many have big concerns about real and frightening health issues. Or heart-breaking relational issues with their adult children and grandchildren. But you know what? Despite the difference in age, experience, and concerns of daily life, we have one key thing in common: our love for Christ. We are sisters in the Lord and these older, wiser sisters have taught me much. As it turns out, in the Kingdom of God, age is not a barrier to understanding. Just because someone is in a different stage of life than I, it doesn’t mean they can’t relate to me; rather, age is a bridge that leads to valued treasure—for the wisdom gained after years of walking with the Lord is a wealth of untold measure, a wealth we can all benefit from. Three Reasons to Study the Bible with Older Women God designed it that way: It may seem elementary—a truth many of us know—but it’s an important one to revisit. The Bible doesn’t say much about women’s ministry. Except in one place: Titus 2. In Paul’s letter to Titus, he instructs Titus in what a gospel centered church looks like. In the second chapter, he gives Titus specific instructions for various groups in the church, including women. That’s where Paul exhorts older women to disciple younger women (vv.3-5). These older women were to be spiritual mentors to the younger women in the church. They were to teach them what it means to love and submit to their husbands, how to glorify God in their mothering, and what it looks like to be a woman of God. These older women were to take what they learned from Titus’ preaching, apply it to their own lives, and then in turn help the younger women apply the gospel to their lives. Whether it is in one-on-one discipleship, a Titus 2 small group, a Bible study, or in an informal relationship, we all need to learn from older women. And what better way to learn than in the context of studying God’s word? As we dig into the Scriptures together, our older sisters in Christ can point us to truth. They can model for us how to live out the gospel in our daily lives....

Three Reasons to Study the Bible with Older Women2022-05-04T23:19:03+00:00

E-119 Gospel Friends Roundtable Edition Carols of Christmas with Vanessa Hawkins, Ronjanett Taylor, B.A. Snider, Robin Stevens, & Sherry Lanier

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E-119 Gospel Friends Roundtable Edition Carols of Christmas with Vanessa Hawkins, Ronjanett Taylor, B.A. Snider, Robin Stevens, & Sherry Lanier2020-10-20T17:27:10+00:00

Why Study the Old Testament?

My seminary professor posed a question in his lecture the other day: Should we decorate our nurseries with Noah’s Ark themes? Um, well…I did. My oldest, who’s now off at college, had a yellow and green Noah’s Ark themed nursery when she was a baby. What’s the problem, Prof.? But then I studied the story. It’s not that I hadn’t learned about Noah before, but most of my understanding of the passage, along with many other Old Testament stories, comes from childhood books filled with primary colors and cartoon-like figures. But the story of Noah is actually incredibly heavy and exceedingly violent.   Many Old Testament stories carry this kind of weight. While studying 1 Samuel with our women’s Bible study, we came across this verse: “The hand of the Lord was heavy against the people of Ashdod, and he terrified and afflicted them with tumors…” (5:16). This probably isn’t a Scripture passage hung up on the fridge for that good ole’ morning encouragement. As we digested what was going on in the context, one friend lamented that passages like this are why she stays away from the Old Testament. I get it. I had similar feelings when digging into the story of Noah. It’s hard sometimes to understand how these Old Testament stories apply to us today; it’s equally difficult to grasp the importance of reading them when many are harsh and even some, grotesque. But the Old Testament is significantly beautiful. It is vital to our understanding of the great and glorious God we serve and digging into these books sheds light on the incredible beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There are many other reasons to give time and attention to Old Testament books, but here are three to consider:   The Old Testament is Significant because it Reveals the Purposes of God   As a literature teacher, I delight in seeing a student’s face light up when they begin to understand how the plot details of a piece of literature fit together to create one unifying and often very meaningful story. Our understanding of Scripture must be seen in a similar light. The Bible is one beautiful and grand story – the grandest story! It cannot merely be understood as individual, disconnected books made up of individual, disconnected stories. When we study the Bible, we often do so by jumping around to different books and chapters, which is certainly fine and can be beneficial. But the challenge is that we not losing sight of the big picture – the grand story – that connects all the details from Genesis to Revelation...

Why Study the Old Testament?2022-05-04T23:49:33+00:00
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