Category Archives: Prayer

Bible Study Tips

bible-1149924_1280After searching the internet for 30 or 40 minutes, I finally gave up trying to find the perfect Bible study tip sheet for my Sunday School class. There were a lot of good ideas out there, but nothing that fit our needs perfectly. We generally choose a book and go through it one chapter at a time, so I needed something that would fit that format. Anyway, here’s what I came up with. If you have similar needs, perhaps it will be useful to you!

Here is a link to download the pdf, along with the complete text below.

BibleStudyIdeas

Who: Look at the beginning and ending of the book. Is it apparent who is speaking and who is being spoken to? If not, see if you can find out by looking in a reference book or getting online.

 

What: Read the whole first chapter. Is it easy to tell what’s going on? If not, you may have to read the entire book first or look up a summary of the book.

 

Where & When: Can you tell when and where the book was written?

 

Why: Why is the writer of the book speaking to his audience? Again, you may have to do a little digging for the answers.

 

You may want to spend the entire first week finding out the answers to these first few questions, before beginning with chapter one. If you decide to use outside sources for your information, and by that I mean anything other than the Bible, be sure you don’t just accept the first thing you read as truth. Check to see if the facts are widely agreed upon by Christians and if they can be supported. (Even then, be wary. Satan has his own agenda, and it is sometimes hard to discern.)

 

Chapter by Chapter:

 

After satisfying your curiosity about the previous five questions, you will have a good foundation for understanding the individual chapters of your chosen book. Beginning with the first chapter, follow the simple steps found on the next page. Commence each step with prayer. Genuinely seek the face of God and His will for your life. “When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek.” Psalm 27:8 “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:” Matthew 7:7

 

  1. Read the chapter, noting any questions you may have along the way. For instance, what does _____ mean? Do the Jews still carry on this tradition today? Why would he have said that specifically? Etc.
  2. Spend some time searching out a few more scriptures that address common topics or themes. Scripture is best understood in the light of other Scripture. The Bible is a uniform whole, communicating to us the story of God’s plan of redemption for mankind.
  3. Pray. This time, ask for help staying focused and finding helpful information. Look up the answers to your questions, and write down the results.
  4. Cultivate a desire for God’s truth, and ask for eyes to see the big picture. Read the chapter a second time, and write down any of your own thoughts and opinions. If another scripture comes to your mind while reading, look up the reference and make note of it.
  5. Pray again. This time pray for discernment before you read the opinions of others. Find out what other Christians believe about this chapter. This is where you need the most discernment, and if you aren’t sure, you may want to skip this step until you become more grounded in the Scriptures.
  6. Ask for strength to apply the Word of God in your daily life. Read the chapter one last time, writing down any personal applications you can find.
  7. Find your favorite verse from the chapter and memorize it. “But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” Psalm 1:2

In the instance of preparation for a weekly group Bible study, these steps can be accomplished one day at a time throughout the week, spending 10-20 minutes in study each day. If you split the steps like this, be sure to begin each daily session with prayer.

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Train Up a Child: Prayer

Ever since Ian told me that God has called him as a missionary, I’ve been taking his training a lot more seriously. I know that I should have been diligent to train him all along – it’s not like he will always be surrounded by like-minded folks, or that he will never fall into temptation – but suddenly, his Christian development has taken precedence over everything else. For instance, we’ve been praying out loud together every day. The first day, I prayed out loud; the second day, he did, etc. By doing this, I hope to accomplish a few things:

1. Give him an idea about the variety of things we can talk to God about (aka, everything).

2. Teach him to be thankful and worshipful above all things – that these are the most important aspects of his communion with God.

3. Train him to only ask for personal things occasionally. This is not the sole purpose of prayer. I have said before – God is not a vending machine. However, we pray for salvation of the lost pretty frequently.

4. Show him that prayer is not meant to be mindlessly repetitious or ritualistic. Every approach to the throne of God should be fresh and unique to that moment, and our hearts and minds should be focused on Him.

5. Get him in the habit of taking the time to pray. Every. Single. Day. It should be non-negotiable, just like brushing his teeth.

6. Increase his comfort level in praying out loud. As a man, he will be called on to pray in church with some regularity, and as a missionary, he will have to take the initiative and teach others how to pray.

7. It just occurred to me – I should also teach him to be silent for a few moments as well – to give God our undivided attention, and allow Him the opportunity to answer back.

8. We haven’t done this yet, but I also need to emphasize the importance of searching our hearts, admitting to sin, and earnestly repenting.

Discipling our Children

Bible ReadingWe need a mature mindset when it comes to disciplining ourselves and the little people we are responsible for (our children). Somehow, we find no problems saying, Yes, you HAVE to eat your vegetables, you HAVE to brush your teeth, you HAVE to share, HAVE to apologize. These things are non-negotiable. We parents realize that we are responsible for our children’s health and attitudes in their youth, with the goal of cultivating life-long responsibility in our kids. Why is it then, that we have such difficulty in helping our children develop habits such as daily Bible-reading, prayer, worship, and thankfulness? What about teaching them to discipline themselves through occasional but regular periods of fasting, even if it’s only for one meal? What about charitable giving? Volunteering? Reaching out to others? Shouldn’t we make these things a regular part of their lives so that they will have some clue as to how to function as real Christians?

What do I mean by real Christians? The word Christian is an old one, and originally it meant “little Christs.” It may have even been a derogatory term when it was used by the citizens of Antioch to label followers of Christ. I’d like to think that Christians earned this term because of their adherence to a lifestyle that mimicked Christ’s. Therefore, I maintain that Christianity should be more than just a belief. More than just an acceptance of the Gospel. True, our works don’t get us into heaven, and the definition of the word “Christian” has changed over time, but our belief and acceptance should be made obvious by the changes that salvation works in us.

You might argue that your children haven’t personally accepted Christ yet, and that’s okay, I get that. But the goal is to direct them to seek out the true God and develop a relationship with Him. There’s nothing wrong with running your household in a way that presupposes their eventual acceptance. Even if your children never accept Him and grow up thinking you’re a crazy fanatic, there’s certainly nothing wrong with teaching them to love people and sincerely seek the truth.

Even for parents who have no qualms with “pushing” their religion onto their kids, many still fail to instill Christian discipline in their offspring. I think one of the main reasons is this: we refuse to discipline ourselves and therefore feel like hypocrites when we require them to read their Bibles, etc. If we demand that our kids return the candy bar they stole, yet we ourselves cheat on our taxes, what does that say about us? How can we pass on traits such as sharing, self-discipline, fasting, etc. if we can’t be bothered with these things in our own lives? Well, I only have one answer for that – seek discipline in your own life and set the example. But being an example isn’t enough; we need to help our kids practice for a lifetime of Christianity.

None of us are perfect, and we’re going to fail – a lot – but that doesn’t excuse us from trying our best. You expect a good effort from your kids on all sorts of things – keeping their rooms clean, obedience, education. Expect the best from yourself while you’re at it.

Anyway, rant over.

Here are a few things I find lacking in Christian society today:

1. Sincerity

2. Discipline

3. Obedience

4. Compassion

I have a few thoughts about each, but I will save them for another post.

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I Can’t Sleep

I wonder how much of my life has been spent tossing and turning, trying to go to sleep, only to fail for hours on end before drifting off from total mental and physical exhaustion? I have no idea why I am having so much trouble sleeping lately, except that my mind has been going, going, going. You would think that I would be so tired of thinking by the end of the day, but ideas seem to multiply themselves like rabbits. I guess I could watch TV before going to bed and numb my mind down to nothing, but I really don’t want to. What I want to do is write, and what I don’t want to do is lay in bed and become frustrated. So, even though I have a pretty busy day planned tomorrow, I am going to stop torturing myself by trying to sleep. If I am tired tomorrow night, I will just go to bed earlier, so there. Maybe then I’ll be able to sleep like a regular human being.

So, I had a different post planned for in the morning, but here is what I am thinking about right now. In fact, I wrote parts of the following portion of this post from my phone, in bed, about 10 minutes ago:

During church service Sunday morning, we sang “This Is My Father’s World.” Our song leader mentioned that he always thinks of that song when he spends time outside hunting. I usually think of “I Sing the mighty Power of God” or “For the Beauty of the Earth.”

I love spending time outside because it reminds me of the Creator. It puts us closer to the mind of God, helps us The Creationunderstand Him a little better. He loves beauty. He loves serenity. He loves painting new masterpieces in the sky for our entertainment. He enjoys watching the industry of the animals and the interaction between the plant and animal world. In short, He loves His creation. He loves us.

I am afraid that the more time we spend indoors, and the more we surround ourselves with man-made things, the less we will remember our Creator. And, until I started going to the city every day, I would sometimes go for days on end without ever stepping foot outside. Our lives revolve around technology (I say, as I sit up late at night typing instead of sleeping). I remember once or twice last winter, I wanted to know whether it was snowing. But instead of getting up to look out the window, I picked up my phone and looked at my weather app. I know better, but I am still hopeless! I really need to make an effort to spend time outside every day, remembering my Creator and talking to Him.

Do you think there is a disconnect between humans and nature?

Do you think it’s important to spend time outdoors?

Do any of you all make it a point to go outside on a regular basis?

How to Cope with a Depressed Spouse, part 1

What you can do for yourself

You may love your spouse with every fiber of your being – or you may be to the point where you can’t stand the sight of him or her. On some days, you may even experience both of these emotions simultaneously. How can you live from day to day when someone else is affecting your happiness-factor?

The short answer: you can’t.

That is, you can’t allow someone else to affect your happiness-factor.

So what can you do for yourself?

Things that won’t work:

Society tells us to focus on ourselves, since we’re the only sure thing that we have. So maybe you’ve tried confiding in friends, or perhaps you’ve immersed yourself in a hobby. Others read, meditate, or otherwise seek out “me”-time. But why is it that none of these things seem to help alleviate stress?

In extreme situations, people often turn to drugs or alcohol, or even find themselves nursing dangerously intimate relationships with the opposite sex. Those are the sorts of things that will only serve to make their situations even worse. And they certainly aren’t being helpful to their spouses.

The number one thing you can do for yourself

Develop a relationship with our Creator. You know, the One who saw fit to place you on this earth in the first place. Search Him out, seek to understand His will, and talk to him daily. Tell Him how you really feel – don’t use fancy words or try speaking in old English; God understands what the word “you” means, so you can skip the “thees” and “thous.” Ask Him questions, and listen for an answer. You’ll be amazed at how often the answer seems to reveal itself upon asking. Base your happiness on the fact that you’re connected to the most loving, most powerful Being in the universe, and also upon the fact that you’ll get to leave all of this trouble behind when we finally reach eternity.

If you’re not a believer

At least do your research, and see what you find. It’s kind of silly to be an unbeliever just for the sake of being one. The same thing goes for believers. Know what you believe, but more importantly, know why you believe it. Beg God to reveal Himself to you, if He really exists – and He will.

I know He will because that’s what He did for me. But He didn’t hit me all at once with a “sign:” I just kept asking Him to help me find Him, to help me know which religion was the true one, and eventually, because I was talking to Him so much, I just sort of got to know Him. He speaks back to us through His Word, and in other small ways. He’s impossible to miss, if you’re truly looking.

You’ve tried everything else

Why not try Jesus? What have you got to lose?

My Prayer…Routine?

I am teaching my son to pray so he won’t have to figure it out for himself.

I have been trying to encourage him to cultivate a close, personal relationship with Christ. I don’t want him to have that all-too-pervasive mentality in which God is nothing more than a glorified vending machine. I’m trying to teach him that we go to God with more than just our wants. I’m also trying to teach him that our prayers should be like conversations, personal and varied – different every time we speak to God. When we pray, we use words and grammar that come to us naturally, like talking to a friend. But I do like to use the structure of the Lord’s Prayer for our example:

Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…

Every time we approach God, I believe we should worship Him for who He is. My son and I accomplish this by spending a few moments telling God how awesome He is. And then we try to think of specific things in our lives and in Creation that testify to His awesomeness. For example, we might see a beautiful sunset and worship God for His beauty. We might learn about how ants keep their own herds of aphids and praise Him for His wonderful creation. We might recover from an illness and stand in awe at the marvelous healing capabilities of the human body. At this point in our prayers, we also thank God for several varied and specific things such as salvation, liberty, parents that have taught us about God, or the mere fact that God thought of us individually and saw fit to create our souls. Then we thank him for things we like or enjoy, such as snowflakes, birthday parties, and toy train sets. Our praise and thanksgiving varies from prayer to prayer because I don’t ever want my son to look at the process as a ritual, but merely a conversation between friends, one of whom is holy and deserves acknowledgment of that fact.

Thy Kingdom come; thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…

I try to truly accept God’s will in my life. Whether He wants me to go or stay, be rich or poor, healthy or ailing – if it accomplishes His will, then that’s what I want in my life. My only unwavering desire is to see as many saved as possible, and I doubt that God’s will is any different in that respect. I would like to think that I would gladly give my life or graciously suffer the deaths of my loved ones, if it could only result in more souls saved. I don’t desire anyone to be separated from our Creator for all of eternity.

Give us this day our daily bread…

I believe it is okay to ask God for things. While it should not be the main reason we pray, He desires to give us the things we ask for, just as a doting father may enjoy buying coveted gifts for his children. When I ask though, I generally tag my petitions with “but your will be done.” I know that He knows better than I do what’s best for me, so I don’t really want anything outside of His will.

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors…

It is good for us to specifically address our short-comings, and confess them to God and one another. Doing so holds us more accountable, and may even help prevent us from repeating the same mistakes over and over. We need to search our souls for the things that are keeping us from a perfect walk with God, and take whatever steps necessary to oust them from our lives. One of those things is the resistance to forgive others. We have sinned against a holy God thousands of times, and have been forgiven all. What gives us the right, unholy creatures that we are, to withhold forgiveness from those who sin against us?

And lead us not into temptation…

And while we’re asking God to keep us from temptation, we need to not be the hypocrite that walks headlong into temptation on purpose. Our request for help should serve to keep us in check.

But deliver us from evil…

I pray that nothing traumatic ever happens to us, but again, I want God’s perfect will in my life. And God forbid I should ever be a source of evil in this world.

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.

Realize who God is. Realize his awesome power and sovereignty. Remember who you are speaking to as you approach Him with your petitions. Remember that He loves you personally; He is your doting Father. Remember that He desires friendship. But remember too, that He demands obedience.

Challenge: If you don’t have a prayer life to speak of, put down whatever you are doing and begin right now. If you aren’t willing to start now, when will you ever make time for God? I keep hearing Jillian Michaels in my head saying “Transformation is not a future event.” So true.

Bible Study Curriculum

Someone hit my blog the other day by Googling “bible study in homeschool.”

This is something that I have been wondering about for a while now. Ian already reads his Bible every night, and our family reads together in the evenings (when we remember – something we definitely need to work harder at though), so what do we do specifically for homeschool? I have the subject Bible scheduled three times a week, but how to fill it? His history book is from a Biblical perspective (The Mystery of History) and so are his science books (Answers in Genesis). So he already gets tons of Bible stories and creation science in his curriculum.

We already work hard to cultivate a personal relationship with the Lord. We praise God when we pray, we tell Him how awesome and wonderful He is, and we think of things that prove it, and then tell Him about them. For instance, we think of something wonderful about His creation, and tell Him what a great job He did, and thank Him for it, like the properties of water or an animal that we’ve been learning about. We also try to thank Him for things that He’s done specifically for us, like creating us or giving us something we’ve asked for. I teach my son that it’s okay to ask for things, but it’s not the primary reason we pray. I’m also trying to teach Him to be spontaneous – he doesn’t have to wait for bedtime to say his prayers. So every day, I’m trying to get my son to cultivate his relationship with the Lord.

So, back to Bible curriculum: Bible stories (check), creation science (check), personal relationship (check). What’s left?

I looked around on the internet for something. I didn’t want just any old Bible curriculum because a lot of the things he would study would be redundant. I wanted a curriculum that would cover an aspect of the Bible that he wasn’t already getting elsewhere. A while back, I stumbled upon Foundations, by Anne Elliott. I downloaded the first four weeks curriculum for free, and tried it out. I like it because it focuses on the Bible itself. Since downloading this curriculum, Ian has been learning his books of the Bible, learning to look up passages in the Bible, and memorizing verses. As part of the curriculum, a parent reads to the child from predetermined passages. The students get to color, draw, answer questions, and keep journals as part of the curriculum as well. There are many great things about the curriculum. I just ordered the book yesterday, and cannot wait for its arrival! If you are looking, I would definitely give this curriculum a look!