Tag Archives: Bible study

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It's been a few years, but I still remember the look of pain in my daughter's eyes. She came home from first grade in a bit of a funk. When I asked what was wrong, she explained that some kids at school had called her a name.

Instantly, I felt my inner "Mama Bear" awaken. WHAT?!?!

Defying every impulse I had to call the school and chew someone, anyone, out for letting some second-grade hooligans hurt my baby, I calmly asked,  "What did they say?"

Her eyes filled with pain.

"I can't tell you. It's a bad word." There it was again...Mama Bear Rising. It took a few minutes longer this time, but I managed to control my it.

She reluctantly agreed to whisper the offensive word in my ear. She leaned close and whispered a word that is simply not allowed in our home..."Stupid." Then I saw tears fill her gorgeous brown eyes.

I held her close and assured her she is not stupid. I don't think she's stupid. Daddy doesn't think she's stupid. Most importantly, Jesus, who created her, absolutely does not  think she's stupid.

"Do you think you're stupid?" I asked. She shook her head. "Then it doesn't matter what anyone else says, does it?" The waterworks came then.

"But it still hurts!" she cried.

Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless #BeIntentional | thereisgrace.com

And she was right. The old playground saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me," is quite simply a lie.

Words do hurt. Whether they're simply said without thinking, for a good laugh, or out of raw emotion in the heat of an argument. Once they're said, they can never be taken back. They can be repented of, even apologized for, but never taken back.

Kids are notorious for being outspoken, a little clueless, and sometimes rude. They are, after all, kids. They are also remarkably resilient. It didn't take long for Little Miss to bounce back and dive, carefree, into her latest art project. But those words will stay with her for a long time. The next time she is called something unkind (and let's be honest, it will happen), it will hurt a little more, because hateful words have already left a tiny wound.

I'd like to think that, as adults, we know better. We know to think before we speak and weigh carefully our words. But if my life is any indication I'd have to say that's not always the case.

Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose. (Proverbs 18:21, The Message)

That tells me that (1) my words have the power to bring life to someone or bring death to their spirit, and (2) that I have the power to choose.

If words can bring life or death, we should at least consider the power in them before we let them tumble out of our mouths. If I held a high-powered weapon, capable of killing with a single shot, I wouldn't wave it around or shoot it off aimlessly. You'd better believe I'd be extremely careful in how I held it, carried it, and transported it. I'd refrain from using it, except when absolutely necessary.

Maybe that's what the writer of Proverbs meant when he said:

Watch your words and hold your tongue; you’ll save yourself a lot of grief. (21:23)

Careful words make for a careful life; careless talk may ruin everything. (13:3)

Observe the people who always talk before they think—even simpletons are better off than they are. (29:20)

Knowledge flows like spring water from the wise; fools are leaky faucets, dripping nonsense.(15:2)

The more talk, the less truth; the wise measure their words. (10:19)

For me, it's a daily struggle, and it's worse when I'm tired, stressed out, or overwhelmed. (Who isn't all of those things most of the time?). But I keep at it. Why? Because I want my children to realize the power of their words.

I want them to understand that they possess great power in their words. And with that power comes great responsibility. 😉 Their words can bring life or bring death. They should be chosen carefully...used wisely.

Maybe our grandmas had it right after all... "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all!"

Let your conversation be always full of grace... (Colossians 4:6)

BeIntentional-250How do you strive to #BeIntentional with your words? Share your ideas in the comments, or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

More great reading to help you #BeInentional with Your Words:

The Words We Say

 

 

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I don't remember the issue--I was a teenager, so there were any number of them to choose from. Something, somewhere, contradicted what I had been taught and threatened to shift my entire worldview (or so my 15-year-old mind reasoned).

So, I did what I had always done...I went to my dad for advice. I'll never forget his response: "What does the Bible say about it?"

My deep, adolescent response was something like, "I dunno," when I was really thinking, Huh? I have NO IDEA what the Bible says about it! That's why I'm asking you...THE PASTOR!

I'll never forget what he said: "Why don't you find out and then we'll talk about it."

That one response rocked my 15-year-old world. I had always relied on my dad for answers to deep Biblical questions--I would ask, he would answer, and I would go on with my life. For the record, I was fine continuing that arrangement!

Since it was the Dark Ages (before Biblegateway.com), Dad gave me some passages to look up, and I went to work. I studied the Scripture, formed my own opinions then, just like he promised, we discussed it. It was a lot more work than our previous arrangement, but it taught me a valuable lesson that followed me into adulthood:

Reading the Bible Intentionally #BeIntentional | thereisgrace.com

We each have a system of beliefs and values that influence every decision of our life. If we do not intentionally build those beliefs on the foundation of Truth, they will be influenced and shaped by other influences (culture, obligations, family, friendships, etc.). Or worse, we'll end up swept along the path of "least moral resistance."

As Christians, we often end up building those values on what our parents taught us, what our church teaches, or even what we've come to justify in our own minds. Those things may not be wrong, but in the end there's only one Truth on which we should build any belief: What does God say about it? (as in, What does the Bible say about it?)

Here's the catch: In order to do that, we have to read what He has to say. (Revolutionary, I know!)

It sounds so simple, so why does it prove to be so difficult? If we fast-forward about 25 years from the scenario above, you'll find I had allowed the daily demands of life to crowd out my regular discipline of Bible reading. I had rationalized that I could coast on what I had "already stored up" through years of Christian school, Bible college, and working for a Christian publisher.

But when you face a situation that shakes you to your core, you tend to go back to the basics. So over the last year and a half, I've discovered that my spiritual life is strongest when I feed it a steady diet of God's Word.

Honestly, I still struggle with it. I have to #BeIntentional about not allowing other things to crowd out this vital component of my spiritual life. It's not easy, but things of great value rarely are.

That's why I'm committing to #BeIntentional about reading God's Word in 2015 with this simple plan:

When: The time has varied over the years--as a young adult, I would read late at night before bed. When I worked full-time, I would routinely read on my lunch break. Now, with two active kids in the house, I try to get up early and spend at least 15 minutes reading my Bible before the rest of the house stirs. With an early-riser in the house, that doesn't always happen! On those days, I rely on extra grace and plan a specific time later in the day for it.

Where: There is a specific spot in front of our fireplace where I like to settle in to read. I keep my Bible, a devotional, my journal, and a pen within reach. Settling into that spot triggers my brain (even when I'm still half asleep) to focus on what I'm about to do. And since I am NOT a morning person, I need all the help I can get!

What: I need a plan. If I don't have some sort of idea what I'm going to read, I'll spend the entire time flipping through my Bible in search of random passages. I've done all types of plans--chapter by chapter, topical studies, etc. It doesn't matter how simple or complex the plan, but I've found it is helpful to have one! There are hundreds--probably thousands--of reading plans available today in every format and on every topic imaginable. You can find a one-year plan here, or shorter plans here or here .

And for you "non-readers" out there...if the thought of sitting down with a book (of any kind) makes you break out in a cold sweat, no worries! Download the YouVersion app and listen to the Bible while you go for a run, clean the house, or fold the laundry. Or find a devotional on Audible  or Christian Audio and listen on your commute.

"If you feel uncomfortable in the Scriptures, and inadequate in the art of Bible reading, the single most important thing you can do is make a regular practice of reading the Bible for yourself."  ~David Mathis, Bible Reading is an Art

BeIntentional-250How do you plan to #BeIntentional about reading your Bible in 2015? Share your ideas in the comments, or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

More Great Reads on Reading the Bible Intentionally:
Bible Reading is an Art
3 Tips for Better Bible Reading
The Bible: Fact or Fiction? 
Don't Just Read the Bible for Yourself
Finding Hope in God's Word
3 Reasons Moms Need to Be in the Word
Thirty for 30: A 30-Day Bible-reading Challenge

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Last year I celebrated Christmas quietly at home with just my husband, my children, and my mother-in-law. My body was weak from six rounds of chemo and I was emotionally drained from the battle we were waging--both physically and spiritually-- for my health. But my spirit remained joyful--hopeful.

I saw Christmas in a new light. Sure, I had a new perspective on what truly matters in life, as often happens when you face a crisis. But more than a revelation on the value of life, I had a new perspective on the whole purpose of Christmas. Suddenly, it was more than a simple story of faith. It was now a glaring declaration of God's love for us...for you, for me, for each of us individually.

Isaiah 9:6

It wasn't long after that weary Christmas Day that I received a Compassion Bag from Compassion That Compels. Since then, I've been privileged to write for their ministry and have grown to love Kristianne and her heart for women battling cancer.

This year, I will gather with all my family and celebrate Christmas CANCER FREE!! I'm talking about it over at Compassion That Compels...won't you join me there? While you're there, consider sponsoring a Compassion Bag for someone battling cancer. She'll appreciate it more than you'll know...trust me. And maybe next year, she'll be sharing her own story of victory!

Read the rest here.

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When you are told you have cancer, your mind goes in a million different directions, instantly...

Where did it come from?
How long has it been there?
What can I do about it?
Can I beat this?
Will I need chemotherapy?
What does this mean for my family?
What does my future look like?
What if...

If you're not careful, your thoughts can take you to a very dark and lonely place, and it can happen very quickly.

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In the days following my diagnosis, it was very difficult to remain focused on anything except the fact that I was now facing cancer. Everywhere I looked I saw people who (as far as I could tell) were not facing cancer, and it just didn't seem fair. It was a constant struggle to not allow my thoughts to run rampant. I knew that focusing on such thoughts only led to worry and anxiety. And that did nothing for my state of mind, or for my family. I had to get ahold of my thoughts.

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippian 4:8).

When we focus on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy, we experience God's peace.

While it was important to inform myself of my diagnosis and explore my options, it did me no good to worry about the outcome. I had to balance my intake of overwhelming, often discouraging, information with what I know to be true and right...the Word of God.

"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Here are some ways I found to help myself focus on God's Word and His promises rather than the anxiety of my situation:

1. Read Scripture. I'd like to say my Bible reading was consistent before I faced cancer, but in reality, the demands of day-to-day life often crowded it out. Suddenly, I was desperate, and I needed to hear from God. Bible reading became a priority once again.

Don't know where to start in reading Scripture? Read through Psalms. The Psalmist faced some serious, life-threatening circumstances and, remembering God's faithfulness throughout his life, called on God for help. (Much more encouraging than the "begats!")

2. Write Scripture. As I came across passages I needed to cling to, I printed them out (or just wrote them on notepaper) and taped them to my mirror, my refrigerator, in my car...anywhere I knew I would see it daily to remind myself of God's Word and His promises.

3. Memorize Scripture. I've never been so thankful for all those memory verses I learned in Sunday school and at youth camp. If you didn't grow up in church, it's not too late to start memorizing Scripture. Find a verse that means a lot to you and repeat it to yourself over and over until you remember it. I have quoted entire sections of Psalms while getting MRIs and PET scans. Nothing calms the nerves like the promises of God! (Tip: Receive a set of 10 Scripture Printables when you subscribe to There Is Grace. Enter your e-mail address in the sidebar for more info!)

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. (Isaiah 26:3)

{Disclaimer: I realize some people struggle with depression. I am not a doctor. While I believe there is great power in God's Word, I do not believe quoting a few verses will solve everyone's problems. If you struggle with depression, please consult a respected physician or counselor.}

hope-cancer-250This post is part of the series, Embracing Hope, where we look at why we can put our hope in God, how we put our hope in God, and what we can do when it feels all hope is lost. To view the entire series, click here.

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Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

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When faced with a hopeless situation, a common reaction is to feel that God is out to get us, or at the very least has abandoned us. It's one thing to sit in Sunday school as a child and belt out "Jesus Loves Me" with heartfelt enthusiasm. It's another thing altogether to face a job loss, a ruined relationship, or a cancer diagnosis as an adult and say with conviction, "Yes, Jesus loves me."

If we believe that God truly is good, then the next step is to understand that He really does love us...not just mankind as a whole, but you, individually. Me, individually. Your mom, your sister, your neighbor, individually.

But how can we know for sure?

does-god-love-me

Let's look at how God describes His relationship with us:

Creator: "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.'" (Genesis 1:26).
We were God's idea, and we are His creation. His relationship with us didn't end once He breathed life into Adam. When Adam blew it in the garden, God pursued him (Genesis 3:8, 9). When Israel turned on God again...and again...and again, God pursued them (Isaiah 44:21, 22). And when we fail God...again...and again...and again, He doesn't give up on us. We were created for Him...to have a relationship with Him.

Father: "Those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God." (Romans 8:14).
Now that I'm a parent, I understand more clearly parental love. Just this morning one of my children claimed they felt "no one loved them." Not because they were abused and mistreated. Simply because I was hurrying them along at a pace they did not want to go. Did my love for them change in that moment? No. They felt unloved because of an emotional response to their circumstances. But my love remained unwavering.

Just as we cannot base our belief of God's goodness on our present situation, we cannot base our belief of God's love for us on our present emotions. Our circumstances may change. Our emotions will change. But God's love for us will never change.

I realize not everyone has (or had) a good relationship with their earthly father. If that is the case for you, I am truly sorry. But let me just say, God is not like your earthly father. He is not waiting for you to fail. He is not mad at you. He is not disappointed in you. He loves you and He wants to show you just how great His love is.

Shepherd. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." (John 10:11) We don't understand much about shepherding in our modern, Western culture, but it's a concept that would have been familiar to the people in both Old and New Testaments. They would have understood the heart of the shepherd toward his sheep. They would have known that a shepherd would go to great lengths to provide for and protect his sheep, even sacrificing his own life to ensure their protection. By referring to himself as the good shepherd, Christ was saying that He will go to great lengths to provide for and protect His sheep (i.e., you and me!) And that's exactly what He did...

Savior: "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 8:5). Perhaps the most compelling argument for God's love for us is the fact that when we had nothing to offer Him...when all of our best intentions and greatest accomplishments only add up to rubbish (Isaiah 64:6), God still loved us. He showed that love for us by sending His Son to die in our place (the penalty of sin), so that He could have a relationship with us...which was His original plan all along.

If you feel unloved by the Father today, I pray He will wrap His great, big, Daddy arms around you today and show you His love!

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! (John 3:1)

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hope-cancer-250This post is part of the series, Embracing Hope. In the coming weeks, we'll look at why we can put our hope in God, how we put our hope in God, and what we can do when it feels all hope is lost. Won't you come along for the journey? Consider subscribing via e-mail so you can receive new posts delivered directly to your inbox! Simply enter your e-mail address in the box to the right.

To view the entire series, click here.

signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

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The Bible has become a hot topic in the media after the smash-hit mini-series that aired on the History Channel. It seems the topics of faith and the Bible are often on the lips of every commentator on television.

I happened to watch Bill O'Reilly last weekend as he interviewed Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, the creators of The Bible: The Epic Miniseries. I don't typically watch O'Reilly, but I have heard him identify as a Christian, and I know he is open about his Catholic faith.

That's why I was saddened to hear him say he was taught at his Catholic school that some of the Bible is to be taken literally, but other parts of it are simply allegorical.

4 Ways to teach our children the Bible is more than a collection of good stories.

As Christians, the Bible is the one thing that should not be negotiable. It is the foundation of our beliefs, the cornerstone of our faith. Mr. O'Reilly used the story of Jonah as an example, implying it is an allegory because it is unbelievable. Yet, as a Catholic, he has no problem accepting the virgin birth as fact.

If we start down that road, how do we determine what parts of the Bible are fact and what parts are fiction? How do we decide what we will believe in the Bible and what we won't believe? Is it based on one's opinion of what is "believable?" Could not a God who is big enough to orchestrate the virgin birth of a Messiah manage to keep His prophet safe in the belly of a fish? Since when has God or His Word been limited by our belief (or lack thereof)?

It saddens me that it was "spiritual leaders" who taught Mr. O'Reilly to doubt the authenticity of Scripture. Those who should have taught him to view God's Word as the authoritative standard, taught him instead to make it subjective to his own limited beliefs and opinions.

I do not look to Bill O'Reilly for spiritual guidance, but there are those whose spiritual beliefs are highly influenced by the media. As a very vocal public figure, Mr. O'Reilly is no doubt shaping how they view the Bible.

Maybe that's why the percentage of Americans who believe the Bible is a sacred text is declining (from 86% to 80% in the last two years). And while 88% of Americans own a Bible, nearly half agree that the Bible, the Koran, and the Book of Mormon are all expressions of the same spiritual truth. (Read the full report here.)

As Christians we must teach our children that the Bible is more than a good idea. It's more than a compilation of great, moral stories. It is God's Word. It is true...every word of it. So, how do we do that?

1. Read it. Let your kids see you reading the Bible. Read it with them. Read it to them.

2. Talk about it. Discuss what you read. If you come across a passage you don't understand, or your children ask a question you don't know the answer to, dig a little deeper. Don't be afraid of it; don't shy away from it.

3. Internalize it. Choose a passage to memorize together as a family.

4. Live it. Don't simply be a "reader," be a "doer." God's Word is not meant to simply be read; it's meant to be lived.

I love this simple, 3-minute video about the two views of the Bible . It's really quite simple: we either make the Bible an authority over us or we put ourselves in authority over it.

How do you view the Bible? Do you see it as a word about God? Or is it the Word of God?

For further study, read these fantastic articles on the subject:
What To Say When Someone Says the Bible Has Errors
The #1 Lie About the Bible

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Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

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Thirty 4 30-250Here we are, January 31. Congratulations...you made it through the Thirty for 30 Challenge. How did you do?

I have to admit, it was more difficult than I expected. I started with grand visions of sipping coffee with my Bible open, notepad and pen in hand, and meditating on the deeper contexts of Scripture. Then life happened.

The kids fought. Clothes needed washed. People needed to eat. And I just grew tired.

I'm so glad I committed to posting something every week. I didn't know if anyone would read it, but I had said it would be there. Therefore, it had to be done.

So my visions of glorious mornings with God often evaporated into a quick prayer in the shower and a few verses from my You Version app before the kids stumbled downstairs in search of breakfast.

The beautiful part? God was faithful. (Isn't He always?) And the time in His Word, however brief, was not in vain. (It never is.)

Many times, I was struck by a concept that lingered in my heart throughout the day...thoughts like avoiding worldly wisdom, building my life on eternal values, setting an example for others, and showing God's grace.

Here are a few of the lessons I (re-)discovered in the last 30 days: ...continue reading

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Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

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I have a friend who is incredibly gifted at sharing the Gospel. He is passionate about God and genuine in his desire to share God's love with others. Even our pastor has joked that my friend could read the phone book and people would flood the altar.

I am not gifted in that area. I can write about God's Word. And I can do alright speaking about it...if I've had time to prepare. But I am not someone who can strike up a conversation about the weather and end with a heartfelt call to repentance. My friend can.

It's not because I haven't tried. I've tried all the "witnessing" tools in days gone by, but they all seem very stiff, rehearsed, and "canned." Nothing genuine, nothing sincere (not when I do it, anyway).

Fortunately, God doesn't require me to wax eloquent on matters of Scripture with every cashier and bank teller I encounter. He doesn't expect me to have all the answers before I share His love. He doesn't want me to try to rely on strengths that aren't mine or live out someone else's giftings.

But neither does He want me to sit idly by and let my "more eloquent" friends do all the work. ...continue reading

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I am so excited to introduce my first-ever guest blogger to There Is Grace. I'm even more excited that it's my first-ever friend, Lora@MyBlessedLife. She is literally my oldest friend, not because of her age (ha!), but because we have literally grown up together.

Me-n-Lora
Lora and me, circa 1974

Many years ago, Lora's parents took a young preacher (my dad) under their wing and a lifelong, cross-generational friendship began. We've spent our lives separated by multiple states (except for two years of college in the same city). Still, we've managed to keep in touch through the years and across the miles.

me-n-lora3
Lora and me on a weekend visit from college

Lora is an encouragement and an inspiration to me. She is an amazing woman, devoted wife, loving mother, and genuinely beautiful friend. She is also the one who convinced me to try my hand at "this blogging thing" a few years ago, and I'm so glad she did!

So, without further ado, I'd like to introduce my dear friend and blogging inspiration, Lora at MyBlessedLife....

Happy Monday to you all!  I'm Lora, lifelong friend of Nancy, and I'm so excited that she's invited me to be here today.  I'm a wife and partner in ministry with my husband, a homeschooling-stay-at-home mom to two kiddos (The Princess, age 9, and Mr. B, age 7), and I do a lot of cooking, cleaning, and refereeing sibling arguments. ...continue reading

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Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

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"Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ"
--The Apostle Paul (1 Cor 11:1)

This verse has always seemed rather daunting to me.

When I worked with teenagers at our church, the youth pastor encouraged us to live our lives so that we could make the above claim to the students.

I understood what he meant, but it still seemed like a lot of pressure.

I don't think Paul's purpose in this verse is to heap guilt on those who fall. Nor should it become a claim of pride or arrogance for those who seem to "have it all together." ...continue reading

signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.