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Image by Polly W.

 

Step 4 of Six Steps to an Easier Bible Study Time — How to make it through the dry season

(Part of the “I Just Don’t Get It” series)

As a Christian, it is easy to find yourself in a dry season with your time in the Word. Life gets busy, you feel overwhelmed with the everyday things, you are exhausted, you get the idea.

I like to hang out in Psalm 119 during the busy times of my life, when my quiet times start falling to the wayside, or if I find myself not looking at His Word every day. It serves as a signpost pointing me back to the good times I have had with the Lord through His Word. Reading parts of this psalm when I am in a dry season, always makes me want to delight in His Word because the psalmist makes it sound so great. I use the psalm as a “prayer template” to pray His Word back to Him and know that He will restore my delight in His Word again. Ready to jump into the refreshing water that is His Word? Let’s go for a swim!

As we all know, dry seasons can happen in our walk of faith. It could be due to a busy schedule, stressful transitions, or sometimes, plain old lack of sleep. There are a million reasons you might have lost that spark you first had for God’s Word and it sends you into a spiral where you feel like you aren’t connecting to Him like you used to, but the really great news is that you are only a prayer away from getting that spark back.

Look through Psalm 119 (warning, it’s long!). Find a verse that really speaks to where you want to be in your relationship with God and His Word. Here is one I really like:

You are my hiding place and my shield. I put my hope in Your Word. Psalm 119:114

Ask yourself some questions as you read the verse. For this verse, I might ask: Are there any fears you have as you find yourself in a dry season? It is completely okay to have them. Write down (or just think about) your top two or three worries. What would it look like for God to be your hiding place (refuge) and shield from those situations? Let Him know that if those things you are worried about do come to pass, you will put your hope in His Word. You can trust Him.

Memorize this short verse and pray it to Him continually today as situations and worries come to mind. Not in a “lucky phrase” kind of way, but in a true, heartfelt, “I’m relying on You to be my refuge and shield in this specific situation” way. Then tell Him that you are putting your hope in His Word.

Here’s a way that you can pray this verse back to God:

Lord, thank You that Your Word says You are my hiding place and shield. I have some worries that have been rolling around in the back of my head (silently name worries here). I am going to put my hope in Your Word, and I am so glad that you are my refuge and strength. I do not have to rely on me…it is all You. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Great job! Keep your eyes open for His protection today, and be full of hope. He has you there for a reason!

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Image by Polly Warring

Step 3 of the “I Just Don’t Get It” series — Live With a Verse for a Day

Today, I will let you in on the easiest way to incorporate God’s Word into your life when you have limited time. All you need to do is to live out your day looking through the filter of one Bible verse. Every event, situation, and worry will be held up next to this verse. Even if you think it won’t apply, consider this verse when thinking about every occurrence in your day.

For example, the verse from my morning devotional on the YouVersion app today was Philippians 4:8.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things. Philippians 4:8 NET version

Now, for those of you who don’t know me, I can be a bit of a complainer when I feel down. Honestly, the first thing I thought when I read this verse was, “That sounds like a lot of work for today.”

To the general public, I can appear pretty optimistic most of the time, but the self-talk that goes on inside my ever-moving brain can dwell on the negative. As usual, though, the Lord had picked out this verse on purpose for me today.

This past week has been a bit rocky with the transition to summer for my kiddos and new practice hours for my older ones in athletics. What used to be the lazy days of summer have morphed into a frenzy of early mornings, late nights, and constant checking of who needs to be where at what time. It takes a week or two for us to get into our summer groove, and today proved to have some hiccups.

I prayed this verse back to God a few times this morning, and when I did, He was faithful to give me answers. He was letting me know that I needed to focus on the good in a situation, not the “should”. Focus on the heart of the child and their immediate emotional needs, not the plan I had for the day. Using this verse, the Lord transformed a frustrating “goal blocking” situation into a chance to connect heart-to-heart with one of my children. I’ll take heart connections over frustrating dialogue any day.

Seeing my daily interactions through this verse can carry on later tonight as I choose what to watch on tv or what sites I find on the internet. Will I focus on the good, pure, and lovely things going on in the world, or will I obsess about the bad things that are happening to famous people. I’m not advocating unplugging from the world, just not getting laser-focused on things that I might be drawn to that will end up dragging me down, emotionally and, ultimately, physically as I get depressed thinking about all of the bad things going on in the world.

I am going to follow through on this verse today and focus on the good things that the Lord brings to me today, instead of worrying about things that haven’t even happened yet. When I forget to apply this verse, I will be nice to myself and look for the peace and calm that comes when I put the filter of God’s Word back into place for the day.

I wonder what verse He will give me tomorrow?

Leave a comment when you get a chance and let me know how you apply God’s Word to your life. I read every comment, and they really make my day!

 

 

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Image by Polly Warring

Step 2 of the “I Just Don’t Get It” series — Using easy online tools

And now, for the long-awaited step 2 in this series. You are going to learn about some tools I use to dig into God’s Word. Sometimes, it’s so common to read a passage and not quite understand how it applies to your life, or what it even means. Someone might talk about a passage and you think, “Is that what the Bible really says there?” We are to be like the Bereans and keep our teachers and each other accountable by checking what is said with God’s Word.  To do that, you need to understand God’s Word for yourself. It all starts with talking to God as you read His Word. Ask for His wisdom to help you understand. (Paul talked about the Bereans here in Acts 17:10-12.)

. A good start is to buy a reliable study Bible in a version that you can understand easily. One of my favorite first Bibles was “The Student Bible”. It assumed I didn’t have any background knowledge in theology and was an easy read to find background and context in the notes as I read the Bible. My parents gave me a study Bible when I graduated from college (thanks Mom and Dad!). I loved it. It was full of notes on each verse and gave a thorough background for chapters.

One good thing about the internet — there is no shortage of good Bible tools available. You just need to make sure they are teaching sound doctrine, and not their own agenda. Here are a few free online tools that I like to use.

I love, love, love the website EnduringWord.com by David Gudziak. The online commentary is free (scroll to the bottom of the home page). His commentary is very relatable and full of information. He takes it verse by verse and even includes information from other commentaries. This is my go-to source these days for explanations of difficult passages. I often use it to flesh-out my understanding of common verses and usually learn a new way to look at a familiar passage.

The YouVersion app is a free Bible app that I have enjoyed for quite some time now. They have new content to keep your quiet time fresh and free Bible studies categorized by subject/group. There are videos and text versions to available. Under their “Read the Bible” tab, you can access various Bible versions of a verse you are studying. I like doing that. It usually brings a new perspective into play. I like using the NIV, NAS, NET (it has asterisks you can click for original word explanation), Amplified (expands on words like a thesaurus), and Hawaiian Pidgeon translation (found that one through a youth pastor). Side note: My dad was stationed in Hawaii when he was a young sailor, and some of the Hawaiian phrases made it into our family vocabulary. I was surprised how some of the Hawaiian version sounded slightly familiar in a few places because of Dad. It’s a fun version to read and compare to more familiar Bible passages.

When I first started really learning to apply the Bible, I would hear Beth Moore say, “Now in this passage, when it says “cry”, it doesn’t mean the-tear-trickle-down-the-face cry, it means the all-out-pull-your-hair-and-cry-in-anguish cry.” I wanted to know how to find that out for myself. (I don’t speak Hebrew or Greek.) I asked a friend how I could learn the different words and their original meanings and he showed me how to look it up in the Strong’s Concordance. (Thanks, David!)

Turns out there are free online concordances everywhere. It is kind of neat to find out the context of the passage by looking for how the word was originally viewed in that time. (Here is a page where you can click on the highlighted words to see their original meanings in Greek (NT) or Hebrew (OT)  for Psalm 1). Using a concordance can help you picture the scene more vividly in your mind. You can also end up running around in circles if you get too much into chasing down meanings versus looking at the text as a whole. God wants us to understand and apply His Word as we read it. I might need to do a post on how to use the concordance.

My last tip: Look in the children and youth section of your local Christian bookstore for books about the Bible. They can take big subjects and simplify them for the youth and children.

Phil Vischer, of Veggie Tale fame, has done an amazing job of adding “meat” to children’s ministry by creating a series of videos called, “What’s in the Bible?”. They tackle books like Leviticus with sound doctrine and a really fun variety show format for kids. My children even learned all of the names of the Judges of Israel from one of the songs on the Judges video. (Seriously, when you get done reading this and making a clever comment below, go watch it — these guys are funny.)

Tony Evans, a Dallas preacher who is a regular on the radio, has some books out for kids that would be great for adults (I’ve read them). The one I really like talks about the Names of God and explains each one while giving a way to remember what it means in a kid-friendly way. He has another one on the Armor of God.

Bruce and Stan’s Guide to the Bible is written for adults and is for you right-brained visual folks out there. It really helped me understand the layout of the Bible when I was first learning it. Of course, their sense of humor helped make the whole thing not so intimidating, too.

 

I could talk about this stuff all day, but I better let you get back to what you were doing. Let me know in the comments if you try any of these sites/resources out, or if you have some resources that have helped you. I don’t receive any compensation if you follow these links, I just wanted to make them easy for you to find.

Leave me a comment if you get a chance. I read each and every one!

 

 

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Image by Polly Warring

“I Just Don’t Get It” series 

Step 1: The Proverbs Pause

Today, I am going to start a series that has been a long time in coming. I wanted to give it a name that reflected the angst a lot of us feel when we first decide to make Bible reading a part of our everyday lives. We make the decision that we need to have God’s input in our day, I mean it is His inspired word after all. We grab a Bible, open it up, and ten minutes later, we are confused, overwhelmed, or just plain bored. Like a diet, within three days, our resolve is gone because we haven’t seen any results.

Usually, I would start with an intro why Bible reading is important, how God has changed my life through it, and how to get a Bible that works for you. We don’t have time for that, this is the internet, some of you are already about to click on to the next thing. But, don’t do that, I’m starting right now.

Here we go: I call it “The Proverbs Pause”. Grab a Bible, one with real pages, or digitally produced. If it’s a real pages one, turn to the middle of the book. That should get you around the neighborhood of Psalms. Proverbs is the next book over. Now, before you start reading, pray. Ask God to teach you something in His Word. This is important. Don’t skip praying. It doesn’t have to be a big production with a bunch of thee’s and thou’s, just a simple, “Help me understand.”

Okay, you are in Proverbs, you have asked the Lord to help you know what you are reading.  I’m starting with Proverbs because it is full of great sound bites. Our society loves sound bites — quick, easy ways to say something wise. Proverbs is highly readable and can even be entertaining. For example, Proverbs 26:14 says, “As a door turns on its hinges, so a sluggard turns on his bed.” Short and to the point. (And something that pops into my head easily when I am prone to procrastinate by taking a longer nap.)

Now, for the Proverbs pause. Proverbs chapters 26 and 27 are a good place to start. Let’s look up a Proverb and try it. Look up Proverbs 26:20.

My version says, “Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down.”

Let’s break that down. Most of you know how a fire works. You gather wood, light it, and a fire happens. To keep a fire going, you know that you have to add wood every once in a while. The funny part is, you don’t usually have to add a lot of wood. Just enough to keep it going. Well, this proverb says that quarrels work the same way. Gossip is the wood that fuels a quarrel. Nice illustration, and easy to remember. Also, very convicting… My mouth gets me in trouble sometimes.

Okay, your turn. Find a proverb with the “something is like something” format and try this out. You read the first part and picture it in your mind. In our earlier example, we would picture a campfire or a fireplace. The fire is going nice and strong, but it will go out soon, as the wood is consumed. It will only keep going with more wood. Then, we read the next part “without gossip a quarrel dies down”. Interesting. We usually want quarrels to die down. So, this Proverb gives us a hint at what will help a quarrel die down. Stop the gossip. Now, I can ask God to remind me about that as I go about my day and be on the lookout for Him to point out when I am feeding the fire of a quarrel. You can do the same with your verse. Be on the lookout for its truth in your life today.

I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment in the section below and let us know how the Lord works this into your life. Do you have a favorite Proverb or verse to keep in your thoughts all day?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: pollyw | August 28, 2017

Hope in Hurricane Harvey

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(image courtesy of tpsdave from Pixabay)(Verse courtesy of YouVersion app)

rose pic for blog with proverbs 16
Image by: Polly W. Caption by: YouVersion

 

Procrastination. It sounds like such an innocent word. I mean, it has the word “pro” in it, so it even sounds like it might be a good thing. And “nation”, that sounds pretty important. I am not necessarily the queen of procrastination, but I am definitely in the royal family. With six kiddos, if I were the queen of procrastination, we would probably starve, and never make it to events. As a member of the royal family, we don’t starve, but do repeat main dishes often, and we do make it to events, but sometimes a few minutes late.

All that to say, it can be an issue with me. Well, this morning, in my YouVersion Bible App, under the reading called “Proverbs to Remember Two”,  the Lord showed me a proverb that can help me think in a different way when I am leaning toward procrastination. Here are four ways He did that with Proverbs 16:3.  This is the verse (in the NET version):

Commit your works to the Lord, and your plans will be established.

1. Commit… That first word says it all. So many times, when I am procrastinating, commitment is missing. I’m not “all in”. In the YouVersion app and in my handy dandy (free) commentary Enduring Word, they pointed out that the word used here in the original Hebrew means “roll to/upon”. Now what would rolling have to do with committing? Turns out it means “to roll”, as in to roll a burden to someone. Like it is too heavy to hand over, so you have to roll it over to the person who is helping you out. I can relate to this definition. When I am procrastinating, the burden feels soooo heavy. Something easy, like making a phone call that needs to be made, can seem as complicated as trying to solve world peace, just because I am procrastinating. A commentator (Watke) also pointed out that the original meaning of this word indicates a finality. That we are to “roll it unto the Lord and leave it there”.

2. So what are we supposed to roll? Our works. That can be anything. It doesn’t have to be the big stuff. Phone calls, chores, projects, dinner planning, it all goes in there. God created the universe, but He is also all about relationship, so He cares about our big and small stuff. He wants all of it…all of us. From the Enduring Word site, they pointed out that (Kidner) said, “Our activities and plans will be no less our own for being His, only less burdensome, and better made.”

3. Who are we committing them to? The Lord. Not our company, not our family and friends, but to the Lord. Then, what happens with Him will filter down into our relationships with our company, family, and friends.

4. What does it mean for our plans when we commit our works to the Lord first? The commentary (Enduring Word) points out that usually we commit our thoughts to the Lord first and then the works follow. It turns out that the Bible tells us it happens in reverse, too. We can commit the works first, and He will provide everything we need to make a plan, so the work can be done. This is great news for me, because when I am procrastinating, all I can see is the huge thing that needs to be done, and my thinking takes a vacation. This way, God’s Word says He will not leave me alone to flop around in my own confusion, He will establish my plans when I commit the work to Him. That makes me feel better!

So, there you have it. Commit your works to the Lord, and He will help you by laying out and establishing your plans. To me, that sounds like He will help me during the biggest phase of procrastination, planning how the project will get done.

Do you think you could pray this verse back to the Lord when you find yourself stuck? Leave a comment and let me know where this could help you. I’d love to hear from you!!

Posted by: pollyw | July 31, 2017

Infographic: How to Use Scripture Daily

How to Use Scripture Daily

Posted by: pollyw | July 20, 2017

When you don’t know what else to pray…

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This summer has been flying by at an alarming speed. We love the down time that usually comes with summer, but this year, it has eluded us. Our three oldest kiddos are now in sports that seem to go year round, or close to year round, so the merry-go-round of pick ups and drop offs occurs at a dizzying rate around here lately. My dSLR camera that I take everywhere for the kids’ events was stolen before summer even started. In addition, we are losing some good coaches who have really poured themselves into our kiddos’ lives, and now there are so many unknowns to deal with for their teams. It is heartbreaking to lose ties with someone who has added substance to your child’s character.

We did get out of town for a week or so, which was great, and a lot of fun, but restful, it was not. We tend to enter vacations with a competitive mindset that would challenge any American Ninja Warrior. When we go to an amusement park, it is to conquer the rides and survive the miles of hiking through the revelry. We don’t just set out for a road trip, we turn it into an endurance event fit for The Amazing Race viewers. Okay, I am exaggerating a little, but just a little. We do have fun on vacation, and we can squeeze every ounce of experience out of it until the last drop of vacation has left the container.

In this whirlwind of summer days, we have found ourselves needing to find some intentional rest. The kind of rest where you have to carve out time to do nothing but take it easy. It is hard to do, when you feel like there are so many things that need to get done, but it is important. It’s not just important, it is necessary.

During these times, I don’t have the focus to sit down for an hour-long Bible study every morning. I am doing well to get up before my cross country runner leaves for his very early morning workout.

It is at these times that the Lord will give me a verse like the one written above. I can pray this verse back to Him all day long if I start to feel under attack from the unknowns that are coming around each corner. I find myself praying, “Lord, I don’t feel safe. There are too many things that seem scary and different right now. Help me to take refuge in You while I wait for You to reveal Your plan for all of this.”

I can ask Him to keep my children safe as we all take refuge in Him, knowing He has a plan for all of us, even in these busy, unknown times while He brings new coaches and new school years into their lives.

Sometimes, the best thing I can do when I am feeling pulled, is to just rest in His Word and pray the verse just as it is, thinking about how He is speaking to me with each word.

It would look like this:

Keep me safe (only He can keep me truly safe)

My God (It’s not my plan that keeps me safe, or my ideas, but my God)

For in You (not my friends, not my husband, but You, God)

I take refuge (like a port in the storm, an oasis in the desert, You are my protector and shield) 

How about you? Is there a verse that He has put upon your heart lately?

I really like hearing how He works His Word in others’ lives.

Leave a comment and  tell me about it —  you will make my day!

 

 

Posted by: pollyw | June 27, 2016

Do not fear…

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I love it when God uses His Word to encourage me. I especially love it when He uses His Word to remind me that He is my protector and my strength. So many times I feel less than capable for the big problems that come up in life. During those times, it really helps to lean on a favorite Scripture and talk to God through His Word. Isaiah 41:10 is a really good verse to pray back to God.  Here is how I like to use this verse when I am talking to the Lord.

First, I break it down into smaller sections.

The beginning says, “Do not fear“. That makes me think about what I am fearing in my life right now…today. I might even make a list. If I feel like journaling, I can write my fears down. Then I talk to the Lord about each of those fears.

“For I am with you“. It’s nice to have people with us during scary times, but when we remember that the Lord is with us, hope and help are just around the corner. So, with this part, I would talk to God about all of the other people and things that I might be leaning on instead of Him and ask Him to help me see where He is working in my life.

For I am your God” Here I would think about the things that are getting in the way of leaning on Him. Am I looking to other sources for help? Am I using something else to avoid my fears, like procrastination? I would talk to Him about these things and ask Him to help me really lean on Him as my one and only God.

“I will strengthen you and help you”  Where am I weak and need strength? Where do I need help? I would use this part of the verse to pray those things back to Him and also thank Him for being my help and strength. If I’m journaling, I might even draw a picture that would help me remember this part. I like to post Scripture around the house. This would be a great one to stick on a post-it note.

“I will uphold you with My righteous right hand”  Where do I need upheld? Where am I so low that I feel I will never be able to get back up again? God is reminding me in His Word that I don’t have to worry about getting myself back up, that is what He will do for me, with His own hand.

I can honestly say that praying Scripture helps focus my prayers when I am feeling scattered. It reminds me of God’s truth when I am surrounded by the world’s worries and it gives me a way to keep His truths in my heart as I make it through the hard days.

Is there a favorite Scripture you would like to pray back to the Lord? I would love to hear about it. Tell me about it in the comment section. You might encourage someone else!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: pollyw | June 16, 2016

3 Life Lessons I Learned from My Son

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I had no idea that I was the pupil today. I was just the mom with a lot of stuff on her plate. The Lord planned on teaching me things from my 9-year-old — I’m glad I was paying attention. Today, this little guy had a follow-up to make sure that a surgery he had made it through in December was still giving us the results we needed. The surgery had helped solve a problem he had been fighting since he had been in the womb (womb — such a dramatic word). In the last few years, the problem had turned painful. At any time, on any day, he would say that his side was hurting, and the next thing we knew he would be lying curled up on the floor, moaning in agony. It started to take a mental toll on him. He began to wonder each day if it was going to be a good day or a bad day.

Each time he was tested, we would ask the Lord to please help us find out what was wrong. We held him tight when he was hurting and prayed with him that he would be healed. We had nowhere to turn because no one could figure out what was happening. The Lord knew, but we had to wait on Him to let us know. It was hard to wait. Very hard. It seemed as if no one would ever figure it out. We knew a lot of things it wasn’t, but still didn’t know what it was.

Finally, through a series of events and recommendations, we found the doctor who would systematically rule out the “wasn’t” list and come up with a working diagnosis. With this diagnosis, he was able to scope and then surgically repair the kidney issue that had been plaguing my son from the time before he was born.

Why am I telling you this long back story? To bring you to today. This was the follow-up appointment. The day he had nuclear tests to make sure all had gone as planned, and that the kidney was working as it should. After the test, the doctor had arranged for us to visit him to hear the results.

We were sitting patiently in his office waiting to hear the results. He walked in, looked at my 9-year-old and said, “You’re cured! The tests look great.” My little guy threw his hands in the air and gave out a “Yippee!” as he jumped in the air. I loved it. A true celebration at such great news. My insides were shouting “Yippee!” too, but we all know adults aren’t allowed to celebrate like that in public places in front of doctors, right? We are just supposed to nod, hug our child, and say how grateful we are that everything is better.

Life Lesson #1: Really celebrate when the Lord answers your prayers. Don’t worry about your  “Yippees” being inappropriate when you see the Lord working something big in your life. Let Him see you celebrate! The Bible says He shouts for joy over you (Zephaniah 3:17), so join Him!

Life Lesson #2: Keep waiting on the Lord, even when waiting is hard. Especially when waiting is hard. Our little guy never gave up. He knew the Lord had his best interest at heart and held out for the day He would heal him. There were some rough days. Days when he could have given up, but he didn’t. Days when a grown up might have been tempted to yell at the Lord for taking so long. This guy just kept pouring out his heart and turning it over to the Lord to let Him handle it.

Life Lesson #3: When things are scary, like IVs and surgeries, ask others to pray for you and be there for you. The past year has contained some painful and frightening tests to try to rule out issues for him. He would let us know he was scared and ask us to pray for him. He didn’t think it was up to him alone to pray for help. He let us know when he needed someone to hold him up physically and spiritually through the rough moments. He also let his Sunday school teachers, friends, and school teachers know what was going on and asked them to pray for him.

It may be summer, but school was in session for me today. The Lord showed me some really neat things through my little guy. It feels good to be on the other side of an issue that has been going on for so long, but I want to make sure I remember the journey.

It’s funny, as we were leaving the hospital that has been the center of so much pain and suffering for him with all of the tests and surgeries, he looked around and said, “I sure am going to miss this place!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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