Posts tagged Bible Study
The Word
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It was a number of weeks ago I felt the Spirit of God pushing me to explore the book of John a little deeper. This was both frightening and encouraging, because I always enjoy reading the book of John, but felt less prepared to really “study.” Recently, while listening to the Bible Project Podcast, I learned John wrote his gospel from a reflective mindset. Perhaps this explains his poetic style or his ability to constantly point back to Jesus being the Christ, one with God. But God wasn’t asking me to read the whole book.

As I began reading, I found myself constantly traveling back to the first five verses of the Book of John. It was like a tick, I didn’t feel satisfied until I read those verses: once, twice, move on, come back. It was hard to go through the day without thinking of those verses. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”  … “In the beginning” … “In the beginning”... I knew that phrase! So I decided to flex my study skills (something I’m not so confident in) and go back to Genesis.

Genesis 1 opens with, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The use of this phrase in John would have prompted his readers to return to or remember this opening line. They would have had the same reaction as me, thinking “Oh! I know this. God created in the beginning, and somehow the “Word” was there with Him. How could that be?” From this point, I did a side-by-side comparison of the first five verses of both passages to find other connections.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome itIn the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
John 1: 1-5

 

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
Genesis 1:1-5

 

Some initial similarities I saw where

  • Both passages open with “In the beginning”

  • Both passages deal with light (physical and spiritual)

  • Both passages deal with creation

My question became: What is the connection between “the Word” and God speaking? Is there a connection? 

Enter the dragon! I mean...word study. A tool I think is great... for other people -mainly because I am not so confident in using it, but it was something God was asking me to do.  I waited a few days and then started the process. (Honesty is important, right?) As long as I’m being honest, I did not solely focus on this connection while studying, and I do not do well with Greek/Hebrew, so I relied on Logos and Blue Letter Bible to help me examine these things.

One of the key pieces of information I found was the Greek used by John when he wrote “the Word” implies “speech in action,” which agrees with the English translation of the Hebrew used in Genesis, “God said.” Both mean this speaking is active. Then, the Blue Letter Bible blew my mind OUT OF THE WATER by connecting these two sections for me. They know this is a common connection and I’m just a little late to the party. The commentators stated John implies that God is speaking in the present, but has also been speaking in ETERNITY PAST (the Word was with God) and will continue speaking into ETERNITY FUTURE.

In short : God has always been talking to himself, and at some point He decided to speak into creation and give us this world and life. INCREDIBLE.

Then, I froze. This was all amazing, and I was so excited, but I didn’t know what to do with it. I started a new job, I was stressed, and I stopped listening to the God who is always speaking.

BUT GOD….

I knew I needed to  read the Bible, even if I was stressed, and decided to pick back up in 1 Samuel. I skimmed through Hannah’s prayer, and reread Samuel hearing  from God for the first time. As I read, I saw Samuel responding three times to the wrong voice. He would run to Eli, the Priest in charge of the temple and say “Here I am!” But Eli wasn’t calling. It took Eli until the THIRD time to say, “Samuel, you are hearing the voice of God. The next time this happens, respond to Him.”

The God who is constantly speaking into creation wants to participate in a true conversation with you.

Wow, God is persistent. And boy, are we blessed by that. Even this man of faith, one who had devoted his life to being in God’s presence, wasn’t sure who Samuel should be responding to until the third time.  Samuel, knowing it was God, then changed his response. He says, “yes, Lord, I am listening.” To me, Samuel went from active to peaceful, from talking to listening. He decided to hear what God was calling him to do.

I was deeply encouraged by this, because I was reminded of the times I fail. I will look for a response in my work, in my relationships, in trying harder, rather than being still to listen for the voice of God. Sometimes I hear Him calling, and I actively run away, like Jonah. Sometimes I am waiting for Him in the fire and thunder, rather than a whisper, like Elijah on the mountain. I need to be practicing my listening skills, to become more familiar with the voice of my shepherd, like Jesus says in John. How can I do that? I’ve thought of a few ways and would like to invite you to join me. Whether it is in preparation for Summer Study, or a simple desire to hear God more clearly.

  1. Pray. This sounds easy, but it’s not the prayer where we spend all the time talking, it’s the prayer where we sit down and tell God, “I’m listening.” Practice with me taking time without your phone, without music, without distraction, to focus on God and His voice. If you find yourself struggling, tell Him. There is such power in admitting our weakness! He must become greater, and I must become less.

  2. Read your Bible and Use your tools. Again, easy? Maybe. Difficult to do consistently? For sure! I would encourage you to start with a passage you know well and do some cross referencing. Or discover the context of the passage/book. Know what you’re reading, who it’s to, and why they wrote it. If you feel adequate in that (Not perfect, just comfortable) move into a passage that feels unfamiliar. Practice feeling out of your depth and go to the Lord. Then start using your tools before going to a commentary or your study notes. This is SO HARD and can make me feel like I’m not doing anything, but not all waiting is bad or disobedient. If you aren’t sure if your waiting is disobedient to the Lord and you are struggling to hear Him, try the next “step.”

  3. Ask a friend! Maybe not just any friend, but one you trust is also working on hearing from the Lord. Often, my husband helps to redirect me when I’m just feeling “lost” to see my unbelief or doubt that is leading me to resist the voice of God. If He was speaking to you from YOUR beginning, He is speaking to you now.

The God who is constantly speaking into creation wants to participate in a true conversation with you. One with a call and response. One where we allow Him to speak, knowing His words are true, full of grace and mercy, dripping with forgiveness as sweet as honey from the honeycomb. Let us practice stillness and listening in a world so full of busyness and monologuing. Peace be with you (and also with you.)


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Kate Haas wants to live in a world with free coffee, hugs, and deep conversations. When she isn’t in class, you can find her at home with her husband and four-legged toddler reading a book or watching a detective show. Her favorite scripture is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. [Amen? Amen!]”

Something she finds comforting when reading the Bible (esp. the OT) is in this verse: "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law." Deuteronomy 29:29 (comforting to know God has given us what we need, and He is over all the things we don't understand.)

Resource Review: Jen Wilkin's 1 Peter Study

It's our pleasure to welcome back our friend Elise Herzing to the blog this week to review 1 Peter: A Living Hope in Christ by Jen Wilkin. To see Elise's review of Kelly Minter's 1,2,3 John study, click here.

Peter wrote his first letter in a time of great turmoil for the young Christian church. Many Christians were undergoing persecution at the hands of the Roman Emperor, Nero. Peter, Jesus’ tempestuous apostle, addresses the church at large in this epistle on how Christians are to live in a place that is not our home, specifically to those undergoing suffering. He instructs Christians on how to submit to the authorities in our lives, how we are to set examples of love for one another and how our eyes must not be fixed on the temporary, but on the eternal. Jen Wilkin tackles this challenging letter by walking us through her deep-dwelling and enriching method for Bible study.

 

The Skinny: First things first, Jen explains how you are to use the study and why. If any of you have read her book, Women of the Word, she condenses much of that information in the introduction of this study. I would recommend that you read this intro as it is useful in your day-to-day approach! Jen breaks the study into 9 sessions. I met with my group each week to go through one session. For each week of the study, there is a corresponding video, which is optional and we chose not to utilize.

The study had a rhythm for each week with these components:

  • a brief intro to the passage we would be studying
  • a read through of 1 Peter in its entirety
  • big picture questions and others focused in on that week’s passage
  • instruction to paraphrase that portion of Scripture in your own words
  • group discussion questions gleaned from that week’s study
  • a space for any additional notes

 

What I Loved:  Jen throws us in the deep end of the 1 Peter pool, but not without the floaties of additional resources and Scripture. Don’t let that scare you, though: anyone can use this study! Jen is a big proponent of driven learning. You will get out of this study what you put in. There is no hand-holding you to the Spiritual truths; that would defy the very purpose of Jen’s method of study. She provides you with the guidance you need to find God’s truth on your own or in the group discussion. And I love that. I could use this study as what it was: A RESOURCE with Scripture being the sole focus! I must warn y’all that there is no flowery language or personal stories that somehow apply to the Scripture. It is just a book of paper with questions for you to fill with your own ink. For example, each day gives you questions based on the passage, word definitions to look up, cross-references to find, and parallels to draw. I also LOVED that Jen include the whole book of 1 Peter at the back of the book to mark up as you studied.

 

What I Didn't Love: Since our group didn’t use the video sessions, there were a couple of instances when the questions correlating to the video felt incomplete. Additionally, my note-loving heart and hand missed the more spacious areas to answer the questions, especially when it came to sections where we wrote down definitions and related verses. Also, throughout the course of the study Jen would have us highlight words in 1 Peter in different colors and then go through and record how many times those specific words occurred. This may be more impactful for a visual learner, but for me it became more of a busy-work exercise. Finally, You will get out of this study what you put in. You’ll notice that I included this as one of the things that I loved about this study, which I do! But it also was a struggle for me to be self-disciplined enough to put in the daily work I needed to richly dwell in this book. The weeks where I put in the time to learn were much more impactful to me than the weeks where I hastily scribbled out answers the night before our group meeting. It was a challenge. It wasn’t always fun. I didn’t always love it. Was it worth it? Absolutely.

 

My Profound Truth: Y’all. There are so many profound truths in 1 Peter that it was hard for me to pick one. All of them link together with Peter’s themes of living as exiles with the hope of eternity. 1 Peter 2:21-25 sums up the purpose of the book by discussing how we are called to submit to others, even if suffering is involved. Why? Christ submitted and suffered for us so that we may receive our eternal inheritance: salvation! This inheritance makes any temporary suffering we face bearable because we ourselves are not temporary. Our bodies may be earthly, but our souls are eternal. We have better things to look forward to. When we keep in mind that this earthly life is just a shadow, we are free to live as God intended: without fear, giving all praise and glory to Him, filled with love for one another. But part of that life of freedom means becoming examples of the one who submitted himself to the will of God and died for us all. If Jesus is called to submit, suffer, and die, then so are we. It’s a hard truth, but a chain-breaking one. What do we have to be afraid of? Our inheritance is set! Our salvation is secure! Nothing on this earth can touch the promise that God has given us. That is good news!  We can rejoice in the midst of suffering because we are being made more like Christ! Amen, amen, amen!

 

If you want to feel the chains of fear break off and learn what living as a Christ-follower and an exile looks like, I highly recommend this study. It will push you to seek out truth. The good news is you don’t have to study alone. Find a group of women, hold each other accountable and have grace with each other. God desires us to seek him out, and if that is your desire then this is a study for you.


Elise wants to live in a world where you can eat as much pizza as you want without concerns about your waistline. When she's not guzzling tea, you can find her reveling in God's nature or watching exorbitant amounts of Gilmore Girls. One of her favorite Scriptures is Ephesians 5:8-10: "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord." Explore her other favorite Scriptures and get to know her on Instagram at @eliseherzing.