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What if I don’t enjoy studying the Bible?

FOCUSed15 Podcast – Season 3 – Episode #3

Ever been in a place where you don’t have a desire to study the Bible? If this is you, you are NOT alone. This is a common struggle every Christian has dealt with. In this quick 15 minute episode, Chris and I share a few reasons WHY this might be the case, as well as several practical steps to take in order move forward!

What if I don’t enjoy studying the Bible?

There are many potential reasons for why we may not enjoy reading the Bible, but here are three of the most common reasons why many find it hard to open the Word.

  • Running and hiding – All too often, our response to our failures is to run away from God. Instead of experiencing the mercy of God by drawing near to the throne of grace, we believe the lie that it would be better to hide our sin and keep our distance.
  • Spiritual pride – Some get to the point where they feel they’ve read it all and have answered all the big questions they’ve had about the Bible. The felt need for learning more and knowing God better has diminished.
  • Comparison to a past spiritual high – Sometimes we open our Bible and we feel God speaking in incredible ways. This often happens when we first come to Christ, or while attending a conference or retreat. It is exciting to feel the sudden stirrings of a truth that changes everything for us, or a much-needed comfort of a promise delivered during a time of need. But these “feel-good” moments do not occur every time we approach Scripture, and it is easy to get stuck feeling like time in the Word is not worth it if we don’t immediately feel something.

So, we’ve all been there. Now what? Here are 6 actions to take if you find yourself lacking a desire for Scripture.

  • Be encouraged! The fact that this lack of desire bothers you is a good sign. God is working in you!
  • Pray. It is God’s will for you to be in the Word. If you ask Him to grant your heart a longing for time in the Bible, He will answer that prayer because that request is in line with God’s will.
  • Act in faith, not on your feelings. Feelings are deceptive and poor guides. Move ahead in obedience, with the expectant faith that God will answer your prayer to stir up a passion for His Word.
  • Quit comparing. In the age of Pinterest, it is easy to fall into the trap of feeling that our time in the Word needs to look like so-and-so’s. Though it can be helpful to see how others spend their time in the Bible, we must not give into trying to one-up what everyone else is doing.
  • Manage your expectations. We must let go of the thought that our “quiet times” must be a certain length, depth, and with a particular ambience to be worthwhile. Have 1 minute? Take it. Not exactly sure what to study? Start somewhere. Have no idea what you just read? Trust that the Holy Spirit will open your eyes to what you need to see, when you need to see it. His Word does not return void. Any time in the Bible is good.
  • Remember. Recall what is true about God and who you are because of Christ. God is not going to reject you because you don’t always want to open your Bible. His acceptance of you is not dependent on your actions. Preach the gospel to your heart and remember that you are loved unconditionally.

HOW TO LISTEN TO THIS PODCAST:

You have many options for listening in. Simply choose your favorite from below.

1. Listen right here on the blog. Just click the little play button at the beginning of this post.

2. Listen from an app on your smartphone, iPad or iPod– For iDevice users, click here to access the podcast and subscribe in iTunes.  If you don’t have an Apple device, you can listen with the Stitcher app. You’ll have access to new episodes on either app as soon as they are published.

3. Listen from your computer via iTunes or Stitcher. Just click here to access the podcast in iTunes or here to listen from the Stitcher website. Once you subscribe to the podcast, new episodes will show up in your iTunes and/or Stitcher dashboard.

 

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Recommended resources for studying the Psalms

When God opens your eyes you’re going to see things you never saw before, you’re going to hear things you never heard before, you’re going to know things you never knew before because God the Holy Spirit is going to teach you. — Adrian Rogers

Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. — Psalm 119:18

I’m gearing up for an overview study of Psalms, which will be the beginning of an in-depth study of several individual Psalms. Whenever I get ready to study a passage in depth, I always zoom out and start at the “bird’s-eye-view” first.

Typically, I’ll listen to sermons from teachers I trust (DesiringGod.org, The Village Church Resources, and Radical.net are my go-to’s.) and also purchase a few books and commentaries. Sometimes I’ll listen and read before I start any sort of study, just to prime the pump for the big-picture themes to look out for, but I try not to get too in-depth before I study for myself. I’ll also listen and read as I go, using the commentaries when I hit sticky passages that I’m not sure of their meaning.

What do I need to start studying the Psalms?

First off, start with prayer. Whether you have a Ph.D. or haven’t set foot in a seminary class, the most important action to take when we approach Scripture is to pray. Every time we open God’s Word, we ought to declare our need for the Spirit of God to open our eyes to the meaning, it’s implications to our lives, as well as our desperate need for grace.

Beyond the spiritual preparation, there is much we can do to arm ourselves with a few tools to help with the journey. Here are some resources I’m investing in (or already have) that you might be interested in as well.

Here are some blog posts and/or podcasts on praying through the Psalms:

How do you prepare to study? Have any resources to add to the list?


Join the 31 Days in the Psalms Online Bible Study Group

  • WHAT: Reading through the Psalms (at about a 5 Psalms a day pace)
  • WHEN: August 1-31st, 2017
  • WHERE: The Bible Study Hub Facebook group
  • HOW TO JOIN: Fill out this form!

 

 

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Five ways to study a large portion of the Bible

“I rejoice at every effort to see the big picture of the Bible. The whole story. The narrative from creation to consummation. The clearer the whole, the clearer the parts. And the more clearly we see the parts, the more accurately we will construe the whole.”  — John Piper

There are two needed viewpoints when it comes to Bible study. The one I most often talk about and love to teach people how to use is what I liken to Disney’s A Bug’s Life movie. Seeing the world at that zoomed-in perspective allows us to see details that cannot be enjoyed at a normal vantage point.

However, there is another important perspective we can use to study I like to refer to as the “bird’s-eye-view.” If you’ve flown on a plane and enjoyed a window seat, you know a new appreciation and knowledge of a city can be gained by viewing it at that altitude. You can see the structure and order (or lack of order) in the way the roads are situated, and how the city moves along the river, mountain, and/or other prominent features.

As I get ready to approach the Psalter once again—in view of diving deeper into a select few—I want to be able to see the collection of Psalms as a whole. In general, this is a great practice to incorporate into preparation for any deep study, especially if you are not super-familiar with the big picture of that portion of Scripture. Even if it is familiar territory, there is typically more to see and enjoy on every subsequent trip through the Bible. I brainstormed several options for this bird’s-eye journey through Psalms. These can also be used for another other large portion of Scripture.

How do I study a large passage of Scripture?

Here are five ways to approach a large section of the Bible. Any one of these would be great way to get an overview of a book of the Bible. You might start with the Psalms, Acts, any of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), for a new perspective on more familiar territory, or give yourself a challenge and use this through one of the major Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc.), Revelation, or Old Testament Narratives (Genesis, Exodus, Ruth, Judges, etc.).

  1. Read and Underline – Grab a reading plan and a pen or Bible highlighter, and just mark anything that stands out to you.
  2. Read and Write – This is a great way to slow down and enjoy each word. If you don’t have time to write out the entire passage you plan to read, just pick out one or two verses from the day’s passage and write them out in your journal.
  3. Read and Pray – Turn the words on the page into a prayer as you read. When you come across a truth about God, praise Him for who He is. If you find a command, proclaim a resolve to follow it and invite the Holy Spirit to enable you to obey. When the author records his own prayer or godly desires, agree with it in your heart, or consider writing it out in your own words as a cry of your own soul.
  4. Read and Observe – This is a deeper option, and will take a bit more time. As you read each chapter, wear one pair of “glasses” to help you begin to observe that one topic. Choose one color of pen to represent each layer, or create a simple chart in your journal to record what you find. Here are a few great layers to look for:
    1. Character of God – Who is God? What does He do?
    2. Covenant promises – What about God and the good news of the gospel can I cling to?
    3. Commands to keep – Are there any attitudes and/or actions to adopt and/or avoid?
  5. Read and Memorize – The memorization part will most likely carry on for much longer than the period of time in takes you to read through the passage. However, memorizing key portions of a book of the Bible can really unlock the meaning of the rest of the book. For example, I memorized Romans 8 several years back and anytime I read or study parts of Romans, I tend to see the important connections to the truths expounded on in chapter 8.

Consider trying one (or all) of these out on a smaller book of the Bible first. This will give you a better idea for how long it will take you to get through a larger book, as well as let you see which is most enjoyable to you. We all learn differently. Find what works for you. Tweak it. Make it your own.

Let me know how it goes!

Have you studying an entire book at one time? If not, which would you like to? If you have studied a book like this, which one did you go through? How long did it take? What was your experience like?


Join the 31 Days in the Psalms Online Bible Study Group

  • WHAT: Reading through the Psalms (at about a 5 Psalms a day pace)
  • WHEN: August 1-31st, 2017
  • WHERE: The Bible Study Hub Facebook group
  • HOW TO JOIN: Fill out this form!

 

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31 Days in the Psalms FREE Reading Plan

“The other Scriptures speak to us, but the Psalms speak for us.” — Athanasius (AD 296–373)

My heart has been drawn to the Psalms lately. I’ve memorized several over the past few years, and plan to do more. I’ve been so grateful for the truth, comfort, and alignment they’ve provided for my soul. I’ve been tossing around the idea of creating another FOCUSed15 series, similar to the Everyday series, but all centered around a small Psalm. They would be stand-alone studies, but complement one another.

But before I can get there, I really want to re-read through all 150 Psalms first. Getting a good “bird’s-eye-view” is always a good first step to deeper study. I put a feeler out on social media to see if anyone would be interested in joining me in a quick overview of the Psalms. The response was huge and I’ve been planning ever since.

Join 31 Days in the Psalms

I’m excited to announce this new resource, which will provide a structure to follow together. It will be simple, flexible, and geared toward helping us get a quick overview study of the book of Psalms.

  • WHAT: Reading through the Psalms (at about a 5 Psalms a day pace)
  • WHEN: August 1-31st, 2017
  • WHERE: The Bible Study Hub Facebook group
  • HOW TO JOIN: Fill out this form!

Once you sign up, I’ll send you a welcome packet via email which includes:

  • 31 day reading plan through the Psalms
  • Printable reading plan bookmark
  • Printable Journal Pages tailored for the Psalms and filled with study options if you want to go deeper
  • Free 4×6 Psalm 119:33 print


Are you in? What’s one of your favorite Psalms? Why? Share with us in the comments!

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Three tips for establishing a regular quiet time routine

One of the excuses I often hear (and have given myself!) for not having a consistent quiet time is, “I’m too busy for Bible study.” Truly, you and I know this is not quite true. We all have discretionary time—we just don’t always use that time as well as we could.

Life is a journey, and so is the road to consistent time in the Word. One of the biggest hurdles to staying in the Word is NOT busyness, but it IS lack of a habit. If we can develop a routine that includes Bible study—even if it is just minutes a day—we will reap the benefits of a deeper walk with Christ. Having a rhythm in our days that naturally leads us into the Word is one of the most fruitful pursuits we can spend time on. I’ve found one such fruit of establishing a Bible study habit is a greater HUNGER for more time in the Word and a deeper DESIRE for meaningful Bible study.

Here are three tips that have helped me in establishing (and keeping) a regular time for Bible reading, study, and memorization.

Three tips for establishing a regular Bible study routine

  • Find a trigger. When I have coffee, then I read my Bible. That’s my trigger. Instead of trying to make 6 AM or 11PM my hard and fast quiet time, I’ve had much more success in folding Bible study into the rhythm of my day. So whether I wake up at 7 AM or slept in until noon, my Bible study is part of my morning routine.
  • Find a space. Once you carve out time to sit and study, it’s helpful to have everything ready and waiting in an inviting place for you to start. This will help keep you from wasting time looking for a pen or your Bible. Whether it be an armchair in your bedroom or the living room sofa, have a basket or drawer filled with all you might need to spend time with God. If you have multiple copies, consider designating one Bible for this space and another for Sunday morning sermon notes. I have a Sunday bag that has everything I need for the service, including my journal Bible which I only use for that time. This frees me up to have other resources handy on the shelf near my “quiet time” space in my home office.
  • Find a group. This is especially helpful if you are trying to build momentum and need accountability and encouragement. The first few weeks of a new habit are always the most difficult, and groups—whether they’ve been online or in “real life”—have been just the catalyst I’ve needed to keep going after the excitement wears off on day two of my endeavor.

What has been helpful for you when establishing a new routine?


There is a new resource out—Refresh Your Routines from Homemaking Ministries—that will help you develop the daily habit of time with God (and other important elements of your routine). This quick and easy FREE e-course includes 4 video sessions, a flexible (non-dated!) printable Bible reading plan/checklist, daily disciplines checklist, a 31-day habit tracker, and more!!⠀

Consider downloading these FREE printables, find a trigger, a space, and then gather a few friends to try it out together. (I’m planning to host a group through The Psalms in August, so you can join me then, also!)

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What should my quiet time look like?

FOCUSed15 Podcast – Episode #7 (Season 2)

Whether you realize it or not, we all have expectations and pictures of what the “perfect” quiet time looks like. Though we certainly need to be careful not to give in to the paralysis of perfectionism, it is typically helpful to have some guidelines in place to evaluate how effective our time with God is. Listen in to this 15 minute episode to receive some helpful guard rails to keep your quiet times on track.

IN THIS EPISODE YOU’LL HEAR ABOUT:

  • How we define a “quiet time”
  • The importance of both hearing from the Lord and speaking to Him within your quiet time
  • Specific elements given to help incorporate both this hearing and speaking into your time with God
  • Three ways to approach the intake of God’s Word
  • Three ways to communicate with God during your quiet time
  • Quiet time ruts we may get into that keep up from experiencing God more fully

RESOURCES MENTIONED:


HOW TO LISTEN TO THIS PODCAST:

You have many options for listening in. Simply choose your favorite from below.

1. Listen right here on the blog. Just click the little play button at the beginning of this post.

2. Listen from an app on your smartphone, iPad or iPod– For iDevice users, click here to access the podcast and subscribe in iTunes.  If you don’t have an Apple device, you can listen with the Stitcher app. You’ll have access to new episodes on either app as soon as they are published.

3. Listen from your computer via iTunes or Stitcher. Just click here to access the podcast in iTunes or here to listen from the Stitcher website. Once you subscribe to the podcast, new episodes will show up in your iTunes and/or Stitcher dashboard.

 

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What do I need to know about the Gospel of Mark?

FOCUSed15 Podcast – Episode #6 (Season 2)

Have you every wondered why we have four tellings of the life of Christ (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) instead of just one? Do you know what the commonalities are between them? Their differences? In today’s 15 minute episode, Chris and I tackle what you need to know about the Gospel of Mark. As the shortest Gospel—and the first written—the book of Mark is a great place to start if you want to study more about the life of Christ. Listen in to this quick 15 minute podcast episode to learn more about the book of Mark.

IN THIS EPISODE YOU’LL HEAR ABOUT:

  • When the Gospel of Mark was written and why the date is important
  • Who Mark was and how he’s connected to the apostles
  • What a Synoptic Gospel is
  • Who Mark’s audience was and his main purpose for writing his book
  • The distinction between an apostle and a disciple

RESOURCES MENTIONED:

Links below may include affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I receive a small portion of your purchase. Thanks!

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED RESOURCES:

Links below may include affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I receive a small portion of your purchase. Thanks!

SERMONS ON THE GOSPEL OF MARK:


HOW TO LISTEN TO THIS PODCAST:

You have many options for listening in. Simply choose your favorite from below.

1. Listen right here on the blog. Just click the little play button at the beginning of this post.

2. Listen from an app on your smartphone, iPad or iPod– For iDevice users, click here to access the podcast and subscribe in iTunes.  If you don’t have an Apple device, you can listen with the Stitcher app. You’ll have access to new episodes on either app as soon as they are published.

3. Listen from your computer via iTunes or Stitcher. Just click here to access the podcast in iTunes or here to listen from the Stitcher website. Once you subscribe to the podcast, new episodes will show up in your iTunes and/or Stitcher dashboard.

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Five Truths to Treasure through My Tears

It seems as if the only words I have for this space lately are grieving ones. I write much behind the scenes, for studies, for newsletters, for other blogs. But my words for my own blog seem to come only when my heart is stirred with pain. Today I had to watch yet another friend grieve the untimely loss of a father. And as friends grieve, I cannot grieve alongside of them without entering into my own.

My heart aches for them, for me, for all that’s been lost. All that is no longer. All that will never be.

For the Christian, we know there is always great hope, even within our deep pain. However, we often don’t always know how to experience that hope alongside our troubles.

As I write in my new Everyday Hope study, hope is not a verb. It is not a job I need to go and do better at. When I “lose hope” the solution is not to figure out how to be more hopeful, as if it were a state of mind I must fight for. For the Christian, hopelessness is forgetfulness. When I forget what is true — especially during the times of tears and dark days — despair takes over. Instead, I must remember who God is, and who I am because of Christ, regardless of what my situation is screaming at me.

Remembering who God is and how much He loves me doesn’t make me numb to the pain, or impervious to the shock and sorrow that comes with a great loss. But remembering does allow me to see the hope I’ve had all along. Hope is not something we do to escape the storm. Hope is what we hold fast to as we endure each wave.

What Hope Is

Our hope is only found in the glorious truth of the Gospel. There is much we have to hope in, through Christ. Here are five truths, specific to our pain and tears, we can cling to.

Five Truths to Treasure through My Tears

God knows my tears. Everyone. Just as he numbers every hair on my head, every star in the sky, every grain of sand on the seashore, he numbers my every tear. The sad ones. The angry ones. The sin-stained ones. The happy ones. I am never alone. Never forgotten.

You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? . . . This I know, that God is for me. In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise, in God I trust (Psalm 56:8-11 ESV).

Jesus enters into my grief. When Jesus saw Mary, grieving over the loss of her brother, He wept. He was present in that moment and entered into grief with her and the others weeping. I have the Spirit of the living God within me, and when I weep, He is present in my grief.

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled . . . Jesus wept (John 11:33-35 ESV).

Jesus knows my pain. It’s one thing to say that God sees and enters into my pain. It is quite another to know that He humbled Himself, limited His divine nature for a time, and became human so that I could be with Him forever. Jesus loved. Jesus lost. Jesus grieved. He knows the pain I am feeling.

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief . . . Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows (Isaiah 53:3-4 ESV).

God will wipe every tear from my eye. Every single one. He sees every tear. He cares about every cry. He redeems every pain.

He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” (Isaiah 25:8-9 ESV).

My tears will end. My pain. My ache. This emptiness that longs for death to end. It will all be taken away and replaced with the all-consuming, completely fulfilling, perfectly healing presence of God.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:3-5 ESV).

Though pain and tears and sorrow are inevitable on this side of eternity, we hold a great hope. Praying you and I can continually remember the hope-filled truths of who God is, and who we are (and will be) because of Christ. Let’s hold fast to the Gospel.

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Hope for The Weariness

My motherhood journey’s been a weary one. I’ve been sleep-deprived, emotionally exhausted, and physically worn-out. Yet my weariness doesn’t end there.

Maybe your’s doesn’t either?

I’ve carried a spiritual weariness with me for years. It’s a persistent burden and no matter how hard I try to get out from under its crushing weight, I find myself defeated underneath it.

This weight is a self-imposed set of motherhood ideals, super-great ideas, and the incredible examples of other Christian women. It’s the burden of the should’s.

Good things. Great women. But not the ideas or ideals God has intended for me.

There is a great, familiar passage in the gospel of Matthew, where Jesus addresses the burdened. We weary mommas can gather much hope from these words.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. – Matthew 11:28-30 ESV

When Jesus addressed the “heavy laden” here, He is referring to those who have been placed under the burden of religious legalism. People who were trying to carry around their “yoke” of extra-Biblical should’s. Rules originally intended to help people know God and honor Him with their lives, but these should’s quickly became burdensome; no one can follow ever rule.

Only Jesus upholds every ideal. And this is why he commands us to come to Him, learn from Him, and take HIS light and easy yoke.

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I’m no agrarian, but I do know that a yoke is used with cattle, so they can pull together in the same direction. When we yoke ourselves to every great Pinterest board, every parenting book, and every “perfect” mom we see around us, we are placing ourselves under a burden of should’s not intended for us.

Our intended yoke is to be side-by-side with Jesus—the perfectly capable one—who is able to bear the load. The command we need to follow is to come, learn from Him, and take up His yoke.

This is our only should.

So, ladies, let’s stop attaching ourselves to every great idea that comes along. Let’s quit pinning every good blog post to our “To Do” board and wishing for what other mom’s have. Instead, let’s focus on being with God so we can discern better what His yoke is that we are supposed to take up.

Let’s let other moms be what God has called them to be, and learn to admire and encourage them without taking on their should’s. Because when we are in sync with Jesus and His specific will for our lives, motherhood (and life) becomes much less wearisome.

Who’s yoke are you carrying? Have you experienced the burden of carrying another mom’s yoke yourself? How do you experience rest for your weary-momma soul amidst all the should’s? Let’s chat in the comments.

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I’m so excited to share with you about a new book that is perfect for weary moms! It’s been called “a life-raft in print form” and it’s written by my friends Stacey Thacker and Brooke McGlothlin. Hope for the Weary Mom: Let God Meet You in the Mess can be purchased wherever books are sold. I encourage you to grab it today, keep your receipt, and then head over to the launch page where you can find out about their amazing bonuses with purchase! You can get three free videos from Stacey and Brooke that take the concepts found in the book even deeper by purchasing just one copy!

Affiliate links present.

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Say Goodbye to Perfectionism

I’ve been on a video kick lately. Today, I share a bit about how perfectionism is silly and keeps us from the very things we want to accomplish.

You can watch the video here in the blog post or you can simply listen to the audio through the audio player above.

Of note from this episode:

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Do you struggle with this all-or-nothing mentality? Does it keep you from opening your Bible?

How to Listen to This Podcast

The FOCUSed15 Podcast1. Listen right here on the blog. Just click the little play button at the beginning of this post. (Email readers, you may need to head over to the blog to see the play button.)

2. Listen from an app on your smartphone, iPad or iPod Touch– For iDevice users, click here to access the podcast and subscribe in iTunes.  If you don’t have an Apple device, you can listen with the Stitcher app or directly from the site. For all podcast apps, new episodes will show up as soon as they are published.

3. Listen from your computer via iTunes. Just click here to access the podcast in iTunes. Once you subscribe to the podcast, new episodes will show up in your iTunes dashboard.

I want to hear from YOU!

Have an idea for a future podcast? A question about a Bible passage? A Bible study tip to share? I’d love to hear your voice, your questions, and your comments! Just leave a message below.

Affiliate link present.