The Bible is not an easy read. Yet so many Christians approach the Bible as if they ought to be experts at what it contains. They believe that just by nature of being a Christian, Bible study should come naturally to them. I believed this lie for the longest time. I’m not sure I would have ever vocalized it as such, but my experience proved it. Instead of being a source of joy and delight, opening God’s Word was an activity filled with guilt and failure. It paralyzed me and left me feeling less-than for not having the amazing “quiet times” everyone else around me seemed to be having.

If you find yourself scratching your head when it comes time for Bible study, know that you are NOT alone. In fact, you are probably in the majority. But just because you’re in that boat doesn’t mean you have to stay there. The Bible is the primary way we can know God and the purpose He has for our lives. It is God’s revelation to us, His very words which tell us who He is and who we are because of Christ. It is a gift of grace, a treat to be enjoyed and savored. The Bible is filled with the spiritual nourishment our souls crave.

Here are 8 actions to take when you have no idea what you are reading:

1. PRAY.

2. ZOOM OUT AND GET THE BIG PICTURE.

3. BE SURE YOU ARE ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS.

4. PHONE A FRIEND.

5. READ A COMMENTARY AND LISTEN TO A SERMON ON THE PASSAGE.

6. INVEST IN RESOURCES.

7. KEEP GOING.

8. REMIND YOURSELF OF THE END GOAL

Read more about each in my blog post over at LifeWay Voices.

Women’s history month is upon us, and we all have cause to celebrate the female voices of the past who have paved the way for women to enjoy a fuller, educated life with which to serve our God. Yet many of us who have grown up in the church have received mixed messages when it comes to what the Bible has to say about women. Even those who have little-to-no church experience have likely heard some sort of (so-called) biblical perspective on the role and value of women. However, many of these “facts” have been distorted, misunderstood, and even misused by men and women alike. 

Here are three common misinterpretations, misconceptions, and misteachings when it comes to the Bible and women:

  1. The Bible teaches that men are more valuable than women.
  2. The Bible teaches that women should not seek to have a voice.
  3. The Bible teaches that women should not teach or lead. 

Before we dive into what the Bible does not say about women, I think we need to start this conversation with a few important foundations about God and His Word.

There is no “Old Testament God” and “New Testament God.” Both accounts (as well as all teachings of Jesus) are of the same God. There are no contradictions. God is the all-knowing, all-merciful, all-righteous, all-gracious, all-holy, all-mighty, all-loving God. He is immutable—He does not change. Everything we know to be true of God in the Old Testament is still true of Him in the New, and vice versa. Our knowledge of the New Testament shapes the way we read the Old, and so it goes the other way around.

Most of the issues people have with the Bible’s “teachings” on women can be understood and explained through greater knowledge of the history, context, and purpose of the writing. God worked (and still does work) through the culture, geography, and customs of the time. Some of the “oddball,” troubling traditions we see in the Bible are primarily of cultural, not spiritual, influence. Additionally, a lack of the reader’s familiarity with the original languages (Greek and Hebrew) as well as many interpretive nuances of each lead to difficulties in capturing the true meaning of the original text(ex: Deuteronomy 22:28-29). Alongside all of these issues is the fact that many of the “problems” people have with the treatment of women are treatments which are also applied to men (ie. Leviticus 15, see point #2 here).

This post assumes that you believe that the Bible is the inerrant, inspired Word of God. It is His revelation to us. It is primarily a theological book, intended to reveal who God is and what His plan is for mankind. It is not a history, science, economics, or morality book. It has those elements within it, but its purpose is not to provide a detailed dissertation on those topics. We must start from the foundational viewpoint that the Bible is sufficient and authoritative, and when we do not understand all the pieces of the biblical puzzle, we need to remember the goodness of God and perfection of His Word and keep seeking to understand.

All this to say, we don’t get to read the Bible with a Sharpie, blacking out the passages we don’t like. When we encounter difficult passages, we need to change our default position. Instead of letting hard verses cast doubt on God’s character, we need to first question our own knowledge and understanding of His Word. With this posture as our common ground, let’s move on to the three earlier stated misconceptions about what the Bible says about women.

I invited you to read the rest over at LifeWay Voices, where I tackle these misconceptions:

  1. The Bible teaches that men are more valuable than women.
  2. The Bible teaches that women should not seek to have a voice.
  3. The Bible teaches that women should not teach or lead. 

Hope to see you there!

In a world moving full-steam ahead and no idea of knowing what is looming around the bend, it is easy to give into the feeling of uncertainty. Worry and anxiety often rule our thoughts, leaving us feeling out of control. These are the times we must remember God’s Word and the promises it holds.

God is bigger than any barrier we run into.

God is stronger than any mountain we might face.

God is always nearer than we realize, and loves us more than we can ever imagine.

When we give into worry, the last thing we need is a quick-fix or more information. What we need is a reminder of who God is, and how much He cares for us. We need to get our eyes off of ourselves, and on to Him.

Psalm 46:1–3

  • God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah (ESV)

Luke 12:22–24

  • And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! (ESV)

Psalm 147:8–11

  • He covers the heavens with clouds; he prepares rain for the earth; he makes grass grow on the hills. He gives to the beasts their food, and to the young ravens that cry. His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love. (ESV)

Matthew 10:29–31

  • Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (ESV)

Psalm 50:1–2

  • The Mighty One, God the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth. (ESV)

Luke 12:25–28

  • And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! (ESV)

James 1:5–6

  • If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. (ESV)

Luke 12:29–31

  • And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. (ESV)

Want to dive deeper into additional verses on how to deal with worry?

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This reading plan is designed to to be used either as a stand-alone Bible reading plan, or an accompanying plan for the book Unhitching from the Crazy Train: Finding Rest in a World You Can’t Control by Julie Sparkman and Jennifer Phillips.

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Lest I think I’ve ever “arrived,” it takes only a moment of stress to show me how far removed I am from biblical love. My everyday moments more often resemble lovelessness rather than the definition of biblical love. Over and over again I insist on my own way as I bark out commands in haste to my kids or speak short words to my husband and leave no room for doubt that I’m irritated. “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (James 1:26 ESV).

Impatience, at its core, is a love issue. The Greek word used in 1 Corinthians 13:4 for “patient”(makrothumeō) has the connotation of being slow to act against wrongdoing. Whereas the original word for kind has a meaning of responding with a mild demeanor. These are reactive words.

Love is Patient. Love is Kind.

The challenge here is not to go out and be more patient and kind. Instead, love is displayed in our response to the offenses of others. When someone intentionally wrongs me or is just incredibly annoying, my response reveals love (or hate). I don’t need to look far to find an occasion to love. I am given continual opportunities to love each and every day.

“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks,” (Matthew 12:34).

God loved me so I can show love. “Not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19). God extended me mercy so I can extend mercy. God is patient with me so I can be patient with others. Once again, we have our example of love in our Savior. God’s love for His people is patient. My sin—and yours—is a continual offense to a holy God. Yet, He responded to our offensive actions toward Him with love. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient (makrothumeō) toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Love is evidenced in our responses to others. All too often, when we want to make changes in our lives, we go overboard looking for new things to help us in our journey. In our efforts to be intentional, we skip right over the simplest solution. Truth is, we already know what to do. We don’t have to look far for ways to show love to others. Every moment we have with the people God has planted us next to is an opportunity to love. From the next-door neighbor we rarely speak to, to the girl at work who drives us crazy, to the friends and family closest to us. As we choose to stay near to God and keep in step with His Spirit, He will faithfully enable us to love others and bear witness to the love we ourselves have experienced.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

PRAY THIS WITH ME: God, I praise You for your extravagant love! I deserve judgment, yet You have lavished Your love on me. Jesus, thank You for taking the wrath of my sin so that I can experience the favor of my Creator. Spirit, enable me to respond with extravagant, patient, and kind love with every offense I face today.


This is an excerpt from Everyday Love — a women’s Bible study on love. This easy-to-use, four-week Bible study will help you discover how your life can bear witness to God’s purpose. In as few as 15 minutes a day, you will explore the Book of 1 Corinthians 13 and the deeper truths about God’s love for you and others. 

Join the Online Study Group!

 

Discover what the Bible has to say about love

(And learn how to study the Bible along the way!)

WHAT: Studying 1 Corinthians 13

WHEN: February 11th – March 8th, 2019 

WHERE: Bible Study Hub Facebook group

The threat of my house catching on fire is haunting. Fire can spread quickly and in unpredictable ways, bringing a great potential for destruction. Though fire can be erratic, we do know there are three things needed for a fire to burn: heat, oxygen, and fuel. In light of this, safety experts suggest keeping a fire blanket handy at home, especially for small kitchen fires. A fire blanket is a nonflammable covering used to contain a small fire from getting out of control. It’s designed to contain the fire by preventing oxygen access, thus smothering the fire into submission. The blanket provides a covering in order to suffocate the flames.

You and I have fires that pop up everyday, and they are (hopefully!) not in our kitchen. Every wrongdoing we experience is an ember, and we have an opportunity to smother it immediately or allow it to catch into a smoldering wildfire. Each insult, injury, or inconsideration encountered is a chance to cover the offender in love. When we obsess over the attacking flame on our doorstep we breathe life into it and allow it to burn bright, instead of immediately smothering the offense with love.

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:7)

Love covers. It quickly blows out the flame of irritability, resentment, and pride. Again and again and again. It suffers long toward every ember that tempts to take over. Love is shown in the response we make toward wrongdoing. We don’t need to go out looking for fires to put out, we each have enough to go around. Fires pop up every day, and in those moments when we begin to feel the heat, we have a choice to feed the fire or smother it into submission.

“I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,” (Isaiah 61:10).

Jesus smothered our sin into submission, then He gifted us His righteousness. This act of love covered over you and me in a way we cannot fully comprehend on this side of eternity. And as we attempt to grasp the reality of Christ’s covering, let’s move toward extending a covering of love to those around us as extravagantly as Christ did for us.

PRAY THIS WITH ME: Jesus, I praise You for Your covering of grace and forgiveness. Never let me forget what You have saved me from. Help me to see the fires that need covering and enable me to douse them with love today.


This is an excerpt from Everyday Love — a women’s Bible study on love. This easy-to-use, four-week Bible study will help you discover how your life can bear witness to God’s purpose. In as few as 15 minutes a day, you will explore the Book of 1 Corinthians 13 and the deeper truths about God’s love for you and others. 

Join the Online Study Group!

 

Discover what the Bible has to say about love

(And learn how to study the Bible along the way!)

WHAT: Studying 1 Corinthians 13

WHEN: February 11th – March 8th, 2019 

WHERE: Bible Study Hub Facebook group

When I starting seeing that the Word of God is something to enjoy instead of something to do—something to achieve—that was another place in my life that really propelled me forward spiritually. 

Why is it important to study the Bible? In this video, I explain how Bible study affects every part of our life, but most importantly, our view of God.

Watch the video and catch the full transcripts over at LifeWay Voices.

‘Tis the season for extra activities, endless shopping lists, and out-of-control eating because we’re all so stressed from the formerly mentioned activities. Come December 26th, we’ll be more than ready to get back to our normal routine and excited for the new year ahead. High on the priority list for most Christ-followers is to read the Bible more. Many will start reading through the Bible with great enthusiasm, but fizzle out before the next page in the calendar is turned.

I’ve been there. My guess is that you have been as well. Why do so many of us struggle to simply read the Bible consistently? I believe it has much to do with our motivations. It is important to pay attention to the desires of the heart, especially when we are setting out on a spiritual endeavor.

Here are three reasons why you shouldn’t put “read my Bible more” on your resolutions list this year

  1. I read my Bible to make God happy with me.
  2. I read my Bible to impress other people.
  3. I read my Bible to because it is what good Christians do.

If you are currently reading the Bible for any of the above reasons, don’t stop! Keep going. But as you do, begin praying and working toward a healthier perspective.

Here are three healthy reasons why you should read the Bible

  1. I read my Bible to build the habit.
  2. I read my Bible to gain a better understanding of God and His plan for my life.
  3. I read my Bible to worship God through responding to what I learn.

Read the full post over at LifeWay Voices.

Ready to start reading your Bible? Not quite sure how or where to start? You’re in the right place!

I’ve been in your shoes and I’ve since turned the corner and now help thousands of others learn how to begin reading and studying the Bible … and how to keep going.

How to Start Reading the Bible – A Beginner’s Guide

I know you want to open your Bible, read what’s on the page, and understand it immediately. Yet there are many barriers that keep us from doing just that.

1. Choose the right Bible for you

This goes without saying, but you need to get a copy of the Bible in order to read it. You probably already have one, but it may not be the best fit for you. There are a bunch of different Bibles on the shelves at the Christian bookstore and it can be super-overwhelming to know the difference between them all. Here is a post all about the different types and versions, if you are interested. But the bottom line is this: use a version you can read easily. If you’ve had a Bible for years, but the reading level is way over your head, consider grabbing a version that is easier to read. The New Living Translation Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! (NLT) or the NET Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!  are both very readable and great for beginners.

If money is tight, I’m sure your local church has copies on hand they would love to give you. Alternately, check your local thrift shop and/or bookstore for inexpensive copies. I often see $5 deals at LifeWay or through online promotions. There are also loads of free apps you can grab. (My favorite is the ESV Bible app.)

2. Start building the habit of reading your Bible

Habit —> Understanding —> Worship

Probably the most common barrier to reading and understanding the Bible is a lack of habit. In fact, I often have to go back to this step, even after decades of reading and studying the Bible. Because I cannot gain more understanding without a regular routine of opening my Bible. Until we have established the habit of regular Bible reading, understanding is going to be hard to come by. Why? Because without the habit, you’ll start off strong but fizzle out by the end of the week. How do I know? Been there. Done that. My guess is, you have to.

Here are a few thoughts to consider as you embark on creating a rhythm of regular time in the Bible.

  • Start small. Choose something that will give you the quick win!
  • Schedule a date with God. Don’t worry about finding that perfect time, simply look at your schedule for tomorrow and pick out the best 10 minute slot. Put it on your calendar and get ready for it like it is any other appointment.
  • Make it enjoyable! Grab a new coffee mug or some yummy hot chocolate reserved only for your time with God. Buy a new blanket to cozy up with, or a pretty basket to keep your Bible in. I like to keep tissues and sticky-notes with my favorite pens Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!  handy in case I need to jot down something I need to remember to do later.
  • Keep going. Don’t give in to the paralysis of perfectionism. Resist the thought that reading for 5 minutes isn’t enough. Five minutes of reading one Bible verse is better than none read at all!
  • Invite a friend to read the same plan and consider meeting up in a week or so to talk through what you’ve read. If you are not sure who to invite, consider an online Bible study group.

Once you are in a regular rhythm of Bible reading then you can begin to focus on understanding what you see in the pages of Scripture.

3.  Know where to start reading the Bible

There is no one “best place” to read the Bible, but there are certainly some places that will be easier to understand right away, more than others. By and large, most people pick up the Bible and begin reading it from cover to cover … and get stuck somewhere in Leviticus. God’s Word doesn’t have to be read “in order.”

Here are a few favorites that many love to read through again and again:

A few things to keep in mind:

  • You are not going to understand everything you read. The Bible is a deep, complex masterpiece. There are certainly many truths we can easily see on the surface, but there is much more below than can be mined. It takes time to put all the pieces together.
  • The Spirit of God lives within you. Though you may not comprehend everything right away, if you are a Christian, you have the very presence of God within you to guide and teach you as you read!
  • Remember the end goal of Bible study. It’s not simply to gain knowledge. The end goal of Bible study is worship. Bible study is about getting to know our magnificent God! Opening your Bible with a heart of expectation is an act of drawing near to Him. Even if you walk away scratching your head about what you just read, it is still an act of worship. A step closer to experiencing God in your everyday.
  • Look into investing in a good study Bible. The helpful notes and charts found throughout are invaluable in helping with understanding what you are reading. Here is a post all about my favorite study Bible.

4. Engage in two needed viewpoints: Bird’s Eye View and Bug’s Life

There are two main lanes of Bible study that will help us begin to understand the Bible: the “bird’s-eye-view” and the “bug’s life.” Both perspectives are important elements in our journey toward comprehension.

A bird’s-eye-view of the Bible provides a big picture perspective and helps us connect the dots between all the different pieces. I learned many Bible stories in my early years, but I lacked a basic timeline and understanding of how all the characters are associated. Reading plans through a book of the Bible and reading through the Bible chronologically are an excellent way to gain this critical viewpoint.

There is much to be gained from that big-picture vantage point, but we can also learn from the details the “bug’s life” can provide. When we dig deeper into a passage—zoom in to a small portion of Scripture and take our time while we are there—we begin to see details we never noticed on a quick read-through. And these details can be seen in as little as 15 minutes a day through these Bible studies for busy women.

Both are lanes of Bible study are necessary. Both help us enjoy the Word. Both help us see God more clearly and worship Him better.

5. Connect with your local church for resources

God created us for community. Specifically, His will is for each of us to be a member of and involved in a local church. Most local churches have some sort of small group Bible study option. Finding a church home and a small group will be a great step towards experiencing God daily.

6. Pray

You don’t have to have all the right words. It can be in your head, spoken out loud, or written out in a journal. Simply express to God your desire to know Him better through His Word. He desires the same. It’s His will for you to experience a deep and enjoyable time in the Bible. If you ask Him to help you create the habit in order to understand what you encounter and worship Him better, then you make consistent choices toward that end, He will answer that prayer! Without fail.

What other questions do you have about getting started in regular Bible reading?

Many stages of life have found me struggling to figure out who I am and what I am called to do with my life. As a single 20-something, I was convinced it was pouring my life into ministry with Campus Crusade for Christ. After marrying, my calling eventually merged with my husband’s as we shifted away from campus ministry to serve the local church. We also started having babies. It was a struggle for me to lose the title of Campus Minister. I loved my job with Cru and after leaving staff, I found myself as “just a mom” and “just a wife.” I missed the excitement and purpose of the campus ministry I loved and I grieved that loss in secret. Suddenly, I didn’t know who I was anymore.

Determinedly, I pushed myself out of that purposeless funk and poured my life into those babies. I spent hours of research and hard work to provide them with homemade baby food, the best sleep-wake cycle, and all Baby Einstein had to offer. As they grew, their little lives held a well-rounded calendar filled with playdates, library events, trips to the zoo, and free time at the park.  My life’s call was their well-being. My purpose was to give them all of me.

However, with the addition of baby #3, I was officially sunk. I could no longer keep up with the ideals of motherhood—the work I had poured my life into for 5 years—my idealism and work ethic were suddenly weapons of mass destruction. My identity as the SAHM (who had it all together and loved her life) was shattered. I was bone-weary, depressed, and 3-Kid-Katie kept looking back at Had-It-All-Together-Katie with longing, guilt, and an innate pressure to perform. Finally, I surrendered and quit trying. With this came a shattering of who I thought I was and who I thought I would continue be.

With this surrender and subsequent shattering came healing and clarity. I realized that I had idealized and idolized the pursuit of the stay-at-home mom, and subsequently had been ignoring who God made me to be. Healing came as I sought medical help and went back to work a few days a week (at the behest of my husband). In walking forward to follow God’s clear leading, I found a part of me that had been smothered and silenced. As that missing girl emerged, something mysterious happened: I enjoyed my time with my kids more. The productive and creative energy that had left long ago returned.

That was 8 years ago, and life has been a juggling act since then, as I seek to fulfill my callings both at home and out of it. Every year has been a bit different, but each year my callings become clearer and the implications of those callings easier. Learning from the mistakes of my past, there are several general principles that have been fruitful as I attempt to follow God’s specific plan for my specific family.

Read the rest of this post—6 Lessons on Following God’s Calling—over at Women and Work.

There are seasons that are hard. I just don’t feel right. Discouragement comes easy. The dark cloud looms and lingers.

I begin searching for what’s missing. Maybe if I start running, or eat better I will feel better about myself? Or, am I lonely and just need to find a new friend? Get more sleep? A better schedule? Time alone? A date night?

I’ll try a few things, and when the newness wears off I turn to what energize me. Teaching the Word, blogging, time with good friends, time alone to plan. While they do help recharge me, they will never be enough.

bible verses discouragement

9 Bible verses for discouragement

Only God’s word brings me life.

  • My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word! Psalm 119:25
  • Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways. Psalm 119:37

In uncertainty, His word alone is my good counsel.

  • Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors. Psalm 119:24
  • Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105

When my soul cries out, His promises alone bring comfort.

  • This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life. Psalm 119:50
  • Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble. Psalm 119:165

Though there are moments of overwhelming sorrow, His word under-girds with strength.

  • My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word! Psalm 119:28

His mercy and grace is what I truly need. Not a smaller jeans size, or a better organized house. Not a new friendship or time to myself. He is my missing piece.

  • Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight. Psalm 119:77
  • Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is your way with those who love your name. Psalm 119:132

Which verses do you cling to when the dark cloud looms?