Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
Colossians 3:1-3

Monday, September 20, 2010


Mom and I packed my little black Vibe (with a sunroof!) last Tuesday night and backed out of the driveway about 7:30 Wednesday morning, heading north for Indianapolis and the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference.

We arrived at the Hyatt Regency Thursday evening and settled into a comfortable room overlooking a small courtyard with fountains of water shooting into the air.

The conference, a huge event, was fun, informative, but also overwhelming. I'm still trying to process everything I experienced. A few highlights:
  • Jeanie and Clella, two of my Kindred Hearts, drove a couple hours each (one way) to have lunch with Mom and me. We had a great time chatting and laughing.
  • I met my agent, Tamela Hancock Murray, for the first time in person, and ate breakfast with her and some of her other authors.
  • I pitched my novel to two publishers and one wants to see the proposal.
  • Free books!
Mom and I are in Dayton now, visiting with one of my brothers and his family. Tomorrow we head down to the southern Ohio hills for a few days of internet-isolation and relaxation. This Saturday is a family reunion potluck.

We're making memories with every mile that clicks over on that little Vibe's odometer.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

God's Strange Requests

Growing in Prayer
Lesson Three: The Bible's Oddest Prayers

The Lord visited Gideon and called him, "mighty warrior." But Gideon protested that he was the least of his family and his tribe was the least of the tribes of Israel. It didn't matter . . . God had a plan for Gideon to defeat the invading Midianites. An odd plan, but one that worked.

Similarly, we can call upon God's strength when we face overwhelming odds.

A few hundred years later, the Babylonians threatened Judah and the nation was about to fall. But God told the prophet Jeremiah to buy a field from his cousin. Considering Jerusalem and the surrounding lands were soon to be destroyed, the command to purchase land seems rather odd. But Jeremiah's legal contract foreshadowed the future prosperity of Judah. The land would be restored.

Gideon and Jeremiah trusted God and obeyed His Word.

Like Gideon, we can depend on God's strength to see us through overwhelming times.

Like Jeremiah, we can put our hope in God's promise of a divine future.

Some people think God does not like to be troubled with out constant asking.
The way to trouble God is not to come at all.
Dwight L. Moody

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Puff Prayers

Growing in Prayer: Lesson Two
The Bible's Stubbiest Prayers

Nehemiah quivered in fright when the mighty king of Persia asked him why he looked so sad when he wasn't ill. Nehemiah "prayed to the God of heaven" before asking the king's permission to return to Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:1-5).

Nehemiah's prayer was little more than a pause, a moment to garner his courage before making his request. But the brief prayer rested on a foundation of several days of mourning, fasting, and praying (Nehemiah 1:6-11).

Jabez, a man "more honorable than his brothers," cried out his brief prayer: "Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory. Let your hand be with me and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain." Scripture tells us that God granted Jabez's concise request (1 Chronicles 4:9-10). The lesson-writer suggests that Jabez "felt the need to be protected from painful pressure--and maybe physical harm. He believed having more land would give him the uffer he sorely needed, and therefore, that's what he asked God for (p. 70).

Peter cried out, "Lord save me!" when he began to sink. "Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him" (Matthew 14:30-31). His panicky prayer was quickly answered with a saving hand. "So we, too, can get in 'over our heads' and can be assured that Jesus will be there to pull us to safety" (p. 71).

Three short prayers uttered in times of distress, pain, and panic. Each prayer answered because the heart of the person uttering the prayer belonged to God.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Established Footsteps: Memorizing Romans 12

I received a message from my young friend Windy Cobourne inviting me to a new facebook group for Established Footsteps,  a project for women to memorize Romans 12. This is the first week, so if you'd like to participate, please join Windy's group.

Romans 12:1 (NIV): Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God -- this is your spiritual act of worship.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Reluctant Pray-ers

Growing in Prayer
Lesson One:
"The Most Reluctant Pray-ers in the Bible"

You know what happened to Jonah, right? He tried to run away from God and ended up in the belly of a specially-made fish!

One of the most beautiful prayers in the Bible is memorialized in Jonah 2. The runaway prophet cries out in despair, but he also proclaims, "I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the Lord" (verse 9).

Verse 8 resonates with me each time I read it:

Those who cling to worthless idols
forfeit the grace that could be theirs.

What worthless idols am I clinging to?
What grace am I forfeiting?

Action: "Begin each day this week by praying, 'Lord, help me to be quick to pray today and slow to resist you'" (p. 22).

Significant Quotes

Help us, Lord, to turn toward you, and in our turning,
find you have been turned toward us all along.
Timothy Jones

I have been driven many times to my knees by the
overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.
Abraham Lincoln.

(Note: Growing in Prayer is a six-week study from the Women of Faith Bible Study Series.)
(Photo credit)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Knowing God's Word #12

Chapter 12: Why Bother?

Why study Scripture?
  • "We study something that is living and powerful."
  • "We grapple with eternal truths."
  • "We delve into the divine Word of God."
  • "We study God's unchanging Word so that it can change us."
And yet . . . 1 Corinthians 13:2 reminds us:

Though I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries
and all knowledge, and though I have all faith
so that I could remove mountains,
but have not love, I am nothing.

A paraphrase:

If I could speak for God and could unravel any enigma
and knew all there was to know and have perfect trust,
enough to do the miraculous, but cared nothing for others,
I will have missed the whole point!

God's purpose for His Word and what it does in our lives:

  • Psalm 19:8, 11
  • Psalm 119:9, 111
  • Isaiah 55:11
  • John 17:17
  • Acts 20:32
  • Romans 15:4
Digging Deeper

  • Follow a Scripture reading program
  • Choose another section, topic, book, or theme for actual study
  • Keep a notebook or journal of your discoveries

Monday, July 12, 2010

Knowing God's Word #11

Chapter 11: Soaking

Soak in God's Word through study and meditation.

David invites the Lord to listen to him in Psalm 5:1: Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my sighing.

David sought God's favor in Psalm 19:14: May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart, be pleassing in your sight.

Paul encourages us to focus on whatever is excellent and praiseworthy in Philippians 4:8.

This week, we're encouraged to memorize and meditate on a Scripture passage "until it penetrates your heart and soul."

I chose Jonah 2:8: Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.

Everytime I read this simple verse, my heart lurches at its sadness so I want to dig deeper into it.

What passage are your hiding in your heart?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Knowing God's Word #10

Chapter 10: Themes

Even though the Bible was written by multiple authors over several centuries, the theme of Redemption runs like a scarlet thread from Genesis through Revelation. Other themes weave through the Scriptures, themes of love, atonement, and sacrifice.

The same resources used for word studies can aid us in our search for the themes we wish to study.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Knowing God's Word #9

Chapter 9: Word Studies

Word studies help ensure we know a word's meaning and how it is used throughout Scripture. Online resources such as Bible Gateway, Vine's Expository Dictionary, and Strong's Concordance make it so easy to find out what the meaning of a word and all the places it's found in Scripture.

One of the questions in this chapter asked us to do a word study for "approved" in 2 Timothy 2:15.  First I go to Strong's Concordance and enter the verse's citation in the search box. This takes me to a page that shows the verse and assigns each word or phrase a number.

The number for "approved" is 1384. I click on the number and land on another page that shows the Greek word, it's transliteration, definitions, and the other passages where the same Greek word, dokimos, appears.

The info on dokimos provides fascinating insight on our mundane word "approved." Check it out!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Knowing God's Word #8

Chapter 8: Outlines

Outlining a passage of Scripture may reveal patterns we might otherwise miss. Here's my outline of the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8):

Farmer went out to sow his seed
  • Path -- trampled / eaten by birds
  • Rock -- withered among thorns / grew and choked
  • Good soil -- yielded a bountiful crop
The meaning of the parable: the seed is the word of God
  • Path -- Satan takes the word from them
  • Rock -- no root among thorns / choked by life’s worries, riches, and pleasures
  • Good soil -- noble and good hearts and persevere

Since I don't have access to a tab function, the above outline isn't exactly like I created it in WordPerfect, but you can still get the idea.

Usually, though, I prefer to write out an entire verse or passage, separating and indenting the lines as if creating a poem. This simple exercise helps me pay attention to the prepositions and conjunctions, nouns and verbs.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Knowing God's Word #7

Chapter 7: Back to the Basics

The colored pencils are back again! This time, we looked at the first twenty-four verses of Scripture's longest chapter, Psalm 119. Here's our color code:

Blue: right actions and attitudes
Orange: wrong actions and attitudes
Purple: what God does to/for those who obey Him
Green: what God does to/for those who resist Him
Yellow: the mentions of God's Word

The colors create a visual of this passage that aids our understanding of God's Word.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Knowing God's Word #6

Chapter 6: Pitfalls

When studying Scripture, we need to guard against distorting the truth of God's Word. Neither should we substitute our opinion for truth.

We avoid such pitfalls through careful study of Scripture. Sure, that takes some effort. After all, even Peter said that some of Paul's writings were hard to understand (2 Peter 3:15-16)!

But we have excellent translations, commentaries, and other resources to help us in our studies.

And we're promised that our prayers for wisdom and discernment will not go unanswered.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Knowing God's Word #5

Chapter 5: Dare to Compare

Break out the colored pencils!

In this chapter, we colored-coded the phrases of 1 Peter 1:25 in four different versions. The visual comparisons made it easy to see how different versions translate the same verse.

Which translation is the best?

Generally speaking, scholarly study requires a "formal equivalent" translation, one that translates the original languages practically word-for-word into English. Two popular translations are the New King James Version and the New American Standard Bible.

A "dynamic equivalent" translation, like the New International Version, translates phrase-by-phrase. The NIV is immensely popular because it's easier to read and understand than the NKJV.

Paraphrases, such as The Living Bible, simplify the English language for readers. Even though paraphrases may be easy to understand, they shouldn't be relied upon for theological study.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Knowing God's Word #4

Chapter 4: We Have a Teacher

When we met last week, we dug into Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Commentary for Hebrews 5:12-14. More importantly, we talked about Jesus' promise to send us a Teacher, a Counselor, who guides us into all truth.

We begin our Christian walk as newbies, spiritual babes needing to learn the basics. But as we grow and mature, we long for solid food. "We start with the input of truth, exercising the principle of readiness for learning. We gradually implement the principle of practice for retention of truth. Consistent and persistent practice of truth results in growth to maturity" (p. 45).

Through our Hearts Above spiritual journey, we are learning new study tools so that we can gain a better understanding of Biblical teachings as we are guided by the Holy Spirit.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Nelson's Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts

I received my copy of Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts, Third Edition as I was preparing a Bible study lesson on Biblical resources and reference books. After only a few minutes of flipping through the colorful pages, I was excited to share this book with the other women in our group.

The two major sections are Old Testament and The New Testament. Each book of the Bible has its own chapter and these are appropriately grouped. For example, the first five books of the Old Testament are under the heading of “The Pentateuch.”

Between the two major sections is a brief section called “The Intertestamental Period.” It shows four maps that illustrate the “shifts of political power over Palestine” between 750 B.C. until 63 B.C.

The chapters for each Biblical book contain a survey of the book which includes authorship, date written, themes and literary structure, and an outline. Important events recorded in the book are discussed. Charts and maps provide additional information.

The chapter on 2 Samuel, for example, includes a map that shows the locations for important events in the life of King David and a genealogy. Two charts list “David’s Triumphs” and “David’s Troubles.”

The New Testament section opens with charts on “The Miracles of Jesus Christ” and “The Parables of Jesus Christ.” It also includes a “Harmony of the Gospels,” Herod’s family tree, “The Plan of Herod’s Temple,” and a chart showing the “New Testament Political Rulers.”

Photographs, such as the East gate of Jerusalem and Ephesian temple ruins, are scattered throughout the text.

The easy-to-read chapters provide a wealth of historical and cultural background. Bible study leaders and Sunday School teachers will appreciate the many charts and maps, which are reproducible and can be downloaded. But anyone who wants a deeper appreciation and understanding of what they are reading in Scriptures will find this book an invaluable resource.

(NOTE: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson, Inc.)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Knowing God's Word #3

Chapter 3: Reading vs. Studying

We explored Acts 17:10-12 on our spiritual journey this week, particularly verse 11: "Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true."

The Greek word for "noble," eugenes, appears only four times in the New Testament: Acts 17:11; 24:3; 26:25; and 1 Corinthians 1:26.

But the English word "noble" is also found in some translations of Philippians 4:8 -- "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, . . ."

So we pulled out the Greek New Testament and the Strong's Concordance (with a lot of laughing) and found this Greek word is actually "venerable" or "honorable."

To get the most out of Acts 17:11, we also looked up "received," "readiness," and "searched." From our study of the Greek definitions, we know that the Bereans were highly esteemed people who deliberately accepted Paul's message with mental eagerness and scrutinized the Scriptures to find out the Truth for themselves.

May we be as deliberate, as eager, and as discerning in our own studies.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Knowing God's Word #2

Chapter 2: Tools of the Trade

Resources, resources, and more resources. On our spiritual journey this week, we used study and topical Bibles, concordances, commentaries, and expository dictionaries to delve into the deeper meaning of 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Online references helped those of us who don't have access to all these types of reference works. We especially benefitted from Bible Gateway and Vine's Expository Dictionary.

The middle of our hostess's dining room table was piled with all kinds of references including favorites such as Strong's Concordance and Haley's Bible Handbook. We got to flip through an archaeological Bible and the brand new Nelson's Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts.

We're blessed to live in an age of multiple and easily-accessible resources to enhance and deepen our study of God's Word.

What's one of your favorites?

Friday, February 5, 2010

For whatever life holds for you and your family in the coming days,
weave the unfailing fabric of God's Word through your heart and mind.
It will hold strong, even if the rest of life unravels.

Gigi Graham Tchividjian

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Knowing God's Word #1

Chapter 1: Will This Be on the Test?

On our spiritual journey for the next twelve weeks or so, we're studying Knowing God's Word, a Women of Faith Study Guide (foreward by Luci Swindoll). Through studying this book, we will:
  • understand the reason we need to learn Scripture by heart and recall it every day;
  • learn what's important in life and what isn't;
  • be encouraged to have goals that are not only right, but also righteous (p. vi).
Chapter One Memorable Quote:

Bibles are "so commonplace, so readily available, that I think we sometimes forget just what we hold in our hands" (p 13).

Very First Bible Study Tool -- Cross References!

John 1:1
  • John 17:5
  • 1 John 1:1
  • Revelation 19:13
John 1:3
  • Colossians 1:16-17
  • Hebrews 11:3
  • 2 Peter 3:5
  • Psalm 33:6
Ponder & Pray (p. 18)
  • a heart prepared to learn
  • God's leading as we read the Scriptures
  • an inquisitive nature
  • to learn, not an accumulation of facts, but how to change our hearts

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hearts and Minds on Things Above

This is a brief outline of our Tuesday night Hearts Above Bible study.

“Set your hearts on things above”

The verb translated “set” in the NIV is the Greek word zēteō which means “to seek.”

Romans 2:7 “To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life” (NIV).

1 Peter 5:8 “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (NIV).

Our Hearts

Psalm 119:10-11, 14-15
Psalm 139: 23-24
Proverbs 4:20-23
Proverbs 27:19
Matthew 5:8
Matthew 22:37

“The things that make God dear to us are not so much His great big blessings as the tiny things, because they show His amazing intimacy with us; He knows every detail of our individual lives” (Utmost, June 3rd).

“Set your minds on things above”

The verb translated “set” in the NIV is the Greek word phroneō which means “to direct one's mind to a thing” (Blue Letter Bible).

Matthew 16:23 “Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men’” (NIV).

Romans 8:5 “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires” (NIV).

Our Minds

Wisdom created before the earth
• Proverbs 8:1, 22-23
• Romans 11:33-36

Seek wisdom

James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (NIV).

James 3:13-18 “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness” (NIV).

Romans 12:2
1 Corinthians 2:14-16
Philippians 4:8

Mind and Heart Intertwine

Utmost (Sept 22nd)
• God fathoms the remotest abyss of my heart, and satisfies it
• God meets and solves every perplexity and problem of my mind

Note: Utmost refers to Oswald Chambers' My Utmost for His Highest.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

New Year's Resolutions -- For Keeps

The first week of a new year is a great time to curl up in your favorite chair with How to Reach Your Full Potential for God by Dr. Charles F. Stanley. His seven essentials provide a compelling framework for those of us who can’t resist the urge to make resolutions. The book’s path to healthy hearts, minds, and bodies is paved with spiritual insights and practical suggestions.

For example, Essential #1: A Clean Heart encourages us to set our hearts toward purity. In this chapter, Dr. Stanley discusses the power of daily abiding in Scripture and God’s call for “us to actively and intentionally yield our entire selves to His will on a day-to-day basis.” Essential #4: A Healthy Body presents practical advice on sleep, nutrition, and exercise. Other essentials discuss such topics as relationships, scheduling, and taking risks.

The motivational book provides a Godly foundation for this year’s resolutions. The prayerful resolve to improve oneself and grow spiritually within the seven essentials may prove stronger than the making of isolated, easy-to-make/easy-to-break goals. May this be the year to live the book’s subtitle: “Never Settle for Less than His Best."

(NOTE: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson, Inc.)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Spiritual Journey: Embarking Now

The Hearts Above Ladies Bible Study met last night to embark on our 2010 Spiritual Journey. We talked about how we completed the following sentences:

  • I will abide in God's Word by . . .
  • I will set my heart on things above by . . .
  • I will set my mind on things above by . . .
Several of us are abiding in God's Word by following a chronological reading plan.

We're setting our hearts on things above with prayer walks and meditation.

We're setting our minds on things above with Scripture memorization.

You're invited to share the journey with us. Just leave a comment with your responses to the sentences.