Chronicling 40: Day 98 of 365

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One of the questions I get asked often is about Bible Study recommendations, particularly related to Women’s Ministry programs.  I personally ascribe to a pathway that puts women on a good start to picking out good materials and eventually leading small groups themselves.  Here is my recommended pathway, click on any of the photos to purchase.  I do not make any money off of these purchases, or have affiliation with these companies.

One to One Discipling by Multiplication Ministries

121wThanks to my friend Jenny Andrews, this material landed in my lap.  I’m a huge fan.  I love this as a starting place because I believe it makes sure that those who go through the material end with a basic understanding of the fundamentals of Christianity.  Jenny’s church uses this as the first step after Baptism.  It could also be a great step for starting off a Discipleship Pathway in your Women’s Ministry.

 

Seamless by Angie Smith

seamlessAfter making sure the women in your group, or ministry, have the fundamentals in place… I like to move to an overview of the Scriptures.  Angie Smith’s Seamless moves from the Old Testament to the New Testament.  You will have a good overview of the entirety of the Bible, how God’s narrative is woven through the Old to the New Testament.

A great second stop on the pathway of Discipleship for yourself, your small group, or the women in the church.

 

Praying the Bible by Don Whitney

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After the women have the fundamentals, and the basics of the Scriptures, then ensuring our owmen understand the why and how of prayer is next on the pathway.  Praying the Bible, written by Don Whitney, is a short and direct book on using the Scriptures to prompt our prayers.  How long you want to spend on this book is up to you, but it is one you could walk through very quickly (great Summer book) or spend time wading through and putting into practice.

 

 

 

Women of the Word, by Jen Wilkin

wowNow that your women have these fundamentals into place (basics of Christianity, over view of the Bible as a whole, and prayer life), my next path is about being a good Berean.  I love Jen Wilkin’s book because she walks you through the WHY and VALUE of being able to study the Scriptures for yourself.  Then, she walks you through the practical application of her study method.  Finally, you get a chance to put it into practice with the book of James.

The final chapter is about how to lead a study group.  Which is also why I save this book for the last spot in the pathway.  Not because it is less important, but rather because you have now been not only prepared for your own good habits of prayer and study but also to teach others.  By the end of these four books, you are ready to step up as a Small Group leader.  You will be able to vet materials based off of what you have learned, as well as lead confidently.

The Great Commission

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

Matthew 28:19-20

We have been called, as disciples, to go out and make disciples.  Once baptized, we are commissioned to teach them to obey the Lord’s Word.  Once they have become disciples, they share this commission.  The Discipleship Pathway is meant to be taught by disciples, to make disciples, who will go out and make more disciples.  It is a multiplication process that not only brings people to the loving arms of God at baptism, but prepares them to be leaders within their church.

 

 

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The Blessing of a Conference

I absolutely love going to conferences, if I could… I would go to them all.  So, if you know of anyone hiring a Christian Conference Reviewer please give them my name.  There is something special about conferences, different than church … different than my own personal study time… different than discussing theology over coffee with a group of friends.

This past weekend, I was with 7,200 other women who clearly feel the same way I do.  Many traveled far to be here, most were repeat attenders who might have brought along a friend or family member for their first time.  I didn’t meet a single person who wasn’t planning to come to the next one.

Worshiping in a room with that many people is unlike anything I have ever experienced.  Listening to anointed teachers, scrawling notes, tears streaming, hands clapping, audible gasps when a point hits home….  THANK YOU, JESUS!

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What makes conferences so special to me?  In part, it’s the opportunity to get away from the comfort and familiarity of my home town.  I’ve never feared traveling alone, and I love the opportunity to see new places and meet new people.  Flying absolutely astounds me and I could look out the window the entire flight… to think that I am suspended in the air, a God’s eye view to His creation.  The colors, patterns, lights… it’s really breathtaking.

As a person who has put on mini-conferences and women’s retreats in the past, I can also appreciate the amount of work that goes into an event of this magnitude.  Knowing that every detail was meticulously planned, each speaker vetted and prepared, content that can speak as clearly to 7,200 women as it does to just 1.  Conferences give me an opportunity to learn about ministries that I can share with our local women.  And, hey… when the International Mission Board wants to give a girl coffee… we’re best friends.  (The coffee was amazing. by the way).

As a reader, the fact that most conferences have a book store….  it’s a beautiful thing.  Add in that there is usually special conference prices on the books; this means I can grab books that I have been wanting but also take risk on some new titles.  So many of the women who have shared their book haul from this conference share about the gifts they purchased for friends who couldn’t come.  Women’s Ministry Leaders and Pastor’s Wives are bringing home books to plan out their Small Groups for the year.

There is even something to be said for those moments when I saw a woman thumbing through the pages of a book, contemplating the purchase… and I could say:

“That is one of my favorites.”  or  “You won’t regret buying that one.”

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Yes, all of these things are parts of what make going to conferences special.  There is something to be said about spending several days, unplugged from your every day life, worshiping with other women, seeing new sites, and meeting new faces.

However the thing that makes them so special to me and draws me in, every time, is the access to amazing people who have been walking this road ahead of me.  Men and women who are not only anointed with wisdom but called to share that wisdom with others.  Men and women who are apart of those called to not only be in the fray of this fallen world, but invest in raising up other leaders and equipping them for the battle we fight every day.

So that, when the day is done, my hands are tender from writing pages of notes and my brain is swollen from all of the Good Word that was injected into it.  Interpretation I had not considered, application that I did not see, and from that the burn to share that with others.  Immersed in the Word, surrounded by my sisters & brothers… all there for one reason, the same reason.

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This is incredibly special, a wonderful opportunity to glean form the sages of different walks, ages, and stages.

While this is what makes conferences special to me, it is the blessing that comes from the conferences that always puts me on my knees in gratitude.   If you follow me on social media, you will know that I got a bit whiny due to flight delays and complications.

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A friend responded:  There must be a huge blessing for you in Indianapolis!

And boy was she right.  In fact, every year when I have gone to this conference I have entered the conference with something weighing on my heart.  Every year, when I leave… there has been an answer, affirmation, or direction given.  Every single year.   If I gained nothing from the conferences other than this, I would still call it my favorite and I would still call it blessed.

The Lord blesses us when we surrender our time and ourselves to His Word and His teachers.   He blesses us when we humbly put our issues at the foot of the cross, and lean into His guidance.  God blesses us with the people whom He puts in our pathways to say “just the right thing” even when they have no idea what you are struggling with.  The Lord blesses us in a place like this, when we are all together for one purpose in one accord… and the Holy Spirit moves throughout the space.  Touching hearts, healing wounds, directing steps, giving wisdom, developing gifts, sharing tissues… THANK YOU, JESUS.

It comes in the plenary sessions, seated among 7,200 others.   It comes in the workshops for a few hundred to just 15 women sitting in a circle, who say:  “You too?”

We find so much in this COMMUNITY….

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And of course, it is nice to come home and find out you were missed..

Watch & listen for yourself, by clicking the banner below.

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Pre-Conference Sessions on Prayer

All Conference Main Plenary Sessions

And a thorough selection from the many workshops offered.

Swept Away: Pursuing Knowledge in Changing Tides

When I was asked to speak at the retreat, I knew that I wanted my focus to rest on the importance of Biblical Literacy.  To know God, is to know His word.  It is how he reveals himself, his character, his desires for man to us.  Long since are the days where man has walked with the Lord in the garden, long since are the days where man has walked with Christ on this earth.

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As I began to prepare for my topic, I was considering how the pursuit of knowledge was important in changing tides.  Is that not the very thing that hangs people up on reading scripture?  They see the world has changed, is continuing to change.  How then are these words written so long ago applicable to today’s challenges?

We understand that knowledge is all of the information me have acquired on any given subject; gained through study, life experiences, skills, training.   Knowledge is easier to acquire today, than ever in history, because of our access to information.  We can become an expert on any subject with a simple google search.  We can create amazing works of art or carpentry by watching a few youtube videos.  As our world changes, knowledge is key in navigating those changes.

But, as I was researching…. I was stopped in my tracks.  Has the world really changed that much?  Or, is the changing tide how we are responding to the world?

Ecclesiastes 1:9 reminds us that:  “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”

In truth, there is nothing we deal with today, that isn’t mentioned in the Bible.  Every day obstacles to the big controversial subjects are found in the pages of scripture.  Premarital sex, drinking, getting tattoos… they are covered.   Transgenderism, homosexuality, abortion… they are covered too.    Social injustice, discrimination, corrupt leaders, adoption, homelessness, etc… they are all covered.

We can rest assured, however, that if the scriptures are going to address these issues… then the scriptures are also going to provide us with direction on how to respond.   When we hunt these questions down, and see the biblical response…. we can NOT but admit that it is not the world that has changed.  Man’s response to the world is what has changed.  We pursue knowledge in order to learn how God would want us to respond in order to navigate our way through this world.

So, how do we gain Biblical knowledge?  We do so through intentional study of the word.  Too often I hear women tell me that they have no time to read their Bible, yet they will make time for reading devotion books or emailed scripture readings from some site.  They will listen to a sermon or podcast of a notable speaker while at the gym.  Yet, they are neglecting the very book that many have given their lives and freedoms to put into our hands.

Knowledge of the scripture, direct knowledge, is an indispensable tool in navigating our faith, our life, and our world.

Knowledge of the Scriptures Reveals Who God Is – we learn everything we need to know about God in His word.  His nature and character, how God views sin, and how God responds to sin.  We learn what God’s will for His people are.  His word shows us the history of how God’s people responded to sin, how God dealt with that sin, and reveals a love for us so great that God would send his son to die for us.  We learn to embrace the loving God, as much as the just God.  Forgiveness is just as much of His nature as His judgement and discipline.  We must love the Old Testament God as much as the New Testament Jesus… because they are one.   The scriptures reveal His consistency and unchanging nature.   They also reveal how God changes men and women, becoming new creations in Him. 

Knowledge of the Scriptures Reveals Who God Is Not – The scriptures repeatedly warn us of false teachers and false prophets, we are also warned to be students in the word so that we speak the word of God accurately. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 tells us to test everything against the truth, so we know what is good and what is not…what is true and what is false.  If we ourselves do not know the scripture, then it is impossible to discern when we are hearing truth or something is just tickling our ears with what we want to hear.  How can we test of a television preacher, popular author, or famous religious personality is speaking truth?  How can we test what other well meaning Christians share with us is from the Bible or repeating something they have heard?  The pursuit of Biblical knowledge isn’t just about us knowing scripture verbatim, but also about knowing how to find information when we are uncertain.  The more you learn of God, when you are presented with a verse or statement that seems off…. you know where and how to find the truth.

Knowledge of the Scriptures Reveals God’s Will for Man – We are navigating a fallen world, and human nature actually desires a clear direction on what we should and shouldn’t be doing.  We want to know what is ok and what isn’t.  It’s why women flock to Proverbs 31, because they want that neat and tidy list to check off.   But ladies, remember, that we are image bearers of God and his WHOLE word applies to us, not just the pink ones that reference being a woman, wife, and mother.  2 Timothy 3:16 says that ALL scriptures is profitable.  There are lessons for us from cover to cover.   If we want to know His will for our life, we must look to His word.  We learn to navigate the controversial waters, and become united with other believers in His word based on His truth not our own opinions or interpretations.

We begin this pursuit of knowledge by looking at the WHOLE story of scripture, beginning to end.  We recognize that this is not a collection of books and stories about us, but GOD.  It is about HIS creation, HIS redemption plan. It is HIS plan unfolding  before us.

We continue this pursuit as we look to CHRIST; so that we see the Old Testament point us toward the Messiah, the gospels revealing the Messiah, and the rest of the New Testament as a continuation of His work… not the work of man.

It concludes where we then see how WE FIT into that plan, not how that plan fits into our lives.  We learn to turn to the scriptures for guidance, hope, and promises.  We see how God would want us to respond to the situations that life throws at us.  We allow the HOLY SPIRIT to work in our lives, and we follow that lead.

To do this we need, our Bible.  We approach it in PRAYER, before we start out study.  We pray the Lord will give us the ability to put ourselves aside and seek His truth.  We pray for conviction, clarity, guidance, knowledge, and wisdom.  We pray that God will help us to prioritize the study of His word in our life, avoid distraction, and have focus. We pray that the Lord will remove interruptions and give us the Holy Spirit to guide our interpretation.  Jen Wilkin states that “prayer changes our pursuit of knowledge into a pursuit of God himself”.

We must also make the SCRIPTURES our number one resource in our pursuit.  God has given us the ability to understand His word, we do not NEED someone else to tell us what it means.   If you only have 5 minutes a day, skip the devotional and head right to the Bible.    We need to accept that this is a lifelong pursuit that is not going to be wrapped in a 365 day bundle to accomplish.  The more we know His Word, the more we know who He is.  Jen Wilkin says that “the heart cannot love what the mind does not know.”

Additionally we need to surround ourselves with a CIRCLE OF BELIEVERS whom we can talk scripture with, sharing knowledge and growing in wisdom together.  A safe place to talk about your questions or hang ups in study… knowing that those who will be guiding you are also trusted students of the word.  Iron will sharpen iron, among this group, and there will be accountability to the Word.  Yet, we are also safe to test their words against the scripture without worrying we will offend someone.  Because, we all desire the same goal.  To know HIM.

On the Bookshelf, 2016

2015 is coming to a close, and if you’ve learned anything about me thus far… I like to read.  So, in case you are still contemplating your 2016 reading list… here is a sneak peak at mine.  There is a combination of books, including ones I think deserve a re-read.

I’m sure I will be adding some things to the stack as 2016 progresses, but it is a start.  HA!

For what it is worth, none of these are advertisements or sponsored suggestions.  They are not affiliate links, so I am not making any money off the recommendations. books2016

Since I am completing my Bachelors in Divinity, and I know that I will be continuing in ministry of some sort, I really wanted to take a look into the functioning of the church as a whole.

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I also got my hands on a book I’ve been wanting to read on Women’s Ministry and material that may prove to be a good resource for beginning a discipling program.

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I’m also going to be revisiting two books I’ve already read.  Mere Christianity is a text I read earlier in my walk, and I’d like to read it from new more mature eyes.  Authentic Intimacy is coming to my town in January and I want to stay acquainted with the materials as I promote it with churches, leaders, and women I encounter.25qbooks merextian

I’ve definitely been focused on my personal relationship to God, especially now in a light of transition.  I know that God has something in mind, and sometimes I get a bit afraid.  Afraid of what He is going to ask of me, afraid I am not worthy of the calling, afraid I will fail, etc.  I’m looking forward to these 3 books (and yes, 1 doesn’t come out until Feb 2016… don’t covet they neighbor’s books. )  Technically I read one of the books already, but I actually want to take my time and go through it again.

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After reading Don Whitney’s Praying the Bible, I want to explore my prayer life more.  I also have a heart for revival, and realized that in all of the past stories I have heard about revivals… they all started with a prayer group starting somewhere.  Prayer is a powerful tool in the belt of a Christian.  I long to understand how to use it to the fullest capacity.

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I am daily studying the scriptures directly, and I firmly stand on that being the primary way to study scripture.  However, I have always found blessing in other resources.  Two that I have heard great things about have made it to my list this year.  I’m not sure if I will attempt these on my own, or put together a study group (as of right now I already lead a Women of the Word study), I guess I need to pray about that.

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The other thing that is big on my agenda for 2016 is getting a better grip on my health, which I have known means reigning in my diet.  Having an autoimmune based thyroid condition means that I am constantly fighting against my own body.  It’s been a hit or miss on what works best for me, and I’ve been blessed to find an amazing doctor this year who helped me on the medication and supplement end.  Recently I was introduced to a plan by a friend, and I’ve heard good things from others with my condition.  So, I’m going to give it a try.  I bought the book & a cookbook.

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And to cap it off, I got another cookbook.  One thing most people don’t know about me is that I read cookbooks just like I would a novel.  I love them.  In fact I had so many cookbooks at one point, I had to pair down.  One of my favorite cookbooks was the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day cookbook, which is all about bread.  Great… but when the doctor tells you that you need to be gluten free… bread is a no-no.  Boooo.  Well, it turns out the authors came out with a NEW version that includes GLUTEN FREE recipes.  WOOOOOOO.   Merry Christmas to me.  If the gluten free recipes are anything like the original recipes, you’ll find me comatose in the corner … bread crumbs strewn about.

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So… what books are on your 2016 reading list?  Use the comment section to recommend something you read this year, that I MUST read.  Link to your blog with your 2015 or 2016 reading list.  Or, share which of the books I recommended jumped out at you as one you’d like to read.  Join the conversation, and let’s fill the bookshelves!  And you never know… there may be a drawing or two in the works!

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Family Christian, Giving Back

For almost two years now, I have been writing reviews for Family Christian.  It may be books, movies, music, etc… and I really enjoy it.  BUT, my most favorite thing to participate in are their giving back campaigns.  In a nutshell, when a giving back campaign is launched, the bloggers submit who they would want to give a gift to and why.  Then a few of us are selected.  This is my second time giving back.  The first time, I was able to bless Una Esperanza with Bibles to take with them on their last mission trip.

This time, it is a little bit closer to home.

A few months ago my middle school aged daughter called me to pick her up from school early, she was feeling sick.  Bible study was just ending, and I headed straight to her school.  I was wearing a tshirt with a bible verse on it, and had thrown my wallet into my tote bag for the study.  Since the school needed my ID, I just grabbed the tote on my way in.  As I was waiting for my daughter to get to the office from the clinic, the school secretary read the verse on my shirt aloud.  The Dean’s assistant was standing next to her, and made a comment about it.  I responded that I had just come from our weekly bible study meeting.  To which they looked at each other, and the secretary said “Isn’t that nice.”

It was a tone I recognized all to well, the sound of voice we have when someone else is getting to do something we would enjoy but don’t have time for.  When Family Christian wanted to do a holiday giving back campaign, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.  I nominated these two women, who work tirelessly for our school.  I wanted to give them an opportunity to study together during their lunch break at the school.  I shared the story of the encounter and what I would give them.  And, I was selected to participate.

Family Christian sent me a $50 gift certificate to purchase items from their site.

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I selected Jen Wilken’s “Women of the Word”, some multi-colored bible study markers, and journals they could write notes in through their study.

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At our local dollar tree I was able to purchase some pretty paper, ribbon, and snowflakes to wrap the gifts in.  I wanted the gifts to look like something special, so they knew that extra effort was put into their gift.  (Usually, I am a gift bag kind of gal for gifts to teachers).

I stacked each package, putting the journal on the bottom since it was the longest.  The book landed in the middle and the markers on top.  It was perfect!  I wrapped a ribbon around the length of the package, and topped with the snowflake.  I used elmer’s school glue to ensure the snowflake would stay put.

On the day I delivered the packages to the middle school, I was surprised to be honest.  In the elementary school my youngest attends, I saw parents dropping off gifts to the office staff each morning leading toward the last day before break.  In the middle school office, there was nothing.  Ms. S, was at her desk as Christamsy as she could be.  Santa hat on her head, and a Christmas Light necklace adorned her school tshirt.  Yet, there were no gift bags from parents to be seen.  Apparently something happens when kids enter middle school and high school.  Less parents are giving teachers gifts, and even less (and in our case apparently none) were including the front office staff.

The Principal was standing near by, as I let her know I was dropping of a gift to her and Ms. Jones (the Dean’s assistant).  The look on her face, could not have been more shocked.   The Principal started showering her with accolades, acknowledging all that she did for the school.  All the while she was hustling her way around the counter to give me a hug.  As she approached there were tears in her eyes.  She was so grateful that someone appreciated her, that someone was acknowledging her, that she was remembered.  I don’t know much about Ms. S.  Is she married?  Does she have children?  Was she alone for Christmas?  What I do know is that I made her day, and I wouldn’t have done it without Family Christian giving me the nudge.

Ms. Jones was already out of the office for the day, but I left the gift for her. I received a card a few days later.

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The funny thing about all of this is that I thought Family Christian was allowing me an opportunity to give a gift that would encourage two women to study together when they can.  In reality the gift was more than that.  I was the one who received the greatest gift, because it opened my eyes to those who work tirelessly for our children… and often go unrecognized.

Whether it is Christmas, Teacher Appreciation Day, the end of the school year… or just a random Wednesday… take the opportunity to recognize the people in the schools working behind the scenes.  Especially so for our middle and high school support staff and administration.  Secretaries, Cafeteria Workers, Custodians/Janitors, etc are all people who are making an impact on the school your children attend.

A few days ago, my high school daughter shared that she wished the Cafeteria cashier a Merry Christmas… she replied:

“You are the first person to say that to me all week.”

This year is almost over, but the school year still has a few months ahead.  I challenge anyone who reads this (even if you kids do not attend school), what can you do in the coming months as a way to show appreciation to the people in your life that may be working behind the scenes… unnoticed, unrecognized?  People like:

The cleaning crew that comes in to the office after hours.

The teller at the bank who always serves you.

The grocery store cashier, the one you make a point of getting into his or her line because they do a good job.

The high school janitor.

The golf course grounds keepers.

The local police department or fire house.

School Crossing Guards, office security guards, the neighbor who always brings up your trash can, church secretaries, the mechanic who saved you a ton of money this year, etc.  If you are unsure who to recognize, pray that God will reveal the person to you.  Or, that He will provide the funds or means to recognize all of the people you desire to acknowledge.

Official Family Christian Blogger