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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Devotions and Bible Study Inspirations


I can't say I've been consistent in doing my devotions or studying the Bible and prayer every day like I should. I'm embarrassed to confess my sins of neglecting God. The one who loved me enough to give His Son's life to save me and I can't take time out of my schedule to get to know Him. He loves me because He created me and created this world for me to live and sent His Holy Spirit to live within me when I got saved and gave me His Word... but I neglect and avoid Him. God forgive me.

And He does forgive me when I repent. I have no need to avoid Him as He is a merciful, loving and forgiving God. I should run to Him when I mess up and not try to hide behind my fig leaves!

But I've given a lot of thought on how to motivate myself to spend this time daily with God. It takes self discipline for sure. But by that I don't mean I have to force myself. That doesn't work too good as we don't have a lot of will power. God knows how hard it is for us understand spiritual things so He sent His Holy Spirit to live within us when we are saved to empower us and enable us to understand. Just think! His very Spirit lives within us to help us with understanding Him and His Word. All we have to do is ask Him for the help and take the first steps.

I've been there. Where I'm not in the mood to study the Bible but I ask for God's help and wisdom and make myself pull out the Bible. Before you know it, I'm diving in and excited with what I'm learning.

Sometimes we need a little inspiration. We need to change things up a little so we don't get bored. When I go to the gym and walk on the treadmill every day I get bored with the treadmill so I need to switch around to other machines. This also helps develop other muscles and strengthens us in different areas of the body. So let's look at some ways to study the Bible or do our devotions in new ways.

We may be used to reading a verse and an inspirational paragraph or two. There are many devotional books out there that you may have heard of such as My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, Streams In The Dessert by Lettie Cowman. You can take it a step further by choosing one of these excellent devotional books with a notes section. I'm a big believer in using a pen and I underline things. Others like highlighters and or using sticky note arrows (and if you don't want to damage your book with markings, then use sticky notes, I found these and love them). As you read, underline/highlight/place indicators. Then make notes. You can journal your thoughts on what you've read; write a prayer based on what you've read; jot down other scriptures that go along with what you've read. Of course, if you have the book but it doesn't have a notes section, just use a blank book for your notes.

We are used to the Bible-In-A-Year reading list. If you have never read the Bible through, I suggest you start with this. It is a list for every day of Old and New Testament readings that will lead you through the entire Bible in one year. Please, if you miss a day, don't let that stop you. Just pick up where you left off. Just because it says the reading is for February 21st and you missed a couple of days, doesn't mean you give up. Even if it's March 3rd, just go back to February 22nd and pick up where you left off. No one, especially not God, is going to smack you because you missed a couple of days and are behind on the reading list. I guess that's one of the most important things I could tell you... If you miss a day, don't give up. I have a tad of OCD so if a devotional book or reading list says February 21st, I think I've got to read February 21st. If I don't, then it overwhelms me and I would rather give up or catch up. I finally realized how very silly that was. If I just tell myself to forget the dates, don't even look at them, and continue where I left off, I do better. God loves us and desires time with us, He will take us whenever we come to Him. I'm not saying to take our time with Him lightly. I'm just saying, He is always there when we finally stop long enough to reach out to Him. We hurt ourselves when we don't check in with Him daily. He is our source and we need that contact daily. Not because He needs us, but we need Him. Our bodies need nutrients to stay healthy. When we don't eat, or take in nutrients, our body weakens. So it is with our spirit. Our spirit was made to receive nourishment from the Father. We are weakened when we don't get that daily flow of spiritual nourishment. He is still God, still on the throne, still in control and still as powerful as ever. He doesn't need us. He wants us, but He doesn't need us. He has always been God, is God and always will be God. His perfection and completion is perfect. He wanted us, He desires us, but He doesn't NEED us in order to be God. But we need Him. If a branch is torn from the tree, does it stay alive and keep growing? No, it dies, shrivels, gets brittle and decays. We need to attach to the tree to receive spiritual strength, nourishment and health. If we miss a day without God, we are the ones who are hurt. But never let that stop you from running to God when you can. Start where you left off and never let guilt or procrastination stop you from getting right back to it.

Another way to add a little change is to select a devotional book that is targeting a special area. For instance, a devotional for Mothers, a devotional for alcoholics, a devotional book that targets certain problems like unforgiveness, anger, negativity. Or look for a devotional that targets some spiritual fruit that you want to see grow in your life like humility, holiness, worship.

Short devotional books are great for those who have limited time. I have a lot of time that I could use for Bible study and devotions but a lot of people don't with jobs, families and activities. So these devotionals can be what you can grab, open, and jump right in without having to do any searches, homework, etc. For me, I use devotionals for short time periods that I have during the day. I keep them at hand with a pen attached and can use them when I have 10-15 mins available. Such as when I'm waiting on the clothes to dry or the water to boil.

You don't have to be stuck with one devotional book per year. Right now I have two devotional books  (pens attached) that I'm working my way through during those short time periods I have available. That's in addition to my other Bible studies. So when you are in the mood to read Streams In The Dessert, grab that one. When you are in the mood to read God Calling, grab it.

That's another tip. Some of you may need, and want, to read the devotions for the day, everyday. So on January 1st, you read the devotion for January 1st. But, for me, I quit following the schedule. I was OCD about it and it really bothered me. I would read every day for 3 days then miss a couple of days. When I would go back to it, I struggled with whether I go back and catch up or just start on the day. I found that my OCD trigger was causing me to start avoiding going back to my devotions. I.e., if I missed 3 days of my devotions, I would feel like I'd messed up the schedule so I might as well give up. So now I've forced myself to not even look at the dates. I just pick it up where I left off despite what date is at the top of the page. This has freed me! Sometimes I read 2, 3, 6 devotions all at one time. Sometimes it's just one. Just depends on the time I have for it.

Some denominations have devotional books or magazines along with prayer lists that come out once a month or quarterly. The Baptist Courier is the official Christian news magazine of the churches of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.
For those who like to follow lists, this is a great way to direct your readings and prayer. For instance, each day you read a scripture, read the inspirational reading and then pray for schools and Missionary John Smith in Africa. Although I'm a list maker, note taker, etc. this doesn't really work for me BECAUSE, once again, that little bit of OCD in me makes me feel guilty and overwhelmed if I miss a day or week and then, before you know it, I'm avoiding it altogether because I feel so guilty. I try to release myself from lists and rely on the Holy Spirit directing my prayers. But I know it's very helpful for others and you may be one of those. Maybe you need, want, appreciate that kind of structure and that's great! I have gone through periods of my life where I made prayer lists and followed prayer lists. If you are not a member of a denomination or your denomination doesn't have these type of structured readings, devotions and prayer lists - ask someone to bring them to you from their church. These publications are usually free and handed out at church. Take advantage of these.

Read a Christian book in short sections as a devotional. There are so many wonderful Christian books. Take one and read a chapter at a time and then think about it, journal your thoughts.

Use the hymnal to do your devotions. Take one hymn at a time. Look it up on Google to find out the history of that hymn. Read the verses. Then journal about it.



Verse mapping. I did a whole blog post on this.

Topical studies. Choose a topic that interests you and begin to delve into it. Are you interested in angels? Do some research on angels. Google it. Check out some books at the library or get one or two from Amazon. Read scriptures on angels, keep notes on all that you learn. Don't get off on rabbit trails laid out by people who are unbalanced and out in left field. Some people worship angels rather than the God who created the angels. Some people get way out there. So don't get caught up in that. Select any topic you want to learn more about. Maybe you want to learn what God has to say about gardening. That would be a huge topic because God used nature all the time to teach lessons. Maybe you have a question about what happens to animals when they die. Or maybe you want to understand what a man's role is in the home. Maybe you need parenting help. You can study about Heaven (or Hell). When you feel satisfied with a subject, then go to another topic. But don't leave the topic until you feel satisfied. Study it, read about it, find all the scriptures about it and read them. Get books about it, look it up in Nave's Topical Bible and Concordance to find all the scripture references to it. Keep your notebook with you and take notes. Remember, it's not a test. You aren't studying for a passing grade. There is no pressure. You are learning about something that you need, or are interested in, for your own satisfaction.






Chapter studies - Each day read a chapter in a book of the Bible. Read it at least 3 times and preferably in different translations. Finish by reading it outloud to yourself. Then begin to focus on things that stand out to you. Underline, highlight. Do you have questions? Write them down and try to find answers by checking in concordances.

Book studies - Focus on a book of the Bible and tear it apart! Let's say you want to study Hebrews. Be ready to read it in short segments or chapter by chapter or even verse by verse. Read the concordances notes and explanations. Pick out primary words and look them up in a Strong's Exhaustive Concordance. There are books you can get that focus on just a book of the Bible. Psalms is a great one to start with. Maybe take apart a chapter of Psalms each day. I've also done Ecclesiastes. I'm working on Revelation and should finish it this year. Some people like to do the gospels. I might suggest, if you do them, that you use a chronological Bible. This is a Bible that takes the scripture and puts it in chronological order, the order in which the events actually happened. Prophetic books are interwoven with the historical accounts they accompanied. Psalms follow the events about which they were written. Proverbs are placed in the time they were compiled. The life of Christ is woven into one moving story. And Paul’s letters to the young churches in the first century are integrated into the book of Acts.

Prayer book devotions - You can order prayer books and then do them as devotionals. The Episcopals have the Common Book of Prayer. The Catholics have prayer books. But we can also type in prayer book at Amazon and get a whole list of prayer books. These are books with written prayers that we can read and study and then simply pray them. I don't mean to just repeat them outloud but really focus and pray them. Such as the prayer books by Stormie Omartian like The Power of the Praying Wife (and one for the Praying Husband), the Power of the Praying Parent, etc. Then there are books like Prayers That Avail Much and the 12 Step Prayer Book. There are so many to choose from.


Psalms - Reading Psalms as a devotional was mentioned under Book Studies. Psalms is such a wonderful study.

Listening to your devotions - You can try listening to your devotions. Listen to pod casts, play worship music, listen to sermons on CD.

Youtube devotions - You can google subjects and watch Youtube videos on your topic. Most pastors now have their sermons on video whether it's live streaming or a video library. Some people have created devotions on video. Like I do my blog posts, they feel comfortable doing it on video and posting on Youtube. Go to Youtube and search on Bible Devotions and start picking the ones you are interested in. You will eventually find ones that you like - pastors or teachers you like, styles you like. Just be sure they aren't teaching crazy stuff as there are false teachers (just like the Bible warns us).

Draw your devotions - If you are artistic, then you might challenge yourself to draw as part of your devotions. This can be simple stick figures all the way up to art projects. You start by reading your scripture and then you begin to draw or paint what comes to mind. Let's say you are reading through Revelation and you read a few verses and then you begin to draw, sketch or paint what you are seeing as you read it. Is it the red dragon or the New Jerusalem, the Great White Throne Judgment, etc.








These people had some artistic skill. Depending on your level of artistic skill, draw what you are thinking about when you read the Word. Use a sketch pad and pencil/pen, or paint, or just doodle in the margins of your Bible (your own illustrated Bible). I would love to be able to paint what I'm seeing in my head while studying the Word. But I'm not an artist so all I can do are stick figures. Here are some of mine in the margins of a parallel Bible I have:
























Color and chant - There are new adult coloring books now. Some people really love them. It's soothing to them to color the complex pictures and designs. But did you know they make some of these coloring books with Bible verses? I got one on Psalms. You have the Psalm written and then a picture so you can color it in. It's good for memorizing the verse. As you color chant the verse over and over. You can sort of sing it too if you like. A lot of praise and worship songs are just scripture put to music. You can do a Google image search and find some for free, just print them. Either complex ones or simpler, even children's coloring pages. Don't get caught up in the art or coloring but color as you focus on the scripture, repeating it over and over again.




Study a person in the Bible - Pick a person in the Bible to study. Maybe Esther, David, Jonathon, Abraham, Peter, Timothy or some of the judges. Find all the scripture you can on that particular person. Remember there may be mentions of this person in other books of the Bible. For instance, if you study Moses, you will find references for him all over, even in the New Testament. So read everything about that person. Try to develop a timeline of that person's life. You might need to do a little genealogy and make a family tree. If you are studying Adam, it will surprise you how long he lived and who his descendants are. Here are some examples, But make charts that make sense to YOU:



If you are studying Leah, you will be interested in who her ancestors were. If you study Samuel, you will want to study what he said and his prophecies too. If you want to study David, read the Psalms that he wrote too.
Now that might sound like a long study but who is to say how long your study should last? It can be a year long study, or more. As long as you are still interested, take as long as you want. You are released from the study of that person when you feel released.

Pray scripture - Read the scripture of the day and then pray it. Sometimes that's pretty easy as it seems to be written as a prayer. But sometimes it may be challenging. Let's say your daily Bible reading is in the "begats" of the Bible. How can you pray this scripture? How about praying for your family, thanking God for your ancestry, thanking God for your spiritual heritage. Thanking God that He works through the lines of men.

Study Christian history - I did this one time and learned so much. My husband was taking it as a class in college so I used his textbook and Google and followed Christianity from the early church through the Reformation. You can do as I did and teach yourself from the early church forward. Go to Amazon and search for books on Christian history and you will find quite a few. Or you can take certain time periods and study them such as the early church, the Crusades, the Inquisition, mission work in the newly discovered Americas, the Reformation, early American revivals, etc. You could also study historical Christian men and women such as saints, missionaries, Christian writers like C.S. Lewis, Billy Graham, American revival leaders, circuit riding preachers, etc.


Do a Bible study with others - Every year I try to take an indepth Bible study with a group. Whether it's a Sunday School class, a women's group, a study led by your pastor on Wednesday night, etc. Not just regular preaching or little short inspiring Sunday School classes but if it's an indepth study then it qualifies. For instance I know a pastor who set aside Wednesday night for an indepth study on Revelation. It took several years of weekly services to finish the study. He took it verse by verse. That would certainly qualify. Other times I've done a group study to go through classes like Beth Moore's Bible studies, Erilynn Barnum's Call To Discipleship (C2D) Bible studies, etc. You get a book and/or a workbook to go along with the video you watch each week and the discussion.
I've always loved this because the discussion can be so interesting. Maybe you and your spouse would like to study something together. There are lots of books for couples studies. We went through the Love Dare Devotional and Exercise as part of a couples class. On Amazon there is Couples Devotional, Devotions for Sacred Marriage, Couples Devotional Bible, Moments Together, etc.  Maybe you and your siblings, other family members, a group of friends, or coworkers, want to do a devotion together.


Focus on the Names of God - Make a list of the names of God in the Bible and then study each one. God is called Jehovah, Yahweh, Elohim, Alpha and Omega, God Almighty, etc.



What kind of Bible resources are there to study the Bible? A lot! And the best are old enough to be free and accessible on the Internet! (I.e. No copyright problems.) You can purchase all of these in hard copy books through Amazon. You can get these in free apps for your mobile devices. You can access them on your laptop/desktop computer via the Internet.

There are Bible Dictionaries such as Smith's Bible Dictionary, Easton's Bible Dictionary, Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Hitchcock's New and Complete Analysis of the Holy Bible, King James Dictionary.

There are Commentaries such as Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible, Matthew Henry's Commentary, Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary, Jamieson-Faucet-Brown Commentary, Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible, Pulpit Commentary.

There are Concordances. You can look up any word in the Bible, even by different translations. It will list every occurrence of that word in the Bible. If you look up "angel", it will list every occurrence of the word "angel" in the Bible. It will give a snatch of the verse with the word in it so you can look for a specific verse. There is even the biggy! Strong's Exhaustive Concordance. If you buy a hard copy of this book, it's a very large book. You have 3 sections: the concordance (and exhaustive means it literally lists EVERY word), a Hebrew dictionary and a Greek dictionary. Once you find the word, it has all the verses where the word occurs. You select the verse you are interested in, locate the number to the right. The next two sections of Strong's are the Greek dictionary and Hebrew dictionary. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and the New Testament was written in Greek. So if the number has a G in front of it, you look the number up in the Greek Dictionary. If the number has an H in front of it, you look the number up in the Hebrew Dictionary. Strong's goes into a lot of detail that might mean more to Greek and Hebrew scholars but you can get what you want from it and overlook the rest. For instance, you probably don't care what the word looks like in Greek or how it's pronounced in Hebrew, etc. Let's look at an example:

Revelation 20:12 I also saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life, and the dead were judged according to their works by what was written in the books.

The word I want to look up is "dead". I would look up dead and find this verse and it would give me Strong's number... G3498. I would go to the Greek dictionary and look up 3498.

Strong's Greek 3498 - dead - νεκρούς (nekrous) - Adjective - Accusative Masculine Plural
(a) adj: dead, lifeless, subject to death, mortal, (b) noun: a dead body, a corpse. From an apparently primary nekus; dead.

Some of this looks Greek to me! Literally! But what I would get from this for my study would be that it's a noun (I know this from the context of the scripture) and literally means someone who is dead, physically dead, a corpse. This is not someone who has fainted or is sleeping hard. This is a dead body. What does that mean to me? This verse is saying the dead are resurrected and standing before the throne. And you go from there.


There are topical studies. For instance, if you want to study all the Bible has to say about the fruits of the spirit. Look up "gentleness" in the Nave's Topical Bible and it will give you topics and the scriptures that go with gentleness.

Easton's Bible Dictionary
Lookup any topic, name or word just like a regular dictionary. Here is the entry for Ham.

Ham: warm, hot, and hence the south; also an Egyptian word meaning "black", the youngest son of Noah (Gen 5:32; Gen 9:22,24). The curse pronounced by Noah against Ham, properly against Canaan his fourth son, was accomplished when the Jews subsequently exterminated the Canaanites.

One of the most important facts recorded in Gen. 10 is the foundation of the earliest monarchy in Babylonia by Nimrod the grandson of Ham (6, 8, 10). The primitive Babylonian empire was thus Hamitic, and of a cognate race with the primitive inhabitants of Arabia and of Ethiopia. (See ACCAD.)

The race of Ham were the most energetic of all the descendants of Noah in the early times of the post-diluvian world.


Commentaries
Here you look up the Bible verse and then search different commentaries for explanations about that verse. Some commentaries are virtually verse by verse studies. Some are shorter because they take segments of scripture such as Luke 16:19-31. See following example:

Luke 16:23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.

A single verse:
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
23. in hell—not the final place of the lost (for which another word is used), but as we say "the unseen world." But as the object here is certainly to depict the whole torment of the one and the perfect bliss of the other, it comes in this case to much the same.

A segment of scripture:
Matthew Henry Commentary
16:19-31 Here the spiritual things are represented, in a description of the different state of good and bad, in this world and in the other. We are not told that the rich man got his estate by fraud, or oppression; but Christ shows, that a man may have a great deal of the wealth, pomp, and pleasure of this world, yet perish for ever under God's wrath and curse. The sin of this rich man was his providing for himself only. Here is a godly man, and one that will hereafter be happy for ever, in the depth of adversity and distress. It is often the lot of some of the dearest of God's saints and servants to be greatly afflicted in this world. We are not told that the rich man did him any harm, but we do not find that he had any care for him. Here is the different condition of this godly poor man, and this wicked rich man, at and after death. The rich man in hell lifted up his eyes, being in torment. It is not probable that there are discourses between glorified saints and damned sinners, but this dialogue shows the hopeless misery and fruitless desires, to which condemned spirits are brought. There is a day coming, when those who now hate and despise the people of God, would gladly receive kindness from them. But the damned in hell shall not have the least abatement of their torment. Sinners are now called upon to remember; but they do not, they will not, they find ways to avoid it. As wicked people have good things only in this life, and at death are for ever separated from all good, so godly people have evil things only in this life, and at death they are for ever put from them. In this world, blessed be God, there is no gulf between a state of nature and grace, we may pass from sin to God; but if we die in our sins, there is no coming out. The rich man had five brethren, and would have them stopped in their sinful course; their coming to that place of torment, would make his misery the worse, who had helped to show them the way thither. How many would now desire to recall or to undo what they have written or done! Those who would make the rich man's praying to Abraham justify praying to saints departed, go far to seek for proofs, when the mistake of a damned sinner is all they can find for an example. And surely there is no encouragement to follow the example, when all his prayers were made in vain. A messenger from the dead could say no more than what is said in the Scriptures. The same strength of corruption that breaks through the convictions of the written word, would triumph over a witness from the dead. Let us seek to the law and to the testimony, Isa 8:19,20, for that is the sure word of prophecy, upon which we may rest, 2Pe 1:19. Circumstances in every age show that no terrors, or arguments, can give true repentance without the special grace of God renewing the sinner's heart.


Concordance
Ham
1Ch 1:4 Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
1Ch 1:8 The sons of Ham; Cush, and Mizraim, Put, and Canaan.
1Ch 4:40 And they found fat pasture and good, and the land was wide, and quiet, and peaceable; for they of Ham had dwelt there of old.
Psa 78:51 And smote all the firstborn in Egypt; the chief of their strength in the tabernacles of Ham:
Psa 105:23 Israel also came into Egypt; and Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham.
Psa 105:27 They shewed his signs among them, and wonders in the land of Ham.
Psa 106:22 Wondrous works in the land of Ham, and terrible things by the Red sea.


Strong's Exhaustive Concordance
Lookup the word in the Concordance section and find the number on the right side (in this case it is G86, see below)
Matthew 11:23 G86
Matthew 16:18 G86
Luke 10:15 G86
Luke 16:23 G86
Acts 2:27 G86
Acts 2:31 G86
1 Corinthians 15:55 G86
Revelation 1:18 G86
Revelation 6:8 G86
Revelation 20:13 G86
Revelation 20:14 G86

G=Greek  (If it had an H, then H=Hebrew Dictionary)
Lookup the number in the Greek Dictionary

86
ᾅδης
properly, unseen, i.e. "Hades" or the place (state) of departed souls
Derivation: from G1 (as negative particle) and


Nave's Topical Bible
Gentleness
Gentleness: Of Christ
Isa 40:11; 2Cr 10:1; Mat 11:29
See JESUS, COMPASSION OF; JESUS, HUMILITY OF; JESUS, MEEKNESS OF.

Gentleness: Of God
2Sa 22:36; Psa 18:35; Isa 40:11
See GOD, COMPASSION OF; GOD, LONG-SUFFERING OF

Of Paul,
1Th 2:7.

Gentleness: Exhortations To
Gal 5:22; 2Ti 2:24-26; Tts 3:1, 2; Jam 3:17
See HUMILITY; KINDNESS; MEEKNESS; PATIENCE.

Links to some great Bible Study resource material all for free!
Biblehub.com
BibleStudyTools.com
Biblegateway.com
Studylight.org
GotQuestions.org


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