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Do you want to know more about the Bible, but don’t know where to start? Maybe you’ve started, but have problems sticking with a daily Bible study routine? Are you tired of the same old devotionals and ready for something deeper? Swim in the Deep End invites you into the adventure of studying the Bible for yourself. It answers questions that many people have about Bible study: How do I find time? Where do I start? How do I understand what it means? How do I apply it to my life? And what should I do if I get out of my devotional routine?

This book contains practical answers to these questions and emphasizes relationship with Christ rather than religion. It also has thought-provoking questions at the end of each chapter, making it useful for both individual and group study. The last chapter gives several study plans on topics such as the attributes of God, the will of God, suffering, anxiety, and conflict. It is a great tool for new Christians or anyone who wants to freshen up their Bible study routine.

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Thirsty, Not Guilty

We are halfway through our study of 1 Peter, and if you are anything like me, I suspect you could use some encouragement!  If you’ve fallen behind or missed a few days, don’t feel guilty:

Anyone who has ever devoted themselves to studying the Bible has also experienced the inevitable “dry spell.”  It’s inevitable both because of the sin that dwells within us and the crazy life circumstances that occur outside of our control.  Before we know it, we’ve missed one day, two, then a whole week or month of hearing from God through His Word.  Eventually, life reaches a “boiling point” where we get desperate for God, and we dive into a new devotional or Bible study with renewed vigor, starting the cycle over again.  What if, instead of feeling guilty when we got out of the routine, we felt thirsty?

Granted, we are guilty because we are sinners, but Jesus took away that guilt at the cross and declared those who trust in Him to be righteous.  No amount of reading, underlining, cross-referencing, or memorizing can make us more righteous.  No amount of missed quiet times or forgotten prayers can condemn us in His eyes.  So how about we stop with the legalistic guilt trip and call it like it is:  This world is a desert wilderness, and without a constant trip to the stream of living water, we are bound to be desperately thirsty! –Swim in the Deep End

“On the last day, that great [day] of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” John 7:37-38

Day 1: Open Mouth, Insert Foot

The Gospels read like a blooper-reel of Peter’s blunders.  He’s full of passion, but not much understanding.  Some of his mistakes are rookie-level; others are mega-failures, such as his well-known denial of Christ on the night of His arrest.    Today we will look at Peter’s life from the time Jesus called him until Jesus was crucified.  Please read the following verses and jot down any important observations:

Matthew 4:18-20

Matthew 14:25-32

Matthew 16:13-23

Matthew 26:36-45

Mark 9:2-6

Luke 22:33-62

Discussion Questions:  What would Peter’s legacy have been if the story ended with Jesus’ death?  Can you relate to some of his screw-ups?

FREE study of First Peter and chance to win Chick-fil-a giftcard!

hope

Sometimes everything seems upside down and backwards of how it is supposed to be.  The extent of brokenness in the world has been weighing heavy upon my heart. The only thing that keeps me going is the knowledge that this world is not our home.  The letter of First Peter reminds us that we are pilgrims and sojourners, and while we are grieved by various trials for a short time, we can also rejoice with inexpressible joy because of our salvation in Christ.  Through His resurrection from the dead, we are given a living hope that doesn’t perish or fade away, no matter what our circumstances.  Discouragement fades away in light of what is to come.  Peter experienced that in his own life and then wrote this letter in order to encourage others.

But in order to be encouraged, we must dig down deep into the Word.  When we experience disappointments, failures, and affliction, our natural response will not be hope unless we have read about it, studied it, and made it a part of our lives as natural as a heartbeat.  If we want hope that lasts, we must abide in Christ through the intentional study of His word and prayer!

On August 3, I am going to start a 30-day online study of 1 Peter, following the methods outlined in my book, Swim in the Deep End.  You do not need to have the book to participate, as I will be putting everything you need on the blog.  You will need a journal or computer to record your notes.  The study will last 6 weeks with 5 days per week.  Each day will challenge you to study the text and can probably be completed in 30 minutes or less.  If you would like to participate, please click the “follow” button on the right side of the page and enter your e-mail.  Then you will receive each day’s post right in your inbox.

To promote community interaction during this study, I will also be having a drawing for a $15 Chick-fil-a gift card.  To be eligible for this drawing, you need to comment on at least 4 out of 6 weeks of the study.  Comments that qualify will do at least one of the following:

  • Share what you are learning in 1 Peter/ how it applies to your life
  • Ask a question about what we are studying that week
  • Give a thoughtful reply to someone else’s comment or question

Please share this Bible study opportunity with others who could use some lasting hope!  I will see you in August!

How Much is Enough? (+free book download!)

The other day a woman I was counseling asked me a great question: “How much time should I spend in daily devotions?” She confessed that she felt pressured to live up to what other women in her small group were studying and how much time they were spending. I fought the urge to tell her exactly what I do for my quiet times, and instead answered her question with a question: “How much time do you need in order to have a vibrant and growing relationship with the Lord?” When I asked her that question, she was able to come to a reasonable answer on her own. I think a lot of people are unsure about what devotional times should look like, and often have the question, how much is enough? This is a subject that I address in Swim in the Deep End, as you will see from the following excerpt:

The most cited reason for not studying the Bible (according to my unscientific survey) is “I don’t have enough time.”  In fact, I have used this very excuse in explaining to my friend why I hadn’t been spending time in the Word.  Her response?  “We make time for the things that are important to us.”  Ouch.

Now I’m not going to say a specific number, like “you need to spend x amount of time studying the Bible every day” Remember, this is about building a relationship.  God refers to us as “friends” and the even more tender term, “children”  (John 15:15; Ephesians 1:5).  The relationship between Christ and His church is compared to the most intimate relationship of all, husband and wife (Ephesians 5:22-33).  Can you imagine what my husband would do if I told him, “Okay honey, I can hang out with you every morning between 7:00 and 7:15.  Except on the weekends, when I’ll be sleeping in.  Those days, I probably won’t get around to talking to you at all, except while we’re at church.”  What kind of relationship is that?  I wouldn’t communicate with my husband like that, so why would I do that with God?  While our communication isn’t strictly planned, it is regular and frequent.  Without consistent interaction, we would start to drift apart, immersed in our own worlds.

In the same way, a good relationship with God is a combination of spontaneity and intentionality.  It responds to daily circumstances, but is also comprised of daily discipline.  Some conversations are pleasant and easy; others require hard work and careful listening.

Like what you read? Click here to download the entire book for free now through March 8!

The Things Which We Have Seen and Heard

In my recent study of Ezekiel, I started to get a little confused. At certain points in the book, God tells Ezekiel that he is going to be mute. Then, in the very next verse or chapter, Ezekiel speaks to the people (see Ezek. 24:27 and 25:1, for example). I wondered, how can he be mute and also be speaking?

The answer lies in what he was speaking: the Word of God. He was restricted from speaking unless the word of the Lord came to him. This was explained back in Ezekiel 3:26-27, although I had forgotten about it: “I will make your tongue cling to the roof of your mouth, so that you shall be mute….But when I speak with you, I will open your mouth, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God…..”

The prophet Amos confirmed this experience: “The Lord God has spoken! Who can but prophesy?” (Amos 3:8) And when the Apostles were severely threatened by the Jewish Council and told not to speak in the name of Jesus anymore, they responded, “Uh, that’s all well and good, fellas, but we don’t really have a choice in the matter…for we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard!” (Acts 4:13-20).

It seems that when the Lord has something to reveal about Himself, there is no containing it. He speaks, the world is created. Whatever He says comes to pass. And we are privileged to have the Bible, which is God-breathed, living and active, and sharper than a two-edged sword (2 Tim. 3:16 and Heb. 4:12). How can we not study it, dwell on it, and memorize it? How can we not speak the things which we have seen and heard?

5 Tips for Sticking with Your Bible Reading Plan

Although I generally prefer to study a small section of the Bible in great detail, there’s also something to be said for getting a broad overview by reading through the entire Bible in a year.  It helps you see the overall narrative, pick up on connections, and improve your biblical literacy.  However, it can be hard to stick to a plan.  Below are 5 tips to help you stick to a reading plan in the coming year:

  1. Don’t be a perfectionist. If you get behind a few days, don’t try to make it up.  Instead, just pick up where you should currently be reading and go back only if you have time.  Knowing God is a lifelong pursuit; if you’re reading your Bible consistently, you’ll encounter the part you skipped again sometime.  It’s better to miss a small part and stick with it than quitting because you’ve gotten too far behind.
  2. Do it with someone else. I was the queen of starting Bible-reading plans and not finishing them until I got married.  Now my husband and I do the plan together and he makes sure I stick with it, even when I want to slack off!
  3. Try to read it at the same time every day, or tie it to something in your daily routine that you have to do every day.
  4. Pray that God will give you motivation and perseverance. That’s a prayer He would love to answer positively!
  5. Pick a plan that makes sense to you. Some plans have you reading in four different places every day; personally, I find jumping around that much to be confusing.  Some people like the variety, though.  There are so many plans to pick from—find something that suits your style.  Click here for a Canonical reading plan.  This means that you will encounter the books of the Old Testament in the order that the Ancient Hebrews would have originally read them.  (The New Testament is still in the same order as in the English Bible.)  Happy New Year!

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*Credit for organizing the Canonical reading plan into a spreadsheet, adding some sweet clip art, and making me stick to it all year goes to my awesome husband, Thomas.*