Category Archives: Bible Study

Speaking Debut

Many people don’t know that my wife is a famous, internationally-acclaimed women’s speaker. This is mostly because she has not, as yet, actually been asked to speak in any other countries. Nevertheless, I expect the invitations to start rolling in, any day now.

Each year our church hosts a Christmas Luncheon for women — a lavish, decorative affair in which women of the church vie with one another to host and decorate the most beautiful holiday table. Fine china is dusted off, elaborate centerpieces are constructed, and more than 250 women flock to our church for this bright spectacle. After the meal and traditional singing of Christmas carols, there is usually a speaker who attempts to inspire the women of our church and their guests with a scriptural message. This year, the Women’s Ministries director asked my wife to be the speaker.

While we were putting away the last of the tables, after everyone had gone home, Becky came up to me. “I am so glad that God used me to ask Kathy to speak,” the Women’s Ministries leader confided gleefully.

I had to agree — Kathy presented her ‘talk’, as she called it, with confidence and clarity, using Romans 12:12 as the core of her message:

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer.

Flowers for my girl

Kathy’s parents sent her these beautiful flowers.

My thoughts drift back to that weekend in early October when Kathy ‘got the call’ as we were driving to attend a leadership retreat. Immediately, she asked me my opinion:

“Should I do it? It seems very scary. What if I can’t connect with the women?”

At first, Kathy had many doubts about speaking publicly. Even after we prayed about it for several days, and she had agreed to serve as the speaker, questions continued to bubble up:

  • What passage will I speak on?
  • What if my hands shake and my voice quavers too much?
  • Why would any of these ladies want to listen to me?
  • What if this is not a calling from God, but only my own desire to be heard?
  • What will I wear?

Admittedly, the last question was perhaps the most difficult for me, as a man, to address.

I valiantly made an attempt. “What did you wear last year?”

Men and women don’t always think the same way, I’ve noticed.

Kathy is a busy person; homeschooling five children, running our household, trying to keep enough food in the house to feed ravenous boys — all these seem to fill her hours. Add in an aggressive prayer and Bible-reading schedule and a discipling relationship, and there isn’t a lot of extra time in the day. Still, she dove in and began studying and preparing her message. We gathered commitments from some of the prayer warriors in our church, to pray regularly for the event. It wasn’t long before Kathy had a passage of scripture that was coming alive to her in a new way. Eventually, she developed the entire message, complete with funny personal anecdotes and effective visual props. She wrote it out, first as an outline, and later filled in all the details.

“How do pastors come up with a new sermon every week,” she asked me one day, shaking her head.

3 boxes for the holidays

These three boxes were part of the talk – a spiritual makeover.

I was impressed by her passion and energy. I am currently taking a hiatus from teaching my Adult Sunday School class, largely because those two qualities were missing in my teaching. One week she managed to connect with the speaker from the fall Women’s Retreat, whom she felt did an incredible job of challenging and encouraging the ladies of our church. Kathy drove an hour, and spent the better part of an evening with her; praying, sharing and studying. The week before the event, she began rehearsing in our bedroom, using a CD rack as a podium, and a full-length mirror to hone her eye contact skills.

We continued to pray. We remembered these verses in Matthew 10:18-20:

On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

Although she wasn’t arrested, we still thought the verse would apply. If God wanted Kathy to speak, then God would give her something to say, and would, Himself, cause those words to be effective.

Joshua and Daniel and I had the privilege of serving as waiters for the event, and so (after we bolted down our meal in the kitchen) we were able to watch and listen as Kathy spoke. I was praying furiously, yet somehow still able to listen as she unfolded her ideas and connected with the audience.

It was a great message — simple, practical, spiritual, transparent and personal. The ladies laughed at her jokes and seemed attentive — many of them came up to me afterward and complimented me (presumably because I had the clever foresight to marry Kathy). I am very proud, but even more, I’m delighted to see Jesus glorified and for the gospel to be promoted.

Hope box

Some things in Kathy’s Hope Box – before the makeover.

When we arrived home, Kathy and I went upstairs and snuggled in our bed to talk about the day. Eventually she wound down, and we assembled the kids to do our daily ‘chapter’ Bible reading, currently with an Advent twist.

“How ’bout milkshakes and a Christmas movie,” I shouted. “Who’s with me?” There was a rush of feet for the door. Life goes on, even when you’re a family of an internationally-acclaimed women’s speaker.


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You Are What You Read

In January of this year, Tim, Joshua and I went to a prayer conference in Jefferson, Oregon. We attended this same conference two years ago, but this time we decided to bring Joshua with us and introduce him to some of the concepts of a disciplined spiritual walk.

Sure enough, Joshua loved the conference and has determined to drag some friends along next year. Since we returned home, I have seen a gentle and steady growth in his life. Already committed to daily Bible reading, he has remained faithful and consistent in his study of the Word. On Pastor Duke’s urging, Joshua created a prayer list of important people in his life and ministry. Nearly every afternoon, Joshua sets off, prayer cards tucked in the pocket of his sweatshirt, for a 30 to 40 minute prayer walk.

my oldest boy

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. I Peter 3:12

My own prayer life and commitment to Bible reading has been lackluster and dull for more years than I would care to admit. In fact, the only reason I can write about it now is I have begged the Lord for forgiveness for my apathy and neglect. Imagine my growing shame and conviction as I would see my 15 year old son sitting faithfully, morning after morning, reading his Bible.

“Well, I’ve read the Bible before,”
I would say to myself, grumbling at the pricks of conscience.

“I go to Bible study every week. Okay, nearly every week. I even do my study, most of the time. That’s reading the Bible. We’re in Esther right now. I read it today, or yesterday. Well, maybe I did 4 days worth of lessons last night, still that’s pretty good. I did finish the week’s work in time for the discussion. I wouldn’t want anyone to think I didn’t do my lesson.”

“Not to mention,” here we go, “Sunday School class. I go to the Adult Bible Fellowship class on Sunday mornings. We’ve studied book after book of the Bible. That’s some in-depth and serious reading.” The defenses go up pretty quickly.

“No, I don’t read it during the week, or look at the passages ahead of time. That’s what the teacher is for! I’m in class, though, and I bring my Bible with me every week.”

Oh, Lord forgive my pride and arrogance! To think I could grow spiritually with such a casual disregard for the Word of God.

In February, I began to listen to a series of sermons by Pastor Duke, called The Daily Dozen Duties. Dee is easy to listen to, with homespun illustrations and practical applications.

With each sermon, I became more and more alive and excited about my walk with the Lord. I was convicted about my flabby spiritual muscles and the lack of time I have spent in pursuing God.

tim, dee and moi

We paid big bucks for this shot with Pastor Duke.

“No more,” I decided. “Time for a radical change.”

In the middle of February, I began to practice the dozen duties – read my Bible, confess sin, pray for wisdom, commit my day to the Lord, and so on – on a daily basis. Not just once or twice, or halfheartedly, but with commitment and consistency.

I printed up cards on the first four points, reminding me of the scriptural basis for the daily dozen, and posted them around the house. I purchased audio versions of the Bible to load on my phone. I ordered an ESV translation of the Bible for my phone so I could read along during the day. I committed to reading a Psalm, Proverb, and New/Old Testament chapter each day. Soon that wasn’t enough. I decided to follow Pastor Duke’s example and read 5 Psalms and a chapter of Proverbs a day, going through all of Psalms and Proverbs monthly.

My love of reading God’s Word was renewed. My desire for Him grew and grew. I calculated the chapters in the Gospels and the letters to the church and divided them into a monthly reading schedule. I’m committed to reading the Psalms, Proverbs, Gospels and Epistles entirely each month! I use my phone notepad to keep track of my reading schedule.

My prayer is that this would not be a “fad” or passing fancy, but the beginning of a deep and abiding love for the scriptures. I share this, not to brag or be prideful (“Lord, my eyes are on You alone, and my ears do not seek the praise of man.”), but to encourage you to pick up your Bible!

Psalm 119 is full of the blessings that come from reading God’s Word – comfort, purity, rescue, understanding, joy, salvation, guidance, and on and on. I am greedy for those blessings and more!

studying to be knights

Not the scriptures, but at least they’re reading. Ha!

I read in the mornings when I dry my hair (ear phones on, listening to the audio Bible and following along with the text). I read in the car when I’m waiting for the children. I sneak time to read on the elliptical at the Y. I read it on the couch, snuggled under a blanket, a steaming cup of coffee in one hand. I read it at night while brushing my teeth.

Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Psalm 119:97

I am embarrassed to be a Christian of thirty-some years and to be so shallow and immature in my faith. I am racing to catch up, running and striving with everything I can to deepen my walk. As my children grow and change (and, in many ways, pass me in maturity and wisdom), I find myself confronted with my own aging. My eyes are opening to the fact that my time here on this earth is limited. I want to become a Champion for Christ, and make good use of every opportunity I have to serve Him. I feel a sense of urgency which drives me.

these two are buddies!

I’m praying these two will also become Champions for the Lord!

Along with being committed to intense, daily Bible reading, Pastor Duke is a prayer warrior. He prays 3 hours a day himself, encourages his congregation to pray every day for 15 minutes, and to work up to one hour, one day a week.

“What??? How am I going to find an hour in my day to pray?” I asked Tim plaintively. “I’m already spending all my free time reading the Bible.”

Tim shrugged. “You’re not going to find the time, you’re going to have to make the time.”

Ouch! Sure enough, there IS time in my day. Here and there, little pieces are available for prayer. I am no where near an hour yet. I pray in the mornings when I’m in the shower (is that too much information?) and try to pray/journal some every day. Tim and I pray together at least twice during the week.

My beloved friends, I strongly encourage you to find your passion for the Lord. Do not do as I did for so many years, and settle for a mediocre, lackluster spiritual walk. Stop by Pastor Duke’s church website. Go to his sermon archives and download some of the sermons. The daily dozen are on page seven. You will be blessed and encouraged! Play the sermons in your car, on the computer, on your mp3 player, wherever is most convenient.

To God be the Glory! I’m excited to see what work He will do in me next.

May the Lord bless the reading of His Word and find me faithful.


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Summer of the Heart

This time of year is always sort of bittersweet for me. August and September are the most beautiful months in our part of the world, and there is still some time before Summer is over. Our Fall schedule of home-schooling, Co-op, Physical Education at the YMCA, and various church activities doesn’t usually start until the middle of September, and so we have a few weeks left to cherish.

But already the seasons are turning, and the days are shorter. It is now dark at 9 pm, and today roughly marks the 1/3 point from the summer to the winter solstice. “Where did Summer go?” I ask myself plaintively.

let's go to the river

A visit to the water is always a treat.

I feverishly try to recount the sunny days in my head. True, we’ve had some hot weather, and quite a bit of sunshine, but there’s been a fair bit of rain mixed in, too. This week we’ve had cool temperatures, clouds and rain; it feels like Fall.

It is hard not to panic. “Wait!” Kathy and I cry. “We didn’t get our fair share of golden warmth! Kathy can’t face another gloomy Seattle winter without storing up some heat!” Indeed, most of my tomatoes haven’t even ripened, a sure barometer of an insufficiently-warm summer (or possibly a deficient gardener).

I take a deep breath, and reflect.

don't worry daddy

Silly Daddy, it’s okay.

One of the things I like best about being adopted into God’s family and a follower of Christ is that I don’t have to worry about being ‘out of time’. To the extent that I submit myself to the will of Jesus, I am never too late and never too early, I never miss an opportunity and I can always trust that everything will be done in its proper time. I am, after all, immortal, thanks to the gift of eternal life through faith in God’s Son.

let me grab a rock

What boy doesn’t love finding (and throwing) the perfect rock?

Of course, I don’t always subordinate myself to the will of my God, which is another problem altogether.

Still, I have a master who knows when the smallest sparrow falls, and He loves me and cares about every detail of my life. If He allows this Summer to pass quickly, then I can exercise my faith and believe that He has His purpose, and I can submit cheerfully to it, without feeling cheated or cut short.

New Jerusalem
Not the actual New Jerusalem.

I hug to my heart the promise of golden summers of Eternity, as the light from the Throne blazes out across the river, illuminating the twelve Trees of Life and their fruit, always in season:

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place. — Revelation 22:1-6


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I am constantly amazed at how the Holy Spirit works different threads in our lives together to convict us of sin and spur us on in righteousness and growth. Idle conversation with one person combines with a song we hear on the radio, and then, BANG! Something we read in the Bible connects with us in a way it never did before, and changes us forever. I call this “convergence”, and it happened to me again today.

About eighteen months ago, I discovered what I wanted to be when I grow up: I want to be a Champion for Jesus. I was attending a prayer seminar down in Oregon, and the speaker was talking about how most pastors would give their right arm for someone who could be, er, their right-hand man. “A champion is the kind of person you could ask to start a new program in a church, and they make it happen and get it done. They don’t complain about how busy they are, or come running back to you for every little decision, but they boldly use their gifts to build up the body of Christ, and God gives them success.” Since this was a prayer conference, it was pointed out that champions are generally men and women of prayer.

Ice cream!  Ice Cream!

Sometimes they also let me be the Ice Cream Man.

One of the best things about our church (from my perspective) is that I am allowed to teach (or at least lead) an Adult Bible Fellowship (ABF) class. Cooler than traditional adult Sunday School classes, ABFs are adult Bible classes that meet on, er, Sundays.

Many churches don’t do Sunday School for grownups anymore — in fact, when we first moved to this area and were shopping for a church, we had a hard time finding one that offered anything beyond the ‘standard’ worship service with a sermon. Personally, I think this is unfortunate for several reasons:

  1. An adult Bible fellowship class can focus on an exegetical study of the scriptures, chapter by chapter, verse by verse. While some classes are topical in nature, I tend to study the scriptures book by book, taking each verse and dealing with it as it comes. Over the past several years, we’ve studied nearly all the epistles and a handful of minor prophets, and now we’re most of the way through the gospel of John.
  2. There’s a difference between having the scriptures explained to you, and working as a group to understand them. I’m a big fan of the Inductive study method, in which I (as ‘teacher’) come up with a set of Observation, Interpretation and Application questions, which we all discuss in class. We hammer out a group consensus answer to each question, not pooling our ignorance, but rather pooling our knowledge of related scripture and the revelation of the Holy Spirit in our individual lives.
  3. There’s a big difference between having a message preached ‘at’ you, and taking part in a discussion about the scripture. Our class ranges in size from 8 to 18, and nearly everyone speaks up. It is very hard to fall asleep or tune out in that kind of a venue — whereas even the most disciplined mind can wander when sitting in a church pew, disengaged from the sermon.

I could go on and on — I’m a huge believer in adult Sunday School. “Show me a person who attends an adult Sunday School class, and I’ll show you someone in whose life God is actively working,” I often say (or at least I would say that if anyone ever gave me a chance).

Some people worry that Adult Sunday School classes can compete with or dilute other ministries, and some churches have stopped offering them because they fear that people “won’t come to church for so long on a Sunday”. I think this is hogwash. Members of the early church met every day for prayer and fellowship in the upper room they rented, and (at least some of them) attended daily teaching in Solomon’s Colonnade (in the temple) as well. I don’t think there is anything about modern life that precludes a much higher level of participation in church programs, Bible studies, service projects, and the traditional worship service experience.

I can catch that truck.

That clown wants some ice cream BAD!

But I digress. I set out to write about convergence, and I must make good on that promise.

Today we were studying the 16th chapter of the gospel of John, in which Jesus begins to explain the transition between His physical ministry and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Concerned that the disciples might fall away, He exhorted them (in chapter 15) to remain connected to Himself, as the Vine to their Branches. We speculated about how the disciples must have felt, exchanging a solidly-present Jesus for an invisible Spirit “for their own good”, according to Jesus.

One thing led to another, and we began talking about the way that, as good servants and citizens of Heaven, we persevere and endure trouble and hardship for our King for the good of the Kingdom as a whole, not necessarily for our own comfort or enjoyment. We talked about Paul’s word picture of running a race, and how it serves as such a good metaphor for the Christian experience.

Less than an hour later, our pastor preached on Hebrews 12, with a primary focus on this verse:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1

BANG! Convergence!

Bang - that's scary!

“Daddy, did you say a bad word?”

Sitting in my usual pew, I noticed a new banner hanging near the front of the sanctuary. The image portrayed a runner, bursting through a finish-line tape as he came through wide open, heavenly gates. The caption was something like “Be a champion for Christ”, and so I nudged Kathy. “That’s what I want to be,” I whispered.

BANG! Convergence!

It is just one more of the cool ministries of the Holy Spirit, to further cement the truth that He reveals during Sunday School by affirming it again in the worship service. I would say that it is rare that a Sunday goes by, and we fail to find a connection between the sermon and what we studied in class — and I’m pretty sure that the pastor and I aren’t comparing notes.

As we studied today in John 16:

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth …

We serve a great God.


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An Early Start

“If we’re not careful we’ll lose a good portion of our Saturday,” Tim said as Friday night rolled on and neither of us showed any sign of retiring.

Those words woke me up this morning and pushed me out of bed and down the stairs. My head was fuzzy and my eye lids heavy, but I was determined to get up. The house was quiet. It wasn’t particularly early (in fact, I can’t post the time as my beloved morning friends and family member would roll their eyes) but the house was quiet. After a late night of fireworks, the children were all still fast asleep.

I grabbed my Bible study book and pen and settled in on Big Blue, our love seat recliner.

Reading the first page, I prepared to answer the questions. “Rats, I forgot to get my Bible,” I mumbled to myself. “Surely there’s one on this little table. Who picked up this room anyway? There are books piled everywhere.” Grumble, grumble. Always a good place to start a Bible study.

Spotting my Bible across the room, I decided I would just close my eyes for a few minutes before leaping enthusiastically up and getting it.

20 minutes later I was still napping, study book and pen clasped firmly in my arms.

So much for embracing the day and getting an early start. I think I would have done better had my early start included a cup of coffee.


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