How to Study the Word More Thoroughly: The Re-Reading Method

Hey, BPR readers! As you’re reading this (that is, if you’re reading this on Friday, April 15, 2022), I am at Missouri Youth Convention with our church youth group where young people across the state of Missouri are worshipping God together, receiving the Holy Ghost, and hearing anointed messages from the Lord for their lives.  As such, today’s post is a bit simpler, but I hope you find it helpful!

Today, we’ll be diving into one Bible study method I’ve been using that’s helped me study the Word more thoroughly. One of our associate pastors at my church once mentioned the phrase “digging for diamonds” when mentioning Bible studying and how we ought to dig deep and truly search the Scriptures for understanding if we’re going to know the Word and draw closer to God.

I dubbed this Bible study method the “re-reading method.”

Read, then re-read, then re-read, and then re-read again.

That’s right. It seems like a pretty basic Bible study method. Just read the Word, right? Well, there’s a lot more to it than that. Last year, I read the Bible through, but I’ve always found it difficult to truly study the Word when I’m just trying to get through a certain number of chapters in a day so I can meet my goal.

So, this year, I’ve been reading through Romans, and I’m on my 3rd go-round now. The re-reading method involves at least 5 steps, but you can alter this to suit your style.

1) Read the book you’re focusing on straight through.

Yes, the first step is really that simple. Set a daily reading goal and read the book through within a week or a month.

2) Start from the beginning again, taking brief notes along the way this time.

The notes can be as simple as rephrasing a key verse in your own words that you want to highlight, jotting down a recurring theme or purpose, or noting how you can apply a verse to your life.

For example, when I went through Romans chapter 6 for the second time, I took these quick notes as I read verses 15-23: “Grace compels us to righteousness. The more God gives us grace and mercy, the more we want to live righteously for Him. As we grow in righteousness, it leads us to a greater desire to reflect His glory and Christ-like character.”

3) On the third read-through, take more time with each section of every chapter.

Write more thorough notes about what is going on in the chapter and how it relates to other verses, chapters, and concepts. I recommend using a concordance or the Apostolic Study Bible for this step as the footnotes and cross-references are great resources to study the Word more thoroughly.

When I read Romans chapter 6 for the third time, I took more detailed notes, referring to the footnotes in my study Bible for more information on the concepts of being dead to sin and living righteously.

4) On this read-through, study a collection of verses a day, whether it’s 4-8, and break down each verse.

I like to call this the word study. It’s a study of certain words that might stick out to you, for which you’ll need a Strong’s concordance or Bible dictionary to get to the root meaning of each word. On this step, you might write down how the original text’s definitions enrich and deepen our understanding of Scripture. By now, your notes will begin to build off each other from the previous read-throughs, resulting in a more layered Bible study approach.

5) Read through the book again using a related daily devotional or study book.

The final step in the re-reading method is optional, but it involves re-reading the book again but with a corresponding devotional or study book on the specific book you’re reading.

For example, I have a devotional from The Daily Grace Co on the book of Colossians that I’ve used to answer prompts about the verses as I read through the chapters. Reading someone else’s study of a particular book or passage in the Bible and using the prompts they give you can help you think more critically as you ponder how to respond to a prompt about applying a verse or concept to your daily life.

By the time you’ve finished with this method of Bible studying, you’ll have re-read the same book several times in a row, digging deeper into the Word each time and hopefully gaining a greater understanding of what God is telling us through His Word. If we are going to draw nearer to God and become who He wants us to be, we must study the Word – not merely read it each day to check off a box on a to-do list but really, truly, earnestly study the Word and search the Scriptures.

After all, Jesus is calling us to a deeper relationship with Him.

“Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.”

Psalm 119:11 (KJV)

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV)

3 Responses to 1 Question: What Shall I Do With Jesus?

“What shall I do then with Jesus?”

Pontius Pilate asked this question in Matthew 27:22 when the Jews took Jesus to Pilate before they crucified Him. This past Sunday morning, my pastor – Pastor Tony Wyatt of Apostolic New Testament Church in Mount Vernon, Missouri – taught a Bible study about this crucial question. It forces us to make a decision we all must face: how to respond to the reality of Jesus and salvation in His Name.

What will you do with Jesus?

For today’s post, let’s go over three responses to this question from Pastor Wyatt’s fantastic lesson, which you can watch in its entirety by clicking here.

1. Avoid Him

There are people who choose to avoid thinking about Jesus in their lives. These may be people who call themselves agnostic, believing that God may exist, but they choose not to live for Him anyway. And there are people who avoid thinking about Jesus by claiming He doesn’t exist.

Pastor Wyatt described three kinds of people who will not be in Hell: atheists, unbelievers, and make believers. An atheist in Hell is no longer an atheist. Those who did not believe Jesus is God will no longer be an unbeliever. Those who only pretended on earth will no longer be able to pretend in Hell. Once they arrive in Hell, it will be too late to accept that Jesus is real, that He is God, and that they should give their lives to Him.

Those who avoid Jesus may do so because of past hurt or because they don’t want to believe that people will be ultimately judged for their sins, but avoiding the truth does not make it go away or protect you from the consequences of ignoring the truth.

2. Evade Responsibility

Pilate had the responsibility upon him to decide what to do with Jesus, but he wanted to pass it on to someone else. So, Pilate sent Jesus to Herod to let him take care of the situation.

When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the man were a Galilean. And as soon as he knew that he belonged unto Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time.

Luke 23:6-7 (KJV)

Pilate tried to evade the responsibility he had by trying to find an easy way out. He had Jesus scourged to try to appease the crowd, and he tried to see if the crowd would let Jesus be released instead of the murderer Barabbas, but on both counts, Pilate’s judgment was wrong (see Matthew 27 and Luke 23). The crowd did not want Jesus to be merely punished. They were seeking to kill Jesus and nothing less.

Just as Pilate tried to shirk his responsibility, we cannot do the same when it comes to our salvation. We cannot rely on someone else’s relationship with God to save us. We are all responsible for our own salvation and our own relationship with Jesus.

“Those who go into eternity without God will have no one to blame but themselves.”

Pastor Tony Wyatt

3. Accept Him

Finally, there are those who accept who Jesus is and answer the call to live for Him. He is our Savior, our Healer, our Restorer, Redeemer – He is our everything!

“If you believe something, you’ll do something about it.”

Pastor Tony Wyatt

The most important question you can ask yourself is “what am I going to do with Jesus?”

Ignore Him? Mock Him? Not believe in Him?

If you believe in Jesus, you’ll choose to serve Him. Those who believe they will spend eternity in either Heaven or Hell will do something about it! And those who choose Jesus have rewards on earth. We are delivered from sin, we become joint heirs with Christ, and we have the promise of eternal life (see Romans 8). We need to fall upon His grace and mercy while we have the opportunity to repent, be baptized in Jesus’ Name, receive the Holy Ghost, and live for Him!

No matter what you may go through, only Jesus can take care of each situation in your life. No matter what you’re facing, Jesus is the answer!

I encourage everyone to listen to the full Bible study (which starts at the 13:00 minute mark) as Pastor Wyatt goes over the history behind Jesus’ arrest and trial and those involved as well as what Jesus endured and why He came. It’s important for us to study and know what Jesus went through for us, how He came and died and rose again so that we could live forever with Him.

Oh, how He loves us!

The Burning Bush Experience and Four Points of Reflections on Exodus 3:1-4: A Guest Post by Dr. Rafael Machuca

Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb. And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I.

Exodus 3:1-4 (KJV)

1. Stay faithful in the things of God.

As the above passage of scripture opens, we find Moses traveling to the backside of the desert. He was traversing a hot, barren place alone, leaving behind him the comforts of home, companionship, and support. Regardless of his circumstances, Moses continued to faithfully take care of the flock that had been entrusted to him by his father-in-law. He was a support for his family even though it put him in a difficult situation. As he put the care of the flock before his own comfort, he was completely unaware that he would soon be called to lead God’s flock, the children of Israel.

Any time we do work for the church or support the leaders over us, it is important to remember to do it all unto God. It is not unusual to experience situations that make you feel like you are working alone in the desert. Maybe you are the only one showing up for prayer, willing to teach a Bible study, or participating in evangelism. It can be easy to wonder where everyone else is. If your eyes are not on the Lord, the work can become very wearisome in your own eyes. However, when you do it unto God, you can take comfort in knowing that God notices your hard work and determination. He knows exactly where you are and the work you are doing to further His kingdom.

2. God will utilize all parts of your life for His Glory.

The mountain Moses came to was called Horeb, also known as Mount Sinai. Even though Moses had been raised by Egyptians and then spent decades as a fugitive in the desert, God knew that every experience he had and every land he learned to traverse would be beneficial to help lead the children of Israel out of captivity. When God uses us, He does so knowing every past experience will become a skillset to be used in the future.

Do not let yourself believe you have no skills or talents to offer.

God can use your Bible quizzing experience, years of living faithfully, your secular work experience, and even the knowledge born out of learning from mistakes. The key is to give ourselves totally to God so He can use us for His purpose and His glory.

3. God uses your surroundings to get your attention.

A bush burning in the desert would not have been an unusual sight. It would have been easy for Moses to see the fire but shift his focus back on moving the flock away and continuing with his daily tasks.  However, he gave this situation enough attention to realize something was different, and doing so, he witnessed a “great sight.”

God used a seemingly normal occurrence to get Moses’ attention as he was going about his day. What in our surroundings is God trying to use to get our attention? It may be a situation at work or with family or friends. At first sight, everything may appear insignificant and normal. But further inspection may reveal the Lord at work getting our attention for a greater purpose.

4. When God calls, answer.

As Moses turned aside to witness the bush burning yet not being consumed, God had succeeded in getting his attention. However, the Lord’s intentions went far beyond that. God does not just want to get our attention. All who are willing to stop and turn toward God can have the opportunity to hear Him calling. It is a call filled with love and a purpose, and all who hear will get to choose if they are willing to answer that higher calling.

This passage in Exodus 3 paints a beautiful picture of how God will set things in motion to get your attention. From the burning bush to the call, don’t be too busy living life that you miss what God really has for you. He is just waiting for you to look toward His direction to call you into a deeper walk and a deeper life with Him.

*****

Dr. Rafael Machuca is a VA Hospital Chaplain at the John J. Pershing VA Medical Center in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. He studied and received his Doctor of Ministry degree at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in 2020. Dr. Machuca served his country in the United States Marine Corps from 1993 – 1997 and has been honoring and paying tribute to U.S. veterans ever since.

Spiritual Food for the Soul: A Guest Post by Tony Wyatt Jr.

One of my favorite questions to ask someone is “What is your favorite food?” What is your favorite restaurant? Food is one of my favorite subjects to discuss.

Why? Because I love food!

Whether it is a huge burger piled with bacon and cheese or my favorite Mexican restaurant, I want food!

As I am typing this, I am thinking about what I am going to put in the smoker today to cook. Will it be chicken wings tossed with Suckle Busters Clucker Dust? Maybe a bacon wrapped pork loin stuffed with jalapenos and cream cheese. Or we could go with a beef brisket cooked to absolute perfection.

Photos courtesy of Tony Wyatt Jr.

Okay, I’ll stop boring some of you with all these details as some of you may just eat to survive only.

Food is essential to life! You cannot thrive physically without food.

Is your mouth watering yet?

Just as you need food physically, you also need to feed your spirit man. You can starve to death if you do not eat. The question is what kinds of food are you consuming spiritually? You will be offered food from this world to eat, but you cannot survive spiritually on the world’s food.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

1 John 2:15-17 (NKJV)

One of my favorite dudes in the Bible is Daniel. He made a choice to refuse food that was not good for him. Instead, Daniel chose to eat what God wanted him to eat.

But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.

Daniel 1:8 (KJV)

We have to refuse what this culture puts in front of us to consume if we are going to survive. Reject the bad and feed yourself with the good.

How do we feed ourselves spiritually? I’m glad you asked!

1. Consume the Word of God every day.

Your spirit needs to eat.

Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts.

Jeremiah 15:16 (NKJV)

Don’t starve yourself by neglecting the Word. If you have to, start small. You don’t have to feel that you’re required to read an entire book of the Bible in a day.

My mom always used to get on to me for inhaling my food so that I could go back outside and play.

Slow down. Consume it slowly. Enjoy the food.

Quality over quantity. You get more out of the Word if you study it deeply than by just trying to check off a box on a reading plan.

Food for thought: Devotionals are also a good way to get into consuming the Word of God daily.

[Editor’s note: Check out this great devotional at the Pentecostal Publishing House for starting out!]

2. Prayer

We have to pray if we are going to survive. Don’t starve yourself by neglecting prayer.

“Pray without ceasing.”

1 Thessalonians 5:17 (KJV)

Prayer is like lifting weights physically. You get more powerful the more you do it. However, to hear the voice of God in prayer, you must turn off the noise and distractions.

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

Matthew 6:6 (KJV)

So, go set that phone in another room. Turn off the TV and feed your spirit man some food.

Bon appétit!

********

Tony is an associate pastor at Apostolic New Testament Church in Mount Vernon, Missouri, and before that, he served as the youth pastor for more than 20 years. He is also the current Hyphen leader over young and single adults. You can hear his sermons by following the Apostolic New Testament Church Facebook page. To get a taste of Tony’s barbequing and meat-smoking skills and to keep up with his ministry, check out his Instagram: @tonycwjr.

4 Steps to Remove Idols in Your Life

Whom do you serve?

As Christians, we are to serve our God Jesus Christ alone (see Exodus 20:2-6), but sometimes, without even realizing it, we find that we have built altars to idols in our lives. The Bible speaks often about idolatry, and this is an issue the people of Israel struggled with a lot. They were called to serve one God—Yahweh—but all throughout the books of Judges and 1 and 2 Kings (among many others), we read how they began to serve false idols and little gods rather than serving their Creator alone.

“Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

Joshua 24:14-15 (KJV)

There are countless examples of idolatry in the Bible from Aaron making the golden calf for the Israelites to worship while Moses was on Mt. Sinai (see Exodus 32) to the young man who would not sell his possessions to follow Jesus (see Matthew 19:16-25). However, idolatry is not only a thing of the past. Sure, many of us may not be serving literal statues in our homes and praying to them every day, but many have built altars to idols of money, success, and fame. Idols come in all forms today.

We see people make idols of other people. I read a comment from a woman on social media a while back, and in this comment, this woman said she repeated to herself as a mantra when she became scared of the current virus rampaging the world, “I trust Fauci. I trust Fauci.” Indeed, many have made political figures and celebrities idols in their lives, investing more of their time in thinking about these people and having more hope and faith in these people than the very God who created them and the entire universe.

People make idols of ideas and ideologies. They worship a scientific theory as though it is Bible. They hold onto a political belief system with greater conviction than the Word of God.

People make idols of things—things like social media, expensive cars, or even (Lord, help me) their phone.

People also make idols of their habits and of themselves. As my pastor has explained, even something as seemingly harmless as going fishing can become an idol if you give all of your time to it. If a hobby or habit takes up most or all of your mental energy, your thoughts, your time, and your passion until it controls you and compromises your walk with God, then it is an idol. If you can’t say “no” to it, it’s an idol. And if you have set yourself and your desires and plans above God, then you have made an idol of yourself.

So, how do we get rid of idols that we have set up in our lives, whether we did so intentionally out of rebellion or ignorantly out of distraction? Thankfully, God’s Word shows us clear steps we must take to remove idols in our lives:

1. Examination.

When king Josiah of Judah was about 20 years old, he began to purge “Judah and Jerusalem from the high places, and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images” (2 Chronicles 34:3). In order for Josiah to get rid of the idols, he had to seek them out first.

The first step to removing idols in our lives is daily examination. We must search our hearts each day and ask ourselves these questions: To what or to whom am I giving my time? My treasures? What are most of my efforts going toward? For what or for whom am I most passionate? Is there anything in my life that I cannot say “no” to?

2. Recognition.

In order for Josiah to purge the land of idols, he had to do a thorough job, which required recognizing which things were idols or were related to idol worship and had to be destroyed. After searching high and low for idols and destroying them all over the land in II Kings 23, Josiah even went so far as to destroy the high places that king Solomon had built for the false gods Chemosh, Ashtoreth, and Milcom (see also 1 Kings 11). Solomon failed to recognize the gravity of what he was doing as he turned away from God and toward idols.

After searching our hearts and lives for idols, we must be able to recognize what counts as an idol. In order for us to remove idolatry in our life, we must ask God for the wisdom to discern what we have made an idol, and we must be honest with ourselves. For example, if we allow playing video games or watching sports to take up more of our time and passion than praying to God, studying His Word, and investing in His Kingdom, then we must exercise wisdom, discernment, and good judgment to understand that those things are idols that we must remove.

3. Eradication.

King Josiah was very thorough in removing idols from the kingdom. He removed horse and chariot decorations in the Temple, broke the altars and images of false gods, and even killed the priests of the high places of false gods upon the altars and “burned men’s bones upon them” (II Kings 23:11-20). Josiah put away those who were “workers with familiar spirits, and the wizards, and the images, and the idols, and all the abominations that were spied in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem” (II Kings 23:24).

If we are to remove idolatry from our lives, then we must do so in completion, holding nothing back for ourselves. We must totally remove the idol (be it a habit or an obsession), leaving no trace of it for us to return to in a moment of weakness. For example, if a person is obsessed with sports to the point of committing idolatry, but this person only stops obsessing over baseball and basketball but still places football above going to church or praying to God, then they have not totally eradicated that idol from their life.

4. Re-dedication.

After we have examined ourselves, recognized the idols in our lives, and totally eradicated them, then we must re-dedicate our hearts to the Lord. After putting away idols out of Judah and Benjamin, king Asa “renewed the altar of the LORD,” and the people renewed their covenant to seek the Lord (II Chronicles 15:8-12). King Hezekiah repaired the Temple, restored worship to God, and had the people sanctify and cleanse themselves before God (see II Chronicles 29). After Manasseh turned to God from a life of wickedness, he took away the idols and “repaired the altar of the LORD, and sacrificed thereon peace offerings and thank offerings, and commanded Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel” (II Chronicles 33:15-16).

Our bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost, and when we remove the idols from our lives, we must then recommit ourselves to God.

Rebuild your altar to God. Sanctify it with prayer. Commit yourself to studying the Word and following His commandments. Sacrifice your time, talents, treasures, and passions and give it all to God. And renew your covenant with God to serve Him alone.

This world is all about serving yourself, worshipping your desires and plans, and elevating yourself and man’s creations above God. But we are not called to be like the world. Though we be in this world, we are not of this world.

Our God created us, came for us, died for us, and rose again, defeating death and overcoming the world all because He loves us and wants us to live with Him in His Kingdom for eternity. The least we can do is serve Him and Him alone.

The Hope of Believers: 3 (More) Reminders from Romans 8

Tired of bad news? Social turmoil? Dealing with sickness? Struggling just to make it through the day?

This world seems to be getting further from Jesus with each passing day, but Romans 8 gives us many powerful truths about life on earth and beyond earth. Here are three brief reminders from Romans 8:20-39 to give you strength and hope in these trying times.

1. We have hope of an eternal reward.

No matter how messy things get on earth, believers have hope that someday soon, we will no longer be in this world but with our Savior forever in a world where sin, death, and pain no longer exist. Romans 8:20-23 describes the fall of Creation and the hope that we have:

“For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.”

In a nutshell, this passage explains that God subjected mankind and nature to the curse of sin and death because of man’s fall in the Garden of Eden, but He did this in hope. No matter how much creation and we ourselves may groan in pain on this earth, we have hope that God will someday deliver us from the bondage of our corrupt, mortal bodies. When that happens, the adoption as God’s children will be complete and the body redeemed since sin and death will be no more. As verse 25 states, we have hope for that which we cannot physically see and wait for it with patience.

This is one of the greatest promises of God.

2. We also have hope of better things even here on earth.

Just because we hope for Christ’s coming and life with Him in eternal glory, that does not mean that we don’t have hope for good things here on earth even amidst turmoil and destruction. When we go through things and travail in prayer, the Spirit makes intercession for us (see Romans 8:26-27). This means that the Spirit goes beyond our limits and weaknesses in prayer and prays on our behalf when we don’t even know what to say or how to pray for our situation.

No matter how hopeless you may feel, you are not forsaken or without hope!

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

Romans 8:28 (KJV)

All things—our trials and joys—work together for our good according to His plan for our lives. Notice that this verse states that this applies “to them that love God” and “to them who are the called.” When you love God, live for God according to His Word, and answer the calling He has placed on your life, then you can rest assured that God has a plan for every trial you will experience and for every period of your life.

God has given us hope on earth that He will help and guide us through life so that Romans 8:29-30 may be able to apply to us:

“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”

There’s a lot to unpack from these two verses, but my Apostolic Study Bible breaks it down into 5 concepts: 1) God’s plan includes the fact that He knew from the beginning that man would fall and need a Savior; 2) God planned in advance for the church to be formed in His likeness; 3) salvation extends to everyone, but everyone has the individual responsibility to answer God’s calling in order to be chosen; 4) God redeems us from our sins in justification; and 5) we will receive sinless bodies in eternal glory with Christ.

If we maintain a righteous lifestyle and faithful walk with God, then again we have hope of eternal life with our Savior.

3. It’s never a mistake to depend on Jesus for everything.

The last several verses of Romans 8 reveal that it is not only God who is the only one who can condemn or justify us but that it is also God who makes intercession for us and helps and loves us no matter what. It doesn’t matter what we may face or what may come against us, we are more than conquerors through Christ (see Romans 8:37).

His love extends far beyond the weight of our sins and powers of darkness!

“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:38-39 (KJV)

We can depend on Jesus for everything we need, for He is everything we need!

He is our Strength, our Helper, our Forgiver, our Savior, and the Lover of our souls.

Life in the Spirit: 3 Reminders From Romans 8

School and work are often drudgery.

Back-to-back tests and papers due. Piles of work that lead to overtime. New company policies that are confusing and make your work harder. It can make your life seem completely miserable at times.

As children of God, however, we have an avenue to living a purposeful and rewarding life even when our school and work responsibilities try to drain the life from us.

Today, we’ll look at three key reminders from Romans 8:1-18 of what it means to be alive in Christ.

1. Through Christ, we are free.

You might feel like a prisoner to the drudgery of life, clocking in and out of work in robotic fashion or dragging yourself to school every week, but we are not meant to feel like prisoners in this world.

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom!

In fact, Romans 8:1-3 explains that we are free from “the law of sin and death.” When we believe in and live for Jesus Christ, the sins of our past no longer have a hold on us. Without Christ, we are prisoners to sin, and eternal death is an inevitability. With Christ, no matter what mistakes we may have made or difficult circumstances we may have to endure, the consequences of sin and the ways of this world no longer have us bound.

The weight of this world and of the things that accompany life in this world do not have to keep us down or burdened because our God already defeated sin and death and has overcome the world (see John 16:33). “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” has made us free (see Romans 8:2), and so we can walk in the freedom we have through Christ each day no matter how stifling life may seem on earth.

2. We must continue to walk after the Spirit.

When group projects and research papers pile up, when the customers are rude and your boss keeps giving you more responsibilities, and when traffic is backed up after a really long day, we must continue to walk after the Spirit—yes, even when we are tempted with road rage. If you live in or near Springfield, Missouri, then you might understand the frustration that accompanies dealing with mindless drivers who pull out in front of you while you’re doing 60 and they’re doing 35 or who cruise in the fast lane and refuse to move over. Truth be told, many a Holy Ghost-filled Christian has almost lost their Holy Ghost when dealing with rush-hour traffic.

Walking after the Spirit means living a righteous lifestyle every day. Simple, right? Not when we feed our carnality more than the spirit, but when we pursue righteousness and a closer walk with Jesus on a daily basis, it becomes more natural to maintain a spiritual mindset.

Having life through Christ means forsaking our carnality.

“For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”

Romans 8:5-6 (KJV)

If you follow your flesh, it will lead to death. If you follow after the Spirit, then it will lead to eternal life and the peace of God. We cannot expect the peace of God and His blessings if we follow our own lusts and desires. Verse 8 goes on to say that “they that are in the flesh cannot please God.”

Ouch.

Want to please God? Pursue Him. Pursue righteousness. Even when people annoy you and schoolwork overwhelms you and your job is miserable, pursue a lifestyle that reflects His Spirit within you.

3. As His children, we have a divine inheritance!

The more we walk after the Spirit, the more we realize another truth of what it means to have life through Christ.

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”

Romans 8:14 (KJV)

Those who walk after the Spirit are called the children of God. Our salvation is not based on a “once saved, always saved” ideology. Walking after the Spirit means that we continue pursuing Him and practicing a righteous lifestyle every minute of every day. If we do so and are filled with His Spirit, then we have what verse 15 calls the “Spirit of adoption.” Being “adopted” by Christ not only means His Spirit dwells within us but that we have 1) a loving relationship with Him and 2) a divine inheritance.

“And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

Romans 8:17-18 (KJV)

Being joint-heirs with Christ means that we join in suffering with Him and that we also get to experience the benefits of what we may have to endure on earth—eternal life with Him. No amount of suffering we may experience here can compare to the glory that awaits us in Heaven with our King.

As the old song says, “It will be worth it all when we see Jesus. Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ. One glimpse of His dear face, all sorrow will erase. So, bravely run the race till we see Christ.”

No matter what you’re facing, whether you’re going to school or working or both, encourage yourself with these truths.

Through our God, we have freedom, and our past mistakes cannot keep us bound. Through Him, we have everything we need to maintain a righteous lifestyle. Through Him, we have the promise of eternal life.

The weight of this world no longer has a hold on us. We are alive through Christ!

3 Helpful Bible Study Methods

Reading and studying the Word should be a daily commitment if we want to grow closer to God. When I was a teenager, I found myself becoming satisfied with reading a short chapter here and there and calling it good. (Woo-hoo! I read an entire chapter of Psalms! I’m good for the day!) Everyone has to start somewhere, and there is no shame in a child reading a chapter of Psalms a day to develop a daily habit of reading the Word, but as we grow older, we must become more dedicated to studying the Word in depth.

As always, we must remember that God is calling us deeper.

Sometimes, figuring out how to study the Word can be difficult when you’re out of the habit or don’t know where to start. For today’s post, I thought I would share with you three Bible study methods that I have adapted and that have helped me dig deeper into the Word.

1. Summarization

This involves what we English majors like to call “close reading.” When you’re reading a chapter of the Bible, ask questions about the chapter and write down your answers. I like to use the typical 5W1H method.

  • Who are the people involved in this chapter? Who is speaking? Who is the author? Who is the audience?
  • What is taking place in this chapter? What are the implications of the events? What Biblical principles or lessons does this chapter explore?
  • Where do the events in this chapter take place? This question can refer to an actual location or where the events take place within the story’s timeline, which brings us to the next question.
  • When does this chapter take place? When did the author write this? (This also helps you understand the context of the chapter as you look at the events in the surrounding chapters.)
  • How can I apply the principles or lessons this chapter teaches to my life?
  • Why are the events in this chapter important? This question helps you under the significance of the passage both within the context of the story and within your own life.

2. Cross-referencing

This method involves going from verse to verse, often across different books, to study key terms and concepts. It helps to have a Bible that contains references within the page that point you to related verses. I recommend the Apostolic Study Bible, which is what I use.

Here’s an example of using this method:

In the footnotes of Psalm chapter 7 in my Apostolic Study Bible, it directs me to read the related verses of II Samuel 18:19-33. David wrote Psalm 7 in reference to the news of his son Absalom’s death, which we read about in II Samuel 18. Through cross-referencing, I can read and study the situation to which David is referring in Psalm 7 to better understand the context of both passages of Scripture.

You can also use this method on your own by using the concordance at the back of your Bible and finding multiple verses throughout the Bible that discuss a particular topic.

3. Word Study

What I like to call the “word study” method involves using a Strong’s Concordance to study the root meanings of words in the original Hebrew or Greek texts. When I use this method, I simply begin by looking up a word in a particular verse in the Strong’s Concordance. (I use the Bible Strong’s Concordance app on my phone, but I also have a physical copy of Strong’s Concordance in my home library.)

This method helps you understand how a word is used differently in the Bible and what its different uses mean. For example, “love” in Romans 12:10 is from the Greek word philadelphia, which means fraternal affection or brotherly love. In John 15:10, we find that the love mentioned here is unconditional love (or agape). Here, Jesus is giving the command that we abide in the kind of unconditional love He has for us, whereas the love mentioned in Romans 12:10 specifically refers to love toward members of the church.

The above Bible study methods and tips are designed to help you understand the context of a passage of Scripture, what lessons a particular passage teaches, the connection between verses, how multiple verses extend the same topics, and how we can understand a word or concept based off a word’s original meaning. If we devote even a little bit of time daily to studying the Word, then we will come to understand Him more and how He wants us to live.

Studying the Word fosters a love for the Word and Godly living, allowing us to bury His Word within us so that we might reflect His glory to others and share the Gospel message.

BPR Schedule Update: There will be no blog post next week as I’ll be on vacation. To see how I’ve applied the word study method to my Bible studying time, check out the “comfort” series in the “Bible Studies” column.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

How to Overcome Self-Condemnation: Appealing to the Mercy of God

A man seeks God's forgiveness in prayer.

Sometimes when you make a mistake, the hardest part of forgiveness is forgiving yourself. If you’re like me, you might tend to beat yourself up for mistakes you’ve made, mulling over them at night and asking yourself how you could be so stupid. Self-condemnation completely hinders the process of forgiveness.

When we make a mistake, we must ask God for his mercy and strive to resist temptation and live according to His Word, but sometimes our own thoughts can make it much harder to feel forgiven when we imprison ourselves in our own guilt. What we forget in those moments is how much God truly loves us. In order for us to move forward with peace and in confidence, knowing that He has forgiven us, we must recognize His love for us and that His mercy has no end.

Two examples in His Word show us what it means to appeal to God’s mercy.

When Lot and his family escaped Sodom and Gomorrah, he asked God to save a nearby city so that they might flee to it and be saved.

“Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast shewed unto me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die: Behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one: Oh, let me escape thither, (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live. And he said unto him, See, I have accepted thee concerning this thing also, that I will not overthrow this city, for the which thou hast spoken. Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do any thing till thou be come thither. Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.”

Genesis 19:19-22 (KJV)

One of the first things Lot said to God was a reminder that God had granted Lot grace and that He had “magnified [His] mercy” by saving Lot’s life. When Abraham went to God to try to convince Him not to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, he appealed to God’s justice, asking if God would destroy the “righteous with the wicked” (see Genesis 18:23). Abraham did not succeed in his intercession for Sodom and Gomorrah, but Lot succeeded in his intercession for Zoar by appealing first to the grace and mercy of God when he was in danger and needed to be saved.

In the New Testament, Jesus told a parable of humility and mercy when comparing the Pharisee to the publican.

“Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican…. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.”

Luke 18:10-11, 13 (KJV)

In this parable, the publican acknowledged his sinfulness and asked that God would show him mercy. He showed humility and an understanding of his own faults and need for a Savior.

These examples remind us to appeal to God’s mercy when we are facing difficulties and when we need forgiveness. Lot appealed to God’s mercy when he needed salvation from circumstances. The publican appealed to God’s mercy when he needed salvation from sin. Neither Lot nor the publican were perfect men, but in Lot’s case and in the parable of the publican, both men were sincere in their appeals, and God showed them His mercy. When we make a mistake and ask for forgiveness, we’re stating that we cannot make it on our own. Our appeal to God’s mercy becomes a declaration that we need Him.

Messing up again and again is human nature. God knows this. Of course, our human nature is not an excuse to sin, but rather it is a reminder that we need Him in order to resist temptation and receive forgiveness.

God is just and faithful to forgive of us our sins as His Word says in 1 John 1:9.

What these accounts remind me of is how much He wants to forgive us. Our God longs for us to surrender to Him and serve Him in righteousness and sincerity, and when we do, then He will forgive us of our sins. We need not walk in guilt and self-condemnation because He already paid the price for our sins and freed us from guilt and shame.

We can overcome guilt and self-condemnation by appealing to God’s mercy, by recognizing our flaws and inadequacies, and by understanding that it is only through the grace, love, and mercy of our Savior that we move forward and walk in confidence with Him. Self-condemnation will keep us from accepting His forgiveness, but the self-realization of our weaknesses and His great love for us keeps us under His blood and walking in newness of life.

*****

Post Schedule Announcement:

Lots of things are coming up as my schedule will be getting busier over the upcoming weeks, so posts will be on Fridays only until further notice.

I’ve seen there are some newer readers and subscribers to Breathe Pray Repeat, so I also want to say “welcome,” and I pray these posts bless you and encourage you to get closer to God as you seek Him more and study His Word.

If you have any post or Bible study requests, don’t hesitate to comment below or send me a message and let me know! God Bless!

3 Qualities of a Good Servant

A man opens his Bible.

What makes a good and faithful servant?

Is it simply someone who does good deeds and tries to be kind to others? Is it someone who serves their community? Is it someone who prays an hour every day and fills journals with Bible study notes? Is it someone who goes to Bible college and becomes a preacher or worship leader?

What does it take to simply be that good and faithful servant the Lord will welcome into Heaven?

Well, a person can certainly be a good and faithful servant by doing any or all of the above, but pleasing and serving God does not mean that we have to attend Bible college or that we have to become a preacher or singer. Those things are wonderful things but are specific callings rather than general requirements for all Christians.

When we study the Word, we see many examples of various people who were faithful servants—Abraham, Job, and Mary are a few that come to mind. One man in particular who appears very early in the Bible shows us three qualities of a faithful servant that are a good foundation upon which we can build and develop a strong relationship with God.

“And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all he had, Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh: And I will make thee swear by the LORD…thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac…And the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and sware to him concerning the matter.”

Genesis 24:2-4, 9 (KJV)

1. Attentiveness

When Abraham was old, he tasked his eldest and most trusted servant with finding a wife for Abraham’s son, Isaac. Here, we have an example of a servant who was not only attentive to his master’s requests and needs, but he was also mindful of Abraham’s requirements to accomplish his task.

After he met Rebekah and her family, he faithfully repeated to them his errand, detailing every aspect of his oath (see Genesis 24:34-41). A testament to the servant’s mindfulness in completing his task, he even refused their request to let Rebekah stay with her family a little longer:

“And her brother and her mother said, Let the damsel abide with us a few days, at the least ten; after that she shall go. And he said unto them, Hinder me not, seeing the LORD hath prospered my way; send me away that I may go to my master.”

Genesis 24:55-56 (KJV)

In order for us to be good servants, we must not only listen to our Master’s commands, but we must be mindful of how we go about our work for the Kingdom. Abraham’s servant carefully heeded each aspect of his oath to his master. Even though some might deem it unkind to not allow Rebekah to stay with her family a few more days, Abraham’s servant was persistent in fulfilling his task, mindful of the time and his master’s needs. Abraham’s son needed a wife, and it was his job to deliver on his task—pronto!

When we serve in the Kingdom, we must be mindful of how we go about our ministry and of how we answer to God’s commands, which brings us to the second quality Abraham’s servant displays.

2. Obedience

Abraham’s servant was obedient to the letter. He swiftly went about finding his master’s son a wife and made sure she was of the same household as Abraham’s family as his master requested. Now, we know Abraham’s servant had a reputation of faithfully obeying his master because Abraham trusted this man with all of the goods of his house (see Genesis 24:2, 10). Over the course of the chapter, we see that Abraham’s servant was forthright as he set out to the well to find Isaac a wife and was very thorough. Before assuming Rebekah was the one God had chosen for his master’s son, Abraham’s servant watched Rebekah carefully and questioned her about her family:

“And the man wondering at her held his peace, to wit whether the LORD had made his journey prosperous or not…And [he] said, Whose daughter art thou?…And she said unto him, I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, which she bare unto Nahor…And the man bowed his head, and worshipped the LORD. And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of my master Abraham, who hath not left destitute my master of his mercy and his truth: I being in the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master’s brethren.”

Genesis 24:21, 23-24, 26-27 (KJV)

Abraham’s servant waited for confirmation to ensure Rebekah was the one God had appointed for Isaac, and then he praised God and continued with his task. A good servant obeys, yes, but a good servant must pay close attention to every detail to ensure complete obedience.

3. A Relationship with God

Finally, a good servant must commune with God. We see throughout chapter 24 of Genesis that Abraham’s servant regularly spoke to and praised God. In fact, he spoke to God and worshipped Him three times in this chapter, showing his trust in God and a thankful spirit.

First, Abraham’s servant surrendered the situation to God by asking God to show him the woman He had appointed for Isaac (see Genesis 24:12-14). Second, he praised God when he realized God had blessed his journey and led him to the right woman (see Genesis 24:26-27). Third, he worshipped God when Rebekah’s family released her to accompany him back to Abraham and marry Isaac:

“Behold, Rebekah is before thee, take her, and go, and let her be thy master’s son’s wife, as the LORD hath spoken. And it came to pass, that, when Abraham’s servant heard their words, he worshipped the LORD, bowing himself to the earth.”

Genesis 24:51-52 (KJV)

Through each aspect of fulfilling his work, Abraham’s servant gave the glory to God and surrendered his task into God’s hands.

A woman throws her hands up in surrendering everything to Jesus.

In order to become the child of God that He wants us to be, we have to start somewhere. Applying to our own lives the qualities that Abraham’s servant shows us will help us begin a foundation for building a healthy and strong relationship with God. When analyzing your own walk with Him, ask yourself these questions: Am I heeding and obeying God’s commands in my life? Am I faithful in my work in the Kingdom? Am I seeking the Lord faithfully? Have I given Him honor and worship for the things He’s done for me?

If we build a strong relationship with God and follow His guidance and instructions for our lives, then He will ultimately bless us with the greatest reward—hearing the words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” as we enter into His Kingdom to be with our King for eternity.