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Taking Scripture Meaning to New Heights

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Have you ever been stumped by a verse while reading through the Bible? I know I have on many occasions.

What about your attention? Have you ever been drawn to a particular verse as you read through a chapter? This is one of my favorite ways of knowing the Holy Spirit is guiding my understanding and directing my pathway. I love “attention” verses. I often write them down and focus on one a week to get a full picture of God, His attributes, and what He is personally saying to me.

This month our church is reading through the book of Mark – a part of the Gospel Era showcasing the fulfillment of the promised Seed God spoke of in the Creation Era. The book is a narrative filled with the life of Jesus, His mighty miracles, delivery of parables, and His death and resurrection. Over and over, each chapter reveals the love story of God which gives us all hope and “good news” to share with the world.

During this time of reading, several verses have captured my attention and deepened my understanding of the Lord. Over and over, I see God’s hand working to reveal His goodness and love in markable ways during Christ’s earthly life. I particularly love how Christ addresses the “legal” acts of the pharisees as He separates the difference between head knowledge/rule followers and a heart of love devoted to living by faith in God.

As many of you know, I am a large advocate of elevating God’s Word to the highest level of understanding and saturation. Many of Refining ministries’ workshops, Bible studies, and retreats are geared to helping followers discover ways to absorb Scripture to the fullest. So, I was captivated by this week’s sermon at our church when Chris Lopez shared a simple way to dig deeper into a focal verse.

He directed his thoughts to Mark 6:2 (NLT)

The next Sabbath he began teaching in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. They asked, “Where did he get all this wisdom and the power to perform such miracles?” 

Then, Chris shared how he narrowed down his view by noting words that stood out to him: amazed-wisdom-power-perform. He carefully discovered the Biblical definition of each word and then rewrote the verse using the definitions as a substitute for each word. Here’s the video clip.

https://youtube.com/clip/Ugkx2GzEzbikZVf4sgqUp4p493zXjxaFJw3h

What a great tip!

I decided to give it a whirl and revisit the key verse for Refining ministry:  “I will give them hearts that recognize me as the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me wholeheartedly.” Jeremiah 24:7 NLT

recognize means acknowledge

return means come back

wholeheartedly means completely and sincerely devoted

Defined to read: “I will give them hearts that acknowledge me as the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will come back to me completely and sincerely devoted.”

WOW! What a wonderful way to dig deeper into God’s Word and search for true understanding. Thank you, Chris, for sharing!

I hope this tip helps you take your Scripture comprehension to new heights.

LIFE: How did Judah fall so far away from God?

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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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 (NIV)

Have you ever asked yourself this question: How have I drifted so far away from God? I know I have and more than once.

In the book of Jeremiah, we see Judah with a terminal disease-sin. They refuse to turn to the Lord and do everything within their so called “Human-power” to heal themselves only finding it to spread and eventually destroy.

Jeremiah spent forty years trying to convince these people of the consequences of their actions. However, they let their pride get in the way. Killing children, abusing others, having many gods, engaging in false worship, being self-centered, and loving self-indulgence were just the beginning of the many items they placed as a priority over holding true to God’s principles. They refused to listen and seemed to categorize Jeremiah’s messages as nonsense.

How did God’s people end up in this place?

As we studied part two of Jeremiah, I began to ponder this question. What caused them to drift so far away? Why did they refuse to turn back? Could the end results have been different for them?  

Then I reflected on my own life. (OUCH! I think the Holy Spirit made me do it!)

Pride-yes that word-the source of my drifting much like the people of Judah. Let’s be honest here: pride, arrogance, haughtiness, fear of man, etc. can decrease our level of honor for God and His Word at times. Pride has a way of clouding our judgment. Therefore, we ignore the warnings, disregard the consequences/truth, and often pretend there isn’t a disconnect with us and the LORD.

In Jeremiah chapter 35, we are introduced to a group of nomads, the Rekabites. They were known as “principled people”-a stark contrast to those in Judah during this time. These tent dwellers were faithful and steadfast. They had an exceptional quality of obedience and remained true to their set principles and values. Regardless of the temptation, they kept their promises. Their word was backed with follow through. WOW! God could count of them-what a beautiful display of a high level of respect. The Rekabites were far from haughty nor filled with self-pride.

Going back to my own assessment- God loves me so much to allow me to be broken and struggling many times over. Why?-because of self-reliance, portions of pride, and “what’s in it for me” approach to life. Oh, how I could easily become like Judah, but my heart cries out for a different life. I want to be a principled person, living as a nomad in this world, with an outstanding level of discipline and obedience for my precious Lord and Savior.

What about you? What about the legacy you are leaving behind? Where do you find yourself in life? What stands in your way of being 100% committed and faithful to God?

The Lord is definitely refining me and sharpening my motives to live a life more reflective of the Rekabites. I know the lie of self-sufficient and believing God’s truth and help isn’t needed 24/7 is directly from the enemy-pure evil. I boldly ask Jesus to be my war club and break the bondage held by the enemy. I crave true rest and complete presence of the LORD in my life.

May we each strive to be heroes of faith as we walk through this LIFE by digesting God’s Word on a personal level. I pray Scripture stirs your heart and opens the door to closeness with the Father. What a humble privilege to be encouraged by the mighty principled people found in God’s Holy Word-even the simple nomads.

 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.

Hebrews 11:32-34 (NIV)

JEREMIAH: Part 2-Bible Study online

Sign Up Today!

Our 2nd series of Jeremiah Bible study is now available! We start Monday, November 7th. We are so excited about the second half of this amazing online Bible study!

If you truly want to experience the power of God’s Word with a small group, this is the place! Each week is filled with wholesome learning in a safe environment surrounded by women desiring God’s lead.

This study is designed to be FLEXIBLE so you can tailor it to the time you have available each day.

  • WHAT: A seven-week Bible study Jeremiah (Chapters 29-52)
  • WHEN: November 7th-December 19th (Reading plan starts Nov. 2nd)
  • WHO: Anyone ready to dive deep into God’s Word through Bible study
  • WHERE: Online via zoom, Monday nights 6:00-7:00 p.m. (CST)
  • HOW TO JOIN: Contact us via email to get started. The study packet (pdf) is $10. We will send the Zoom link and study packet after receiving your completed registration. (NOTE: You are welcome to join without purchasing a study packet)

THROUGH THIS ONLINE CHAPER-BY-CHAPTER STUDY YOU WILL

  • Gain a better understand of the book of Jeremiah
  • Get a deeper look at God’s character and patience
  • Receive discernment and direction for your own spiritual life
  • Enjoy a committed community of women sharing like desires to walk with God and dive deeper into Scripture

If you are interested, email us at refiningjourney@gmail.com prior to November 7th.

We hope you can join us!

Hungry for God’s Word?

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Happy October! What a beautiful change this week. Our highest temperature was in the 50s yesterday. I am sure the first freeze is upon us soon, but for now I have enjoyed the cooler weather.

It seems this time of the year makes me really think about food. Pumpkin pie, zucchini bread, homemade soup, quiche, flavored coffee, etc. All things warm and cozy. Comfort! I can feel the fall hunger within me. The question is what will really satisfy my seasonal craving?

As we continue our fall study in Jeremiah, the subject of hunger appeared this past week. Jeremiah introduces a hungry soul and what can satisfy it. In Jeremiah 15:16 he states, “Your words are what sustain me; they are food to my hungry soul. They bring joy to my sorrowing heart and delight me. How proud I am to bear your name, O Lord.” (Living Bible)  

Jesus encouraged followers to feast on God’s Word. (John 8:31-32) He clearly wants us to not only build a relationship with the Trinity but with Scripture as well. Why? Because there is power in the word and He clearly illustrated this with His encounter with the enemy.

I think I can safely say we know an essential element in our spiritual walk is interacting with the Bible. Over and over, we are reminded of the substance it delivers. It gives us insight to the character of God, His desire for our daily living, and a multitude of sweet promises for His children. In chapter 20 of Jeremiah, we find Scripture can even ignite a fire within us to boldly witness without worry of persecution.

Do you crave God’s Word? Is it something you cannot live without? Do the words comfort and satisfying come to mind when thinking about your relationship with Scripture? Does it seems like a lot to take in much like the image above? Is it hard to “take a bite” on your own?

Much like discipleship training, we all need biblical literacy guidance. Often our Bibles are underutilized because we are unsure how to independently interact with God’s Word. I know this was very true for me.

Rick Warren once said, “…hungry Christians need to be taught how to feed themselves from the Word of God.” It takes time and training to grow in proficiency when building a relationship with Scripture. There are tons of strategies and methods, but regardless they are useless if they don’t resonate with you.

The main factor is consistency and commitment. Then read with purpose. Start with three areas of focus:

  1. Who is God?
  2. What does He want me to do or stop doing?
  3. What promises does God make?

These three areas alone can furnish us with a firm foundation to interacting with Scripture. This approach is an open invitation to carry out James 1:22-becoming a doer of the Word and stepping out in faith more and more as you get to know God deeper, discover His commands and cling to His promises.

Challenge yourself to read with intentionality. Spend time digesting books of the Bible by taking it one chapter at a time. I read this week that it is beneficial to read a chapter a week and read it at least five times during the timeframe. WOW! Also, it was suggested to set aside an hour twice a week for deep study. What great advice especially when we take God’s Word bite-by-bite, verse-by-verse.

So, what will you do differently this week as you grow in Scripture proficiency and biblical literacy? What can you add to your daily or weekly routine? How can you incorporate the three areas: Who is God? What are His instructions/reproof? Are there promises made in the passage?

We would love to hear from you. If you are seeking for an online group to assist you in Bible study skills, let us know. We meet online every Monday night via Zoom for one hour starting at 6:00 p.m. (CST). We will be happy to share the group link with you! We would love to have you join us as we learn how to grow in relationship with the Word of God together.

Are you Intense-Red Hot-Ever Present?

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Hello friends. For all of those out there experiencing true summer heat, fall should be here in about 65 days. Yes, that does seem so far away when the average temperature is around 105 or higher! Global warming has become front and center for many this year.

Intense-red hot-ever present

Refining ministry just completed the series entitled “Major Wisdom through Minor Prophets” this past Monday night. We have been on a journey studying each minor prophet for quite some time and would like to thank every person who joined us throughout this timeframe. The depth of understanding, sharing, and growth has been outstanding on many levels. (And to think we only meet online for one hour each Monday night!)

Our last study was over the book of Zechariah. The Read Scripture overview describes it as a roller coaster ride. It is filled with visions, prophecy, harsh judgment, and direct commands to name a few. Yet, Zechariah is intense-red hot-ever present in all that he delivers. He is known as the most apocalyptic and messianic of all minor prophets.

For me, Zechariah was a book which had to be digested one bite at a time. Symbolism, terminology, customs, prophetic aspects of the second coming of Christ, interpretations of visions, rituals, and the list goes on. There were times when even the commentaries and study resources were overwhelming. However, I am so thankful for Zechariah on many levels. It made me reflect on my life with the main question:

Are you intense-red hot-ever present for the LORD?

Zechariah presented his audience with hope, encouragement, warning, instructions, and the glimpse of a future King. Over the past seven weeks, I went chapter by chapter looking for direct instructions of how I could increase my spiritual walk and intensify my relationship with God. Zechariah allowed me to reevaluate my spiritual priorities and take a closer look at my daily habits.

Today, I would like to share the list with you. As you read over each item, let it wash over you and encourage you in your personal walk. Allow the Holy Spirit to highlight a couple of areas where you can crank up the heat for the LORD then take it to God in prayer. Enjoy!

  • Exercise the listening muscle
  • Be still to hear God’s voice
  • Watch out for worldliness (externally & internally)
  • Learn from your mistakes
  • Return to God quickly when you stray
  • Embrace the fire (life trials)
  • Rely on the Holy Spirit
  • Stay in God’s Word
  • Encourage others to invest in Scripture
  • Recognize sinning religion (a state of spiritual disobedience)
  • Only God is holy to judge
  • Have diligent obedience
  • Worship is more important than performing a religious ritual
  • Have a sincere desire to know God
  • Fully surrender your heart to the LORD
  • Carry out His commands with a joyful spirit
  • Speak truth
  • Live peacefully
  • Exercise justice
  • Love God’s ways
  • Seek only the approval of the LORD
  • Do not be afraid because God is your defender
  • Deal with sin barriers
  • Stay under the LORD’s authority
  • Intentional spend time with the father
  • Find your identity in God
  • Connect with like-minded Christians
  • Carry out God’s work at all costs
  • Stay dependent upon the LORD

Thank you, Zechariah! I loved the summer message:

God is intense-red hot-ever present for each of us!

Wisdom when you hear yourself say, “OH NO! I have Bible study tonight!”

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Have you ever attended a Bible study feeling unprepared? Have you skipped out because you were not able to get everything read? How about those Bible study groups where you just quit showing up because the workbook was never cracked open or a big life crisis reared its ugly head? Or maybe you had to miss one, so you used this as an excuse to miss the rest. “Sorry, I’m Busy!” (This is probably only the beginning to the ones I have used over the years!)

Whatever the case, let’s be honest, the enemy wants you to NOT participate! Did you hear me? He doesn’t even want you thinking about it nor remembering you were even a part of a Bible study. Why else would you have all these outs or excuses?

If you want to be very intentional about seeking the LORD, there will be roadblocks. AND, some good wisdom must be coming from the discussions in your Bible study group or the enemy would not try so hard to keep you from attending. God is there and He desires for you to be there too!

Relax-we all have excuses & outs. However, we must address the source. SO, when you feel behind or less of a participant STOP YOURSELF and claim these five truths over your situation:

  • God loves me PERIOD!
  • God sees my efforts when I just show up to class
  • My pace of learning and reading is my own
  • Every step I take in seeking the LORD is valuable
  • The LORD is always with me regardless of where I find myself in the progression of a Bible study

Then take ownership of you:

  • Keep showing up to class
  • Read at your pace
  • Ask God to help you stay committed & moving forward in His Word

Remember, those excuses and roadblocks are not from God.

If you are in a Bible study currently or beginning one, pray! Pray for focused, intentional time. Ask the LORD to clear your calendar for those meeting times (even if you didn’t finish the weekly work or readings). Pray for a hedge of protection over your entire participation in the study. If you can, call someone else in the study group and ask them to be your accountability partner. Prepare ahead of time for the obstacles because they will come!

Then-commit. Pray for the leaders of your Bible study. Make an action plan and get started. Remember, you can succeed, and you are never behind if you are showing up and making small steps every day by staying in His Word and building relationship with HIM!

Change it & Claim it-

“OH YES! I have Bible study tonight. I cannot wait for the wisdom God will reveal.”

Is TRUE GRIT in the spiritual growth equation?

What do you think of when you hear the words “True Grit”? Your mind might go directly to the movie or possibly a particular person. Regardless, I think we can all agree it is defined as passionate perseverance committed for the long haul and at all costs. True grit has its ups and downs, difficulties, celebrations, failures, and even stagnation, yet somehow success comes in the end.   

Take the human body. How physically evident can true grit be seen when someone changes their eating habits and begins an intensive workout plan. Over time the sweat, dedication, and effort become a reward. The body starts to reflect the hard work and success is seen.

“Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.
Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure.” Proverbs 4:25-26

Well, what about our spiritual growth? Does God require true grit? Can we have a close walk with the LORD without it?

As I have been studying the minor prophet books, I am seeing over and over that a walk with the LORD takes work and dedication. It is difficult at best to stay committed to the LORD. Being in God’s remnant goes beyond faith. It requires us to find ourselves in His plan and dig deep within to stay committed and steadfast when everyone around is doing the opposite. Let’s be honest, worldly ways are appealing and have been through human existence.   

Personally, I have found studying the Word of God requires sincere true grit. I haven’t always felt this way though.

It took a deep valley to make me evaluate my core and what made me tick! Yep-getting honest and asking myself, “Are you going to keep living for you or get serious about following the LORD’s road map?” It took some major humility, surrender, and many years of getting it wrong before I realized the importance of living life under the authority of God’s Word.

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.'” Lamentations 3:22-24

SO, when I was finally ready, I realized I could not carry out my spiritual journey without truly knowing God’s Word. Now I don’t mean just reading, being exposed, and listening. I mean having true grit to find God in the pages. It took me placing value on this incredible gift-the Bible and realizing I needed help simply studying God’s Word on my own!

Bit by bit, I am learning. I am not by far a scholar!  As I gain knowledge, I am slowly realizing this fact: Scripture is supplying the breath in my spiritual walk and God doesn’t want me living without it.   

You and I are on a pathway of life my friends. No matter the distance we have come or still must go, our sanctification requires commitment, dedication, work, time, perseverance, encouragement, community, sweat, tears, a humble heart, and so much more. It all starts within…a word of faith in Christ’s saving grace and then…TRUE GRIT!

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6

How committed are you to studying Scripture? Do you crave it more than the air you breathe? If you knew for a fact it was the only supply of oxygen for your spiritual life, would you learn how to tap into it more?

“For nothing will be impossible with God.” Luke 1:37

Success begins with doing-and yes failing too. Don’t be discouraged my friend. Go ahead-take the next step on the pathway. Keep moving forward. Seek ways to stay motivated, keep learning, and continually growing in relationship with the LORD. And above all-REMEMBER, God loves you far beyond your wildest imagination. He even left His love story written in a book for you to know Him more.

Embrace His Word with TRUE GRIT!

“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14

WHY ONLINE BIBLE STUDY?

Our online Bible studies are created for women JUST LIKE YOU! Why? Because we know the struggle of staying motivated and actively engaged with God and His Word.

Refining provides you simple and practical ways to not only interact with the LORD and His written voice, but to also grow in relationship with Him. If you are ready to spiral deeper into God’s Word and discover creative elements to getting to know the LORD, then come give us a try!

We invite you to find community with women just like you. This is a safe & confidential place to thrive with a group of like-minded friends and the added plus is it does not matter where you live! You are invited to corporately study with us as we spend one hour a week in Scripture on Zoom sharing and learning together. Bonus feature-It is FREE! Even our snapshot sheets like the one above! No charge.

Ladies, you have many options when it comes to online Bible study and many choices are cost associated. Refining Ministry simply exists as a service to you. The online Bible studies are strictly here to assist you. Let us show you how to design your own Scripture plan and develop your skills with proven tips, tools, and methods we have found beneficial on many levels.

Our next study begins June 6th! Come give it a try. Email us at refiningjourney@gmail.com for the link, handout, and details.

FREE & FABULOUS: Bible Study Tips-Part 4

Hello & Happy Holiday weekend! Before we jump into the FREE & FABULOUS series, I feel it is necessary to take a moment to pause…

The sorrow, pain, disbelief, anger, fear, and heartbreak are overwhelming. Locally, the week began with two less people and now the week ends with the loss of over 20 lives on a state level. For me, I have very little words-the grief leaves me speechless. While studying Amos this week, I read “prayer is a powerful privilege” and that was made evident through the prayers of Amos. I will cling to the faith that our prayers for all involved and effected by these shooting incidents will be provided the greatest level of comfort, healing, and hope. Father God, hear our prayers.

It was through loss and trials for half a decade that brought me to the place where I am today. Although I never want anyone to experience the deep dark pit and pain, it produced an amazing treasure and drive. It developed a steadfast love for God’s Word like never before and sparked a spiritual maturity ministry, Refining. May the LORD be glorified in all things!

Thanks to technology-we have plethora Bible study aids at our fingertips! Some are simple, easy to find, and user friendly while others take a little more know how.

We have been taking a few minutes after our Monday night online Bible study classes and investigating one resource a week. This week I shared a complicated website I use for Greek/Hebrew word study. Once I saw their reactions, I knew Bible study tip #4 would NOT be this one. 😊    

So…drum roll please…Tip #4 has a fun name-Bible Hub! This study source has over 15 versions of the Bible. It has NIV, NLT, AMP, and ESV, most used ones by our online participants. It is also a multilingual resource!

Let’s dig in.

WHAT IS IT?  It is a great FREE website, or you can download the FREE app. They refer to themselves as an online Bible study suite because they have concordances, commentaries, encyclopedias, dictionaries, sermons, timelines, atlas, devotionals, etc. Bible Hub promotes its site as a quick reference to topical, Greek, and Hebrew study tools. The resource itself is elementary in its layout because everything offered is represented on the main page. Don’t be afraid of the acronyms-just hover over them and they reveal exactly what they are.

What captures me the most is their mission:

1) Increase the visibility and accessibility of the Scriptures online.
2) Provide free access to Bible study tools in many languages.
3) Promote the Gospel of Christ through the learning, study, and application of God’s word.

WHY I USE IT? This website gives me an easy-to-use online resource to ‘unfold’ the main verse I want to research more throughout my week. First, I select SUM to read the complete summary of the book. Next, I click on OUT and receive a complete outline of the book. How easy is that! This provides me an understanding of where this verse falls within the overall layout of the message on the Bible book.

Then, I compare versions of the passage on one page by selecting Parallel. It also provides context and cross references for the selected verse. Finally, there is the word study option. You will either see Hebrew or Greek as an option. Once I click on this, the entire verse breaks down into word parts and the original language, spelling, and meaning appears. (WHAT? All on one site!)

Of course, the website doesn’t stop there. There are sermons, concordances, atlas, commentaries, etc. available to help deepen your understanding.

I have grown to love this site because it aligns with my spiritual discipline of drilling down into a verse to discover meaning, cross references, original language, Biblical examples, attributes of God, and direct personal understanding. (Sidenote: I am invested in Scripture Notebooking) It is a wonderful supplement to my study Bible and is not complicated to utilize.

HOW TO USE IT?

TRY IT: https://biblehub.com/

  1. Go to the site. Click on your preferred translation. Then type in Zechariah 1:3 in the search box. Hit enter.
  2. Now click on the word Parallel. You will see different versions, context (verse before and after), cross references, a commentary, then the verse broken into the original language/meaning (Hebrew).

What do you think? Can you believe it is all in one place? Don’t forget to try the SUM and OUT features. Remember the Bible is NOT in chronological order, so the TIM feature will give you a timeline so you can quickly see where the Bible book falls accordingly.

No special training needed for this my friends. All you need is a little time to click and discover. There is much more to investigate but I am happy to find this website mainly because of the word study it provides.

Let the Holy Spirit guide you as you intentionally drill down into a highlighted verse each week. I would encourage you to approach God’s Word daily by expecting a beautiful revelation of hope, a loving guidance to life, and a new depth of understanding of GOD, the one who loves you the most.

Hug those in your life…find joy in every moment…treasure your relationship with the LORD!

Happy Bible Study journey!!   Until we meet again.

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