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FREE & FABULOUS: Bible Study Tips-Part 2

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But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18 ESV

Hello. Thank you for joining us as we continue our FREE & FABULOUS series! Tip #1 we put into practice immediately with our Amos study group. It was delightful to find various translations of Chapters 1 & 2 as we individually studied the passage prior to Monday night’s meeting. What an amazing time to live—we have a world full of technology at our fingertips and can deepen our knowledge of Scripture at our own convenience. AND-most of these online study tools are FREE!

Tips #2 is for those who want to dig deep into the meaning of God’s Word. If you are like me, I want to consult a commentary mainly when a particular passage captures my attention. However, I don’t particularly want to always consult the set we were given years ago.  

Let me introduce Study Light. https://www.studylight.org/commentary.html

WHAT IS IT?  It is a verse-by-verse Bible commentary where you can search for specific Scripture and have a large collection of commentaries, concordances, dictionaries, and encyclopedias at the click of a button. Some of the Bible commentaries include Clarke, Bridgeway, Coffman, Henry, Barnes, Calvin, Smith, Gill, Kelly, etc. There are over 100 different commentaries used to build this resource. It does have pastoral resources if some of you are leading a Bible study over a particular book of the Bible and need some ideas, sermon illustrations, and the like. There are suggested daily reading plans and daily devotions if this is something you are needing. The site offers solid, foundational material for studying God’s Word.

WHY I USE IT? This online resource has become a new love of mine. In the past I have searched the internet for commentaries, sermons, and videos based on the chapter I was reading/studying. I like this site because I can drill down into the chapter verse-by-verse and receive some of the world’s greatest Bible scholar’s comments all in one location. I have enjoyed finding meaning over a particular verse which stood out to me each week. (Sidenote: I use a Scripture Notebooking plan) It is user friendly and doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles to sidetrack my attention. Although I have my favorite commentaries, this site has given me the opportunity to see Scripture through other’s eyes which I probably would not have entertained/found/read on my own.

HOW TO USE IT?

  1. Click on Bible Study Tools. Then choose your resource (commentary, concordance, dictionary, encyclopedia)
  2. When choosing Bible Commentary-now click on the book of the Bible, the chapter, and then the verse.

TRY IT: Choose Bible Commentary-New Testament 1 John-Chapter 1-Verse 1

Scroll down and look at Barnes’ Notes. You will the verse is broken down into small parts and each is explained in depth. Most of the commentaries give you cross references as well as other Bible study tools to use. I really like this style of commentary because it reminds me a lot of Verse Mapping.  

This is what you should see:

Barnes’ Notes on the Whole Bible

That which was from the beginning – There can be no doubt that the reference here is to the Lord Jesus Christ, or the “Word” that was made flesh. See the notes at John 1:1. This is such language as John would use respecting him, and indeed the phrase “the beginning,” as applicable to the Lord Jesus, is unique to John in the writings of the New Testament: and the language here may be regarded as one proof that this Epistle was written by him, for it is just such an expression as “he” would use, but not such as one would be likely to adopt who should attempt to palm off his own writings as those of John.

This is one you need to experience. Play around with it a bit and see what commentaries you like best. Like I said, this is a new resource for me! There is a wealth of knowledge on this site. It has been around for over 20 years so I am sure you will find a lot more offered than the small tip I have shared. I will continue tapping into this free resource as I drill down weekly into my Holy Spirit guided Scripture study method.

Let us know what you liked about Study Light.

Happy Bible Study journey!!   

FREE & FABULOUS: Bible Study Tips-Part 1

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Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

Happy Friday Friends! Welcome to our FREE & FABULOUS series to help you discover fresh new ways to strengthen your personal Bible Study. Just like you, we are continually searching for tips to assist our personal study of God’s Word. Regardless of the techniques you incorporate during your personal study of God’s Word, it is always fun to discover FREE online study tools to deepen your understanding.

We love FREE! And-what is better than ONLINE & FREE? Just like you-we understand a limited budget and need for convenience. We invite you to walk alongside of us for the next few weeks as we investigate some great resources available to enhance your quiet time in God’s Word.

Let me introduce Bible Gateway. https://www.biblegateway.com/

WHAT IS IT?  A website where you can search, read, and/or listen to various translations of the Bible as well as different language offerings. It provides a variety of ways to study and engage with Scripture, reading plans, mobile apps, keyword search, topical index, signup for daily devotionals & newsletters, audio series, blog posts, recent podcasts, and so much more!  

WHY I USE IT? This online resource is my first go to when focusing on a particular verse which stood out to me each week. (Sidenote: I use a Scripture Notebooking plan) Bible Gateway gives me a quick way to read/listen to another translation outside of my study Bible. I love the ease of use and how readily available numerous translations are at my fingertips.

HOW TO USE IT?

  1. Enter your passage location, keyword, or topic AND select the translation.
  2. You can even select all English translations once the passage is revealed.

TRY IT: type in 1 John 1:1 and select NIV (hit the search button)

You will see the verse and an option to read the entire chapter. Also, you will have the opportunity to view 1 John 1:1 in all English translations. At the click of a button-every English translation is listed on one entire page! 

  • Use the advanced search option to the left and you will be given cross references and footnotes!

This is what you should see:

That which was from the beginning,(A) which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes,(B) which we have looked at and our hands have touched(C)—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.

Read full chapter

Cross references

  1. 1 John 1:1 : S Jn 1:2
  2. 1 John 1:1 : S Lk 24:48; Jn 1:14; 19:35; Ac 4:20; 2Pe 1:16; 1Jn 4:14
  3. 1 John 1:1 : Jn 20:27
  • Type in keywords and/or topics and choose your translation

This will give you the OT & NT verses which include the word or topic. I will occasional use this feature if a particular word or attribute of God becomes apparent when reading the various translations. I don’t necessarily use this site for word study, but I do use it for cross referencing.

SO, there is your first FREEBIE for our Bible Study tips. Give it a try. See what you like best. I only touched the surface of what the website has to offer. Remember, I am limited in full knowledge of this free resource because I only use it for a quick reference for other translations and cross references when studying a particular Scripture.

Let us hear from you. We would love to know what you find helpful when using Bible Gateway.

Looking forward to sharing more with you soon.

Happy Bible Study journey!!   

SIGN UP DEADLINE is July 8th! GOD IS…Retreat in North Carolina

Come to the beautiful North Carolina mountain town of Burnsville for a unique experience deepening your personal discovery of who GOD IS. What better way to expand your spiritual connection with the LORD than to spend a weekend encountering Him in a variety of ways. Your time will be filled with fun, laughter, learning, Scripture, prayer, and so much more. This is your opportunity to getaway, grow in relationship with the Father, and clearly define who GOD IS for you.

Speakers: Kris Swiatocho, Genna Stotts and Robin Gonzales

Dates: July 29th-31st, 2022

Cost: $210 for the weekend; includes 4 meals; Daily attendee option of $75 plus extra cost for meals.

Go to www.GodIsRetreat.org for all the details.

Scripture Praying-Daily Guide Included!

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled. (Matthew 5:6)

Together, Scripture, prayer, and fasting is a concentrated emphasis to center your life around the true lover of your soul. This 21-day study is your time to focus on what is important, pray truth with confidence, and keep your prayers wholesome. Although fasting is designed to be temporary, the overall goal for this study is to become secure in praying God’s Word for a lifetime.

Your are invited to spend these 21 days together with us seeking the miraculous power of the LORD and a strong biblical method applicable to every season of life. This is unlike any study I have experienced!

The study will reference a variety of Scripture promises on an assortment of topics (healthy mind, pure heart, bodily restoration, faith, salvation, peace, hope, & fellowship with God) to provide you an opportunity to pray for various people and/or life circumstances. This guide is not limited to one specific category such as a spouse or job like most. Why? Because the person and/or situation for your daily prayer is intended to be led by the Holy Spirit.

The design: As you read the daily passage, allow the LORD to direct your focus. It is a fluid mode meant to provide practice in allowing Scripture to determine the subject of your prayers. This may seem a little foreign at first, but this is a chance embrace a growth mindset in God

We will meet online weekly to encourage one another in the journey and discuss questions, concerns, experiences, etc. as like-minded Christians coming together in unity.

March 21, 28, April 4, & 11 will be the meeting dates at 6:00 pm (CST) via Zoom.

Please email us at refiningjourney@gmail.com if you are interested. We will be happy to send you the online link information along with a PDF guide.

Does your money defile you?

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The threshing floor and the wine press will no longer feed them, And the new wine will fail them [because they failed to honor the God who provides]. Hosea 9:2 (Amplified Bible)

Hello friends. How are you on 02/22/22? Did you do anything fun at 2:22 p.m.? I remember 11-11-11 at 11:11 a.m. I was at a conference with my boss, Diane Reid, and she loved numbers! She had me step out of the large conference hall and take her picture as a memory. Today, as a reflect upon that moment, I am grateful for the photograph. You see, at the time I thought it was silly, but I now cherish the snapshot because she was taken to glory September 2014.

Reading verse one of Hosea chapter 9 reminds me of many conversations with Diane. She was a true believer of rejoicing because of the internal joy that she experienced from living in God’s will. Her life reflected the fact that if a person pursues happiness by satisfying their God given purpose they will reap the joy of the LORD. It wasn’t money or fame that drove her. It was taking life moment by moment and making good choices in those steps. In her cancer battle, Jesus came to her and ask her to simply live. She said it seemed like every time after that when she tried to type love in her text messages-live would appear. One of the last deep conversations I had with her, she advised me to live each moment honoring the LORD in ALL things-easy and hard, good times or in bad. If only she knew where her advice has landed me seven years later.

As I continued to read Hosea chapter 9, verse two just would not leave my thoughts. “Threshing floors and winepresses will not feed the people; the new wine will fail them.” Well, I camped out on this verse for quite awhile this past week.

So, be forewarned, the remainder of this posting is a snapshot of my mental trail as I tried to unfold the message God had for me to grasp.

Threshing floor? What is this? It is a flat area where the harvesters would beat the wheat to separate the straw from the chaff.

Why is this event so important? This only happens 1X annually. There was great value in this timeframe because they depended on the wheat for food substance over the next 365 days. Therefore, the men would stay overnight at the threshing floor to ensure thieves did not take their grain.

What was the desired outcome from the threshing floor? Harvesters always desired a rich harvest. This was their hope each year.

Who provided the crop? God made their provisions. Now, He would discipline through a famine and God was going to supernaturally intervene to cause the crops to fail.

Where does the credit need to go? The LORD is always working and all blessings big or small come from Him. It is often hard to understand because we mainly see the natural order of sowing and harvesting, but God is who decides if it is a success or failure.

So, what could be our threshing floor today? What is the main substance needed to supply our existence? MONEY

What is the main things we do to obtain it? WORK

And when the harvest is ripe–We receive our crop-PAYCHECK

Then we go to our threshing floor and separate out the provisions. As we pound out the bills and budget the income-what normally comes to mind? Will there be enough? Just like the harvesters, our future days depends upon it: shelter, water, food, clothing, etc.

How do we protect it and value it? Maybe this is a personal choice. Do we spend it all or save for a rainy day? Do we stick with the budget? Do we thank God for it each and every time we receive it? Is our first thought to tithe? Oh yeah-IT IS ALL GOD’S provision.

Do we do anything to try to produce a rich harvest? WOW-all that comes to mind is worldly ways-fighting for a promotion, taking short cuts, scheming, etc. Wait-yes I can intentionally give it back to God and ask for every penny to be used for His glory. “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over the new wine.” Proverbs 3:9-10.

Then Diane’s words came to me again through God’s Word: “Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Give careful thought to your ways.'” Haggai 1:5 (NIV) And my study Bible extended her advise-“Caring only for your comfort and pleasure while ignoring your relationship with God will lead to ruin.”

My discovered concern: When have I ever prayed over a payday or paycheck? When have I ever given it totally over to the LORD and asked for His hand of direction for every penny? When have I stopped and thanked Him for His glorious provisions on those once a month occasion? Do I solely depend on my “major crop” as security and neglect worshiping God when the harvest is ripe?

Will you let your money defile you? What will it take to get your attention? Will God send a drought to destroy your livelihood as a means to call you back to himself?

WOW-just-WOW…

Payday just happened for me.

I have to stop writing now.

I have some business with God I need to take care of.

EXILED-Does this still occur?

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Hello friends! How are you today? I hope you are wrapped in a warm blanket and enjoying a beautiful fire. Our current 10 degrees, snow, and 25 mph winds are a brutal combination.

I thought I would start by sharing this week’s unique icebreaker during our weekly online class. Several had the opportunity to introduce themselves like this, “Hi, my name is Genna (first name) Corolla (model of your car) and I am being exiled to the land of parmesan cheese (last thing you ate).” It was fun hearing each person add their introduction line as we began our evening.

But why focus on exile? Good question-over and over we see this word, especially in our minor prophet studies. Hosea is no different. As we approached chapter 4, we found charges God had against the Northern Kingdom because of their rebellious lifestyle. The LORD found them guilty of no loyalty, trust, or acknowledgment of Him. Therefore, exile was upon them in the days ahead.

Webster defines exile as “the state or period of forced or voluntary absence from one’s country or home”. In our minor prophet series, we have seen God using exile to capture the attention of those who refused to follow His instructions.

Often than not, exile continues for generations to come. Why? Maybe because of the power of long-lasting consequences. When exile happened, the people would find themselves in a foreign land and sometimes without a temple. It isn’t until then that the people would reflect on their wicked ways. Once they repented the LORD would forgive them but, the exile would normally continue for a period of time.

So, how can this Old Testament prophesy and state of exile apply today?

Could we possibly experience exile?

I cannot answer this for everyone but, let me share my thoughts when reflecting on these two questions:

Does the LORD ever have charges against me and my behavior? Do I ever found myself partaking in sinful actions and turning my back on living under Biblical authority? (Unfortunately, I could write a book!)

Are there times when certain Scriptures, sermons, bible studies, devotions, etc. prick my heart and warn me of the consequences if I continue my disobedience?

As I ponder these questions, I think about reproof. When reproof comes, the Lord wants me to repent and turn from my lawless ways. He knew I would struggle with fleshy desires so He equipped me with two helpmates: the Holy Spirit and His Word. The Lord desires a harmonious relationship with me but, He also allows me to make my own decisions. (My freewill is a thorn at times)

However, when I ignore the LORD’s instructions and continue to sin it is truly spiritual adultery. (Ouch-those words sting!) Therefore, exile will probably come. My sin has separated me from the LORD and He will seem far away because of my own doing. My failed faith might even leave me feeling deserted or isolated from the closeness I once felt with God. This is my “foreign land” time to reflect on my behavior and an opportunity to repent and turn back to the LORD.

My exile-separated from the one who loves me the most-the lover of my soul. This leaves me with another question: How can I avoid exile and stay on track to be successful in my faith?

What are your thoughts?

How would you answer these questions:

 How can Old Testament prophesy and exile apply today?

Could you possibly experience exile?

YADA: How do you define “to know” God?

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We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 1 John 4:16 (NIV)

Yada! A term I equate with true success in my life. This word ranks high on my favorite list yet, it has not always been this way.

Yada is a Hebrew word meaning “to know”. I love learning! So, it probably doesn’t come as a shock for those who know me to hear me state my deep feeling for this term. However, there is more to this four-letter word in my life than the surface level.

Visually, the world sees me craving information and textual knowledge. There is no denying it-I do. I would even go so far as to say it has opened the door to a deeper meaning of Yada in my life. This “to know” has placed me on a journey to go beyond textual knowledge of the LORD and really “know” Him for who He is. But remember, I said it hasn’t always been this way.

For many years, my “to know” was for my success. Then my intellectual knowledge of the LORD began transforming my heart and allowing me to redefine what it means to really “know”. Also, I began pursing my definition of “yada” for God’s glory and not my own.   

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By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. 1 John 2:3 (NIV)

Due to failures in life and finding myself at rock bottom, spiritual wisdom was gained. I realized that the most important thing in my life was a growing relationship with the LORD. The life change I had to make was to go beyond periodically meeting with God to walking with Him 24/7. Although I still fall short at times, I have set a goal to live with the LORD right beside every moment-because He is.

So, what did this require of me? I have had to learn to say good morning every day, turn to Him first in all circumstances good or bad, trust in His promises, have faith in His attributes, and love Him on a level of complete obedience and count it as an honor. Let me just say-this is a struggle within my flesh, and I continually fight against “gods” taking the LORD’s place.  

The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 1 John 4:8 (NIV)

Making God my firm foundation has been a journey. My desperation caused me to begin taking my relationship with the LORD to new heights and to realize it is an ongoing process. I had to learn to live my life with an open Bible, feed on His Word, and let the Holy Spirit lead. (Boy, that sounds easy when I see those words on paper!)

The difference between “to know” and “TO KNOW!” has been eye opening. My new “yada” has taken me from meeting with God periodically to walking with the lover of my soul continually. The LORD wants this for everyone. He loves us exponentially and craves for us to walk closely with Him in a relationship different from all others. This takes us beyond intellectual textbook knowledge to a deep personal commitment that transforms our heart, mind, and soul.

And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. 1 John 5:20 (NIV)

Refinement Ministry exist because of this life changing concept. The goal of the Bible studies, retreats, workshops, etc. is to support spiritual maturity. Hey, we are just ordinary, everyday people just like you who want to seek out this journey with like-minded Christians. We believe in community and the importance of sharing experiences, wisdom, and perspective with each other.

What is your definition of yada? Are you looking for ways to know God on a more intimate level? If so, we invite you to be a part of one of our Bible studies online, upcoming getaways, or weekend workshops. 2022 is dedicated to helping others go beyond text knowledge to intimate knowledge of who GOD IS and experience this through Scripture Notebooking!  

We are so excited to share this beautiful “yada” definition with you. Trust me when I say, it is life changing!

By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 1 John 4:2 (NIV)

REDEEMING LOVE found in HOSEA

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“Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘children of the living God.’ The people of Judah and the people of Israel will come together; they will appoint one leader and will come up out of the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel.” Hosea 1:10-11 (NIV)

The book of Hosea is a love story of a life changing devotion only God can give. Throughout the Bible, the depth, breadth, and width of his sacrificial commitment to us is mind blowing! His love and affection are so evident through Christ Jesus, His Son, who paid the ultimate price for us even while we were still sinners!

Probably much like you, this atonement is not unfamiliar. Most of us have heard the message of salvation throughout our lifetime. However, how many of us really take to heart the redemptive lover of our soul to the point of being completely transformed into His image? As for me, I find myself falling short of the mark as I dig into Hosea.

Recently Francine Rivers’ book, Redeeming Love, has made its debut on the big screen. You may or may not know this, but her writing was inspired by the book of Hosea. This romance novelist was captured by God’s all-consuming admiration Hosea portrays and she developed the plot and characters around her takeaway from this book in the Bible. I read this story many years ago and was mesmerized by her talent. She eloquently delivers a story of fervent, costly love pointing to Christ Jesus and God’s never-waiving, eternal compassion for us.

As I began preparing for this study, the Holy Spirit really caught my attention regarding my relationship with the LORD. Very rarely have I viewed my connection with the father as a marriage, a redemptive one at that! Hosea’s words really brought to light the passion God has for everyone, including me. I found myself spellbound and captivated by this concept in such a riveting way.

In my hypnotic state of mind, I began thinking about my eternal relationship with the LORD. I began asking myself, “How could I fully be in love with God, the way He is with me, if I don’t invest my time in knowing Him the way He knows me? How can I faithfully rely on God if I don’t spend time discovering His attributes? What am I doing to grow our relationship? Is my obedience and devotion on the level the LORD desires? Are there barriers within my life keeping God’s love at bay? Am I allowing Him to captivate every part of my being so He can refine and transform me to be His redemptive bride?”

These questions, along with many others, have led me to seek out God’s never-ending love through focusing on His attributes. I know like most of my deep lasting relationships, it takes time to build a strong bond.  It seems crazy to me not to devote time to knowing the LORD more intimately when I reflect upon what He has promised: to love me no matter what, to fully restore me, to want me despite my warts, to give me hope, to always be beside me, to forgive me of my numerous sins, to be in close relationship with me, and to promise me an eternal home through the salvation found from His own Son’s sacrifice. WOW!

Hosea has given me a fresh beginning to press into defining who GOD IS personally for me. To identify those fascinating attributes and deepen my reliance on the LORD. I want to be grounded in Scripture to know the truth of who the father is really like and how I can grow closer through my reliance on His character and promises.

So, what about you? The father craves interaction with us more than we can possibly know, but we let our life rejections, hurts, earthy measure of worth, past sins, other’s opinions, low self-esteem, etc. get in the way of discovering God for who He really is and allowing Him to love us to completion. What is holding you back? What has possibly distorted your perception of God’s great love? Why do you need redemption in your life?

I pray this study will deliver clarity of who the LORD really is and how He wants to restore through His redeeming love. I am excited to see the different levels of discernment and hope God provides as our group on Monday nights draw closer to Him through His Word.

In what ways are you looking to receive Redeeming Love from the LORD? Come join us on Monday nights for one hour (6:00 pm CST) via zoom. We would be delighted to have you. Feel free to email us for the link and handouts at refiningjourney@gmail.com. The study is only for 7 weeks!

HOSEA Study & Scripture Notebooking

1 Thessalonians 2:13
And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.

Are you ready to take your Bible intake to a new level? Come join us via Zoom every Monday night for seven weeks. We will show you how to digest Scripture differently through your very own handwriting.

Grab your Bible, your favorite pen, and a small notebook. You don’t want to miss out on this opportunity. See you soon!

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