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Archive | Bible study

Is Your Life Producing Spiritual Fruit?

Fruit of the SpiritFinally! It’s Fall! Time for cooler weather, football games, and the annual harvest. So it’s a good time to evaluate the harvest of our lives. Are our lives producing the spiritual fruit God desires?

God intends for us, His children, to bear fruit. According to Jesus, when we follow Him closely our lives will produce “much” fruit (John 15:5). Many of us can quote the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians chapter 5 – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – but is the Spirit’s fruit evident in our lives? Are our lives producing an abundant harvest or are we in serious need of some spiritual fertilizer?

Whether we need some major pruning or just a little shaping up, all of us could benefit from studying and applying what God’s Word says about the fruit of the Spirit. For the next six Thursdays, you are invited to join me on an easy stroll through Galatians 5:16-25.

Fruit of the Spirit: Plant, Cultivate, and Grow is a 6-week blog-based Bible study that will help foster spiritual fruit in your life. Join me each Thursday through November 10!

I first ran this Bible study series on the Fruit of the Spirit about four years ago, but I know I need a refresher. Maybe you do too! The blog posts will be in a Bible study format. You can learn simply by reading the posts. But if you’d like to get more out of it, print the PDF version that will be supplies each week study and use it for your Bible study time. This series will take us into mid-November, so if you are not in a Bible study this fall, then this might be just what you need!

Each week as we study together we will Plant God’s truth in our hearts, Cultivate our own lives to receive that truth, and take action to help it Grow! Here are a few things we’ll learn in Fruit of the Spirit: Plant, Cultivate, Grow

  • What are the characteristics of a “fruitless” life?
  • What does it mean to “live by the Spirit?”
  • Just what is “fruit” anyway?
  • Am I “fruity?”
  • What should the fruit of the Spirit look like in my life?
  • How can I improve my harvest?

Even if you’ve studied the fruit of the Spirit before, this study will be different. Will you join me in this study? I’d love to hear from you. Let me know you’ll be joining me and where you’re from!

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8 Sites for Online Bible Study Helps

Oline bible study helpsAre you a devoted student of the Bible? If your answer is “yes,” then you are always looking for ways to enrich and deepen your time in God’s Word. In addition to the printed resources I shared on Monday, these online Bible study helps will help you dig even deeper!

You can access many resources, tools, and writings that will enrich your Bible study on the internet. A few to investigate are below. Just keep in mind that everything you find on the internet will not be truly biblical. Check everything you find against the truth of God’s Word.

8 Sites for Online Bible Study Helps

  1. www.biblegateway.com
    •             20 English versions of the Bible with keywords and topical index
    •             Several commentaries, dictionaries, lexicon, and more
  2. www.biblestudytools.com
    •             Harmony of the Gospels
    •             Easton’s Bible Dictionary
    •             Nave’s Topical Bible
    •             Several commentaries and dictionaries
  3. www.blueletterbible.org-   Outlines, charts, maps, Strong’s, Commentaries, Lots of misc.
  4. www.biblehub.com – Search and study tools including parallel texts, cross references, Treasury of Scripture, and commentaries, plus access to topical studies, interlinears, sermons, Strong’s and many more resources
  5. www.studylight.org –  Bible commentaries, encyclopedias, dictionaries, lexicons and original language tools
  6. www.bible-history.com – Drawings, photos, timelines, archeology, calendars
  7. www.e-sword.net – This must be downloaded, but it is free
  8. http://www.ccel.org/  –  Christian Classics Ethereal Library; Writings of the old Church Fathers such as Tertullian, Athanasius, and Augustine.

Do you have a favorite site for online Bible study helps? Please share!

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Online Bible Study and a Giveaway!

I might be just a little – or a lot – excited! Here’s the big news: The Mom Initiative will be using my newly released book, “Lavish Grace” , as their fall online Bible study!

online bible study

A few Details about this Online Bible Study

All the details are posted today at TheMomInitiative.com, but here are the basics. The TMI online Bible study, which begins Monday, September 19 and continues through October 31, is designed with you in mind. We have built in four levels of involvement, so you can participate as much or as little as you are able.

  1. Brief weekly video and short blog lesson by one of the TMI team here on TMI each Monday, beginning September 19
  2. Deeper printable PDF lesson available in the Monday post
  3. Go deeper still by purchasing and using the Lavish Grace Bible study book (Available now in print and ebook formats at Amazon, CBD, New Hope Publishers)
  4. Join us throughout the week for ongoing discussion and practical application in the closed Facebook study group.

WorldCraft apronPLUS… each Saturday we will share a “Let’s Say Grace” recipe created just for the TMI study. And to celebrate the fall study, TMI is giving away a pair of Mother/Daughter aprons donated by WorldCrafts! Check out the TMI post to find out how to enter.

 

 

Find out more about Lavish Grace

Not sure this particular study is for you? Find out more about it now:

Visit The Mom Initiative now to find out more about the online study and enter the giveaway for a chance to win the Mother/Daughter aprons!

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7 Resources for Online Summer Bible Study

online summer Bible studyWant to participate in Bible study this summer but your travel schedule prevents you from regularly attending a physical group study? Then an online summer Bible study might be just what you need to stay immersed in God’s Word. I’ve done a little digging around and found some great options for you to check out.

7 Options for Online Summer Bible Study

  1. “Armor of God” by Priscilla Shirer through LifeWay – This study begins June 9 and ends July 21. There will be weekly emails and online videos. You’ll need to purchase a copy of the study guide. You can sign up here!
  2. Summer Book Club at Women’s Bible Cafe – Not exactly a Bible study, but Women’s Bible Cafe will be doing a non-fiction book each month of the summer to help you grow spiritually. Worth checking out! June’s book is “Believing God” by Lisa Harper. Find out more here.
  3. “The Husband Project” by Kathi Lipp at Proverbs 31 – This study begins June 20. Sign up here.  Find out more about how online studies work at Proverbs 31 here.
  4. Right here on Unshakeable Faith for Life – I have done several studies here on my blog and all the material is still available. You can use it, any time, anywhere! Check these out:
  5. Hello Mornings – A new group will begin June 20th. Includes online resources, weekly emails, and group challenges! Sign up here.
  6. “Wonderstruck” by Margaret Feinberg – Seven online session including video. Sign up here.
  7. “Lavish Grace: Poured Out, Poured Through, and Overflowing” – My new Bible study will be released on August 1st and I can’t wait to share it with you! So, I will be offering an online version here beginning early August. Watch for more. Preorder on Amazon now!

Do you know of other resources to study the Bible online this summer? Would love for you to add them in the comments!

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3 Bible Studies that Impacted My Faith

People often ask me for Bible study recommendations and usually I have some suggestions. Over the years, I’ve had a lot of experience with Bible studies from many different angles. I have been a student of the Bible and a “consumer” of Bible study curriculum for almost 30 years. I have also taught Bible study, chosen curriculum for church ministries, and written Bible studies.

But recently, a conversation I had with a friend got me thinking about the Bible studies that have had the greatest impact on my own life. I want to share those with you today.

First, I want to emphasize that our first source for growing in our faith and in our knowledge of God is His Word. The Bible should always be our primary study book. The Holy Spirit is our teacher; we need no other. But God has also given us gifted teachers with great biblical insight. Their material can supplement and enhance our personal study of the Bible.

I’ve lost count of the number of study books I’ve used over the years. However, these three stand out because each of them profoundly affected my faith. They guided me into a deeper understanding of Scripture. Each provided multiple “aha” moments by connecting some biblical dots or making me aware of an aspect of God’s character or ways I had somehow missed before.

They are deep and thoughtful. It’s obvious the authors walk closely with God and take the teaching of His Word very seriously. I know two of the authors personally and their lives match their writing. And although I trust their teaching, I also check everything they write against the Bible. So far, I have not been disappointed.

Here are my top three:

  1. Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby & Claude King – This study highlights truths from Scripture that helps readers know how God works in the world and how He relates to us.
  2. Live a Praying Life by Jennifer Kennedy Dean – This study wipes out our misconception about prayer by pointing us to what the Bible says about its purpose and working.
  3. Believing God by Beth Moore – Too many Christians settle for belief in God when we could believe Him.

I have done some Bible studies over the years that have encouraged me in a particular area or increased my knowledge of God. Others have wasted my time. But these three address foundational truths of our faith and directly impacted my relationship with God. The first two I’ve done more than once, and I know I would benefit from doing all of them again.

I’d love to hear your thoughts! Have you done these? Are there others that God used mightily in your life?


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Embraced by Holiness

holiness, Embraced by HolinessWould you like to sit next to God and snuggle up against His side? To be so close you could hear Him breathe? There would be no distance between the two of you, no barriers to prevent you from drawing near. You could linger in His presence and rest in the circle of His embrace.

All of us desire to experience this kind of intimate relationship with our heavenly Father. Yet, we often feel disconnected. We may even sense that something blocks our path to deep, personal companionship with God.

According to Scripture, a life of holiness can pave the way for greater intimacy in our relationship with God. King David, described as a “man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22), understood the connection between a holy life and experiencing God’s presence.

Who may worship in your sanctuary, LORD? Who may enter your presence on your holy hill? Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts. Psalm 15:1-2, NLT

Unholy living floods believers’ lives with the natural consequences of sin, including distance and strain in our relationships with God. But a pursuit of holiness is also a pursuit of God. As we embrace the holy life God calls us to, we are embraced by the Holy One Himself.

Isn’t holiness too difficult?

Many Christians think a holy life is too difficult. They recognize the truth that God commands His children to be holy and want to please Him, but life gets in the way. Others compare themselves to the Christians around them and think they’re doing pretty good. But, God doesn’t call us to “pretty good.” His holiness is our standard (1 Peter 1:16).

Sound like an overwhelming, daunting, impossible task? Humanly speaking it is. But, whatever God requires of His children, He also supplies. God requires holiness, but His Spirit provides the power to turn away from sin. God calls us to holiness and God provides what we need to be holy.

But, why would we want to be holy?

Holiness is for our good and God’s glory.

God calls us to holiness so we can be set free from the bondage and consequences of our own sin. God also knows that a holy life paves the way for deep intimacy with Him (Psalm 15:1-2). Holiness sets us free and draws us close to God!

Holiness in God’s people also brings Him glory. When we live holy lives we reflect God’s character to the world. We become lights in a dark world that lead the way to the Savior.

Holiness. For our good. For God’s glory.

Are you ready to begin the journey toward a holy life? What misconceptions or obstacles have held you back in the past?

Kathy’s brand-new release, Embraced by Holiness: The Path to God’s Daily Presence, helps readers discover a deeper intimacy with God through a life of holiness. This six-week, interactive Bible study explores why believers should pursue holiness and guides readers through practical steps to pursuing a holy life. Enter now for your chance to win a copy! Buy the book now on Amazon.

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Big News & Book Giveaway!

I’ve been waiting a long time, but it’s finally official! Drum roll please…

My newest book, Embraced by Holiness: The Path to God’s Daily Presence, has been released!! And you could win the book giveaway!!

Embraced by HolinessCould this Bible study be for you?

Do you long for deeper intimacy with your heavenly Father? According to Scripture, a close connection exists between living a holy life and experiencing God’s presence. Sin strains our relationship with God and creates distance, but holiness breaks down barriers and moves us ever closer. Embraced by Holiness: The Path to God’s Daily Presence, the new 6-week study by Kathy Howard, practically explores why believers should pursue holiness and how living a holy life will draw us into the circle of our holy God’s loving embrace. (Buy now on Amazon.)

Why did Kathy write a study about holiness?

Two years ago, when “Fifty Shades of Grey” hit the bookstores and the NY Times Bestsellers list, the novel caught the attention of American women – including many Christian women. They gobbled up the erotica with a shrug and justifications like these: It’s only fantasy. I’m not participating; I’m just reading fiction. Christian women in my church and your church bought into the lie that it’s no big deal, that holiness doesn’t really matter in the lives of believers. But it does matter. The response to this book is just one sad reminder that American Christians need to realign ourselves with God’s truth rather than the culture around us. My prayer is that Embraced by Holiness will remind believers that God’s call to holiness is for both our good and His glory.

Enter to win a copy of Embraced by Holiness!

EmbracedbyHolinesslargeI want to give away 3 copies of my new book. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment in the comment section below. The contest opens Monday, June 2nd at 6am and closes Monday, June 16th at 10am. You can enter up to 3 times by doing any of the following:

  1. Tell me why you’d like to win a copy in the comment section below.
  2. Share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, then tell me you shared it in the comment section (this will need to be a separate comment from the one above to enter a second time).
  3. Email this post to your Women’s Ministry Leader, Bible study leader, or pastor to tell them about this Bible study (again, this will need to be a separate comment from either of the previous two in order to enter your name again).

Why would you like to win a copy of “Embraced by Holiness?”

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Fearsome Distinction

Before-His-ThroneThe following story is an excerpt from “Before His Throne: Discovering the Wonder of Intimacy with a Holy God.” Find out more about this 9-week, in-depth Bible study through the book of Malachi. Newly available: 10-Session DVD teaching set for the study!

It was Thanksgiving weekend. I was flying from my home in Calgary, Alberta, to visit my brother and his family in Idaho. As usual, I was running a little late for my flight. Check-in and security check went fairly quickly, so I was feeling good about making my plane until I rounded the last corner and entered the area for US Customs and Immigration. All six lines were backed up past the doorway. There was no way I would make my flight, having to wait in lines like those.

After standing in line for a few minutes, I had moved ahead just enough to notice this glorious little sign way off to the right. It read, “US citizens only,” and a big, bold arrow pointed to a wonderfully short line. “US citizen – that’s me!” I thought. While I happily hurried to the short line, I was careful not to gloat. I made it through customs in about five minutes, leaving behind several hundred frustrated Canadians. I made my flight and had a wonderful holiday.

I can imagine that every Canadian going through US Customs that morning felt that the special treatment given to US citizens was unfair. I even felt that way, though it did stop me from waving my US passport. I guess the bottom line is this: The United States Department of Homeland Security has established guidelines for entering the Unites States. If you want to get in, you have to do it the prescribed way. If that department wants to distinguish between US citizens and non-citizens, it has the right.

In the book of Malachi, God also made a distinction between two groups of people – those who had committed to fear Him and those who did not fear Him.  God has the ultimate right to make distinctions.  After all, He is God.

Those who feared the LORD talked with each other and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in His presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored His name. “They will be mine,” says the LORD Almighty, “in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.”

Malachi 3:16-18

The Bible teaches that “fear” is a positive attitude and the proper response to our holy God. The lives of people who truly fear God are characterized by repentance, submission, obedience, and worship.

The Bible also consistently teaches that God recognizes those who fear Him and chooses to bless them.  Here are just a few of God’s promises from the Psalms to those who fear Him:

  • He confides in them (Ps 25:14)
  • He bestows His goodness on them (Ps 31:19)
  • His eyes are on them to delver them from death (Ps 333:18-19)
  • He is their help and shield (Ps 115:11)
  • He fulfills their desires, hears their cries, and saves them (Ps 145:19)

This promise from Psalm 147 is my personal favorite:

 The LORD delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love.

Psalm 147:11

 What has been your impression about “fearing” God? Positive? Negative? Why?

 Note: If you’d like to know more about what it means to fear God and what it looks like in daily life, check out the 9-week, in-depth Bible study, “Before His Throne.” 
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Beautiful, Bountiful Harvest – “Fruit of the Spirit” 6

Fruit of the Spirit, GalatiansThis is the sixth – and last – lesson in the series “Fruit of the Spirit: Plant, Cultivate, and Grow.” You can download a printable version of the lesson now in Word Doc or a PDF. Thanks for joining me in this journey! I’m so glad I had the chance to study God’s Word with you!

When we began this study, I mentioned my lemon tree. How it budded and bloomed. How the little lemons began to grow. Six weeks later the lemons aren’t ready to harvest. The fruit is still growing; the lemons still green. Fruit production takes time. But I will drink lemonade!

Like physical fruit needs time to grow, the fruit of the Spirit will not ripen in our lives overnight. We must work consistently to crucify the old nature. We must continually refuse to give in to our fleshly desires and yield our will to the Spirit’s. We can say “no” to our sinful nature, accept the “way out” God provides, and follow the Holy Spirit’s leading.

As we grow, the characteristics of Christ – fruit of the Spirit – will be manifested in our lives. As the Spirit transforms us more and more into the image of Christ, we will produce a beautiful, bountiful fruit harvest!

Plant: Knowing the Fruit

In Week Two, we discussed the meaning of “fruit.” The Greek word “karpos” refers to the natural product of the Holy Spirit, who lives inside every believer. The word is singular, signifying that “fruit” is a unified whole. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary suggests we think of the fruit as a “bunch of grapes instead of separate pieces of fruit.” As we grow in Christ-likeness we will produce all the characteristics of His nature.

If you memorized Galatians 5:22-23, then you know the 9 characteristics of the Spirit’s fruit. List them below. If you didn’t memorize the passage, read it now, then list them.

Let’s consider the meaning of each characteristic. Match the letter of a definition to the number of the correct characteristic. (To double-check, the answer key is at the end of the lesson!)

  1. Love
  2. Joy
  3. Peace
  4. Patience
  5. Kindness
  6. Goodness
  7. Faithfulness
  8. Gentleness
  9. Self-control
  • a.Putting up with circumstances and other people, even when severely tried
  • b.Generosity that springs from kindness
  • c.Deliberately expresses itself in loving ways for others’ welfare; dependent on giver’s character, not emotion
  • d.Reliability or trustworthiness; also describes someone willing to die for their confession of Christ
  • e.Strength to control our sinful desires, to say “no” to the flesh
  • f.Corresponds to “happiness” in the secular world, but does not depend on our physical circumstances
  • g.Acting in a good and gentle way toward another
  • h.State of tranquility; harmonious relations between people and with God; sense of rest and contentment
  • i.Closely linked to humility; grace of the soul; not weakness; opposite of self-assertiveness and self-interest

Cultivate: Find out More

Let’s take a quick look at an example of each characteristic in action. Read the following Scripture passages. Make observations on the operation of these characteristics.

  • Galatians 5:13-14 (love):
  • John 16:22 (joy):
  • Romans 5:1 (peace):
  • 2 Timothy 4:2 (patience):
  • Titus 3:4 (kindness):
  • Romans 15:14 (goodness):
  • 2 Thessalonians 1:4 (faithfulness/faith):
  • 2 Timothy 2:24-25 (gentleness/gentle):
  • 2 Peter 1:5-6 (self-control):

Grow: Ready for a Harvest

We’ve talked facts and definitions. Now, let’s get personal. It’s time to do a fruit check. This is between each of us and God. Spend some quiet time with Him now and reflect on each characteristic of the fruit of the Spirit.

Ask God to show you the quality of the Spirit’s fruit in your life. Think about some recent circumstances. In the space below, jot down times you feel the Spirit’s character was manifested and times you allowed your natural, sinful character to take over.

Although we will battle our fleshly nature for the rest of our lives, we become more sensitive to the Spirit’s leading as we mature and learn to recognize His voice. As we end our study together, I pray God will encourage, strengthen, and grow you in the days ahead!

Let’s talk: What did you learn in this study that has encouraged or challenged you the most?

 

Fruit of the Spirit definition answer key. 1c, 2f, 3h, 4a, 5g, 6b, 7d, 8i, 9e

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The Walking Dead – “Fruit of the Spirit” lesson 5

Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians, online Bible studyThis is the fifth in a series of lessons from Galatians 5:16-26 on the Fruit of the Spirit. You may view the entire lesson here or download it in Word or a PDF.

I know what you’re thinking. Images of horror movies and the undead have probably crept into your mind. Just for fun, I Googled “The Walking Dead,” the title of today’s lesson. Did you know there’s a TV series with the same name? This drama on AMC tells the story of a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by a zombie epidemic.

Thankfully, our fifth lesson in the “Fruit of the Spirit” has nothing to do with zombies. But we do need to talk about death – our own, in fact.

Plant: We can’t produce the fruit of the Spirit

Here’s the truth of it: We cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit. We cannot – with any consistency – live a life characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control.

You may be able to muster up a loving act now and again. I might work up enough will-power to control my fleshly desires in one instance today. But our lives will never abundantly exhibit the characteristics of Christ by our own strength and works. In today’s lesson we will explore how a life full of the Spirit’s fruit is possible.

Read Galatians 5:22-25. Are we told to produce the Fruit of the Spirit? (Circle one)  Yes   No

In lesson two, “What is Fruit?” we learned that “fruit” is the natural by-product of the Holy Spirit. Only the Spirit can produce these characteristics in our lives. As we allow Him to take control, His life will be manifested in ours.

Cultivate: We must die to self

Identify two things in the passage we should be doing.

Paul used the “active” voice in verse 24 when he wrote “have crucified the sinful nature.” This signifies an act that a believer has done and must continue to do to herself.

What do you think “crucifying our sinful nature” looks like in everyday life?

Remember this is something we can do. We can choose to turn away from our sinful desires. Because of the presence of the Holy Spirit, we have the power to resist temptation and choose the way out God provides (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Before we take a closer look at the second thing we should be doing, read Romans 8:11-14. According to this passage, what “obligation” do we have as believers? Check all that apply.

___ To  follow our sinful nature and submit to its desires

___ To turn away from the deeds of our sinful nature

___ To submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit

Grow: Walk by the Spirit

According to Romans 8:11, why do we have this obligation?

Paul reinforces this reasoning in Galatians 5:25. Since the Holy Spirit has given new life to our sin-dead souls, we are obligated to follow His lead. This is the second thing we should be doing. Depending on your translation, you may read “keep in step with,” “follow the Spirit’s leading,” or “let us walk by.” Here’s how Strong’s Greek and Hebrew Dictionary defines the Greek word  stoicheo, that is translated in these various ways:

1) To proceed in a row as the march of a soldier, go in order; metaph. to go on prosperously, to turn out well

2) To walk; to direct one’s life, to live

Considering the definition of “walk,” what does it mean to “walk by” or “keep in step with” the Spirit?

Read Galatians 2:20 below from the New Living Translation:

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

How does this verse help us understand what it means to “walk by the Spirit.”

On my own, I would produce nothing but sinful works. Even my “good fruit” would be rotten. My flesh is too weak and sinful and to produce the characteristics of Christ. Kathy must “die.” I have to get out of the way and let the Holy Spirit live Christ’s life through me. It’s the appropriate response to the One who saved my life. And my eternal hope.

Let’s talk: What is the hardest thing for you about following the Spirit? What helps you submit to His leadership?

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