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3 Quiet Time Cautions

Quiet timeWe are five days into the New Year. Five days into starting fresh. And, for many Christians, five days into working toward a new set of spiritual goals. Perhaps you even set some goals and strategies for a regular quiet time.

Regularly on this blog and when I speak, I encourage believers to “train themselves for godliness.” This website offers dozens of free tools and resources to help. Including quiet time tips. But today, I want to go to the flip side of the coin and share some words of caution about quiet time.

3 Cautions for Your Quiet Time

  1. Don’t do all the talking – Why do many of us always talk more than we listen? It’s a bad enough habit with our friends and family, but it’s far worse with God. Yet, often we allow prayer to become a one-way conversation. We end up talking at God instead of with Him. Honestly, this is a struggle for me. I have to remind myself to listen, to sit quietly and allow the King of the universe to speak. And isn’t it amazing that He does?!
  2. Don’t be unprepared – It is not unspiritual to plan and prepare. Jesus told His disciples to count the cost of following Him. Paul wrote to Timothy that he must “train Himself for godliness.” Both teach us that we must be purposeful and diligent in our discipleship and spiritual growth. Keep your tools – Bible, pen, journal, etc. – together and at hand, ready to go each morning. And have a Bible reading plan. Dropping open your Bible and pointing your finger is haphazard at best.
  3. Don’t succumb to legalism – This point does not contradict caution #2. Our goal should be to be prepared but flexible. I am a list maker who loves to check off the boxes. Too many times, I have found myself rushing through my Bible reading so I can check off the day’s box. Or I felt guilty when I missed a day of quiet time. Legalism in our quiet time robs us of its joy and inhibits the intimacy we long to have with God. Let’s keep our goals in mind, but let’s also follow the leading of the Holy Spirit to “get off script,” and give ourselves some grace when life gets in the way.
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Discipleship Resources for 2017

Discipleship ResourcesDid your purposeful commitment to spiritual growth fall by the wayside some time during 2016? Maybe your time in God’s Word became sporadic. Maybe your prayer time dwindled. Well, there’s no better time to renew your commitment to discipleship and recommit to your time with God than the New Year. This post is chock full of discipleship resources, tips, and tools to help you get started and keep going all year.

A Place to Start

The following four posts/tools will help you figure out where you are spiritually and where God is leading you in the New Year.

  • Discipleship Evaluation Tool – honestly evaluate your current spiritual condition. This tool covers 17 different key discipleship areas. Your weakest areas of 2015 can be great growth areas in 2016.
  • Spiritual Goals Worksheet – Planning is not “unspiritual.” Living a life that glorifies God will not happen by accident. This tool walks you through specific areas of discipleship such as time with God, ministry, service, and Christian education to help you set New Year goals.
  • Setting goals for spiritual growth – These five tips will help you set doable, personal discipleship goals that will keep us growing through the year.
  • 3 Steps to Create a Hunger for the Bible – Do you long to hunger for God’s Word but right now your desire is limited?

General Discipleship Resources

The following posts each offer a collection of resources and tools to help you meet your goals.

Specific Discipleship Helps

This last group of resources focuses on a specific area of discipleship like quiet time, prayer, Bible reading, or Scripture Memory.

I hope these resources will help you meet your 2017 spiritual growth goals. I’d love to hear from you about how God is leading you to step out in the New Year!

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5 Tips for Setting Spiritual Growth Goals for 2017

2017 Spiritual GoalsThis time of year, many of us reflect on the condition of our lives. We may evaluate the health of our bodies, our relationships, or our work situation. We may even “resolve” to change things. But if we’re really serious about improvement, we will set some goals and establish a plan to move forward. But have you ever considered doing the same with your spiritual health? The New Year is the perfect time to do some “spiritual evaluation” and set some goals for spiritual growth.

We can’t cause our spiritual growth. Only the Holy Spirit has the power to transform us into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). But God does expect our obedient and active cooperation (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). One way we can purposefully “train ourselves to be godly” (1 Tim 4:7-8) is through spiritual evaluation and goal setting.

This post includes both a “Discipleship Evaluation” tool and a “Spiritual Goals Worksheet” for you to do just that. But keep in mind, resolutions and goals are often hard to keep. Statistics show that, at best, only 46% of New Year’s resolutions are still kept six months into the year. People lose their resolve quickly because they set unattainable goals.

First, use this free Discipleship Evaluation form to honestly evaluate your current spiritual condition. This tool covers 17 different key discipleship areas. Your weakest areas can be great growth areas in 2017.

Next, set spiritual growth goals using the five tips below. Planning is not “unspiritual.” Living a life that glorifies God will not happen by accident. This free “Spiritual Goals Worksheet” walks you through specific areas of discipleship such as time with God, ministry, service, and Christian education.

Most importantly, ask God to guide you as you evaluate your spiritual health and set goals for growth. He will bring the spiritual transformation as you strive to live a live that pleases Him.

5 Tips for Setting Goals for Spiritual Growth

The following five tips will help us set personal discipleship goals that will keep us growing through the year:

  1. Concentrate your efforts. Set just one, two, or three goals at a time. Don’t spread yourself too thin. When you experience success then add another goal.
  2. Be realistic. Set attainable goals. If you don’t read your Bible regularly now, don’t set a goal to read the entire Bible in three months. Instead commit to read it 3 to 5 times per week.
  3. Think concretely. Set goals so progress can be measured. For instance, this goal is too ambiguous: I’m going to spend more time with God. Instead be concrete: I will read one Bible chapter and pray for 10 minutes five times a week.
  4. Include strategies. Develop strategies designed to move you toward your goals. If one goal is to memorize Scripture, determine how you will do that. What verses you will memorize? How often you will tackle a new one? What memorization techniques you will use?
  5. Create manageable steps. Break your overall goal into a series of smaller goals that are doable and will foster success.

Be sure to come back by on Monday for a resource list to help you meet your goals!

How do you feel about setting spiritual goals? Have you ever set spiritual goals in the past?

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6 Christmas Bible Reading Plans

Christmas Bible ReadingThe Christmas season has officially begun. More than likely, activities like shopping, baking, and gift wrapping fill your December to-do list. If we aren’t purposeful, all the holiday activity can easily overshadow the reason we celebrate.

I have a challenge for us – for you and for me. Let’s commit to putting Jesus at the top of our list every day between now and Christmas. Let’s make time with Him each morning a priority. (Check out these practical tips for having a Quiet Time.)

What would that look like? For me, it means sitting with a mug of hot coffee, my Bible, and my journal before I start my daily activities. I read and meditate on God’s Word to renew my mind with His truth. I talk with God in prayer, sharing my heart and listening for His direction.

Over the years, I have discovered that I need the discipline of a Bible reading plan. This great discipleship tool helps me be intentional and regular with my Bible reading. For a brief few moments I contemplated developing a plan to use and to share with you. But then I realized there is no need to reinvent the wheel and decided to find out what Christmas Bible Reading Plans are already available.

6 Christmas Bible Reading Plans for the Season

I’ve done a little internet searching and found 5 great Bible reading plans for the Christmas season.

  1. “Christmas Bible Reading Plan” on BibleStudyTools.com – “Designed for personal or family reading times, these 25 New Testament readings highlight the birth of Jesus and the purpose for His coming. Related Old Testament passages are also featured daily.”
  2. “Advent: Christ is Coming” – This 28-day devotional is designed for families and available on the YouVersion.com
  3. “Rediscovering the Christmas Season” – Another YouVersion.com reading plan, this 25-day plan combines Old Testament and New Testament readings.
  4. “All the Colors of Christmas” – This family advent devotional by Focus on the Family is brand new for 2016 and free to download!
  5. “Family Christmas Bible Reading Plan” – I found this 25-day plan on the website for a church in Ontario, Canada. It focuses on the purpose of Jesus’ coming.
  6. “Bite of Bread: Bible Reading Plan for Christmas Week” – This 7-day plan by Christians author and blogger Andy Lee at Daily Grace focuses on the significance of the name “Jesus.”

What are some things you plan to do to keep Jesus at the top of your Christmas to-do list? Let’s talk!

Other helpful resources:

 

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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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9 Recommended Bible Study Resources

Bible Study ResourcesDo you plan to participate in a Bible study group this fall? Or maybe you are already digging in on your own? However and whenever you study, the following list of Bible study resources will help you get the most of your time in God’s Word. Remember that resources are secondary to discovering what God has for us in His Word. There is no substitute for the Holy Spirit’s teaching!

The list below includes trusted Bible study resources from 9 different categories. Even one or two from each category will be a great start to your Bible study library. Of course some resources, like Bible translations, can be accessed online. (Watch for Thursday’s post about online resources!) Here is the list in a printable PDF for your convenience!

9 Recommended Bible Study Resources

1.Several recent translations of the Bible – Read your passage of study in more than one translation and compare them for greater understanding. Some good ones to try:

  • New International Version
  • New American Standard Bible
  • Amplified Bible
  • English Standard Version
  • New Living Translation

2. Exhaustive Concordance – If you don’t have any other tool, you need to have this index of every word in the Bible. Get one that corresponds to your primary translation. Recommended:

  • The Strongest NIV Exhaustive Concordance

3. Bible Dictionary – Explains many of the words, topics, customs and traditions in the Bible. It also includes historical, geographical, cultural, and archeological information. A few to try:

  • Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary
  • Illustrated Bible Dictionary
  • Tyndale Bible Dictionary
  • Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary
  • New International Bible Dictionary

4. Holman Bible Atlas by Thomas Brisco

5. Topical Bible – Similar to a concordance but organizes by topic rather than words:

  • Nave’s Topical Bible
  • Zondervan NIV Nave’s Topical Bible

6. Bible Handbook – Combination of an encyclopedia and commentary in a concise form. It is arranged by Bible book and includes background notes, brief commentary, maps, charts, and more. Look for one of these:

  • Halley’s Bible Handbook
  • Holman Bible Handbook
  • The New Unger’s Bible Handbook

7. Word Studies – Look up the original words and their meanings without knowing Greek or Hebrew. Here are a few resources to try:

  • Mounce’s Compete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words
  • The Complete Word Study New Testament, by Spiros Zodhiates, AMG Publishers
  • The Complete Word Study Old Testament, by Spiros Zodhiates, AMG Publishers

8.  How To Read Your Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart

9. Commentaries – biblical scholars interpret and explain a particular text of the Bible based on their study of the background, language, etc. Keep in mind these are written by humans and are not infallible. But here are some good ones to try:

  • Tyndale Concise Bible Commentary, Robert B. Hughes and J. Carl Laney, Tyndale. Provides biblical scholarship and commentary on every passage of the Bible in a user-friendly format (One volume)
  • The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, Craig S. Keener, Intervarsity Press
  • The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, Walton, Matthews & Chavalas, Intervarsity Press
  • The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Zondervan, Set of 12 volumes covers the whole Bible

Do you have a favorite resource you use to supplement your Bible study? I would love for you to share it with us in the comments!

 

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“Lavish Grace” Resources, Freebies, Printables

Lavish Grace freebiesThank you for helping me celebrate the release of my new Bible study, “Lavish Grace.” I want to wrap up the celebration today with a collection of all the resources, freebies, printables and more I shared with you throughout the month of August. So in case you missed anything along the way, you will find it right here!

Free 3-Week Bible Reading Plan

Do you need a fresh awareness of God’s lavish grace? This plan will help you recognize, rest in, and share the glorious grace of God. (This plan is also a supplemental resource for Kathy’s 9-week Bible study, “Lavish Grace.” Each week of the reading plan corresponds to the 3 sections of the study. Use it with the study or on its own.) Here’s the printable PDF!

Free “Lavish Grace” Coloring Sheets

Lavish Grace coloring sheet

Lavish Grace Coloring Sheet

Lavish Grace coloring sheet

 

 

 

 

 

These beautiful coloring sheets were the focus of three great giveaways during August. It’s too late to enter the contest, but you can still enjoy the relaxing, creative fun of coloring and reflecting on the colorful, lavish grace of God! Print, color, and share!

Printable “Let’s Say Grace” Recipes

recipe

Creamy Chicken & Spinach Cups

My sister-in-law, Cindy Head, is an amazing cook, so I asked her to help us spice up last week’s Facebook launch party with a few party food recipes. (If you missed the party, you can still catch all the videos, conversations, and fun here.) I added to the recipes to create 4 printables that include the recipe, Scripture verse, and a “grace” to pray. Enjoy!

“Lavish Grace” Necklace

Lavish Grace necklaceThis is the only thing in this post that isn’t free. But it’s well worth the $19! When I saw Sheila Dresbach’s jewelry designs at Dandelions in December, I knew she should be the one to create this tangible reminder of God’s constant, lavish grace. I’ve been wearing mine almost every day! Please check out this necklace and the rest of Sheila’s beautiful jewelry on her Etsy store!

“Lavish Grace” Blog Posts

Encouragement, practical advice, and spiritual challenges filled August’s blog posts. Here’s a list in case you missed one or would like to review:

Find Out More about “Lavish Grace”

Are you embracing the abundant, grace-filled life God offers? Or have you underestimated His lavish grace? God’s lavish grace is more than sufficient for any day and every day of your life. Find out more in this 9-week Bible study journey with the apostle Paul.

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The American Divide: A Prayer Guide

prayer guideThere’s a great divide in America today. Misunderstanding, hate, and violence separate black, white, and blue.

This divide has grown larger in just the last couple of weeks. We’ve watched it on the news. We’ve seen it in the streets of our cities. Perhaps we’ve even taken sides.

I feel helpless. The problem is far greater than my wisdom and ability.

But I do know One who is able. He knows exactly how to foster understanding, transform hearts, and bring peace.

I feel compelled to pray. To petition the Creator to do what only He can do. Will you join me?

10 Prayer Prompt Categories

The following list of prayer prompts is not exhaustive. They are broad requests to help guide you deeper in petition before our Lord. Use them right from this page or print the PDF and put it in your Bible.

  1. Dependence – Express your grief and helplessness before God
  2. Repentance – Acknowledge any prejudice and hate you harbor. Ask God to eliminate it from your life and make your heart right.
  3. Families – Ask God to comfort and heal Pray the families of those killed, the Dallas police officers, Alton Sterling, Philando Castille, and all victims of this American Divide.
  4. Communication – Ask God to open and strengthen lines of communication between all parties – between the black and white community and between the black community and law enforcement.
  5. Leaders – Ask God to raise up leaders for peace from every group. Pray for voices of calm, reason, and wisdom that will help build bridges instead of walls.
  6. Truth – Ask God to reveal truth in every altercation and situation. Pray against false witnesses. Ask God to hold the media to the highest possible standards and ethics.
  7. Justice – Ask God to guide lawyers, juries, judges, and prosecutors to act with integrity and honesty. Ask God to protect the process from politics and pressure from outside groups. Ask God to help all sides accept the result of fair legal proceedings.
  8. Protection – Ask God to protect Police Officers during duty and off. Ask Him to protect the lives of those in interactions with officers. Ask Him to keep all protests and demonstrations peaceful and productive.
  9. Stereotypes – Ask God to break down stereotypes on both sides. Ask Him to build respect and appreciation for Police Officers among the black community. Ask Him to help officers respond without prejudice in each and every encounter.
  10. Encounters – Ask God to cover every encounter on the street between police and the public. Ask Him to give police officers discernment, calm, and wisdom. Ask Him to help the public respond to police with respect. Ask God to diffuse highly explosive situations.

How have you been praying about this American Divide? Please share something specific you have prayed in the comments.

Other articles you may find helpful:

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4 Tips for Staying Spiritually Fit this Summer

Tips for spiritual fitness this summerSummer is almost here! For many of us, that means a break from the usual routines of school, work, and other responsibilities. We sleep in, take time off to be with family, and even get away on vacations and long weekends. Life seems to slow. Regular weekly activities – like sports, lessons, and Bible study groups – go on hiatus until fall.

All of this is great for our families, our bodies, and our human relationships. But unfortunately, the change of pace often throws even the most disciplined among us off kilter spiritually.

Because of the weird schedule, regular Bible study and quite time sometime get set aside. Even church attendance gets spotty due to travel. But rather than feeling guilty or giving up altogether, let’s work with the season instead.

4 Tips to Stay Spiritually Fit this Summer

The following 4 tips include lots of great resources to help you take advantage of the summer schedule and keep spiritually fit:

  1. Summer Bible Reading Plan – Use a plan that’s short-term and gives you some breathing room!
  2. Family Devotions – Since you’ll probably be getting away with your family this summer, make good use of that time together. Download this 7-Day Family Devotional Guide to use on that next road trip or family vacation. The guide includes a Scripture passage to read, very brief commentary, and 3-4 discussion questions to get the family talking!
  3. Online Bible study and community – Many of you participate in Bible study groups throughout the fall and spring, but most of these groups don’t meet during the summer. Rather than neglecting Bible study until September, make use of one of the these great online opportunities.
  4. Podcasts – Many churches make their pastor’s sermons available for listening through the church website. If your church doesn’t, you can listen to many great preachers and teachers from wherever your summer travels happen to take you. Here are a few of my favorites:

    Summer doesn’t have to mean a spiritual setback! Just temporarily change the way you do things. I would love to hear how you and your family incorporate spiritual disciplines into your summer schedule.

    Let’s share now! How do you stay spiritually fit during the summer months?

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Lavish Grace is Coming

Lavish GraceHave you underestimated grace? God’s lavish grace is not “just enough” and it’s far more than “sufficient.” His grace washes through and over every aspect of a believer’s life. It’s like a free-flowing river that knows no bounds. Yet, sometimes we fail to jump in!

A few years ago, God began to show me my desperate need for His abundant, lavish grace. In every day, in every situation, and in every relationship. So, I began studying about it in His Word and talking about it at women’s events. Then the next thing you know, I’m writing a new Bible study. And you guessed it, the new study is about God’s exceedingly, abundant grace.

This writing journey has been particularly personal. God has given me lots of opportunity to put what I’ve studied into practice. Of course some days it’s felt like two steps forward and one step back. And I’ve had the incredible blessing of witnessing God’s grace at work in the lives of people very dear to me.

So, it is with great excitement and anticipation that I announce:

Lavish Grace is coming August 1st!

Lavish Grace is a 9-week, in-depth study through Paul’s experiences with and teachings on grace, designed to help us discover the riches and abundance of God’s grace for our lives today. Lavish Grace includes contemporary examples of God’s grace at work in the lives of women today to help you also embrace God’s amazing grace. The study is divided into 3 sections:

  • Poured Out – Explore God’s work of grace in our eternal salvation, continued spiritual transformation, as well as our call and equipping for ministry and service.
  • Poured Through – Discover what it looks like to be channels of God’s great grace, not just stagnant pools.
  • Overflowing – Learn how to rest in and rely on His grace in the inevitable times of trials, struggles, and difficulties.

You will hear a lot more about Lavish Grace and all the exciting book launch activities in the coming weeks. But here’s a bit of a teaser: Online study opportunities, giveaways, Facebook party, coloring contests, and more! I would love for you to be a part of it all. If you can help get the word out about God’s lavish grace – host a blog, share on social media, lead a study – let me know in the comments below!

Praise for Lavish Grace

Kathy has beautifully woven an account of how the grace God so incredibly pours into us, and practically shares with us ways we can exhibit grace to others. You will be blessed by this book! I know I was.  Jennifer Rothschild

If you want to renew, revive, and rejuvenate your life with God’s lavish grace, then the pages of this book will shower you with hope and help you embrace the exuberant, abundant grace-filled life we all long for! Pam Farrel

Kathy Howard does more than point out our need for grace; she teaches us to not only pour it out, but also to lap it up. A must read for a needy world.  Kathi Lipp

If you’re ready to understand and embrace this life-altering love in a fresh way, then don’t hesitate to take this grace-walk with Kathy. Gwen Smith

Kathy Howard pinpoints what each of us needs—a fresh awareness of God’s grace. Debbie Taylor Williams

A few links to check out:

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