Welcome! Breathe deep and take a moment to relax.
Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare to her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who embrace her; those who lay hold of her will be blessed.~Proverbs 3:13
About 20 years ago, fresh out of law school and rather full of myself, I sat down with a Bible and thought to myself, “Well, I did great in my Tax law classes and loved the Internal Revenue Service Code, so I should have no problem figuring out God’s Word.” I dove in and read from front to back, and became deeply frustrated. I put it down and went on with living my life my way.
About two years later, I fell to my knees to pray–unsure of what else to do–as I watched in real time the Twin Towers fall on my TV screen. The gravity of the situation humbled my heart low with the acknowledgment that things were well beyond my understanding. With our nation rattled and my soul crying out to God, I returned to His Word confounded by the state of our world and the agony that laid before us as a nation. This time when I approached it, I opened my heart and mind and asked God to help me know Who He really was. It was no longer about what I–mighty me–thought should be best; I truly wanted to know God and what He had to say.
In law school, I spent three years learning how to advocate, research, process, and come to determinations about issues that might come before me in the practice of law. As students, we studied laws and their exceptions and then the rare exception to an exception. We determined when to apply those laws and when we should not. We were taught how to gather facts and recognize influences pertinent to the circumstances. From there, those facts had to be sifted again for what was truly relevant and what was not. After more thorough examination, we then applied the facts to the rules and argued for the best conclusion.
Surprisingly, as I began to read His Word again, I found my training and organizational skills kicking in. Staying on the surface of His Word was no longer an option, as God encouraged me to look harder and more thoroughly at what I was seeing. To allow myself to ask questions and explore His words, rather than just simply reading what sat before me on a page. The context, development and history of words became important tools in facilitating comprehension.
In the law, as an attorney, you have a duty to dig deeper. You cannot just accept facts as they are presented nor as they seem on the surface. You have to consider motives, biases, and other influences. You must investigate, look further, visit details again and again, and be willing to do the hard work of ascertaining the truth. You cannot take a client’s word as the gospel; that is why you interview as many witnesses as you can find and visit the scene of all interactions. You must carefully apply the facts and be willing to see, as best as you can, from all angles. Digging deeper was a tool I was taught in law school; one that I am grateful for. What I did not realize then is that God intended to use my training for a much different purpose than I had considered.
Falling in love with God’s Word
Remember, I did not start out loving His Word. I was initially frustrated with it. What you may not know is that I was not raised in a home where God’s Word was spouted or quoted outside of occasional visits from hyper-religious relatives. While systematic religion stayed on the periphery of my life, God was always near. That said, it was not until I finished law school and began a family that I sought to draw closer to Him. First in my own strength; then, thankfully, through His.
Frankly, His way is better. When I returned to His Words, so many years ago, the ones that I found most offensive lost their sting as I began to unfold them. With my training, I dug deeper into those passages that I struggled with, rather than fleeing from them or dismissing them as irrelevant. I quickly discovered that God loves questions and wants to build a relationship with us through the study of His Word. I also learned it was okay to explore how they were constructed. It was in that digging, in the pondering, that I began to fall in love with them. Every time I opened the Bible, I investigated His words more fully and then looked around to see where in my life they applied. To my shock, Scripture was often speaking towards the on-goings of my daily life–the good, the bad and even the mundane.
Time and time again, I found myself digesting what His Word said and then making necessary changes in my approaches, thoughts, and actions to bring my ways in better line with His. It was a few years later, after much Scripture and nudging, that God gave me a vision of gathering people together–Families Building Faith– who truly wanted to walk more closely with Him in the depth of their daily lives.
Unfolding God’s Word grew out of that vision. I have always struggled with calling FBF’s study time “Bible study”, as there are all sorts of negative connotations that come with those words. For some, it implies rigidity, systems of control, and superiority. For others, it sounds like too much work. Instead what I have found is that Unfolding God’s Word is truly about the change within the soul who is willing to engage Him. Psalm 119:130 provided the right verbiage to describe what our time together in the word is.
The unfolding of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.~Psalm 119:130
The importance of mindsets
Each of us develops mindsets that guide our lives. Some are good, and some are not-so-good. The problem with mindsets begins when they become entrenched and unchangeable. When we refuse to believe that there are no other options than what we know or have fashioned, it is there that we become blind to what God needs us to see. Blinded, frequently, by what is most comfortable to us, what we desire, or what we fear. Balance and flexibility, on the other hand, allows our minds and hearts to be soft enough to consider encouragement, correction and growth, while remaining protective enough to stay true and obedient to His Word. Finding the right balance is essential in growing faith.
Open & Closed
Faith needs both an open and closed mindset in our lives. We need a balance of both to keep ourselves on the right path. We truly must be open enough to explore, consider, hear, and determine, but we also have to be closed enough to guard ourselves from that which can lead us astray or misuse us and others.
Paul, in Acts, praised the Bereans for being open-minded enough to hear him, but protective enough to go home and dig deeper to see if his teachings lined up with Scripture. It is the same for us–God sends all sorts of messages in all sorts of ways that we need to be open to, but we must fully investigate them as not all messages come from Him. We must find the right balance.
Willingness & Unwillingness
We can believe in a lot of things without anything more ever happening. Willingness, and its opposite–unwillingness, is what takes things from being only thoughts and intentions in our minds to manifesting them (right or wrong) into our lives through decisions, actions or in-actions.
We need to be willing to learn what to do, and not do, as well as determine how (the when and where) those lessons apply in our lives. A mindset that is too willing can easily become a friend of temptation. An unwilling mind will miss amazing opportunities for growth and a better life. A balance of both is crucial to walking in His truth with our daily choices and lives.
Able & Unable
So often in life, I hear people say, “There’s no way I could do that!” That thought process plagues all of us from time to time, but we are often the ones who deem things impossible, not God. Remember, with Him, all things are possible.
Because we are limited in our skills, knowledge or ability does not mean we cannot learn about something new, or how to make changes within our lives. An “unable” mindset is contrary to how humanity works; we create new things all the time. We need to believe that we are more able than we think, and yet humble enough to understand that we have a lot more to learn and do. Truly, God has gifted each of us with the ability to make this world a better place!
How these mindsets impact God’s Word
It’s not reality that shapes us, but the lens through which your brain views the world that shapes your reality.~Unknown
There are lots of different mindsets in this world. Most of them are good, but some ways of thinking have a tendency to limit life in ways God never intended. For example, He designed us to feel and have fear, but He did not intend for us to be ruled by it. Mindsets hold the potential to strongly influence our lives. Thoughts that cause us to believe our lives are unchangeable (or do not need change) are the ones that can cause us to fall short on the changes we truly need to make. While your mindset cannot always change your circumstances, it is also important to recognize that it will likely control how you react to what arises in your life. As you begin to study God’s Word, be willing to consider your mindsets; they will impact how you see His Word and His world more than you realize.
Learning the basics of unfolding
Below is a six step series on the method I developed and use when in God’s Word. I recommend that you consider them in the order listed, as they will build upon each one another. When you click on each button, you will be transferred to another page that will contain an instructional video, notes, and links for each segment. After you finish these steps, you are warmly welcome to consider one of our online studies.
Session one: God’s Word
In this segment, we will look at different versions of the Bible and what is generally in them, including their scriptural references, notes, and commentaries. We will explore how to dig deeper into the Scripture to garner context and relation to other verses. Join us to take a walk through His Word and get to know it better!
Session Two: definitions
In this segment, we will begin to unfold the words used in Scripture by utilizing resources that will expand the depth of what we are contemplating. We will take a look at definitions, their origins and the meanings, as well as explore how God uses them to relate to other verses throughout His Word.
Session three: Research
In this segment, we will discuss what you can do to better understand Scripture when you are still struggling with it. Sometimes we need to understand better parts of God’s creation to gain the wisdom a verse can offer. We will discuss concordances, commentaries, and ways to research.
Session four: Application & Patterns
In this segment, we will highlight the importance of patterns within His Word and in our responses and choices. These patterns can shed more context, information and relevance on where Scripture may be quietly pointing towards adjustments needed in your heart or life to bring them more in line with His ways.
Session five: Matthew 12:1-8
In this segment, we will discuss what we have learned along the way about Matthew 12:1-8. We will walk through the Scripture and its references, share definitions and research, and work on what we learned and how best to apply it to our lives. It will be the summation of what we have been working on in the last four segments.
Session six: Matthew 7:6 (practice)
This segment will introduce you to the importance of studying God’s Word together. You will have a chance to practice with a Scripture assignment, walk through the steps you have learned, and then participate in a discussion of Matthew 7:6.
Time and space
My times are in Your hands…Psalm 31:15
Time is a funny thing. It is the one constant that everyone has equally, and yet we frequently claim to loose or have no control over it. Time is literally tethered to us in a progression of days, seasons and stages. It is not just minutes and hours that accumulate. The real measure of success comes through the quality of our choices and actions lived out in the space of time we have been graced to walk on this earth.
One of the consistent struggles that I have found with being in God’s Word is purposefully giving God space in my life, specifically, in my times to be present in the blessing of His words. He so graciously gives us time bound neatly by the confines of our lives, and then waits, in hope, that we will invest some of our time back in relationship with Him. It is a lesson I learned long ago: being willing to give God a portion of my day. More specifically, some of my quiet time.
There is no “right” amount of time nor the “perfect” time of day. There is no schedule that is fool proof against the changing seasons that appear from time to time; life is too fluid for that kind of rigidity. Patterns and habits help a lot while promoting faithfulness and consistency, but like everything else in life, being in God’s Word takes time and space. Time in your life. Space at your table. Time on your calendar, and space on your list of things that are important to do. Time invested in understanding. Space to allow yourself to grow under His guidance. Time set apart that makes Him a priority. Space in your heart and life that protects that sacred time.
Time and space. Carve that out, and you will find Him waiting…
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