28 Sep

Studying Paul’s Letter to the Romans…

Long before I started my study and research, I was fascinated by Paul, the man. Here’s this guy who had actively persecuted Jesus’ followers ( Acts 8:1-3) then in Acts 9:1-17 he is enlisted by Jesus Himself-his mission:share the Gospel and minister to the Gentiles. I think that with the exception of the teachings of Christ Himself, Paul’s conversion was instrumental in my own salvation and the beginning of really STUDYING my Bible.

Over the many years since I first said “Yes” to Jesus I’ve been an avid explorer of Scripture. Yes, the teachings and stories are a great beginning. I used to carry a pocket NIV Bible (still have it too!) in my purse to read on breaks. I confess, in those early days, I barely truly understood all of it— and continued to read and listen to preachers and teachers. And then I heard about Paul’s encounter with the Bereans (Acts 17:11-12)

Nowadays my personal study has expanded to many areas including history, archeology, cultures and customs then and now, as well as Church history. In fact, right now I’m delving a bit into the Reformation. One of my favorite “side studies” is the languages our Bible was originally written in as well as how we got here from there! Truly, studying the Bible is a multi-faceted endeavor for anyone-and I LOVE IT! It’s keeps this senior brain from shriveling for sure!

There are many books written about how to study the Bible. One of the things I’ve learned is the importance of CONTEXT and I think this is especially true of the Epistle to the Romans. I’m not going to go into too much of the background this week. Obviously its a letter from Paul to all the believers in Rome (duh)! It is considered by many scholars and theologians to be his magnum opus and and goes pretty in depth on many doctrinal teachings and incidentally a huge influence on later Church fathers! Of all the highlighting done in my younger days, Romans has the most. It is simply chock full of teaching and more! For me, I like the practicality and ability to apply it to living today. ROMANS IS TIMELESS!

TOOLS?
I use a number of digital tools in studying and many are downloadable for free!
1. Logos is my primary and stays open pretty much all the time. I started using it in the early 80s and over the years my library has grown immensely! While most added resources have a cost, Faithlife offers LOGOS BASIC . Each month they also offer a free resource to add to your library. Needless to say, if you really get into study like I do, it can get costly. What I love most is the ability to keep notes… and additionally I personally have my devotions journal. I hope you’ll check it out. It also has an app for your phone/device for “on the go” reading.

2. Another freebie is e-Sword¬† and has a multitude of resources and also allows the purchase of many others. I don’t use it as much but the free resources are great!

3. Last but not least is YouVersion. This is always free all the time and has a huge selection of daily Bible reading plans. I don’t use it much for heavy duty study. It IS really good for reading and re-reading whatever I am studying. I keep it on my device because our message each week at Life.Church/Church Online generally has a reading plan associated with it and really is beneficial in keeping the teaching front and center for application! Note that this is my church where I serve Tuesday mornings at 9:30 AM USA EST.

Now that I’ve shared all that I do and the tools I use, I’m so hopeful and excited that some may come on the journey with me! I hope you’ll invite others as well!

YOUR FIRST ASSIGNMENT:
Read the entire book! That’s it! Well, sorta. First-read it like its written-a LETTER to real people! Just think, God is letting us freely read other peoples’ mail!!!

I suggest you read it through quite a few times (at least three). Also, use a few different translations/versions of the Bible. I confess, the first time I tried this, I was using the NASB translation and got lost because it is so deep. DO use your favorite for sure, but also consider a paraphrase or two and maybe consider using a commentary for the more difficult passages. e-Sword has quite a few in their “for free” collection. Keep in mind that most are public domain and written likely before you were born. I know there are also quite a few available online. Just search ( I use Google)on “Bible commentary” and I’m sure you’ll end up bookmarking many! I hope you’ll also explore some of the areas I have found so exciting! Culture and history especially as it helps to envision the recipients.

If you have any comments or questions about tools or other areas of study, or even my methods… comment below and I’ll get back to you soon as I can.

OK then… hope you’ll return next week as we take our first steps on this journey! I plan to post every Thursday by 5PM USA EST. Eventually, I’ll be moving everything over to the learning area of Abiding Ways and providing handouts but I’m also in the process of putting a new face on the main site. For the month of October tho… we’ll stay right here on the blog. And yes, we will take a break for the holidays. I know how busy it gets!

25 Sep

Joy-Thieves!

Have you ever felt so listless, sad, powerless that you pray but don’t think the “connection” went through? That pretty much describes where I’ve been the last few weeks… and provides one more reason to strongly dislike the month called September.

I suppose it actually began when the post-Hurricane Harvey footage started coming in. Many of the other topics in the news ceased to be so important as I watched folks who had lost their homes and so many lost their lives in this storm. I DID find and feel much joy as people came out to help and assist others regardless of race, creed, color, religion and yep-even political party! It gave me pause to remember what’s really important – LOVE!

And then came Hurricane Irma!! This storm made a direct hit on the Caribbean island of Sint Martaan/St.Martin which has a very special place in my heart and mind. My husband and I have been going there for about the past ten years and made friends with many on “the French side”. While I saw and know that many other of the islands also were utterly devastated (think Barbuda, the Virgin Islands, and parts of Cuba), I was especially affected by the destruction of so much of our island “home away from home”. So much so that when my beloved came home, I broke down and cried!! Not something I do too often!

Well, Irma wasn’t finished and went on to visit her winds on Florida. What made it more difficult for us is that we have elderly relatives a mere few miles from where she made landfall! Thankfully, they are both now quite safe and power has been restored. Needless to say, until we heard the news that Sunday night, the tension and anxiety around here was palpable! After all the other emotional stuff this was almost just too much and I went from being deeply saddened to just plain ANGRY!

To add a little more emotional poison, the following Monday was that ugliest of dates– 9/11!!

…and then came Maria another unprecedented monster storm! Even as I write, Puerto Rico is like a war zone! Food is running low, water is still high and deep, power isn’t expected to be restored for weeks, even months! I personally feel pretty helpless at this point.¬†And of late— Mexico suffered a truly monstrous 7.1 earthquake! I was long past “Enough already!

Yes, I was and am still praying but my faith – well, I’ll be the first to admit that the words sometimes felt to me like I was praying to air. I hadn’t really been turning to scripture much since this all began, and I’d try to keep praying but in the back of my mind was “what’s the use?” Pretty scary huh!?!

Then today, trying to get back on His path, Jesus gave me Matthew 8:23-27 as a reminder of what is possible…and what MY problem might be.

I was also reminded in Proverbs 18:10 WHO our God is: a safe place and a place of protection…and silly as it may seem, that spark of joy returned and a sense of the bigger picture. We don’t always know what God’s doing and of course we all have, at times asked “Why Lord? WHY?” Ultimately it comes down to faith that all He has promised, all the wondrous characteristics of our God are true.

As I start this 4th quarter of 2017 (and the Jewish High Holy Days/Rosh Hashanah (new year)) I start thinking also about what might come next. I used to start the review and plan process in November, but I’m getting older so I’m giving myself more time.

As I get back to blogging, I’m also re-thinking the mission of Abidingways.org as well as considering a site re-design. One thing I hope to share with you is my current in-depth study adventure in Romans. You see, one of my personal “out there” goals is to write a commentary on this letter of Paul’s that is chock full of teaching about LIVING the Christ-following way. Check in here on Thursday for where I began and for an invite to come on this journey with me! Hope to see you then!

Have you ever had any heavy duty joy-stealing experiences? How do you (did you) deal with it. I’d love to hear! Share in the comments below? I’d love it if you’d also share “Along the Way” with others! Thanks!!

If you’re so led, be sure to give of your bounty to the many who have been affected by these things. Consider the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and I’ve heard Samaritan’s Purse.