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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Keep Persevering

Have you been dragging the floor lately?  I have been there.  I have gone through times where I felt tired a lot and struggle to just make it through the day.  Maybe you feel like going back to bed....hmm?  Many depressed people want to do just that--go back to bed.  Your psychiatrist may have given you some meds at this time in your care that make you sleepy and maybe you're not able to stay awake for very long right now.  But if not, I challenge you to stay awake and do something positive in your day....read the Bible.  I know, I know--it sounds so easy to say and maybe not easy to do right now--to open your Bible and read it.  Stay with me and read further.

Lately, I have been challenging myself to do something everyday with God: read the Word, pray, work on a Bible study, talk to God by including Him in my day. I have gone through a little over a week now consciously spending time with God in SOME WAY everyday.  I can see it is changing my relationship with God. I am sensing God's closeness more, a closer relationship.  Isn't that what we all desire as Christians--that closer, deeper relationship with God?  I sure do.  I have been hearing and listening to that still small voice that is so difficult to hear with all the noise going on around us---stuff we actually hear and stuff we just DO, like getting on social media.

There is no formula to my spending time with God.  It is not the first thing in the morning.  Sometimes it is more than once per day.  Sometimes it's a combination of Bible study and prayer, or reading the Bible and Bible study.  It really doesn't matter as long as I'm doing something.  I don't pre-plan my day the day before.  I wait until I'm in that day and then see how it unfolds.  I like not pre-planning because then it doesn't feel so forced.  But maybe planning is better for you.  Just try to mix it up maybe.

One of the things I love to do is participate in Bible studies.  It gets me out there, literally, leaving the house to fellowship with other women and dig deep into the Word of God which I love to do.  I am an introvert and despise small talk. I would much rather talk about something 'meaty' with a fellow believer any time! I am in 2 Bible studies right now and about to start a 3rd one with my daughter and husband.  The first 2 groups are very different sets of ladies which is great. What we say in these groups is confidential.  So it's a safe place to discuss just about anything.  We women and men just need to talk to other Christian women and men, respectively, sometimes--we need that fellowship.  God knew that and designed the church body to need each other. We encourage one another, give insight and input. And at the end of every meeting we write down each other's prayer requests.  And of course, we actually do a Bible study in all that ;-))

I HIGHLY encourage you to put yourself out there and join a Bible study.  Just one to start with if you have never done it before.  Make it a priority in your week and stay committed--make sure you go every week at your agreed upon scheduled time and try to keep up with the homework.  IF you don't get your homework done--GO ANYWAY.  Don't let that deter you from getting your fill of God for the week in the form of Godly fellowship with other Christian women or men. Now, remember, I am an introvert and have gone through deep depression episodes and so forth as you may know through my testimony. So, I can understand any trepidation you might have to be vulnerable in a group.  It takes time to get to know other ladies or guys and feel like you can trust them.  There is no need to jump right in and expose all your bumps and bruises.  But, I have learned that when it was the right time--my being vulnerable let others see a peek into who I am as a person and my own struggles.  Others may have the same struggles.  You never know.  Awesome things can happen in Bible study groups!

These are some images I pulled to show you there are different kinds of Bible studies/small groups out there.  Some are held at churches, or at a person's house (which is more personable, in my opinion). They can be in a casual format of sitting around in a living room or in a more formal classroom setting.

I tend to favor the casual settings because people feel more comfortable and less rigid.  But if you're wanting to sit back and observe more at first, you might like a classroom or church-held study.  

I would recommend, if you're just starting out, whether married, or not is a women's Bible study or a men's Bible study.

So, where do you start?  How do you find one?
*Start with your home church--where you attend now.  Ask your pastor(s).
*Ask people within your church.  If they don't know, they may be able to point you in the right direction.  
*Ask other Christians you know who do not attend your church.
*Call other churches (who teach sound doctrine from the Bible) and ask if they have any Bible studies that can be joined.
*Maybe your community has a community board where churches or groups are advertising a Bible study.  Just be careful if you choose this avenue.  Use discernment.

Some Bible studies may have already started their study and be in the middle of it--so a group may or may not let you join or you may have to wait to join a particular group after that study is over.  Don't let it deter you if you have to wait.  Look into other studies.

Maybe you are in a situation where you want to facilitate or co-facilitate a Bible study with someone else, but you're not sure where to start--where to find materials for a study.  Two resources I recommend are:
*Christian Book Distributors under 'Bible Studies and Curriculum', then into subcategories from there.
*Lifeway Ministries under 'Bible Studies', then into subcategories from there. Some of their studies are only exclusive with them--you can only buy the materials for the study from their ministry.  You can find new Beth Moore studies there, and Priscilla Shirer, for example.  

There are so many to choose from out there.  Some have DVD's that are part of the study (sometimes if a church is hosting the study they will purchase the DVD for the group to watch to go along with the study books that are bought by each participant).  Also some churches will buy the study books in bulk for the participants which may give you some extra time to pay for it if you need it. Always ask.  Sometimes you can download inexpensive videos that go with a study to watch within your own small group on a computer.  Make sure you know how much the study materials cost before you commit yourself.

Next question:  How do I know if a Bible study is right for me, or not?
Here are some questions and statements to ponder and ask yourself.  If you are a newer believer you might find this more helpful.  And these types of questions can be applied to so many circumstances/situations spiritually.
*Ask and pray for wisdom and discernment in all things.  God will give it to you. If something is spiritually not right, He will let you know.
*Are the materials from which the study will be taught from a reputable author or ministry?  Do your research if you have never heard of the person to make sure the teachings are from sound doctrine.  **Does it line up with the Word of God?
*Are the members/participants of the group welcoming and open to you joining or do you sense a clique in the group?  It can happen even in Christian circles. Do you feel like an outsider after going for a few weeks?
*Is there a problem with confidentiality/gossip in the group?  Do you feel unsafe to share in the group?
*Do all of the participants believe in sound doctrine from the Bible?  You don't want to be in a group that believes in something off the wall.  **Does what they believe line up with the Word of God? This will not likely happen if you have done your research about who the group is and where you found the group.

Things to be open about:
*Don't worry if the meeting gets off-topic here and there. It happens. Sometimes the materials spark a discussion that leads somewhere else, which then leads to another place. Sometimes it leads to someone sharing something very personal where God just wanted the time to be that and not sharing our answers to our study questions. But if it happens to go off-topic on a regular basis, you might want to mention it to the facilitator and see what she/he says.

With all this said, the whole point is to get you out of the house and involved in fellowship.  Bring a friend with you if that would help.  Give Bible studies/small groups a chance.  They will grow your faith and trust in ways you didn't think could happen in a group setting.

Until next time....God bless and invite God into your day!