Experiencing God Bible Study | Week 12

Women’s online Bible study for Experiencing God by Henry and Richard Blackaby has been such a blessing!  This online Bible study is life-changing and we hope to offer it again each year at the Women’s Bible Study Cafe! My favorite part of this Bible study has been the engaging conversations we’ve had in our small groups. Together we studied the Seven Realities, How God Speaks, the Crisis of Belief, Adjusting Our Lives to God, Obedience, and the Church.

As we approached the final two weeks of study I did not want my experience to end…I’ve enjoyed every moment of this study. Blackaby writes “Your encounter with Christ through this material has not been an end but a beginning.”  Go back through the workbook and look at the most meaningful statements or scripture verses you discovered. Revisit what God wants you to do in response to the daily workbook lessons. Pray through some of the lessons that were most meaningful for your current season of life. Continue to experience God as you…

  1. Stay immersed in God’s Word through online Bible study
  2. Remain involved with the Womens Bible Cafe™
  3. Fellowship with the women in our small groups
  4. Pray constantly for your family, friends, and Church community
  5. Remain obedient to God’s will and purpose
  6. Be knowledgeable about spiritual warfare

We learned this final week to connect our relationship with God to our relationship with others, including family and the workplace. Reflect Christ in your words and actions towards others. Seek His will in all situations and I guarantee that you’ll have a different experience than you did in the past.

Pray for your parents, spouse, children, coworkers, and friends. Pray for your leaders in the church and the community. Ask God to open your eyes to see, your ears to hear and your heart to love…in all situations on this side of eternity.

This was a long 12-week study. Bible study is about learning and applying the Word. I enjoyed the friendships! Since we were together for 12 weeks instead of 6, there was more time to learn about each other. And I enjoyed the lessons in the Church. My husband and I moved and were at our previous church for 20 years. Now we have been church hunting, and these lessons were helpful during the 3-month study!

Sometimes people will drift away from God and lose intimacy with Him. I would tell her to Come back. Anchor to God, read the Word, attend Bible study, connect with Church, and be part of the body.

According to Blackaby, “One reason Jesus called businesspeople is that they’re not intimidated by the world.” In historical context, 2000 years ago business people were different from today. There was a dependency and interconnectivity. We know from Scripture, some were cheaters. In the modern context, we know there are businesspeople of integrity and those without. While they are not intimated, not all are honest and worthy. Not all will be qualified to serve.

God hates cheating in the marketplace; he loves it when business is aboveboard Proverbs 11:1 MSG

I love seeing the marketplace of the New Testament! There was a sense of unity in helping widows, helping orphans, and taking care of the sick.

 

Experiencing God Bible Study | Week 11

Our womens Bible Cafe™ study discussion today is on Experiencing God by Henry and Richard Blackaby. We’ve finished reading chapter eleven and next week is our last week of study. This has been such an amazing Bible study that I hope we have an opportunity to repeat it next year. I’d put this one right alongside Beth Moore’s Breaking Free as a life-changing study!


This week we studied our relationship with fellow Christians I saw that my relationship with other Christians is rooted in His love. I speak in love. I pray in love. I forgive in love. I confess in love. Christ IS the center of my relationships…just as He is the center of my entire world. To have a relationship with another person, believer or not, I need to get out of my way and let God work through me. Period.

Some of you might not belong to local churches yet…so when you do select a church family look for one where you are an active participant, not just a spectator. These past two chapters of Experiencing God are very helpful if you’re looking for a church home!!! The “right” church is one where you feel like a member of the body.

We’ve had some exciting discussions in our small groups this week about finding a new church. Start searching for one. Listen to online sermons. Ask friends where they attend church. Pray and ask God to bring you into a local church community.

According to 1 John 1:7, when we “walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.”

By nature, I am an introvert, and stepping outside to be visible is Spirit led. The greatest blessing from doing this…is when I hear someone speaking about the Lord, my soul is lifted. I connect my heart to hers. Many people feel unqualified or hide. Yet the Bible says we are ambassadors for Christ. So we should be visible.

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:20 NIV

Knowing and experiencing God, we realize the Spirit guides us in what God is going to do around us.  Being still and listening, watching, and expecting God to work helps me experience Him more. When I get away from the noise- I am more attentive to His whisper. Prayer, fellowship, worship, reading the Word- all help me hear the Spirit of God in my heart. Love inspires my obedience.

Blackaby writes, “You will be an instrument in God’s hand, so use your life to touch the world.”  And so I believe God is using me through the Bible Cafe, as a discipleship ministry. I am grateful not to know the numbers of lives change and people transformed because this is His work and His book of Life. He knows, and that is what matters most. I’m just a humble servant, a vessel of His love.

“You cannot be in true fellowship with God and out of fellowship with other believers” (Blackaby).

Acts 2:42 NIV says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayer.”

How do we devote ourselves? We make ourselves available for fellowship. Visible for Christ. My 2022 planner arrived and the first thing I entered…my FELLOWSHIPS. On the days I meet with women of faith, sip coffee and discuss God. It is my life priority, not something I fit into my planner when I have time. More of Jesus, Less of me

It is well with my soul when I fellowship.

My faith is nurtured when I fellowship.

My cup overflows when I fellowship. ‘

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV >> Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

When you look at this verse, there are positive and negative attributes. So we can experience BOTH. If we seem to have more of the negative attributes happening, then we can heart-check with Jesus and make it right again!

I noticed perseverance as my attribute because I have experienced a love that perseveres. Unlike human love, this love of God transcends death. It overcomes fear, lies, and darkness. It cannot be taken away or crushed.

The love of God perseveres for 2,000+ years.

If “Love is not easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:5 NIV), then why do we struggle to forgive one another? Unforgiveness is a LEARNED behavior. Jesus came to earth, walked on earth, and teaches us to conquer this. We forgive as He forgives. We see people as He sees people. We perform spiritual heart surgery- and transform bitterness into love. We forgive. Keeping records- resentment lists- is a human response. Erasing the debts – that’s Jesus!

In learning to forgive, I remember where the Lord pressed on my heart to “see this person as Jesus sees her.” Once I shifted my eyes (and wounds) off me, I started to reframe my offense. It was so beautiful…. a reflection of “more Jesus, less me.”

My church shows love through the acceptance of people who are different. We find unity in our differences. When we disagree, we do that privately and resolve conflicts with Biblical methods. We do not gossip, slander, or divide. Church love is patient and kind. Church love protects the community from sheep in wolves’ clothing.

We show love when we pray. The pastor prays blessings over his congregation. The ministry leader prays for blessings over her community. The prayer team prays for those who are hurting and praises those who are rejoicing. Communities want to see love, unity, and acceptance. When they don’t see that in a church or a ministry, the Spirit is not active there. People leave. It’s not spiritually healthy for a pastor or ministry leader to “plant” in anger. For a church of ministry to THRIVE it must be planted in LOVE.

After we moved, my husband and I started looking for a local church. Some of the things that helped us decide: 1) is the Spirit moving there 2) Is the theology sound 3) Is the pastor connected with the congregation? Because our kids are not adults, we were not looking for a church with children’s programs. And, recently with the pandemic, we have been asking ourselves… “If we pass away who will officiate our celebration of life?” Since we moved and left our church of 20 years. So these are IMPORTANT considerations when looking for a church. It’s a LIFE decision, not a COMFORT decision.

 

Experiencing God Bible Study | Week 10

Welcome back to womens Bible study as we discuss Experiencing God by Henry and Richard Blackaby. We’ve finished week ten in the workbook and our study will be finished in just two more weeks. Our study this week focused on how the Holy Spirit equips each person in the church to function in the body.

“A church comes to know the will of God when the whole body understands what Christ- the Head- is telling it.” Henry Blackaby

Have you ever known a great “pray-er” in your church or community? I have met and experienced the prayers of MANY women in the Bible Cafe. Leaders, prayer warriors, and students. Such amazing words … 10+ years and 100 studies together. WOAH… this is how my own prayer life expanded. I truly feel that a person who prays effectively is a person who prays for God’s will and who partners with the Holy Spirit in her prayers. I also feel a person who prays effectively cares NOT what you think of her words, her posture, or the length of her prayers. Because YOU are not her audience. The LORD is her intended audience.

People are in different places of spiritual growth. So we cannot “judge” how someone prays. What seems over-the-top for one Believer, might be ordinary for another. It’s not for us to judge.

When I am scrolling through Facebook posts, I keep a prayer journal beside me and write down what I see as prayer needs. Then, I pray through the journal in my day. This keeps me attentive and prayers are not just “passing through” a news feed.

God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. This makes for harmony among the members so that all the members care for each other. (1 Corinthians 12:24-25 NLT)

 What is harmony? One definition, harmony is an arrangement of the four Gospels, or of any parallel narratives, which presents a single continuous narrative text. So harmony is a blend of voices. Of eyewitness accounts. To have harmony among different denominations, perhaps we need to find a common ground where we ALL agree. In Bible college, I learned to find the “lowest common denominator” and place agreement /unity under this spot. In faith, the place we ALL agree is the Word of God, His Holy Bible.

If we the “Church” try to create unity around a politician, social politics, news media stories, famous people, or even medical choices…we will be DIVIDED. So…bring Satan into any church… and there is division over these things. Because the Church body will never agree on externals. Look at the early church and how they handled issues on what to eat, wear, and religious rituals. They did not agree, yet they found harmony through their LOVE.

Sometimes a gap or division can expand the Gospel, as we saw in the book of Acts. Paul went one way, and his coworker Barnabas went another. The Church grew. Martin Luther did something similar, in the gap the Church grew. But for unity in churches, we need to apply the entire Bible to our differences. No anger, no slander, no offense to the Lord Himself.

Today in church we have unity when we respect differences in spiritual maturity. We do not elevate our wisdom over hers. We do not point out her sin, because we conquered it. We do not judge or measure her faults. We have unity when Jesus is the head of her heart and OURS.

Blackaby writes, “God is always at work in and around a local church.” There are different ways to participate. Attendance is one way, but praying from home, giving to a specific financial need, joining a small group virtual or in a home, helping hands in a crisis, filling the food donation box or Christmas angel tree. There are MANY ways… you can see the church working even if your health, transportation, caretaking for a family member, or the governor shuts the doors. FIND. A . WAY.

As Blackaby says, “In the body of Christ, each believer has direct access to God. God can speak to any and every member of the congregation.” Knowing God speaks to YOU and my leaders, pastor, and Christian friends… I am very attentive to words. I am listening to my congregation, leaders, and small groups.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, given God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2 NIV)

 How can you be a living sacrifice to the Church? Use the gifts the Holy Spirit gives you… for His will on earth.

How can you transform and renew your mind? Never-ending Bible study. Don’t stop because you “know it all.” Keep seeking wisdom that comes from above.

A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. (1 Corinthians 12:7 NLT)

 I am using my spiritual gifts to help women KNOW Jesus. Not to have a religious understanding. I disciple them to have a relationship…the Bride and her Groom. Religion says to kneel, stand, sing, pray over beads, and look at icons and angels for “help.” Relationship says READ the Word, KNOW Jesus, and ALLOW the Spirit of God inside your heart.

By His love, I am transformed and renewed by Christ.

Experiencing God Bible Study | Week 9

It’s time for another discussion of  Experiencing God by Henry and Richard Blackaby since we just finished reading unit nine in the workbook. I’m so amazed by this Bible study…as the authors have walked us through the 7 realities and demonstrated how to have a deeper relationship with God. I know a few of you joined our study late and are behind on the reading, so be sure to take an hour each day and finish the assignments. You’ll be so blessed when you do! We will not repeat this study for at least a year… so make your best effort to finish it now.

Our study this past week centered on obedience and if you’ve had a chance to complete the exercise on page 183, question 3…then you probably experienced a “wow” moment like I did! My greatest reality was discovering how I think I’m obedient to God until I made a list of where He has called me during our past 9 weeks of study. I was excited to create a list of where I am being obedient, and then disappointed to see where I dropped the ball. Some items on my disobedience list have long-term commitments so I was not too hard on myself. Others on my list were from neglect or forgetfulness. After completing the exercise I was convicted to pay closer attention when God gives me direction, watch where he is working and join Him immediately when He calls me. Did you have a similar experience?

Blackaby writes, “When the disciples obeyed Jesus, they saw and experienced God‘s mighty power working in and around them.” The Bible is an eyewitness account of people who encountered God and were transformed. So when I read this reminder from Blackaby, I am encouraged to “Be His Witness.”

We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. (1 John 2:3-6 NIV)

This comes back to the Crisis of Belief. When we have the decision to KNOW His will or take that “other path”. Someone who does know KNOW Him will follow the path of the world. Or friends. Or family members. Instead of being under the influence of God, they are under the influence of people approval.

Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you. (Jeremiah 7:23 NIV)

 I am a recovered prodigal so I have the experience of not obeying, and then obeying. I can say with 100% certainty, being in the place of obedience feels like a peace that surpasses all understanding. It is the place where the bride meets the Bridegroom and experiences the deepest love.

We will have hard times. The DECISION is…will you walk through your hard times WITH Jesus, or without? You have free will and can choose His love.

My obedience is because I put my trust in God. When my feet move forward, it’s because He gave me direction. When I stand firm, it is because He told me to stand. When I am silent, it’s because He told me to be silent. I will NOT be influenced by worldviews.

“God doesn’t give you His commands so you can choose the ones you want to obey and neglect the rest” (Blackaby, p185). I enjoyed this week of study as Blackaby invites us to go back to the workbook. We looked at the previous weeks and where God is calling us/what He wants us to do. This week, He convicts us “Are you doing it!”

We need to stop assuming everyone has the same relationship today. Some are struggling with the past. Some are struggling with the present. Some are ready to walk away from faith. What we CAN DO is ENCOURAGE someone. Yes, my friend… you made a mistake. God can take those mistakes and cover them in the blood of Jesus. God can help you heal from shame, anger, hurt, and loss. But if you walk away from God, you miss your moment of transformation.

Sometimes, God may let you make a wrong decision, then guides you back to the right path. Wrong decisions are my responsibility and I bear the consequences. As I learn by doing, I see myself (and others) through the eyes of Christ. My clouded vision changes, my heart is restored, and I am under the influence of grace.

 

Experiencing God Bible Study | Week 8

Welcome back to womens online Bible study! We’re discussing  Experiencing God by Henry and Richard Blackaby, and we just finished reading unit eight in the workbook.  More and more this Bible study reminds me of a beautiful tapestry or quilt, as we put the pieces together and find a finished product at the end of our study. This week we learned how to adjust our life to God and we’re having small group discussions based on these adjustments. You are welcome to join these online discussions, even if you’re behind on the reading or just starting with us now.


Blackaby writes “Adjusting your life to God is the second critical turning point in your knowing and doing the will of God.” Last week we discovered the first turning point which he calls a crisis of belief. In our weekly lessons, we saw many examples of churches and individuals who adjusted their lives. Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and a few others were mentioned as men who made major adjustments when called by God. Did you make any adjustment discoveries this week?

Our intimacy with God changes, just like the seasons. Look at Adam and Eve…who had abundant life in the garden with God. They sinned, and intimacy changed because of THEIR choices. And with us too, after we sin intentionally or unintentionally, so we need to SEEK the heart of Jesus, ask forgiveness, and draw closer again- by CHOICE.

In the Song of Solomon- the bride of Christ sees herself as unworthy. So she avoids intimacy. Then, the GROOM reveals His unconditional love and the bride sees herself as worthy. Intimacy is restored.

Blackaby lists 12 men from Scripture who made major adjustments to obey God. Can you think of any women from the Bible, who also adjusted to obey God?  Esther, Mary, Rahab, and Anna all come to mind.

Blackaby writes, “You don’t adjust your life to a concept. You align your life with God. You alter your viewpoints to resemble His.” Since this study, I am more aware of God’s will and looking for where He is working. A great reminder in this study is the “pause” and “listen.” The world can be loud… and if we keep listening too loud, we miss His whisper and call.

As the Bible warns, From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. John 6:66 NIV

I call this one the 666 verse. Because it reminds us of the will of man, the flesh. To “read in context” is to read the surrounding verses. Look at WHO Jesus was talking to, WHAT Jesus says before the verse quoted. Read it in context. WHAT caused them to turn back to their old ways?

I feel we are being tested- BIG time! So we need to keep the lampstands filled with the oil of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, and the presence of daily prayer!

In this “heart check” moment, some of the disciples realized their motivations were not God inspired!

The cost of operating in God’s will is opposition. We talked about this in the Zoom group today. It used to be at holiday dinners- Thanksgiving and Christmas- the general family rule is “no politics and no religion talk.” Because it divides families. But now, we have a new opposition sitting at that banquet table. It’s the opposition of “medical” decisions. WOAH. Right there at the holiday table…sits the opportunity to divide (or unite) families in a pandemic.

Opposition is crafted.CRAFTED… to draw your attention away from what God is doing. TO pull your eyes off the Holy Spirit and then you cannot see where God is working. Stand FIRM. Stand.

Imagine a sign on your banquet table: THE LORD’S TABLE.  And unite under the umbrella of His love.