Monday, December 2, 2013

Online Bible Study Week One: Let's Get Started!

Welcome to the Christmas season! It's my very favorite time of the year, and I have a feeling that this Bible study may turn out to be one of my most cherished parts of the celebration! Thank you for taking this journey with me! I mean it every time I say it, and I say it every time I begin any new study, but this really is a selfish act on my part. I desperately need to be in God's Word daily for any peace and sanity to rule in my mind, my actions, my words, and my reactions. Having you on this journey with me keeps me accountable! I need you, and I have a sense that God is okay with that. He made us with free will and a need for community so surely it honors Him whenever we exercise that will to study His Words together!

If you're just deciding to join us, you'll need your Bible, the book The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs, and maybe a journal. Sometimes I use index cards when I study to help me remember specific verses as well. Honestly, the method you use and the specific tools you utilize aren't specifically important as long as you are reading scripture. We all probably have or will develop methods that work best for us.

Just briefly I want to say that I know several women who are taking this journey, and I'm so excited! Ladies I've known from every stage of my life are joining together to study this time! Typically I am blessed to be able to study with women from my church and community here in Kansas City, but this time I get to interact with friends from high school, my niece and niece-in-law in Texas, a sweet friend I once taught in Sunday School when she was in college, and my best friend from Atlanta! God is so creative and brilliant to baptize technology and use it to help us connect through His Word! 

And oh how I'm praying specifically for you all! Prayer is sort of the main way I feel God uses me at this stage of my life. As a stay at home mom, I honestly spend so much time during my day praying for friends and family as I complete the necessary but sometimes mundane tasks of keeping a home together. So...please let me know if you're joining us so I can visualize you and pray specifically for name! It's my sheer joy and gives me a sense of usefulness in His Kingdom.

Enough talk! Let's go! Here are my suggestions for what and how to study this week.

1. Pray first each time you sit down to study. I often even write brief prayers right in my book or journal like this...absolutely nothing fancy!

2. This week we will study about Elizabeth. Before you read the book, please take time to read The Book! As much as I'm loving The Women of Christmas, I want us to study God's words. So read Luke 1:5-25 and write down any thoughts or questions you have as you read.  I'd suggest reading the same passage everyday this week in different translations. I use the YouVersion app on my phone to read those translations I don't actually own in paper form.

3. Read chapters 1 and 2 of the Women of Christmas throughout the week. They actually are short, and you have 7 days to do it! Liz Curtis Higgs writes in a way that interacts with the scriptural text and helps me ask deep questions. Write in that book, underline, do whatever it takes to help you really engage in the text!

4. Interact with us! As you study, I really would love it if you would talk back on this blog. Comment on one or all of these questions. If, for some reason,you have trouble commenting please send me a Facebook message with your comments and I will post them to the blog with your permission. Of course you can always message me privately with anything meant for just me and you and I won't post it!

So answer these questions:

Was there anything in the biblical story you had never thought about before? Did God highlight any part of it afresh for you?

Can you relate to Elizabeth or Zechariah in any way? Is God encouraging or challenging you in any way through this story? Are these words reiterating anything God's already been trying to communicate to you?

What does this story tell you about the character of God or how He works?

5. Join me in memorizing this part of the passage this week from verses 24 and 25:  "...Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.” (NIV)

6. Make a list of the miraculous things The Lord has done and is doing for you!

I'm praying for God to reveal His constant presence to you this week and to make you desparate for His Word! I'm praying you get just a little seclusion with Him like Elizabeth had...and that you can joyfully say, "The Lord has done this for me" as you go through this week! 

Feel free to invite a friend to join us! 


Gayla Mckinney said...

So here's my biggest "aha moment" so far...I'd never really thought about Elizabeth probably being in the court of women as Zechariah was burning incense. And I definitely hadn't thought about Anna being there...but of course she must have been because later we hear that she (Anna) never left the temple, basically. Sometimes I tend to read the stories and see them in such isolation! They lived in a community.
Another thought provoking detail I hadn't thought about is that Zechariah and the other priests had been serving faithfully but it had been over 400 years since they'd received a fresh revelation from God. So was Zechariah the first in 400 years? No wonder he was shocked!

Amber Hooks said...

A couple of things really stood out to me in just my first day of reading. Now I know this is titled "The Women of Christmas," but the first thing that stood out was really from Zechariah. 1) It's somewhat comforting to be reminded that Zechariah, who was considered "righteous before God...blameless," also had doubts. This gives me some hope. I'm finding myself sometimes questioning miracles. Now, I know that God is in the miracle working business and I've seen it first hand, but do I faith it (yes, I used faith as a verb) on a daily basis? Do I physically, psychologically, and emotionally live that belief out? I'm afraid I don't. It's so easy to believe God will work a miracle when everything's going good, but what about in the midst of crisis? That's often times when I think it's the hardest. 2) I've been wrestling with God's calling on my life and find myself envious of other women and the ways that God has chosen to use them. This makes me wonder if Elizabeth might have been envious of other women she knew as they were able to bear children? It is obvious that God's calling on her life to be the mother of John was so much more than she could have imagined. It was a blessing for others to be envious of. I have to remember that God's will for me is just that, His will for ME. I am not called to do what others are doing and they aren't called to do what He has prepared for me.

Mandy Parker said...

I've "taught" this part of the Christmas story so many times in Sunday School. What really hit me this time though was the angel's statement "your prayer has been heard...". I have to wonder if Elizabeth and Zechariah were still praying for a child. I mean, after all, they were "well advanced in years". I can imagine that when they were younger the prayer "Lord, give us a child" was a common, if not daily, prayer. But as the years went by had that prayer become less frequent? Maybe even nonexistent. Maybe that prayer has become a wishful thought every time Elizabeth saw a friend have a child, or at her age, a grandchild. Had they resigned themselves to the idea that this was not going to happen for them? Abraham and Sarah had the promise of children (even though when it took too long Sarah took matters into her own hands). But we have no record of a promise to Zechariah and Elizabeth for them to hold to as the years past. Had they given up asking? When Zechariah got the news that his prayer had been answered was his first thought "I haven't prayed for that for years!"

Which makes me wonder what I have given up praying for? In what situations or circumstances of my life have I quit asking God to intervene? Have I resigned myself to "this is just the way it's going to be" and quit asking God to move? I may have justified it in my mind... There's a reason for this. God must be teaching me something. This must be for someone else's good because it's definitely not for my good. I figure if I quit asking then I won't continue to be disappointed when the situation doesn't change. I almost look at God and say "Whatever". Not the good kind of "Whatever", the kind where we tell God we will do whatever He asks of us. But the teenage kind of "Whatever", complete with eye rolling and attitude, we parents get when we make them do something they don't want to do. And maybe if I continue praying about something, God will miraculously change the situation. Or maybe the miracle will be that He will change my eye-rolling "whatever" to the kind of "whatever" we will see from Mary next week.

Terrell & Sheila said...

When reading the story of Jesus' birth, to be honest I usually start in Chapter two of Luke. Obviously, I've missed some really good stuff. Oh I've heard the story numerous times but it seems different now. I'm 42, married almost 20 years and have no children. Yes, I can relate to Elizabeth! The verse that has stuck in my mind all week is verse 6... And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statues of the Lord. Even though a huge desire had not been given them, something that even society looked down on them because of , they were still righteous. I'm sure with all the looks and talks they knew were going on about them, they still lived their lives for the Lord and I'm sure that showed to others. I think it is way cool that through it all they never lost their true focus. Even after finally conceiving, Elizabeth wanted time to herself to relish in the miracle happening inside her own body.
I guess to sum up what has been on my mind all week is that no matter our desires (children, jobs, friends, etc...) and what we are given or not given from God, we are to be faithful to Him. He knows His story and He knows how and when and who needs to tell/hear it, I just have to be willing and available to let Him use me as He sees fit no matter the circumstances (much easier said than done on a daily basis). And if our desires are met because they are part of His plan then I need to relish in the One who gave them to me. And if they are not granted, relish in Him anyway because He already knows how the whole story is going to play out.

Jennifer Graves said...

I love this story about Elizabeth and Zechariah....and oh yes, I can relate. My story is much like theirs. Andy and I prayed and tried for years to conceive a child, to no avail. It wrenched my heart to see my friends and family having children when I could not. I'm not going to say that I came even close to living "without blame according to all the commands and requirements of the Lord." But nonetheless, it was my prayer. Notice I said was.... Why is that? I guess because much like Zechariah and Elizabeth I felt that my prayer was not being heard; that I was beyond being able to give birth to a child; and perhaps that this was just not God's will for my life. Or is it? I certainly am not beyond being able to birth a child because the Bible tells us in Matthew 19:26 "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." And certainly Elizabeth (among others throughout the Bible) demonstrated this for us. So that brings me back to why WAS this my prayer instead of why ISN'T this my prayer? Doubt, impatience, just to name a few. Zechariah and Elizabeth's story reminds me that all things happen in God's time....not Jennifer's time, because His time is perfect. Perhaps God's will for my life as a mother is to be the best one I can be to my 15 year old son he blessed us with through adoption. I'm not sure. But I should not give up seeking His face for that clarity, nor should I let the doubts that I have conjured up in my own mind or my impatience to see it done "now" stifle my prayers to God. Much like Mandy, I think about how many other things or people I have quit praying for because I didn't see the hand of God move when I thought He should or I doubted that anything could/would be done. I definitely fall into the category of "Oh ye of little faith." My God is definitely able!!

Andrea Carman said...

What stood out to me was, waiting, being made to be quiet, and seclusion. How will I ever hear from God when I am moving ahead of Him, talking (doubting), and filling my life with distractions.

Robin said...

One thing that stood out to me in the first reading was how something God intended and used was seen as Elizabeth's disgrace. God always had a plan for John to be her first born. Elizabeth took on disgrace for something that God intended to use in a mighty way.