Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Right Tools

When I was in school, the teacher told us how to organize our desks to be most efficient.  Make sure you had everything you needed - well-lit area, clean desk, pencils, pens, ruler, etc. - before you started on your homework.  They said having the Right Tools would make you more efficient and help you do your homework better.

Today, we were trimming our lemon tree.  After cutting the dead branches, and the overgrown ones, I dragged them to a shady area of the lawn.  I got my trash can, lined it with a lawn size trash bag, grabbed a cushion to sit on and my pruning shears.  As I trimmed the branches into smaller portions that would fit into the trash can, I reflected back to the school days and the organization of my desk.  Because I organized my task ahead of time, I was able to enjoy the shade and the outdoors, and calmly, methodically complete my task.  It was a very pleasurable experience.

I was thinking how this could apply to many areas of life.  A little advance planning, organizing the workflow, makes the task at hand proceed more efficiently, and you feel good when it's done.

Ways that I apply this are:
  • Grocery store shopping - plan menus, make a list, look at the sales.  These steps alone will get you in and out of the store faster, and will save you money.  For menu ideas that come with a shopping list, try
  • Bible study - get your bible, your notebook, pens, beverage, and study guide.  Having everything laid out helps me put my mind in the mood to hear from God.  A time of prayer asking for His wisdom as I seek to learn from Him is the very best tool.  Other tools I like - free apps like Bible and MySword (includes Strong's Hebrew and Greek Lexicon plus other tools).   Online websites like are additional helpful tools.
  • Work - clean desk, pens, pencils, rulers, computer, tape, stapler, notepad.  Write-out your to-do list the night before, or first thing in the morning.  Don't check email all day long - check it at certain intervals. Turn off the email notifier on your computer and smartphone. Keep social media to a limited amount of your day.  Focus on one task at a time until it's done.  Distractions kill your productivity.  If you can't proceed with the task at hand, make a list of things needed and don't start on it again until you have everything you need.
The Right Tools will help you in every area of your life. Organization helps define your task so that you have a sense of accomplishment when it is done.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Scripture interprets Scripture

In my study today, I came across a troubling verse - Acts 13:48 "All who were appointed for eternal life believed."  This was from Paul's first missionary journey.  My first reaction - what?  only certain people are appointed for eternal life??  But, then, I was told by my instructor, Beth Moore in the study "To Live is Christ", to allow scripture to interpret scripture.  Here's what we found:
  • 2 Peter 3:9 - The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but EVERYONE to come to repentance.(NIV) (emphasis mine)
  • John 1:12-13 - Yet to ALL who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God - children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. (NIV) (emphasis mine)
Beth Moore goes on to show us the meaning of the word "appointed".
Tasso, the original word for appointed is used figuratively in the New Testament and means "to set in a certain order".
She goes on to say that a paraphrase of Acts 13:48 might help.
"When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed (next in order) for eternal life believed." In other words, the Jews in Pisidian Antioch had been given their opportunity; and now it was the Gentile's turn. 
This struck me this morning.  In recent weeks, I've become increasingly concerned over biblical illiteracy.  Some methods of bible study encourage you to read a passage, observe it (whatever jumps out at you), and then apply it to your life.  Through teachers like Beth Moore and Kay Arthur (Precepts), I've learned never to take anything at face value.  Dig deeper.  To the above method of Read, Observe, Apply, I add Investigate.  Find out what the scripture means.  Here are some ways you can do that:
  1. Read the entire passage to grasp the context.
  2. Look up words in their original form, like we just did for "appointed"
  3. Allow scripture to interpret scripture.  Don't just take a commentator's word for what it means - many of them disagree!
  4. Investigate - ask yourself who, what, when, where, why, how
The best way I know to investigate scripture is Precepts, which means Truths.  This method uses scripture to interpret scripture, using Greek and Hebrew definitions of words.  You can find studies for individual and group settings at

I challenge you when reading the scriptures, don't take verses and claim them by themselves without investigating the truth, the context.  The example above shows where one could easily be confused by examining just one verse, and not knowing the true meaning of the word "appoint".  Allow God's Precepts, His Truths, to come alive to you through His Word.  Allow Him to be your Instructor, using His text - the Scriptures.

May God's blessings be upon you as you investigate His Word.