No Good Bible Study Girls Here – Going Deeper


I’m often asked if I’ve read the latest book by “Famous Author,” heard the latest message by “Famous Speaker,” or done the most recent Bible study by “Famous Teacher.”  Almost always I sheepishly admit, “No, no I haven’t.”  I try not to admit that I’ve never even heard of such a person, book, thing.  I usually end the awkward conversation with something like, “I’m just not a good Bible study girl.”  And though I use it deflect from the fact that I’m just not cool and trendy, there is nevertheless an underlying element of truth.  The simple fact is I don’t long for the next great Bible study.

I long for God’s presence.

And, dare I say it?, the two don’t always go hand in hand.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to go deeper with God.  I wrote last week about digging deeper as we seek to escape, or rather, to define, those sandboxes to which so many of us feel relegated.  I think most of us can acknowledge that sometimes the lives we lead feel small and insignificant.  There is some deep, hidden-away place inside that knows we were made for a bigger life.

We are intended for a bigger life.  We are many things to God.  But as His people we are adopted into a special lineage – that of God’s chosen people.  Before the Israelites entered the promised land God divided them into twelve tribes.  Each tribe save one was given land.  The Levites were not given a share of land.  They were called to be priests before the Lord and an intermediary between the people and God. God was to be the focus of their service; He was to be the source of their provision; and He was to be their significance.  God alone was to be their portion and their inheritance (Deuteronomy 18:1-2).  By this adoption, we today are also priests/priestesses before the Lord (1 Peter 2:9).  This means that God alone is our portion and inheritance.  All by Himself, He is enough.

What does this have to do with going deeper? Well, God told the priest, Eli, “I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind” (1 Samuel 2).

Very simply, we learn the heart and mind of God by spending time with Him and by letting that time – by letting His presence – change the way we live.  For a lot of American church-goers, this often should start with less Bible study and theology lessons and more quiet, more prayer, and more time simply reading the Bible for ourselves.

We’ve become so accustomed to letting our pastors, Sunday school teachers, and big box Bible study authors do the work of seeking after God for us.  Our excitement in serving Him so often comes from the newest tidbit of knowledge we gleaned from our most recent Bible study.  But that kind of excitement is fleeting because knowledge by itself is passive.  It’s only God who is able to take knowledge and add to it revelation; in our response to that revelation, he activates life change and grows wisdom within us.  This is real living.

We tend to seek God AND something else.  God and Bible study.  God and an extra church service.  God and service.  God and programs, events, and activities.  The only result is exhaustion, a feeling of isolation, and an echoing sense that there must be something more.  We finish that awesome Bible study and find ourselves back again at that apathetic or complacent place we started, wondering vaguely what’s wrong – and that’s only if we stand still long enough to examine it at all.

So what does it mean to go deeper and how do I do it?

Sit down and be quiet

You know what busyness does to us?  Busyness eventually forms callouses over our hearts.  Those callouses form a tough barrier that makes it really hard to experience the presence of God and hear the voice of God.  I say this to women ALL.THE.TIME.  Simplify your life.  Cut down on your commitments.  Start saying NO to stuff.  Yeah, I know.  I’ve heard every argument running through your brain right now.  I’ve made the same arguments.  But I’m right about this.  Being still and quiet is about the hardest thing for any red-blooded American woman to do.  Do it anyway.  For more than three days.  For more than three months.

Read your Bible

For a season, put away the Bible studies, the Bible study methods, the commentaries, and everyone’s idea of how you should study.  Just read it.  Underline or highlight things that stir your heart, or speak to you, or challenge you, or convict you.  Stop right there and just think about it.  Don’t worry about finishing the chapter so you can mark it off.  Sit still and start to talk to God about what you just read.  Talk to Him as if He were sitting next to you and is your best friend or your husband.  If you start reading in one place and it doesn’t stir something in you, read from somewhere else.  Chuck the One Year reading plans and everything else and just read.  Forget methods, formulas, and agendas.  Read.  Your.  Bible.


Put the Bible down, shelve the Bible studies, turn off the online sermons and just worship God.  Sing.  Dance.  Raise your hands.  Lie on your face.  Cry.  Laugh.  Sit quietly.  Play music.  Make your own music.  Tell Him how you love Him.  Tell Him how you long to feel His presence.  Tell Him that you need to know He’s real and that He’s present.  Tell Him what you’re thankful for.  Put words and physical expression to the longings of your heart where God is concerned.


Just talk to Him.  Forget about formulas and correctness.  If going deeper makes you feel like you’re drowning, or leaves you feeling inadequate, or you just don’t feel anything from Him, then tell Him that.  If you find yourself feeling apathetic and spending time with Him is just a chore, then ask Him, repeatedly if that’s all you can think of at the time, to cause your heart to desire and long for Him. Pray for others.  Pray about your relationship with Him.  Ask Him questions.  Not for days, or weeks, but for months and years.  As time passes, you’ll learn of your own how to approach Him, how to talk to Him, and how to hear His voice.  He’s faithful like that.  The original and best teacher is the Holy Spirit.

Tough it out

Remember those callouses I mentioned earlier?  If you’ve been skimming the surface in your relationship with God for a long time, or if you’ve been substituting church services, theology, and Bible studies for that relationship, then you may have grown some callouses.  Don’t panic.  Don’t feel guilty.  Don’t grow discouraged.  And don’t worry if your time with God doesn’t produce the emotional response you might be looking for.  Do the work.  Discipline your mind, body, and heart.  It’s a relationship.  Sometimes it requires work, sometimes sacrifice, sometimes patient endurance.  Toughen up and tough it out.  I promise He’s gonna show up.

Focus on Fruit

Searching for significance?  Longing to make a difference?  Wanting to reach people and don’t know how?  Stop worrying about volunteer hours, service projects, and church activities.  Does your life produce fruit in keeping with righteousness?  In other words, does your life reflect honest and genuine love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control?  Are you eliminating behaviors and activities that hurt God’s heart and choosing things that please Him?  Are you focused on giving from within yourself of the abundance God has given you?  At the end of the day, the most significant thing you can do is to be real.  Examine your motives.  Before serving, volunteering, or leading, find out why you want to do it.  If it’s for the wrong reasons, then cool your heels until you can be sure you’re doing it with the right motivations.  Acknowledge where you’re struggling and lean into God with everything you have – only He can bridge that gap between where we are and where we need to be.

Get cozy with God’s people

You’ll never do this all on your own.  More often than not God chooses to work through people.  If you need to hear God’s voice, there’s a good chance He’s going to speak through someone else.  If you need to know He hears you, chances are He’s going to affirm that through another person.  If you’re discouraged, afraid, lonely, or doubting He’s probably going to minister to you through someone else.  Don’t isolate yourself.  Find a person or group, make a commitment to them for the long haul, and go deep together.

Understand that I’m not saying we shouldn’t listen to sermons, do Bible studies, or serve.  All of these and more are part of the Christian experience, contribute to a vibrant Body of Believers, and help us grow.  They are important.  But there are times when we need to pull back because we’ve allowed those things to take HIS place in our lives and we’ve traded Him for them without even realizing we’ve done so.  We need to undo that damage and then listen for His direction as we again begin to participate in those externals.

A.W. Tozer wrote, “I am ashamed of my lack of desire.  O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still.  Show me thy glory, I pray thee, that so I may know Thee indeed.”


When in the Sandbox…

I’ve been “blog quiet” for such a long time now.  I’ve been pondering so very many things this past year.  But one analogy I keep circling around to again and again is this feeling that I’ve been relegated in life to a sandbox.  An out-of-the-way place where I can’t cause too much trouble.  It sounds a little bitter when I read it, but what’s funny is I’ve kind of put myself there.

Kind of.

I think a lot of you can probably relate.

You know, for years my greatest wish has been to be in full-time ministry.  I’ve tried going to college on no less than three separate occasions.  One in ministry really must have that critical seminary degree (tongue in cheek). I’ve smacked my face hard so many times against that particular wall.  When it wasn’t school it was gender.  A woman shouldn’t have too much authority.  She should be quiet and meek.  Problem is, there’s a bit too much lioness in me.  Half of the time I’m not sure where my place is and the other half of the time I’m fairly certain no one knows what to do with me.

And so I find myself playing in the sandbox where it’s safe, and I know the rules, and the boundaries are clear, and I can’t get myself into too much trouble.  Or get my heart too broken.

Boundaries.  Limits. Walls.

For all of us there are limitations – a lack somewhere of something, be it money, time, energy, education, health…

We resent our sandboxes and bust our hearts against their invisible bars. We wonder when God is going to do that thing we used to really believe so hard that He was going to do.  We wither.  We diminish.  The more hemmed in we feel the more we hunker down.

For a while that sandbox can be a really fun place to hang out.  We can play there.  We can pretend.  We can create.  We can skate by in life content with the sand we can scoop in our hands and the castles we can build.  But all along there is this persistent whisper inside that screams against the walls of our hearts, “I was made for something bigger than this!”

And then that sandbox becomes our prison and we become a performer going through the motions.

I’ve had cause this past year to ponder my sandbox.  I’ve wondered if I should fight against those barriers or accept them with humility?  I’m all the way certain that if and when God wants to do something in this life of mine and take me out of this sandbox, He absolutely will.  So surrender in patient humility, or let the lioness loose and fight?

No doubt you’ve asked yourself similar questions at times.

I can’t answer those questions for you.  Sometimes a battle needs fought and a lioness must be called forth.  Sometimes, that’s the path.  Sometimes, the whole point of the sandbox is to prepare you to fight back.  And, then, sometimes humble surrender is the path God leads us down as He teaches us to trust Him and place every bit of our hope in Him.

We must ask of ourselves What has He called me to? Did He call you to be the one to fight?  Or did He call you elsewhere?

For me, the inclination to fight is ever beneath the surface.  But the true calling is investing in people. To love them as he loves – with fierceness, and loyalty, faithfulness, and protection. To open my life, my heart, and my home to others.  To put His Word into practice and show others how to walk in that same wisdom.  To teach, and pray, and love, and share.

When I remember this, I’m able to see this sandbox with new eyes.  Instead of pounding my face against those boundaries in an effort to seize the plow and set off to till distant fields beyond my reach, I can grab a shovel and dig.

The lesson?

When life hems you in, start digging.

Dig deep. Dig deeper.  Deeper still.

It’s back-breaking work.  It’s heartrending work.  Sometimes, it feels like small work.  It’s not easy going deeper with God.  It’s easy to play at church and easy to dig in the sand with our little toy shovels.  It’s harder to grab that big girl shovel and heave with all our might – faces to the ground as we cry out in prayer, sweaty noses in the pages of our Bibles as we raise them to God and remind Him… remind ourselves – of His faithfulness, His promises, His provision, His supernatural strength, His ability to work miracles.  It’s hard work to set aside the games and invest in the people God has placed alongside us in our sandboxes.  It hurts to dig past the sand to the rich fertile soil beneath – blisters form and bleed as they burst, muscles bunch up in agony, the sun beats on us.  It’s hard to make ourselves shut off our televisions, our phones, and our radios and turn hungry hearts to the only One who can really satisfy.

It’s scary to stop letting that sandbox define us and instead begin to define our sandbox.

We’re all longing to do something in this life that really matters, that changes something in a forever sort of way.  The problem is, so many of us are trying to offer this world something we ourselves don’t have.

Because you can’t take people deeper than you yourself have been.  You can’t give what you don’t have.  You can’t explain what you don’t know.

Only God can take us deep enough.  Only Jesus can give what we don’t have.  Only the Holy Spirit can reveal what we don’t know.

This year is coming to a close.  I know I need to dig deeper – in my own heart and in the lives of others.  It’s the only way I’ll go farther.  It’s the only way I’m leaving this sandbox.  Will you join me in grabbing your shovels, shoving them in the sand, stomping them down, and hauling the sand away?

Women In Authority: Boxed In

Woman on the stage --- Image by © Steve Nagy/Design Pics/Corbis

Woman on the stage — Image by © Steve Nagy/Design Pics/Corbis

I’ve taken some time off from my promised series Women In Authority. Forgive me for being lax in my posting. I’ve heard from some you wondering if I’m still blogging. Yes, I am! Like so many of you, I’m a busy woman; I run a business with my husband, homeschool my children (Summer? What summer?), work part-time, research and write, and oversee various other ministry endeavors. Thanks for bearing with me this year!

Picking back up on Women in Authority, if you need to catch up on the previous posts follow these links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

I know many women feel called to various ministry roles. Some of us have struggled quietly in the background, trying not rock the boat; some of us have gone a little nuts demanding that the world give us our due; some of us have given up; and a few of us have found a way to successfully navigate the rough waters.

In our struggle to step into our purpose, and in the church’s struggle to deal with this issue tranquilly, we’ve often succeeded in drawing a box around powerful women and giving them free reign – within the box. We split hairs as women try to pacify their churches and as churches try to pacify women leaders. We’ll say it’s okay for a woman to teach and men just happen to be in the room, as long as she’s not addressing the men; as long as she’s really teaching other women or children. Some will go so far as to say that if a man chooses to put himself under her authority as she teaches, then that’s okay, too.

Sometimes it’s like teaching without acknowledging the “elephant” – a.k.a. the men – in the room. Teach your heart out. But be careful not to address the men. It seems arbitrary and gets confusing. The lines are blurry and different churches and organizations have different rules and women leaders are continually stubbing their toes as they try to figure out where the box’s boundaries lie.

I want to briefly speculate on the issue of authority. On the one hand, whatever authority we have is given to us by God. No one can take away that authority. Likewise, no one can wrestle away more authority than is ordained by God. Whenever I face this issue of women having authority over men, I kind of shake my head because I wonder how I can possibly have authority over someone who refuses to receive that authority. I can exercise authority over my children – and right now they are young enough that I can scare them into submitting if need be – but the day will come when they will choose of their own accord whether or not to submit. In reality, though God has given me authority over them, I don’t in practicality have any power over them if they choose to rebel. If they rebel, they will face God and the consequences of their rebellion. This is true in every avenue of life: a boss has as much authority over his employees as they are willing to submit; a pastor has as much authority over his flock as they are willing to acknowledge. Where ministry is concerned, I might find myself in a position of authority, but that does not mean, in practice, that I have authority over anyone who won’t submit to it.

Ephesians 5:21 tells us to submit to one another. There are no qualifiers for this, no gender, age, or race differentiation. The Greek word for submit in this verse is a military term; but in non-military context it implies a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden (The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon). It isn’t about who has authority over who; rather it is about who has the strength of character and the humility to voluntarily cooperate. Galatians 3:28 reminds us that we are all one in Christ – neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female. We’re all one.

So, why then does Paul admonish Timothy about women in authority over men? Stay tuned…