Reformation Tour Through Germany: Wittenberg

Though we did not come during Germany’s famous Christmas markets, Germany is a great place to visit any time of year. After a good night’s sleep in Berlin following a full day of sites and experiences, our group of 28 travelers crossed the Elbe River and headed to the historic town of Wittenberg.

Wittenberg

Wittenberg is one of the smaller towns located on the river Elbe and was the launching point for the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther lived and taught in the city for 36 years.

Other reformers left their mark on this city, as well. Unlike many other historic German cities during World War II, Wittenberg’s city center was spared destruction. It felt like stepping back in time!

We began our two-and-a-half hour guided tour through the old town and had the best time. We missed the tourist high season and had much of the town to ourselves.

It was a crisp 60-degree day without a cloud in the sky as we strolled along a romantic road comprised of ancient cobblestone streets. The painted shops and traditional German architecture were worth visiting.

Lutherhaus

Our first stop was the Lutherhaus (Luther House) not far from the main square. When the University of Wittenberg opened in 1503, the Augustine monks were given land to build a monastery. In 1507, after being ordained as a priest, Martin Luther lived in the monastery until in 1521, when he was forced to hide in Wartburg Castle to preserve his life and continue his work.

In 1524, after Luther had returned to Wittenberg, the abandoned monastery was given to him as his home. He lived there until his death in 1546. The Lutherhaus is now the world’s largest Protestant Reformation museum. On display are Luther’s pulpit, his monk’s habit, his Bible, and many priceless papers, manuscripts, and pamphlets.

Lecturn from which Luther preached
Luther’s prayer book
Earliest print of Luther’s Autumn 1527 written hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”
First complete edition of Luther’s Bible translation in High German language

One of the side entrances to the Lutherhaus contains a portico containing two stone seats which was a gift from Katie Luther to her husband Martin. Above one seat carved into the stone is a likeness of Martin Luther and above the other seat is the Luther rose.

The living quarters of Martin and Katie Luther have been beautifully preserved. The rustic wooden table, chairs in the window where they would catch up on the day’s events, and massive black iron heater. Such rich history!

Beautiful ceiling paintings

Martin Luther’s Tomb

Four days after Luther’s death in Eisleben, he was buried in front of the pulpit in the Castle Church. Next to Martin Luther’s grave is the resting place of his friend and fellow reformer, Philipp Melanchthon.

He is laid to rest under a low stone marker right under beautiful stained glass windows. As I taught our group who sat in the pews, the sun shone through the stained glass and cast beautiful colors on the floor around his marker.

St. Mary’s Church (Stadtkirche)

St. Mary’s Church is often considered the mother church of the Reformation for hosting the first German mass and the first ever distribution of the bread and wine to the congregation. From here, Martin Luther preached his eight famous ‘Invocavit Sermons” in the church.

Castle Church

We enjoyed lunch in nearby restaurants since we had enough time and strolled to the historic Castle Church. Construction of the Castle Church was completed in 1525 by Frederick the Wise. The church is most famous as the site where Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses.

In 1760, the church was destroyed by a fire resulting from an attack during the Seven Years’ War. The wooden doors on which Luther had posted the Theses were destroyed in the fire. In 1858, King Frederick Wilhelm IV of Prussia replaced them with commemorative bronze doors weighing 2,200 pounds each.

Displayed above the doors is a painting depicting Martin Luther holding a German Bible and Melanchthon holding the Augsburg Confession. Both are kneeling at the cross.

We concluded our walking tour passed the town hall and city centre, then enjoyed a good time exploring the town on our own.

The Old Latin School

During our afternoon free time, several of us visited the Old Latin School, which was built in 1564 as the city school for boys. It is managed by the International Lutheran Society of Wittenberg as a non-profit organization in partnership with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

The Old Latin School sits directly adjacent to St. Mary’s Church (Stadkirche) where Martin Luther and other reformers preached a life-changing message of grace alone, faith alone, through Christ alone. Stemming from the new approach to education being taught by the Wittenberg reformers, the Old Latin School. The church and school were truly central birthplaces of the Reformation.

Special Ministry Connection

By the grace of God, I have a special ministry connection to the Old Latin School. Through WordRus ministries in Eurasia, several of my Bible studies have been translated into Ukrainian. As only God can orchestrate, the Old Latin School is currently housing many Ukrainian refugees. During our afternoon break, several in our group walked over to the school to meet Netalyia, who not only runs the school but is a Ukrainian refugee herself.

A Cambridge-educated teacher, she is proficient in English and has been a huge blessing for the refugees as she helps them with their required paperwork and begins the process of teaching them English.

We met her 11-year-old son and 8-8year-old daughter and are amazed at their positive, gentleness after escaping the war that rages in their homeland right now. We had a chance to leave them a financial blessing and pray with them for God to continue blessing their work.

It’s a Good Idea to Visit Wittenberg

Although there are no fairytale castles here like the Neuschwanstein Castle, being in the epicenter of the Protestant Reformation is a thrill of a lifetime. This is a great spot to enjoy rich history and beautiful historic sites within walking distance! This is one of the most charming small towns and hidden gems that I have ever visited.

If you are traveling here, it is an easy road trip or day trip with an early start and train ticket from many locations. I highly recommend adding it to your Germany itinerary to step back into the Middle Ages. We had a great time!

And even though we were here in September, it would be a lovely trip during the sunny days of the summer months. If you prefer medieval towns to bigger cities, don’t miss out on Wittenberg on your next Germany trip.

One Day in Berlin

We arrived in Berlin today on a beautiful 58-degree morning. After breezing through customs, we met our tour guide, Matthias, to begin our Berlin adventures!

We gathered our luggage and boarded a nice coach bus, our transportation for the next eight days. We swung by the hotel to pick up the rest of our group, and 28 adventurers began the first day of our guided tour. As an aside, the city’s train station offers the easiest way to travel if you are not on a Berlin tour and want to save time.

World War II Reminders

As we walked the cobblestone streets toward the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, Matthias pointed out markers embedded in the cobblestone streets every so often. They mark the spots where a Jewish person (or family) had once lived but had been rounded up and sent to concentration camps for extermination.

Each marker remembers and honors the murdered Jews of Europe. These markers were embedded in front of a business, which used to be this family’s home.

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

A short walk took us to the first stop of our Berlin itinerary: the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Originally constructed in 1895, it was a gift to the German people from Kaiser Wilhelm II. During a World War II bombing raid, the church was partially destroyed. The remnant has been beautifully preserved and offers a great place to see the resilience of the ordinary German citizens.

The rosette and stained glass windows were destroyed, as the damage is still visible in the stone’s pockmarks from shell fragments and absent gargoyles.

It was lunchtime so we dispersed to find the best places to enjoy local food. It was a welcome breather after the previous full day of travel. Several of our travelers tried German beer and discovered new favorites. German homemade noodles covered in cheese with meat were the best I had ever tasted!

Reichstag Building

We continued our walking tour with Matthias to the Reichstag building. Constructed in 1894 to house the Imperial Diet of the German Empire, it was severely damaged by fire in 1933 and fell into disuse after World War II. After its reconstruction in 1999 it again became the meeting place of the German parliament.

The beautiful glass dome visible on the roof has inner circular stairs all the way to the top. However, you can only enter with advanced notice and proper credentials, so be sure to obtain both if you wish to get inside.

Brandenburg Gate

We continued around the corner to the beautiful Brandenburg Gate. A former city gate, the Brandenburg gate was rebuilt in the late 18th century as a neoclassical triumphal arch. It has become one of the most well-known landmarks in Germany and is located in the western part of Berlin’s city center.

The gate suffered considerable damage in World War II and was inaccessible during the Berlin Wall’s use. It was fully restored in 2002. And one of the best things, of course, is that Little Luther had to be part of this historic visit!

Victory Column

We boarded the bus and traveled down the Unter Den Linden (main thoroughfare) through Berlin to view the Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral), Nikolai Quarter, and Potsdamer Platz on our way to the Victory Column.

The Victory Column sits in the middle of Berlin’s Tiergarten district. Atop the almost 61m high column, the larger-than-life bronze figure of the winged Victoria sits enthroned with a laurel wreath. The goddess of victory from Roman mythology, Berliners lovingly call her “Goldelse”. 

Designed by Heinrich Strack, it was finished in 1873 to memorialize the victories of Prussia in the German-Danish War in 1864, the German War in 1866, and the Franco-Prussian War in 1870-71.

Four fluted column drums rise up on a roundabout with pillars, which gradually taper upwards. The first three drums are decorated with 60 gun barrels that were captured in the three wars, now covered in gold plating. Climbing up inside the Victory Column is the best way to see a panorama of West Berlin.

Checkpoint Charlie

Now located in the Allied Museum, “Checkpoint Charlie” was named by the Western Allies for this Berlin Wall crossing point. This is the location where Soviet and American tanks briefly faced off during the Berlin Crisis of 1961. This original sign still stands to mark the spot of crossing.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

On a site covering 19,000 square meters, New York architect Peter Eisenman placed 2711 concrete slabs of different heights to fully immerse yourself in the open spatial structure. The memorial is on a slight slope and its wave-like form is different wherever you stand.

Walking the uneven cobbled pavers and losing your bearings among the taller slabs gives many visitors feelings of uncertainty such as the Jews would have felt.

Its openness and abstractness give you space to confront the topic of the holocaust in your own personal way. It was one of the popular areas for spending a lot of time in personal reflection and remembrance of the horrors of war. People can sit on the slabs, but standing on them is against the law.

Berlin Wall Memorial

Constructed by East Germany on August 13, 1961, this wall completely cut off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany. Lined with guard towers, a death strip, and closely monitored checkpoints, the wall served to prevent massive emigration and defection of East Germans.

Our tour guide, Matthias, grew up in East Germany for over 20 years, where some of his family were separated from them in West Berlin. He describes it as a very dark period in his life, where even as a young boy he knew that what was happening was wrong. Everything was gray and sad with the absence of hope.

The wall was finally opened on November 9, 1989, to great applause and celebrations of freedom in Germany and around the world. By 1990, the wall had been completely destroyed except for a few sections saved for historical purposes as a reminder of the damage of divisiveness (like above). Double cobblestone pavers running through the middle of Berlin now mark where the wall used to stand.

This was our full day tour of Berlin, the capital of Germany! We had a wonderful time and were definitely ready to see our hotel rooms after a very busy day. God is so good!

On future visits, especially if it is your first time to Berlin, I would recommend including a beer garden, the Charlottenburg Palace, Jewish Museum, Holocaust Memorial, Hackescher Markt, Soviet War Memorial, and at least one UNESCO World Heritage site.

13 Best Bible Study Methods

Whether you are a new or seasoned Christian, knowing how to study the Bible and where to start are daunting tasks. Been there. Done that.

Technology allows us to have the Bible at our fingertips 24/7. Smartphones, tablets, and laptops enable us to access God’s Word just about anywhere in the world.

We can attend church online, listen to sermons and podcasts as we drive, or experience worship through music videos without leaving our homes.

The entire Bible is more accessible than at any other point in history, yet “How to Study the Bible” is searched online over 8,500 times each month.

Access to the Word of God is not the issue. Yet our knowledge of its contents is decreasing.

Where Do I Start?

I will say it again: knowing how to study the Bible and where to start are daunting tasks. Our spiritual growth stagnates the longer we wait. Many Christians lack practical tools to study the Bible effectively.

It takes time to incorporate a new habit, discover the best way to study, and the best study bibles to utilize on this new journey.

Photo by Kiwihug on Unsplash

Why Is Knowing Scripture Important?

Studying Scripture changes our lives from the inside out. We learn how to love like God. Forgive like Jesus. And treat enemies with kindness. Counter-cultural to say the least.

Most importantly, the Bible reveals God’s beautiful truth that He sent His only Son to rescue us from sin, death, and the grave!

I first started studying Scripture after becoming a Christian at age 23. I did not know anything about the Bible. There’s an Old Testament and a New Testament? You get the gist.

I felt that my basic questions were off-putting to mature Christians. I lacked a good starting point, a good study bible, or a good direction on which steps to take first.

Over the past thirty years, God has cultivated in my daily life solid tools to study, memorize, and apply Scripture every day. I am passionate about biblical literacy.

Bible study methods

Participating in church or small group Bible studies along with Sunday sermons is important. However, taking a personal lead in developing effective self-study methods stokes that flame of faith.

Some of these methods may work better for you than others. Invest some time trying each one to discover which works best for your personality and schedule.

First Things First: Start with Prayer

Scripture is God’s breath exhaled onto the page. Focusing your mind and thoughts on Him comes first and foremost. Always begin your study time with prayer.

Perhaps, one similar to this one:

Dear Lord, as I open my Bible today, open my heart to hear your words of truth. I pray that your Word comes alive in me. Remove all distractions right now. Open my mind to gain understanding as your words heal, teach, inspire, convict, and restore my heart. Enable your words to take root, grow and blossom in my life. Bring your light of understanding and peace that passes all understanding. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Method #1: Study One Book of the Bible

I suggest starting with a small book from the New Testament. The books of James, 1 Peter, and 1 John are all good choices for first-time studies.

Depending on your schedule, plan to spend 3-4 weeks studying the book you have chosen. Take time to read through the entire book more than once.

Look for themes that may be woven throughout the chapters. For example, the book of James contains an obvious theme of persevering through hard circumstances. Write down the verses around each theme.

Also, make a note of life application principles within the book. In James, a clear life application is that words need to result in action. Saying that we forgive is vastly different from moving toward forgiveness.

As you meditate on the themes and life application principles, allow God’s Word to speak to you personally. Where can those themes or applications apply to your life right now?

Method #2: Read Straight Through the Bible

Reading the Bible straight through (without taking notes) allows us to “hear” it like Israel’s nomadic tribes. Individuals did not have parchment, so the Bible stories were shared verbally.

Note that you do NOT have to start at the beginning of the Bible. The Bible contains 66 separate books compiled into one. You can start anywhere you like, just use a checklist to ensure you read through all 66.

Bible study methods

Also, choose a Bible version that is easy to read. Let’s face it, if you don’t understand it, you won’t get far.

There are dozens of translations and different versions of God’s Word, but the King James version is probably the most difficult. For clear reading, I suggest the English Standard Version (ESV), New Living Translation (NLT), or The Message versions.

As you settle down for uninterrupted reading, imagine story time around an evening campfire. Or story time in the afternoon with milk and cookies. (That’s a flashback to elementary school.)

This method allows us to see and hear the overarching story of God’s love and goodness to His children from Genesis to Revelation. His passionate, relentless pursuit of us toward salvation comes across with beautiful clarity.

I have many different Bible reading plans and checklists as free downloads here.

Method #3: Write Out Parts of the Bible

Our culture moves at lightning speed. Since we are technologically driven (for the most part), we desire things to move fast – such as food, lines, and traffic.

Absorbing Scripture into the marrow of our bones takes time. Breathing space. Quiet surroundings. That’s where grabbing a pen, your Bible and a journal plays a vital role.

The rhythm of physically writing slows us down to absorb the words. Words have a chance to stick with us past the moment – especially if you want to memorize particular verses.

As an author, I love the steady cadence of writing out God’s Word. That cadence resounds in my soul to retain those life-giving words. I recently started once again with the book of Matthew.

Make writing fun! I use my favorite Tul pens and a variety of colorful journals that are readily available and inexpensive.

Method #4: Character Study

One of the most frequently asked questions is, “Who’s who in the Bible?” The follow-up question is usually, “Why do they matter?”

I love reading current biographies of historical great men and women because they lend insight into the person. Doing character studies throughout Scripture accomplishes much the same with an added bonus: we glimpse the character of Christ.

For instance, Scripture contains only two books named after women: Ruth and Esther. My quest to understand Esther using this method turned into a full-blown, published Bible study. Talk about an amazing woman of faith that God used mightily! We can learn invaluable life lessons from Esther.

https://cph.idevaffiliate.com/idevaffiliate.php?id=110&url=334

Studying characters matters because their examples teach us how to actually live a life of faith:

  • Moses steadfastly led the Israelites through the desert for forty years.
  • Joseph never complained about being thrown into prison after refusing Potiphar’s wife.
  • Mary did not doubt when God told her that she would be the virgin mother of our Savior.

Character studies allow us to see how God moved in their life. How He provided for their needs, disciplined them toward success, and loved them beyond measure. He still does that today with you and me.

Pick one person and get started! You will be amazed at how relevant their experiences still are today.

Method #5: Topical Bible Study

This method is similar to the Character Study method listed above. However, instead of a person, pick a topic. Temptation, peace, addiction, and forgiveness are a few that could be tackled.

I remember as a new Christian being confused by what it meant to be “quenched” or “hydrated” by the Lord. What does “living water” mean? Years later, I used this topical Bible study method and turned that personal quest into another full-blown Bible study.

https://www.artesianministries.org/book/quenched-christs-living-water-for-a-thirsty-soul/

What topic do you long to know more about how God instructs His children? Use the concordance in the back of your Bible to find where that topic appears in Scripture. Then grab a notepad.

Read and/or write down all of those passages. What does God teach about that topic? Are common misconceptions debunked? Most importantly, meditate on how God can apply those truths to your spiritual journey.

Method #6: Memorize Scripture

Hiding God’s Word in our hearts is vital. When the enemy knocks us to the ground, God brings relevant verses to mind to comfort us and bring His peace. Scripture memorization is a crucial line of defense.

One of the first portions of Scripture I memorized was the Armor of God from Ephesians 6:10-18. The evil in this world is evident – just turn on the evening news. As His children, we need to know God has protected us from head to toe.

If you are facing a particular battle right now start with verses that speak to that situation. If you are experiencing joyful circumstances, start with passages that praise God.

Yes, all of Scripture is worthy of memorizing. However, focusing on ones that directly apply to your current situation will be more meaningful. Memorization and real-time application will come easier.

Method #7: Bible Journaling (the SOAP Method)

A vital step in our faith journey is applying Scripture to our lives. A popular, helpful method appeared a few years ago called “S.O.A.P.” It stands for Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer.

Bible study methods

I used this method effectively when writing The God of All Comfort based on 2 Corinthians 1:3-7. Paul teaches how God comforts us in our affliction, which enables us to also offer His compassionate comfort to others.

The S.O.A.P. method is simple. Pick a section of Scripture each morning or evening during your devotion time. Using a notepad or SOAP journal:

  • Write down the Scripture passage.
  • Read through it again and record your Observations.
  • Jot down how you can Apply those truths in your life.
  • Close with Prayer asking God to make that verse personal to you.

When you come across your S.O.A.P. journals later in life and read through them, you will be amazed and encouraged by God’s faithfulness along your journey.

Method #8: Single Word Study

Have you ever wondered what the Bible says about fear? Love? Humility? Kindness? Such wondering offers a perfect opportunity to undertake a single-word study.

When I experienced divorce over a decade ago, I did not feel very loved (to say the least). One of my pastors challenged me to read through the Bible and write out every passage that talked about God’s love. WOW!

That undertaking left me without a trace of doubt about how much God loves me, even when people may not. Writing all of those love passages consumed an entire journal. If I am ever feeling unloved, I still pull out that journal. I don’t feel unloved for long.

If you desire to be more kind, I challenge you to search for every instance in Scripture where God talks about kindness. Write them out in a journal. Ask the Lord to enable you to be more kind.

God will blow you away as He works through this discipline.

Method #9: Coloring Scripture (Bible Marginalia)

Bible marginalia appeared on the scene a few years ago and has exploded in popularity. If you are an artistic person, this method is a great tool.

The premise is to meditate on a Bible verse as you highlight, color, and create art around it.

https://www.visualfaithmin.org/bible-journaling

Friends of mine have a hugely popular Visual Faith® Ministry. There are hundreds of free graphics and ideas (where I downloaded the one above) that include examples of how to highlight, color, and visually enhance your Bible reading experience.

The Bible is God’s inspired Word – a TEXT full of grace and love to you. Think of the margins as your invitation to text back your response of love, gratitude, praise, or devotion. Adding a date to your pages creates a story of your spiritual journey – and leaves behind a legacy of faith for your children and grandchildren.

Visual Faith® Ministry

The goal is to utilize your God-given artistic gifts to engage with and meditate on Scripture. Be sure to keep in mind the main purpose: meditate on that passage(s) as you use your artistic talents.

Method #10: Read Scripture Like a Novel

Right from Genesis 1, Scripture opens as an epic, cosmic tale about the heavens and the earth. We see God creating everything out of nothing. We see marital drama between Adam and Eve. Blessings and curses. Covenants. Promises. Murder. Adultery. Betrayal. War. Political subversion. Even cinematic-worthy battles.

If you are a writer or wannabe screenwriter, simply look at the account of David’s battle with Goliath in 1 Samuel 17. You can’t make that stuff up. It flat out reads like an award-winning novel.

https://cph.idevaffiliate.com/idevaffiliate.php?id=110&url=379

There are main characters, metanarrative, and deep plot development that become clearer when reading the Bible like a novel. The settings are both intimate and dramatic. The important difference? Scripture is non-fiction.

The overarching message of the Bible becomes crystal clear: God’s love towards us never fails.

If you love stories, read through the Bible like a novel. Mentally insert yourself into those stories. Visualize your surroundings. See how God challenges and rescues. Scripture comes alive!

Method #11: Pray Through the Psalms

As a new 20-something Christian struggling with how God could love someone like me, a godly mentor pointed me to the Psalms.

The Psalms put into words the hurricane of thoughts whirling in my head that I could not verbalize. She suggested that I use the Psalms as a prayer guideline.

It was a spiritual game-changer.

Every emotion that we experience can be found in the Psalms. Anger. Love. Bitterness. Praise. Confusion. Hurt. Thanksgiving. You name it, and it’s in the Psalms.

This method can be written out in a prayer journal, as well as spoken aloud. Since prayer is spoken aloud, start by reading the psalm aloud. You will hear the emotion of each psalmist.

Why do emotions matter?

God created us with emotion to move our hearts and soul beyond our comfort zones. What emotions are in the psalm? The key to relating to the Psalms is putting yourself in the place of the psalmist. Speak as if you were writing it from your own experience. Joy. Heartbreak. Victory. Loss.

King David penned almost half of the psalms. He poured his heart out to God in his writing. And as he wrote, God’s peace and comfort faithfully surrounded him. And his writing reflected it.

As you pray the Psalms aloud, God’s peace and comfort also surround your everyday life. We are verbally handing over our worries and concerns to the only One who has the power to change them.

The Psalms are also infused with worship. Worship was an integral part of the Israelite’s life. Consequently, the Psalms overflow with adoration and worship of God. If your circumstances leave you without words to worship, speak those worship Psalms aloud.

Praying and worshiping through the Psalms continues to be one of the most powerful spiritual tools that God has given us.

Method #12: Pull Out Your Biblical Maps

Understanding the geography around Biblical stories adds an important layer to studying Scripture. Years ago, a friend gave me an ESV Bible Atlas as a birthday gift and it is never far from reach.

For example, when Jacob sent his favorite son Joseph to check on his shepherding brothers, a map reveals that Joseph’s journey was between 50-60 miles. Not just up the road! Such insights lend a greater understanding of the hardships and blessings of Biblical characters.

When you realize that the Sea of Galilee is only eight miles wide by twelve miles long, we can visualize how the crowds tracked Jesus’ boat as they followed Him along the shore to experience the miraculous feeding of the five thousand (Matthew 14:13-21).

I regularly lead tours through the Holy Land. One comment repeatedly stated is that they had no idea the close proximity of some locations to others. For instance, Magdala, Tiberius, Capernaum, and the Mount of Beatitudes can be seen from an anchored boat on the Sea of Galilee.

Holy Land Tour

If you love maps, this is a very effective method of diving deeper into Scripture. Grab a Bible atlas, pick a story from Scripture, and track the character’s movements. This is particularly eye-opening in Exodus.

I have spent many hours lost in the pages of that Bible atlas seeing Scripture come to life through geography.

Method #13: Use Bible Flash Cards

Flashcards are not just for school students. As a bona fide lifelong learner, flashcards are an invaluable way to study Scripture.

When my Forgiveness Bible study was released, the publisher had the brilliant idea of offering Scripture memory cards as a companion study tool. I still keep those cards close as a reminder to keep a short account of hurts. Life is short. Forgiveness is commanded.

If you are new to the Bible in general, there are flashcards for learning the books of the Bible, significant characters, and even timelines.

This study method is a great resource if you do not have much daily time for in-depth study.

The Bottom Line

The Bible is our only true source of wisdom and knowledge. Regular studying of God’s Word provides a firm foundation to grow and strengthen your faith.

Remember to give yourself some grace as you study Scripture. You are learning the spiritual riches of a personal relationship with the Creator of the universe. It takes a lifetime.

The Bible is a life manual for all Christians. God’s Word is life-giving and life-changing. There is a reason that it is the world’s best-selling book of all time.

Above all, diligent Bible study will remind you time and again of the assurance of salvation through Jesus Christ alone. God bless your study time!

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The Significance of the Sling and the Stone

David vs. Goliath is one of the most iconic stories in the Old Testament. Our culture has latched onto this story to describe any time we root for an underdog. But the original story is much more dramatic considering the weapon used.

Goliath Steps Out

As the Philistines square off against Israel, Goliath steps out to engage the Israelites in a battle technique known as “representative combat.” Each side picks one man to represent their army and whichever man triumphs gains victory for the entire army. There is a lot at stake.

Goliath taunts Israel twice a day for forty days, but King Saul only cowers. Then a small shepherd boy shows up on a cheese run to bring refreshments to his brothers and check on them at the battlefront. David was like an old-school Uber Eats.

Photo by Nik Shuliahin 💛💙 on Unsplash

David shows up as a courier, not a warrior.

As he talked with them, behold, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him” (1 Samuel 17:23).

David had probably never heard anyone curse God. I mean who would have the nerve? As David demands to know what will be done to the one who insulted God, Saul overhears the fuss and summons David.

And David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God” (1 Samuel 17:32, 36). 

Photo by Yael Edery on Unsplash

David Steps Up

Saul knows the stakes are high. If he sends David into representative combat and David meets defeat, they all lose. And even though Saul is the tallest Israelite and looks most capable, God looks at the heart.

Saul finally agrees to send David to face Goliath. No armor is needed.

I wonder if Saul started dictating his last will and testament as soon as David stepped onto the battlefield. And can you imagine the Israelite army’s reaction to their representative? Wait…what?

Photo by Andrea De Santis on Unsplash

Goliath Never Saw It Coming

Years ago I watched a documentary describing weapons used in ancient times. The demonstration regarding the sling and stone was riveting. The scientists set up a watermelon on a pole to represent someone’s head.

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Then they picked up a sling and stone similar to what David would have used. The stone would have been anywhere from a golf ball to a baseball in size.

The scientists placed the stone in the sling, backed away to a good distance, wound it up, and let it fly. The cameras clocked the stone at over 100 mph. The watermelon exploded on impact.

Goliath literally never saw it coming.

Photo by Astrid Schaffner on Unsplash

Goliath relied on his size. David relied on the size of his God.

The next time you face a battle of any kind, remember that God has gifted you with special tools that the enemy severely underestimates. Love, compassion, forgiveness, and His mighty power within you provide the strength you need to be victorious.

The enemy may see you as a courier, not a warrior.

But God looks at your heart.

Stand strong, mighty warrior!

Ministry Update

I’m excited to share with you very soon about amazing new developments at Artesian Ministries. As I have transitioned into full-time ministry, God has opened many wonderful opportunities, including ways we can partner together.

I’ll be reaching out soon. In the meantime, please meet my new Board of Directors here. I am so honored to serve with them and you. God’s blessings!

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Two Questions Women Shouldn’t Ask

During a leisurely lunch with three dear friends some time ago, horror stories and scars surfaced around two familiar topics.

Among the four of us, two are married with children, one has never been married or had children, and one is divorced with no children. We range in age from 35-51 and are committed Christ followers.

First, I need you to know something. This post took significant time to write and pray through because it’s rather blunt about sensitive topics.

This post isn’t a vent — it’s a plea borne out of loving others. That being said… 

Throughout our adult lives, my three friends and I have been asked two questions so many times that we’ve lost count. To this day, we remain flabbergasted that some women haven’t caught on. There are two questions that plainly shouldn’t be posed to another woman — unless she’s your BFF or a close second.

Question #1: Why aren’t you married?

Stated like that, this question isn’t really a question. It’s a judgment. 

Since I didn’t get married until I was 29, I fielded that question a LOT of times. We met when I was 23, dated for two years and were engaged for four years while he finished post-graduate college. During those six years, if we would have collected $1 from each woman who asked me why I wasn’t married yet, we could’ve easily paid for the wedding and honeymoon four times over.

As our conversation continued, my three friends and I realized that more often than not this question was posed by married women. That’s tantamount to a millionaire asking an unemployed person why they aren’t buying a mansion.

Even if asked in a caring or flattering way (perhaps she thinks highly of you), it still stings. Believe it or not, some women ask it to intentionally inflict emotional or social harm. And trust me, those on the receiving end can tell the difference.

I’ve also been asked innumerable times since my divorce nearly ten years ago why I have not remarried, along with who, when and whether or not I am dating. Frankly, the answer is entirely too personal to discuss nonchalantly with casual acquaintances. So I never bother. 

Last month, a Christian friend whom I hadn’t communicated with in a while asked about my dating status. When I responded that I was not seeking to be in a relationship, she typed a stunning one-word response: “Disobedient” — immediately followed by, “You’re not a nun.”

Wow. Currently, I am more content in Christ, peaceful and purpose-filled than at any other time in my adult life. But she didn’t ask about those things. She simply judged one aspect as the whole story and moved on.

If you are single, divorced or widowed, perhaps you need to hear this today: God gave marriage as a blessing, not an entitlement or commandment. He did not create us as half a person seeking another half to “complete” us. We are whole and complete in Christ alone. The rest is all grace.

I loved serving God as a married woman. I love serving God as a single woman. Simply put, God calls some women to serve through their marriage and others through undistracted singleness. The key is a passion to love and serve God no matter your marital status.   

And the second question… 

Question #2: Don’t you want children? 

Again, stated like that, this isn’t a question. It’s a judgment.

This question has caused more scars in my life (and my three friends) than any other. It presupposes so many things that it’s hard to know where to begin addressing it.

Asking a single woman that question is cruel — whether intentional or not. Perhaps having children has been a lifelong, unfulfilled dream that has cost her many sleepless nights and a river of tears. What if she believes marriage should come first? Should she rush out to the nearest bar and hook up with the first man she sees? Should she rush to the sperm donor bank and sign up? 

Asking a married woman that question presupposes that she is physically able to bear children. Perhaps she and her husband have tried to conceive children for years only to face financial hardships due to unsuccessful fertility treatments. No woman should ever be expected to share her private struggles or physical condition to justify why her home isn’t overflowing with children.   

My ex-husband and I were married for thirteen years, but didn’t have children. We trusted God’s plan that if He wanted us to have children, He would provide. I believe we would have been wonderful parents. But now looking back on divorce, I believe God knew best. 

Some people have pulled out the Christianity card. “God designed women to have children, so you’re disobeying if you don’t have them.” Yes, people have actually had the audacity to say such an unkind thing to me and my three friends in the past. And when such a statement comes from someone we hold dear, the wound plunges deep. 

Some people have played the adoption card. “So many children need good homes, why aren’t you willing to adopt?” Stated like this, that question is also a judgment. Perhaps she is, in fact, willing to adopt, but is still thinking and praying through the many considerations of such a monumental commitment.  

Simply put, no woman owes another an explanation to these two extremely personal questions. Over time, I’ve learned to smile and deflect the tension. However, the pain inflicted still takes significant prayer, extending relentless forgiveness, and time for God to heal.

The bottom line? Those two questions negate God’s sovereignty. They infer that we need to follow cultural norms or our own plans instead of submitting to His. If no one has ever asked you either question, you are among the blessed minority. 

If you are unmarried or do not have children, please hear this truth loud and clear:

Despite your marital or parenting status,
   God loves you right now
   Just as you are. 
   Precisely where you are.
You can joyfully, successfully serve him today.

Following God isn’t about conforming to some cultural mold of how others believe our lives should look. Remember the Apostle Paul? The Apostle Peter? One was married, one was not; one had children, one did not — but they made a powerful difference for God’s kingdom from their individual, God-designed circumstances.

God can use any person at any time in any place for His holy purposes.

No tangible thing on this earth makes us more or less of a Christian. Following Christ never hinges on whether or not we’re married or have children. It’s about being in relationship with Him. It’s about our desire to know Him and be fully known by Him. To rely on Him for our every need. To receive His immeasurable love and amazing grace into the deepest recesses of our soul with overwhelming gratitude.

So to my fellow women who have been on the receiving end of these two questions: I love you. I know what it feels like and I’m so sorry for your pain.   

And to those women who believe it’s okay to keep asking another woman either of those questions, STOP.

PLEASE STOP. 

They damage — and even kill — friendships.

*These wonderful friends are not members of my home church. They read this post when I originally wrote it and gave permission to share the generalities of our discussion in the hope of shedding much needed light on this sensitive topic.*

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Donna’s brand new individual and small group Bible study: “Perseverance: Praying Through Life’s Challenges” (based on the book of Nehemiah) is now available through Concordia Publishing House and Amazon.

Pastor Snow

After nearly eighteen hours of travel, our group of 35 pilgrims arrived safely in the Holy Land. We were tired but exhilerated! Our Imagine Tours guide met us at the airport holding this greeting sign that provided us all a hearty chuckle to start our adventure.

I’m uncomfortable. 🙂

After climbing aboard our bus, we headed straight toward Jaffa – the modern name for the biblical city Joppa. The Hebrew word Joppa means beauty, which was evident by its breathtaking location overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

Our first order of business was to try out the local fare for lunch that included falafels and shawarma (meat cut into thin slices, stacked in a cone-like shape, and roasted on a slowly-turning vertical rotisserie).

Our first meal in the Holy Land!

We walked through Joppa seeing the seaport that Solomon used to import cedar logs from Lebanon which were used to build the original Temple of God in Jerusalem. It was from here that Jonah attempted to flee God’s calling to preach to the rebellious people in Nineveh.

Little Luther waving from Jaffa

We wound our way through narrow stone streets and walkways to spend some quiet time in the Church of St. Peter, which is believed to have been built over the site of Simon the Tanner’s home where Peter received the missionary vision from God in Acts 9-10.

St. Peter’s Church in Jaffa, Israel

Wayne gathered us for a time of prayer overlooking the city to pause our busy feet and minds to ask God to bless our time for this great spiritual adventure.

Wayne gathering us for prayer overlooking Jaffa, Israel

We concluded our day with a delicious meal of local fare of grilled fish, a plethora of fresh vegetables, and mini lamb burgers at our hotel in Netanya, Israel. Even though we were in the middle of a bustling city that is home to nearly a quarter million people, the sea breeze and beautiful shorelines of the Mediterranean Sea beckoned within walking distance.

Thank you, God, for getting us here safely an starting off our adventure in such stunning surroundings!

Dear Pastor’s Wife: Please Forgive Us

Last week, I wrote a post dedicated to pastors. The response was beautiful.

Beyond the comments left on social media and the blog, what moved my heart the most were the many private messages I received expressing gratitude from those who love our pastors most: their wives.

It reminded me of the challenging road that our pastors’ wives walk — not only my pastors’ wives but the plethora of these amazing women whom I have been privileged to befriend all across the U.S.

So to my pastors’ wives and each of you dear, courageous women married to pastors:

You gracefully stand silently in the shadows while people clamor for your husband’s attention and heap praises on him while we don’t even acknowledge your presence.

Please forgive us.

You live in a glass house where we notice every fingerprint, yet you faithfully keep those windows clean by extending forgiveness that we often don’t deserve.

Please forgive us.

We ruthlessly police your fashion, hairstyle, hair color, size, and words like it’s our sole duty on this planet.

Please forgive us.

You listen dutifully while your husband uses your family as a sermon illustration again and graciously smile while we laugh at you.

Please forgive us.

When we unjustly criticize your husband or how he runs the church — even when it’s so nasty that there should be a smackdown right there in the narthex — you smile graciously and assure us gently that you’ll pass along our concerns.

Please forgive us.

You strive to faithfully walk as Christ’s disciple faced with the same struggles and hurts that we experience, yet you shoulder the burden in solitary silence.

Please forgive us.

You are often volunteered for tasks in the church that no one else wants to tackle — often areas you are not gifted for — yet you trudge faithfully ahead while we slander your efforts.

Please forgive us.

And then there’s this:

Some days you worry that the stress may kill your husband. Literally. You desperately want to be in the will of God but are afraid of what that requires from you, your marriage and your children.

You long to help the multitudes alongside your husband and willingly lay down your very life for the beautiful body of Christ. And some days that makes you very, very tired.

Perhaps you wonder when your husband retires if you will ever walk into a church again. Sometimes sheep bite.

But I want you to know, dear Pastor’s Wife:

Your calling is hard and it can get lonely, but you are standing on the Rock.

You may not have anticipated this calling to be a pastor’s wife, but God has equipped you for this noble work.

God will faithfully provide helpers to you who love you unconditionally, find joy praying for you, and commit to walk alongside you — whether inside or outside your church.

Take heart: Jesus can heal your wounded soul, renew your exhausted mind, reconcile broken relationships, work beautiful forgiveness, mend your broken heart, and meet your every need.

I pray for God to keep faith and hope alive in you because we NEED you.

We often neglect to tell you, but please know this:

You are LOVED.
You are BEAUTIFUL.
You are VALUABLE.
You shine God’s light RADIANTLY.

THANK YOU for your extraordinary sacrifice of praise to Christ our Savior as you serve us. Sisters, I love you dearly and esteem you greatly.

Church, when was the last time you prayed for your pastor’s wife?

Dear Pastor: Will You Forgive Us?

Pastors have answered a high and difficult calling. There are few things that boil my blood faster or put my feet on a soap box quicker than when I hear God’s people hurling mean-spirited or spiteful comments at God-loving, servant-hearted pastors.

It gets ugly when sheep turn on their shepherds. And Satan, along with the world, watches. Smiling.

I love to intentionally encourage my pastors. When I see them at some mid-week church function, I am fully aware that they may have faced strenuous spiritual warfare. The enemy has likely lobbed a stream of fiery darts at them, whether it’s tough counseling sessions, disheartening church politics, or the death of a member.

It’s critical to convey to our pastors and pastor friends just how vital they are to God’s work and His church — to let these grace-filled men of faith know how much they, their families, and their ministries mean to so many.

So…to my pastors, all my pastor friends, and your beautiful families:

You embrace the calling to be crucified with Christ, yet sometimes we are the ones pounding in the nails.

Please forgive us.

You take up the cross of Christ without hesitation because it is not merely your day job–it’s your very calling, passion and purpose. Yet sometimes we watch from comfortable pews without lifting a finger as you stumble under that staggering weight alone.

Please forgive us.

You love us enough to sacrifice family time, shorten vacations and make yourself available 24-7-365. Yet when you need to unplug and allow God to recharge you, we haughtily demand your instantaneous appearance.

Please forgive us.

When life blindsides us with loss, relationship difficulties, health scares or financial burdens, you are the first to offer prayer and call in the posse to help. Yet when you need us, we wear busyness as a badge to dodge.

Please forgive us.

You willingly live in a glass house with our noses pressed against it, gracefully shouldering our smart aleck remarks and quick judgments. Yet when you lovingly ask us accountability questions, our self-righteous indignation could choke God Almighty.

Please forgive us.

But I want you to hear loud and clear: You are not expendable.

You are VITAL.
You are VALUABLE.
You are LOVED.

As you stand at the vanguard of deadly spiritual warfare, it’s an amazing privilege to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you on God’s battlefield. To heartily encourage you when you are weary. To follow where God calls you to lead.

THANK YOU for your integrity and tireless commitment.

Church, when was the last time you prayed for your pastor?

Your Messy Bravery Makes This Mess Brave

You have gathered close and invited me across state lines and beyond our country’s borders for one simple, profound privilege: to huddle our hearts together around God’s Word. 

And I’ve seen you come from all over — bags packed, faith intact, and prayers offered with the desire to go deeper with God. You did it again just a few weeks ago as we gathered at my home church to tape a new DVD Bible study series in partnership with the LWML.

And I have to tell you:

You are brave. 

Every. 
Single. 
One. 
Of. 
You.

You have come regardless of insecurities and difficulties, not knowing if you would belong. Hoping to fit in somewhere. And it’s as if I’m looking in a mirror. 

We come with our stories searching to see how they fit into His bigger story — because that is what we have. Stories. God’s Word shining light on our lives to write stories that bleed, heal, and bless.

The lines of our stories become life-lines we share with each other when life’s storms blow hard.

Jesus often taught through stories called parables. Because people can relate to stories.

In the midst of our brave story-sharing, we discover there are a whole lot of other women out there who are a bit of a mess just like us. Messy because of those days we have to fight for joy when the enemy pulls out his arsenal. Messy because we long for eternity while living in a fallen world.

We are a mess — you and I — saved by grace. A brave mess. Brave because each day you get out of bed despite wanting to pull the covers over your head until the aches and disappointments subside.

We brave the harsh world to share our messy stories because other women need to know perfection this side of heaven is an illusion.

And as we gather around His Word, sharing our messy stories, the Spirit of God can bind our wounds. He can take away the sting of loneliness and restore joy despite the laundry heap, crying kids, bruised marriages, and frayed dreams.

Please keep getting out of bed.

We need your messy, real, authentic, unmasked stories trusting that in the hands of the Spirit, the stories become salve to the battered souls. Because as we gather in community around God’s story, the Word is made flesh in our own lives.

I need your messy story… and you need your messy story. We need people who will tell us their story, not their sermons — their thrashing, not their theology. Because we need to know that we aren’t the only messy ones. 

You are BRAVE.

Your bravery makes me brave.

And together we bravely face this world armed with the Sword of the Spirit that reveals the life-altering story of a Resurrection Easter love written for all. So we suit up.

Not because we, the messy, are perfect.

But because of the perfect One who wasn’t afraid of our messes and risked it ALL to write the perfect ending to our stories.

Thank you for being brave.

WWW.LWML.ORG/BIBLE-STUDIES

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Dear Pastor’s Wife: Please Forgive Us

A little over two weeks ago, I wrote a blog post dedicated to pastors.

The response was incredible.

Beyond the blog and Facebook comments seen by all, what touched me the most were the responses that came through phone calls, texts, private Facebook messages, and even notes through the regular mail from those who love our pastors most: their wives.

They expressed such gratitude at the encouraging words shared on the post for their husbands. 

It reminded me about the challenging road our pastors’ wives walk — not only my pastors’ wives but the plethora of these amazing women whom I have had the privilege to meet and befriend all over the country.

So to each of you precious, dearly-loved, women of courageous faith:

You gracefully stand silently in the shadows while people clamor for your husband’s attention and heap praises on him (though he deserves it) when we choose not to notice you.

Please forgive us.

You live in a glass house where everything is scrutinized, yet you continue to keep those windows clean with the forgiveness extended that we often don’t deserve.

Please forgive us.

We ruthlessly police your fashion, hairstyle, hair color, size, and words like it’s our sole duty on this planet.

Please forgive us.

You sit dutifully while your husband uses your family as a sermon illustration pun again and smile while we laugh at you.

Please forgive us.

When we gripe, complain or criticize something about your husband or the church — even when it gets so nasty that there should be a smack down right in the middle of the narthex — you smile graciously and tell us that you will pass along our concerns.

Please forgive us.

You strive to walk as a disciple of Jesus, faced with the same struggles and complications that we go through, yet you’re faced with the challenge of going through many things silently.

Please forgive us. 

You are often thrown into positions in the church that no one else wants to do — often areas you are not gifted in — yet you trudge faithfully ahead while we criticize every step.

Please forgive us.

And then, there’s this:

Some days, you worry the stress may kill your husband. You desperately want to be in the will of God but may be afraid of what that might require of you, your marriage and your children.

You long to help the multitudes and would lay down your very lives for the beautiful body of Christ, and that makes you very, very tired. Perhaps you wonder when your husband retires if you will ever walk into a Church again. Sometimes sheep bite.

But I want you to know, dear Pastor’s Wife: 

It’s tough and can get lonely out there, but you are standing on the Rock.

You may not have anticipated this calling to be a pastor’s wife, but God has equipped you for this noble work.

God will faithfully provide helpers to you who love you wholeheartedly and find joy in praying for you and walking alongside you — whether inside or outside your Church.

Jesus can heal your wounded soul, renew your tormented mind, reconcile broken relationships, bring about forgiveness, bring hope in the midst of exhaustion, mend your broken heart, and meet your every need.

I pray for God to keep faith and hope alive in you, because WE NEED YOU.

We may not always tell you, but please know this:

You are LOVED.
You are BEAUTIFUL.
You are VALUED.
You shine God’s light RADIANTLY.

Sisters, I love you dearly and esteem you greatly. THANK YOU for your extraordinary sacrifice of praise to Christ our Savior.

Church, when was the last time you prayed for your pastor’s wife?

C’mon, let’s encourage them today. What say you?

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