Commitment

Trust is difficult. We ask for it from others even though we are hesitant to place invest it in someone else. In order for us to trust, we need confidence in the character and trustworthiness of the one in whom we place it. Through His last words from the cross (Luke 23:44-46), Jesus demonstrates His trust in the Father when He commits His spirit into His hands. By doing so, He reminds us that we too can trust the Heavenly Father with every aspect of our lives.

Jesus confidently expresses His trust. Just before He dies, Jesus quotes Psalm 31:5. Psalm 31 was a psalm of David asking for deliverance from his enemies. Verse five was a typical Jewish evening prayer. Children would have been taught it by their parents and their religious leaders. It was something very similar to our “Now I lay me down to sleep.” Jesus would have known this prayer since childhood. Here, he proclaims it loudly so all can here. Ambrose, who was the the bishop of Milan in the fourth century said, “I do not blush to confess what Christ did not blush to proclaim in a loud voice.”

Jesus’ quoting of this verse emphasizes the voluntary nature of His sacrifice. His death was voluntary. He willingly laid down His life (John 10:11, 15, 17-18). It’s also interesting to note that He adds something to this prayer of David. He addresses it to His Father. In doing so, He points to the trustworthiness of the Father.

The goodness of God the Father is the basis for Jesus’ trust. Jesus has a relationship with the Father. He and the Father are one (John 10:30; 17:11, 21). We know the doctrine of the Trinity teaches us that there is one God in three persons – The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit. As the second person of the Trinity, Jesus had a oneness with the Father even thought He had a different role. His oneness and His intimacy are one full display here. As a result, He has full confidence in the father. There is no hesitation. Despite His cries of abandonment just a few minutes, Jesus knows full well He can trust the Heavenly Father.

Remember this. God is our father too. Yes, we are not part of the divine Trinity. But because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, we have been adopted into the family of God. Jesus taught us to pray to our Heavenly Father (Matthew 6:9). Paul tells us that we have received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!” And that the Spirit testifies to us that we are the children of God…and not only children, but also heirs (Romans 8:15-17).

And, we know the Scriptures affirm the character of the Father. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reminds us of the goodness of God (Matthew 7:7-11). And, we also know that God is trustworthy. He keeps what’s been entrusted to Him (John 10:27-29). Since Jesus entrusted His Spirit to the Father, we can as well. The question before each of us is in whom do you trust? You are either trusting Jesus and placing your lives in the hands of the Father or you are trusting yourself. As capable as you may be, as sincere as you may think you are, as passionate as you believe in yourself, you are not enough. You need Jesus. Trust in Him today and commit your life to the trustworthy hands of the Heavenly Father.

If the Father is trustworthy and capable of holding our lives for all eternity, what else can we entrust to the Father? Hurts, fears, sins, anxieties?

Through the ages, these last words of Jesus have been on the lips of countless other servants of God. John Huss proclaimed them as he burned at the stake. John Knox said them as he died in relative quiet. Men like Polycarp, Luther, and Melancthon all echoed them. As R. Earl Allen says, “There is no better place to put yourself than into the hands of God. It is the safe place, the place of omnipotent protection.” Commit yourself to the Father today.

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Triumph

When Joe Namath famously guaranteed that the New York Jets would beat the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, no one could believe it. After all, the Jets were eighteen point underdogs. Yet, as he predicted, the Jets did win leading to one of the most iconic moments in football history. As Namath ran off the field, he raised his right arm and waved one finger celebrating the fact that he had won. That single picture proclaimed victory and triumph.

On the cross, Jesus had come to the end. His death was seconds away. But before He breathed His last, he managed to proclaim a word of triumph – tetelestai. This one word announced His victory. In English, we translate it as “It is finished” and it announced the work of redemption was done and Jesus had triumphed.

God’s plan of redemption didn’t begin at the cross. It didn’t begin in Pilate’s court or in Bethlehem. It didn’t begin in Babylon or Egypt or in the Garden of Eden. The Scriptures tell us that God’s plan of redemption began in eternity past (Ephesians 1).

Now, with that said, God’s plan did unfold throughout history. God moved through the events of history, calling Abraham, delivering the people of Israel from captivity in Egypt, providing a king, preserving a remnant, becoming flesh and dwelling among us, living, dying, and rising again. But, let’s focus on the provision of the sacrifice and the role it played throughout that history.

We see the first sacrifice in the Garden (Genesis 3:21). But, just a few verses before that, there is a promise of One who will come and put an end to Satan, sin, and death (Genesis 3:15). As we move forward, the children of Israel have been relocated to Egypt, eventually enslaved, and then delivered under the leadership of Moses. During the Exodus, God comes to them and gives them the instructions for how they are to live. And, in doing so, He gives them instructions on a variety of sacrifices (Leviticus). These sacrifices were largely to be offered as a way to deal with the sins of God’s people. These sins had to be covered. God’s perfect righteousness…His holiness abhors sin. He cannot tolerate it. So, it must be atoned for…paid for through sacrifice. For hundreds of years, the blood of bulls, sheep, and goats brought temporary covering.

But in the fullness of time…at just the right moment, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law to redeem those under the law (Galatians 4:4). And that brings us to the cross. Jesus is minutes from dying and He proclaims “It is finished.” Upon the cross, Jesus completes the work of redemption. The Scripture had been fulfilled (John 19:28). The sacrifices were now complete. Jesus had fulfilled the law and born the curse. The work of redemption was done. There is nothing left for us to give. No other sacrifice can be offered. As a result, the power of Satan, sin, and death are defeated. Thus, Jesus cries out “It is finished.”

It is said that Buddha’s dying words were “strive without ceasing.” What a striking contrast with “It is finished.” These phrases clearly define for us the difference between religion and its endeavors to make oneself right with God and with Christianity. Simply stated, the difference between the two is two simple letters. The difference between religion and Christianity is the difference between do and done.

Anguish

I like those old Clint Eastwood movies. The ones they call Spaghetti Westerns. You know the ones made in the 1960’s by Sergio Leone. Eastwood played the “Man with No Name” in a trilogy of movies directed by Leone – A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. In one of those movies (The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly I think), maybe in all of them (I don’t know), Eastwood is forced to walk across the desert without any water. The dry, barren land and the harsh climate gets to him. His face burns and his lips blister. His throat is parched, and his eyes are barely opened. He collapses under the strain of it all. It is a portrayal of exposure and thirst brought to us in living color.

We’ve seen scenes like this dozens of time. It’s in almost every western we’ve ever seen…and any movie made in the desert for that matter. Heat, suffering, and a cry for water.

The Apostle John gives us another vivid picture of thirst and suffering. In John 19:28-29, we see the humanity of Jesus on full display. Matthew tells us that as Jesus nears the end of His life, He cries out in despair and asks why God had forsaken Him (Matthew 27:45-46). Here, John records that He cries out in thirst. As the first is a reminder of the spiritual agony of the cross, this one is a reminder of the physical suffering.

When we look into the New Testament, we see Jesus’ humanity. The opening chapter of John describes Him becoming flesh and dwelling among us (John 1:1, 14). Paul tells of of Christ humbling Himself, forsaking the glory of heaven, and coming to earth as man (Philippians 2:1-10). Near the end of our bibles, John stresses how he watched and touched a human Jesus (1 John 1:1-4). In between, we see Jesus exhibit all kinds of human traits and emotions. He grew (Luke 2:52). He was tired (Mark 4:38; John 4:6). He hungered (Matthew 4:12). He felt joy (Luke 10:21), grief (John 11:35), love (John 13:1), compassion (Matthew 9:36), and anger (John 2:13-16). This very human Jesus lived his life in obedience to His Father and in accordance with the Scripture. As He nears the end of His life here, He cries out know the Scriptures had been fulfilled in His life, suffering, and death. In doing so, He displays the anguish of His humanity.

As His humanity was on full display throughout His life, it was also on display in His death. Jesus suffered immensely on the cross. He went through a series of empty trials, only to be handed a death sentence He did not deserve. He was beaten and mocked. He would have been flogged to within an inch of His life. He has been hanging on the cross, struggling to breath, enduring the agony of crucifixion. While on the cross, He again was mocked and ridiculed. He bore the weight of sin and the wrath of God. All of this suffering. All of this anguish.

What are the Implications of all this for you and me? The book of Hebrews gives us some insight to this (Hebrews 2:9-18; 4:15).

For one, we see that Jesus identifies with us. We are not foreign or unknown to Him. He has walked where we walk and endured what we endure. He identifies with our suffering (Hebrews 4:15). This is a big deal. We cannot look at Jesus and say, “You just don’t understand.” He knows the reality of temptation and the agony of suffering. And, He gives us grace and strength to deal with both.

We also see that Jesus is the perfect sacrifice. There is nothing else that can be offered for our sin. The last sacrifice has been made. There is nothing you can offer…nothing you can give to make yourself right with God. The blood of goats and bulls is no longer adequate. Your religious activity will not overcome your sin. Only Jesus can do that. He did it on the cross. He is God’s perfect Passover lamb who conquered sin and death on our behalf (Hebrews 2:14).

In His thirst, Jesus died so that we may never be thirsty. As you walk across the spiritually barren wastelands of this life, spiritually parched and crying out for water, look to Jesus – the living water who died in our place and rose from the grave.

Don’t dismiss Jesus. Don’t ignore His humanity and what He accomplished in it. He lived for you. He died for you. He rose again for you…so that you might be able to come into right relationship with God. He has taught us and demonstrated for us how we can live for God and He empowers us to do so. Through His anguish, we can rise above ours.

Forsaken

Baseball season is upon us. Today is Opening Day. All throughout the fall and winter months, teams have prepared for this summer. Players have trained. Coaches have strategized. Management has secured new players. Each team has worked to fill voids in their rosters. Very often, these roster bolstering moves are done through trades where one team gives another team a package of players in exchange for a different package of players. The hope is that these exchanges will fill the needs so the team can accomplish its goals.

As we make our way through the sayings of Jesus from the cross, we come to Matthew 27:45-46. There, Jesus cries out “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Matthew 27:46, CSB)

In this scene, we are reminded that Jesus became sin and bore its consequences.

On the cross, Jesus fulfilled what the prophet Isaiah foretold when He said the “Lord punished him for the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6, CSB). The Apostle Paul tells us that God “made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us,so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21, CSB). In other words, Jesus became sin for us. He exchanged His righteousness for our unrighteousness (1 Peter 3:18).

Part of this exchange is that His righteousness has been credited to our account. He took our sin debt and credited our account with His righteousness. Imagine you are in the hole for millions and millions of dollars. Your debt is so great, you will never be able to repay it. Not even Dave Ramsey can help you. You are hopelessly in the red. But, a billionaire comes along and offers to pay off all of your debt. That would be tremendous. But, imagine he goes one step further. He is willing to take on your debt and transfer to you his account. Not only is your debt paid, but now you are flush with cash. That’s what happens at the cross. Jesus becomes our sin, pays our debt, and transfers His righteousness to our account. In Christ, when we stand before almighty God, our sin debt is not what He sees. Rather, He sees the balance transfer Jesus provided. He sees Jesus’ righteousness in our account. This is the great exchange.

Not only did Jesus become sin, but Jesus bore the penalty for sin. The text tells us that darkness covered the land for three hours. Scholars debate the cosmological causes and the scope of the darkness, but the theological meaning of the darkness is clear. Throughout Scripture, darkness is often associated with the judgment of God. As Jesus becomes sin, He bears God’s wrath.

It is significant for us to know that through His death, Jesus completely satisfied the wrath of God. His propitiatory sacrifice…His atoning sacrifice had satisfied a holy God’s demand for the payment of sin.

As He experiences this soul-crushing moment, Jesus cries out to God. Throughout His agony, Jesus gives us a model of how we can deal with our own suffering. He cries out and is honest with God. He expresses His raw emotion. But, through it all, He still clings to the fact that God is still His. He holds onto “my God.”

A.W. Pink sums this up this exchange at the cross this way: “At the Cross man did a work: he displayed his depravity by taking the perfect One and with “wicked hands” nailing Him to the tree. At the Cross Satan did a work: he manifested his insatiable enmity against the woman’s seed by bruising His heel. At the Cross the Lord Jesus did a work: He died—the Just for the unjust that He might bring us to God. At the Cross God did a work: He exhibited His holiness and satisfied His justice by pouring out His wrath on the One who was made sin for us.”

Know that in Jesus, we are forgiven. He became sin for us. He bore the weight of our sin and completely satisfied the wrath of God. In this great exchange, He offers us forgiveness and restoration. He brings us into right relationship with God. Because He was willing to be forsaken, we can be forgiven. Get in on this. Look to Jesus and trust in Him today.

Tenderness

Four students stayed out late partying one night. The next day, they had an exam and they knew they weren’t prepared for it. So, they hatched a plan where they dirtied themselves up and went to the dean’s office. They said they were attending a wedding and blew a tire on the way back. Thus, they were unable to take the test and asked for an extension. The dean agreed and delayed their exam three days. When they arrived to take their delayed exam, the dean greeted them and said since the circumstances were special, they would need to take the test in separate rooms. Each student went to their room and turned over their exam paper. They were surprised there were only two questions. The first one asked their name and was worth one point. The second, worth ninety-nine points, asked which tire blew on the car?

Jesus’ Third Word: Tenderness (John 19:25-27)

This humorous tale reminds us of the importance of doing what you have to do…the importance of taking care of business. Jesus, in accordance with the law and custom of His day, was committed to taking care of business even while hanging on the cross. And, He does so with tenderness and compassion.

In John 19:25-27, Jesus is hanging on the cross, dying an agonizing death. As He does, a group of His followers makes their way forward from the back of the crowd. Included in this gathering is Jesus’ mother Mary and the apostle John. In the midst of His suffering, Jesus sees them and arranges for the care of His mother.

The Bible tells us that Jesus died for us in accordance with God’s plan. Speaking of His death, Jesus says: “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have the right to lay it down, and I have the right to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.” (John 10:18, CSB)

Jesus’ death on the cross was to provide the means for us to come into right relationship with God. And, Jesus fulfilled His Father’s will.

But, while on the cross, He also manage to dispatch the duty He has towards His mother. As Jesus hangs dying on the cross, he does what he must do as her eldest son. He makes arrangements for His widowed mother. By this time, Joseph is probably deceased. And, Mary will have little means of taking care of herself. So, Jesus entrusts her to John. We might ask why He doesn’t entrust her to one of His siblings. The simplest answer may be that none of them are believers yet. They won’t become believers until after the resurrection.

John is assigned the task of taking care of Mary and it seems like that exactly what he did. The text says that from that hour on, John cared for her. History and tradition become intertwined. We’re not sure how this all fleshed itself out, but it did.

In this charge, there are some truths we need to embrace:

  • We need to care for our parents and those who have raised us (1 Timothy 5:3-4, 8), and do so with compassion and tenderness.
  • We need to take seriously the spiritual responsibility of the family. Jesus assured that His mother was in a place where her faith could flourish. We must understand that the most important task we have in our family is to provide for its spiritual flourishing.
  • We need to fulfill the tasks assigned to us by Jesus. John faithfully did what Jesus instructed. We must as well.

Jesus faithfully did what He needed to do. He took care of business. He died on the cross for our sin. As He did, He managed His human responsibilities by providing for His mother. May we trust His provision on the cross and fulfill the tasks He has assigned us faithfully every day.

Promise

I have seen and heard of a number of different kinds of promises. There is the pinky promise. There is the promise ring. There is the politicians’ promise. There are contractual promises and marital promises. Then, there are divine promises. It is this last type of promise that we see in Jesus’ conversation with the thief on the cross. And, it is the promise of Jesus that offers pardon for sin.

As Jesus hangs dying on the cross, Luke’s gospel tells us (Luke 23:35-43) that the crowd watched, the leaders scoffed, the soldiers mocked and the thieves insulted. But, then something happened in the heart of one of them. He stopped hurling insults at Jesus and began to rebuke his co-conspirator. He reminds him that his death was imminent. Judgment was coming. He was going to stand before the eternal judge who would soon render His sentence. This repentant thief acknowledges his own guilt and declares he’s deserving of the punishment he is receiving. He recognizes the innocence of Jesus and asks him to “Remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42, CSB).

The thief had nothing to offer Jesus in payment for such a request. He had no good works to give. He had no time or opportunity to engage in religious rituals or practices. He had no chance to make amends for any or all of his wrongdoing. He simply asked to be remembered when Jesus comes again. His is a plea of faith. You and I bring nothing to Jesus other than the sin that needs forgiven.

Jesus offers the thief, and everyone of us who come to him in repentance and faith, hope. He assures him, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:42, CSB).

Today. Jesus’ promise suggests that there is no delay for those who trust in Him. No purgatory. No soul sleep. No waiting. The moment we breathe our last breath on this earth, we take our next in the presence of Jesus.

Furthermore, Jesus promises His eternal presence. He says, “You will be with me.” All who turn from their sins and look to Jesus in trusting, saving faith will be with Jesus forever.

Finally, Jesus says the thief will join Him in paradise. The psalmist spoke of dwelling in the house of the Lord forever (Psalm 23:6). That’s the hope Jesus gives here. Those who are His have an eternal home.

As Jesus hung dying on the cross, He reminds us that death is not the end. It is not our final domain. Jesus died so we don’t have to. Because of Him, we can live, even though death comes to us all.

A promise is only as good as the individual who makes it. They have to have the character and the ability to follow through on the commitment. Jesus has both. Since He is God, He is perfectly holy and trustworthy. As God, He has the ability to follow through on what He has promised. He promises pardon for sin and a restored relationship with God. May our hearts be repentant, our eyes be open, and our hearts be receptive to the hope Jesus offers. Rest in Him and Him alone today.

Forgiven

Two of the most powerful words in the human language may be the words “I’m sorry.” These words express contrition and empathy for the wrong done to someone else. But, what happens when these words don’t come from our lips or the lips of someone who has wrong us? Then, we may find that there are two even more powerful words – forgive them.

It’s these words that Jesus prayed from the cross as He hung dying for our sins. Luke 23:32-34 tells us that Jesus was led away and crucified with two other criminals. The language reminds us that Jesus was counted among us and died in our place. How appropriate is that picture? Jesus dying on a cross in the place of another being counted as a sinner among sinners, even though He was never convicted of any wrong doing. Paul sums up the theology behind this when he reminds us that Jesus died in our place and become sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Luke’s account also tells us that the soldiers gambled for Jesus’ clothes as he hung dying in the morning sun. The only possession Jesus had was stripped from him and was a prize to be won by His executioners. What a rebuke of the false teaching we know as the “prosperity gospel” which teaches God wants to shower us with stuff in this life. It is fascinating that Jesus dies with nothing, yet He gives us everything. Through our faith in Jesus and His provision on the cross, we have been forgiven and restored into a right relationship with God. We have been welcomed into His family. As His adopted brothers and sisters, we are co-heirs with Jesus of everything God the Father gives to Him (Romans 8:17).

It is Jesus who opens the door to forgiveness. He prays for it to be extended to His tormentors and those who put Him on the cross. And, in case you’re wondering, you and I helped put Him there. He not only prays for it, but He also models it. Throughout His ministry, teaches commanded His followers to forgive those who have wronged them (Matthew 5:44). So, we understand that forgiveness is not an option for believers. We must forgive those who have hurt us.

As Jesus hangs on the cross praying for and modeling forgives, we see that He also offers it to us. As followers of Jesus, we have been forgiven. His forgiveness is complete and brings us into right relationship with God. And, because of His forgiveness, we in turn can forgive others. Our natural tendency is to push back against this and to hold grudges. Yet, the love of God constrains us to extend mercy and forgiveness. Jesus frees us from this sinful nature and this far too human reaction. His forgiveness compels us to forgive.

May we embrace the forgiveness Jesus offers, and as we do share it freely with others.

The Truth Binds Us Together

20180820_155458458_iOSThey say brevity is the soul of wit. If that’s the case, the apostle John should win a prize for 2 John. At only 245 words in Greek, it is the second shortest book in the New Testament. Despite its brevity, John packs a great deal of insight into these thirteen verses.

To the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth—and not only I, but also all who know the truth— (2 John 1:1, CSB)

His letter begins the way most letters began in his day. John identifies himself as the “elder” and the recipient of his letter as “the elect lady and her children.” Commentators differ as to whether or not John is writing to a church and its members or a lady and her family. It makes little difference for our purposes here because we are focussing on what John says to his recipients.

John says he loves these individuals (whomever or how numerous they are) in the truth. Not only that, but all who know the truth love them as well. Truth is more than a philosophical concept. It is a theological one. Jesus identifies himself as the truth (John 14:6). Furthermore, He identifies God’s Word as truth (John 17:17). The truth of Christ and His Word, the truth of the gospel, unites us as believers. In essence, John is saying that as believers, we know the truth. And, as believers who know the truth, we love other believers who love the truth.

In a world filled with so much division, there is no room for it in the church. We can disagree. We can be diverse. But we must not be divided for Christ has bound us together. Jesus is the One who unifies us. It is in Him and through Him we love all who are in Him, regardless of whatever other differences we may hold. We are one in Him. We are one in His Word. We are one in the gospel. All who know Him love those who know Him.

So, if we are in Christ, let us strive by His grace and His power to love those in the truth. Let us love our brothers and sisters in Christ, whatever our other differences may be.

 

Tips to Improve Your Prayer Life

prayer20on20rock20silhouetteWe see throughout Scripture the importance of prayer. It is called for and modeled by Old Testament saints and prophets alike. Likewise, Jesus not only calls us to prayer, He also teaches us to pray and models for us a life of prayer. The early church was filled with praying believers.

So, with that said, let’s take a moment to look at some simple steps that can help strengthen our prayer lives.

Establish a time and place so you can get alone and eliminate distractions. It’s best if we can carve out some time each day to spend alone with God free from distractions. So, find the time that works best for you. People are seen praying throughout the Bible at different times and in different postures. God is more concerned that we spend time in prayer than what time we pray and He’s more concerned with the posture of our hearts than our bodies. Whatever hour might work best in your life, set it aside and make it a priority. Turn off the television and put your phone away. Try to eliminate as many distractions as possible so you can spend some time connecting with our Heavenly Father.

Remember that prayer is communication. It’s a conversation with God. For many of us, we try to find a balance between conversation and reverence/respect. Because we do, we tend to drift into “prayerspeak.” Through the years I’ve heard many people talk one way and then pray another. It’s like they’re speaking an entirely different language. Try to avoid this.

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original carton can be found here and is from the site Adam4d.com

As you pray, spend some time in silence. Allow God to stir in the stillness of the moment. It’s often in our quiet moments of reflection that God brings things to our mind to challenge and comfort us.

Speak openly and honestly with God. Don’t try to impress Him. He knows our feelings and emotions. He knows if we’re afraid or anxious. He knows if we’re angry. Acknowledge to Him and ask Him to help you move through those feelings. When we read the Psalms, we see the struggles of the psalmists. We also see the struggles of the prophets as they confessed they didn’t understand what was going on around them. Let’s strive to avoid the dangers of pretentious praying (Matthew 6:5-8). As we do this, it is helpful to remember that the Spirit prays with us and for us (Romans 8:26).

If we’re honest, we know that sometimes our prayer life becomes stale. We run out of things to say or we just repeat the same things over and over. Here are a few suggestions that can help us move beyond this.

  • Use the ACTS acronym – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication
  • Follow the pattern Jesus puts forth in The Model Prayer (Matthew 6:9-15)
  • Pray Scripture, particularly Psalms – Donald Whitney has written a marvelous book on this entitled Praying the Bible (as a matter fact, anything by Donald Whitney is worth reading).
  • Perhaps it might help you to write our your prayers or to record them in a journal. You can do this in a hard copy or digitally. Day One, Evernote, OneNote, or any word processor (Word, Pages, Google Docs) can be a great tool for this.
  • Learn to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Take advantage of the moments here and there and pray whenever something…or someone comes to mind.
  • Pray through your calendar.
  • Prayer walking. Walk through your neighborhood praying as you go. This is a great way to pray for the people around you. Pray 4 Every Home is a great resource you can use in this endeavor.

Whatever method or plan, time or posture, tool or resource, the important thing is to pray. So, spend some time today connecting with God through prayer.

How to Study the Bible

We all want to grow in one way or another. And, many of us look at the new year as an opportunity to make a some changes in our lives. So, with that said, it seems like a good time offer a few suggestions to help us grow in our spiritual walks.

A great place to start deepening our relationship with God is by spending time in His Word. We know that the Scripture provides what we need for spiritual growth (2 Timothy 3:16-17). In the pages of the Bible, we learn about Jesus and the plan of redemption (Luke 24:27). We learn how we need to live and move forward in life (Psalm 119). We grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord (2 Peter 3:17-18). We learn to distinguish truth from error and we see more clearly the areas of our lives that need changing (Hebrews 4:12).

First thing to do is to get a Bible. By that, I mean get a Bible you will use. Get one with print big enough you can see. Get one you can understand. There are a number of really good translations available. I usually recommend the English Standard Version (ESV) or the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). In addition there are a number of digital options that are good as well. Olive Tree, YouVersion, and the ESV app are all great tools you can use on your phone or tablet. Furthermore, you may find a study Bible a helpful resource and once again the ESV Study Bible or the HCSB Study Bible are hard to beat.

Second, get a plan. You can find a number of reading plans tailored to your goals. You can read the Bible through in a year or over the course of two years. You can read the New Testament through in a month or two. There are no limits to the suggestions. A month or so ago, Justin Taylor wrote about a number of great options on the Gospel Coalition Blog.

Third, set a time where you can minimize distractions and invest your time in reading. Find the best time for you whether it’s morning, evening or late night. To start, the length of time is not as important as the consistency.

Fourth, pray to seek the Lord’s help in understanding and applying what you read. The Holy Spirit is our helper as we spend time in the Word (John 16:13; 1 Corinthians 2:12).

Fifth, read. As you read, interact with the text. Ask questions like who, what, when, where, why, and how as you move through the text. Underline things and take notes. Jot down your questions, observations and insights. Converse with others about your readings, including your questions and insights. Get their input and seek their prayers about what God has laid on your heart.

Finally, live out what you learn. Reading the Bible is not primarily an intellectual exercise. By God’s grace, we are to apply the things we’re reading to our lives every day.