Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Share it!

So, now you've memorized a bunch of verses, what do you do with them? I’d like to share one idea with you today.

You can share it with others. As Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” As we let the Word of Christ dwell in us, it should come out of us as we use to teach and admonish, to encourage and bless.

Sometimes you can use it to remind a sibling or friend of the right thing to do. When I hear a young one treating a sibling unfairly, I will often quote Matthew 7:12: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” If someone says something discouraging, James 3:10 sometimes spills off of my lips: “Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.”

And again, when I am in conversations with friends, they will ask a question that is best answered with a Scripture. Just recently, a young lady asked why I chose to be different from the rest of the world, and why I thought that was a good thing. I quoted 2 Corinthians 6:16-18, which says, “And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.’ Therefore ‘Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.’ ‘I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.’”

But a chance to use your memorized passages doesn’t always pop up during your conversations. Sometimes, you have to bring it up. I find it helpful to ask others what they think of a verse, and then quote it to them. Or, I’ll ask my friends what the Lord has been teaching them. This is usually followed by the same question directed at me, so I have a chance to share the verse/passage I have memorized and share how God has been using it in my life. It is a great way to stir others up to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24) without making them feel uncomfortable.

Another great way to share it is through written form. You could include it at the end of your emails. Or include it in your letters to others. This is a great way to encourage others and share what you have learned, not to mention a great way to review your passages. :)

The more you share it, the more you can review it. The more you speak it, the more it is able to work in the lives of others. The more you use it, the more it will fill your own mind, and the more chances you have to meditate on it. The more you share it, the more opportunities the Holy Spirit will have to use it in His transforming work.

Friday, January 23, 2015

By Faith


The Christian life can be summed up in this one word. Faith. Yet how few of us demonstrate true faith.

The kind of faith that Gladys Always showed when she led 200 orphans on a six-week journey across the mountains.

The kind of faith that led George Muller to thank God for the food that he and his many orphans were about to eat, when barely a crumb could be found in the room.

The kind of faith which bade Amy Carmichael to risk her life that she might save young women and girls out of a life of temple prostitution.

The kind of faith Abraham had when he left his family and home and journeyed to a place he did not know of, in obedience to the leading of the Lord.

The kind of faith that Moses demonstrated when, refusing to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, he forsook Egypt and led the children of Israel out of slavery.

What amazing faith these people demonstrated. How our measly faith shrinks in comparison.

These men and women “through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again” (Hebrews 11:33-35).

Talk about faith that moves mountains.

My heart swells with pride when I hear of men and women like this. Something stirs inside my soul. want to be like that. I want to quench the violence of fire. I want to escape the edge of the sword. I want to valiantly risk my life for the sake of another.

And I can! These men were ordinary men and women, just like us. Consider this passage:

“Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit” (James 5:17-18).

Did you hear that? He was a man with a nature like ours. Yet the things that he accomplished are way beyond our wildest imaginings.

Yet that is what God wants to do in our lives! “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20).

What must we do to be spiritual giants like the men and women mentioned above? Have faith. Simple, right? Unfortunately, not as it ought to be. I recognize that in my own life. Just this past week, as I was relying on God to help me find a passage to study for this second semester, my faith faltered. I doubted that He would answer me.

Yet I believe the answer to a stronger faith, is a stronger knowledge of the King of kings. Believing that He is what He says He is, and standing on that promise. This week, when I was doubting that I would receive an answer from the Lord, I had forgotten that He was all-wise, and that He will answer when we call. I had forgotten that He loves to give good gifts to His children, and that His ways areso much higher than mine. I had forgotten that His timetable is different than mine. Oh, it’s not like my mind had forgotten, but my heart had. So, in order to have faith that can move mountains, we mustknow our God. Know that He is good and a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. We must be on our knees, seeking His face, seeking to know Him more. We must be in His Word, seeking to find the Savior who is written of therein. We must diligently seek Him, for He is a rewarder of those who seek Him passionately, with their whole heart.

Let us trust in Him with every bone in our body this week. He will reveal to us wisdom and understanding as we seek to understand His Word. He will answer our questions. He will lead us to still waters.  He will never leave us nor forsake us. Let’s put our faith on Him.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Biblical Illiteracy: Spiritual Deadness

[In the following essay, I examine some of the causes of a neglected devotional life.  Are these same excuses holding you back?  I will warn you, reading your Bible and praying every day takes perseverance, and you might not always see the effects immediately, but in the long run, it will be more than worth it.  I can guarantee.  Remember that the Word of God is living and active (Hebrews 4:12) and it accomplishes the purpose for which God has sent it (Isaiah 55:11).]

Out of the 90% of surveyed Christians who claim to desire to please the Lord in everything, just 19% read Scripture daily (Rankin). Astonishingly, 82% of American Christians only open their Bibles during church (“Christians”). More and more, believers live in a state of biblical illiteracy and spiritual deadness. Although they place Bible reading in their list of New Year’s resolutions, few follow through past the first week. Despite the abundance of God’s Word and the many resources expounding upon it, Christians would rather squander their lives in front of the TV than pour over the Word and receive life from its pages. Laziness, apathy, and missing passion, cause the neglect of Scripture that abounds among today’s believers.

Shrouding behind excuses for an abandoned devotional life like, “I don’t have enough time,” or “I’m simply too busy,” lies the cunning master, laziness. According to the American Bible Society’s poll, 61% of Christians desire a stronger devotional life, but lack the guts to actually read His Word (“What”). While many claim they lack time, their minutes slip by in worthless activities such as social media or television. They use these as excuses to avoid exerting the effort to spend time with the Word. Unlike many Christians today, despite running five orphanages, pastoring a church, and directing the printing and circulation of millions of biblical literature, George Muller never allowed laziness to stop him (Carty 155). Like Muller, many activities can vie for a Christian’s time in the morning–time they should spend with the Lord. However, countless avoid waking up earlier simply out of slothfulness. Often times during my pre-teen years, I would dive into a Bible reading program, only to have it evaporate after a few days since I lazily refused rise any earlier. Above all, Christians avoid Bible reading because of their own idleness.

Contrasting laziness, a lack of motivation sometimes instigated by unfruitfulness often manipulates the disregard of the Bible. According to the Ponce Foundation, only 22% of Christians believe “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God...” as 2 Timothy 3:16 reveals (“Christians”). For those who deny Scripture’s divine inspiration, Bible reading loses its purposefulness. Conversely, the promises of changed and transformed lives leave many disillusioned into believing one morning in the Bible will leave them completely altered. I too have often fallen into the pit of believing if I simply read His Word once or twice, my life would alter drastically. Many do not realize however that the Bible’s transformation takes place subtly over the course of a year or more, instead of instantaneously. After a couple days of seeming unfruitfulness, they quit, claiming, “It simply doesn’t work.” Sadly, many believers lack the motivation to read whether by disbelieving or misunderstanding its power of transformation.

Finally, a simple lack of desire underlies all excuses for the negligence of the Scriptures. As Mrs. DeMoss highlights, many Christians gorge themselves on a spiritual diet of junk food–television, social media, books, movies–and so “have little appetite for the Word and prayer” (DeMoss 12). When it comes to feeding on the meat and greens of the Word, believers find it bland and so dump the nutrition in place for what temporarily satisfies. Moreover, as D.L. Moody expounds, “The Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible.” Those who allow sin and the things of the world to take precedent in their life lack incentive to nourish themselves with Scripture. Unfortunately, some who claim the name of Jesus would rather walk along the path of the world, which induces them to abandon the discipline of Scripture reading.

Whatever the reasons, a neglect of the Scriptures reaps havoc. According to George Muller, “The vigor of our spiritual life will be in exact proportion to the place held by the Bible in our life and thoughts.” For Christians universally, the absence of daily Bible reading results in spiritual deadness, just as a lack of physical food leads to death. If a Christian must live “by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God,” then to refuse to do so would lead to demise (Matthew 4:4). Unsurprisingly, 67% of teens never read their Bibles, and almost 75% of evangelical teens desert the church after high-school, because they starved from lack nutrients (Grossman “Survey”) (Grossman “Young”). In addition, many who miss the freedom that comes from the truth of God’s Word live in spiritual bondage (John 8:32). Still others trudge through the mud of discontentment and dissatisfaction because they lose the joy and pleasure that emanates from the presence of God (Psalm 16:11). Those who wish to live for the Lord must push past their laziness and indifference and dive into the rich and bountiful pages of the Scriptures.

Works Cited
Carty, Jay. Counter Attack. Portland: Multnomah, 1988. Print.

"Christians Don’t Read Their Bible." Ponce Foundation. The Ponce Foundation, n.d. Web. 9 Jan. 2015. <http://poncefoundation.com/christians-dont-read-their-bible/>.

DeMoss, Nancy Leigh. A Place of Quiet Rest. Wheaton: Tyndale House, 2000. Print.

Grossman, Cathy Lynn. "Survey: 72% of Millennials 'more Spiritual than Religious'" USA Today. USA Today, 14 Oct. 2010. Web. 9 Jan. 2015. <http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/religion/2010-04-27-1Amillfaith27_ST_N.htm>.

Grossman, Cathy Lynn. "Young Adults Aren't Sticking with Church." USA Today. USA Today, 19 Mar. 2011. Web. 09 Jan. 2015. <http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/printedition/life/20070807/d_churchdropout07.art.htm>

Rankin, Russ. "Study: Bible Engagement in Churchgoers' Hearts, Not Always Practiced." Life Way. LifeWay Christian Resources, 6 Sept. 2012. Web. 9 Jan. 2015. <http://www.lifeway.com/research-survey-bible-engagement-churchgoers>.

"What Do Americans Really Think About the Bible?" Barna Group. Barna Group, 27 Mar. 2013. Web. 9 Jan. 2015. <https://www.barna.org/barna-update/culture/605-what-do-americans-really-think-about-the-bible#.VLBXpSvF_Pp>.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Antidote for Spiritual Dryness

Today, I want to discuss the power of the Word to bring revival; to bring dead things back to life. But first, some verses:

Psalm 119:25 My soul clings to the dust; revive me according to Your word.”
Psalm 119:37 Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, And revive me in Your way.”
Psalm 119:40 “Behold, I long for Your precepts; Revive me in Your righteousness.”
Psalm 119:50 “This is my comfort in my affliction, For Your word has given me life.”
Psalm 119:88 “Revive me according to Your lovingkindness, So that I may keep the testimony of Your mouth.”
Psalm 119:93 I will never forget Your precepts, For by them You have given me life.”
Psalm 119:107 I am afflicted very much; Revive me, O Lord, according to Your word.”
Psalm 119:149 Hear my voice according to Your lovingkindness; O Lord, revive me according to Your justice.”
Psalm 119:154 Plead my cause and redeem me; Revive me according to Your word.”
Psalm 119:156 “Great are Your tender mercies, O Lord; Revive me according to Your judgments.”
Psalm 119:159 Consider how I love Your precepts; Revive me, O Lord, according to Your lovingkindness.”

Sometimes, like David, we fall into “dry spots” in our walk with God.  We feel spiritually dead.  We need revival, as David did.

But where do we find that revival and new life?  Where can we find rejuvenation?  How do we get out of this feeling of being lukewarm?

According to these verses in Psalms 119, spiritual revival comes from the Word of God.  By reading the Word of God and allowing its life-giving waters to soak into the desert of our souls, we will be “revived” and strengthened spiritually.

Remember the lukewarm church Jesus warned in Revelation 3?  As He spoke to them, He gave this invitation: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (vs. 20).  Did you hear that?  We must invite Him in, and dine with Him. This is the solution to being rid of our lukewarm spirit.  As we sit with Jesus, as we allow Him to enter our lives through His Word and His Holy Spirit, He will breathe new life into our souls.  But first, we must be obedient, and open our hearts and our Bibles.

Additionally, the story of the dead bones coming to life, reminds us of the power of the very words of God.  Take a look:

“Again He said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, “O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord God to these bones: ‘Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live” (Ezekiel 37:4-5).

What did the bones need to do in order to receive life?  Hear God’s Words.  And as they did that?  His breath entered into them.  I believe it is the same for us today.  As we read God’s Word and His life-giving breath enters our minds, it will penetrate our hearts and revive our souls.

So I encourage you, if you are in a “dry spot” spiritually, set aside some time to really read His Word.  But this can’t just be a passive reading process.  Unless you are actively pursuing and studying the Scriptures, then its words will wash right over you.  We must actually dine with the Lord. This means stopping all else and spending one and one time with Him through the Word.  This means communing with Him. This means making an effort to know Him as He has revealed Himself through the Word.  We must hear the Word of God, as the dry bones did. The Hebrew word used for “hear” implies hearing with attention or interest, giving heed, consenting, but also to obey and be obedient to. These things don’t happen if we are just passively reading the Word. Rather, we must actively seek out and listen to these words of life.

Today, I encourage you to experience the revival that comes from the Word. Drink of its sparkling fountains.  And let God breathe new life into you.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Don't Give Up When You Don't Enjoy it

It is a common temptation of Satan to make us give up the reading of the Word and prayer when our enjoyment is gone; as if it were of no use to read the Scriptures when we do not enjoy them, and as if it were no use to pray when we have no spirit of prayer. The truth is that in order to enjoy the Word, we ought to continue to read it, and the way to obtain a spirit of prayer is to continue praying. The less we read the Word of God, the less we desire to read it, and the less we pray, the less we desire to pray. 

~George Muller

Friday, January 9, 2015

God and His Word: The Inseparable Union

We typically think of Psalm 119 as a psalm about the Scriptures. But as I have studied it over the past months, I have found that although God’s Word is the focus, the underlying theme of the God of the Word is still very foundational.  Take verses like this:

“I have not departed from Your judgments, for You Yourself have taught me” (vs.102).

“Look upon me and be merciful to me, As Your custom is toward those who love Your name” (vs. 132).
“Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, And Your law is truth” (vs. 142).

 “Concerning Your testimonies, I have known of old that You have founded them forever” (vs. 152).

I was thinking about the connection between God and His Word.  And indeed, they are so fused together, that John says this:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made...And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-3, 14).

Derek Kidner well remarks: “This untiring emphasis [speaking of the Word of God] has led some to accuse the psalmist of worshiping the Word rather than the Lord; but it has been well remarked that every reference here to Scripture, without exception, relates it explicitly to its Author; indeed, every verse from 4 to the end is a prayer for affirmation addressed to Him. This is true piety: a love of God not desiccated by study but refreshed, informed and nourished by it.”

So in Psalm 119, we see the unbreakable link between God and His Word.  They go together. You cannot truly have God without His Word and you certainly cannot have the Word without having God too.  He is the purpose of the Word.  It’s all about Him!

For this reason, we should not approach our Bible reading simply as a task.  We shouldn't memorize Scripture simply because it’s something we are commanded to do.  Rather, we do these things that we might attain a far greater end, Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately, the picture painted by this anonymous person is often the case: “There is a way of reading the Bible that seems to leave God far away, off in the shadows somewhere. It is all information and technicalities and knowledge, but it feels like you're sitting with your back towards God. You come up against a difficulty or question, and you go to books, you ask pastors, friends, strangers on the internet, anyone but Him. Gradually God gets smaller and dimmer.”

In John 5:39 Jesus reiterates this point: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me.”  The Pharisees had studied the Scriptures.  But they didn't know the purpose of the Scriptures: to testify of Jesus.  May we not simply to study the Scriptures in order to gain knowledge, but rather to be drawn closer to the King of kings and Lord of lords.

So, as you read His Word, remember Who wrote it. Remember the purpose of the Word.  Remember why we have the Word in the first place.  To point us to Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A Cure for Blah-ness

[This is an amazing article from a sweet friend in Christ.  I hope it blesses you!]

“God is gwayt’w dan ouw up-a-downs! God is gwayt’w dan ouw up-a-downs!” My recently turned three-year-old little sister meandered around the house happily singing (read: randomly yelling) this phrase a few weeks ago. Translated from toddlerese, it means, “God is greater than our ups and downs,” a sentence she had recently heard as the answer to her question, “What your shirt say?”

This sweet little reminder set me to thinking. We all have personal spiritual difficulties. In this article, I want to address one of the biggest “up-a-downs” I face—an apparent lack of any emotion toward God when I desire to burn brightly for Him. I don’t think I’m the only one, either, seeing as a fellow friend wrote this in a poem: “But why can't you feel it? / Maybe it's trust / And maybe it's faith / But your soul's a dead flint / And thus you can't feel it.” Sometimes I just don’t “feel” anything—not passionate for Jesus, not zealous for His work, not excited to read my Bible or pray. Try as I like to conjure up some little flame in my heart, I can’t. It just isn’t happening.

After a long period of this nagging lack of spiritual growth, I was essentially forced into discovering why I have this problem. One week at my Bible club, I made not-the-smartest-considering-my-workload promise to my Bible Quiz coach: I would finish half of the Bible study I had received that day by next club meeting—in one week. Needless to say, I sat at my desk almost all week, working on school and then Bible study and finished the book. So why do I tell you this story? Well, finishing my book forced me to read more of the Scriptures in one week than I had probably read in the past three months. At first, all I really wanted to do was finish the book. But as I was immersed in God’s Word, my passion for Him started coming back. I found that studying His Word released me from that lull of drudgery that I had been in and cultivated a love of learning all that He has for me and even a love of loving Him. The answer, then, to my “up-a-down” was to take time out from what I would normally do and spend it in time with God—whether I feel like it or not. Overcoming a lack of feeling takes doing what you know you must even with a stone-cold heart. 

In a word, the solution to “blah-ness” is found in Luke 9:23: “Then He said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me’” (NKJV, emphasis added). Denying myself, forced though it was, and giving time to God made me want to spend more time with Him. Will you let Him take the place of activities you hold dear? Will you let Him rule and reign when it’s hard? 

Hebrews 11:6—“… he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (NKJV).

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Prayer: Acts 1:14

Today, I want to stress to you once again the importance of prayer. This practice brings us closer to the Lord, further molding us into the image of His Son. If we want to be like Jesus, we must pray. Turning our eyes upon Jesus in prayer, not only allows us to talk with the Savior, but also dims the things of this earth, as we meditate upon the King of kings, clothed in a rainbow.

Consider Acts 1:14: "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers."

In this verse, the believers got together for the express purpose of prayer. They continued in prayer, not just a one-time, 2-hour prayer meeting; this continued all day! That is what we should be striving to do. "Pray with out ceasing," the Bible says (1 Thessalonians 5:17). I challenge you to that today. Make a special effort to pray throughout the day, by God's wisdom and grace.

Meet with another good friend, or a group of friends and pray today. 

And then note what happens as a result. When the group of people in this verse were praying, they were rewarded by the overflowing of the Holy Spirit upon them. They then preached the Word and saved many. 
Imagine what would happen if you too got on your knees with the Savior today, with other believers.  The results are limitless, for "whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours" (Mark 11;24).

I personally have found that there is a great vibrancy in praying with other believers.  I believe it is so because of the promise of Matthew 18:19-20: “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”  When I am praying with other believers His presence is there in a tangible way.  It is simply amazing!

I encourage and challenge you to call up a friend and pray with them today.  Tomorrow you are meeting with other godly believers to worship the Lord.  Pray with them.  I can guarantee, it will be more than worth it.

I'm am praying for you my friends!