The Bible, it’s that important

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

In Second Timothy, Paul wrote to his protege, Timothy, whom he considered a son in the faith. We see hints in the letter that Timothy had fallen on some difficult times, at least emotionally and spiritually, and seemed to be backing away from a once passionate faith.

The letter is filled with encouragement to persevere, following Paul’s own example. Within that encouragement, Paul wrote:

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed. You know those who taught you, and you know that from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. ~ 2 Timothy 3:14-17

Paul encouraged Timothy to remain faithful to God’s word, like those who had taught it to him.

The Bible is meant to be a lifelong companion and guide to the follower of Jesus. It is to shape our thoughts, attitudes, and actions, as it continually shows us Jesus.

Even if it’s through someone else paraphrasing and summarizing the message, the Bible is the way that we learn the good news of Jesus so that we place our faith in him. It is God’s gift to us, his self-revelation in verbal form, that continues to teach, challenge, correct, and train us for a life dedicated to Jesus. The Bible is the very thing that equips us and continues to equip us to live each day loving God supremely and loving others deeply.

The Bible is that important.

So whether you read through it quickly and read through it again or whether you take your time and absorb at your own pace; whether you struggle to understand certain parts or whether you grasp them with little trouble; whether you choose to use the King James or the Christian Standard versions; whoever you are and wherever you are in your journey of faith: Read the Bible, learn the Bible, and live the Bible.

Scripture quotes taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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Be a blessing

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

A city is built up by the blessing of the upright, but it is torn down by the mouth of the wicked. ~ Proverbs 11:11

Complaining is easy and seems to be people’s default. On Google and Yelp, you can leave reviews of all sorts of things and many people use them to lodge complaints. We complain on social media about happenings in our communities, issues with neighbors, or politics. We complain to others about others in conversations.

Proverbs 11:11 is a reminder from Solomon that even though not everything in the world is perfect and there are indeed legitimate problems, it is your choice to be part of the problem or part of the solution

Blessings are words and works that seek to bring positive results to other people. To be blessed is to have a life that, in general, is a happy experience.

God’s people are to be the upright. Through our faith in Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit, God takes a stubborn and rebellious heart and makes it good and righteous. All the goodness of Jesus is freely given to us and we, in turn, are to seek to show goodness toward others. Living in and acting out God’s goodness, we are to be positive influences on others.

Jeremiah 29 gives a hint at what this might look like in our cities or towns. The people of Judah were about to go into exile in Babylon for 70 years. It was an unfavorable situation and one that could be a source of complaining. In fact, false prophets were saying, “Oh, it won’t be that bad, it’ll only last a short while,” to try to make people feel better.

But God sent Jeremiah to remind the people that they would be in this exile for the long haul. So what should they do?

Build houses and live in them. Plant gardens and eat their produce. Find wives for yourselves and have sons and daughters. Find wives for your sons and give your daughters to men in marriage so that they may bear sons and daughters. Multiply there; do not decrease. Pursue the well-being of the city I have deported you to. Pray to the Lord on its behalf, for when it thrives, you will thrive. ~ Jeremiah 29:4-7

Though exiles in a foreign land, God told his people that as the city thrived they would thrive, so seek to help the city thrive.

There are countless options: Run for city council, work at a thrift store or food pantry, get involved with the schools, encourage the teachers, help coach your son’s or daughter’s little league teams, volunteer to pick up trash or beautify a park, invite people to church… Be a blessing to your community.

Scripture quotes taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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Always looking for a sign

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

Jesus faced requests, usually from the religious leaders who rejected him, for signs and proof that he was who he claimed to be. Sometimes today we live with the same attitude: God if you will only do/show/say this, then I will _________________.

Let’s not discount that God has worked through signs and wonders from time to time. He spoke to Moses from a burning bush, to Elijah in a gentle whisper, and to Peter in a vision. Yet, when it comes to the surety of what God has said and done, the proof is not ultimately in signs but in his word.

In Luke 16:19-31, Jesus told a parable of a rich man and a poor man named Lazarus. Both died. The rich man went to hell and Lazarus to paradise. Seeing Lazarus reclining against Abraham, the father of the Jews, he cried out for mercy. One of his requests was to send Lazarus from the dead to warn his five brothers to not follow his path.

But Abraham said, “They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.” “No, father Abraham,” the rich man said. “But if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.” But Abraham told him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.”

Ultimately, Jesus prophesied against many of the Pharisees in his audience at the moment. They had God’s word, Moses and the prophets. They demanded signs. Jesus promised them they would see one–his own rising from the dead (Matthew 12:40). Yet, even after Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead, many still did not believe.

Ultimately, it is not signs that will convict us and turn our hearts to God. Rather, God’s word, the Bible, is living and active and cuts to the heart (Hebrews 4:12). The question is: When we encounter God’s word, will we receive it for what it is–the great sign that points us to Jesus and true life in him? Or: Will we reject it and keep looking for signs that still might not be believed even if they come?

Scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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What to look for in spiritual leaders

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

After the people of Judah spent 70 years in exile, they were allowed to return to their land with a charge to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. One of the early leaders who went for this task was Ezra a “priest and scribe, an expert in matters of the Lord’s commands and statutes for Israel” (Ezra 7:11).

God used Ezra in many ways as a leader among his people. From Ezra’s life, we find an example of what we should look for in spiritual leaders, especially those who serve in God’s church.

Ezra 7:10 states: “Now Ezra had determined in his heart to study the law of the Lord, obey it, and teach its statutes and ordinances in Israel.”

Ezra was a man devoted to loving God and loving the word of God, which would then lead him to love others and urge them to love God. Spiritual leaders should be people of godly character who have a reputation for knowing and obeying God through the Bible.

The consistent message of Scripture is that good leaders are those of good character who love God and his word. In 1 Timothy 3, Paul wrote about the qualifications for elders/pastors and deacons. In both lists, he majored on character. He also pointed to spiritual maturity–a person who knows God well and seeks to obey his commands. So, elders were “not to be new converts” and deacons were to hold “the mystery of the faith with a clear conscious” (3:6, 9).

Often, due to influence from business practices, we gravitate toward leaders who show great talent and ability or exciting personalities. While those can be helps to spiritual leaders, above all we are to look for faithfulness, maturity, and a love for God.

Scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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The Purpose of Proverbs

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

The book of Proverbs contains much practical wisdom. The Bible’s story is ultimately about how God sent Jesus to rescue us from our sins and make us his beloved children. As such, the Bible is more about what God has done for us than what we are to do. Yet, by calling us to Jesus, the Bible also calls us to a new way of living. Proverbs are a good example of this.

When we read Proverbs, we are reading “parental instruction to a son who was being groomed to become king,” so says Kevin Vanhoozer, who then goes on to explain: “But this is also the story of humanity: Adam was given a royal mandate to rule the earth in God’s place.”[1]

So, when we read Proverbs and how it details work, friendship, marriage and sexuality, honesty, the words we speak, etc., we are reading instructions for how to live faithfully as God’s children, the future Kings and Queens over his new creation.

This is why Solomon even said, in laying out the purpose to his son: “For learning wisdom and discipline; for understanding insightful sayings; for receiving prudent instruction in righteousness, justice, and integrity” (Proverbs 1:2-3).

Followers of Jesus, God’s children, are to be examples of daily righteousness, justice, and integrity as we act in wisdom and discipline (self-control). God has given us his word, and practical applications like what we find spread through Proverbs, to do just that.

[1] Kevin Vanhoozer, Hearers and Doers (Lexham Press, 2019), 234.

All Scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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Peace or Division?

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

Sometimes we read statements in Scripture and we’re left scratching our head. We know some familiar verses in the Bible, like Luke 1:14 where the angels announce Jesus’ birth:

Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people he favors!

Or, we know verses like Matthew 5:9 in the Beatitudes:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

The we come to verses like Luke 12:49-53, which includes Jesus saying:

“I came to bring fire on the earth and how I wish it were already set ablaze!… Do you think that I came here to bring peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.”

At first glance, we might read these passages as a contradiction of each other. Jesus is to bring peace and calls us to be peacemakers yet later he says he does not come to bring peace but division. It seems set at odds, unless we remember the fullness of who Jesus is.

Yes, Jesus is the Savior. Through the cross, he reconciles repentant sinners to God, bringing peace between us and our Creator by wiping away the stains of our rebellion. As we take this message of grace and forgiveness into the world, there we find reconciliation among people. Even those diametrically opposed to each other by background are brought together into one eternal family through Jesus. There is peace and peacemaking.

Yet, Jesus is also the Judge (John 5:22). The Bible speaks of final judgment being as a fire (Isaiah 66, 1 Corinthians 3, 2 Peter 3, Revelation 20, to name a few places). Fire is what ultimately cleanses and purifies. While the notion of hell contains a sense of fire as punishment against sin, the fire upon the earth is the ultimate purification that cleanses. And this brings a permanent peace as sin is forever removed.

So, what about the division of which Jesus spoke, even a few verses later saying that father and son, mother and daughter, etc. would be opposed to one another? In many cultures, family and religious identity are closely related. In Jesus’ day as much as there were many Jews and Gentiles who followed him, there were many who rejected him. When one member of a family turns to Jesus and another refuses, it can cause tension. When family and religious identity are welded together, it can cause great division.

The hope, always, is for reconciliation, for peacemaking. That if one member of a family follows Jesus, others would join him or her. Yet, when that is not the case, then the one who has chosen to follow Jesus must continue to choose to follow Jesus. They must continue to show kindness and should pray for familial peace. But if one cannot have Jesus and family but must decide between Jesus or family, the choice should be Jesus.

As God the Son, the great Savior-King, the Source of life eternal, Jesus is worth it.

All Scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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Sing to God!

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

“For the Church has been, is, and always should be and can be a joyfully singing Church. In a sense, singing is part of what we exist to do,” so proclaim songwriters Keith and Kristyn Getty.[1] And so they are correct.

Woven within the identity of Jesus’ people is song. Both in individual devotion and corporately gathered throughout the ages Christians have been known to sing.

It’s no wonder. Our sacred texts (the Bible) contains a song book. Yes, the tunes have been lost to the ages (though some are setting the words to ancient and modern tunes today), but the Psalms is a collection of prayerful songs.

Within their words, we even find exhortations to sing. Psalm 147:1 says, “Hallelujah! How good it is to sing to our God, for praise is pleasant and lovely.”

One of the great tragedies of our days is the so-called worship wars–churches dividing over preferences of musical style. We sometimes get in our own way of carrying out a good and beautiful act: Singing to God as one voice together.

Our singing should unite us to speak of God and his word in our harmonies. While praising God in song should help focus our minds, it can also help us to shut out, for a moment, the busyness of life and get lost in the worship and grace of God.

Let us sing. Let us sing as the redeemed of God through Jesus. Let us sing of his goodness. Let us sing because it is good.

Scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

[1] Keith and Kristyn Getty, Sing! (B&H Publishing, 2017), xxi.

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