9 Ways to Guard Your Personal Relationship with God

Today I’m sharing from Crossway.org.

9 Ways to Guard
Your Personal Relationship
with God

by: David Murray

Time and Energy Required

Like all healthy and satisfying relationships, our relationship with God needs time and energy. But giving time and energy to our relationship with God actually increases free time and energy because it helps us get a better perspective on life and order our priorities better, it reduces the time we spend on image management, and it removes fear and anxiety.

Here are some things that have helped me to keep my personal relationship with God personal and avoid falling into the trap of relating to him only through my ministry to others:

1. Guarded Time

I try to guard personal Bible reading and prayer time as jealously as I guard my own children. I keep my 6:20 a.m. appointment with God each morning as zealously as if it were an appointment for kidney dialysis.

2. Undistracted Mind

In a survey of eight thousand of its readers, desiringGod.org found that 54 percent checked their smartphones within minutes of waking up. More than 70 percent admitted that they checked email and social media before their spiritual disciplines.1 I agree with Tony Reinke, who commented, “Whatever we focus our hearts on first in the morning will shape our entire day.” So I have resolved not to check email, social media, or the news before my devotional time, as I want to bring a mind that is as clear and focused as possible to God’s Word.

3. Vocal Prayers

As I always pray better when I pray out loud, I like to find a place where I can do so without embarrassment. Hearing my own prayers helps me improve the clarity and intensity of my prayer. Also, I cannot cover up a wandering heart or mind so easily when I pray out loud.

4. Varied Devotions

Sometimes I read a psalm, a chapter from the Old Testament, and a chapter from the New. Other times I read just one chapter or part of a chapter and spend longer meditating on it. Or I may read through a Bible book with a good commentary. Though the speed varies, I do try to make sure that I’m reading systematically through both testaments and not just jumping around here and there.

Read the rest here.

Mercy from the Word

Today I’m sharing from the Institute for Creation Research (ICR).

Mercy from the Word

By Henry M. Morris Iii, D.Min.

“Let thy mercies come also unto me, O LORD, even thy salvation, according to thy word.” (Psalm 119:41)

The Hebrew word hesed, used here for “mercy,” has a breadth of meaning. Its basic connotation is “kindness” and is most often used in God’s patient dealing with the nation of Israel through their long, and often rebellious, history. The most frequent contextual use focuses on God’s withholding judgment during specific times or events, rather than executing the just sentence demanded by disobedience to His laws.

It is in that sense that “salvation” is often connected to mercy. God “rescues” a person or nation from the consequences of foolish or rebellious actions because He is merciful: “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

This section of Psalm 119 clearly states that these mercies are according to the Word of God. No event dilutes the holiness of God. No judgment withheld violates the innate nature of the thrice-holy Creator. Mercy may delay judgment for the sinner, and justification through redemption will eliminate judgment for the sinner, but God’s holiness does not abrogate the law. The sentence is carried out—either on the sinner or on the Lord Jesus Christ in the place of the sinner (Proverbs 11:21).

The psalmist thus praised the basis for God’s mercies, told of his trust and hope in the Scriptures, and then gave a series of promises to the Lord that marked his own commitment for obedience (vv. 44-48). As the stanza closes, the psalmist promised he would lift up his hands in public praise of the Word and meditate in private as well.

Would God that all of God’s children emulate the heart of this dear brother from the past. —HMM III

How to Study Your Bible in 2020

Sharing today from The Gospel Coalition.

How to Study Your Bible in 2020

By Matt Smethurst 

Ever heard the parable about the man who, in order to discern God’s will for his life, would open his Bible and read whichever verse he saw first?

One day, as he was going through a difficult time with his family, he sought the Lord’s guidance. Opening his Bible, he pointed to a random verse. His finger rested on Matthew 27:5: “Then Judas went away and hanged himself.” Puzzled by these directions, but still hungry for a word from God, he called a “do-over” and flipped to another page. His eyes settled on Luke 10:37: “Go and do likewise.” Flustered but chalking it up to coincidence, the man decided to give his method one last chance. Saying a quick prayer, he flipped the page and placed his finger on John 13:27. There, staring up at him, was a command from Jesus: “What you are about to do, do quickly.”

It’s a humorous anecdote, but it illustrates a serious point. Misusing the Bible is easy; “correctly handling” it is not (2 Tim. 2:15).

In my little book Before You Open Your Bible, I explored nine heart postures that are helpful, even necessary, for rightly approaching God’s Word. But what happens when the prelude ends and you begin reading? What then?

1. Observe: What Does It Say?

The first step is observation (or perhaps better, comprehension). Whenever we open God’s Word, our most fundamental task is simply to see what’s there.

The good news is that observation isn’t complicated. It mainly consists of reading slowly and carefully in order to gather the basic facts of who, what, where, and when. Good questions to bear in mind include:

  • Are there any repeated words or ideas?
  • Who is speaking or writing?
  • To whom are they speaking or writing?
  • Who are the main characters?
  • Where is this taking place?
  • Are there words that show chronology?
  • Are there contrasts, comparisons, or conditional statements?
  • What is the logical progression in the author’s argument?
  • Are there words that indicate atmosphere, mood, and emotion? Figures of speech?
  • What are the section divisions and linking words?
  • What don’t I understand here?

Biblical observation doesn’t have to be some drawn-out, laborious process. You don’t need to consciously ask and answer each question. The more you engage the Bible, the more alert you’ll become to such things. (By the way, it’s best to work through whole books of the Bible from beginning to end, rather than adopting a “popcorn” approach that ignores context and bounces randomly from one passage to another.)

2. Interpret: What Does It Mean?

The next step is interpretation. You’ve considered what the passage says, but what does it mean?

Read the rest here.

Loving the Word

Sharing today from Tabletalk Magazine.

Loving the Word

By Daniel R. Hyde

Love is a complex thing. Contrary to popular notions, love is not a feeling or an emotion that you can fall into and then fall out of. Love is complex, meaning that love involves many things. Classically speaking, our human faculties are made up of the mind, the will, and the affections. Love is rooted in knowledge, exercised in willful decision, and experienced in the affections. To love someone involves all of this. To love someone means that you also love the things about someone. This is most true of our love for God. We love Him, and that leads us to love everything about Him. One of those things is His Word. To love God is to love His Word. Psalm 119 says, “Oh how I love your law!” (v. 97).

Because the Word is the means that God uses to speak to us, we need to love it and use it. Let’s consider how to do that.

BY OUR DUTY TO READ IT

We are to love God by loving His Word. Therefore, it is our duty to read it. Just as we give presents because we love someone and they open it in reciprocal love and gratitude, so too has God shown His love for His people by giving us the gift of His Word. The psalmist said: “He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and rules to Israel. He has not dealt thus with any other nation; they do not know his rules” (Ps. 147:19–20). Show Him you love Him by reading His Word. Scripture explains that we do this in three ways.

Publicly. We love God by loving His Word read publicly. This was done in the ancient Jewish synagogue, as evidenced by Jesus’ entering the synagogue and performing the appointed reading from the prophet Isaiah (Luke 4:16–24). The early church carried on this practice, as Paul tells us (1 Thess. 5:27Col. 4:16), and continued the practice after the close of the Apostolic age. For example, Justin Martyr said, “And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits.” And Tertullian said, “We assemble to read our sacred writings . . . with the sacred words we nourish our faith, we animate our hope, we make our confidence more steadfast.”

As a family. We love God by loving His Word read as a family, if the Lord provides us with a family. Moses exhorted the Israelites to teach the commandments to their children (Deut. 6:6–7). Family Bible reading is necessary to propagate the Christian religion in our children. Studies show the rising generation in American churches leaving those churches; is it any wonder when parents, especially fathers, are not taking the time to read the Word with their children? Ignorance of Scripture leads to ignorance of Christ.

Read the rest here.

3 Common Arguments Against Trusting the Bible

Today I’m sharing from The NIV Bible blog.

3 Common Arguments Against Trusting the Bible

For various reasons, many people argue that the Bible is untrustworthy. As a Christian, when we find ourselves in conversation with these kinds of people, it can feel like we’re in over our head. They’ve had time to establish their position and reinforce their arguments, and we can feel like we’ve been caught off guard—and possibly make us doubt Scripture ourselves.

Here are three common arguments against trusting the Bible and reasons why they’re mistaken.

1. We Can’t Trust the Gospels

While the argument often boils down to the fact that we can’t believe any books of the Bible, people often focus on the Gospels. Why? Because if someone can discount the validity of the Gospels, the whole Christian story falls apart. Generally, these people argue that the Gospels do not include eyewitness accounts. They’re not written as first-person narratives, and nothing suggests that they were composed by people who were personally present to witness the gospel events.

Why this isn’t true:

The whole New Testament started coming together while there were still plenty of people who could deny or corroborate the gospel story. It’s those people that Luke interviewed when he was assembling his Gospel:

“Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” —Luke 1:1–4

When Luke goes on to write the book of Acts to document the birth of the church, he often slips into the first person point of view in his narrative. It’s obvious that Luke believes the eyewitness accounts he shares in his Gospel enough to make personal sacrifices for the growth of the church.

In Peter’s second epistle, he not only affirms that he was an eyewitness of the gospel story, but he also highlights Jesus’ transfiguration as an example (Matthew 17:5Mark 9:7Luke 9:35):
“For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’ ” —2 Peter 1:16–17

The author of John’s Gospel also claims to be an eyewitness:
“This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”John 21:24–25

Furthermore, we read in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that the disciples weren’t the only eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection. Hundreds of people saw the risen Christ:
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. — 1 Corinthians 15:3-6

Read the rest here.

Bible Study Tips for the Book of Acts

Sharing today from Unlocking the Bible.

Bible Study Tips
for the Book of Acts

By Kevin Halloran

Have you ever felt like having a little guidance in your Bible reading would help you learn and understand more than you currently do?

Or maybe you heard an idea presented in a sermon and thought to yourself, “How on earth could I have missed that?!”

Learning and observing themes in certain books of the Bible can have a tremendous effect on your understanding of the book and whole Bible story.

The book of Acts comes at a special time in the Bible story and there are some unique things to watch out for as you read.

Christ had just risen from the dead, ascended into heaven, and given the apostles the Great Commission. How do the disciples combine their experience of the risen Christ, the Old Testament prophecies about Christ, and the call to make disciples of all nations?

Bible Study Tips for the Book of Acts

1. Highlight these three themes in different colors:
  • The Holy Spirit
  • Prayer
  • Witness

The purpose of highlighting these themes is to see how prevalent and powerful each of the themes are throughout the book. When you see the connection between these three themes and the events of Acts, you will see them in a new light and understand what God wants to teach you about them.

Highlighting the Holy Spirit will encourage you to seek more the Spirit’s power in your own life.

Highlighting prayer will drive you to your knees and pray bold prayers to our loving and living God.

Highlighting the bold witness of the apostles will encourage you to be a bold witness and remember the life changing power of the gospel to save sinners.

2. Make note of Old Testament passages quoted.

The book of Acts marks a monumental shift from the anticipation of the Messiah’s coming to the proclamation of the Messiah’s coming. Making note of the use of the Old Testament in the book of Acts will give you insights into the amazing prophecies fulfilled by Jesus Christ and what the Jewish world was expecting in their Messiah.

This will deepen your appreciation for Christ and your understanding of how Jesus fulfills the Old Testament, and how he can claim in John 5:39 that, “All Scriptures testify about Me!”

Example: In Acts 2:14-41, Peter addresses Jews in Jerusalem quoting Joel 2, Psalm 16, and Psalm 110 to prove that Jesus was the Messiah. The passage ends describing the powerful results: “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day” (Acts 2:41).

Read the rest here.

Old Testament vs. New Testament – What are the differences?

Sharing today from Got Questions?

bible-cropped-amp

Old Testament vs.
New Testament-
What are the differences?

Answer: While the Bible is a unified book, there are differences between the Old Testament and the New Testament. In many ways, they are complementary. The Old Testament is foundational; the New Testament builds on that foundation with further revelation from God. The Old Testament establishes principles that are seen to be illustrative of New Testament truths. The Old Testament contains many prophecies that are fulfilled in the New. The Old Testament provides the history of a people; the New Testament focus is on a Person. The Old Testament shows the wrath of God against sin (with glimpses of His grace); the New Testament shows the grace of God toward sinners (with glimpses of His wrath).

The Old Testament predicts a Messiah (see Isaiah 53), and the New Testament reveals who the Messiah is (John 4:25–26). The Old Testament records the giving of God’s Law, and the New Testament shows how Jesus the Messiah fulfilled that Law (Matthew 5:17Hebrews 10:9). In the Old Testament, God’s dealings are mainly with His chosen people, the Jews; in the New Testament, God’s dealings are mainly with His church (Matthew 16:18). Physical blessings promised under the Old Covenant (Deuteronomy 29:9) give way to spiritual blessings under the New Covenant (Ephesians 1:3).

Read the rest here.