Paying Attention to the Bible’s Important Messages

Sharing today from Bible Engager’s Blog

Paying Attention to the Bible’s Important Messages

How to identify qualifiers that give you pause
June 25th, 2018
MAnn-Margret Hovsepian

BIBLE ENGAGER’S BLOG

“To be honest with you…” 
“To tell you the truth…”
“As a matter of fact…” 
“Honestly…” 
“To be frank…” 

How often have you heard or uttered these words, or some similar phrase? Have you ever wondered why anyone would preface a statement with such a qualifier? After all, shouldn’t we always tell the truth? If you use one of these expressions in a given situation, does that mean you are dishonest the rest of the time?

While starting a sentence with “to be honest” may be a red flag in some situations—or simply a bad habit—there may be times when the speaker is trying to break the ice, command attention, or give the listener a heads-up that something direct or potentially unpleasant is about to be said. It can be a way of saying, “I’m about to say something important” or “listen up!”

Notice Important Qualifiers

Have you ever noticed that similar qualifiers appear in the Bible? Depending on which version you study, you will find phrases such as:

“Truly I tell you…” 
“I say to you very seriously…” 
“For I assure you…”
“I can guarantee this truth…”
“What I’m about to tell you is true…”

Zooming in on teachings prefaced by these qualifiers will help you get more out of your Bible reading. These markers help us identify truths that are vital to our understanding of God’s will for us and to our Christian growth. Like road signs that caution us to slow down or tell us where to turn, these clues in Scripture make Bible reading more than just an item to cross off our to-do lists.

Try Starting with Paul

Here’s a good place to start. In his letters to Timothy and Titus, the apostle Paul started or concluded five statements with “This is a true saying…” He was not implying that everything else he’d written was untrue, but he clearly wanted his readers to pay special attention to these teachings.

Let’s look at the five sayings Paul highlighted for his protégées:

Read the rest here.

10 Bible Reading Habits I’ve Learned from My Pastor

Sharing today from Unlocking the Bible.

10 Bible Reading Habits
I’ve Learned from My Pastor

By Rachel Lehner

…hold fast to the word I preached to you… (1 Corinthians 15:2b)

A good sermon exhorts us to grapple with God’s Word preached, hold fast to its truth, and do what it commands. A preacher who places himself under Holy Scripture will present his teaching in a way the congregation can follow, to understand the text they hold on their laps.

10 Bible Reading Habits I’ve Learned from My Pastor’s Sermons

I have found my senior pastor to be exceptionally faithful in this regard. In recently reflecting on 15 years of sitting under his teaching, I’ve seen how his Word-based preaching has significantly impacted my personal Bible reading.

Here are 10 habits I have picked up from my pastor’s weekly sermons:

1. Slow down!

I’ve read the Beatitudes many times and thought I had mined all their treasures—until our church did a 17-week series on only 10 verses. My pastor’s high view of Scripture has challenged me to expect more from each verse and to slow down when I read my Bible.

2. Use Scripture to explain Scripture.

When seeking to understand the meaning of a word or verse, I’ve seen how important it is to interpret Scripture in light of itself. For example, I understood the word “blasphemy” to mean insulting or showing contempt for God. But my pastor used Mark 2:7 to explain Matthew 26:65, which defines “blasphemy” as claiming to be God. This makes the charge against Jesus before the priests all the more meaningful since Jesus was put to death for claiming to be God, the one crime for which Jesus could be rightfully convicted.

3. Expect glimpses of Christ outside the Gospels.

I likely would never have seen all the ways Joseph pointed further to Jesus Christ if it hadn’t been shown to me, but as I repeatedly saw this on Sunday mornings I started finding Christ throughout Scripture on my own. I found Jesus in the promised son who would deliver God’s people (Judges 13:3) and in the psalmist longing for a pledge of good (Psalm 119:122), among many other examples. As Pastor Colin has said, “The whole Bible is one story. It begins in a garden, ends in a city, and all the way through points us to Jesus Christ.”

4. Details are often more significant than we realize.

I’ve learned to ask questions of details that may seem insignificant in a passage. For example, why are we told that Jesus heals an official’s son in John 4? My pastor brought to our attention the many parallels to Pharaoh’s son who died in Exodus 12. He explained how this small, but significant, detail pointed to why grace is better than law, and why Jesus is better than Moses. Any time a verse gives specific details like the number of baskets in Mark 6 or repeats a phrase like “here I am” in Genesis 22, I want to look closely because I know the Spirit has preserved the text this way for a reason.

5. We have more in common with the original recipients than we think.

Read the rest here.

God Wants to Shape Your Wants

This is an excellent article from Desiring God by John Piper.

God Wants to Shape Your Wants 

An Invitation to the Psalms

Article by John Piper
Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Try to imagine the Bible without the Psalms. What a different book it would be! What a different place the church would be. And what a different person I would be.

It’s not as though the rest of the Bible does not teach truth and awaken emotions. I learn things and feel things everywhere I read in the Bible. But it’s not the same. The Psalms do not just awaken the affections of the heart; they put the expression of those affections in the foreground. They feature the emotional experience of the psalmist intentionally against the backdrop of divine truth.

Emotion on Display 

They do not just invite the emotion of the heart in response to revealed truth. They put the emotion on display. They are not just commanding; they are contagious. We are not just listening to profound ideas and expressed affections. We are living among them in their overflow. We are walking in the counsel of God-besotted wisdom, and standing in the way of amazed holiness, and sitting in the seat of jubilant admiration.

We touch pillows wet with tears. We hear and feel the unabashed cries of affliction and shame and regret and grief and anger and discouragement and turmoil. But what makes all this stunningly different from the sorrows of the world is that all of it — absolutely all of it — is experienced in relation to the totally sovereign God.

God at the Bottom of It All 

None of these emotions rises from a heart that has rejected the all-governing God.

  • Your waves have gone over me” (Psalm 42:7).
  • You have made my days a few handbreadths” (Psalm 39:5).
  • You have rejected us and disgraced us and have not gone out with our armies”(Psalm 44:9).
  • You have made us like sheep for slaughter and have scattered us among the nations” (Psalm 44:11).
  • You have made your people see hard things” (Psalm 60:3).
  • And in it all, “O Lord, you have searched me and known me!” (Psalm 139:1).

God is behind everything. This is the great difference between the Psalms of Scripture and the laments, complaints, and sorrows of the world. For the psalmists, God is a rock-solid, unshakeable, undeniable, omnipotent Reality. 

Read the rest here.

The Light of the World

The Light of the World

Then Jesus cried out, “When a man believes in me,
he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me.
When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me.
I have come into the world as a light,
so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
John 12:44-46

The western portion of the U.S. was the scene of many massive wildfires this summer, and as I write this there is still some wildfire activity in certain areas. Hundreds of thousands of acres of land, buildings and personal property were wiped out and many firefighters exhausted themselves in fighting these fires. Many discussions and debates went on about the merits of tree thinning to remove trees and vegetation that were too dense or dead. In other words, these wildfires could well have been averted or at the very least, diminished in size. Some people might call this preventive maintenance. I like to this of it as a risk management plan.

So it is with the state of our souls. God offers us the free gift of His salvation through the death of Jesus Christ, His Son. Jesus willingly took on the burden of our sins so that we would not have to suffer for eternity. In my humble opinion, this free gift of salvation can also be considered as a risk management plan for God’s people.

I’m sure you’ve seen the signs displayed at professional sports games that read John 3:16. You may have asked yourself, what does that mean? These people are joyfully telling the world that there is a way for us to spend eternity in heaven! According to John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Verses 17-18 go on to explain:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but to save the world through him.

Whoever believes in him is not condemned,
but whoever does not believe stands condemned already
because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
 

I have highlighted the words believe and not believe in the previous verses and in the ones in the opening of this article. To “believe” means more than agreeing that Jesus is God; it means trusting that Jesus Christ alone can save us from paying the price for our sins. Believing is to agree that what He says is trustworthy and that relying on Him gives us the power to change.

If you have never trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, let the promises in these verses be yours. All you have to do is pray these verses to Jesus, believing them to be true. He’ll take care of the rest.

You can have everlasting life in heaven if you believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord!

I used to think at times that when I finally come face-to-face with God, I would have a list of questions to ask Him. However, I’ve come to realize that when I go home to be with Jesus, I won’t care about any of the “stuff” I have experienced here on earth. None of it will matter any longer because of the utter joy I will have in His presence.

Maybe if we thin out the debris and clutter in our lives, we’ll make more room for God to reside with us and within us. The more we rely on Him to guide our lives, the more we’ll be able to know His will for us. That’s when we might stop wondering what eternity holds for us and start believing in the only One who matters.

Now that’s a risk management plan I can live with forever!


To find out more about how to ask Jesus to be the Savior and Lord of your life, please go here to read more about it.

You are also welcome to email me at faithlhj777 at gmail dot com with any questions you might have.

Hate What God Hates

This is an excellent article by Franklin Graham from the October 2017 issue of Decision Magazine.

I recently had the privilege to pray for our nation and its leaders at a gathering led by President Donald Trump.

I asked for God’s help and wisdom for our president and Vice President Mike Pence, along with our congressmen as they attempt to help steer our troubled country through some very turbulent times.

America has flaunted its sexual immorality to the world. We’ve neglected many of the poor and suffering and are guilty of much injustice, pride and self-indulgence. We are broken spiritually, adrift morally and divided politically and racially—following whichever direction the bankrupt culture seems to drive us.

Sadly, the voices of hate have grown increasingly loud and insulting, and it was my prayer then and now that God would silence these voices like he shut the mouths of the lions when Daniel was hurled into the den.

While those hateful voices have been raised on both sides of the political aisle, we must realize that ultimately what is transpiring in our nation is an increasing hatred of God, His Word and His ways.

In my lifetime, I have never seen such blatant and incessant animosity toward Christ and His followers. We should not be surprised, because the Scripture tells us that if they hated the Lord Jesus Christ, they surely would despise those who worship and serve Him.

I think of the recent ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Bremerton, Wash., high school football coach Joe Kennedy. For eight years, Coach Kennedy took a knee and prayed silently after games. But in 2015, he was suspended by the school district when he refused to discontinue his prayers, and his contract was not renewed.

The federal appeals court said in their appalling ruling: “When Kennedy kneeled and prayed on the 50-yard line immediately after games, while in view of students and parents, he spoke as a public employee … and his speech therefore was constitutionally unprotected.”

Can you believe it?

Read the rest here.

Ten Things You Should Know About the Sovereignty of God

This excellent article is from Sam Storms’ Enjoying God blog.

Ten Things You Should Know About the Sovereignty of God

By Sam Storms

Few things are more controversial among Christians than the sovereignty of God. Is God truly sovereign over everything, including calamity, natural disasters, death, and demons, or is his sovereign control restricted to those things we typically regard as good, such as material blessing, family welfare, personal salvation, and good health? Today we turn our attention to ten things we should all know about God’s sovereignty.

Before we begin, it’s important to distinguish between natural evil, which would include such things as tornadoes, earthquakes, famine (although famine can often be the result of moral evil perpetrated by those who devastate a country through greed or theft), floods, and disease. Is God sovereign over natural evil? Does he exert absolute control over these events in nature, such that he could, if he willed to do so, prevent them from happening or redirect their course and minimize the extent of damage they incur? Yes.

Moral evil has reference to the decisions made by human beings. Does God have sovereignty over the will of man? Can he stir the heart of an unbeliever to do his will? Can he frustrate the will of a person whose determination is to do evil and thereby prevent sin from happening? When a Christian does what is right, to whom should the credit and praise be given? And how is it possible for God to exert sovereignty over all of life without undermining the moral responsibility of men and women? These are the questions that find their answer in Scripture.

Read the rest here.

Hope: A Biblical Perspective on the Middle East

Sharing today from Bible Engager’s Blog

Hope: A Biblical Perspective on the Middle East

The context of God’s promises
July 31st, 2017
Mike Bassous

BIBLE ENGAGER’S BLOG

When you hear the words “Middle East,” what comes to your mind? For many, a slew of negative associations pop up—wars, sectarian killing, religious tension, suicide bombers, kidnappings, trauma. But we forget that this region is the physical context for much of the Bible. It is the rich backdrop for Scripture’s stories—and God’s promises.

The Bible’s Rich Context

Did you know the Garden of Eden was in today’s Yemen? Or Abraham’s hometown in Ur is a city in Iraq? Joseph was taken as a prisoner to Egypt, where he became the Prime Minister to save his family. The cedars of Lebanon, used in metaphor by the psalmist (Psalm 92:12), can still be seen in that country. Jesus walked on the shores of the Sea of Galilee asking Peter to take care of his sheep. Paul was converted on the road to Damascus. And Jesus’s first followers were named in Antioch, today’s Turkey.

Despite the gloomy portrait that the media has painted, I choose to think of the Middle East as the place where God chose to manifest salvation to all people. I think of it as where the majority of the Bible was written, handed down from generation to generation, and preserved. It is the cradle of Christianity, the geographical location where God’s Son was incarnated and will return again.

Maintaining Hope

Yet much of the world, including the global body of Christ, has lost hope in the Middle East—”A cultural genocide of Christians is erasing the presence of faithful from large swathes of the Middle East, the very heartland of the Church” (John Pontifex, Aid to the Church in Need’s UK Head of Press and Information). The region revolves around a displaced population; wounds run deep and turmoil persists.

Read the rest here.