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.

Put Your Hope in God

Why am I so depressed?
Why this turmoil within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him,
my Savior and my God.
—Psalm 42:11, HCSB

I think a lot about my Mom these days. The Lord took her home over eleven years ago. I recall one time that Rick and I joined my sisters in a visit to our parents who lived in Florida. Mom suffered with congestive heart failure, angina, arthritis, and a host of associated illnesses. During the final season of her life, she was on oxygen 24/7, slept most of the day, and was under hospice care.

When she was awake, however, Mom was amazingly sharp and a real chatterbox. She would apologize for talking too much and made all of us laugh when she said she needed to get all her words in before she fell asleep again.

In spite of her strong faith in her Lord Jesus Christ, there were times when she despaired of all her pain and frustration and wondered why God had not yet taken her home. She was becoming weary of the daily struggle, the fight sometimes to just breathe.

And yet, she never hesitated a minute to praise God in spite of her pain and difficulties. How did she manage that? Because of the HOPE she had that God would soon replace her pain and suffering with supreme joy and celebration.

Beloved, our HOPE is in the God who truly cares for us and does not allow us to go through our pain alone. Here is a simple way to always hold on to Jesus Christ, our HOPE:

Holy
One
Peace
Everlasting

Where is your HOPE?

What Is It Like To Enjoy God?

Sharing today from Desiring God.

What Is It Like To Enjoy God?

By John Piper

The enjoyment of God is the enjoyment of a Person — not just the enjoyment of a thing, or an idea, or a pattern of actions, or a mysterious force. The ultimate joy of God’s creatures is joy in a Person — joy in God.

This is exactly why Jesus died. The apostle Peter says, “Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). To God. The Person. What makes eternal life desirable is not just that it lasts forever, but that it is knowing and enjoying an infinitely satisfying Person. And he is also a Person who, in his human nature, died so that he could be known and enjoyed.

Enjoy the Person

But how do we come to know the Person? We come to know him by his actions, his ideas revealed in his word — things that he has made as pointers and foretastes of himself.

“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9). We know the love of the Person by the action of the Person. We know the power of the Person by the action of his creation of the universe (Romans 1:18–20). We know the wisdom of the Person by his purposeful providence in history (Romans 11:33–36). We know the justice and righteousness of the Person by the punishment of sin in the death of Jesus (Romans 3:24–26). We know the faithfulness of the Person by the keeping of his promises (2 Corinthians 1:20). We know the compassion and patience of the Person because we know Jesus Christ who said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

So as you meditate on the perfect work of your God, let Scripture compel you to enjoy the Person:

  • Rejoice in the Lord always. (Philippians 4:4)
  • Delight yourself in the Lord. (Psalm 37:4)
  • Be glad in the Lord. (Psalm 32:11)
  • In your presence there is fullness of joy. (Psalm 16:11)
  • The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup. (Psalm 16:5)
  • As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. (Psalm 42:1–2)
  • I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. (Psalm 143:6)
  • We rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation (Romans 5:11).

Enjoy His Gifts

And the same is true with things and human experiences. God gives them to us to reveal more of his character, essence, and unsurpassed worth.

Read the rest here.

The #JOY of #HOPE in the Lord {Reblog}

2016 was the year of JOY for me. 2017 has been all about HOPE. Today’s post is about how JOY ties in so closely with HOPE.

What is true JOY? Charles Spurgeon describes it this way:

 “The JOY OF HOPE—who shall measure it? Those who are strangers to it are certainly strangers to the SWEETEST MATTER in spiritual life. With the exception of present communion with Christ, the JOY of a believer in this present state must be mainly the JOY OF HOPE.

“It does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him just as He is (OUR HOPE),” (1 John 3:2) We thank God that we shall be satisfied when we wake up (from the sleep of death) in the likeness of Jesus! This ANTICIPATION (HOPE) of Heaven makes (the hurt of) earth become endurable! And the sorrows of time lose their weight when we think of the “far more exceeding and eternal weight of Glory (Our future HOPE). (2 Corinthians 4:17)”

Recently I’ve been contemplating the phrase Quality of Life. Here are some of the definitions of Quality of Life, also referred to as QOL:

Wikipedia: is the general well-being of individuals and societies. QOL has a wide range of contexts, including the fields of international development, healthcare, politics and employment. Quality of life should not be confused with the concept of standard of living, which is based primarily on income. Instead, standard indicators of the quality of life include not only wealth and employment but also the built environment, physical and mental health, education, recreation and leisure time, and social belonging.

The Free Dictionary: Noun, quality of life- your personal satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) with the cultural or intellectual conditions under which you live (as distinct from material comfort); “the new art museum is expected to improve the quality of life” gratification, satisfaction – state of being gratified or satisfied; “dull repetitious work gives no gratification”; “to my immense gratification he arrived on time” [Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.]

Medicinet.com: The patient’s ability to enjoy normal life activities. Quality of life is an important consideration in medical care. Some medical treatments can seriously impair quality of life without providing appreciable benefit, whereas others greatly enhance quality of life.

BusinessDictionary.com: Daily living enhanced by wholesome food and clean air and water, enjoyment of unfettered open spaces and bodies of water, conservation of wildlife and natural resources, security from crime, and protection from radiation and toxic substances. It may also be used as a measure of the energy and power a person is endowed with that enable him or her to enjoy life and prevail over life’s challenges irrespective of the handicaps he or she may have.

As you can see, there are differing opinions on what quality of life actually means. Some people use it as a measurement of how happy and fulfilled a person is. Others think of it as a way to gauge how someone can enjoy life in spite of physical handicaps or limitations. And many others consider it to be an indication of how much people have overcome in order to enjoy their life no matter what obstacles they face.

Where is God in all of this?

“The world is filled with people trying to adjust to the pain, trying to deal with life without total collapse, break down, burn out, hopelessness, fear, apathy or just giving up. And all of that really is a matter of learning how to endure. And that’s our key word this morning because the passage in front of us gives us the secrets to endurance…the secrets to endurance. How can we endure the pain of life? The profound difficulty of life? The great disappointments, broken dreams, broken bodies, broken homes, broken lives, broken relationships? How can we handle all of that? How can we face life like the Apostle Paul did who said back in verse 8 of this chapter, “We are afflicted in every way but not crushed, perplexed but not despairing, persecuted but not forsaken, struck down but not destroyed”? How can we live like that? How can we be so triumphant?” —John MacArthur, GraceToYou.org

So, how can we think more like Paul? Is it possible to be afflicted and still triumphant? I have shared with you before that I live with several chronic pain illnesses. Fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and chronic migraine plague me every single day. Some days are worse than others, but I can honestly count on one hand the number of pain-free days I have had in the last 15 years and still have fingers left over. And yet I still have more JOY than I ever thought possible.

To me, the HOPE of JOY = the JOY of HOPE.

I do not think we can have one without the other because each produces the other. For example, I can have the HOPE of JOY because . . .

I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth and after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes— I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!
—Job 19:25-27, NIV

And I can also have the JOY of HOPE because of this . . .

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. May the God of HOPE fill you with all JOY and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with HOPE by the power of the Holy Spirit.
—Romans 15:5-6, 13, NIV

Beloved, don’t you see? It doesn’t matter what is happening in our lives as long as we continue to hang our HOPE on our Savior. That thought alone produces so much JOY that it is impossible to stay down or depressed about our circumstances for long.

Choose JOY!

Yes, JOY is a choice that we make every single day. If we have invited Jesus Christ into our hearts as our Savior and Lord, then we have the certain HOPE of everlasting life in heaven with Him. And if we have that certain HOPE, how can we be anything but JOYFUL, no matter what our circumstances?

My Redeemer lives!

Please enjoy this video of Nicole C. Mullin singing one of my favorite and comforting songs, “My Redeemer Lives.” I know it will fill you with as much HOPE and JOY as it does me!

If for any reason you cannot view the video, read the lyrics here.


[Emphasis on the words HOPE and JOY are mine]

How to Seek the Holy Spirit

Today’s great post is from the Desiring God blog.

How to Seek the Holy Spirit

Bethlehem 2018 Conference for Pastors + Church Leaders | Minneapolis

By John Piper

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial
when it comes upon you to test you,
as though something strange were happening to you.

But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings,
that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

If you are insulted for the name of Christ,
you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

1 Peter 4:12–14

December 6 last year at 6:45 in the morning, I was sitting in my chair in our living room. It was still dark outside, and my one reading light was on beside the chair. My iPad was open to my daily Bible reading portion. I had just spent my 36 minutes on the treadmill in the attic, showered, made myself a cup of hot tea, and settled in to enjoy a time of fellowship with the Lord Jesus over his word.

Read the rest here.

Depressed and Thankful: 6 Ways to Find Joy

How can we possibly be thankful when we are depressed? And how can we be joyful when there is so much in our world to be depressed about these days? This kind of depression is different from clinical depression, which is a constant sense of hopelessness and despair, and it may be difficult to work, study, sleep, eat, and enjoy friends and activities. I don’t think it matters what type of depression we have, it still makes life difficult. Today’s post about how to hold on to our joy during times of depression is from Revive Our Hearts. I pray it blesses all of us.

Depressed and Thankful:
6 Ways to Find Joy

By Stacy Reaoch

It was only about a year into our marriage when I had my first bout with mild depression. And it didn’t make sense to me. I finally was married to the man of my dreams. I had landed my first teaching job. We had started a new life together and were making new friends. But for whatever reason, my heart was downcast. Life felt overwhelming, like I wanted to pull the covers up over my head and stay in bed for the day.

The constant sadness in my heart finally led me to go to a doctor to share how I’d been feeling. Instead of quickly writing a prescription, my physician wisely talked through the major life changes I had experienced in the last twelve months—college graduation, moving away from family, marriage, my first real job—and assured me that my roller-coaster emotions were normal in light of all I had experienced in one year.

Eventually, I came out of that gray fogginess, but over the years of my adult life there have been other times where I’ve started to slide into the pit of despair. A melancholy side to my personality makes me prone to see the glass as half empty. I realize that for many individuals, medication is truly necessary. But the weapon that has made the most difference in my life in fighting depression, and something we can all benefit from, is gratitude.

Worship Grows in Gratitude

In Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth’s excellent book Choosing Gratitude, she makes the point that we are either whining or worshiping. Our natural, sinful state makes us prone to see what we lack, what we don’t have, and what’s gone wrong in our lives.

Complaining is often my default response. Just the other day I noticed how even though I’d had a relatively good day, as soon as my husband walked in the door after work, I talked about the kids’ after-school squabble, our little guy’s potty-training accident, and “did I forget to mention the freezer isn’t working right?”

Often the things that pour off our tongues to others can be complaints of things not going our way or how we’ve been mistreated by others. We live in a rights-oriented culture, and if we don’t get what we think is rightfully ours, we storm off in anger or despair. Often, we slip on the sins of entitlement and discontentment down the slope to anxiety and depression. We can become surrounded by dark thoughts and unmet expectations that weigh down our hearts and put a cloud over our minds.

Read the rest here.

Where does the Bible talk about love?

This is a great article from Overview Bible.

Where does the Bible talk about love?

by Jeffrey Kranz

We all know that “God so loved the world,” that “God is love,” and that when it comes to love, nobody exemplifies it better than Jesus (Jn 3:161 Jn 4:8Jn 15:13). We’ve often heard First Corinthians’ “love chapter” (1 Co 13) at weddings.

But if you wanted to take a closer look at how the Bible talks about love, where would you go?

Let’s look at the books of the Bible that talk about love most, and then drill into a few chapters that really focus on love.

The Bible talks about love a lot

The word “love” shows up in the English Bible a good deal—though the precise count varies a bit from translation to translation.

  • NIV: 762 mentions
  • NASB: 529 mentions
  • KJV: 419 mentions
  • NRSV: 791 mentions
  • HCSB: 766 mentions
  • ESV: 745 mentions

That count varies because some translations saw “love” as the correct word to communicate what the original Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic texts said. For example, the NIV translates sex acts in Genesis as “made love,” while the KJV and ESV prefer “knew,” and the NASB uses the highly romantic “had relations.”

By the way, these counts include variations like “loved,” “lovely,” and “loves.”

Now, let’s see where all this talk of love happens in the Bible.

Read the rest here.