Category Archives: Bible

Fix your mind on God

lightstock_152996_medium_user_3963721Psalm 1:1-3 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

The saying goes, “Garbage in, garbage out.” This is as true of the heart as it is of the mind. If we fill up our lives with the wrong stuff, there’s no more room for the right stuff.

This past week, as I was teaching the elementary school aged kids in church, I spoke on this topic. I talked about Romans 12:2 and being transformed by the renewal of your mind and how that meant that you need to spend time with God daily by reading what He has said in His Word. We talked about how we can have peace in times of fear or comfort in times of worry if we have our minds set on the Lord. Sensing that the kids were getting it, but needed a bit more, I gave an analogy.

If we were to only feed our bodies once a week, we’d be incredibly weak and may even starve. That would be nonsense, yet we do it spiritually by not spending time in the Word more than once or twice a week. How could we expect to know God’s will or to have peace when we haven’t been with the one who leads and comforts? It’s ludicrous.

The truth is, to be truly healthy mentally, we’ve got to have the right thoughts. In order to have the right thoughts, we’ve got to put the right things into our mind. We’ve got to feed our minds with the Scriptures, our spiritual food. That’s how we stay fixed on God.

Can I challenge you, if you’re not already reading the Bible daily to start with a Bible reading plan? There are some great ones available online.

Study and do God’s Word

lightstock_15481_small_user_3963721Psalm 1:1-3 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

How are you doing at Bible study? Does that question make you nervous? I’ll be honest, I hate being asked questions like that because it implies that there’s this level to be achieved, like those who are doing really well are experts, and that makes me feel like a rookie. Maybe I’m the slacker in the room, but I’m willing to assume that many of you can relate.

There are lots of Bible study tools online and it’s not my intention to point you to all of them today, but my emphasis is this: context. To really study the Bible, it’s not about what other books or other people say about it. It’s about what the Bible says about itself. Did that make sense? If I’m studying a subject in Scripture and I have a question about what it means, it’s best to find other places where God inspired someone to write on the same subject within Scripture. We could all save ourselves a lot of trouble and false doctrine in our lives if we’d stick to this basic rule.

It’s also important that we follow the instructions of James in being “doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22). It’s not enough to just study God’s Word. It’s not enough to just read and consume. It’s good to do so, but if we don’t put the Word into action, we’re missing the point. That’s precisely why so many Christians are unhealthy spiritually. They’re consuming and consuming without getting any spiritual exercise (we’ll talk more about that in a future devotion), becoming lethargic and spiritually flabby.

Study the Word and DO it!

Meet with God daily

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Proverbs 8:34 Blessed is the one who listens to me,
watching daily at my gates,
waiting beside my doors.

 

 

 

 

In the world of Christianity, we’ve come to refer to prayer time spent with God as “quiet time,” but in my life there’s very little time that could be qualified as “quiet.” With three little kids running around, it’s not easy to etch out time for a daily devotional time. Waking up earlier is not always an option, because certain kids in my home (who shall remain unnamed) wake up at incredibly early hours. So am I doing this quiet time thing all wrong? Am I less of a Christian if I don’t follow the many people who get up SO early and spend that time dedicated to the Lord?

The thing is, when we boil down time with God to a few minutes first thing in the morning, we do two things: 1) we cause people who don’t do well at that to feel very guilty or like a failure, and 2) we make prayer to our Father into something that can just be checked off of a list. Time with God is so much more than something to get us going in the morning, though it’s a great way to start the day. It’s an ongoing conversation throughout the day with Him.

Reality check: All that said, if we don’t take some time every day to intentionally meet with God, it may never happen at any other time during the day. If you’re like me, that may not mean you do “quiet time” when you first wake up. I’m willing to be that many of you, like me, don’t function at all until the first cup of coffee has been consumed. I spend time with God after I’m capable of processing what I’m reading from His Word and able to communicate coherently in prayer. Maybe that’s not the way everyone does it, but the important thing is that I spend time with my Lord every day.

He’s always got something to say to me, and I’ve always got something to say to Him. It’s time well spent. Better than anything else I could be doing, as a mater of fact. If you don’t take specific time to meet with God daily, will you give it a try? Start today.

Stick with what God says is good

1 Timothy 4:1-5 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

A brief survey of American Christianity can easily lead one to get pretty confused. If someone had never heard of Christianity before and then took a look at our churches, I’m not sure what they’d conclude about us. What do we believe? What is good to do and what isn’t?

It’s amazing how varied local churches and denominations can be when there’s but one Bible from which to get guidance. There’s one Spirit to lead us and it’s in fact one God in whom we all claim to believe and follow.

But some don’t even listen to God. They don’t consider the Bible a guide at all, let alone an authoritative one. Some will follow teachers who sound good and say things that people want to hear. Some will come up with silly practices and even require believers to abstain from things that God has said are good. They’ll make up rules that God never laid out and claim they’re from Him. They’ll cause confusion and even make up doctrine that goes in direct opposition to what God has taught through His Word. But people will follow.

We’re in confusing times. There is an abundance of religion and it all gets mixed up at times. That’s why God gave us His Word, to keep us grounded. He knew that people would go astray and that the only way to preserve what’s right is to put it in writing. Every single church or denomination that strays from God begins by lowering their view of His book. It’s true for individuals as well. Show me someone who used to be a strong believer that has gone away, and I’ll show you someone who began to view the Bible as less than God’s inerrant Word.

If you want to remain strong in your faith, it’s best to remain close to God by staying in communication with Him. Speak to Him in prayer at all times, and listen to Him in His Word. Stick to what He says is right.

Do Not Love the World

1 John 2:15-17   Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

What’s more important; the things in your life or your relationship with God?  Before you answer that, pause.  It’s easy to jump at answering what we know we’re supposed to say, but take a moment.  Think about what really matters in your life.  How do you spend your money?  Your time?  What do you pursue?  Now is your answer still the same?

It’s tempting to be overtaken by our flesh, to give into every craving we have for pleasure or entertainment, or material things.  But those things won’t last and they don’t matter.  They’ll be here one day and gone the next.  These things rot and rust, they deteriorate and fail to satisfy.  But God is eternal and He’s never going to leave us.  Shouldn’t we put more into walking with Him than we do in walking in worldly desires?

John goes so far in God’s Word to say that if we love this world we don’t love God.  Let that sink in.  If you spend more time trying to gain pleasure out of this life than you do trying to walk in God’s will, then you really don’t love God.  It sounds harsh, but put it in human terms.  If I marry a woman and then spend most of my time trying to make myself happy through every means besides her, then do I really love her?  If God is really our love, then we should be pleased by Him and not need all of the other things of this world.  They won’t matter to us because all we’ll want is more of Him.

Have you learned about the real Jesus?

Ephesians 4:20-22 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,

This fact of life should be revisited from time to time: Not everyone who teaches knows what they’re talking about. Likewise, not everyone who professes to speak for God truly speaks for Him.

The Apostle Paul uses and interesting phrase in this letter to the Ephesian church. He says “assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus.” The point he’s making is that he knows the Ephesians have learned better than to live like the pagans. But what about those in the church who have learned no better than to keep living in sin?

Some will come in the name of the Lord and yet contradict His Word. Some will claim to have heard from God himself and yet present a message that goes directly against His nature. Some will even mock God with their teaching and somehow still claim to be His representative. It’s our job to discern the truth from the garbage.

If anyone teaches a gospel that contradicts the Good News that Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again from the grave and that His work on the cross was sufficient for salvation, then they’re not worth listening to. Paul warns elsewhere that even if an angel were to preach a false gospel it should be tossed out (Galatians 1:8).

So how do we know the truth from the false teaching? It’s important to start with getting acquainted with the Bible. In it God has revealed himself and His nature. The Bible is the truth tester. If something doesn’t stand up to agreement with it, then it’s false. If you seek the truth, you will find it.

Who, or What, Can be Against Us


“What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31) How often do we forget that promise? Perhaps it’s not forget in the traditional sense. After all we remember what the words are, and we may even utter them quietly to ourselves, searching for some sort of comfort when things start to get tough, but, when we look around, we have a hard time really and truly grasping not necessarily what it means but how it applies to our current situations. After all, if God is for us, should it really be this hard? Can’t it just be that much easier? Why can’t it be that much simpler than it is?

That’s the struggle though, isn’t it? It doesn’t come from God’s promises but from seeing how it is actually working in our lives. The words, they aren’t all that hard to understand, but how they apply, how they can possibly be true, that’s the real difficulty that we face. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” At times it just seems like pretty much everyone or everything and the burden, it is too much to bear as we search for the purpose and meaning in it all, as we seek the answers to why it has to be the way it is when the we know God is there, but we can’t figure out how He is there.

We’re not the first to face that question. What were the words of the Elisha as the army’s surrounded the city and it seemed as if all had been lost? “‘Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’” (2 Kings 6:16) In many senses we can all be like the servant who cried out, seeing the insurmountable odds, “Oh no! My Lord, what shall we do?” (2 Kings 6:15) We don’t necessarily see the army of the living God, standing there in front of us, we don’t necessarily see the miracle of His power and glory between us and our real struggle, our real adversity, because we are so focused on all the ways everything has or can go bad, on all the ways that it has or can go wrong. Yet, what we need to be focused on is faith. After all, if it is truly what is hoped for and yet unseen (Hebrews 11:1) then our salvation and our defense is truly at hand even when it is the least clear to us.

We are reminded by the words of the Psalmist, “The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Psalm 118:6) More aptly we should be remember it is not just “What can mere mortals do to me?”, it is also a question of “What can this mere mortal world do to me?” No matter how many times it seems like it is there to knock us down, no matter how many times it may seem like it is there to break us, no matter how often the Devil may come to us, roaring like a lion that is seeking to devour (1 Peter 5:8) God is there to heal us, to strengthen us in the love afforded to us by His goodness and mercy. (Psalm 147:3) After all, if He so loved each us, if He so loved the world that He would not even withhold His precious son from us, (John 3:16) letting his precious blood be spilled for us and for our sins then what really will He let touch us, what really will He let destroy us.

Each step of the way, in all that we are and all that we face, God really is there to stand for us. Sometimes it just takes letting go of the things that we think we know, remembering God’s wisdom and understanding surpasses even our own, and letting His invisible hand take hold of us, rising from the places we cannot see to stretch over us to protect us, to ensure that nothing that really and truly can rob us of His peace and comfort if we trust in Him will overtake us. Yes, that is a hard leap of faith to sometimes make when everything seems to be going against us, but then it is a question of how much hope do you truly put in the Lord and do you trust the promises He offers unto you as an undeniable truth for your life.

Take a moment in your day today, look at the struggles and the challenges that are weighing on you. Close your eyes, and search for God’s love for your life. It is there, and it is ready to make you more powerful than you ever thought possible if you just let it. No matter what hardship or difficulty life may offer, they fall if you stand firm in the Lord. It just takes the strength and the power He has already given to you and that you perhaps aren’t yet aware that you have. Then will you rest easy in the blessings of His promises for you.

Want and Need

What we want isn’t always what we need and what we need isn’t always what we want. That is perhaps one of the most difficult lessons that God teaches us in our lives as we struggle with purpose and meaning, searching for a reason, wondering to ourselves if He is even listening. Sometimes we just, well we have this image in our head of the way things should be or ought to be and it becomes such a prevalent thought that we can’t picture it any other way. Other times it’s that we look around and we can’t seem to understand why it is the way it is when we know it should be different, even if we don’t necessarily know how or why that should be the case.

It’s the question of divine purpose that so often gets to us, that so often weighs us down as we know what we want or how we want it, and yet, as we do, we have a hard time reconciling it to what God knows that we need in our lives. The thing about it is that we’re not even trying to be that terribly difficult, we aren’t trying to make it that much harder, we just want to know why it is the way that it is, we want to know what the plan and the design of it is, and we don’t necessarily get why it has to be the way that it is.

The deepest questions of who we are, and who we need to be, of where we need to be, they aren’t ever questions that come simply or easily. We don’t just become people, we grow into them. Perhaps, along the way or path is changed or altered, it might be that it we are affected, even shaped by the interactions we have with others, sometimes our road is hard, sometimes it is easy, but any way that you look at it, it doesn’t just happen overnight where, one day, we are suddenly who we are at this very moment in our lives. So why would it be any different with a God who knows how we grow, how we evolve as a person, how we learn and we change with time? Why would He make the answers clear to us in a way that He knows would be unclear because it was given without any thought or consideration to who we are and how we became that person?

What God promises us isn’t an easy path, nor a simple one in any way but to our salvation through Christ Jesus. (Romans 5:8) What He does promise is that, through the fires and the floods, through the dangers and the perils, He will be there for us and with us, (Isaiah 43:2) never leaving us or abandoning us. (Joshua 1:5) What He tells us is that what we need, in those times when we question the purpose and the plan of it is all, is trust and patience, because those who trust in the Lord will find His goodness (2 Samuel 7:8) and those who are patient with Him will find their strength and purpose, uplifted in His love. (Isaiah 40:31) This is the wondrous miracle of His hand in our lives even as we find ourselves questioning where He is when we want the most.

Remember, it is not our wanting that exalts us, it is God, our Heavenly Father, and God alone who does that. (Psalm 46:10) It could be, at that moment, we don’t quite get how He is exalting us, but it’s only when we put those feelings behind us, when we let go of them, in the blessings of His hope that He lets us be of one mind with Him, (Romans 15:5) to see as He sees, making more and more apparent the glorious nature of the lessons He is teaching us to become as we need to be as He makes all things possible to us through the power of His grace made perfect in Christ through us. (Philippians 4:13)

Take a moment today, and look at your life, look at what you are struggling with, what is challenging you. Take the time to look at what you have laid at God’s feet, the burdens you still feel weighing on you, and instead of mistaking want for need and putting what you want out there, say to God, “Lord, show me as You will, teach me as You must so I can be as You intend for me to be.” Let go not just of the struggles but of the wants and the desires you have in them, and make it about what the Lord, your blessed Father, intends for you and let Him, in trust, patience and hope, guide you to where you must be.

It is only then that you will find the true path to the peace you are seeking, the only way you will find the true reconciliation of your will with God’s to the glorious ends of the love He has for you as He makes it about you rather than you making it about yourself.

Meditation on the Word

Philippians 4:8  Finally, brothers, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

 

It’s not enough to just hear the Word.  Showing up to listen to a sermon each Sunday is only the beginning of Bible study because you can never get everything you need from a one hour (or less) message.

 

So while you listen, take notes.  Write down the things that strike you, the passages that grab your attention.  Throughout the week, take another look at what was taught.  Take the time to actually think about the Scripture and the application you can make into your own life.  How can you live out this message?

 

This is so important because merely hearing something does not mean it’s going to stick.  Understanding begins with hearing, but it’s got to be meaningful beyond the moment you hear it.  God’s Word is so powerful it’s for all times.  In any and every circumstance you face, it’s good to think about what God has to say.  Move beyond hearing and begin thinking, pondering.  Take the time to meditate on all God has revealed of himself.

 

 

 Look for this and other devotions like it in Matt’s newest Devotions for Disciples book, available soon!

Hearing the Word

Romans 10:17  So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

 

It all starts with hearing.  No matter where you’re at in your faith journey, you likely began by hearing the Word of God.  Maybe it was a friend sharing a Bible verse.  Maybe it was a biblical truth that you weren’t even aware came from the Bible.  You could have even just overheard something that spoke to you.

 

God’s Word does something powerful in our lives when we hear it being spoken.  Sermons, podcasts, even songs are so effective at moving us when we experience the Word of God.  Faith begins here as the Holy Spirit stirs our souls up and we move toward responding to His calling.

 

God’s Word is so powerful that He says it will never return empty; it will always accomplish His purpose.  That’s something when you think about how misused and misquoted Scripture is.  Even when we mess it up, God uses His Word to bring about His purpose.  It should help us feel a little less intimidated to share the gospel because whether or not we get it right, God works out what He wants worked out.