Posted in Bible Studies

God’s Word Is Life

Oh, if I could only wrap myself in the word of God and make it my blanket, my head would snuggle in its phrases and my heart would feel its warmth in delight. If within its pages I could lose myself and never return, I would ask God for others to do the same, and swim in the ocean of its truth to experience the breadth of God’s love.

God’s word is life. God’s word is love. God’s word is everything anyone would ever want, because everything is what God’s word is. It discerns. It reveals. It cuts to the bone to expose the innermost secrets:

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

Oh, how wonderful God is to have opened salvation to us through Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. For only through Jesus, the Word, can we attain salvation (John 1:1-4, 14). Line upon line, verse upon verse; every word from God’s mouth is a light on to my feet. It builds. It edifies. It supports the church on a cornerstone others have rejected. And it floods the spirit of those wanting to know what truth is.

Be enraptured by God’s word. Be enthralled by it. Grow in its knowledge and in its depth. Know that he gave us this moment in time to draw nearer to him in absolute adoration and joy for him. For the joy of reading God’s word is life on to the reader.

Let us read life into our lives.

Posted in Bible Studies

Love for God’s Word

God’s Word has been a light onto my path. It has rescued me from darkness. It has provided me with the encouragement to move forward, in spite of failures, in spite of defeats. The Bible has opened my heart to God’s voice. The Bible is God’s voice. When I hear it, I am comforted. It gives me hope. It gives me life. It protects me from evil. God’s Word is my rescue.

Of all the kings of Israel who lived, King David was someone who loved God deeply:

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart;
I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and exult in you;
I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

(Psalms 9:1-2)

David’s love toward God and his Word was so intense that even his wife Michal scolded him for his open demonstration of affection for his creator, “How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants’ female servants, as one of the vulgar fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!” (2 Samuel 6:20). The truth is David was dancing with the people because he had defeated the Philistines, captured the Ark of the Covenant and had brought it back to Jerusalem. He plainly answered his wife this way, “It was before the Lord, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the Lord—and I will celebrate before the Lord. I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in your eyes. But by the female servants of whom you have spoken, by them I shall be held in honor” (2 Samuel 6:21-22).

The next verse reveals how David’s wife carried a barren womb until the day of her death.

How wonderful God is to have looked after David this way. David’s love for God and the Ark should be an example for all Christians who wonder what it is like to give oneself wholeheartedly to his Word. The Ark was that Word, as the Bible is the Word today. Those pages speak life to me daily. They consume my waking hours. They pour into me the true meaning of love—the story of Christ’s sacrifice.

For me, God’s Word is intimate. God’s Word is personal. If it has not already done so, it is my hope the Bible becomes as intimate and as personal to you also.

Audio transcript:

Posted in Bible Studies

Victory Over Sin

Believe that Jesus is the son of God and you will have salvation. He gave up his life for us while we were still sinners, so that his sacrifice would redeem us from the penalty of sin. But like a harlot, sin continually tempts us to love her in order that we may lose ourselves again to our fleshly desires.

King Solomon recognized sin’s wily ways. He wrote about them in the Book of Proverbs. In no greater context has he written about sin’s allure than that of adultery. This is what he says:

“For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol (a place of darkness).” (Proverbs 5:3-5)

Solomon is saying that sin looks beautiful on the outside. Her words are sweet to the ears and her reasoning behind doing what she does is smoother than the finest oil you can find. But Solomon is also saying that once you remove sin’s mask, underneath is an ugly bitterness that will corrupt the soul and will cut the spirit like a sharp, two-edged sword. The ultimate destiny for those who follow her steps will be the path that leads to death and darkness.

And if that stern warning was not convincing enough to keep away from her, Solomon gave sin, that whore, a voice:

“I have spread my couch with coverings, colored linens from Egyptian linen; I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us take our fill of love till morning; let us delight ourselves with love. For my husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey; he took a bag of money with him; at full moon he will come home.” (Proverbs 7:16-19)

Sin’s deception is that she makes doing bad things look good. Even more so, if sin’s corruption can seduce the very elect, she will have accomplished what she had intended. This is why Jesus says in Matthew 7:21: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” He later describes the fate of the unrepentant:

“And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:23)

But the good news is that we have hope in Christ. We may fall and succumb to sin, but through Christ Jesus, our salvation is sure. The apostle Paul puts it this way in Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

How wonderful to know that as Christians, we can look to Jesus as the source of our strength to overcome sin. What a delight it is to understand the fullness of God’s love through his mercy. And what a powerful destiny we have when finally sin and death will no longer exist.

All praise belongs to God Almighty in the highest, for he is good.

Posted in Bible Studies

Mark Your Bible

How do you mark your bible? A member of a church I once attended asked the minister this very question. The minister related this story during a sermon. His answer was surprising. He said, “How do you mark your bible? You mark your bible.”

As simplistic as it sounds, he was right. Sometimes we tend to overanalyze a rudimentary task and place a process around it when, in fact, all we need to do is do what comes naturally.

I say this because I am one of those people who needs structure and cannot start a project until I have all the pieces in place of where I want to go, what I want to do, and with whom I want to do it. Some tasks are meant to be organic, in that what we are doing at the moment is what should be done.

However, that is not to say that if you have a bible-marking system that works for you that you ought to abandon it. On the contrary, keep doing what you are doing. If it helps you learn the scriptures, there is no need to change something that is working. My advice is for those Christians who are wondering what to do when they buy their first bible and want to make notes in it but have no idea how to do that.

Again, I will say it: mark your bible.

How I used to mark my bible

How I marked my bible thirty years ago

I once had an elaborate marking system that enabled me to visually look at certain passages of the bible and know instantly what it was about. My color categories where:

  1. Blue—God
  2. Red—Angels and demons
  3. Brown—Humanity
  4. Orange—Civilization
  5. Purple—Israel
  6. Yellow—Church
  7. Green—Kingdom of God

In addition to coloring the verses, I also placed red-pen boxes around words I would want to define; and if something really stood out, I would underline phrases and words with a red pen. Of course, thinking I would need to differentiate what I learned at home with what I learned at church, I would carry around a blue pen and mark my bible that way during sermons.

For a long time, this system suited me. I appreciated it, and I enjoyed reading through marked sections again, gleaning tidbits of truth as I went along. I found, though, as the years went on, my understanding had grown and what I had believed twenty-five, thirty years ago, is not what I believe today. Several fundamentals are the same, but through diligent prayer and bible study, scriptures I had once marked as one thing suddenly had taken on a different meaning.

How I mark my bible today

Nowadays, I simply mark my bible. If a thought or a verse really stands out for me, affects me in a way that it has never affected me before, I mark it with whatever pen I have in my hand. I agree, it is a simplistic approach, but ultimately God through the Holy Spirit reveals what we need to remember when we read our bibles:

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:25)

It is not how we mark our bibles, but what we gain from those passages we have marked.

Posted in Bible Studies

God’s Purpose

God is amazing. He really is. There are no other gods, because he is the only God; and as many times as we read that, he is even more amazing when bad things happen to Christians.

The book of Acts tells us about the early days of the church, from the time when Jesus ascended to heaven to when the apostle Paul arrived in Rome. Of the numerous accounts told, one in particular is an inspiration for Christians going through trials.

This week’s scripture is in the book of Philippians:

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

The story of Stephen

In Acts, chapter 6, the apostles needed someone who would look after the widows in the church on their behalf in order that their preaching would not suffer neglect (Acts 6:1-2). They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit. It was in those days that the church was growing larger, multiplying with believers (verses 3-7).

Now Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great signs and wonders among the people. But there were certain men who rose up against him, disputing with him, wanting him to stop what he was doing. The more they went against him, though, the more they could not seem to overcome the wisdom and the Spirit with which Stephen was speaking. So they tried another tactic. They secretly instigated false witnesses to spew lies against him, saying he had spoken evil of the law and of the temple (verses 8-12).

The men eventually seized Stephen, brought him before the high priest and accused him of blasphemy (verses 12-14). And after a lengthy speech where Stephen spoke about Israel’s history, Moses’ part in the exodus, and how his accusers were resisting the Holy Spirit, the men brought him outside the city and stoned him (Acts 7).

Had God failed Stephen?

For a Christian to read this account, it may seem as if God had failed Stephen. One might ask, why would God allow this to happen? Did not Stephen believe God would have rescued him? Would God not have silenced his accusers and intervened on his behalf?

However, two very important things happened during Stephen’s death. First, before the stoning, Stephen saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at God’s right hand (Acts 7:55). Second, those taking part in the stoning were laying their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul (verse 58). Both points are significant in that it shows God had not really abandoned Stephen during his time of trial; and not only God but also Jesus was there with him, reassuring him everything was going to be fine (verse 56). Even more so, Stephen did not die in vain. His death served to transform Saul from a man who persecuted the Christians, to the apostle Paul, a man preaching about Christ Jesus the son of God (Acts 22:20-21).

God has a purpose

Only God could do this. Only he could put meaning to a tragedy and make it work for good (Romans 8:28). As much as we try to understand why bad things happen to Christians, it all makes sense in the context of God using that tragedy to do good from a thousand perspectives (Psalms 147:5). We may gain a glimpse of a fraction of one of those perspectives, but God ultimately knows why certain things have to happen in certain ways (1 Corinthians 13:12).

What we have to do as Christians is trust him (Psalms 25:2). We may not receive the answer we desire, but we will certainly receive the answer we need (Philippians 4:19).

Posted in Bible Studies

God Loves Us

God loves us so much that he was willing to give his son Jesus to save us from the penalty of sin. That through him, we could come before God’s throne and render our hearts and our minds to an omnipotent being who would do anything to have us sincerely call him Father.

One of the things one finds when reading scripture is the presence of intertwining thoughts between passages. There are interesting plays of words that a reader spots when viewing the bible as a complete text. For instance, Psalms 23:3 says:

“He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

Then Matthew 5:10 says:

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Both verses contain the words “righteousness” and “sake” and both verses present a beautiful message of hope for those needing God’s presence in their lives.

But aside from verses that complement one another, the bible is rich with verses demonstrating God’s love for us:

“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)

“For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” (John 16:27)

“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3)

Today’s simple message is this: with every moment God grants us breath, let us love one another as God loves us.

Posted in Bible Studies

Memorizing the Bible

Bible memorization has been on my bucket list for years. It was only after my son took ill in the winter that I had decided to do something about it. It was then that I had memorized Psalms 23 fully. Moving ahead to today, I am in the process of memorizing Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5, 6 and 7.

The importance of Bible memorization

I am sure someone will ask, why is Bible memorization so important? After all, anyone can quickly summon the Bible on a device with a few simply swipes. What would be the benefit to committing God’s Word to memory?

The discipline of memorizing scripture produces fruit that will remain with a person for the rest of his or her life. First, it will draw the reader closer to God by establishing his word in the heart of the reader. Second, the reader will gain wisdom with the slow and labored act of ingesting biblical truths on a daily basis, wisdom that can only come with the passage of time. Third, and most importantly, when the reader needs help with life’s trials, and the reader will need that help, God, through the Holy Spirit, will bring into remembrance the learned words as a means to carry the reader through those trials.

Why I began memorizing scripture

When my son was in the hospital for a month, I had a lot of time by his bedside to think about life. I also had a lot of time to read what God had to say about it all. His words, especially Psalms, were a comfort to me.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” (Psalms 23:4)

As each day dragged into the next, I knew God was there with me in spite of my not having an answer as to why he would allow tragedy to strike my family as it did. Those words eventually became part of me, where now I can not only repeat them aloud without much effort, but also recall experiences attached to those words; experiences I would not have had otherwise, had I not gone through everything I did with my family at the time.

How I commit the Bible to memory

The way I commit the words of the Bible to memory is the only way I have found that works for me:

  1. Choose a book or chapter that has affected you on a personal level
  2. Learn a verse a day
  3. Recall the previous day’s verse before adding a new verse
  4. Read the text carefully, looking at each word of the text until you can picture it in your mind
  5. Write everything down that you have learned so far
  6. Meditate on the words and make them a part of you

It involves a lot of hard work

I cannot stress how important it is to understand that moving forward with the discipline of scripture memorization is going to be a lot of hard work. Some days will be more rewarding than other days, but recognizing that fact in no way diminishes the overall goal of knowing God’s truths in such an intimate way.

Ultimately, the reward will be God’s word living inside our minds and in our hearts, leading us in our daily walk with Jesus.