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Archive | Obeying God

Are Christians Obligated to Vote on November 8th?

Christians voteThe upcoming Presidential election creates a major dilemma for many Christians. Here’s the basis for our dilemma: Neither major party candidate exemplifies even the most basic Christian ethics and standards. Neither is worthy of the office of the President of the United States of America.

Some Christians believe the best course of action is to abstain from voting on November 8. Others feel they should cast their vote for the “lesser of two evils.” (Check out this helpful article by Russell Moore, “Should Christians Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils?“) Which action is the right response? Could there perhaps be another option?

Let’s take a step back and briefly lay a biblical foundation for government and our responsibility as citizens.

First, God holds complete sovereignty in establishing, upholding, and removing all nations, rulers, and authorities (Daniel 2:21, Daniel 4:17, Acts 17:26, Romans 13:1). He established government for our good, to suppress evil, and to prevent chaos. Government at all levels provides structure for the country and service to the people (Romans 13:1-7).

The Bible also establishes principles for a believer’s relationship to government:

  1. Intercede Faithfully – God commands us to support the government and our leaders with our prayers. In fact, regular intercession for everyone pleases God (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
  2. Submit Respectfully – Christians should obey the laws of our land and submit ourselves to the authority of our leaders. Paul goes as far as saying that rebelling against our government authorities is the same as rebelling against God. The Bible even says we should submit with a good attitude! (See Romans 13:1-2, Titus 3:1-3, 1 Peter 2:13-17.)
  3. Fulfill Responsibilities – Believers are now and eternally citizens of the Kingdom of God. But while we still live in this world, we are also citizens of an earthly kingdom. As citizens, we have rights to enjoy and responsibilities to fulfill. More than once, Paul exercised his rights as a Roman citizen (Acts 21:25-29, Acts 25:10-12). Jesus not only taught we should fulfill all our obligations to the government, He set the example (Matthew 17:24-26, Matthew 22:15-22). Note: Yes, government is subject to corruption because it is comprised of sinful men. And when forced to choose, we must always obey God rather than man (Acts 4:19, Acts 5:29). However this election doesn’t take us there.

How should these biblical principles impact my vote?

So, how do these principles apply to the upcoming presidential election? The United States of America is a republic. Citizens have the right and responsibility to elect the government officials who will represent us.

But this go around, that responsibility seems much heavier. I am struggling with this myself. I am praying and thinking about the right thing to do. I understand why many have decided to simply not vote at all. Yet, that won’t prevent a new president from being inaugurated in January. That won’t fulfill my responsibility as a citizen of the United States.

There is another option. One I am contemplating. We can fulfill our responsibility as citizens and not vote for either of “them.” There will be other candidates on the ballot. Or we could cast a write-in vote. Yes, we can exercise our right and vote our conscious.

Without bashing or endorsing any candidate, how are you dealing with this weighty responsibility?

Find out who is else will be on the ballot:

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We Are Not “All God’s Children”

All God's ChildrenI hear it all the time: “We are all God’s children!” Sounds good, doesn’t it? That would be great! All humanity united in one family. With one Father.

Just one problem with that. That’s not what the Bible teaches.

Yes, all humans are creatures of God. We all belong to Him because He formed and fashioned us. We were made by Him and for Him (Colossians 1:16). Made in His image (Genesis 1:26-27). Made for His glory (Isaiah 43:7).

And yes, God loves all people (John 3:16). He longs to be in right relationship with each and every individual (2 Peter 3:9). He desires that all people come to eternal salvation through Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:3-6). In fact, He desires this so much that while everyone was still in utter rebellion against Him, God sent His Son to die to save us (Romans 5:8). That’s how much He loves us. That’s how much He loves you.

But not all people are children of God.

The Bible makes a clear distinction between those who are “God’s children” and those who are not. Only those born by God’s Spirit through faith in Jesus are children of God (1 John 3:1-10, Galatians 3:26, John 8:34-41).

“To all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” John 1:12-13, NIV

The Bible also tells us what a child of God looks like. How they will behave. Here is a short list of some of what God’s Word says.

5 Characteristics of a “child of God”

  1. They love Jesus (John 8:42).
  2. They believe that Jesus is the Savior (1 John 5:1).
  3. They love God’s children (1 John 3:10, 5:1).
  4. They are controlled by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9, 14).
  5. They obey God (1 John 2:29, 3:7-9).

Are you a child of God? You don’t have to wonder. God longs for you to receive His gift of salvation and be assured of eternity (Find out more here.) And there are so many benefits in being a child of God!

8 Benefits of being a “Child of God”

  1. God’s children have been “redeemed,” set free from sin and eternal death by Jesus’ sacrificial death (Galatians 4:4-5).
  2. God’s children are His heirs, inheriting spiritual rights and privileges and eternal life (Romans 8:17).
  3. God’s children have direct access to their Father (Galatians 4:5-7)..
  4. God’s children have a special intimacy with their Father (Galatians 4:6).
  5. God’s children will grow to become like Jesus (1 John 3:2).
  6. God’s children have peace, unity, and equal status with each other (Galatians 3:26-29).
  7. God’s children will experience a future resurrection (Romans 8:11).
  8. God’s children have the presence and confirmation of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:16).

Have you every heard the incorrect statement “We are all God’s children?” Maybe you’ve said it. Why is it important that we understand the truth?

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I love Jesus but…

Love Jesus butThe other day I saw a shirt for sale online with this printed across the front: “I love Jesus, but I cuss a little.” You can also get the slogan on a coffee mug, refrigerator magnet, or apron.

Seriously? Is this supposed to be funny?

Like every believer, I still struggle with sin. And I struggle in some areas more than others. But the goal is to defeat the power of that sin in my life, not to proudly advertise it’s hold on me.

You may be thinking I’m making too much of this. You may be thinking it’s just all in good fun. After all, none of us are perfect so why should we pretend?

But I believe the issue is too serious to make light of. Let’s see what the Bible says.

First, the way we talk is not insignificant. The Bible repeatedly warns us about our speech. Jesus said we will be held accountable for every word (Matthew 12:36). Believers should not allow any unwholesome word come out of our mouths, but only words that encourage and help others (Ephesians 4:29). The way we talk is no laughing matter.

Second, Jesus very clearly connected our love for Him with our obedience:

“If you love me, you will obey what I command. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in His love.” John 14:15, 16:9-10

God’s Word is clear. If we love Jesus, we will obey Him. The reverse is also true: if we don’t obey Jesus, it reveals a lack of love for Him. This covers everything – more than just our speech. I am not saying that if we truly love Jesus we will be without sin, but our sin will grieve us. We will long to grow in holiness, not to stay in our sin.

The third reason I believe this is a serious matter is because this slogan – and others like it – portray a warped and self-centered view of Christianity. Wearing this statement across our chest testifies to the world that we aren’t serious about following Jesus. Claiming His name, then in the next breath admitting you choose not to obey Him, minimizes the name of Jesus before the world. “I love Jesus, but I love myself more.”

Sin – all sin – is serious business, not a joke to put on a t-shirt. “Friendship with the world is hatred toward God (James 4:4).” God commands believers to not conform to the ways of the world (Romans 12:1-2). (See this post for more about compromising with the culture.) Instead we are to draw near to Him in confession and repentance. To grieve over our sin and allow Him to cleanse us and make us more like Jesus (James 4:4-10).

Let’s not boast about our sin. Instead let’s proclaim the name of the One who died to save us from it.

What do you think? Laughing matter or serious business?

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4 Reasons Christians Compromise with the Culture

Christians compromiseI am patiently waiting on the next grandson to arrive. Okay, let me be honest. I’m waiting. We can leave the “patiently” part out. In fact, by the time this post actually goes live, he may be here.

The world my grandson will know is very different than the world of my childhood. Or even the world my children grew up in. We live in a highly sexualized culture that permeates everything. Greed, selfishness, and self-indulgence run rampant.

It seems it gets harder every day for a Christ-follower to navigate the landmines of our society. Morals and values have shifted dramatically away from God’s standards. Almost every day another story in the news demonstrates this ongoing clash between the world’s values and God’s standards. (For more info see Ed Stetzer’s article on Christian responses to cultural change in Christianity Today.)

I’ve seen three possible ways Christians deal with the culture clash:

  • Separate from the world – Granted, it’s easier to live by God’s standards if we remove ourselves from the influence of the world. But there’s one big problem with that. In doing so, we also remove the influence of Christ from the world. Jesus calls us to go out into the world and take the Gospel (John 17:14-18), not hunker down in a holy bunker.
  • Live by God’s standards out in the world – This is the hardest road to walk. But God promised that through His divine power, He has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). With discipline, intentionality, and constant dependence on the Holy Spirit, we can live lives that please God and honor the name of Christ.
  • Compromise in one or more areas – Although some believers do simply throw up their hands without even trying to live by God’s standards, the majority of us simply straddle the fence here and there. Sometimes we compromise. Sometimes we think God’s way is “too hard” or “too boring” or just “too weird” compared to the world.

4 Reasons Christians Compromise with the Culture:

So why do we do it? Why do followers of Christ sometimes follow the world? Here are four reasons based on time in God’s Word and a bit of observation:

  1. Indulge our own desires – This is probably the most frequent reason. We have sinful desires and sometimes we give in to them. Let’s remember – We never have to give in to temptation. God will always provide a way out if we will take it (1 Corinthians 10:13).
  2. Ignorance of God’s Word – Sometimes believers live like the world in one or more areas simply because they don’t know God’s standard. Yet God calls us to “not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance,” but to be holy in all we do (1 Peter 1:13-15). Thankfully we can learn since we have full access to His Word!
  3. Fear of being “labeled” – Sometimes believers worry more about what the world will think of us than what God will think of us. We don’t want to be considered a “bigot” or “self-righteous.” We don’t want to be different or stand out in a crowd. So we compromise to fit in.
  4. Misguided attempt to be relevant – I’ve heard and seen Christians – even Christian leaders – dress and speak in questionable ways in an attempt to connect with the culture. If our speech or dress or behavior shocks or offends even a handful of Christians in the room, we should reconsider. Jesus and His message of salvation are always relevant. We don’t have to compromise to share them.

Do you find it hard to live by God’s standards in this world? Is one of these four reasons a bigger struggle than the others? Why do you think that is?

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3 Concerns about Spiritual Gifts Tests

Spiritual Gifts TestsLast week, I started a new Bible study on the Holy Spirit with the ladies of my church. At one point, the friend next to me asked what I thought about spiritual gifts tests. My answer? “You probably don’t want to know.”

But then we talked about it anyway. And yes, we should have been paying closer attention in class.

I usually try to avoid answering this question. If the topic comes up in a group I may stay silent or just walk away. Why? Because my opinion is different than most and I don’t want to start any doctrinal debates.

But after my conversation with Kimberly on Tuesday, I decided that I would share my thoughts with you. Maybe a thoughtful conversation about spiritual gifts tests can reorient our focus.

Sadly, spiritual gifts is one of those areas of faith where we believers tend to make it all about us instead of about God. We ask, “What can I do for God? How can I use my gifts and talents?” Instead, we should be asking, “How does God want to use the gifts He gave me?”

In their book, What’s So Spiritual About Your Gifts? (LifeChange Books), authors Henry and Mel Blackaby caution that spiritual gifts tests are limited by their nature:

“It can help identify how God has used you since you’ve become a Christian. But it shouldn’t be used as a guide for how God desires to use you in the future, for God’s purposes are based upon His strengths, not yours alone. He may choose to take you into areas of service in which you’re naturally weak, to reveal His strength and bring glory to Himself.”

At their best, spiritual gifts tests may identify spiritual gifts and natural talents and abilities. But at their worst, since they cannot distinguish between them, the tests could actually encourage believers to “serve” according to our natural talents rather than relying on the power and equipping of the Holy Spirit.

When you think about it, using a spiritual gifts test is a little like trying to put out a forest fire with a water pistol. They attempt to determine the work of God with a test devised by human logic.

So, while I think spiritual gifts tests can be a useful tool when kept in the proper perspective, I think too often they can do more harm than good.

Here are 3 of my concerns about spiritual gifts tests:

  1. They can replace God’s purposes with our purposes – Since spiritual gifts tests tend to reveal our own strengths and talents, we may use the assessment to find ways to “serve” in our own power. We will miss out on God’s greater purpose.
  2. They can limit the Holy Spirit – Even when the test does reveal a true spiritual gift, we may find ourselves only serving in ways that use that specific gift. We forget that as a believer we have the entire person of the Holy Spirit residing within us. We have access to all of His power to follow and obey God in any way He leads. Yet, we may hear God’s call but reject it because “that’s not in our area of gifting.”
  3. They can become an excuse – We may conveniently use the test results as our guide instead of the Holy Spirit. It’s much easier to pull out that pat answer – “That’s not my gift” – than to lay aside our own plans and seek God’s will and direction. It also gives our “no” a “spiritual” reason.

I have taken spiritual gifts tests in the past. But I have also followed God to work in areas that didn’t line up with the results of any test. And He did things that only He could do! I am so glad I didn’t rely on that test.

What about you? Are you limiting what the Holy Spirit wants to do in and through your life because of the results of a spiritual gifts test? Has God ever done anything through your life contrary to the results of a spiritual gifts test?

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3 Reasons to Stop Reading the Bible

3 reasons to Stop readingFaithfully reading and studying the Bible is hard. It requires commitment. It takes time away from other things. And the results and benefits are rarely instantaneous.

In fact, I even found 3 reasons to stop reading the Bible in the Bible itself. Check these out:

  1. Reading it makes us accountable (Luke 12:47-48; James 3:1) – The more we know about God, His will, and His ways, the more God expects from us in stewardship, worship, and discipleship.
  2. Reading it isn’t enough anyway (James 1:22-25) – Simply “listening” or reading is a waste of time. If we don’t obey it, we trick and delude ourselves.
  3. Reading it can be painful (Hebrews 4:21-13) – God’s Word is not “dead” text, just ink on a page. It is a living thing, the very breath of God breathed out. It has the supernatural ability to penetrate our hearts and judge our thoughts, laying everything bare and exposed.

Sounds like it would be better to let our Bibles just sit and collect dust on the shelf, doesn’t it? Yes, then we could be our own boss. We could decide what to do and when to do it. We could rely on ourselves and only on ourselves.

Yep. Certainly we would be better off. Wouldn’t we?

While I could launch into dozens of reasons to read and obey God’s Word, today only one is necessary. Knowledge of God’s Word leads us to eternal salvation.

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:14-17

Without Jesus Christ and the salvation that comes only through Him, we would be eternally doomed. God’s Word reveals Christ and His salvation and shows us how to follow Him. Reason enough.

What reasons have you heard to not read the Bible? What excuses have you used? If you read the Bible, why do you?

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Do You have Vision?

VisionDoes your church have a “vision” statement? Maybe you even have a personal vision statement, purpose statement, or mission statement for your own life. There’s nothing wrong with this as long as it directly reflects God’s vision and purpose for your church or your life.

Unfortunately, some of us have developed these “vision” statements to communicate our own hopes, dreams, and goals. And sadly, sometimes we recite Proverbs 29:18 to back up this practice. You’ve probably heard the KJV version of Proverbs 29:18.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish; but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” Proverbs 29:18, KJV

Sadly, Proverbs 29:18 falls near the top of almost every list of Bible verses that are misunderstood, abused, or taken out of context. As we humans so often do, we look at it from our perspective instead of God’s perspective. We want to be the one with “vision.” We want to pursue our big hopes and dreams.

So, let’s take a look at the original meaning of Proverbs 29:18 to discover how we should understand and apply it. Considering the meaning of a few of the Hebrew words from this verse will help:

  • Vision (English word used in the King James Version) – means “to see with the eyes, either physically or spiritually.” Here, given the context, the spiritual is obviously meant. Therefore, “vision” in Proverbs 29:18 refers to a “revelation, oracle, or prophecy.” In other words, “divine communication.” It originates with God and is given to mankind through His prophets or the Bible. We “see” it and “understand.” This “vision” does not originate with us.
  • People – Refers to “people or nation.” This verse does not necessarily speak to individuals but groups of people joined in some kind of relationship like a nation.
  • Perish – Means “undisciplined, let go of all restraint, run wild.”
  • Keepeth – Means to “observe” or “give heed.”
  • Law – Generally “teaching, doctrine, direction, or instruction.” It can also refer specifically to the Law of Moses (Torah).
  • Happy – Means “happiness, blessedness.”

Properly understood, Proverbs 29:18 gives us very wise advice indeed. Those who don’t observe God’s revelation live undisciplined, unrestrained lives and suffer the consequences. But those who live by God’s Word will experience His blessing.

The New Living Translation reflects the correct meaning in modern language:

“When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. But whoever obeys the law is happy.” Proverbs 29:18, NLT

Is His vision our vision? Or are we operating under a vision of our own making? Our spiritual and eternal well being – as individuals yes, but certainly as communities and nations – depends on our obedience to God’s Word. When we scoff at or turn away from His divine law we suffer the results of our unrestrained living. But when we keep and observe His Word, our obedience will be “blessed.” (Side note: that doesn’t necessarily mean physical prosperity. God’s presence and His spiritual, eternal blessings are far greater!)

So, what is your “vision?” What is the “vision” of your family, community, nation? What results of that “vision” do you see around you?

 

 

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The “Delight” and “Desire” of Psalm 37:4

“Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

Psalm 37:4How many times have you heard this verse quoted or even quoted it yourself? Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? By itself, that one statement seemingly holds great promise. “If we delight in, love God, and find joy in Him, He will fill our lives with all the things we enjoy and value.”

Just one problem. That “interpretation” is taken out of context and totally self-focused. As we’ve been doing together for the last several Thursdays, let’s step back and consider the greater context of the verse – Psalm 37 – so we can better grasp the meaning of verse 4. (If you have time, read Psalm 37:1-9 now.)

In this psalm, David – the shepherd boy God made king – contemplates an age-old dilemma. Often, evil people prosper while those who faithfully follow God struggle to pay the bills and provide for their families. It’s tempting to envy “evil” people who enjoy wealth and all the things the world offers. We may even wonder what’s the use of following God? Maybe we should just do things the world’s way?

Things really haven’t changed throughout history. Since the fall, people have acquired wealth through deception. Innocent people have gone hungry. Evil people enjoy luxury while righteous people suffer great need. The wicked gain at the expense of the godly. The ways of the wicked both tempt us and harm us.

David saw this plight in his own day. He knew this earthly life is not fair. But as horrible as the situation was and is, he knew it was temporary. He wrote Psalm 37 to encourage God’s people to see things through an eternal lens. To realize that the spiritual far outweighs the physical.

The wicked and their wealth will one day perish (Psalm 37:20), but the spiritual inheritance of the godly will “endure forever” (Psalm 37:18). The things of this world are fleeting and temporary. The things that only God can give will remain for eternity.

Now that we’ve looked briefly at the larger context, let’s reconsider verse 34. “Delight” means to be “soft, pliable” and to “pamper oneself.” We are tempted to “delight” ourselves in the world, to be molded by it and to lose ourselves in its offerings. But God calls us to yield ourselves to Him, to be soft and pliable in His hand so He can shape us into His image.

In the surrounding verses, David helps the reader understand what it means to “delight yourself in the Lord.” Here are three ways David encourages us to do this:

  1. Trust in God through active obedience (Psalm 34:3).
  2. “Commit” our way to Him by living under submission to His will (Psalm 34:5).
  3. Wait patiently for God to act on our behalf (Psalm 34:7).

A Christian who “delights herself in the LORD” will be pliable in God’s transforming hand because she trusts in, submits to, and waits on Him.

But what about the “desires of your heart?” The context helps us understand this as well. God’s people saw the seeming success and prosperity of the wicked, even at the expense of the righteous. The purpose of the psalm is to encourage those who trust in God that the wicked will not win. If God’s people will continue to “trust in, submit to, and wait on” God, their “desire” (request and petition) for righteousness to prevail will be satisfied.

5 Ways the LORD Will Fulfill the Desires of the Righteous

  1. Justice will be done. The wicked will be punished (Psalm 34: 2, 13, 17, 35-36, 38).
  2. The Lord will protect His children and give them strength in times of difficulty (Psalm 34: 15-17, 24, 39-40).
  3. The righteous will receive an eternal inheritance (Psalm 34: 18, 29, 37).
  4. The Lord will sustain them in times of need (Psalm 34:19).
  5. The righteous will experience the Lord’s love and faithfulness (Psalm 34:28).

When we patiently trust in God and submit ourselves to His care and protection, He will be faithful to sustain, protect, and provide. And we will see His justice carried out in His time. The wicked will not prevail.

Do you see this verse from a different perspective? How has your understanding changed?

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The Real Promise of 1 Corinthians 10:13

1 Coriinthians 10:13You’ve probably heard – or maybe you’ve even said – “God will never give me more than I can handle.” Sounds really good but there’s just one problem. The Bible doesn’t teach that.

Many people point to 1 Corinthians 10:13 to back up this “Christian teaching.” But is that what Paul meant when he wrote: “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear?” Let’s pull back and look at this sentence in the context of the larger passage to find out what Paul was talking about. (See this post for more information on “biblical context.) The context, the topic of 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 is temptation and being prepared to resist it. Keep reading to discover the real promise found in verse 13.

At the end of chapter 9, Paul encouraged the believers in Corinth to practice strict spiritual discipline like he did. Take note of the “for” in 1 Corinthians 10:1 (NIV). Paul wanted them to be self-disciplined because he did not want them to follow the bad example of Israel in the wilderness who gave into temptation and disobeyed God. Because of their disobedience that generation died in the desert and never entered the promised land. Their story was recorded as a warning for the Corinthians and for us (1 Corinthians 10:11).

Then in 1 Corinthians 10:12-13, Paul elaborates on what we should do instead of giving into temptation and falling into sin. Here are three truth points for us from this passage:

  1. Thinking we are too strong to fall into sin makes us vulnerable. We must keep up our guard.
  2. No temptation will come our way that hasn’t already been part of the human experience. We won’t be tempted with something “new” or “unusual.”
  3. God is faithful. He will not allow any temptation to come our way that is too great for us to resist. He will always provide a way for us to say no and the strength to bear up under the pull of sin.

Okay, did you see that? Number 3 is the real promise of verse 13. God will never allow us to be tempted to sin beyond what we can resist. 

So what about this question: “Does God ever give us more hardship than we can handle?” The short answer is “yes.” But let’s turn to another one of Paul’s letters for a more in-depth explanation.

In his second letter to the believers in Corinth, Paul wrote about hardships he experienced in Asia:

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, NIV

The same biblical author that wrote 1 Corinthians 10:13 also wrote 2 Corinthians 1:8-9. Paul knew that God would allow him to experience more hardship than he could bear. He had lived it. He had pressure in

Asia that was far beyond his ability to endure.

Why? Why did God allow Paul – and why does God allow us – to experience trials and difficulties, grief and pain, more than we can bear? So that we will rely on God and not on our own strength and power.

Hear Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 1:10:

He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us. 2 Corinthians 1:10, NIV

When we are unable to deliver ourselves, God is able. When we are unable to stand up under the pressure, it will be God’s strength in us.

No, God does not promise that He will never give us more than we can handle. Instead, He holds out His hand and tells us to lean on Him.

Have you ever misunderstood the promise of 1 Corinthians 10:13? What comfort can you take in the real promise?

 

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How to be Devoted to God’s Word

Devotion to God's Word

 

One of my biblical heroes is Ezra. He lived in the 5th century BC, a Jew born during Israel’s Babylonian exile. He was a “scribe” and a descendent of Aaron, a priest of the Most High God. Ezra was a “teacher well versed in the Law of Moses” (Ezra 7:6). He was far more than a casual student of God’s Word. He was a skilled teacher who knew it backward and forward.

The book of Ezra also tells us five times in two chapters that “God’s gracious hand” was on Ezra. And it also tells us why:

“For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.” Ezra 7:10

This Jewish priest had never set foot in the land of Israel. But God called him to go and teach His Word to God’s people who had returned to Israel. Ezra obeyed and God graciously protected, guided, and provided for him every step of the way.

I want “God’s gracious hand” to be on me. What about you? Then let’s commit to be devoted to God’s Word. In Ezra 7:10, “devoted” means that Ezra was firmly established in and committed to God’s Word. For him, it was an enduring, life-long pursuit. But what does that look like day in and day out?

We are told exactly what Ezra’s devotion looked like in Ezra 7:10.

3 Characteristics of Devotion to God’s Word

1. Study – The Hebrew word translated as “study” or “seek” means to “tread a place frequently, with care, consult, inquire of.” Our study of the Bible should not be haphazard or casual. Every believer should take have a plan that gets us deep into the truths of God’s Word on a regular basis.

2. Obey –  Ezra didn’t merely devote himself to the study of God’s Word, he was also committed to observing what he learned. Our study is not simply to know more about the Bible. Our goal should be application, obedience, and transformation.

3. Teach – The Hebrew word translated as “teaching” in the NIV includes not only the idea of educating (teaching information) but also training & application. As growing believers we should teach, mentor, and disciple other believers.

Want to be devoted to God’s Word? Which one of these 3 characteristics do you struggle with most and why?

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