10 Truths to Set Leaders Free

Friends! I’ve collaborated with some sisters in Christ from Revive Our Hearts to offer you a free ebook: 10 Truths to Set Leaders FreeWhether you lead a large women’s ministry at your church or simply gather with a few friends to study God’s Word, we all need to know God’s truth in order to point others toward it. That’s why we’re excited to deliver this ebook.

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CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR FREE E-BOOK

We’re exploring the most common lies leaders believe and the truth that sets us free. Here’s an inside peek:

LIE #1: A leader must meet everyone’s needs and expectations. (Melissa Kruger)

LIE #2: I must be strong and always have it together. (Kristen Wetherell)

LIE #3: If I work hard serving the Lord, ministry will go smoothly. (Susan Hunt)

LIE #4: My leadership role makes me more valuable and important. (Shannon Popkin)

LIE #5: My ministry is more important to God than my marriage and family. (Erin Davis)

LIE #6: It won’t matter if I skip my personal time with God. (Kelly Needham)

LIE #7: I’m the only one who can do it. Ministry depends on me. (Leslie Bennett)

LIE #8: I’m responsible for changing people’s lives. (Linda Green)

LIE #9: My ministry is insignificant compared to leaders with larger platforms. (Paula Marsteller)

LIE #10: Ministry is so busy there’s no time to rest. (Judy Dunagan)

Together, let’s speed ahead leaving the dust of lies in the rearview mirror.

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How to Make Sense of Confusing Bible Passages

What in the world?

I was reading Psalm 128 and I thought, Surely this passage is used to promote the prosperity gospel:

Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord,

   who walks in his ways!

You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands;

   you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you. (vv. 1-2)

I kept reading:

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine

   within your house;

your children will be like olive shoots

   around your table.

Behold, thus shall the man be blessed

   who fears the Lord. (vv. 3-4)

Now I’m even more confused, I thought. What about homes that never see the blessing of children? Does this psalm apply equally to them?

Five Principles for Confusing Bible Passages

Let’s be honest: Scripture can be confusing sometimes. As we grow in our knowledge of the whole Bible story, we run into these passages that can feel like roadblocks on a straight-and-narrow journey. So what do we do with them? How do we make sense of confusing Scripture passages?

1. Read the surrounding verses.

From the pulpit, Pastor Colin Smith often says, “Interpret Scripture in light of Scripture.” This is sound wisdom because all of God’s Word is breathed out by him and is useful for our growth (2 Timothy 3:16). It’s perfect and without error, which means God cannot contradict himself. So, if a verse or passage seems difficult, confusing, or misplaced, we interpret it in light of what directly surrounds it. Ask the following questions:

  • What did the author say immediately before and after?
  • What did they say in the previous chapter(s)?
  • What’s the message of the book as a whole?

Seek answers to these questions, and you’ll find you have a much clearer idea of what’s intended in the initial passage. Let’s apply this principle to Psalm 128:

Psalm 128. The surrounding psalms were written upon the return of God’s people from exile. God had restored their fortunes and blessed them by delivering them from their enemies and bringing them home. What the psalmist writes isn’t, “If you’re good, God will bless you,” but “God has been good to you and has restored that which you lost when you were in exile.” It would’ve been clear to God’s people that this blessing was far from what they deserved for the very sin that sent them into captivity—yet God was faithful and kind to them.

2. Think similar and different.

Now consider the whole of Scripture and where you’ve seen similar words or themes. Ask, Where have I seen this before? You can also ask where you’ve read something seemingly contrary to what you’re reading, which will shed light on the meaning of the present verses.

Psalm 128. I read the word “blessed” and immediately think of Jesus’ words in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). The poor in spirit are those who fear the Lord (Psalm 128:1), who recognize their sin and confess their eternal need for a Savior. Jesus says that God’s kingdom will be theirs—and to have such blessing is the ultimate way in which “it shall be well with [them]” (v. 2). So Psalm 128 isn’t necessarily about God promising earthly prosperity—although blessing does come from “the labor of [our] hands”—but eternal prosperity, the good and security of our souls.

3. Consult sound commentaries.

One of God’s good gifts to the Church throughout the centuries has been commentary on Scripture, written by learned, wise theologians who love God and his Word. We should always try to interpret what we’re reading with the help of the Spirit and other Scriptures before reading other interpretations since they can influence our thinking. (Of course, we want to be influenced for good—but we’ll grow more in studying Scripture as we seek our own interpretation first, even if it gets corrected).

Psalm 128. English minister Joseph Caryl clarifies the meaning of verse 4: God extends his goodness both in family blessing and in spiritual blessing. He says,

…the man fearing God shall be blessed more than [with wife and children]: his blessing shall come in the best way (Psalms 128:5): “The Lord shall bless thee out of Zion”; his temporal mercies shall come in a spiritual way, yea, he shall have spiritual blessings: “He shall bless thee out of Zion”; and he shall have blessings beyond his own walls: “Thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life. Yea, thou shalt see thy children’s children, and peace upon Israel.”

4. Study the passage with other believers.

If a passage of Scripture still confuses you after seeking context and reading commentaries, ask a friend or small group to look at the verses with you. Share your struggles with it, pray together for the Spirit’s clarity and help, and discuss it.

Some of the most enlightening moments for me have happened with other believers, as they explained truth to me in a fresh way and guided my interpretation of God’s Word. Who might you ask to open the Bible with you? What burning questions could you bring to your small group this week?

5. Submit yourself to God’s Word.

Ultimately, the secret things belong to the Lord (Deuteronomy 29:29). We won’t be able to grasp everything we read fully, nor will all our questions be answered. If we could wrap our minds around God—all he is, all he’s planned, and all he’s said—he wouldn’t be worthy of our worship. His ways and thoughts are infinitely higher than ours, and this is the way it should be (Isaiah 55:9)!

So, at the end of the day, when we can’t fully understand what we’re reading, we choose to trust the One who speaks without error. We trust his invitation that when we seek him with all our hearts, we will find him (Jeremiah 29:13). We trust in Christ’s promise to give us the Helper, the Spirit of truth, who will guide, counsel, and lead us into truth (John 15:26).

And the more we hunger to know him more and treasure the infinite depths of his Word, the more we will worship.

[Post Credit: Unlocking the Bible]

14 Ideas to Make Your Bible Reading More Consistent

For many Christians, reading the Bible consistently is a challenge.

In 2017, the American Bible Society reported that only 20% of Americans read their Bibles at least four times each week. This means that 80% of Americans read Scripture less frequently than that, if at all.

But God says his words are like food—“Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3). And no human can survive without food. If we’re not eating, we starve.

And if we aren’t feeding on God’s Word consistently, so will our souls.

Read Your Bible, Feed Your Soul

When our newborn baby entered the world, everything changed—especially our sleep patterns. There were mornings when my husband and I struggled to peel ourselves out of bed to meet with the Lord in his Word. But the struggle was worth it. Most mornings, we fought the temptation to keep sleeping (only by God’s grace) and were grateful we did, as it meant starting our day in communion with him through Scripture and prayer.

It meant feeding our souls.

Hearing God speak through our Bibles was a game-changer for us:

  • He hid his Word in our hearts and would bring it to mind by his Spirit.
  • He renewed our minds, setting them on eternal matters, and gave us eyes to see through this perspective moment-by-moment.
  • He gave us his armor to help us fight sin and temptation.
  • He reminded us that Christ is our highest joy and our most valued treasure.

I’ve heard it said, you don’t remember every meal you’ve eaten, but the meals you’ve eaten have sustained you. We may not recall every Scripture we’ve read, but God sustains our trust in him as we choose to consistently feed on his Word.

14 Ideas to Make Your Reading More Consistent

There’s no one way to open Scripture—everybody’s devotional time will look different—but there is a right way to pursue it: consistently.

As you seek God in his Word, begin by asking him to give you an ever-deepening desire for this pursuit. Call on him to help you put away the distractions of tiredness, tasks, and trivialities. Plead with him for eyes to see the glory of Christ in Scripture, and for ears to hear the good news of the gospel in everything you read.

Then, commit to reading every day—even if only for five minutes at first—and pursue specific ways to make this reading a habit. Here are several ideas for you, in no particular order:

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Is the Word of God a Quick Fix?

When you come to God’s Word, are you looking for a “quick fix”?

I was struck by the following quotation, as I read through one of Pastor Colin’s sermons from the radio series The Anatomy of Faith:

God may be saying to you, “Instead of looking for a quick fix to the problems in your life, you need to establish a regular pattern of receiving my Word with faith, so that it will bear long-term fruit that you have not been bearing in years.” You never know what God is going to say to you, but you know he is going to say it through his Word. (Colin Smith)

This statement is striking because it pegs our human tendency to view God’s Word as a “quick fix.” I’ll bet that I’m not alone in wanting to hear God speak truth into my heart. But I’ll also bet that many of us tend to be drawn to Scripture thinking we need an instant solution for our troubles, rather than nourishing, consistent sustenance for our souls.

In effect, the Word of God becomes a means to an end, and—I admit—it’s usually a selfish end! Deliver me from circumstantial trouble. Show me the next step I should take in my own carefully crafted plans. Make sense for me of this enigmatic reality that makes up God’s sovereignty.

God’s Word can easily become information for our brains, rather than nourishment for our souls. Instead of genuinely loving and craving the Word, we can use the Word for selfish gain, hoping that it will give us a way out of worldly troubles and suffering.

Scripture becomes a “quick fix.”

So how can we learn to love God’s Word increasingly more every day? How can we avoid looking to Scripture as a mere “quick fix”? I think there are three key points in Pastor Colin’s statement above that will help us see how we can—only by God’s grace—grow in loving the Word:

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10 Bible Verses to Strengthen You As You Wait

The waiting game is the least fun game to play.

We’re averse to it because we like knowing outcomes. We’re especially averse to the waiting game when the outcome we’re anticipating is a positive one, as gratification is delayed. But waiting, no matter the context, tests our faith. It exercises our dependence on the God who initiates it for our good and his purposes—

Every day of waiting is another day of learning to trust him.

My husband, Brad, and I are waiting for our baby to come. Every hour of every day feels like pulling teeth, as we have zero control over the timing of her arrival. Every contraction gives me pause as I wonder, Is this the one? So I’ve grown discouraged over dashed hopes and the unfulfilled longing of meeting our child as another day passes…

What are you waiting for? Physical healing? A restored marriage? A promotion at work? A rebellious child? A cross-country move? The salvation of a beloved friend?

As I’ve been pouring over Scripture this week, I’ve asked God to teach me his character and ways during this time in-between, and I hope and pray the following verses will strengthen your faith while you wait, as they have strengthened mine:

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10 Promises for Your Bible Reading

Many mornings, weariness threatens to win.

Like a thick cloud, it opposes my time in God’s Word, obscures my desire to read, and keeps me from seeing the light of truth. My weariness might be circumstantial – a disappointment or an ongoing trial – or it may be physical – a long night of little sleep or the lingering annoyance of chronic pain.

I desire to dive into the depths of Scripture, but weariness wants to keep me in the shallows. I yearn to explore the endless riches of knowing Christ better, but weariness tempts me to apathy and tricks me into settling for less.

I need God’s help when I come to his Word. We need God’s help. Only he can overcome the shallows of our weariness and enlighten our clouded hearts with his truth. He actually promises to do these things when believers read their Bibles—

But do we trust his promises?

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Eight Reasons to Cling to Scripture in Suffering

Recently, a friend and I were interviewed on a radio show about the book we’d written on suffering. One of the host’s questions struck me: In the midst of the refiner’s fire, how do we keep from going through the motions? How do we have a sense of the abundance God promises us?

I immediately thought of Psalm 119:50: “This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.” And so I responded, “I have to be in God’s Word every day.”

Eight Reasons to Cling to Scripture in Suffering

Are you suffering right now? Would you say along with the psalmist that you’re afflicted? If your answer is no, this life guarantees that all of us will hurt in some degree before we meet the Lord. If your answer is yes, take heart; you are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who’ve known suffering in all its depths…and have endured.

Whether affliction has touched or devastated you, God promises in his Word to be your help, just as he did the psalmist. See in Psalm 119:49-56 eight reasons to cling to Scripture in your suffering:

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What Should I Do When I’m Struggling to Read God’s Word?

There are times when I read God’s Word…and the words seem to fall flat. I’m hungry to hear from God, eager to meet him in my Bible—yet nothing jumps off the page or particularly moves my heart.

This can feel like looking at a delicious meal, and wanting to enjoy it, but having no appetite for it.

Identify Your Motives

Such hunger and disappointment reveal two attitudes about the human heart, one we should pursue and be thankful for, and one we should confess and flee from:

First, our hunger and disappointment mean we desire God—this is good! We want to hear from him, because we love him and want to obey him. We desire to know the God who speaks and walk closely with him by opening the Scriptures.

But our hunger and disappointment can equally say we expect God to reveal himself on our terms and timing, according to our needs and feelings. If we’re not careful, our time in God’s Word can become less about knowing him and more about checking off a list of spiritual duties to make ourselves feel good.

Usually, our hunger and disappointment are some combination of both. So what can we do? Where do we turn?

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God Is Good, So Fight the Lies

A sneaking suspicion lingers in my heart. It never ceases to lie to me: “God isn’t good,” it says. “Wouldn’t you be healthy if he was?”

It often masks itself in other lies:

  • “What did you do to cause this pain?”
  • “You must not have learned your lesson yet.”
  • “Why doesn’t that person ever suffer? Why do you always seem to?”

The suspicion arises freshly when my body hurts in new or different ways. In the pain, it tempts me, fooling me into believing that maybe, just maybe, God isn’t as good as I thought—not in the moment at least.

Not toward me.

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22 Prayers for Your Bible Reading

Reading the Bible before praying is like putting the cart before the horse.

The proverbial horse is the Holy Spirit of God, who empowers and enlightens our Bible reading as we mine the depths of his Word. The proverbial cart makes up our willing eyes and hungry hearts, the Spirit-led choice to crack open our Bibles and pursue his everlasting truth.

The cart must be pulled by the horse; our efforts to read must be motivated and helped by God’s grace and power. Christians come to God’s Word willing and hungry because he first made us willing and hungry to receive—but only he can enable us to receive. This is why we ask for help before we start reading.

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