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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#AnyGivenSunday: A Video Encouragement for the Election Season

I love serving at Unlocking the Bible. This video is just one of the many reasons why. It’s a compilation of 50 sermon clips from 50 pastors in all 50 states, from one particular day: Sunday, September 18, 2016.

If you’re discouraged heading into this historical election week, watch the five-minute film and praise God for the Word-filled work he’s doing around our country.

Then, if you feel so inclined, share it with others using the hashtag #AnyGivenSunday!

Five Reasons You Desperately Need Your Bible

Why is Bible reading important? Most Christians know they should read their Bibles. But often, our Bible reading can feel dry and insignificant. Why is it so important for us to read this book? What’s the urgency of it?

Ruth and Naomi’s story in the Old Testament reveals some urgent truths through illustration about why we need our Bibles right now and every single day. We should not bypass these truths because they are the difference between spiritual life and death; between conviction and apathy; between joy, peace, and strength and discontentment, anxiety, and fear; between knowing some things about Jesus and knowing Jesus intimately.

Here are five reasons that you desperately need your Bible, as illustrated in the book of Ruth.

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15 Bible Verses for Every Christian to Memorize

Memorizing God’s Word is a vital, joy-producing discipline of grace for every Christian—but where to begin? With so many thousands of verses to choose from, memorization can feel overwhelming, and we often don’t know where to start.

Why Memorize Bible Verses?

Many of us have asked several clarifying questions about this grace-filled discipline, like:

  • “What’s the point of memorization?”
  • “Why should I take the time and effort to memorize the Bible? Couldn’t I use that time to read it more deeply, or to pray?”
  • “If I can simply open my Bible and read God’s Word, then why should I memorize it?”
  • “If I’m bad at memorizing in general, should I still consider this an important pursuit?”

I’ve asked all of the above and have been deeply convicted by what God himself has to say about the vitality of his Word being sown within the believer’s mind and heart. Here are just three important reasons he gives us to memorize his Word:

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17 Benefits to Reading the Entire Bible

As I set aside my Bible reading plan this year in favor of soaking in shorter passages, I realized that I didn’t need to choose between the two—nor did I want to! The benefits and joy of journeying the entire way through God’s salvation story are too good to miss, so I decided to do both.

Last year was the first time I had used a pre-made reading schedule (courtesy of Ligonier Ministries), and it was helpful in numerous ways. I’d encourage you to go through the entire Bible for these 17 reasons:

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A Guide to Biblical New Year’s Resolutions

Confession: I used to roll my eyes at the thought of making New Year’s resolutions. After all, how many people actually keep them? I wondered. But when Pastor Colin preached a sermon a while back, called “Resolved! Life Commitments for a New Year,” it became clear to me that resolutions could not only be kept, they could be deeply biblical. 

Christians are saved by grace through faith, not by works so that no one can boast. But the Bible uses active imagery to describe the Christian life, as a race, a fight, a pursuit, a war, and training in godliness. We strive for spiritual growth because we’ve been freed through the blood of Jesus from striving for worldly, selfish gain. Therefore, resolutions, when grounded in Scripture, can be tools for our spiritual growth! Continue reading

Five Steps to Meditating on the Bible

Not long ago, I asked Pastor Colin about the difference between meditation and prayer, as the two can be hard to distinguish, and understandably so. His reply: “In Scripture, God speaks to us. In prayer we speak to him. What God says to us prompts what we say to him.”

To meditate, then, is to think deeply about what God has said to us in the Bible and to prepare our minds and hearts for prayer. Scripture is the foundation of our praying; meditation readies us for it by helping us focus, understand, remember, worship, and apply.

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The Number One Reason to Trust the Bible

Growing up, I found comfort and assurance in taking my parents at their word. I trusted their authority, believing that Mom and Dad would care for me, tell me the truth, and do all things with the intention of helping me grow.

Who we believe a person is says a lot about how much credibility we will give to their words. For if we do not trust a person, we will not trust what they tell us.

Lately, I’ve been wanting to grow in my understanding of why Christians (and all people, for that matter) can trust the Bible as God’s very Word communicated clearly to our world. How can we know that what God says is true? And how can we explain the Bible’s trustworthiness to other people?

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What Do We Make of God’s Judgment in the Old Testament?

The whole of the Bible is one grand storyline. Often, however, we find ourselves separating the Old from the New Testament, as if they were two entirely different stories. The separating of the two has subsequently caused two views of God to arise in our minds: “the God of judgment” (Old Testament) and “the God of love” (New Testament).

The Bible is indeed a unified grand story and, therefore, it knows no divisions. Alec Motyer explains this well in his book The Christian’s Pocket Guide to Loving the Old Testament: Prophecies made in the Old Testament books point to prophecies fulfilled in the New Testament books; references to the Trinity in the Old are explained in the New; and certain biblical terms used before Christ were fulfilled in their meaning when the Son of God walked the earth.

Similarly, the character and person of God as revealed in the Old Testament cannot be separated from the God of the New. This means that his judgment towards the nations in the Old Testament has something significant to say to us about the grand storyline of the Bible, meaning that it cannot be divorced from the rest of the Word of God.

So what do we make of God’s judgment in the Old Testament?

God’s judgment can be difficult for us to understand, and that is okay.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9)

The first important thing to note is that God’s own understanding is higher than ours, as are his ways and works. So, while we can study the Bible and search its depths in an effort to know its grand storyline, we will not always be privy to the minute details of God’s actions, nor his reasons behind those actions.

Despite our limited understanding, however, we can make some general observations about the judgment of God as seen in many Old Testament books:

God’s judgment is always inseparable from his love, mercy, and grace.

And I will bring to an end in Moab, declares the Lord, him who offers sacrifice in the high place and makes offerings to his god. Therefore my heart moans for Moab like a flute, and my heart moans like a flute for the men of Kir-hareseth. Therefore the riches they gained have perished. (Jeremiah 48:35-36)

God’s love and judgment go together. In other words, our God is not either full of wrath or full of love, but he is both simultaneously. We struggle to grasp this because of the limits of our human understanding, but that does not mean that he is not so. As D.A. Carson writes:

There is nothing intrinsically impossible about the wrath and love being directed towards the same people at the same time. God in his perfections must be wrathful against his rebel image-bearers, for they have offended him; God in his perfections must be loving toward his rebel image-bearers, for he is that kind of God. (The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, 69)

We see God’s love and judgment wrapped up together perfectly at the cross. Jesus Christ, the beloved Son of God, absorbs the just wrath of God. The cross is proof that what seems like dead-end judgment actually is the loving purpose of God being magnified forever. Similarly, in the Old Testament, God’s judgment on the nations points to the eventual salvation of his chosen people, the climax of which is Jesus Christ.

God’s judgment instructs us about God’s character and person.

For on the third day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, “Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death.” (Exodus 19:11-12)

This passage from Isaiah reveals that God is holy. It is not the mountain that will put the people to death but the sight of God’s holiness. God’s judgment teaches us about his perfection; he is so holy that no sinner can stand in his presence. It also teaches us about his generosity and mercy. For only a merciful God would provide a way to forgive in order to redeem his chosen people.

God’s judgment instructs us about our own character and person.

You felt secure in your wickedness, you said, “No one sees me”; your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray, and you said in your heart, “I am, and there is no one besides me.” But evil shall come upon you, which you will not know how to charm away; disaster shall fall upon you, for which you will not be able to atone; and ruin shall come upon you suddenly, of which you know nothing. (Isaiah 47:10-11)

God is speaking to his enemies, the Babylonians, in the above passage. God is holy, wise, and perfect, but his enemies are wicked, rebellious, and proud. All of us were at one point enemies of God, and some reading this might still be (Romans 5:10). We said earlier that no sinner can stand before a holy God because his righteousness and perfection reveals our own iniquities and evil. So God’s judgment informs us about our own sinful nature apart from Christ.

God’s judgment illuminates our need for a Great High Priest.

Then bring near to you Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the people of Israel, to serve me as priests…So Aaron shall bear the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece of judgment on his heart, when he goes into the Holy Place, to bring them to regular remembrance before the Lord…Thus Aaron shall bear the judgment of the people of Israel on his heart before the Lord regularly. (Exodus 28:1,29-30)

Before Christ, priests in the tabernacle would bear the judgment of God’s people. But in Christ, by faith, a once-rebellious sinner is covered by the Lamb’s shed blood and robed in his righteousness. Christ is our Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14). The Old Testament stories of judgment point to our desperate need for God to provide a substitute for sinners, someone to bear their judgment and atone for their sins, which he graciously did in the person and work of his very own Son, Jesus.

God’s judgment foreshadows that which will come on the Last Day.

In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there. But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace. The wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him, but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he sees that his day is coming. (Psalm 37:10-13)

Many Old Testament accounts of God’s judgment involve historical events: the Babylonian exile, for instance. But they also point to a greater, future reality when God will judge every person through the Lion of Judah, Jesus Christ. Matthew 24:30 says:

Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

Jesus will come again to judge mankind, when every knee will bow and tongue confess that he, indeed, is Lord. So Scripture instructs us to be ready for that day (1 Peter 4:7), sober-minded, and watchful, placing our faith and hope in Jesus Christ, who took on God’s judgment so we would never have to.

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Three Ways Churches Can Stop Treating Singles Like a Problem to be Solved

Talking about singles and the church is usually awkward, sometimes controversial, and is frequently an open-ended discussion. In other words, there are thousands of opinions about how best to encourage singles who are actively involved in a local church, but not every opinion is equally helpful.

I wonder if part of the difficulty is because, in some churches, it is perceived that marriage is the chief end of ministry to singles. But according to the Scriptures, the aim of the church is something fundamentally different.

Read with me from Ephesians 4:11-16:

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

According to Paul, the church’s primary job is not to create family units through marriage. It is not to solve singleness as if it were some kind of problem. 

So what it the primary aim of the church? READ MORE

[Post Credit: Crosswalk]