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Archive for the ‘Bible’ Category

Psalm-78

This morning, I had the privilege of hearing Pastor Rick Elzinga preach on Psalm 78:1-8. What follows is a one-sentence summary of his sermon: The older generations of Christians must teach the younger generations who God is, what He’s done, and His Word.

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“We’ve missed you in church” (or “We’ve missed you at Bible study”).

“Well, things have been really tough lately. We’re really going through it right now.”

You’ve heard that exchange before. I know I have. Maybe you’ve said either of those lines yourself. But is it right – is it what God wants?

Pslam 119:143-144 says, “Trouble and anguish have come upon me, yet Your commandments are my delight. Your testimonies are righteous forever; give me understanding that I may live.” Life had gotten tough for the psalmist. He describes it as “trouble” and “anguish” Whatever he was experiencing could easily be described as God’s “dark providence,” which could have kept him from God, His Word, and His people. But it didn’t.

Why hadn’t the suffering psalmist drifted from God? Because He was sustained by God’s Word. God’s commandments (His Word, in other words) were his delight in the midst of his troubles. He didn’t succumb to the temptation of ignoring God when things weren’t going well. In fact, when life got tough, the psalmist ran towards God, and not away from Him. In his troubles and anguish, he was sustained by God through His Word. As he poured over God’s Law day and night, He was nourished and strengthened by what he read.

If (and when) we’re “really going through it” and things are tough, we need to be in God’s Word and with His people more than ever, and not away from them. His Word is our delight in trouble and anguish. He uses it to sustain us for His glory and our good!

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read me

Lifeway Research released some disturbing statistics recently. Only eleven percent of Christians have read through the Bible once, and only nine percent have read it through more than once.

You may have a hard time believing the percentage is so low, but I can personally vouch for it. In every group of believers I’ve asked, Lifeway’s research has been vindicated. It really is that low.

It’s disturbing to me that so few people who consider themselves Christians have read the Bible – God’s inspired revelation to us – even once, and even fewer more than once. God has revealed Himself, His plan, His will, and His ways to us through His Word, but how can we know any of it if we never open the Book and read it? The answer is obvious. We can’t.

Based on the Lifeway statistics, the vast majority of Christians read the Bible (when they do) in little snippets, and probably not in context, or treat it as a book made up of pithy sayings suitable for framing. Though it’s made up of sixty-six books, the Bible is one story that encompasses a number of themes. We gain so much more when we read the entire book and begin to see the big picture.

Is it any wonder that the church is so influenced by the world? Is it any wonder that the church is rife with false teaching?

There’s a simple solution: Read, hear, study, memorize, meditate on, and obey the Bible! Look, I know that reading the Bible isn’t magic (“three chapters a day keeps the devil away”). It doesn’t work that way. But look at it this way: If we don’t read the Bible (much),  do we honestly think things will magically get better? We know the answer.

As I’ve been reading through Psalm 119, there are some verses that I hope will help encourage us to saturate ourselves in God’s Word:

“How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word” (v. 9).

“Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You” (v. 11).

“I shall delight in Your statutes; I shall not forget Your word” (v. 16).

“Your testimonies also are my delight; they are my counselors” (v. 24).

“I shall delight in Your commandments, which I love” (v. 47).

“This is my comfort in my affliction, that Your word has revived me” (v. 50).

“The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces” (v. 72).

“O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day” (v. 97).

“I opened my mouth wide and panted, for I longed for Your commandments” (v. 131).

“I rejoice at Your word, as one who finds great spoil” (v. 162).

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I had the privilege of hearing Pastor Rick Elzinga preach on Psalm 36. Here is a summary of his sermon in one sentence: The two sides or reality are the sinfulness of man and the righteous character of God.

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It’s sometimes said that pain and suffering have no purpose or meaning, even (sadly) by those who profess to be Christians. But if the God who is both sovereign and good is involved (and He most definitely is), there is meaning and purpose in everything.

In Psalm 119:71, the psalmist says, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.” That sounds strange when we hear it. We have a strong tendency to avoid affliction, or try to get out of it, because it hurts and we don’t like it. If we don’t see an obvious purpose, we think none exists.

Contrary to our limited understanding, one of the reasons for affliction (trials, trouble, and tribulation, if you will) is learning God’s Word (“statutes” is another way of referring to God’s Word and Law). Notice the flow of thought from the psalmist: At some point, he was afflicted (we don’t know the details). He went to God’s Word/Law in order to find comfort, meaning, the promises of God, the character of God, and the truth about himself. In the process, he gained more knowledge and appreciation of God, not to mention a closer relationship with Him. Therefore, he says that affliction was good for him. It drove him deep into God’s Word – the Scriptures – and deeper into God. Without those afflictions, he may not have learned God’s statutes, and neither will we.

There is meaning in suffering and affliction. God has many purposes for it – one of them being a greater knowledge and understanding of God and His Word.

Can we say that it was good for us that we were afflicted because it caused us to learn God’s Word? I pray we can.

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open-bible-bookmark1

Over the last several years, I developed a bad habit. As soon as I wake up, I pick up my phone and check email, Twitter, Facebook, and a couple of news sites. With rare exceptions, that has been the way I begin my day.

Recently, I heard something that made me think about what I was doing. The obvious point was made that beginning one’s day looking at the screen of a smartphone may not be the best use of time. I already knew that, but it was good to hear the reminder. Then, thankfully, there was a suggestion offered: Begin your day with the Bible, not the phone. Or, to put it more simply, remember this acronym – B.B.P. (Bible Before Phone).

About a week ago, I decided to try it. Every morning, immediately after I wake up, I pick up a paper-and-ink study Bible (not a phone app) and read it. Based on a challenge given at church, I started reading in Psalm 119. Here’s what I do: I read the passage once. In the case of Psalm 119, it’s divided into 22 sections of eight verses each, which correspond to the Hebrew alphabet, so I’m reading eight verses each day. Next, I read the explanatory study notes for that section. Finally, I read the passage again. There may be a time of prayer and meditation, but not always.

This is a simple method anyone can use. It can be added to your regular reading, study, and meditation upon God’s Word. It doesn’t take long and is a great way to start the day – Coram Deo (before the face of God)!

I urge you to try it!

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I had the privilege this morning of hearing Pastor Mitch Lamotte preach on 1 John 1:1-10.  Here is a summary of his sermon in one sentence: Faith in Jesus Christ produces fellowship with God and forgiveness from sin.

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