Tag Archive for: Bible

How to Invite God Into Your Bible Study Time

Biblical fluency does not happen because of our efforts alone. Rather, the Holy Spirit takes our efforts and then works in and through us to reveal truth and conform us to the image of Christ. As we approach the study of the Bible in prayer and with an open heart, we invite God to reveal himself and transform our lives through his Word.

Simply put, prayer is a conversation with God, an intimate dialogue where believers can express their thoughts, concerns, and gratitude.

Incorporating prayer into Bible study creates a two-way communication channel, allowing us to seek clarity of Scripture and invite the Holy Spirit to inform its understanding and then direct our actions. Praying as we study recalibrates our focus from a pursuit of information to a desire for life transformation. Life-change happens as we connect with God through prayer while being immersed in his Word.

Prayerfulness can be a simple, natural, and very important part of our time in the Word, from start to finish.

Praying before, during, and after our time in the Word each day is how we invite the Holy Spirit to join us in our study.Incorporating prayer shifts our focus from being primarily an academic or intellectual pursuit of knowledge to becoming a uniquely personal pursuit of knowing, trusting, and obeying God himself. Prayer invites God into our learning process. In prayer we commune with God as we understand and relate to his words in Scripture with the goal of knowing him rightly and steadily becoming more like him. When prayer is an integral part of our study time, we come to realize that the Bible is more about God than it is about ourselves.

So, pray all along the way.

Pray actively, pray honestly, and expect to connect with God as you read the words that he has specifically inspired and preserved for you and me and all who will call him LORD. Ask him to help you listen, to understand, and to willingly obey every day.

Keep it simple and enjoy the process.

Before you open your Bible to a passage of Scripture each day, take a minute to:

  • Thank God that his Word is truth, applicable for today, living and active.
  • Admit that spending time in the Word is not easy for you. Ask for his help. Briefly give him the concerns of your heart, setting them under his care while you focus on the Bible. Ask him to protect your time from distractions so that you can be mindful as you read.
  • Tell him that you want to know him rightly, understanding his character as he reveals it in the pages of Scripture.
  • Humbly ask him to show you your own sin and give you the courage and power to follow and obey him as he shows you where change is needed.

During your time in the word prayer is simply an interactive dialogue between you and the Holy Spirit. You can:

  • Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you and give you wisdom and understanding.
  • Ask him to help you retain what you read and lessons he shows you.
  • Praise God when he shows you something about his character that is new to you.
  • Pray his words back to him.
  • Ask the LORD to give you understanding. If a passage does not make sense tell him so. Maybe jot down your question in your journal and see if he gives you understanding at another time.
  • Read the passage again if you have time.

Finally, after your time in the word:

  • Close by writing a simple prayer of devotion to God, praising him for who he is and thanking him for what he has done for you.
  • Ask that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, his truth would bear fruit in your life as you trust in and follow Jesus.

As you walk through your day, continue to engage with God through prayer seeking strength and guidance to apply the lessons you’ve learned from the Bible.

Waiting with Hope

Waiting is hard, isn’t it?

I know it is for my kids when Christmas is coming!

The lists are made, they are so hopeful, so excited, and not so patient.

We’re rounding the corner towards the end of December, so it’s safe to say our Christmas trees are up, Christmas gifts have started to show up under those trees, and kids (and let’s be honest, some adults) are nearly exploding with anticipation, wondering what is in those packages. Kids poke them, lift them up to see how heavy they are, shake them a bit to see if they can get an idea of the type of object trapped inside, and some will see if they can get away with opening gifts in advance to ensure they are getting what they asked for.

Waiting is hard, isn’t it?

Prior to Jesus’ birth, Israel had hopes and expectations about promises made by God to them over their long history. Promises like land, a new king, and God living in their midst once again.

But in many ways, Israel never saw these promises completely fulfilled. Israel and Judah lost their land through being exiled by Assyria and Babylon. And although they were able to return to the land, they continued to be ruled by others. We even read in Ezekiel about God’s presence leaving the temple prior to its destruction by Babylon.

Before the birth of Jesus, Israel had not seen these promises come true, but still continued to wait and hope. Under the oppression of Rome, and after so long without hearing from God the waiting may have been so difficult it felt like a pipe dream.

But then, Jesus arrived: announced by angels at his birth, visited by Magi, proclaimed by John the Baptist preparing the people for his ministry. It was finally time!

In Jesus, we see the fulfillment of what Israel had been waiting for. Jesus was the new and better Moses, leading his people out of captivity to sin instead of captivity to Egypt, and into something far better than the Promised Land — the Kingdom of God.

Jesus, through his crucifixion on Earth, became the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And through his resurrection he made way for God to dwell among us again through the Holy Spirit.

And yet, we are still waiting. Even now, after the birth of Christ, his life, death, resurrection, ascension, and the Spirit’s coming, sin still seems to reign. Death still steals those we love from us. And far too often, it looks as if the wicked will go unpunished. Like the promises given to Israel, we try to live with faithful hope. But we also have not seen the consummation of God’s plans for this world.

And waiting is hard.

So, in Advent we practice hope.

We hope for Jesus’ second coming, and with him true justice, for him to wipe away our tears, and for sin and death to be no more. We hope for God to be in this world fully and apparently. We hope for the new heavens and new earth that were promised.

We wait, but we wait in hope.

We wait, but we wait reflecting the love God has shown us, confident that the day is coming when we will see him again.

Mary’s Firm Foundation

Frank Besednjak invested $86,000 in renovating his home, so he was a little concerned when he saw some cracks in the drywall. The contractors came by to fix it but then more cracks showed up.

With a little further inspection, he also found multiple cracks in his driveway. But he didn’t realize the gravity of the situation until he pulled up the carpet and discovered a deep crack running through most of his house.

Frank hired a structural engineer for expert advice and was hit with some shocking news: there was a 55-foot-wide sinkhole directly underneath his home.

On the surface, Frank’s house looked normal for the most part, but it was masking a disaster waiting to happen. Below the surface, it was all about to fall apart. Frank had a problem — his house was built on a foundation that was unpredictable and inevitably destructive.

So, I hope your house isn’t built over a sinkhole, but what about your life? What have you built everything you are on?

What’s your foundation?

Your bank account? Your accomplishments? Your health? Your kid’s success?

When we build our lives on anything like these things, we are just like Frank’s house. It might look okay on the surface, but there is trouble brewing beneath it.

The foundations are revealed in the storms of life. Sometimes those storms can even bring ultimately good things, but chaos, uncertainty, and stress have a way of drilling down to what all else is resting upon.

We see a clear picture of this in Mary’s (the mother of Jesus) life.

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom, there will be no end.” — Luke 1:26-33

The angel Gabriel tells Mary, you are going to give birth to a son; he will be the Son of the Most High and his kingdom will have no end.

This is big, this is exciting, but this is also terrifying for a young, unmarried woman. In fact, the text says that Mary was “greatly troubled” when she encountered the angel. But what does she do with her questions? We know how this story is going to all work out, but in this moment, she doesn’t know! Talk about chaos, uncertainty, and stress!

We know that 2,000 years later, 2 billion people around the globe are going to pause to celebrate the birth of her son, but she doesn’t know that yet!

“And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.  And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” — Luke 1:34-37

As a faithful Jew, I’m sure she was expecting the Messiah to come. But like this? Through her? Vulnerable, uncertain, and anxious, Mary still responds with faith:

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” — Luke 1:38a

Mary gave us a remarkable picture of faith as she embraced God’s surprising plan for her life, because she knew that he was trustworthy, faithful, and completely in control.

When our lives don’t go our way, it is completely normal to ask God about what is going on. We can’t blame Mary for being confused, because this was definitely not how she thought her life was going to go.

But her initial question was not an obstacle to her obedience, or a lack of faith.

Faith is about trusting God even when we don’t understand what he is doing, because we know who he is. Faith is not really about having all the answers, but rather, it’s about putting your trust in the one who does.

Mary’s response revealed that she had built her life on a stable foundation, which is important because her story didn’t necessarily get easier.

But despite the challenges that lay ahead, she continued to trust God’s timing, trust his plan, trust his heart for her, and trust that he was — and still is — completely in control. And even though she might have felt imperfect and insignificant, God used her to bring forth the Savior of the world.

Be honest today with God and with yourself about what you have trusted to be the foundation of your identity, happiness, and the whole of your life. Is it a sinkhole or a trustworthy foundation?

The story of Christmas reminds us that God is sovereign over the world, and over our lives.

So, this Christmas season, whether it is a time of joy and plenty, or a time of suffering and questions, build your life on the only trustworthy foundation — Jesus.

BREAD: Experiencing Jesus Through Scripture

My three-year-old daughter, Elliott, is the youngest of three. She is incredibly smart and fiercely independent. She often keeps our family laughing and occasionally makes us want to pull our hair out.

The other day our family was at the grandparent’s ranch together and we spotted some dear out by the feeder. Excited we all ran to the window with a pair of grandpa’s binoculars to take a closer look.

“Wow! I can see them!” My son proclaimed, and handed the binoculars to his younger sister. “Oh, they’re so beautiful!” declared my middle daughter as she handed them to my youngest daughter, Elliott.

Elliott, however, couldn’t see anything through the binoculars. Things were too close, too zoomed in, and too blurry. “No, this will never do” she stated with frustration as she turned the binoculars around. “Ahhhh, that’s better,” she said.

The problem was it was not better. She now had them backwards. Things were too far away to see the deer, and while she could see things more clearly because everything wasn’t so close and blurry, she wasn’t actually using the binoculars properly.

She never once caught a glimpse of the deer.

She completely missed the beauty of that moment because she didn’t know how to use the binoculars.

So let’s talk about the Bible for a second. When it comes to the Bible, have you ever felt like Elliott with the binoculars? Despite your best efforts, sometimes it feels like you’re missing the point. You feel like you’re just not seeing what everyone else is seeing.

In John 5:39-40 Jesus called out the Pharisees for having their binoculars backwards.

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. — John 5:39-40

What is Jesus saying here?

He’s saying that the Pharisees were missing the point of the Bible.

They found a way to use it that allowed them to justify living however they wanted as long as they followed a certain list of rules. They turned the binoculars backwards. Scripture seemed to be clearer, even to make more sense to them in the moment, but Jesus said to them, “You’re searching the scriptures for life, but you are completely missing the point.”

Now before we start throwing rocks at the Pharisees, aren’t we guilty of the same thing? We often approach the Bible as a self-help book or a manual for living.

The problem is that’s not the primary purpose of the Bible.

We believe the Bible is one unified story that leads to Jesus.

Every story, every rescue, every promise — they all point to him! And the main point of the Bible is to help reveal Jesus to us. Written on every page of the Bible, we see Jesus, the Kingdom he comes to bring, and the invitation for us to participate in his mission of the renewal of all things.

See, the Bible is not just some textbook of the Christian life, it’s an invitation for us to be with Jesus.

I think what Jesus was saying to the Pharisees, he would say to us as well. Don’t just read about me, come to me.

So, what does that look like?

Well, I want to introduce you to a practice for encountering Jesus through reading the scriptures.

It’s called B.R.E.A.D.

It’s an acronym that helps us not just read about Jesus but come to him through the Bible.

BE STILL — Find a quiet space where you can be still and silent. Pray and ask God to speak to you, ask his spirit to guide you as you read his word. Ask him to show you Jesus through the pages of the Bible.

READ — Read the passage for the day slowly. Write something down that you observe in the passage — a question you might have, something that stands out, things that are repeated, or simply what part of the text points you to Christ.

EXAMINE — After that you examine the text, ask yourself, What’s going on in the text? Who wrote it, and why were they writing it? This is where resources like the ESV study bible and BibleProject.com will be helpful for you. But you must also let the text examine you. How does God’s revealed word prompt you to respond? What tension do you feel as you read? What does it seem like God is saying to you specifically through his word? Write the answers to those questions down.

APPLY — Next you apply. Is there sin to confess? A promise to trust? An example to follow? Or a command to obey? Write down one way you intend on applying the written word to your life today.

DEVOTE TO PRAYER — Lastly devote yourself to prayer. Spend some time asking God to do what only he can do in transforming your life. Respond to his voice with your own and tell him what’s on your mind and heart.

I’d challenge you to do this daily with the intent of coming to Jesus and allowing him to introduce himself to you through the pages of Scripture.

Jesus said in Matthew 4:4, “…It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

We are committing to this practice together in the year 2024 as a way of experiencing Jesus, who said himself, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst…” (John 6:35).

So, this year let’s turn the binoculars around and come to Jesus through the prayerful reading of his word.

That was God’s heart for the Pharisees, and that’s God’s heart for you. So don’t just read about Jesus, come to him.

How Can I Do More for God?

It’s a question so many well-intentioned Christians ask: “How can I do more for God?”

You experience the love of God and the goodness of the Gospel, and your natural, automatic response is, God did something significant for me, so I want to do something significant for Him! How can I pay him back?

The problem is nothing we could do for God could ever repay him for the grace he has shown us in the Gospel. In fact, God isn’t sitting around waiting for someone to offer their assistance so he can finally get something done around here. And there’s really nothing we can offer to God that he doesn’t already have.

So… what can we do for God, we wonder.

To find the answer, we start trying things like serving in the church, reaching out to neighbors, and being better stewards and employees and husbands and mothers and friends. But at some point, serving stops being convenient. It starts creating tension, conflicts with our goals, becomes overwhelming, and, little by little, we drop the plow we excitedly picked up in an effort to perform for the God who loves us unconditionally. The problem for many of us is we have the wrong idea of what it means to serve. It’s not about what we can do for God out of obligation or recompense, and more about how we can partner with him in love.

To help illustrate the difference, I want to give you two different pictures of Jesus and the way he served the Father during his earthly ministry. These are beautifully illustrated in the book The Burden is Light by Jon Tyson.

AMERICAN JESUS

If we were to write the Gospels today, they would be infused with this winner script. They would probably go something like this:

“Jesus was born of a virgin (a great start), and as a teenager, he was passionate about his Father’s house. He started his ministry with a prophetic declaration about the kingdom of God, fulfilling truth in a new and spectacular way. He then called disciples, gathered momentum, confronted hypocrisy, healed the sick, raised the dead, and challenged Herod. Then he voluntarily died to become the savior of the world. He rose again in victory, proving to everyone that he was alive, then ascended into heaven. Right before he arrived, the heavens opened and the Father announced, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’ The angels stood to their feet, the disciples raised their hands in victory, and all of heaven rejoiced.”

For generations we have been trying to earn our Father’s applause by following this script. But of course, that’s not how Jesus’s life was ordered at all.

 

AUTHENTIC JESUS

The actual Gospels are not ordered like this. They show Jesus spending almost thirty years in relative obscurity. Before he healed a sick person, raised the dead, confronted hypocrisy, made disciples, preached to the crowds, and died and rose again, he was baptized. And at Jesus’s baptism, his Father declared, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”* Jesus hadn’t done anything public or important yet, so what could the Father have been pleased with? It’s simple. Relationship. Jesus spent thirty years abiding in his Father’s love, and that was enough. What pleased the Father was not Jesus’s accomplishments but his intimacy. This is the same thing that pleases him in our lives today.

Because Jesus was aware of his Father’s approval before starting his ministry, he didn’t have to compete with others during his ministry. The Father’s approval gave Jesus the security to avoid an addiction to success and scandalously give his life away in love. [1]

You see, Jesus lived a life of ministry out of love. He loved the Father and knew he was loved by the Father, regardless of his performance or success. There was no trying to pay the Father back for his love; his life was simply an expression of the love he had already received in his relationship with the Father.

When we go to serve God, whether it be in the local church, in the community, in our families or workplaces, we must adjust our motivation and remember this: God already loves you and accepts you because of Jesus. There is nothing that you can do to earn his love or repay him for it. So, when you serve, let it be out of an abundance of love and devotion.

Will it be difficult? Sometimes.

Will it be inconvenient? Often, yes.

But a life lived partnering with Jesus in love is a life lived as a son and daughter – not simply a servant.

If you’d like to find ways to get connected serving in this local expression of the church, click here. We’d love to help you find a place to serve that suits your gifts and talents and serves the body of Christ effectively.

[1] Jon Tyson, The Burden Is Light: Liberating Your Life from the Tyranny of Performance and Success (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah, 2018), 52-53.

Joy in the Hard Times

“Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say, rejoice!” [Clap! Clap!] 

What a great time I had singing this little tune in 1980’s Children’s Church! It might’ve been a little easier to belt out Paul’s admonition from Philippians 4 when my biggest concerns in life were scraped knees or broken crayons. But when real life hits hard, this is not the song that pops up as a favorite, that’s for sure.

Sometimes, rejoicing in our circumstances feels counter intuitive. You might ask, Am I expected to power through pain with a big smile on my face proclaiming, “I’m too blessed to be stressed!”?

When the bottom falls out and our disappointments are deep, or our grief is sharp, how can we truly rejoice in the Lord?

The truth is a Christian always has reasons to rejoice with gratitude, whether our situation is merely crummy or blatantly tragic. Here are some reasons the Bible gives that should cause our hearts to be glad.

1. We are loved and paid for.

When Jesus lived a sinless life and died on the cross, he showed love more deeply than any human could give. “By this we know love, that Jesus Christ laid down His life for us,” (1 John 3:16). Not only are we redeemed by Christ’s work at Calvary, but we’ve been adopted into God’s family. “See what love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the children of God! And so we are,” (1 John 3:1).

Maybe you are aware that the Psalms frequently tell of God’s unfailing love. But did you also know that many of these were written amidst trials? A common pattern found in these chapters is an expression of fear, mourning, betrayal, or regret, but they follow up with remembrance of the deeds God has done and praise to him in light of his love toward the writer. What a valuable pattern for us to follow when our own hearts are faint and aching. “But I have trusted in your steadfast love, my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has death bountifully with me,”(Psalm 13:4-6).

We can always rejoice because our souls have been saved.

2. We are never alone.

We see the relational character of God throughout Scripture. For example, even though the nation of Israel failed him over and over, he didn’t abandon them. “Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you,” (Isaiah 43:1-2). Just as a good parent wouldn’t dream of walking away from their children when they are most vulnerable and hurting, God promises to stay near to us.

When Jesus spoke of his Spirit dwelling within his children, he said, “I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you,” (John 14:18), and, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age,” (Matthew 28:20). We can rejoice in knowing God’s Spirit is ever-present in us.

3. We grow through hardships.

Adversity has a way of stripping us of trivial things to reveal the foundation of our faith. Peter wrote to believers in the early church who were experiencing exile, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials so that the tested genuineness of your faith — more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire — may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ,” (1 Peter 1:6-7).

Scripture also tells us that God’s saving work is made very clear to us when our own strength is feeble. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” (1 Corinthians 12:9).

Perhaps you’ve experienced neediness and had to depend on God as your provider. Maybe you’ve longed for something that you couldn’t have and learned to see Christ as all-sufficient. It might be that unexpected events led you to learn about God’s sovereignty, or your grief brought you to know God as the Father of all comfort. We can rejoice knowing that our faith is cultivated through hardships.

4. We have a hopeful future.

Most of us have learned that we don’t always experience happy endings. Unlike inspirational sitcoms of the 90’s, there isn’t a guaranteed, heartfelt wrap-up to our biggest challenges. Sometimes, despite our most earnest prayers and faithful efforts, bad things happen. For the Christian, this doesn’t need to lead us to despair. Jesus said to his followers, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world,” (John 16:33).

We at Clear Creek love to sing the song by Andrew Peterson, “Is He Worthy?” There is a line in the second verse that I find myself unable to sing without choking up in heartfelt relief: “Does our God intend to dwell again with us? He does!” It reminds me of the vision that the apostle John wrote about in Revelation 21:3-4, which describes a future that every believer will experience.

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’”

Even the harshest earthly circumstances pale in comparison to the coming grandeur. We can rejoice because we know that we will share in the victorious eternal glory of Jesus Christ!

It’s not necessary to pretend that trials are fun. Even the most devout follower of Jesus wouldn’t choose to walk through suffering. Still, we know that even in our deepest valleys, our souls always have reasons to rejoice because God loves us, he is with us, he is working on us, and he has promised to make all things new!

How to Find Real Rest During Spring Break

It is the second semester of school, the holiday season is past, but baseball and rodeo season are upon us.

If you’re anything like me, one busy season just leads into another busy season.

Once this thing/season/class/whatever is over, then I will have time to take a break.

But then there’s always just another thing/season/class/whatever!

Spring break is around the corner, and I want to encourage you (and me) to rest.

But I mean more than just take naps, vacations, and breaks from our normal activities.

Real rest.

Not just the kind of rest promised by our culture, but a rest that is promised by God.

Naps and vacations are good and necessary, but they will never truly slow down our hurried hearts and minds. We need a rest that is not momentary, but constant and sustaining. We need the rest of Jesus.

In an oft-quoted passage, Jesus calls to all people to find true rest in him:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

 Whatever your job, schedule, or suffering, Jesus is the only place we can truly experience rest—true rest—soul rest. And it comes not merely from taking a break, but in running toward Jesus, learning from Jesus, and surrendering to Jesus.

1. Go to him.

To find true rest, run towards Jesus. His offer of life, purpose, and peace in him is an open invitation to all people. No matter your burdens, anxieties, or struggles, remember that his invitation is to you. Don’t distract yourself with empty alternatives. Instead of 15 more minutes sleeping in, pray with your spouse. Instead of one more Netflix show, journal your hopes and prayers before bed. Go to the one who loves you, seeks you, and saves you: in prayer and thought, in your desires and time – go to him and find peace in his presence.

2. Learn from him.

To truly experience the rest of Jesus, you have to understand and know him. Learn from me, he says. This isn’t a boring history lesson; it is coming face to face with the Creator of the world, the purpose of life, the answer to all suffering and sin in the world. Open your Bible this spring break – read scripture to your children or begin your day with a devotional. Study the Word of God and begin to understand and experience his promised rest.

3. Surrender to him.

Our lives are full of expectations and burdens, but Jesus takes on all that we bring to him. Life in Christ should not give us anxiety or fear of failure, but instead free us up to live independently of this world and dependently upon the one who knows, rescues, and redeems us. He is the only one who will bring us true rest, because he is the only one who can quiet our anxiety, fulfill our longing, and give us eternal significance. We are all seeking after something; we are all finding our identity and purpose in some promise. When we surrender to Jesus, he takes on our burdens and frees us to live a life of true peace and purpose – the only life of true and eternal rest.

This spring break, take your extra time and reject the temptation to simply fill it with other frantic activities. Instead, fill it with a whole new way of life in Jesus.

Let this week be not just a blip or break but the beginning of rest in him.

God, Why?

Have you ever wanted God to answer for the bad things that have happened to you or others?

Have you asked things like, “Why did you choose this road for me? What is your plan? Do you even care? How can heartbreak like this come to someone who follows you?”

I know I sure have, and I know the confusion it caused. Praising God while carrying pain and doubt felt like trying to map constellations in a thunderstorm.

But thanks to his accommodating grace, God gives us an in-depth look at these types of situations in the book of Job.

In what scholars believe to be one of the oldest stories in the Bible, we see that Job asked many of the questions you and I have wondered — and, honestly, who could blame him?

Through an unusual arrangement, God allowed Satan to take everything from Job, except his life. In a matter of minutes, this wealthy man learned he had just lost his property, his abundant livestock, servants, and even his children. He was understandably in very grave duress, and the book maps out his journey of processing this trauma.

It’s not all grim and hopeless, though.

When I read the story recently, three things stuck out to me that I believe point to the relational heart of God:

1. God allows us to ask questions

While Job refused to curse God, he did dispute God’s kindness. “Does it seem good to you to oppress, to despise the work of your hands?” (Job 10:3).

Clearly, Job couldn’t understand how the God to whom he’d remained devoted would let him lose everything. While Job’s friends urgently warned him to put a tight lid on what they believed was a sinful doubt struggle, Job continued to take his complaints to God, even when he thought his impertinence would provoke God’s wrath. “Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face,” (Job 13:15).

He then begs God, “Keep listening to my words, and let my declaration be in your ears,” (Job 13:17). God wasn’t threatened by human emotion on display. Job was not punished for the rawness with which he approached God.

How many times have I stood with my fellow worshipers, lifted my voice in praise, and suddenly choked on doubt when trying to sing of God’s goodness?

God’s response to Job gives me hope that I can approach him vulnerably, and let my heart be open, knowing I will not be judged for laying my confusion at his feet.

It reminds me of a stanza in the old hymn, “Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul”:

Hast Thou not bid me seek Thy face,

And shall I seek in vain?

And can the ear of sovereign grace,

Be deaf when I complain?

No still the ear of sovereign grace

Attends the mourner’s prayer

Oh may I ever find access,

To breathe my sorrows there.

2. God is patient with grief

The whole book of Job is 42 chapters long — the majority of these alternating between Job’s expressions of pain and his “friends” trying (and failing) to adequately answer for the calamities that have befallen him.

Over and over, they told him that he must have sinned, otherwise God wouldn’t have sent this judgment. They berated his natural grief and rebuked the way he implored God.

But, instead of getting involved in the dialogue, God seemed to remain silent for a while. It’s not until chapter 38 that we see God speak, and it wasn’t to dish out judgment on Job for anguishing.

In fact, God never once scolded Job for his feelings of sadness.

A few years ago, my husband and I went through a heartbreaking season of infertility and miscarriage. We sensed that many people dismissed our sadness after the season dragged on. One person even told us that maybe we should stop praying for a child, if God clearly didn’t want to give us one! What a hard walk it was to continually ask that of the Lord, despite of years of disappointing reality.

But through that journey, God was always available. His voice was one of comfort and love, not shame or mere tolerance to our insistent praying.

3. God wants us to trust him

Instead of providing rationale for the purpose for Job’s suffering, God turns the charges on end. In a series of mic-drop inquiries, God makes it clear that Job isn’t qualified to demand answers. “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it,” (Job 40:2).

Using pretty robust hyperbole, God let Job feel a bit of his overwhelming greatness. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding… you know for you were born then, and the number of your days is great!” (Job 38:4, 21). By highlighting his might against human scantness, he was inviting Job to trust and submit to his sovereignty.

The message is this: if you cannot control time, space, or all the details of life on earth, then you may find security in the LORD — Yahweh — who does.

The extensiveness with which God shows his capability moves Job to repentance and humility, and this is where their relationship lands at the conclusion of the story.

I’ll be completely honest, I’ve wanted to raise my fist at the Lord before. At times, my prayers have not been PG. But, in a mix of anger and submission, I’ve been left time and again with the ultimate bottom line: “Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth,” (Psalm 73:25).

God doesn’t always address my situation, but he always shows himself powerful.

After all, there is none greater than the one who sees all and knows all. He is worthy to be trusted with my heart, so I can submit to his sovereignty. Even if my heart is feeble, he is worthy to be praised for his majesty.

Thankfully, Job’s prostration was not permanent. God granted him even more of the wealth, family, and renown than he had known before. What is probably more valuable than all of that fortune, however, was that Job came out of his disaster with a deeper understanding of who God is and how much he can be trusted — even when his ways don’t make human sense.

We can benefit from the telling of Job’s story. When our pain causes us to question God’s intentions, let us hold fast to his heart. He is a safe place for earnest doubts and struggles, he is patient with our expressions and emotions, and he is always inviting us to trust him.

Routines for a Heart of Revival

God established rhythms of worship and remembrance for the Hebrews when they left Egypt and first became the nation of Israel. In addition to Sabbath days of rest, there were holy days of remembrance, feasts, times for confession, and days of thanksgiving. Through this intentionality, God’s people were taught to practice cycles of renewal.

Why were these days and times so important to the identity of God’s chosen people?

Jesus said the entire law could be summed up by the purpose of loving God or others. If everything God commanded was meant to help us love him or our neighbors better, then somehow the concept of regimen and rhythm was meant to help us grow closer to God and serve others.

Perhaps establishing or reestablishing a spiritual routine will prepare our hearts for the revival we desire.

Routines Positions Us

Psychologists agree regular routines decrease stress, promote better sleep, and are healthier for children.

During the pandemic, when millions lost their weekly patterns of work and play and home, mental distress increased. Routines decrease the mental load of decision-making and form a culture in our lives and homes.

God knew ordering our time was essential to maximizing our relationship with him. When God established routines for his people, they regularly included prayer, fasting, worship, giving, and remembrance. These activities often compete with work, school, activities, and the stresses associated with a full schedule.

But in our day of fast-paced and maxed-out schedules, the routines leading to revival slow us down, regularly, so we can hear from God and acknowledge him.

Routines Remind Us
Alarms remind us to wake up. We follow patterns when driving to routine locations. Important traditions put us in the mindset for holidays.

Routines help us do important things.

Proverbs 8:17 declares, “Those who seek me diligently find me.”

One of the benefits of a spiritual routine is that it establishes a consistent rhythm exposing us to truth: God exists and is the creator of all things; God loves you and desires you to know him.

Ignoring our spiritual wellbeing, like ignoring our physical wellbeing, can have dire consequences over time.

Daily prayer, regularly reading God’s word, weekly worship, small group encouragement, an annual fast — these are reminders of who God is and the kingdom in which we live.

What other ways might put you in the path of the work God is doing in and around you?

Routines Form Us
Our habits form us.

Twice Jesus was described doing an activity “as was his custom.” Both times the “custom” or routine had to do with worship and prayer (Luke 4:16, 22:39).

Jesus taught regularly in the temples and retreated often to pray.

There are routines which will improve your physical fitness, practices which will help you lose weight, and disciplines which will, over time, strengthen your financial position.

There are specific routines, too, which help position us to know God better. Hearing and reading God’s word (worship) and prayer are examples modeled by Jesus.

“Routine” may sound ordinary, but without organization, our time is reactionary to the events around us and not intentional toward the goals to which we aspire. Small deeds accomplish grand intentions.

A lack of routine results in a life lived according to circumstance. But routines, on the other hand, form us according to a plan.

Getting Started
1. Start Small — Start by modifying your current routine rather than trying to completely upend your schedule. Do you have silent time at lunch each day? Could you adjust how you spend your commute? Would an extra-long hot bath give you time to reflect? How hard would it be to carve ten minutes off of your gaming time? Consider a modification which overcomes the typical objections to personal renewal.
2. Remove Roadblocks — For some, accountability partners are essential pieces of daily or weekly routines. However, other friends may be a distraction. If the routine requires quiet peace, like prayer, remove the possibility of any distractions during the time you set aside. If the routine involves the joy of being with others, like weekly worship, then let everyone in your circle of friends and acquaintances know that you are busy during that time.
3. Get It on Your Calendar — Set a recurring 15-minute “meeting” on your calendar at the same time each day. Use the notification to pause and pray, read a short Scripture, text someone with an encouragement, or give to those in need. Even if you are super busy, you will be glad the reminder is there, and it will give you an opportunity to acknowledge and respond as soon as possible. To be successful, routines do have to be flexible. But first, they have to be a priority.

God’s design for his covenant people included annual, weekly, and daily routines meant to structure our days and intentionally focus us on worshiping him and loving others. Routines help us pause, remind us of the God we serve, and form us over time. If you are not typically a “routine” person, start small, remove obvious roadblocks, and commit to calendaring prayer, worship, and encouragement.

Nourishing these practices will prepare your heart for revival.

Art, Antibiotics, and Astronauts: God’s Gifts of Common Grace

What do Van Gogh paintings, antibiotics, the International Space Station, and microwave ovens have in common?

In a very real way, they are all gifts from God. How so? Let’s listen to Philippians 4:8, a well-known passage from Paul the apostle:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

For years, Paul’s words to the church at Philippi have fascinated me because I used to think the apostle was calling believers to discern and embrace the good from Christianity.

But upon further reflection, that makes no sense.

The faith is entirely good and needs no discernment. Therefore, it’s more likely Paul is calling believers to discern and utilize the good, wise, and true things they find in society.

Indeed, biblical scholars note the list Paul gives is representative of the virtues celebrated in the Greek Hellenistic society of that day. For example, the famous philosopher Cicero, who was a contemporary of the apostle, said, “But what is there in man better than a mind that is wise and good?… all that is lovely, honorable, commendable.” Wow! It’s almost a mirror of Paul’s list.

Furthermore, commentator Dr. Gordon Fee concludes,

“Paul is telling [the Philippian church] not so much to ‘think high thoughts’ [but] to ‘take into account’ the good they have long known from their own past, as long as it is conformable to Christ … to encourage the Philippians that even though they are ‘citizens of heaven,’ … they do not altogether abandon the world in which they used to, and still do, live.”¹

This call for Christians to discern and utilize the goodness and wisdom of the world may surprise some, but it’s not astonishing for those who know about the biblical doctrine of common grace.

Common grace, also referred to as general grace, concerns God’s goodness which extends to all his creation — things that are ‘common’ or ‘general’ to all humanity like order, art, science, creativity, etc. Scripture refers to God’s common grace in places like Matt. 5:45, “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust”; Psalm 145:9, “The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made”; and Luke 6:35, “… for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.”

Consider the following human activities: 

  • Going to MD Anderson for cancer surgery or picking up cold medicine at your local CVS;
  • Touring The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston or laying on your couch listening to Spotify;
  • Meeting with a local financial coach for retirement planning or reading a well-respected psychologist’s book on personality patterns.

These are all examples of engaging the truth, goodness, and wisdom of God’s common grace in a society. We do this every day without knowing it. Yet, Philippians 4:8 reminds us to do so discerningly (“whatever is…”), because not everything in culture is good, true, or beautiful.

Culture and society are broken by sin, and thus are mixed bags of good and bad, beauty and ugliness, truth and lies. That’s why the apostle says followers of Jesus should neither outright reject all its products nor swallow it whole but parse out and engage the commendable, excellent, and true within it.

For example, maturing Christians will be those who increasingly aren’t fearful of the common graces of science, technology, or medicine. They recognize how unbelieving culture can, with discernment, produce great things of worth that are good, true, and beautiful gifts.

Gifts like Van Gogh paintings, antibiotics, the International Space Station, and microwave ovens.

 


Footnotes

  1.  Gordon Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, NICNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995), 415.

Tag Archive for: Bible

04: Bible Reading Recap – Luke 17-22

On this episode of the Bible Reading Recap, Ted Ryskoski, Lance Lawson, and Rachel Chester answer great questions sent in from Clear Creekers and discuss the final teachings and events in Jesus’ life.

What was Jesus really like?

Who was he teaching?

What does it mean to really follow him?

03: Bible Reading Recap – Luke 12-16

What does the kingdom of God really look like?

What does that mean about how we live now?

In this week’s recap, Ted Ryskoski, Lance Lawson, and Rachel Chester discuss Luke, chapters 12-16 and God’s real, personal, great love for us.

02: Bible Reading Recap – Luke 6-11

In this episode of our Bible Reading Recap, Ted Ryskoski, Lance Lawson, and Rachel Chester discuss how our families can study God’s word together with B.R.E.A.D., the beautiful upside-down kingdom of God, and how God spoke to each of them in Luke, Chapters 6 – 11.

01: Bible Reading Recap – Luke 1-5

In our first episode of Bible Reading Recap, Ted Ryskoski, Lance Lawson, and Rachel Chester discuss why we decided to begin the year with Luke, their experience using B.R.E.A.D., and what they each learned in Luke, Chapters 1 – 5.

208: BREAD — Experiencing Jesus in Scripture

One of the primary ways God speaks to us is through Scripture, and yet, so often we leave our copy unopened on the coffee table.

In this episode, Rachel Chester talks with Ryan Lehtinen, Denise Ward, and Tanner Smith about Clear Creek’s plan to read through the New Testament in 2024 and how B.R.E.A.D. can help us to that together.

207: Christmas Q&A with Yancey Arrington

Was Jesus really born on December 25th?

Where does Santa even come from?

And, what is Yancey’s favorite Christmas meal?

On this episode, Rachel Chester asks Yancey some of the most common questions about Christmas.

206: Can Anyone Really Understand the Bible? (A Closer Look at 2 Peter 3:14-18)

So many Christians have a deep desire to study the Bible, but find themselves confused or frustrated along the way.

In this episode, Tanner Smith, Aaron Chester, and Tiffany Ravedutti get practical about if its really possible to understand the Bible, and if so, how to do it.

205: Where is Jesus Now? And, When is He Coming Back? (A Closer Look at 2 Peter 3: 1-13)

Jesus has risen from the grave, he’s alive!

But….where is he and what is he doing now?

When will he be back?

In this episode, Rachel Chester discusses these questions and more with Jenna Kraft and Aaron Chester.

204: Why is God So Angry? (A Closer Look at 2 Peter 2:1-22)

Is God an always affirming easy-going Santa in the sky?

Or is he an always angry vindictive monster in the sky?

On this episode, Tanner Smith talks with Aaron and Rachel Chester about a biblical understanding of the character of God and our desperate need for justice.

203: Are There Any Modern Day Prophets? (A Closer Look at 2 Peter 1:16-21)

On this episode, Tiffany Ravedutti talks with Yancey Arrington and Jenna Kraft about what prophecy looks like in the Bible, if there are any modern day prophets, and how we can think biblically about prophecy today.

Tag Archive for: Bible

What does Philippians 4:13 really mean?

What does 1 Corinthians 10:13 really mean?

What does Jeremiah 29:11 really mean?

What does Exodus 21:24 really mean?

What does Proverbs 22:6 really mean?

What does John 14:13 really mean?

MY KID JUST GOT BACK FROM CAMP, NOW WHAT?

Camp is over and now your student may be asking questions like “How do I continue to grow in my faith?” or “How do I live out my faith in the world around me?”

Check out this video for four tips to help you journey with your student after camp.

Do I Need to Get Baptized Again?

This is a commonly asked question, but to answer it we first have to define what baptism is.

Check out this video to hear the loaded answer.

Do I Have to be Baptized?

Do I have to be baptized?

The answer is no and yes, but if that’s frustrating to you, check out this video to learn the loaded answer.

 

How Can I Experience Blessing?

How can I experience blessing?