Bible Study · Lent

BIBLE STUDY: 8 Ways to Beat Temptation

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We all face temptations of many kinds. God wants us to beat them. We don’t have to sin, as powerful as temptations feel. Here are 8 ways to gain the victory.

1.  Pray before you are tempted

Jesus instructed his disciples to ask God, “Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil.” And as he told us to pray, “Give us THIS DAY” our daily bread,” it’s good to ask God to deliver us from temptation and evil THIS DAY.

2. Flee. A good run is better than a bad fall.

Stay as far away sin as you can. Don’t think you won’t fall. If you hired someone to transport your most valuable possessions, you wouldn’t tell them to see how close to the edge of a cliff they could drive. In Proverbs 7 a “young man lacking sense” wanders near the house of an woman at twilight, and just “happens” to run into her. She’s dressed sensually. She says her husband’s gone and describes her perfumed bed. Eventually he follows her like an ox going to slaughter. Eve got into trouble by engaging with Satan and looking at how delicious the fruit looked. Flee temptation. Stay out of the car in the park in the dark.

3. Quote Scripture

That’s how Jesus overcame the tempter. When you feel like grumbling remind yourself to “rejoice always.” When tempted to give a harsh reply think, “A gentle answer turns away wrath.” When rankling against correction remind yourself, “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Of course, to quote Scripture when tempted means we must know it first, which means we must regularly take it in.

4. Pray in the midst of temptation.

Draw near to the throne of grace for help in time of need. Your sympathetic high priest, who was tempted as you are yet without sin, will help you (Heb 4).

5. Get a brother or sister to pray with you.

Ecclesiastes 4:12 says “though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

6. Ask someone to hold you accountable.

A friend once said to me, “Mark, when I get back from my business trip this week, can you ask me if I watched TV in the hotel room? When I’m alone on trips I can be tempted to watch bad stuff. Knowing you are going to ask me will help me fight temptation.”

7. Remember God’s faithfulness.

“God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 CO 10:13). God will never let us be tempted beyond the strength he gives, and if we ask he’ll “provide the way of escape” to get us through it.

8. Remind yourself that sin has consequences.

Remember Galatians 6:7: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.”

When David committed adultery with Bathsheba and arranged for her husband’s death, God forgave him, but told him the sword would never depart from his house, that his own family members would do him great harm and the child he conceived with Bathsheba would die. (2 Sa 12:10–14).

So here’s a quick summary:

Pray before you are tempted
Flee
Quote Scripture
Pray in the midst of temptation
Get a brother or sister to pray with you
Ask someone to hold you accountable
Remember God’s faithfulness
Remind yourself that sin has consequences

Keep fighting the good fight!

Be blessed,

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 (Source: Bible Study Tools )

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Bible Study · Lent

BIBLE STUDY: Praise God No Matter What

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“That night the secret was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven” (Daniel 2:19 NLT).

Most of us don’t really know what to do when we’re confronted by an impossible situation. Did you know that a teenage boy from thousands of years ago can help?

Over the past few devotionals, we’ve learned some incredible principles from how Daniel dealt with an impossible request by the most powerful king of his time period. So far we’ve seen Daniel model these five actions.

  1. Don’t panic, and then ask why.
  2. Ask for more time.
  3. Gather prayer partners.
  4. Pray to God for help.
  5. Ask God for supernatural help.

The next thing we learn from Daniel in Daniel 2 is to worship God.

It is important to understand that worship is much more than just music. There are thousands of ways to worship. Anytime I turn my attention to God, that’s worship. When I express my love to God, that’s worship. You don’t have to be in church to worship.

When you worship God, you move your focus off of your problem and onto God.

The Bible says of Daniel, “That night the secret was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven” (Daniel 2:19 NLT).

The passage shows you how to worship God in the midst of a crisis. Specifically, Daniel did three things.

  • He praised God for who he is. (v. 20)
  • He honored God for what he does. (v. 21-22)
  • He thanked God for his help. (v. 23)

That’s worship. Do that and you’ll move the focus off of you and your problems, and put it on God.

And he’s always where our focus should be.

10-15-17-Unshakeable-Praise-God-No-Matter-What

Talk It Over

  • Why is worship sometimes tough when you’re facing a particularly difficult situation?
  • How have you seen worship impact your stress level during struggles in your life?
  • Which of the three parts of worship mentioned in the devotional do you struggle with the most during a crisis: praising God for who he is, honoring God what he does, or thanking God for his help? Why?

Praise the Lord!

Be blessed,

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 (Source: Rick Warren)

Bible Study · Lent

BIBLE STUDY: Prayer with an Attitude

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The Bible tells us we should “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Unfortunately, for many of us, a few minutes spent in prayer feels like forever. Why do we struggle so much with prayer when we know how vital it is to our relationship with God?

 We certainly don’t lack information about how to pray. Christian bookstores are packed with books that explain in great detail the various methods of prayer. But perhaps we need to also direct our attention to our motivation, our attitude, in prayer. The following article, entitled “Focus on the Father” by Rusty Rustenbach (excerpted from Discipleship Journal, Issue 6), explores how our attitude can make prayer an adventure rather than a burden.  As you read through the article, underline any portions that stand out to you. Then respond to the questions and exercises.

 Privilege of Prayer

Of all the ingredients in discipleship, the area many of us struggle with most is prayer. According to one recently published estimate, a typical Christian layman spends about three and a half minutes each day in prayer. Full-time Christian workers average about seven minutes per day. This pitiful situation must amaze even the Lord Himself, for Isaiah 59:16 records that when no one was found to intercede for His people, God was appalled. Why do we fail to take full advantage of the privilege of prayer? Is it a lack of discipline? Are we too busy? Are we unmotivated?

 1. What things make it difficult for you to spend quality time in prayer?

 _Too busy or tired

_ Can’t concentrate

_ Don’t know what to pray about

_ Don’t feel like it

_ Feel guilty

_ Not convinced it makes a difference

_ Other:

Perhaps the basic cause of our weakness in prayer relates to how we view God. We may have no genuine awe for the One “who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth” (Isaiah 51:13). God seems more like a superhero from a child’s cartoon, whittled down to human size.

 If we aren’t captivated by God, prayer is a tedious task. It becomes a discipline that only those with wills of steel can master. I once regarded prayer as “gutting it out” before God. It meant trying to bring reams and reams of petitions before the Lord. The more requests I could bring, the more spiritual I was.

2. What similarities do you see between the author’s approach (bringing “reams and reams of petitions before the Lord”) and Jesus’ admonition in Matthew 6:7?

3. How would you compare the focus of prayer in Matthew 6:7 with the focus in Matthew 6:9-13? Which of these is most like your approach to prayer?

Communion or Wrestling Match?

I also misinterpreted statements from godly men about the importance of prayer. Martin Luther’s statement that “I have so much business I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer” implied to me that prayer was a guaranteed formula for success.

Rather than being a dynamic communion with the sovereign Lord of the universe, to me prayer was an exercise meant to wrestle effects into the lives of people and to manipulate God’s hand. Prayer became lifeless and tedious. It was like castor oil: terrible tasting, but good for me.

4. Which of the following statements describe your general attitude toward prayer? Check all that apply.

_ Prayer is like a marriage—it is hard work but can be very rewarding.

_ I want to like prayer, but I really don’t.

_ Prayer is like writing “thank you” notes—it is an obligation I need to fulfill.

_ I look forward to prayer.

_ I enjoy the time I spend in prayer, but I would like to go deeper.

_ Other:

 Yet God reminded me of the truth I was neglecting: He wanted to commune with me. What does this mean? Communion is defined as the intimate sharing of thoughts and emotions, and an intimate fellowship, rapport, or communication. This is the kind of relationship God wants with me.

5. How is God’s desire for communion (intimate relationship) with us expressed in the following verses?

Isaiah 65:1-2

Jeremiah 33:3

Matthew 23:37

Romans 5:8-10

1 John 4:9-10

Isaiah 30:18

6. Summarize in your own words the most significant or meaningful insight you gained from the verses above.

What Is Your Picture of God?

I saw I had become hardened to the excitement of walking in continual awareness of God’s presence. I realized afresh that He desires open communion with me. He has little interest in the petition gymnastics I was trying to perfect in prayer. He wants me to be preoccupied with Himself. Seeing God this way enables us to stand in awe of Him. It stimulates our heart to vital communion and conversation with Him. Seeing God as He is requires faith on our part, but whoever is enamored and thrilled with God is then rightly motivated to pray. Discipline will still be necessary, but prayer won’t be drudgery. I believe that is hat John 4:24 is hinting at: “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” (emphasis added).

7. Read John 4:4-30, the context of the story of the woman at the well.

  1. How did the Samaritan woman’s inaccurate picture of God affect her ability to worship Him “in spirit and in truth”?
  2. What aspects of God’s character are hardest for you to grasp (for example, all-powerful, ever-present, all-knowing, sovereign, holy, righteous, loving, merciful, faithful, and so on)? How might this affect your prayer life?

Praise the Lord!

Be blessed,

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 (Source: Bible Study Tools )

Bible Study · Rick Warren

BIBLE STUDY: Start Unlocking Scripture with This Study Method

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Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives” (Colossians 3:16a NLT).

Studying the Bible in a way that changes your life doesn’t take a bunch of expensive tools. You don’t need commentaries or Bible study software. In fact, if you were stuck on a desert island with just a Bible, you could simply use the method you’ll learn about in this devotional.

God says that if we meditate on his Word, we’ll be successful. Here’s a method you can use to meditate on God’s Word in a way that’ll please God.

The “pronounce it” method of biblical meditation is an easy method for meditating on Scripture — and getting every ounce of spiritual nutrition you can out of it.

You start with a verse and read it over and over again. Each time you read the verse, you emphasize a different word. It’s the simplest way to start unlocking Scripture. You can do it even if it’s the first time you’ve ever opened up a Bible. It’s simple but amazingly powerful. Each time you emphasize a different word, you get a different perspective.

Take the first part of Colossians 3:16 for example. The verse says, “Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives” (NLT).

The first time you read the verse, emphasize the word “let.”Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you.” What does it mean to let? It means “give permission.” You open the door; it’s your choice. You have to choose to let the Word of God dwell in you richly.

Then read the verse again and emphasize “message.” “Let the message of Christ dwell in you richly.” That means you need to get God’s Word in your mind.

Then emphasize the word “Christ.” You’re not dwelling on what some philosopher, guru, or talk show host has to say. You’re dwelling on the words of Christ! You may not want to let the word of the world dwell in you, but that’s what happens when you spend your time watching TV instead of reading God’s Word.

Then you focus on the word “richness.” What does that mean? It means the opposite of poorly. In other words, richness means lusciously, extravagantly, and profoundly. God doesn’t want his Word to be a poor substitute in your life. He wants it to create beauty in your life.

Then emphasize the word “fill.” Don’t rush through God’s Word so you can get on with the rest of your day. To let the Word of Christ fill you is to let it live within you.

Finally, focus on the words “your lives.” The Bible isn’t just God’s Word for your pastor, a seminary professor, or your small group leader; it’s God’s Word for you! The Bible is instruction for every single believer.

See all the great jewels you discovered in this passage just by focusing on one word at a time? You didn’t need a seminary degree or a great library of reference tools. You can do this!

Praise the Lord!

Be blessed,

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 (Source:Rick Warren)

Bible Study

BIBLE STUDY: The Book of Hosea

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Image result for hosea

When Moses asked Pharaoh to “Let my people go,” Pharaoh responded, “Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice to let Israel go?” If Pharaoh could have read the book of Hosea, he would have known that the Lord was a sovereign God (Chapters 1-3); a holy God (Chapters 4-7); a just God (Chapters 8-10); and a loving God (Chapters 11-14).

Pharaoh, of course, never had the benefit of the depth of knowledge that Israel was given through the mouth and pen of the prophet Hosea, and yet the people were as stony-hearted toward God as Pharaoh was those many centuries before.

Hosea is one of the most remarkable books of the Old Testament. No other messenger gives so complete an outline of the ways of God with His earthly people as does Hosea:

1)God suffers when His people are unfaithful to Him;
2)God cannot condone sin;
3)God will never cease to love His own; and, consequently
4)He seeks to win back those who have forsaken Him.

Hosea was a contemporary of Isaiah (for most of his ministry) and Amos (in his earlier years); he was the “Jeremiah” of the Northern Kingdom. His main target was the Northern Kingdom, yet his message encompassed the entire people of God.

“Not My People”?

One of the pivotal insights occurs in the setting aside of his adulterous wife, and in the remarkable naming of his children: Jezreel, Lo-ruhamah (“not loved”), and Lo-ammi (“not my people”). The blood of Jezreel figures prominently throughout Israel’s history and climaxes at Armageddon. In the New Testament the Holy Spirit confirms the application of these prophetic names to the State of Israel since they have been cast out of their land.1 Their restoration is one of the key pronouncements in Hosea. Dr. Charles Feinberg, an outstanding Jewish believer and scholar, says of Chapter 3:

“It rightfully takes its place among the greatest prophetic pronouncements in the whole revelation of God.”

Hosea is frequently quoted in the New Testament and each time reveals some surprises.2

The Fatherhood of God

Among the provocative hermeneutical insights is the strange application of Hosea 11:1 by Matthew (2:15), which links the Fatherhood of God toward Israel and His calling His Son out of Egypt.3 He didn’t just adopt them; He cared for them. How tenderly and compassionately the Lord taught and cared for His son, Israel. These words seem to parallel Moses’ description of Israel’s being carried through the wilderness as a father carries his son.4

In response to the love of God as seen in their redemption from Egypt, Israel, like a prodigal son, turned a deaf ear to God’s prophets, choosing Baal and other idols instead.5

“The Best of Times and the Worst of Times”

Their material prosperity was unequaled since Solomon (2 Kgs 14:25-28; 2 Chr 26:2, 6-15). Jeroboam had recovered all the territory lost to Israel, even the possession of Damascus. Yet material prosperity is not a guarantee of safety to a people whose stability rests not on the moral basis of the fear of God and obedience to His laws. Hosea’s warning was that God would use their enemies as His means of judgment. (We have explored the apparent parallels with America in our briefing pack, “Hosea, Can You See?”)

An Incredible Book

The Lord’s self-disclosure in Chapter 11 is so intense that many rank it as one of the greatest in the Bible. Perhaps among the most surprising of the prophetic insights in Hosea is the discovery of the prerequisites for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.6

It is truly an amazing book and, like all of the books of the Bible, the Holy Spirit always rewards the diligent student. And Hosea is among the most rewarding.

Image result for hosea

* * *

This article was originally published in the
December 1999 Personal Update News Journal.

Chuck Missler

Praise the Lord!

Be blessed,

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Bible Study · Lent

BIBLE STUDY: What is the significance of using different postures in prayer?

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What is the significance of using different postures in prayer?

Understanding Postures of Prayer
let your posture express the attitudes of your heart

In the Biblical accounts of prayer, many postures are described. Abraham fell upon his face before God. (See Genesis 17:3, 17.) Moses prayed with his hands outstretched. (See Exodus 9:27–29.) King Solomon knelt in prayer. (See I Kings 8:54.) Jesus prayed looking up into heaven. (See Mark 6:41, John 11:41, and 17:1.)

Communication with God does not require a certain physical position, but postures do give expression to the attitudes of our hearts. Here we will look at eight postures of prayer, discuss their symbolism, and see how they relate to the beatitudes Jesus presented in the Sermon on the Mount:

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed arethey that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you (Matthew 5:3–12).

Lying Prostrate Before God

No position symbolizes humility better than being on our faces before God. This position of prayer demonstrates the beatitude of being poor in spirit. When Jesus described Himself, He said he was “meek and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:29.)

A wise way to begin each day is to get on our faces before God and acknowledge our unworthiness, inadequacy, and inability to accomplish His will. We should ask for His mercy, trusting that His strength and goodness will sustain us throughout the day. Lying prostrate before God expresses the following attitudes:

  • It is an acknowledgement of our total unworthiness.
    When God made a covenant with Abraham, Abraham recognized his unworthiness before God and “fell on his face” before the Lord. (See Genesis 17:1–22.)
  • It is recognition of the need for God’s mercy.
    When the leper came to Jesus for healing, he fell on his face and begged for mercy, saying, “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean” (Luke 5:12.)
  • It is a right response to a serious crisis.
    Often when the leaders of Israel faced impossible situations and knew that only God could deliver them, they fell on their faces before Him and sought His aid. (See Numbers 20:2–6 and Joshua 7:1–6.)

Kneeling Before God

When we repent of our sins, we appeal to the Lord for His mercy and forgiveness. Kneeling before the Lord is a symbol of the heart attitude we should have to make such a petition. It reflects the beatitude of mourning over sin and expresses the following attitudes:

  • It acknowledges the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
    Kneeling before God provides a visual image of submission to His authority. One day every knee will bow before God, and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God. (See Philippians 2:9–11.)
  • It is a sign of earnest appeal.
    King Solomon knelt when he asked God to bless the Temple and the people of God. (See I Kings 8:54.) Elijah knelt in earnest prayer when he asked the Lord to send rain to end Israel’s drought. (See I Kings 18:41–46.)
  • It is a sign of personal humility.
    The psalmist humbled himself before the Lord and encouraged others to do the same: “O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker” (Psalm 95:6).

Bowing Before the Lord

One who bows before God conveys an attitude of honor, gratitude, and faith, acknowledging that all things come from His hand. When Job suffered great losses, he bowed down on the ground: “Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshiped, and said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away: blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:20–21). This position of prayer reflects the beatitude of meekness and expresses the following attitudes:

  • It is a sign of reverence.
    In some cultures, one who wants to express reverence and respect for another will bow before him. The deeper the bow, the greater the respect he shows.
  • It is an expression of worship.
    When God answered the prayer of Abraham’s servant, the man “worshiped the Lord, bowing himself to the earth” (Genesis 24:52).

Standing Before the Lord

To stand before a ruler indicates that you have a legal right to be there. It is only through the righteousness of Jesus Christ that we are able to approach God as His children: “. . . We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (I John 2:1–2).

This position of prayer reflects the beatitude of hungering and thirsting for righteousness and expresses the following attitudes:

  • It represents our position in Christ’s righteousness.
    “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1–2).
  • It symbolizes our preparation for battle.
    “Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (Ephesians 6:13–18).
  • It shows readiness to serve.
    One expression that describes serving another person, especially a sovereign, is to “stand before” that person. Daniel and his companions were to serve the king after a period of preparation, “. . . that at the end thereof they might stand before the king” (Daniel 1:5). Since we have been “made free from sin,” we become “the servants of righteousness” (Romans 6:18).

Sitting Before the Lord

In Scripture, sitting is a position of authority. When the king or rulers of a city sat in their official places, they were in a position to rule and judge and to have their judgments carried out. This prayer position reflects the beatitude of giving and receiving mercy, and it expresses the following attitudes:

  • It reminds us that all believers are seated with Christ in heaven.
    When we recognize our sinful conditions before God, repent of our sins, and believe on Jesus Christ, we are adopted by God. We are seated with Christ at the right hand of the Father. (See Ephesians 1:15–23 and 2:4–7.)
  • It represents God’s call to forgive offenders.
    Jesus told His disciples, “If ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14–15). The Apostle Paul wrote, “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:31–32).

Looking Up to Heaven

Looking a person in the face indicates confidence and honesty. It is indicative of an open, trusting relationship. The Gospels record many instances when Jesus prayed, looking up into heaven. This position of prayer reflects the beatitude of being pure in heart and expresses the following attitudes:

  • It demonstrates where our help comes from.
    Looking up to God in prayer serves as a testimony that we are putting our hope in Him and waiting on Him for help. “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1–2, ESV).
  • It displays confident faith.
    At the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus prayed with faith and thanksgiving before He raised Lazarus from the dead: “. . . And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou has sent me” (John 11:41–42).
  • It indicates intimate fellowship with God.
    Jesus never sinned. He enjoyed perfect fellowship with His heavenly Father. When He prayed on the night before His crucifixion, “these words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: as thou has given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him” (John 17:1–2.)

Stretching Forth the Arm

The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy: “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. . . . I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (I Timothy 2:1–4, 8).

In the Scriptures, the outstretched arm was symbolic of seeking God’s mercy and blessing. This position of prayer reflects the beatitude of being a peacemaker and expresses the following attitudes:

  • It appeals to God’s sovereign power.
    Before Pharaoh released the people of Israel from slavery, God sent ten plagues to the nation of Egypt. God thus demonstrated His ownership over all creation. When Pharaoh pleaded with Moses to ask God to stop the hailstorm, “Moses said unto him, As soon as I am gone out of the city, I will spread abroad my hands unto the Lord; and the thunder shall cease, neither shall there be any more hail; that thou mayest know how that the earth is the Lord’s” (Exodus 9:29).
    When the Israelites fought against the Amalekites in the wilderness, Moses stood on a hill overlooking the battlefield with his arms outstretched, holding the rod of God: “It came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed” (Exodus 17:11).
  • It reflects God’s redeeming work: salvation.
    Recalling God’s provision for past needs renews our faith in present situations. Moses often called the people of Israel to remember the great works God.
    Before Israel entered the Promised Land to conquer it, Moses encouraged them not to fear the mighty inhabitants of the land: “Thou shalt not be afraid of them: but shalt well remember what the Lord thy God did unto Pharaoh, and unto all Egypt; the great temptations which thine eyes saw, and the signs, and the wonders, and the mighty hand, and the stretched out arm, whereby the Lord thy God brought thee out . . .” (Deuteronomy 7:18–19).
  • It demonstrates worship and petitions God’s blessing.
    When King Solomon dedicated the Temple to God, he sought God’s blessing on it. “Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven: and he said, Lord God of Israel, there is no God like thee, in heaven above, or on earth beneath, who keepest covenant and mercy with thy servants that walk before thee with all their heart . . . . O Lord my God, . . . hearken unto the cry and to the prayer, which thy servant prayeth before thee today: that thine eyes may be open toward this house night and day, even toward the place of which thou has said, My name shall be there . . .” (I Kings 8:22–23, 28–29).

Leaping for Joy

Rather than being discouraged and defeated by trials and persecution, we are to“rejoice, and be exceeding glad” (Matthew 5:12). This phrase in the Greek indicates the outward action of leaping and skipping, an expression of great inward joy. This position of prayer reflects the beatitude of rejoicing in the midst of persecution and expresses the following attitudes:

  • It displays absolute confidence in God’s faithfulness.
    At sporting events, loyal fans leap for joy when their team wins. The pain and strain of the game are worthwhile in light of victory. In the midst of persecution, we can leap for joy, because we know that God’s triumph over evil will be the final outcome. “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (II Corinthians 4:17–18).
  • It confirms that eternal things are our highest priority.
    Personal possessions, reputation, or health may be lost as a result of persecution. However, compared to the eternal rewards we gain through such suffering, these losses are less significant. Paul said, “I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).

Whatever posture you assume, prayer is an important part of your relationship with God. The Apostle Paul challenges us to be faithful in this discipline: “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”(Philippians 4:6–7).

Praise the Lord!

Be blessed,

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 (Source: Mark Altrogge )

Bible Study · How To

HOW TO: How to Meditate on God’s Word

HowTo

I love God’s Word and delight in its truth. Yet too often I find that after reading my Bible or hearing a sermon, the truth, so necessary to the well being of my soul, can too easily slip away. The truth that had for a moment captured my attention and my affections can quietly fade amid the clutter and noise of the day.

One of the best ways to remedy this is to practice the spiritual discipline of meditating on God’s Word. It is a discipline that takes time and intention, but one that brings great benefit to the soul. We need to carve out time to lay hold of the truth of God’s Word.

It is a bewildering paradox of our day that the Bible can be so accessible and yet so marginalized. On the one hand our technology has brought God’s Word close at hand. It’s on our phones and tablets and computers and iPods. We have almost immediate access to several versions of the Bible as well as a wealth of sermons and commentaries. But this same technology also threatens to distract us and drown out God’s Word. We have become a culture obsessed with noise and comfortable with clutter. So many sources are bringing input into our lives: TV, radio, online news feeds, Facebook, Twitter…. More than ever we need to make time to meditate, to dwell in God’s Word.

Meditation is pondering the Word in our hearts, preaching it to our own souls, and personally applying it to our own lives and circumstances. It is how we sanctify our thinking and bring it into submission to Christ—taking every thought captive. Paul tells us in Romans 12:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2).

[All Scripture references are ESV unless otherwise indicated.]

In Psalms 77 Asaph uses three verbs that capture the essence of meditation. When he finds himself perplexed and troubled and cries out to God, he determines to steady his soul by looking to God and laying hold of truth. He says in verses 11 and 12:

I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
Yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
I will ponder all your work,
And meditate on your mighty deeds (Psalms 77:11-12).

Asaph uses 3 verbs in the Hebrew to describe what it means to lay hold of truth: He says: I will remember, I will ponder, and I will meditate.

He begins with remembering (zakar)—calling to mind “the deeds of the Lord” and His “wonders of old.” He intentionally takes note of truth and draws it back into his thinking. Asaph reflects on what God has accomplished for His people in the past—events and epics like the Exodus and Passover, the giving of the law on Mount Sinai, the conquest of the Promised Land. He makes an effort not to forget all the Lord has done.

David also speaks of remembering God:

When I remember you upon my bed,
And meditate on you in the watches of the night (Psalms 63:6).

In Psalms 143, when David is overwhelmed with trouble, he uses the same three verbs as Asaph, beginning with “remember.”

I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all that you have done;
I ponder the work of your hands (Psalms 143:5).

We are a forgetful people and God would have us to remember. Meditation begins with remembering, bringing back into our minds the truths and praises and promises of God.

But, second, Asaph also uses a word that is translated in Psalms 77:12 “I ponder.”

I will ponder all your work,
And meditate on your mighty deeds (Psalms 77:12).

This is the verb hagah in the Hebrew. It is found in numerous places in the Old Testament and is translated as “ponder” or “meditate”:

 

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success (Joshua 1:8).

But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And on his law he meditates day and night (Psalms 1:2).

When I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night (Psalms 63:6).

In Psalms 2 it is used of the nations “plotting” against God.

Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain? (Psalms 2:1)

The word literally means “to let resound.” It is used in Psalms 92:3 of the sound or tones of a musical instrument as it resonates.

On an instrument of ten strings,
On the lute, And on the harp,
With harmonious [or resounding] sound (Psalms 92:3).

It is used also in Psalms 9:16.

The LORD is known by the judgment He executes;
The wicked is snared in the work of his own hands.
Meditation. Selah  (Psalms 9:16).

It is not entirely clear if the use of the word here is a musical instruction for the musicians to play an interlude—letting the instruments resound—or if it is an instruction to the congregation—let this truth resound within yourselves.

We find the term also at the end of Psalms 19:

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer (Psalms 19:14).

In other words: Let the inward tones of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord…

This is how we want the truth of Scripture to fill us and impact us—as we hear it and sing it and pray it—as Paul tells us in Colossians 3:16, let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly! Let it dwell in us in a way that resounds and reverberates in and through our lives.

We see another use of the word in Isaiah 31:4 that helps us understand its intent. Isaiah uses the word in reference to a lion:

For thus the LORD said to me,
“As a lion or a young lion growls over his prey” (Isaiah 31:4)

The word for growl or roar is this word for meditation. Have you ever heard a lion when he roars? He does not just use his voice. His entire being reverberates. This is meditation. Letting God’s Word resound from within the very center of our being.

Meditation involves remembering, and resounding, but finally Asaph speaks of meditating.

 

I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds (Psalms 77:12).

This word siyach means to muse and wonder and dwell on—to think deeply about something. Used literally it means to murmur, mumble or talk to yourself.

In a negative sense it can mean “to complain.” It is the idea that something has so taken hold of your thinking that you can’t stop thinking about it. So on the negative side—it troubles you and disturbs you and draws out complaint; but on the positive side—it captivates you and enraptures your thinking so that you “dwell on” it. This is the way we want God’s truth to lay hold of us—so that we can’t but dwell on it, so that it captures our thinking and finds it way into our choices and decisions.

The Puritans thought of meditation this way as they described it as “preaching to yourself.” We take the Word of God that we hear and read, and we mull it over in our minds and then bring it to bear upon our lives in personal exhortations.

It is a word that is found often in the Old Testament, especially in the psalms.

May my meditation be pleasing to him,
for I rejoice in the LORD (Psalms 104:34).

I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways (Psalms 119:15).

Oh how I love your law!
It is my meditation all the day (Psalms 119:97).

When we meditate we think about God’s Word. We dwell on it and then as opportunities arise, we preach it to ourselves. We inject it into our thoughts as we make decisions, as we admonish and instruct our souls to choose right things and walk down right paths.

This is the essence of meditation. It is evoking the truth, embracing it and embedding it in our lives. It is intentionally focusing on recalling God’s truth that it might resound in our hearts and become that grid through which we sift and measure our thoughts and actions.

Meditation is a crucial Christian discipline and a vital means of grace that we must treasure and practice. But it is a discipline that takes time and effort. Accessibility can never beat intentionality. Don’t assume that having God’s Word close at hand means you have it close at heart. Carve out time in your day to remember, time to ponder, time to preach to yourself. The world around us can too easily choke out what is needful and good for our souls. Don’t allow God’s truth to slip away from you. Be intentional and diligent and your meditation.

Be blessed,

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(Source: Bible Study Tools and Ken Puls)

Bible Study · How To

HOW TO: 7 Spiritual Habits that Reduce Stress

HowTo

Some people have called stress the “new normal.” A quick look at the stats seem to support this. A 2012 study at Carnegie Mellon University reports that stress levels were up between 10 to 30 percent over the past 30 years. Among women and young people, those stats were particularly disconcerting. Does the Bible offer any wisdom about dealing with stress in a 21st century world?

The Bible assures us, “God is a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need him.” (Psalm 46:1, MSG) God is there to help. In fact, here are seven actions that will help you handle ongoing stress —

1.  I look to God to meet all my needs. “The Lord is my shepherd so I have all I need.” (Psalm 23:1, NIV) Stop looking to other people to meet your needs. They’re going to let you down, and that’s a big stressor.  There’s no one who could possibly meet all your emotional needs. Only God can meet all of them. Let Him.

2.  I need to obey God’s instruction about rest. Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest.”  (Exodus 34:21, NCV) So much of the stress in your life comes from always being in a hurry and working too much.  That’s why you overwork.  You never can get caught up. Rest is so important that God himself does it. You need it too.

3. I need to recharge my soul with beauty.I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.” (Philippians 4:7-8, MSG) Beauty is an incredibly important part of stress management. Ugliness stresses you out.  Beauty inspires, encourages and motivates.  That’s why God made the world so beautiful. God made man to live in a garden not a skyscraper. When you’re stressed, you need to look at beautiful scenes and listen to beautiful sounds.

4. Go to God for guidance.If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” (James 1:5, NLT)  Not being able to make up your mind is a common source of stress. If you’re wavering back and forth about a decision right now, pray to God for wisdom. Read the Bible. Then wait, be quiet and just listen. At the right time — maybe not immediately — God will put the idea in your mind.

5. Trust in God in the dark valleys. “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4, NIV) We all go through dark valleys. You’ll go through many in your lifetime. When you’re in a valley, you have to trust God. We can either react to dark valleys in fear or in faith. Fear leads to stress.Faith leads you away from stress. Shadows are scary. But remember — wherever there are shadows, there’s light. Look at the light. Look at Jesus.

6. Let God be my defender. “How I love you, Lord! You are my defender. The Lord is my protector; he is my strong fortress. My God is my protection, and with him I am safe. He protects me like a shield; he defends me and keeps me safe.” (Psalm 18:1-2, GNT) Conflict is another major source of stress. Some people in your life just don’t like you. They will criticize you and attack you. Our natural response is to attack back. Instead, God tells us to trust Him and let Him defend us. That’s what Jesus did. That’s what we need to do.

7. Expect God to finish what He started in me. “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” (Philippians 1:6, NLT) Instead of letting fear of the future stress us, we must realize that God has our best interest at heart. He isn’t finished conforming us into the image of Jesus.  You have two choices for how you look at your future. You can ask, “What if?” and expect everything to go wrong, or you can expect God to keep his promise in Psalm 23:6 (NIV): “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Here are some other practical suggestions to keep in mind as you look to deal with your stress :

Serve someone. Nothing takes your mind off your own troubles like helping someone else. Opportunities for service are all around — from family members, to friends, to neighbors. It’s hard to stress out over your own problems when you’re helping alleviate someone else’s.

 Talk to God about your stress. Stress often comes because we worry about things we were never intended to worry about. Spend time talking to God. Tell Him about what stresses you. Then trust Him to take care of the situation in a way that takes into account both His glory and your best interest. Make your problem God’s problem.

Take a walk. Our bodies were made to move. One of the reasons we wrestle with so much stress in our lives is because we were designed to have more physical activity in our day. Feel stress? Take a walk. Ride a bike. Play a sport. Get outside and get moving.

Phone a friend. You were not designed to handle all your problems on your own. God wants us not only to take our problems to Him but to also share them with others. When stress begins to overtake you, talk to a friend. Share your hurts, fears and concerns. Ask for prayer both in the moment — and days to come. But here’s the kicker with this piece of wisdom, you must cultivate friendships on a regular basis if you hope to have friends available to help you deal with tough times. What regular practices are a part of your life that help you to cultivate friendships on a regular basis?

Enjoy a sunset. In times of stress few activities will put you and God in proper perspective better than enjoying the beauty of the Lord’s creation. Take to heart the stunning nature of what God has made, and you’ll be quick to remember your problems are small in the hands of an all-powerful Creator. Whether you find that beauty in a sunset, a painting, a sculpture or the seashore, find it and soak it in. Remind yourself of just how big your Heavenly Father is and just how able He is to care for your needs.

Write a letter.  Often the perceived source of our stress is no longer accessible to us. Maybe he or she has passed away or just isn’t a part of our lives anymore. Write that person a letter. Tell him or her what’s going on inside of you. Share your frustration.

Be blessed,

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(Source: Rick Warren, Google Image & Pinterest)

Bible Study · Prayer

BIBLE STUDY: An Invitation to Pray

bible study

Verses to Read for Christmas

If you received an invitation from a highly respected person of influence to come by his or her house for coffee or to go for a walk along the river trail for some conversation, you would probably respond with eagerness and anticipation. You wouldn’t lightly discard it. And if you received two or three invitations, you would be amazed.

But what if you received a thousand invitations? Or one every day for the rest of your life?

Come to Me. Come soon. Come anytime. Come as you are. The door’s open. I am waiting for you. Let’s make time to be together. Let’s open our hearts to one another.

The Bible, from beginning to end, offers hundreds upon hundreds of invitations for us to approach the God of the Universe — to be with Him, to draw close to Him, to receive guidance and comfort, to praise and worship Him, and to simply share what’s on our hearts with Him. In many voices and in countless ways — in whispers, shouts, commands, and gentle words — God makes it clear in His Word that He wants close, intimate conversation.

And He wants it with you.

God is near, and He’s ready to listen. Meet with Him and open your heart in prayer…

Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know. — Jeremiah 33:3

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. — James 1:5-6

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. — 2 Chronicles 7:14

“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
— Psalm 91:14-16 NIV

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. — Matthew 7:7Jeremiah 33:3

Peace be with you all,

 

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(Source: Faith Gateway)

 

Bible Study · John Piper · Prayer

BIBLE STUDY: Jesus Calling: God Invites You Into His Presence

bible study

Verses to Read for Christmas

 

jesus-calling-god-invites-you-into-his-presence-400x400

There are times when all of us fall victim to the activity trap. If we could just do more, then we will feel better, be more spiritual, be closer to God. Yet, Jesus points out that increased actions do not always lead to increased effectiveness.

Sarah Young leads us through the story of Mary and Martha. Using the Jesus Calling Bible Study Experiencing God’s Presence, we are called to come into God’s presence, to choose the right thing, to be still and know that He is God.

* * *

God’s Presence Invites You

Consider It

God is present with you. Right now. Do you believe that? Do you believe it in theory, or do you experience God’s Presence as you go through your day?

God yearns to spend quiet moments with you and help you grow more and more aware of His Presence as you seek Him. In this first ses­sion, we’ll begin to develop the habit of sitting in God’s Presence, hearing His voice as He speaks through the Scriptures.

1. Have you ever experienced God’s Presence? If so, what did you (or what do you) experience? If you never have, do you believe God wants you to experience His Presence when you read the Scriptures? Why or why not?

2. What draws you to this exploration of God’s presence?

Experience It

“Come to Me with a teachable spirit, eager to be changed. A close walk with Me is a life of continual newness. Do not cling to old ways as you step into a new year. Instead, seek My Face with an open mind, knowing that your journey with Me involves being transformed by the renewing of your mind. As you focus your thoughts on Me, be aware that I am fully attentive to you. I see you with a steady eye because my attention span is infinite. I know and understand you completely; My thoughts embrace you in everlasting Love. I also know the plans I have for you: plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Give yourself fully to this adventure of increasing attentiveness to My Presence.”

~ From Jesus Calling, January 1

3. How eager are you to be changed? What makes you long for transformation?

4. What, if anything, makes you uncomfortable with change?

5. How do you respond to the thought that God is fully attentive to His children? Do you want that attention? Is it scary to you at all? Why or why not?

“Relax in My healing Presence. As you spend time with Me, your thoughts tend to jump ahead to today’s plans and problems. Bring your mind back to Me for refreshment and renewal. Let the Light of My Presence soak into you as you focus your thoughts on Me. Thus I equip you to face whatever the day brings. This sacrifice of time pleases Me and strengthens you. Do not skimp on our time together. Resist the clamor of tasks waiting to be done. You have chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from you.

~ From Jesus Calling, January 2

6. What are some reasons this reflection offers for spending time in God’s Presence? What are some others that come to mind?

7. Listening to what God is saying to you in the Scriptures is a skill that you can develop with practice. But unlike many skills, it doesn’t come by trying harder but by trying softer — by relaxing and just allowing God to speak to you through the Holy Spirit. It also comes from having a right understanding of how the Lord sees you. How do you believe Jesus looks at you right now? Is He frustrated, frowning? Is He delighted with you?

8. In Romans 12:2, Paul writes, “ Do not conform to the patters of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” What do you think “the renewing of your mind” means?

Study It

In this section, you will reflect on a Bible passage in which Jesus visits the home of Mary and Martha. As you read, it is important to keep in mind that Jesus was close friends with these two sisters, as He was with their brother, Lazarus. Also notice that it was Martha who opened their home to Jesus. In the culture of that time, she would have been expected to provide hospitality to her guests, and she would have expected her sister to help her with the preparations.

9. Read the following passage aloud. Then spend several minutes in silence rereading the passage and picturing yourself in the scene. You can put yourself in the place of one of the characters—Mary, Martha, one of the male disciples accompanying Jesus—or you can be in the room watching.

As Jesus and His disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed- or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her.” — Luke 10:38-42

Ask God to show you what He wants you to see in the passage. Use your senses to imagine the scene. What do you see? Hear? Smell? Does Jesus look at you? Say anything to you? What do you feel when He speaks to each person? What are His tone of voice and facial expressions when He speaks? Write some notes about what you have recognized through this exercise.

10. When you sat in silence with this Scripture passage, how easy was it for you to relax in Jesus’ Presence? Where did your mind go?

11. If you’re meeting with a group, share your experience. Where did you put yourself in the story? What insights did you have? How was this like or unlike the way you usually approach the Bible?

12. What might Jesus be impressing on your heart through this Scripture passage?

13. If you’re meeting with a group, how can the members pray for you? If you’re using this study on your own, what would you like to say to God right now?

Excerpted with permission from Experiencing God’s Presence from the Jesus Calling Bible Study Series by Sarah Young, copyright Thomas Nelson.

Be blessed,

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(Source: Faith Gateway)