Tag Archives: Spiritual growth

The Bible: Written by men moved by the Spirit

Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.  For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Spirit.  2 Peter 1:20-21

writing Bible.jpgAs Peter is writing this book,  he is about to die (2 Peter 1:14)  so this is his final words from a life of following Jesus.  If you remember from the Gospels, Peter was this bold bumbler that was brought in as a disciple early on by Jesus.  After the shame of denying Jesus, Jesus restored Peter and gave him a prominent position as an evangelist in the early church.  Peter said in 2 Peter 1:16 that he did not follow cleverly devised myths, which is exactly what some people view the Bible as being.  He was an eye witness of Jesus and His majesty.  In 2 Peter 2:1 Peter warned of false prophets and false teachers that would  secretly bring in destructive heresies.  And in 2 Peter 3:15 he talked of how they twist Scripture, to their own destruction.  

What was written in the Bible is not cleverly devised myths, nor should it be twisted or interpreted according to one’s own personal whims.  That means we cannot take and twist the words of the Bible to conveniently suit whatever personal theology or position on God that we want.

The books of the Bible were written by 40 different men, over a span of almost 1500 years.  Many of the writers did not know each other, but yet what they wrote about does not contradict or negate each other.  Peter here is talking about words of prophecy, which are words about what Jesus was going to come and do from the Old Testament, what He did, as written in the New Testament, and what He is going to do when He returns, which is woven throughout the Bible.

God used these men’s personalities, but He told them what to write through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  Peter wrote in his writing style and from his own vantage point in history, but God told him what to write.  2 Timothy 3:16 informs us that “All Scripture is breathed out by God…”  The Bible is God’s breath, His words, His authoritative commands.  

With that in mind, here are some principles in approaching the Bible:

  • There is a true meaning to the words of the Bible, and there are false meanings.  We must submit our minds to the discipline of finding out what the true meaning is, rather than presuming that whatever pops into our minds or suits our lifestyle is the true meaning.  
  • The Bible is not our story, but it is God’s story.  God is telling us a complete story of who He is, who we are, what sin is and how, in His perfect plan, He prepared a people (Israel/the Jews) to produce a Savior.  That Savior is Jesus, who is perfect God come down in the form of a man to die on the cross for our sins.  One day He will return and establish His kingdom, and only those who put their trust in Him will be there.  Get to know that story by reading the Bible from beginning to end over and over.  Don’t just look for random verses that produce a good feeling for today.  We fit into God’s story and plan, not the other way around.  So often people want their own “personal” God that helps them to find good parking spots or to get them out of jams.
  • God’s words are authoritative for our lives.  That means we can’t pick or choose, taking only the promises and leaving out the commands.  His words are difficult and radical, and sometimes hard to understand.  Don’t water them down, or skip parts.  So often I hear people say, “My God isn’t like that.”  If the Bible says that God is a jealous God, for instance, then that’s what He is and we ought not to put anything ahead of Him in our heart’s passions.
  • The Bible demands our obedience and humility.  Since it is the very words of God, we must obey God’s directives.  In order to submit to the Lordship of Jesus and the authority of His words, we need a humble spirit that causes us to say “no” to our flesh and its desires and to say “yes” to God’s leading in our lives.
  • Don’t be like the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, who He rebuked in John 5:39-40: “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.”  Some people can be experts in the Bible, but yet they refuse to come to Jesus.  The Bible is about Jesus, and eternal life is found in Him.

There are many more principles to approaching the Bible, but this is a start.  May you grow in your love of the Bible and of the God who wrote it.  And may its very words get under your skin and change your life!

*image from Christianity.com

 

 


Fully supplied

divine power

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.  2 Peter 1:3-4

God’s divine power has given us everything we need for our lives and our path to godliness.  When we take a hold of this we are fully supplied, in other words.  The Christian life isn’t about just accepting a bunch of doctrinal creeds that we nod our heads in agreement to.  It is a power to be experienced and a divine power that saves us and changes us.  In 1 Corinthians 4:20 Paul wrote, “For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.”  And in Ephesians 1:19-20 he prayed that we would know this power in our lives, the same power that rose Jesus from the dead.

What we need to get through this life and to be godly comes from relying on God’s divine power, not our own striving.  According to Peter, this power comes through the knowledge of God.  That is, the more we get to know God, the more we are able to access this power.  Some people want more of God’s power so they can heal others or do big things for God.  But here it implicates that we get more of God’s power so we can be godly and have what we need for this life.

As we get more godly and get life figured out, it isn’t so that we become great somehow, but it is for God’s own glory and excellence.  We become like John the Baptist, who got people ready for Jesus, introduced them to Him, and then got out of the way.  He didn’t look for his own glory or legacy, only that which would point to Jesus.  The more we walk in this divine power, the more humble we become.  The less credit we get and the more Jesus gets.  And it’s okay.

Peter indicates that our knowledge of God’s divine power comes through grabbing onto His precious and very great promises.  We get to know God’s character through actually doing something because we believe in those promises.  Maybe that’s where we move from less talk and more action.  If we believe the promise of James 1 that if we lack wisdom we can ask for it, then we will ask for wisdom and actually expect an answer.  If we believe the promise of Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength,” then we will actually do the things that God has put on our hearts to do–without fear or hesitation.

When we grow in the knowledge of God and put that knowledge into action, we become more like God and less like our flesh driven self.  That’s what it means to partake in the divine nature.  In other words, we are changed to wanting more of God and less of ourselves.  This will lead us away from the corruption of the world and from our sinful desires.  

I want more of God’s power.  It is easier to talk about what God can do than to actually get out and do something He is prompting me to do.  Right now I am trusting God, along with a small group of people, to establish a halfway house for women once they get out of jail or prison.  It is so difficult to continue walking with Jesus if women go back into their old environment, or if they really don’t have a place to go.

We are believing that God is in this, and now it is time to take action.  We have looked at three different houses, but none of them seem to be ‘the one.’  We are also trusting God for a supervisor to live there, that could hold them accountable to a different way of life and to keep them safe from old ties.  This involves both a larger money and time commitment on our parts, and it is scary.  We are standing on promises such as the ones in Isaiah 58 that talk about spending ourselves on the poor and the oppressed,  the hungry and the afflicted, and then we will see our light rise in darkness and  healing break forth like the noonday light.

God, may we grow in accessing this power through getting to know You better.  May we take a promise a day to stand on and then to actually do something that requires faith in You and power from You.  May we grow to be more like You and less selfish and small minded, and to put away the sinful desires that wage war against our souls.  I can’t wait to see what You will do for the glory of Your great and excellent name!


What does it look like to be a Christian?

faith in action

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.  Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.  James 1:26-27

James gets straight to the point of what it means to be doers of the Word and not just hearers.  He uses the words ‘religious’ and ‘religion.’  Those are words we try to avoid as Christians.  We want to emphasize that we are resting in what God has “done” for us via Jesus and the cross, not what we “do” to be acceptable to God.  But James dives in, using the words and then telling us three things that  true ‘religion’ should include:

  1. Our tongues must be bridled.  In James 3:8 he writes, “no human being can tame the tongue.  It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”  But God can tame our tongue, through the power of His Holy Spirit.  A Christian, then, is someone who “walks by the Spirit and does not gratify the desires of the flesh,” (Galatians 5:16).  If we name the name of Jesus, our speech must be controlled by the Holy Spirit as a pattern.  If we aren’t marked by walking in the Spirit, then we are fooling ourselves about our true relationship with Jesus.  James calls our faith ‘worthless.’    In fact, so do the people around us.   Ouch.
  2. Our time is spent visiting orphans, widows and those afflicted.  Doing those things doesn’t ‘save’ us.  But going out of our way to help those who can’t help themselves is a byproduct of our salvation.   Because I belong to Jesus, my heart should break with what breaks His heart.  Orphans and widows must be at the top of the list for James to specifically mention them.  Many other places include the poor and the oppressed on God’s list for us to care about, including Isaiah 58 and Matthew 25:31-46.
  3. Our lives are marked by being unstained from the world.  The Amish use this as their proof text for living in a cloister without lights and machinery.  Are we supposed to become Amish?  In John 17:15-16 Jesus prayed, “I do not ask that You take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”  The question is how to really be ‘in’ the world but not ‘of’ the world.  In James 4:4 James called us adulterous people, saying “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?  Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”  

Lord, bridle my tongue and control me with Your Holy Spirit.  Put Your agenda on my heart so that I go out of my way to bleed for widows, orphans and the afflicted.  Show me where I am standing on the wrong side with my affections.  I do not want to be an adulterer, nor do I want my faith to be worthless, shallow and self centered.  Move me by Your love and Your power today.

 


What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger

makes you stronger.jpg

Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.  James 1:2-4

I didn’t have a very good week.  The  first day of my much awaited month off  started with an extreme gallbladder attack, though I didn’t know what it was for a day.  Day two involved having it removed.  Day 5, I hit a deer, smashing our car and causing the airbags to go off.   Our deductible from our health insurance will cost up to $8000 out of pocket.  

Different versions use the words perseverance, endurance and patience instead of steadfastness.   So, be joyful when troubles come your way, and be steady, persevering, patient, and not crumbling like a cheap card table.  Somehow our trials and troubles, given their full effect, will make us mature, perfect, complete and lacking nothing.

In 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, Paul said that they thought they were going to die and didn’t think they could endure.  But then he said it happened so that they would not rely on themselves, but on God who raises the dead.  Paul was saying there was a purpose in his suffering, which was so that he wouldn’t rely on himself, but on God.  I’ve been saving extra money away, dreaming of retiring from my job which has gotten more grueling for several reasons, including me getting older.  And in a snap that money goes toward something  else.  Perhaps God wants me to rely on Him and not my own resources.  

God also wants to produce in us  a wholehearted faith.   He values that so much that He may, in His love, take away all the other things that we might be tempted to rely on.  In my case, maybe it was money.  God’s aim is that we grow deeper and stronger in our confidence of Him, knowing that He’s all we need.

Finally, God wants our faith to be strong.  Being joyful when troubles come is a reaction that is counter our own emotional response.  Being steady and unwavering because God is our refuge in times of trouble can be a showcase for those around us to see His life at work in us.  Satan stood before God saying that Job’s faith was really because he was so rich and prosperous.  God responded by making a wager that if all of the stuff was gone, Job would still worship Him.  Job proved that his faith wasn’t built on all of the stuff, but that he worshiped God because God is worth it.   

Job’s faith was strong because God planted it in him, just like He did in Moses and the other Hall of Famers, and just like He does in us.  He will grow and build our faith, even protect it.  Jesus told Peter that in Luke 22:31-32: “Simon, Simon, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.”  

So take heart in your trials, making them a source of your joy.  God will use those troubles to cause us to rely on Him, and to show us that He’s all we need.  When we let God do His work in us through our struggles, He grows us.  God protects our faith even when we are sifted like wheat by Satan.  And in the end, it is “He who keeps us from falling and will present us blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy.”


Be Strengthened by Grace

strengthened by grace.jpg

Do not be led astray by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace…  Hebrews 13:9

My last devotion was about not missing the grace of God because a root of bitterness springs up in you or someone around you.  This root can pull you away with a stubborn and cold heart and produces poisonous and bitter fruit, as Deuteronomy 29:18 warns.

But today, let’s think about how to experience the grace of God and have it actually strengthen us.  There are three things I can think of today that can pull someone away from grace.  I’m sure there are dozens, but let’s start with three.

  1. Thinking that how I’m doing as a Christian is about my performance and measuring up.  Christians my parents’ age seem to have been caught up in what looks good, whether it had meaning or not.  You had to do the right thing, go to every event there was because it wouldn’t ‘look good’ if you didn’t. The Christian life was one of duty and striving to measure up.  It ends up with a ‘see me’ mentality, because if I’m going to wear myself doing these things, I better get the credit for it somewhere.
  2. Strange and diverse teachings of today.  There are so many rabbit trails out there that you can go down that might seem exciting or where it’s at, but don’t really bring you closer to Jesus and what He has for you.  Some might be into the fulness of the Holy Spirit, others into end times, yet others into finding our Jewish roots, and on it goes.
  3. Getting defeated by sin, causing the Christian life to be an impossible roller coaster of some success, but more failure.  The result here is guilt, shame, not even trying to measure up and then going back to your old life.

I won’t want to linger here, because I want to get to ways for your heart to be strengthened by grace.  I’ll stick with three again.

  1. Get off of the performance leash.  Don’t let others control you.  Learn to play to the audience of One: Jesus.  Learn to hear His voice and find confidence in letting what He’s directing you dictate what you get involved in, and where you go.  What others think of you doesn’t matter really, it is what God thinks of you.  If you are living in honest obedience to Him, then cut the leash.
  2. Just get hooked on Jesus.  Take getaways with just your Bible and a notebook, maybe even no food so it doesn’t distract you.  Don’t let up until you’ve gotten through all of the distractions to just be with the lover of your soul.  In John 13:25 we see that John leaned against Jesus’ bosom.  Get that close to Him that you can feel what He feels and you see yourself and others through His eyes.
  3. Understand that your salvation is by grace alone.  It is a gift of God, meaning that you didn’t earn this salvation, God gave it to you.  He took the scales off of your eyes.  When you bring your sins to Him, He throws them as far away as the east is from the west.  You can live in freedom and hold your head high.  You don’t have to listen to the voice of the enemy that either speaks to your mind or through others’ lips.  They are words like, “You’re no good,” “remember all of the rotten things you’ve done,” and “it’s all your fault.”  You are loved, you are free, God has good plans for you and He is well pleased with you.  He is doing a work in you that will sand off the rough edges, so let Him and it will be good.

Let your heart be strengthened today by God’s grace.  Revel in what He has done for you, rest in His presence and lean up against Jesus’ bosom whenever you can.  Grace to you!

 


Don’t Miss Grace

grab grace.jpg

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.  Hebrews 12:15

Hebrews 12 begins by talking about setting aside sin and fixing our eyes on Jesus.  In 12:4 it says, “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”  It continues by explaining that if we are disciplined by the Lord, it means we are His children.  Verse 11 declares that if we submit to God’s discipline we will “yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness, for those who have been trained by it.”

If we don’t  set aside our sins and weights, resisting to the point of great pain, and if we don’t submit to God’s warning lights, a few things could result.  One is that we continue to run, but we are so weighed down that the Christian life is a burden and a chore.  Another is that we experience God’s spankings over and over until we learn our lesson.  God will discipline His children until they are trained by it.  A third option is that we fail to obtain the grace of God, which sounds awful.

“Failing to obtain the grace of God” could mean that those who never submit to the commands and path to holiness that God gives us really are not believers.  They could be called “professing Christians,” who think they are secure because they go to church or because of some past spiritual experience or good work.  Hebrews is written to those people, urging them to not be presumptuous about their standing with God.

“The root of bitterness” really isn’t about not taking care of resentment and festering bitterness in your heart, though that’s a good thing to do.  It is a reference to Deuteronomy 29:18 that states: “Beware lest there be among you a man…whose heart turns away from this day from the Lord our God to go and serve the gods of those nations; lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit.”

How can this root of bitterness and unbelief spring up in a body of believers and defile many?  Deut. 29:10 answers this by describing “one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.’”

You could be pressing into God, yearning to be set free from the ugly consequences of sin that has wreaked havoc in your life, coming to church with an attitude of worship and desperacy.  And then you sit by a person who is rarely moved to sing or worship, that never really has read the Bible, doesn’t bear fruit in keeping with repentance, and who kind of communicates to you to ‘knock it off.’

Don’t let their stubborn and unbelieving heart deter or defile you.  Grab a hold of the grace of God by setting aside your sins and weights, resisting sin to the point of great personal pain and loss, and submitting to God’s hand of discipline.  Pursue holiness so that you may enjoy God’s grace, yielding a peaceful fruit of righteousness.

*Image from Mick Holt


Losing spiritual weight

freedom

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.  Hebrews 12:1

Years ago I was an adult leader at a youth rally.  The speaker sent teens and adults off for a half an hour, arming us with a spiritual inventory to take.  It was like a checklist of questions related to obtaining a clean heart.  It was a chance to see if we were carrying around sins and weights that were bogging us down, and then getting them right before God.

What happened next was awesome.  We regrouped and teenagers began to get up, confessing their sins that they knew God was speaking to them about leaving behind.  Kid after kid got up in tears, voluntarily and  moved by the Spirit, and renounced things.  I’ve not been in such a revival like setting before or after, where people were so visibly moved to be free.  Psalm 66:18-19 is sobering: “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer.”

There is freedom in finding a clean heart, but it is not easy.  The reason it’s not easy is that it takes the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome our own pride, unforgiveness, and stubborn sin habits.  A couple of years ago I lost over forty pounds.  What freedom to get rid of that weight!  Involved in that process was totally changing my eating habits and sticking to consistent exercise.

To put Hebrews 12:1 into practice may mean a radical change in spiritual and emotional habits.  Sometimes the things that weigh us down aren’t sins, they are just unhealthy spiritual and physical habits or things that zap our love for God and our devotion to Him.  It is like what Luke 8:14 describes from the parable of the sower: “And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares (of this world) and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.”  Life’s worries, the deceitfulness or seductiveness of riches, and the pursuit of fun are weights that certainly can get in the way of running after Jesus.

Some checklist questions could include:

  • Are there any cares of life that rob your peace and joy?
  • Is your joy found in things other than Jesus and His Word?
  • What would you have a hard time fasting from or giving up for the sake of having a closer walk with Jesus?
  • Is there anything that occupies more of your free time and money than it should?
  • Do you listen to any music, watch any TV shows/movies, or read any books that you seek satisfaction from that either might be ungodly, or competes with your finding satisfaction from God?
  • Are there any unconfessed sins that you secretly harbor?
  • Are there any unresolved conflicts or relationships where you have wronged someone, and it needs to be made right?
  • Are there resentments against certain people or situations that have led to bitterness, rage and malice?  (Malice is the intention or desire to hurt someone else; ill will.)
  • Are you overly concerned about yourself, having most of your conversations and thoughts centering around “I”?  Or are your feelings easily hurt?
  • Do you gossip or talk unkindly about others?
  • Do you cheat, steal, cut corners, exaggerate, or stretch the truth as a habit?
  • Are you undisciplined, lazy, or neglectful of family duties or spiritual habits?
  • Do you have a stubborn heart, or an unteachable attitude?

Clear out some time alone with God and pray the prayer of Psalm 139: 23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts!  And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”


True Faith

True Faith.png

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance.  And he went out, not knowing where he was going.  Hebrews 11:8

In this chapter of Hebrews, titled by many as “The Faith Hall of Fame,” the words “by faith” appears at least twenty times.  Hebrews 11:6 announces, “Without faith it is impossible to please God,”  and goes on to tell about this faith, using Biblical characters as examples to define what this faith looks like for us.  These real life people died without receiving what was promised, they only welcomed them from afar…they were aliens and strangers with their eyes on a Heavenly city…they were men made strong out of weakness who conquered kingdoms and shut the mouth of lions…they regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as greater treasures than all of Egypt.

As a result of this  faith that was planted in their hearts by God, they didn’t receive rewards and notoriety here.  No pats on the back.  Instead, they were sawn in two, faced jeers and flogging and were imprisoned.  They were men and women of whom the world was not worthy of.  

True faith rises up within us as a work done in our hearts by God.  According to Colossians 1:5-6 it springs up like a seed.   You will  know it is there when you find yourself doing things you wouldn’t normally do, like loving unlovable people or being sacrificial with your time and money when that’s not normally you.  We nurture this faith by being connected to Jesus through prayer and Bible study, as well as being spurred on by fellow believers.

Sometimes what we do seems pretty unnoteworthy, only to later find out that our act started off a chain of events much bigger than our little step of faith. I don’t think we have to do things to prove that we have faith, we just have to obey each day, doing the things you think that God is telling you to do.  

This is an excerpt of a story that I’ve thought about a few times since I read it 25 or more years ago.  It is about Boris Kornfeld, and Charles Colson told about him in his great book, “Loving God.”  He is one of my heros of the faith, maybe somewhere in the 100th edition of God’s ‘Faith Hall of Fame.’

Kornfeld was a prisoner in the Gulag of Russia back in the 1950’s.  He was a self righteous Jew, but his life was changed by God as he was around a fellow prisoner who was a believer. He would recite the Lord’s prayer many times a day.  This man shared with Boris about being a Christian and how to forgive others because we’ve been forgiven by God.

Kornfeld was a surgeon and they put his skills to work, serving as the prison doctor.  He was doing a surgery on a guard who was particularly mean.  He could have simply sutured his vein in such a way that the man would bleed to death.  Startled by his own evil heart, he found himself reciting the Lord’s prayer as if out of the blue.  He became a Christian.  The man who told him about Jesus was transferred and Kornfeld was left to figure his faith out alone in this dank prison.  One day the doctor was performing a surgery on a cancer filled prisoner. As he worked on him through the night, he felt the words of faith tumble from his mouth as he told this man about how he had strangely, but surely, found the forgiveness and the love of God.  

The next morning, the young patient awoke to the sound of running feet.  Though it looked like Dr. Kornfeld and the patient were alone, someone overheard.  This person dealt eight blows to Kornfeld’s head, killing him.  But his faith lived on.  The patient was a writer, Alexander Solzhenitsyn.  He became a Christian through that encounter, and he began writing essays that were somehow circulated throughout the world to expose others about the inhumanity of the Soviet System.

Read more on his story from https://kazakhnomad.wordpress.com/tag/dr-boris-kornfeld/

That’s what true faith does.  Against all odds we take risks, head into situations that we don’t know what the outcome will be, quit jobs when it doesn’t look prudent to do so, and dream dreams about what God will do in and through us when we simply obey.

Won’t it be fun to hear the rest of the stories and see our own story unfold when we get to glory?

*Image from pastorjohnmerrit.com

 

 

 

 


Oh, Grow Up!

 

babyFor everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.  But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.  Hebrews 5:13-14

Milk is good for newborn infants.  In fact, they scream until they get it.  But eventually, that baby grows from desiring milk to eating table food that is made into a mush.  Then  she gets little pieces of meat and moves her way to entire portions of meat.  It’s what makes her grow.  She wouldn’t just continue to drink milk up through elementary school.  She would be weak, small and malnourished.

So it is with our spiritual progression.  We need the milk of the Word, and to desire it like a baby–even scream for it.    1 Peter 2:2 states, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.”  But then we need to become more mature–doers of the Word and not just hearers, as James 1 prompts us to do.  That means we put it into practice.  And as we do, we move from needing to being taught to being the one teaching.  We’re then eating solid food and we have our senses trained by it.

 Habitually reading the Bible gives us a new mind and it gives us the spiritual sense to know what is truth and what is error.  It helps us to know the difference between right and wrong and heightens our senses to spot counterfeits.  When we do what God puts on our hearts to do, we grow in faith and in obedience.  

In 2 Timothy 3:7 Paul talked about people who “are always learning but never coming to a knowledge of the truth.”  Chances are it is because they haven’t gone to the Bible for themselves, starting with milk and working up to meat by obeying.  They may rely on teachers to interpret the Bible for them, but they don’t have the discernment to know if they are false teachers or not.  It may also be because they spend more time on Facebook than in the “Good Book,” or to spend time watching questionable TV shows.  To them it is easier to read from Oprah’s book list than it is to feast on the Word.

I hear many people say that they just can’t understand the Bible.  I think that’s a lie from Satan that they’ve picked up.  God will give you the understanding as you patiently work your way through the Bible.  Use a Children’s Bible if you have to, or an easy to read version.   With the regular practice of being nourished in the Bible you don’t need intelligence, you need obedience.  

Be a meat eater.  Read the Bible and then put it into practice.  Obey it and put away sins.   And then you will have the ability to discern between good and evil.  Do something deliberate to put your faith muscle into action, and watch God grow you.


Prayer and the Throne of Grace

throne room

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  Hebrews 4:14-16

Picture the throne room in Heaven.  It is filled with God’s glory, power, and radiant majesty,  a holy place from which Jesus rules over the entire universe while He sits at the right hand of God (Hebrews 1:3).  Here are three things about this throne:

It is a throne of grace.   In the midst of this throne room filled with God’s majesty and power, Jesus bids us to boldly come and present our requests to Him.  This is amazing, so amazing that I can’t even wrap my mind around it.  When we need help,  Jesus, the king of the universe,  is waiting for us to come so He can give us His mercy and grace.  In fact, in Isaiah 30:18 it says, “The Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore He will rise up to show you compassion.”  NIV  He longs for us to come to Him in prayer.  

Conversely, when we turn to someone or something else instead of to God, He rebukes us.  In 2 Chronicles 16, King Asa asked for help from the king of Syria instead of going to God for assistance.  God sent Hanani the prophet to Asa to tell him that God helped Asa in the past, so why didn’t he ask God instead of going to the king of Syria.  Hanani then said, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward Him.  You have done foolishly in this, for from now on you will have wars.”

It is a throne of intercession.  Jesus can identify with our weaknesses, He knows our weaknesses and He is praying for them.  Hebrews 7:25 declares, “Consequently Jesus is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”  Jesus is not only ruling and reigning, but He is praying for us day and night.   Also, Hebrews 2:18 reads, “For because He Himself has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.”  When you are confronted with your weaknesses, or are tempted to sin–call out to Jesus!  He will help you.

It is a throne of well-timed help.  According to John Piper, in his devotional “His Timing is Perfect,” Hebrews 4:16 is more literally translated, “that we may find grace for a well-timed help.”  God’s grace will not come too early or too late.

What good news to rest on as we bring our needs, our dreams, and our failures to the throne of grace in prayer!