B2change I want to see in the world!

Why God Works so Powerfully among the Impoverished by Kriselle Dawson

The people of Papua New Guinea love “to story.” It is an oral culture that has only recently had the luxury of printed materials. Previously all knowledge was passed down—generation to generation—through their story telling. As a result, the people still love to sit together and “story” with each other. Their memories are fantastic, I think largely because of the scarcity of printed material.

For example, in Papua New Guinea, Scripture memorization is hardly the chore that it is in the developed word. After all, many people do not even own their own Bible. In Papua New Guinea, we had to resist using our Android tablet for the lyrics to our church hymns and songs, because just owning a hymn or song book was a highly sought after luxury item. Yet almost all church attendees could sing verse after verse, of song after song, without printed or projected lyrics.

God Gives to Those Who Need

One particular conversation I had in Papua New Guinea stands out in my mind as significant. Just like every day in Lae, Papua New Guinea it was hot and steamy. It transpired when I had not been in Papua New Guinea very long and was “storying” with my guard. Our house had eight-foot fences with razor wire at the top, a guard on duty 24/7, and two blue heeler guard dogs. Of my two guards, this one was the least educated and yet the easiest to communicate in English with, and I wanted to know why.

His story went something like this. He couldn’t read or write and yet his church gave him the responsibility of church elder. He felt that he could serve far better in this capacity if only he could read his Bible and understand some English. So he prayed and he said that God gave him the ability to read His word, and not only that, but to understand and speak English.

My guard’s story was not an uncommon story in Papua New Guinea. Nor were stories of miracles and visions.

Why is it that the Lord is able to work so powerfully in the lives of the impoverished? I believe that in many ways the impoverished are richer than we in the developed world. They are often happier, less stressed, have stronger family values and relationships, and are more grounded in their relationships with God. They have much need—needs we should help meet in a sustainable way—but they also often have much to teach us about the Jesus we claim we know. I am reminded of the beatitudes, found in Matthew 5:3–12:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Our Wealth is Really in Christ

It seems that the more needy we are, the more God has to offer. Those of us in the developed world are so rich in money, possessions, and experiences that we have a hard time seeing ourselves as needy, or allowing God the time and space to work in and through us.

In Revelation, the message to the Laodicean church is this:

“You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see” (Revelation 3:17–18)

How aptly this Laodicean message applies to those of us living in developed nations today! The apostle Paul imparted similar wisdom:

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7–8).

Like Paul, may we “cast aside all hindrances” and seek God with all of our hearts, our minds and our souls; and like my guard in Papua New Guinea, may God bless us richly in the things of eternal value (Hebrews 12:1).


Kriselle Dawson is a volunteer writer for Jesus’ Economy. Kriselle lives in Lae, Papua New Guinea, where she is a full-time mom and homeschool teacher; she also serves with Papua New Guinea Union Mission and Lae City Mission.

 

Source: http://www.biblestudytools.com

7 Commandments of a Great Marriage

I have an advanced degree in counseling and hundreds of hours experience working with couples. I’ve taught marriage retreats for years. I wouldn’t say I’m an “expert” in marriage—because I’m married—and my wife reads my blog. That would be a stretch. Actually, I know more to do than I have the practice of doing. (Isn’t that true for most of us?)

But I’ve learned a few things. I’ve observed things that work and things that don’t.

I think there are some necessary ingredients for a healthy marriage. That’s the point of this post.

Want a healthier marriage?

Consider these 7 Commandments of Marriage:

Thou shalt serve one another. A good marriage practices mutual submission. Ephesians 5:21 commands us to submit to one another out of reverence to Christ. Marriage is not a 50/50 deal. It’s a 100/100 deal—each willing to surrender all to the other person.

How are you at serving your spouse? Would they say you strive to serve them more everyday? Are you more the giver or the taker in the relationship? Be honest.

Thou shalt love unconditionally. Unconditionally means without conditions. (See how deep this blog can be.) I’ll love you if… is not the command. It’s I’ll love you even if not. God commands us to love our enemies. How much more should this commitment be strong within a marriage?

Are you loving your spouse even with the flaws that you can see better than anyone else? Here’s a quick test: Does the way you communicate with your spouse indicate you have the highest regard for them—always?

Thou shalt respect one another. The Golden Rule covers this one. Everyone wants to be respected—so in any good marriage respect is granted to and by both parties. And, by the way, I believe respect too is to be unconditional.

In my experience, this one is sometimes easier for one spouse to give than the other, especially the one who works hardest in the marriage. Respect is mostly given because of actions. But respect is important for both spouses. Most people grant respect only when all conditions are met to be respected. That makes sense, but it doesn’t provide motivation to improve when the other party needs it most. All of us need someone who believes in us even when we don’t believe in ourselves. That’s the grace of respect. When most of us feel respected we will work harder to keep that respect.

Thou shalt put no other earthly relationships before this one.Let not man put asunder” is not just a good King James Version wedding line. It’s God’s desire for a marriage. Great couples strive to allow no one—even children—even in-laws—to get in the way of building a healthy marriage.

Wow! Isn’t this a hard one? Yet I can’t tell you how many marriages I have seen ruined because the children came first or the in-laws interfered. I’ve seen marriages ruined by friends—sometimes co-workers—who had little regard for the integrity of the marriage, and so they built a wedge between the couple. As hard as it is sometimes, great couples work to protect the marriage from every outside interruption.

Thou shalt commit beyond feelings. The Bible talks a great deal about the renewal of our mind (Romans 12:2, for example). The mind is more reliable than emotions. You may not always feel as in love as you did the day you married. There will be tough seasons in any marriage. Strong marriages last because they have a commitment beyond their emotional response to each other. And when that’s true for both parties, feelings almost always reciprocate and grow over time.

As true and necessary as this is, great marriage partners continue to pursue each other—they date one another—fostering the romantic feelings that everyone craves in a relationship. Sobering question: When’s the last time you pursued your spouse?

Thou shalt consider the other person’s interest ahead of thine own. Again, we are commanded to to do this in all relationships. How much more should we in marriage?

Over the years, as couples get comfortable with one another, I’ve observed couples who become very selfish with their individual time. Sometimes, for example, one spouse pursues a hobby that excludes the other one, and more and more time is committed to that hobby. The other spouse begins to feel neglected. It may be allocation of time, in actions or the words used to communicate, but sometimes a spouse can make the other spouse feel they are no longer valuable to them. Are you considering how you are being perceived by your spouse?

Thou shalt complete one another. The Biblical command is one flesh (Ephesians 5). I’m not sure that’s anymore possible than the command that our individual flesh be molded into the image of Christ. It’s a command we obey in process. We are saints still under construction. We still sin. And that process isn’t completed here on earth in my opinion. So it is in a marriage. We never completely “get there,” but we set such a high standard for our marriage that we continue to press towards the goal.

There is no better place where “iron sharpens iron” than in a marriage. Cheryl makes me a better person. And, if I can be so bold—I think I do the same for her. There are qualities in her I need and qualities in me she needs to become one flesh. But that’s a process. That takes time, humility, and intentionality. I must allow her to make me better—and likewise for her. But when we do, we are both the benefactors. One question I always ask couples: Are you becoming closer as a couple—or are you drifting further apart? That’s a great question to ask frequently throughout the marriage.

These are obviously not the “10 Commandments.” They aren’t even necessarily God’s commandments—although I do believe they are based on the commands of God. The point is to take Biblical principles and apply them to our marriage.

And, what marriage wouldn’t benefit from that?

Would you pause and consider—are you breaking any of these commands?


Ron Edmondson pastors Immanuel Baptist Church. Find out more at: http://www.ronedmondson.com/about

Just Enough Time to Do God’s Will from Rick Warren

“All of us should … enjoy what we have worked for. It is God’s gift.” (Ecclesiastes 3:13 GNT)

In a 21st century world where we’re overworked, overstressed, and over-scheduled, this may be one of the most significant and freeing sentences you’ll ever read: You have just enough time to do God’s will.

That means if you don’t feel you have enough time in your day, one of two things is true. Either:

  1. You’re doing things God doesn’t intend for you to do.
  2. You’re doing the things God intended the wrong way.

God wouldn’t give you a list of things to do and not give you the time to do them. Either you’re trying to do too much or you’re wasting time. There’s really no other option.

Either way, you need to learn to enjoy the moment. The Bible says, “All of us should … enjoy what we have worked for. It is God’s gift” (Ecclesiastes 3:13 GNT).

Too many of us fall victim to a terrible trap. I call it “when and then” thinking. We believe “when” we achieve a particular goal, we’ll be happy. Maybe that goal is graduation, marriage, or a financial goal. But you won’t be happy then. You’ll enjoy reaching that goal for three seconds, and then you’ll start asking yourself, “What’s next?” The cycle simply repeats.

Are you worn out, burnt out, or stressed out? God wants more for you. If you’re carrying an overwhelming load, it isn’t from Jesus. He says in Matthew 11, “Come to me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads, and I will give you rest …. the load I give you to carry is light” (Matthew 11:28, 30 NCV).

Every moment of your life is a gift from God. He doesn’t want you to miss a single one.

PLAY today’s audio teaching from Pastor Rick>>

Talk It Over

  • What moments from your past do you regret that your busyness kept you from enjoying?
  • What goals have you achieved in the past that you thought would be satisfying yet they weren’t?
  • How can you change your priorities and your schedule so that you have enough time to do what God wants you to do?

Source: http://pastorrick.com/devotional

5 Ways to Invigorate Your Prayer Life

I don’t know about you, but I can be easily distracted when I’m praying. But over the years I’ve picked up some great ways to focus my prayers…. Here are 5 more ways I’ve learned to help me sharpen my prayers.

1) Write out your prayers

Often I will begin my prayer time by writing out things I’m thankful for. I write them to the Lord, almost like a letter, beginning with something like this: “Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus, Holy Spirit, Thank you for….” or “Lord Jesus, Thank you for…” and I go on to write things I’m grateful for. Writing my thanks keeps me focused. Sometimes I begin a time of prayer by reading past thanksgivings I’ve written. I’ve also found that writing out other prayers has been very helpful as well…. As I pray the prayers I have written, I don’t restrict myself to reading them word for word, but use them as reminders.

2) Pray specific Bible verses

In my “family” section of my prayers, I have several Scriptures that are promises for parents about their children, like the following:

And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Acts 16:31

“And as for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord: “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children’s offspring,” says the Lord, “from this time forth and forevermore.” Is 59:21

I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread. He is ever lending generously, and his children become a blessing. Psalm 37:25–26

Often I will read these Bible verses aloud, then ask the Lord to please do what the verses say he will do. Using Scripture when we pray builds our faith, for we can know we are asking according to God’s will. I often quote Ps 32:8 when asking for wisdom. I pray something like this, “Father you have said in your word, ‘I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you’; so, I ask that you would please counsel me with your eye upon me. Please show me the way I should go in this situation.”

Lately I have been quoting Matthew 7:11 in my prayers:

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

I’ll pray something like this, “Father, you’ve told me that you give good things to those who ask you. So, I ask that you would please heal (insert name). Healing and health are good things, so I am asking that you give them this, according to your will.”

3) Make lists

In addition to writing out specific prayers, I have found lists to be helpful. I have a list of people I am asking Jesus to save. I have a list of “current needs” of family and friends. Lists help me stay on track when I’m praying. I don’t pray through every list every day, and I don’t always pray through a whole list. But at least I have it written down to remind me from time to time.

4) Pray through the Our Father pattern

Use each phrase to trigger a “theme” for example: “Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be your name.” Praise you that you are my Father. I praise you that you are in heaven, sovereign over all. Hallowed be your name—holy is you name. Praise you for your holiness and perfect purity and glory.

“Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Father, please save multitudes in every nation. Please save my children and grandchildren. Please bring your kingdom rule into my neighbors’ lives, etc.

“Give us this day our daily bread.” Father, please provide for my children. Please provide for us. Father, if it would be your will, please give me…..

5) Pray in response to your Bible reading

Some have found praying in response to their Bible reading to be most effective for them. In your daily bible reading, stop and pray as God’s word speaks to you. For example, if you read, James 1:22, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves,” pray, “Lord Jesus, please help me to obey your word. Help me to “do” it, to put it into practice.” If you read Lamentations 3:21–23 “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness,” pray, “Lord Jesus, thank you for your unceasing steadfast love. Thank you for your mercies that are new this morning. Praise you for your great faithfulness and unceasing love for me. Please give me more and more hope.”

How about you? What are some ways you have found that help you focus your prayers

Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons, one daughter and five grandchildren. Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.

Source: http://www.biblestudytools.com

Who Are You Serving This Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving provides a great opportunity to serve others.

Rather than spending the whole day crashed out on the couch in a tryptophan-induced coma watching football games you don’t really care about (not that it’s wrong to crash on the couch or watch football – I’ll probably spend some time in a tryptophan-induced coma myself), try reaching out to your family members, especially if they are unbelievers. Thanksgiving is a great day to imitate Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve. Here are a few ideas:

Take a genuine interest in them. Ask them if they’ve read any good books or seen any good movies lately. Ask them how it’s going on their job. Ask them about their children. If your grandfather or grandmother is there, ask them to tell you funny stories about their childhood or if they have any good stories from when they were in the Army.

Taking an interest in people is fun. If you have a relative who’s a lawyer, ask her about her most difficult case. Ask her if she’s ever said “I’ll see you in court” to someone. Ask her what she likes most and least about her job. Ask her what she does to try to persuade juries. Ask her what the funniest thing that ever happened in court was.

Serve their children. Get down the floor with their kids and play with them. Do an art project or craft project with them. Play hide and seek or “I spy” with them. Try to make a memorable Thanksgiving for the kids.

Take an interest in the teenagers. Ask them what movies they’ve seen lately or what music they’re listening to. Ask them if they’ve seen any funny YouTube videos. Ask them about any sports they’re playing.

Help set the table and clear the table. Wash the dishes. Try to be the biggest servant in the house.

If you’re as selfish as I am, you’ll need lots of grace, so don’t forget to ask the Lord to give you the desire and the strength to serve.

I’d like to have some more ideas for how I can serve my relatives – any you can share with me?

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Saving Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have five children and five grandchildren.

Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.

 

Source:http://www.biblestudytools.com/blogs/

3 Crucial Things Single People Need To Know

Ahh yes, the single years. Those carefree years between high-school and marriage when a young person can do all those crazy, bucket-list things they want to do. Backpack across Europe. Trek the through the Amazon. Go skydiving. Live in a big city. Live in a commune. Go Paleo. Go vegan. All while recording every moment on a GoPro camera and drinking Corona beer.

Our culture tells us that the single years are supposed to be an adventure. A time of fun and craziness and exploration before we settle down for the boring life of marriage, kids, and all that jazz. To sow our wild oats (if you happen to be Amish). To quote the prophet Ricky Martin, the single years are for, “Livin’ la viva [vida?] loca.”

Right?

Well… sort of… not really. After working with a lot of single men and women over the years, there are certain principles and practices (hopefully derived from Scripture!) that I would encourage single folks to develop which will serve them for many years into the future. These practices aren’t particularly exciting or thrilling, but I believe they’re extremely valuable.

So what would I tell single guys and gals? Three things.

USE YOUR TIME STRATEGICALLY

When you’re single, you have more free time than when you’re married with kids. Don’t waste that free time. Don’t assume that your free time is all for you and all about you. God didn’t give you free time in order that you might check off every item on your bucket list.

Your free time is a gift from God, to be used for the glory of God, in order that God might be made famous. When you’re single, use your free time strategically, investing it in kingdom ventures. Your free time is like a Wall Street asset which is only valuable for a limited amount of time. Invest your time with the same thought and strategy a stock trader invests money. Strive for maximum eternal returns!

In 1 Corinthians 7:32–34 Paul says:

I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided.

When you’re single, you’re free from family anxieties. You don’t have to worry about health insurance for your kids, or getting your kids to school on time, or making time for weekly date nights. Your interests are not divided.

Because your interests are not divided, you can invest your free time in single-minded, strategic ways, which will increase the fame of Jesus. You can spend more time studying theology. You can serve a married couple by babysitting their kids (hint, hint). You can lead two, or even three Bible studies. You can start a prison ministry. You can dive deep into thick theological books.

It’s not wrong to backpack across Europe or spend a summer at Yellowstone National Park. But remember, your single years are an asset you’ll never have again.

USE YOUR MONEY STRATEGICALLY

Singles, please listen to me: the financial choices you make when you’re single can reverberate for years throughout your marriage. Financial institutions and credit card companies make it so easy to accumulate a mountain of debt during the single years. Need a college loan? No problem? Need some spare cash so that you can go out to eat with your buddies? No problem! Want to take a trip to France between semesters? You got it! Just sign on the dotted line.

And guess what? You don’t even have to pay back the money until you’re out of college! It’s like Christmas during your freshman year!

Unfortunately, most single people don’t understand how significant debt really is. I’ve known guys who had to delay their entrance into pastoral ministry due to the staggering debt they were carrying. I’ve had friends who had to delay having kids because they couldn’t afford to have kids and pay down their debt at the same time. I’ve had friends who couldn’t purchase a house because of the amount of debt they carried.

Let me make it loud and clear: the financial choices you make when you are single have a direct effect on your ability to serve the Lord when you are married. 

Your ability to minister, be fruitful, be hospitable, go on church plants, fund missionaries, and serve the poor is directly connected to the wise or unwise choices you make when you’re single.

So please, be wise. If you don’t understand how money works, get a financial mentor. Spend your money wisely. Knock your debts out as quickly as possible. Avoid debt when possible. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

Do you want to be fruitful when you are married? Be frugal when you are single.

USE YOUR GIFTS STRATEGICALLY

The single years are a fantastic time to hone your spiritual gifts in a concentrated way. Do you have the gift of leadership? Ask your pastor to give you as many leadership opportunities as he is willing. Do you have the gift of hospitality? Open up your house every week. Do you have the gift of generosity? Live frugally and give generously. Do you have the gift of mercy? Pour yourself into a local soup kitchen or prison ministry.

Marriage and children are absolutely wonderful, but they place distinct limitations on the amount of time you can devote to honing your spiritual gifts. I need to provide food and clothes and beds for my children, which limits the amount of money I can give to my local church. I’m really grateful that I had the opportunity to hone my leadership and worship leading skills while I was single.

SO NOW WHAT?

The single years are certainly a time for fun and exploration, but the reality is, the single years only last for so long. Don’t waste your single years. Don’t fritter them away. Don’t cripple yourself with brutal debt. Use them strategically in order to position yourself for future fruitfulness.


Stephen Altrogge is a writer, pastor, and knows a lot about Star Wars. Find out more at The Blazing Center.

Source: http://www.biblestudytools.com/blogs/stephen-altrogge

How to Respond When God Says “No”

When nobody is around and when we’re able to be absolutely honest with ourselves before God, we entertain certain dreams and hopes. We want very much by the end of our days to have _________________________ (fill in the blank). However, it may well be that we will die with that desire unfulfilled. Should that occur, it will be one of the hardest things in the world for us to face and accept. David heard the Lord’s “no” and quietly accepted it without resentment. That’s awfully hard to do. But we find in David’s final recorded words a life-sized portrait of a man after God’s own heart.

After four decades of service to Israel, King David, old and perhaps stooped by the years, looked for the last time into the faces of his trusted followers. Many of them represented distinct memories in the old man’s mind. Those who would carry on his legacy surrounded him, waiting to receive his last words of wisdom and instruction. What would the seventy-year-old king say?

He began with the passion of his heart, pulling back the curtain to reveal his deepest desire—the dreams and plans for building a temple to the Lord (1 Chronicles 28:2). It was a dream that went unfulfilled in his lifetime. “God said to me,” David told his people, “‘You shall not build a house for My name because you are a man of war and have shed blood’” (28:3).

Dreams die hard. But in his parting words, David chose to focus on what God had allowed him to do—to reign as king over Israel, to establish his son Solomon over the kingdom, and to pass the dream on to him (28:4-8). Then, in a beautiful prayer, an extemporaneous expression of worship to the Lord God, David praised the greatness of God, thanking Him for His many blessings, and then interceded for the people of Israel and for their new king, Solomon. Take some extra time to read David’s prayer slowly and thoughtfully. It’s found in 1 Chronicles 29:10-19.

Rather than wallowing in self-pity or bitterness regarding his unfulfilled dream, David praised God with a grateful heart. Praise leaves humanity out of the picture and focuses fully on the exaltation of the living God. The magnifying glass of praise always looks up.

“Blessed are You, O LORD God of Israel our father, forever and ever. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O LORD, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone.” (29:10-12)

As David thought of the lavish grace of God that had given the people one good thing after another, his praise then turned to thanksgiving. “Now therefore, our God, we thank You, and praise Your glorious name” (29:13). David acknowledged there was nothing special about his people. Their history was one of wandering and tent-dwelling; their lives were like shifting shadows. Yet, because of God’s great goodness they were able to supply all that was needed to build God a temple (29:14-16).

David was surrounded by limitless riches, yet all that wealth never captured his heart. He fought other battles within but never greed. David was not held hostage by materialism. He said, in effect, “Lord, everything we have is Yours—all these beautiful elements we offer for your temple, the place where I live, the throne room—all of it is Yours, everything.” To David, God owned it all. Perhaps it was this attitude that allowed the monarch to cope with God’s “no” in his life—he was confident that God was in control and that God’s plans were best. David held everything loosely.

Next, David prayed for others. He interceded for the people he had ruled for forty years, asking the Lord to remember their offerings for the temple and to draw their hearts toward Him (29:17-18). David also prayed for Solomon: “give to my son Solomon a perfect heart to keep Your commandments, Your testimonies and Your statutes, and to do them all, and to build the temple, for which I have made provision” (29:19).

This magnificent prayer contained David’s last recorded words; shortly after, he died “full of days, riches and honor” (29:28). What a fitting way to end a life! His death is a fitting reminder that when a man of God dies, nothing of God dies.

Though some dreams remain unfulfilled, a man or woman of God can respond to His “no” with praise, thanksgiving, and intercession … because when a dream dies, nothing of God’s purposes die.

This article published on July 27, 2011. Content provided by OnePlace.com.

Article excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, David: A Man of Passion & Destiny (Dallas: Word, 1997), 285-88, 292-93. Copyright © 1997 Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Source:http://www.biblestudytools.com

5 Ways to Stop Discouragement from Getting the Best of You

Discouragement and disappointment are normal emotions we all experience even as Christians, but it’s important to know how to make sure those debilitating emotions don’t get the best of us.

First, let’s look at four reasons why we get discouraged and disappointed.

Job felt discouraged with his wife and friends. They didn’t get it. In the midst of his suffering and questioning God, they tried to be helpful, but they ended up heaping more shame and blame on Job for his afflictions. We, too, can feel let down by our friends and family. They don’t understand what we’re going through or don’t offer to help as we wish they would. Our disappointment can turn to discouragement.

Elijah became discouraged with life’s circumstances. Despite our persistent and fervent prayers, things don’t turn out the way we’d hoped they would. Elijah hoped that after all the miracles the Israelites saw performed on Mount Carmel, Ahab and Jezebel would repent and put God first, but they did not. King Ahab and Jezebel were as stubborn and hard hearted as always, and Elijah felt discouraged, exhausted, and told himself that his entire ministry was a waste (1 Kings 19).

Jeremiah felt angry and discouraged with God when he believed God was against him, and because of that perspective, he temporarily lost hope in God (Lamentations 3). The disciples too felt discouraged after Jesus was crucified, before he rose from the dead. They said, “We were hoping that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21). They couldn’t see the bigger picture and felt disappointed that Jesus did not fight for his kingdom.

Peter felt discouraged with himself when he realized that he wasn’t as courageous as he thought he was. Jesus had warned him that he would deny him, but Peter’s pride kept him from seeing himself clearly (Matthew 26:31 and 74, 75). We too can feel discouraged and even depressed when we fail to live up to our own or someone else’s  expectations.

Discouragement happens, even to the strongest and best of people. Below are five (5) steps you can take when you start to feel the black cloud of discouragement swallow you up.

1. Be honest. It does you no good to pretend you don’t feel what you feel. You can’t take action against a negative feeling until you first admit you have it. A strong Christian is not someone who never experiences negative feelings. It’s someone who has learned what to do with them when he or she has them and how to process them biblically.

2. Take care of your body. If your body isn’t working, your mind, emotions and will are also weakened. I love how God tended to Elijah’s body first—before addressing anything else and provided ravens to feed him. Sometimes the circumstances of life drain us dry, and we need to press pause, stop doing, and simply rest and refresh.

3. Pay attention to your thought life. Maturing as believers means we learn to think truthfully (Philippians 4:8) and to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

All of us attempt to make sense of the things that happen in our lives. We try to figure out why they happen and what it all means. It’s crucial that we pay attention to what stories we are telling ourselves about ourselves, about others, about God or a particular situation, and whether or not those stories are actually true. For example, if you look at what Elijah was telling himself after he became discouraged, much of it was not true, yet because he thought it, it added to his misery (read 1 Kings 19).

Jeremiah was also telling himself things about God that were not true but because his mind believed his version of reality instead of God’s, he lost his hope. Read through Lamentations 3. Notice in verse 21 Jeremiah begins to have a change of mind and heart. He says, “This I recall to mind, therefore I have hope.” When his thoughts changed his negative emotions also lifted even though his circumstances stayed the same.

4. Train yourself to “see” life out of two lenses at the same time

When the apostle Paul counsels us to be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2), he is telling us that our mind needs to be trained to think differently than we have in the past. Part of this training is to learn to see both the temporal (life is hard) and the eternal (God has a purpose here) at the same time.

Paul speaks honestly of his temporal pain when he says he is hard pressed on every side, perplexed, persecuted and struck down. Yet he did not become crushed, despairing, abandoned, or destroyed. Why not? Because he learned to firmly fix the eternal perspective on his spiritual eyes. He says, “Therefore we do not lose heart.… So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:8–18).

Paul never minimized the pain of the temporal, yet discouragement didn’t win because he knew that God’s purposes were at work. (See Philippians 1:12–14 for another example).

5.    Press close into God

The truth is life is hard, people do disappoint and hurt us, and we don’t always understand God or his ways. The prophet Nahum talks about a day of trouble and reminds us “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, he knows those who trust in him” (Nahum 1:7). If we’re not in close trusting relationship with God, life’s troubles can become unbearable. The psalmist cried out, “I would have despaired unless I had believed I would see God in the land of the living” (Psalm 27).

One final tip. The best way to chase out a negative feeling is with another feeling. The Bible teaches us “In everything give thanks for this is the will of God” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Gratitude is a powerful anecdote for discouragement. We may not be able to give God thanks for the difficult situation that we find ourselves in, but we can learn to look for things we can be thankful for in the midst of it.

Leslie Vernick is a writer for The Association of Biblical Counselors (ABC). ABC exists to encourage, equip, and empower people everywhere to live and counsel the Word, applying the Gospel to the whole experience of life.

 

Source:http://www.biblestudytools.com/blogs/

Why Do Modern Christians Rarely Talk about Rewards in Heaven?

When is the last time you heard a sermon that suggested that a motive for our obedience should be the rewards we receive in heaven? I imagine for most of us it has been a long time, maybe even never. Whenever a sermon (or book) provides a motive for obedience, it is almost always thankfulness for what Christ has done. And certainly that is a wonderful and foundational motivation. But is it the only motivation?

The New Testament writings suggest it is not. For those who faithfully endure persecution, Jesus makes it clear, “Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven” (Luke 6:23). Paul states it plainly, “But each will receive his own reward according to his own labor” (1 Corinthians 3:8). The author of Hebrews even reminds us that Moses was motivated by rewards, “He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward” (Hebrews 11:26).

But if rewards are clearly presented as a motivation in the Christian life, why don’t we hear more about rewards in our modern pulpits? I am sure there are many answers to that question, but let me suggest one: we have been convinced that our obedience doesn’t matter. While we are rightly told that only Christ’s obedience can secure our justification and that he has kept the law perfectly for us, our own obedience receives far less attention in the pulpit. Justification is center stage, and sanctification is peripheral.

No doubt, the downplaying of Christian obedience is borne out of good motives—some think Christ is glorified the most when we disparage our own obedience. Our good works are just “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6), we are reminded.

But, this whole line of thought misses the distinction between an unbeliever’s attempts at law-keeping and that of regenerated believer. Granted, neither can merit salvation or justification. Both fall woefully short of God’s perfect standards. But that does not mean that the believer’s obedience doesn’t matter. God can still be pleased with it, even though it is imperfect. Consider John Piper’s comments on this point:

It is terribly confusing when people say that the only righteousness that has any value is the imputed righteousness of Christ. I agree that justification is not grounded on any of our righteousness, but only the righteousness of Christ imputed to us. But sometimes people are careless and speak disparagingly of all human righteousness, as if there were no such thing that pleased God. They often cite Isaiah 64:6 which says our righteousness is as filthy rags…[But] when my sons do what I tell them to do—I do not call their obedience “filthy rags” even if it is not perfect. Neither does God. All the more because he himself is “working in us that which is pleasing in his sight” (Hebrews 13:21). He does not call his own, Spirit-wrought fruit, “rags” (Future Grace, 151-152).

It is only when we recognize that the obedience of the believer really does matter, and that we really can please our Father, that the rewards passages in the Bible will make any sense. And that can be a tremendous encouragement to those of us who labor heavily in ministry. When we toil for the cause of Christ, we want to hear, and are bolstered by hearing, the encouraging words of Paul: “Your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).


Dr. Michael J. Kruger is President and Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, NC.

For more, visit Dr. Kruger’s website: Canon Fodder.

Source: http://www.biblestudytools.com

Group Bible Study Needs to Be Real

Group Bible studies tend to veer one of two ways, depending on the leader. Some leaders place emphasis on interaction to help people feel good about the group experience. Others focus on transferring knowledge to their students—primarily by relying on lecture or question and answer format.

But what kind of Bible study leads to transformation? It’s the kind that helps group members discover biblical truth, apply it to their lives, and develop spiritual habits. Here are four concepts that will strengthen the dynamic of your Bible study.

RELATE

Relational groups are made up of people who share life together. They know each others’ names, discuss the deeper things of life, and pray for each other. In these types of relationships, honesty, openness, and transparency can grow. Transformation happens when we relate to one another around the truths of God’s Word.

ENGAGE

When people are becoming like Christ, they don’t just hear a lesson—they experience one. When we engage in Bible study using our senses, the truth of that Bible study lesson will stay with us. Sounds, tastes, images, smells—the vividness of life is part of the biblical record. Help your small group understand God’s Word by finding creative ways to engage the senses

ACT

Transformation happens when we move from understanding what the Bible means to realizing what it means for us. When we discover how a biblical truth can be applied to a specific situation, we are one step closer to acting on God’s Word and allowing it to have its full effect on us. When we are able to speak the truth in love to one another, the Word of God is working in us.

LEARN

A leader should remember that success is not found in how much content they convey. Success is a group of learners embracing God’s Word for themselves. A Bible study leader who fosters REAL Bible study will use different methods to help each learner engage the Bible.

 

Check out REAL Bible study curriculum from the Lifeway team with the B&H Marriage and Family Collection. Go to Logos.com/MarriageFamily

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Logos Bible Software. Each issue of Bible Study Magazine provides tools and methods for Bible study as well as insights from people like John Piper, Beth Moore, Mark Driscoll, Kay Arthur, Randy Alcorn, John MacArthur, Barry Black, and more. More information is available at http://www.biblestudymagazine.com. Originally published in print: Copyright Bible Study Magazine (May–Jun 2011): pg. 34.

 

Source: http://www.biblestudytools.com