B2change I want to see in the world!

5 Verses to Help You Conquer Doubt and Fear

I’ve always been a perfectionist. Even as a kid, I wanted to be great at things on my very first try, and I would get so frustrated when I messed up or struggled. As I’ve grown in my faith, I’ve seen those same tendencies flare up time and time again. I sin, I repent, and then I sin again. And then, I get frustrated with myself, because shouldn’t I have learned this lesson the first time? Shouldn’t I be a better follower of Jesus who doesn’t keep messing up and forgetting what He taught?

There have been times where my mistakes and my failures have led me down a path of seriously doubting my faith and my salvation.

Could Jesus still save even a wandering, struggling sinner like me? Would He even want to?

Maybe you’ve asked some of the same questions. Maybe you’ve felt the fear of wondering if you are truly saved or if God could truly love you despite what you’ve done. Maybe you’ve doubted who God is or what He says about who you are. There are seasons of life where all Christians wrestle with these questions.

Joshua Rogers shares his own story for Boundless of how having a strong group of Christian friends in college led him to focusing on his external behavior and developing a legalistic faith.

“At the heart of my legalism was (1) an unshakable fear that I might actually be going to hell, despite my Herculean efforts to please God and (2) a belief that I could manipulate Him with my obedience,” Rogers explains.

He shares five specific Bible verses that helped transform how he viewed God and his personal journey of faith:

  1. “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate” (Romans 7:15, NLT). I, too, have found this verse to be comforting. I so often feel like I know what I should be doing, yet I see myself doing the total opposite, and it can lead me to feel increasingly insufficient as a Christian. Knowing that the apostle Paul wrestled with the same disconnects between his faith and his behavior reminds me that we are not alone in our struggles. This verse doesn’t let us off the hook, though, but instead should draw us back to the God who rescues us from our sin. (Romans 7:25)
  2. “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48, NKJV). “The call for perfection always left me feeling defeated until one day, out of desperation, I thought, But I can’t be perfect,” Rogers writes. “And I sensed the Holy Spirit respond to my heart, “You sure can’t — not without Jesus — that’s My whole point!””
  3. “For by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 10:14, NIV). Look carefully at the wording here– “He has made perfect” is in past tense. That has been done in Him. But we are still “being made holy” in an ongoing process of sanctification. “Therefore, Rogers says, “on this side of heaven, I shouldn’t expect to see my perfection, but the promise of it has already been secured by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.”
  4. “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV). This can be a mind-blowing thought. Jesus literally took our sin upon Himself when He died on the cross. He became our sin so that our sin would die when He did. In Him, our sin is dead forever and can no longer keep us separated from our Father in Heaven. It is through Jesus that we can be made whole, be made perfect, and become the righteousness of God. How incredible is that? It reminds me that my sin does not get to define me forever– Jesus has offered us salvation and a new life together with Him for all eternity.
  5. “I give [My sheep] eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand” (John 10:28-29, NKJV). Our God is greater than our sin. When I feel like my behavior will change God’s mind about me, this verse reminds me that it is not my performance that determines the outcome of this story. Jesus has already conquered sin and death once and for all, and we cannot be snatched away from our Father.

These verses are convicting reminders that despite my imperfections and all the ways I fall short, nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39).

What verses comfort and encourage you in your daily walk with Jesus?

Share them in the comments to uplift your fellow believers!

Rachel Dawson is the editor of BibleStudyTools.com

Ref: http://www.biblestudytools.com

7 Commandments of a Great 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

Ron Edmondson serves as the senior pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky, and has an impressive history of church planting and church growth. A nationally known Christian leader, he was raised in a Christian home and active in his home church, First Baptist Church of Clarksville, Tennessee, serving as a lay leader, deacon, Sunday School director, and teacher. After twenty years in business, including time owning an insurance agency and a small manufacturing company, Ron heard God’s call to ministry.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Ron’s strong theological background guides him to teach faithfully from Scripture. Ron identifies himself as a wisdom seeker and a teacher.

Find out more at: http://www.ronedmondson.com/about

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?

 

Source: http://www.biblestudytools.com

3 Reasons Why Some Christians Avoid Church

by John Aloisi

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the myth of unchurched Christians. Unfortunately the reality is that there are a good number of professing Christians who either shy away from church membership or avoid church attendance altogether. The problem of professing Christians who neglect church involvement is sadly not a myth.

There are a number of excuses that such professing believers give for their lack of church involvement. Here are three that I’ve heard:

  1. “I’ve      been hurt by a previous church (or church leader).”

Sadly, this reason is often grounded in reality. Many people have been emotionally torn up by the actions of other people. Churches are full of sinners—hopefully, redeemed sinners, but sinners nonetheless. It should come as no surprise that sinners sin, and although all sin is ultimately against God, human sin often has harmful consequences in the lives of people who have been sinned against. But someone’s sin against you is not a good excuse for you to sin against God by ignoring his plan for this dispensation which is for his people to identify with a local church.

  1. “The church is full of hypocrites.”

Yes, local churches contain people who live hypocritically. To some extent, every person that acknowledges the lordship of Christ but continues to sin is acting hypocritically. This was a problem in the first century, and it remains a problem in the twenty-first as well. As long as believers possess a sin nature, they will sin against their Lord and Savior, and such sin runs contrary to their profession. However, this isn’t a good reason for avoiding the church, for few things could be more hypocritical than professing to love Christ while refusing to identify with his people in a local expression of the body of Christ.

  1. “I can worship God better on my own.”

Some professing believers speak of being “churchfree” or “satellite Christians.” They feel that because they can approach God directly through Christ, they do not need to be connected to a local church. In fact, some profess that their relationship with God has actually improved by walking away from the church. But if God’s plan for this age involves his people assembling together for worship, fellowship, and mutual accountability, then it doesn’t ultimately matter how one feels. The quality of one’s worship is not completely separate from affections or “feelings,” but feelings cannot override commands. One cannot worship God better by ignoring his instructions and the model that is pretty clearly laid out in the NT.

Sometimes these three excuses are used together, as if one could build a cumulative case for why he or she doesn’t need to be connected to a local church body. I’ve provided only the simplest replies to these excuses. Here are a few NT passages so-called unchurched Christians must wrestle with if they wish to continue excusing their lack of local church involvement:

Acts 16:5: “So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.”

1 Corinthians 5:2, 4–5, and 12–13: “Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this?… So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan…. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. ‘Expel the wicked person from among you.’”

>1 Timothy 3:14–15: “Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.”

>Hebrews 10:24–25: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Hebrews 13:7, 17, and 24: “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith…. Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account…. Greet all your leaders and all the Lord’s people.”

See also Acts 15:41; 1 Cor 1:2; 1 Cor 4:17; 1 Cor 7:17; 2 Cor 8:1–24; Gal 1:2; 1 Tim 5:17; >Titus 1:5–9; Jas 5:14; and 1 Pet 5:1–4 among others.

Theologically Driven features insight on Scripture, the church, and contemporary culture from faculty and staff at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary. DBTS has faithfully prepared men for gospel ministry since its founding in 1976. As a ministry of the Inter-City Baptist Church in Allen Park, Michigan, it provides graduate level training with a balance between strong academics and a heart for local church ministry.

Contributors to the blog include:

John Aloisi, Assistant Professor of Church History

Bill Combs, Academic Dean and Professor of New Testament

Bruce Compton, Professor of Biblical Languages and Exposition

Jared Compton, Assistant Professor of New Testament

Sam Dawson, Professor of Systematic Theology

Dave Doran, President and Professor of Pastoral Theology

Pearson Johnson, Assistant Professor of Pastoral Theology

Bob McCabe, Professor of Old Testament

Mark Snoeberger, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology

To find out more, visit Theologically Driven.

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


 

8 Keys to Knowing God’s Will For Your Life

When I was a young man, I seemed to continually wrestle with knowing God’s will for my life. I wanted more than anything to follow His plan. Interestingly, now that I’m “old” (currently 47 years old), I still wrestle with doing His will in my life. I have come to learn that this is not just something that a young person does early in life; it is a lifelong pursuit in order to stay in the exact center of His plan.

So, then, how can we know God’s plan for our lives? Over the past twenty-five years that I have been in ministry, I have discovered eight vital keys to knowing God’s will. Here they are:

1) Walk with God.

For starters, if you are interested in knowing God’s plan for your life, then you must learn to walk with God. You need to develop a relationship with Him. Christianity is all about relationship rather than just religion.

And so you must cultivate your relationship with God. You must seek to know Him and not just seek to know about Him.

You will cultivate that relationship best by spending time in His Word, taking time for prayer, and taking every opportunity you can to be involved in church and small group Bible study opportunities. When you seek these disciplines in your life, God will begin the first steps to revealing His plan to you.

Proverbs 3:5-6

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.

2) Surrender your will to God’s.

Many times when we say we are seeking God’s will, what we are really wanting to say to God is this: “OK, God, here’s what I’m planning to do. Now I need you to rubber stamp this, all right?” I must tell you that this is not really effective in finding His true will.

Before God will begin to reveal His will to you, you must be committed to doing whatever it is that He desires
for you to do. God will likely be slow to show you His plan if He knows you will likely not do that plan anyway.

Romans 12:1-2

1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Jesus was willing to die for us, so shouldn’t we be willing to live for Him? When we surrender to Him, that is when He really begins to direct our steps.

3) Obey what you already know to be God’s Will.

Many people seem to want to know what God’s plan is for their lives, but they overlook the fact that 98% of His will is already delineated carefully through His Word. God is very clear about many, many aspects of His will. For instance, it is clearly His plan that we abstain from sexual immorality (1 Thessalonians 4:3).

If we do not obey the things that God has shown us clearly to be His will, why would we think He would reveal any further information regarding His plan for our lives? Obedience is an important first step.

4) Seek godly input.

One key component to finding God’s will is to seek the input of godly advisors in your life. If you don’t currently have 3-4 godly mentors, then I would highly recommend that you seek them out right away.

Think of it this way: you should understand that you are basically a composite of the five people you spend the most time with. So, then, it is vital that you choose those five people well. If you choose to surround yourself with godly advisors, they will be instrumental in helping you discern God’s plan for your life. But if you surround yourself with people who are far from God, your hope of finding His best for your life will be greatly diminished.

Proverbs  11:14

Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.

The church is designed to help you greatly with this. I would encourage you to be in church every single time the doors are opened. The more you involve yourself with a community of believers, the greater your chances will be of finding godly men and women who can help you discern God’s will.

5) Pay attention to how God has wired you.

God has created you to fulfill a specific role in this world. There is no one else who can achieve completely what God has purposely created you to do.

The Apostle Peter gives us this admonition:

1 Peter 4:10  As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

God has gifted every one of us to perform a special mission for which we alone were created. How amazing is that? Wow!

So, when you seek to discover God’s will for your life, pay attention to how He has gifted you. His plan for you will always be directly related to the gifts that He has bestowed upon you. The great news is that you will automatically be good at whatever it is that He has called you to do!

6) Listen to God’s Spirit.

I experienced a major turning point in my own prayer life when I learned simply to shut up while I was praying. That may sound odd to you, and it seemed odd to me at first.

You see, I used to do all the talking when I prayed to God. But then, several years ago, I read Bill Hybel’s book, Too Busy Not to Pray. That book completely changed the way I approached God through prayer. Since reading that book, I have added a significant component to my prayer life: listening. I take time to listen to what God might have to say to me.

Practically, the way I go about this is to bring a notepad with me when I sit down to pray. Then I write at the top of several pages things like the following:

  • “What is the next step in my career?”
  • “What is the next step in my ministry?”
  • “What is the next step for my family?”
  • “What is the next step for my marriage?”
  • “What is the next step in my education?”
  • “What is  the next step in my finances?”

During my prayer time, I meditate on questions such as the above. Often, God will start flooding my heart with ideas and information regarding one or more of those questions. I write as fast as I can as He speaks to my heart. What a glorious experience that is to sense His Spirit on me, guiding my thoughts and words.

Through experiences like this, He has shown me many times with great clarity what His will is for my life. I long for those experiences when He speaks to me like that. Those times are truly life changing.

John 10:27 – My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.

7) Listen to your heart.

In addition to listening to the Spirit, I also recommend listening to your heart. To understand my point here, consider the following passage:

Psalms 37:4-5

4 Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. (NKJV)

I love this passage, because it shows me that, when I am walking with the Lord, He will actually let me do many really cool things that I actually love to do! When you are close to Him, He actually begins to shape your desires so that you desire the things that He has already called you to do.

So then, His plan actually becomes a super-exciting adventure. I always have the most fun in life when I am doing God’s will. And that is because He shapes my “wanter” to want to do the things for which He has actually created me.

8) Take a look at your circumstances.

God often clearly demonstrates His plan for our lives by lining up circumstances in obvious ways. And He also shows us what His will is NOT for us to do in that same way. It is not His will for you to take the job that is not offered to you. If you are 5’ 6” tall and weigh 125 lbs., it is not likely that God has created you to play professional football.

Over the years, I have discovered that God is pretty good at opening and closing doors. He even did that for the Apostle Paul and his enterouge in Acts. Take a look at this passage:

Acts 16:6-10 “ 6 Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia”.

7 After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them.

8 So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas.

9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”

10 Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.

So, even Paul had to face closed doors in his ministry. God often uses closed doors to show us clearly what He does NOT want us to do. And He also uses open doors at times to show us what He DOES want us to do. Of course, this does not mean that every open door is definitely God’s plan, but it does help to give you some basic direction.

A Closing Thought:

The next time you begin to ponder God’s plan for your life, I would encourage you to mull over the above eight keys. Use these principles to help you to hone in on His plan. And when you seek His will earnestly, you will find it!

 Chris Russel

 Chris Russell has spent the past 25 years actively involved in ministry through pastoring, church planting, writing, Christian radio, and special speaking around the country and in seven different countries. He is passionate about communicating the truths of God’s Word in a creative, highly-relevant way.

Chris has three kids and happens to be married to his best friend, Leigh. He currently pastors a church on the north side of Cincinnati. When he’s not pastoring or blogging (www.SensibleFaith.com), he runs a real estate company in his “spare” time (www.PlumTreeRealty.com). He believes that A.D.D. (Attention Deficit Disorder) is one of his ‘spiritual gifts.’

 Source: http://www.biblestudytools.com 

Resolutions? No thanks. I will take this instead

All around me I see people resolving.

RESOLVED: To read my Bible more this year! RESOLVED: To spend more time with my family this year! RESOLVED: To watch less television, read more books, get outside more this year! RESOLVED: To be a kinder, gentler, nobler, more compassionate, kinder (oops, already said that), lovinger, happy person this year. RESOLVED: To be the bestest person I can possibly be!

We all nod or say, “Amen,” or give a simultaneous slow clap/standing ovation. Good for you! Always improving. Never say die. Kicking butt and taking names all for the glory of God. Look out, Satan, you’re getting put on notice for this coming year. There’s a freight train of holiness coming, and you better get out of the way.

Yet here I am, off in the corner, refusing to the whole resolutions thing, like that annoying kid at the birthday party who is upset that the presents aren’t for him. What’s my deal? Why do I have be such a rain-on-your-parade grump?

I guess part of it is that I know myself too well.

It’s not like I’m going to wake up on January 1 a completely different person. I’m still the same old me, with the same old sins, problems, and weaknesses. Unless God does something amazing, which he certainly can if he pleases, I’m pretty sure I’ll still struggle with chronic physical anxiety this year. I’m pretty sure I’ll still be condescending, cynical, and proud. I’m pretty sure I’ll still love comfort more than I should. I’m pretty sure my kids will still drive me crazy.

New year, same me, same problems.

Maybe you can relate to me. The thought of being a new, more improved, more holy version of you in the coming year is exhausting, daunting, and guilt-inducing. If that’s you, I’ve got some really good news for you:

You don’t have to do better this year.

Christ did all the resolving you need for this year, next year, and every year until you die. I love how Luke 9:51 puts it:

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.

As the end of Jesus’ life approached, he resolved to finish what he had started. He resolved to complete his magnum opus of perfect obedience to all of God’s commands and he resolved to die a substitutionary death for you and me.

Can you imagine how much harder things got for Jesus as he got closer and closer to Jerusalem? Every step brought him closer to being swallowed by the wrath of God. Every forward movement brought him closer to the thing that he abhorred the most. And don’t forget that Satan was probably unleashing all he had at Jesus. Although not spelled out specifically in Scripture, I imagine that the closer Jesus got to the cross, the more temptations he launched at Jesus.

Yet through it all, Jesus was resolved. He would not, could not, did not turn aside. He stayed the course. Finished the race. Rose again. And now his obedience belongs to you and to me. His resolutions are our resolutions. His righteousness is our righteousness.

This coming year, I live in the good of Galatians 2:20

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I don’t live by my resolutions. I don’t live by my goodness or obedience. I live by the life and resolutions of another—Jesus.

I suspect that some people will take this post to mean that I don’t care about obeying God. The term “antinomian” (lawless)  will probably get thrown around. Will I seek to be holy and pursue the Lord in the coming year? Of course! I love Jesus and want to be more like him. But if this year is anything like the previous 31 years of my life, I’ll have pretty mixed results, and that’s really okay. I don’t stand on my obedience to God, I stand on the solid, unshakable, solid rock of Christ. To stand on anything else is spiritual suicide.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go do some exercise, while simultaneously reading my Bible and learning Spanish.


Stephen Altrogge is a writer who lives in Tallahassee, Florida. He’s married to Jen and has three little girls. Stephen Altrogge is a writer, pastor, and knows a lot about Star Wars. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.

Find out more when you visit his blog, The Blazing Center.

Source: http://www.biblestudytools.com

The Best New Year’s Resolution

Philippians 3: The Best New Year’s Resolution

There isn’t a better New Year’s resolution than what starts in the words of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 3:7-8.

He writes, “But whatever was to my profit, I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord for whose sake I have lost all things.”

He goes on to say in Philippians 3:8-9, “I consider them rubbish [the word he uses literally means manure] that I may gain Christ and be found in him not having a righteousness of my own, that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.”

Paul is not talking about any virtue found in himself—he is actually setting aside all of his credentials and saying they are worth nothing. They are worthless. But his resolution is, “I want to know Christ more and better.” What is remarkable is that he has known Christ for thirty years, yet he is resolved to know Him better. Now comes his determined resolution in light of all this: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, to attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11). By faith he is in essence saying, “I want to know Christ and live my life by faith in His finished work.”

That is my New Year’s resolution this year. I’ve known Christ for about forty years now, but my desire is to get to know Him better. I’ve known my wife Nanci for many years (I actually met her a year before I came to faith in Christ), yet I’m still getting to know her better every day. How do I do that? By spending time with her, talking with her, listening to her, and asking her questions.

Likewise, we can get to know Christ by spending time in His Word, going to Him in prayer, meditating upon Him, and asking Him for help. I resolve that I want to know the Lord by being in His Word every day—not just reading the words of Scripture, but meditating upon them, personalizing them, and making them part of my life. And I want to link arms with those who are part of the body of Christ, who will challenge me to know Christ better, while hopefully I do the same to them.

This resolution is something that shouldn’t just last for the months of January and February, or maybe into the spring before we give up. This is something that should last the whole year round, until the day that God takes us from this world. On that day, our desire to know Christ will be ultimately fulfilled because we will see Him face to face and will be with Him forever. This is not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy and the virtue of Jesus Christ and what He’s done on our behalf. It’s one hundred percent Him, zero percent us, and all to His glory.


Used by permission of Randy Alcorn, Eternal Perspective Ministries, 39085 Pioneer Blvd., Suite 206, Sandy, OR 97055, 503-668-5200, www.epm.org

Source: http://www.biblestudytools.com

All around me I see people resolving by Stephen Altrogge

All around me I see people resolving.

RESOLVED: To read my Bible more this year! RESOLVED: To spend more time with my family this year! RESOLVED: To watch less television, read more books, get outside more this year! RESOLVED: To be a kinder, gentler, nobler, more compassionate, kinder (oops, already said that), lovinger, happy person this year. RESOLVED: To be the bestest person I can possibly be!

We all nod or say, “Amen,” or give a simultaneous slow clap/standing ovation. Good for you! Always improving. Never say die. Kicking butt and taking names all for the glory of God. Look out, Satan, you’re getting put on notice for this coming year. There’s a freight train of holiness coming, and you better get out of the way.

Yet here I am, off in the corner, refusing to the whole resolutions thing, like that annoying kid at the birthday party who is upset that the presents aren’t for him. What’s my deal? Why do I have be such a rain-on-your-parade grump?

I guess part of it is that I know myself too well.

It’s not like I’m going to wake up on January 1 a completely different person. I’m still the same old me, with the same old sins, problems, and weaknesses. Unless God does something amazing, which he certainly can if he pleases, I’m pretty sure I’ll still struggle with chronic physical anxiety this year. I’m pretty sure I’ll still be condescending, cynical, and proud. I’m pretty sure I’ll still love comfort more than I should. I’m pretty sure my kids will still drive me crazy.

New year, same me, same problems.

Maybe you can relate to me. The thought of being a new, more improved, more holy version of you in the coming year is exhausting, daunting, and guilt-inducing. If that’s you, I’ve got some really good news for you:

You don’t have to do better this year.

Christ did all the resolving you need for this year, next year, and every year until you die. I love how Luke 9:51 puts it:

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.

As the end of Jesus’ life approached, he resolved to finish what he had started. He resolved to complete his magnum opus of perfect obedience to all of God’s commands and he resolved to die a substitutionary death for you and me.

Can you imagine how much harder things got for Jesus as he got closer and closer to Jerusalem? Every step brought him closer to being swallowed by the wrath of God. Every forward movement brought him closer to the thing that he abhorred the most. And don’t forget that Satan was probably unleashing all he had at Jesus. Although not spelled out specifically in Scripture, I imagine that the closer Jesus got to the cross, the more temptations he launched at Jesus.

Yet through it all, Jesus was resolved. He would not, could not, did not turn aside. He stayed the course. Finished the race. Rose again. And now his obedience belongs to you and to me. His resolutions are our resolutions. His righteousness is our righteousness.

This coming year, I live in the good of Galatians 2:20

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I don’t live by my resolutions. I don’t live by my goodness or obedience. I live by the life and resolutions of another—Jesus.

I suspect that some people will take this post to mean that I don’t care about obeying God. The term “antinomian” (lawless)  will probably get thrown around. Will I seek to be holy and pursue the Lord in the coming year? Of course! I love Jesus and want to be more like him. But if this year is anything like the previous 31 years of my life, I’ll have pretty mixed results, and that’s really okay. I don’t stand on my obedience to God, I stand on the solid, unshakable, solid rock of Christ. To stand on anything else is spiritual suicide.

The Weakling’s Secret to Being Filled with Confidence for the New Year

I’m a weak person.

I’ve started lots of things in my life and failed to finish them. I’ve made multitudes of mistakes and all kinds of poor decisions, committed lots of sins. I want to change, yet I seem to be pretty slow at it. I would make resolutions, but I know I’d forget what I resolved by the middle of next week. Yet I’m beginning the new year filled with confidence.

But this confidence is not in myself. My confidence is in someone who never fails to accomplish his purposes. And what gives me extra confidence is knowing that he has purposes for my life that he will not fail to accomplish. How do I know this? Because he tells me in Psalm 138:8:

The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.

The Lord will fulfill HIS purpose for me. I don’t even know all his purposes for me. But I do know that his grand purpose is to bring glory to himself by making me into the likeness of his Son, as it says in Romans 8:29:

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

So, I have confidence that the Lord will fulfill his purpose to make me like Christ. He will use good times and bad, times when he gives me opportunities to obey him or serve others or deny myself or put sin to death or give to the poor or humble myself. He will use my failures and successes. He will use the encouragement of others and the sins of others as well. I’m sure I’ll respond poorly at times and by his grace well at other times. But no matter how I do, the Lord will be behind the scenes fulfilling his purpose for me. That’s why I’m filled with confidence at the beginning of another year. That’s my “secret” to incredible confidence.  I’m not confident in myself but in the Lord.

Isn’t that exciting? He has a purpose for you, and he will fulfill it. He won’t fail in any way to fulfill his good plans for your life. He won’t partially complete his purpose; he won’t make any mistakes; he won’t leave anything out.

So, have confidence this year. Not in yourself, but in the Lord who will fulfill his glorious purpose for you.

Happy New Year!


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

4 Steps to Sharing the Gospel with Your Family During Christmas

I’ve been browsing through Randy Newman’s book, Bringing the Gospel Home: Witnessing to Your Family Members, Your Close Friends, and Others You Know Well. This is an incredibly important topic as I have come to find it harder to share the gospel with family members as it is with an unknown person in my community. I imagine this is true for most if not all Christians.

In the conclusion of his introductory chapter, Newman provides four steps for sharing the gospel with your family. I thought they were very thoughtful and practical. Check them out.

1.  If you don’t already have one, develop a system for prayer for your family. Perhaps you can set aside a section in a prayer journal.

2.  Begin your prayers for your family with thanksgiving. This may be more difficult for some people than others. Regardless of your family’s well-being, thank God for the family you have and all the accompanying benefits you can identify.

3.  You may need to include prayers of confession as well–confession of your lack of love for your family, your idolatry of control in trying to change them, your reliance on your ability to convict them of their sin instead of trusting the Holy Spirit to do that, your coldheartedness, haughtiness, and self-righteousness, etc. Ask the Holy Spirit to shine his light of truth on your darkness of sin.

4.  If you haven’t already done so, “come out of the closet” as a Christian to your family. Pray for gentle words and a gracious demeanor mixed with bold confidence. . . . Aim for your announcement to be informational rather than evangelistic. You can trust God to open evangelistic doors later.

#3 nailed me.

One thing I might add, especially if you have a large family: look for opportunities in the course of the day when it is not so hectic where you might be able to enjoy a sustained conversation with a family member who is not a Christian. In a large group setting, conversations tend to stay on a superficial level, but if you can get alone with one or two family members for 10-15 minutes or longer, you will have a greater opportunity of magnetizing the conversation to the gospel and how Jesus has changed, and is changing your life.

Tim Brister has served as a pastor and elder at Grace Baptist Church since June 2008. Tim’s passion is to demonstrate a life that trusts God, treasures Christ, and triumphs the gospel. Tim is the Director of PLNTD, a church planting network in association with Founders Ministries. He’s also the director of The Haiti Collective, organizer for Band of Bloggers, and creator of P2R (Partnering to Remember) and the Memory Moleskine.

You can read more about Tim on his blog, Provocations and Pantings.

Source:http://www.biblestudytools.com

Jesus is for People who Hate Christmas

Don’t get me wrong, I really do like Christmas. I like getting together with my family to open presents and sit around the tree and watch reruns of Seinfeld and The Andy Griffith Show. I’m happy when it snows on Christmas. I like seeing tastefully decorated houses. Heck, I even like some Christmas music (don’t get me started on “Mary Did You Know?”).

But Christmas often brings out the gloomy side of me as well. I’m reminded of one of my favorite families who, because of cancer, no longer has a dad around the house. I’m reminded of some of my favorite people who, after many years of patiently waiting, are still single. I’m reminded of my sister, who has been dealing with migraine headaches for years without much relief. I’m reminded of my own ongoing battles with intense physical anxiety.

After the tree is down and the wrapping paper put away and the music silenced and the egg nog polished off, all the problems still remain. I think one of the reasons we cling so tightly to Christmas is that it helps us forget about our problems for awhile. For a few, brief days, everything seems as it should be. We long for a white Christmas because the snow covers up all the mud and muck.

My propensity toward Christmas gloom is one of the reasons I am so grateful for Jesus. Not in a “Jesus is the reason for the season,” kind of way, but in a, “Jesus is a holy warrior,” kind of way.

This morning I was reading in Matthew 8-9. In these chapters Jesus cleanses a leper, heals a centurion’s servant, heals Peter’s mother-in-law, calms a storm, drives demons out of two raving madmen, heals a paralytic, raises a girl from the dead, heals two blind men, and heals a man who is unable to speak. In the comments section of The Gospel Transformation Bible it says:

Wherever Jesus goes he brings the reign of God, and where God reigns, the invisible powers of the universe in rebellion against him are banished and left powerless to do anyone ultimate harm…. Since believers are united with Christ, they share Christ’s victory over evil.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the true meaning of Christmas. Wherever Jesus goes he brings the reign of God! Christmas is ultimately about the kingdom of God coming to this sad, broken, sin-marred world. Christmas is ultimately about a baby who would grow into a mighty warrior–a warrior who would crush Satan, undo sadness, defeat death, and ensure that it would be always Christmas and never winter.

Listen closely. For just a moment, tune out the Christmas music and television commercials. Do you hear that slow creaking and cracking noise? It’s the sound of Satan’s skull being slowly crushed underneath the foot of our conquering Savior. Now we suffer. Now we experience cancer and migraines and anxiety and singleness and sadness and loneliness and poverty. Now we are afflicted by sin and Satan and our flesh. But not always.

Ultimately, Christmas should give the most hope to those who hate Christmas. Things won’t always be this way. As it says in 1 John 3:8, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” Those are such sweet words. Christmas is a celebration of war! Jesus himself has declared open season on Satan. He came to destroy all the works of the evil one. He came to wipe away tears and heal broken bodies and lift up despondent hearts and drive out fear and destroy loneliness.

If you’re feeling gloomy, take heart. Jesus is for those who hate Christmas.


Stephen Altrogge serves as a pastor at Sovereign Grace Church. Find out more at The Blazing Center.

Stephen Altrogge is a writer who lives in Tallahassee, Florida. He’s married to Jen and has three little girls. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.

Find out more when you visit his blog, The Blazing Center

Source: http://www.biblestudytools.com