Category Archives: Bible Study

Hard times? Here is encouragement.

Going through a hard time? You are not alone. Life’s rough times are something we all share. 2 Corinthians offers us some encouragement during these times.

We read in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, “That is why we never give up. Though are bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long, yet they produce a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever. So, we don’t look at the troubles we can see now. Rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”

3 Points of Encouragement

We can find 3 points of encouragement in this passage.

Our Spirits are being Renewed

Paul says he may be wasting away physically, but spiritually, he is being renewed each day. Everything may be falling apart around us, but the Lord will still be with us. We are promised the Lord will not leave us or forsake us. As things crumble around us, we can find strength in the Lord. “I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his spirit” (Ephesians 3:16).

Its Temporary

As we are overwhelmed by a rough situation, it can be hard to remember this. We are weary of the current circumstance and just want it to end. You may be amid an extremely hard time. I do not want to minimize the difficulties you have endured. You’re tired, so I hope you find encouragement in these words.

This is only a temporary time. One season of life always gives way to another. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 reminds us the present may be overwhelming, but it will not overtake us.

“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.”

Gaze at the Future

We are encouraged to look intently and steadily on the future. Look toward eternity in the presence of the Lord. We are promised there will be no more tears, heartache, difficulty, or struggles. We are encouraged to stare at eternity, peering into its beauty, glory, and majesty.

The Best is Coming

Whether in good times or bad, we know there is a better time coming. Eternity will be the best time. As we go through hard times, we can find comfort and encouragement in this promise.

Here are 4 Exciting Facts about Heaven.

Acting

Gaze at eternity and share how it encourages you in the comments. If you know someone who would benefit from this post, please share it with them.

 

Worried? Here’sSuggestions

You and I are not the only ones who worry. We can safely say worry is common and has negative effects. Here is some encouragement to help cope with the problem of worry.

A Professional Worrier

Two friends were having lunch and discussing the state of their lives. One friend said he was having a rough time. “I just lost my job, my savings account is empty, the bank has repossessed my car, and the lender is threatening foreclosure on my home. I’m not worried though.”

“You are not worried,” the other friend exclaimed! “How can you not be worried?”

“I’ve hired a professional worrier,” the other friend explained. “He does my worrying for me, and he only charges me 50 K a year.”

Surprised, the friend asked, “How can you afford to pay him?” “I don’t know. That’s not my worry,” the man answered. “It is his.”

The Problem of Worry

Worry can cause many problems.

Physical Health Concerns

Worry has many implications on our health. It can cause heart issues, migraines, and cause our bodies to produce too much of a stress hormone.

Mental & Social Concerns

Worry can influence our mood causing problems in social situations. A worried person can be irritable, and worry can be a starting point for depression.

Takes Tomorrow’s Thrill Away

Worry causes us to think of the worst-case scenario and traps our focus there. The problem is these scenarios rarely occur, and when they do, worrying excessively does not help change them. Worry has the power to rob us of the thrill found in the future; paralyzing us so we can’t enjoy the adventure of tomorrow.

3 Encouraging Suggestions to Help Cope with Worry

Here are 3 encouraging suggestions to help us cope with worry.

Look at Nature’s Example

Matthew 6:26 encourages us to look at the birds. They do not plant, harvest, or store food in barns, yet they have food. Jesus says the Lord feeds them. Birds have what they need. If the Lord will take care of the birds, he will care for you and me as well.

Matthew 6:28 challenges us to look at flowers. They do not worry about their looks, yet they are stunningly beautiful. If the Lord puts this much time and attention into a flower which is here today and gone tomorrow, he will take care of you and I as well.

Concentrate on Today

Jesus says, “So don’t worry about tomorrow. For tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” In other words, don’t bring the worries of the future into the present. We are encouraged to plan, not be paralyzed by worrying about the future. Concentrate on today. What good things have happened to you today? How have you been blessed today?

Replace Worry with Prayer

Do not worry about anything, Philippians 4:6 encourages, but in everything present your requests to God in prayer. Replace the time we spend worrying with time in prayer. Praying through worries will bring us peace.

You can find some more tips to stay positive here.

Our Professional Worrier

Like the man in the story above, we have a professional worrier. The Lord is our professional worrier.

  • “Come to me all you who are weary, and burden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me. For I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).
  • “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you. He will never let the righteous be shaken” (Psalm 55:22).
  • “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Acting

Try these suggestions this week to reduce the time you spend worrying. Share how it goes in the comments below. If you know someone who could be encouraged by this post, please share it with him or her.

 

 

3 Tips for Maintaining a Positive Attitude

A family who had twin boys wanted to teach them a lesson about attitude. They took each boy and placed him in a room by himself. The room was full of horse manure. They told the boys they had to stay in their rooms for an hour, then they would come get them. When the family returned to the first boy’s room, he was sitting in the corner of the room just watching the clock, but when they returned to the second boy’s room, he was shoveling the manure out the window. “why are you doing that?” they asked. He replied, “With all this manure in here, there has to be a pony at the bottom of the pile.” The boys were in similar situations but took completely different approaches.

 

Attitude determines how we approach life. Our attitude determines the approach we take to life. Paul, the writer of Philippians, gives three suggestions to help us take the right approach.

 

1. Don’t Worry (Philippians 4:6)

 

Do not worry about anything. A scholar did a word study on “anything,” and discovered it really means, “anything.” Don’t worry, that sounds an awful lot like what Jesus says, “do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.”

We see this idea lived out in nature all the time. Jesus uses birds for an example; they do not go out and sow seed in the spring, and water the seed all summer so they can reap a harvest in the fall. They don’t do that, yet they still have food to eat. God provides for them, and if he will provide for birds, why wouldn’t he also provide for us?

 

Check out these tips to combat worry.

 

When we worry, we are putting God into a box and slamming a lid on it. This problem is too big for me to handle, so it must be too big for God. We can’t go there; we can’t raise that much money. In all honesty, that is what we – me included – think sometimes. Yet, Ephesians 3:20 says God can do immeasurably more than we can imagine.

Think about that for just a moment. Immeasurably more than we can imagine; you can’t measure something that is immeasurable – it is impossible, and we can imagine some pretty big things. That means God can do immeasurably more than we can comprehend. When things come up that are too big for us, we should be asking, “How big is God?” The answer is, he can do immeasurably more than we can imagine. Jesus says if we seek after the Kingdom first, all our other needs will be met.

 

Stop and think. There is not anyone who has added time to their life by worrying about it. Jesus says we shouldn’t worry about tomorrow, because today has enough troubles of its own.

 

2. Pray about everything (Philippians 4:6)

 

Instead of spending time worrying about tomorrow, Scripture suggests that time would be more wisely spent praying about it. Paul says the result of carrying everything to God in prayer is that his peace will guard our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. A peace that we know no matter what comes our way, we’ll be able to get through it with the help of Jesus. We may not understand it or comprehend how this is possible, but we know that it is true. We should not worry about anything but carry everything to God in prayer through Christ.

 

3. Be Positive (Philippians 4:8)

 

We should have a positive outlook. We are encouraged to dwell in the following territory: whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

 

Every adjective in this list points to something good, something positive. The opposite of things that are good and positive are bad and negative. The question is, which one are we going to concentrate on – the negative or the positive?

 

Two men attended the same church service on the same Sunday morning. The first man noticed the organist missed a note during the prelude, the music was too loud, and the preacher had a slip of the tongue six times. The second man enjoyed the prelude because it was one of his favorite hymns, was deeply moved by the music, and listened intently to the sermon because it answered a question that had bothered him for a long time. The difference between these two men is what they concentrated on. The first man took a negative outlook, while the second man took a positive outlook. Which outlook in life are you taking?

 

There will always be things wrong in life. Illness and economic hardship are just two examples. And, I’m not saying if we get up in the morning and think it is going to be a beautiful day, that it will automatically become a beautiful day. We will experience trouble from time to time. We will face trials of many kinds, but how we respond to these trials is up to us. We can either sit around dwelling on the negative, or we can concentrate on the positive.

 

We all have something to thank God for. Here are some stats.

 

  • If you were able to get up this morning in good health, you are better off than 2 million people around the world.
  • If you are not persecuted, you are better off than 3 billion others in the world.

 

Acting

 

Attitude determines a lot in life. Put yourself in the story of the twins. Which boy are you? Are you the one sitting in the corner absorbed by the smell and watching the clock? If so, consider putting one or two of these suggestions into practice for the next week. Share how it helps you in the comments below.

 

 

A Once In History Life

We’ve all seen coffee cup phrases.  The encouraging words that are just right to place on a coffee cup and present to someone as an encouraging gift.  Most gift shops stock these cups and they make great gifts for a person who just needs a little encouragement.  The phrases usually originate from Scripture as the Bible is full of them.

 

You do not have to read very far into Philippians before finding a coffee cup phrase; maybe even one of the most encouraging phrases in Scripture.  It is in the sixth verse of the first chapter; he, who began a good work in you, will bring it to completion.

 

There is no denying this is an encouraging statement.  The Lord is at work in our lives, and he promises he will complete what he has started.  God is completing a good work in our lives despite what we may do to try to stop him.  The Bible’s biography of Moses helps us understand how this truth works.  Despite Moses at times, God completed a good work in his life.

 

What do we have in common with Moses?

 

This may seem like an odd question.  You may be thinking, “We can’t possibly have anything in common with Moses.”  True, Moses had a once in history childhood, grew up to be a shepherd in the desert, and spent his senior years leading the Israelites through the desert.  Unique is an understatement when describing his life, yet we share common ground with Moses.

 

A Once in History Life

 

I said above Moses is the only one who lived his life story.  God placed Moses in a unique time and called him to a unique purpose.  Moses was the individual God needed in that moment to fulfill that part of his plan.

 

Glimpse through Moses’ biography, and you can see how each phase of his life prepared him for the next.  Growing up in Pharaoh’s palace would have enabled Moses to become familiar with Egyptian customs.  Shepherding sheep in the desert prepared Moses to be the shepherd of God’s people in the desert.  God began a good work in Moses and carried it through to completion.

 

The same can be said for us.  God has placed us in a unique position.  Every person has a spot in God’s plan and a purpose to fulfill.  Scripture speaks of each person’s uniqueness.

 

  • The Psalmist says to the Lord, “For you created my inmost being you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful; I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was woven together in the secret place.  When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.  All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:13-16).
  • “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).
  • Esther was told, “You are here for such a time as this.”

 

Acting

 

Glimpse through your own biography.  See how the previous phases of your life have prepared you for the current phase.  He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion.

 

Moses had a once in history life, and so do we.  Share how the past has prepared you for the present in the comments below.

 

5 Reasons Jesus Chose Fishermen

The Bible tells us 7 of the first 12 disciples were fishermen by trade.  It is no accident Jesus chose these individuals to be his first disciples.  As fishermen, these guys possessed characteristics every Christian should have.  Here are 5 reasons Jesus chose fishermen.

Fishermen know how to take orders.

 

These men took orders without questioning or debating.  Here are 3 examples.

 

  • When Jesus called Simon and Andrew, “at once they left their nets and followed him” (Mark 1:18).  At once was their response, an immediate reaction to Jesus’ calling.
  • A night of fishing resulted in empty nets, Jesus told Simon to go to deep water and let down the nets. “Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.  But because you say so, I will let down the nets.’  When they had done so, they caught so many fish their nets began to break” (Luke 5:5-6).  “Because you say so” was good enough.
  • A post resurrection appearance placed Jesus together with his disciples after a fruitless night of fishing. “He called out to them, ‘Friends haven’t you any fish?’ ‘No,’ they answered.  He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’  When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish” (John 21:5-6).  Listening to orders yielded great results.

 

While there is a time for questioning and debating, fishermen know sometimes the difference between failure and success is the width of their boat and the time it takes to cross from one side of the boat to the other.  They know when to simply take orders.

 

When Jesus said to cast their net on the other side of the boat, his disciples listened.  Christians, too, need to develop the skill of taking orders from the Lord.  It is okay to ask questions, but sometimes, situations call for simply taking orders.  The Psalmist records the Lord saying, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

 

Fishermen know how to work together.

 

Manually pulling in a net full of fish is a hard task.  Everyone on a boat works together to pull in the net.  The crew works as a team to accomplish their goal.  They do not let one person do all the work.

 

Scripture calls Christ’s followers to act in the same manner.  We are one body with many parts, and each part is to do his or her work to accomplish one common goal – introducing the lost world to the message of Christ.

 

Fishermen are dedicated.

 

Fishing requires a great deal of patience and dedication.  Fishermen might go hours, perhaps days, without even a nibble.  Giving up is not an option though.  A fisherman’s dedication pushes the person to keep fishing.

 

Jesus knew what was ahead for his followers.  He knew he needed followers who would not easily quit.  The same is true today.  Christians are called to pick up our cross and follow Christ daily.  It is never promised life will be easy, but it is promised the Lord will care for us and Heaven will be worth the wait.  As Christians, we must measure our dedication.  Are we as dedicated as fishermen?

 

Fishermen are courageous.

 

Fishing can require a person to travel into deep and treacherous waters.  It was common in Jesus’ day for fishermen to be caught in fierce storms while on the open sea.  It was their courage which pushed them to go back into the water after experiencing one of these storms.  Much courage was required.

 

Much courage is required for the Christian.  There are any number of circumstances that could cripple us with fear, but we must continue the journey of life.  This takes courage.

 

Did you know the most repeated command in Scripture is “do not fear?”  The Lord knew life would be rough and tough, so he gives us an encouraging command to have courage in the face of fear.  Psalm 46 reminds us the Lord is our refuge, strength, and protection.  In him, we can master fear with courage.  In him, we can have courage like fishermen.

 

Fishermen are skilled at using their equipment.

 

Good fishermen have a tackle box filled with various bates and lures.  Each one assigned a specific task.  Fishermen know each one’s job and how to properly use it.  They are skilled at using their equipment.

 

Like fishermen, Christians have some equipment at which we need to be skilled in using.

 

God’s Word – We have Scripture.  It is our double-edged sword.

 

Jesus shows us how to use our sword in Matthew 4.  Jesus has just been baptized and is immediately led into the desert to be tempted.  Satan tempts Jesus, and each time Jesus runs Satan off by quoting Scripture.  There is great power in God’s Word, so Christians need to be skilled in using it.

 

Prayer – James says, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”

 

Again, Jesus shows us how to use this tool.  Reading through the Gospels reveals Jesus withdrawing to pray frequently.  Before any major event, Jesus takes time to pray.  How well do you follow this example?  Prayer is an awesome tool the Christian has been given.  It is our responsibility to be skilled in using it.

 

Jesus could have called anyone he wanted to be his first disciples, and he called 7 men who were fishermen.  This was no accident.  These men possessed characteristics Jesus desires for all his followers to possess.  We know, of course, the Christian life is one of continual growth, so if you feel you are lacking one of these characteristics, ask the Lord to help you grow in that area.  Pick one as your focus and enjoy the adventure of growing.  Share some of the excitement of your adventure in the comments below.

 

 

5 Tips for Understanding the Bible

Just beginning to read the Bible can feel overwhelming for some people. They desire to know what it says, but they find it difficult to understand. Comprehending the 66 books, for them, is like trying to scale Mount Everest. Difficult for a few people, and impossible for most people.

Does this describe you? If so, please know you do not have to feel overwhelmed. God desires for you to know what He says in the Bible. Understanding the Bible takes time, and can be an exciting journey. Here are five tips to help you understand the Bible.

1. GET AN UNDERSTANDABLE TRANSLATION

Walk into a book store and ask for a Bible, and you are soon overwhelmed with choices. The clerk takes you to a section filled with rows of Bibles. How do you know which one to get? Which translation is right for you?

Selecting a Translation

There are numerous translations of the Bible available. Each has its own positives and negatives. Selecting a translation should begin by asking yourself if the translation is understandable. Knowing what is said is the first step in understanding its meaning.

A couple good translations to consider are the New International Version (NIV) and the New Living Translation (NLT). Both are written in modern English, so they use words which are familiar. Both translations are easy to read.

Adding a Paraphrase

There are also a number of paraphrases of the Bible available. A paraphrase of the Bible does just what you would think; it paraphrases what is said in Scripture. Many have found these books easier to read and understand. They don’t replace an actual verse by verse copy of the Bible, but make a great addition. A couple paraphrases to consider are The Message and The Story.

2. UNDERSTAND THE BIBLE’S ORGANIZATION

The next key is to become familiar with how the Bible is organized. Begin by understanding the Bible is divided into two sections: the Old and New Testament. The dividing line is the birth of Jesus Christ.

The Old Testament

The Old Testament contains the books of Genesis through Malachi. It can be divided into sections such as books of the law, books of history, books of wisdom, and books of prophecy. Your Bible’s table of contents can provide a more specific breakdown. The Old Testament begins with the creation account and spans a length of time to about 400 years prior to Jesus’ birth.

The New Testament

The New Testament begins with Matthew and goes through Revelation. It too can be divided into sections. Matthew Mark, Luke and John are the Gospels. Acts tells the story of the church’s beginning. Except Revelation, the remaining books are letters which were circulated to believers to help them grow in Christ. Revelation is a prophecy about Christ’s Second Coming. The New Testament starts with the events surrounding Christ’s birth and spans the length of time to Jesus’ Second Coming. This is the era in which we are currently living.

Organized like a Dictionary

It is also helpful to realize the Bible is organized like a dictionary. The first verse on the page will be listed in the upper left corner, and the last verse on the page will be listed in the upper right corner.

3. GET A GOOD STUDY BIBLE

A third key is getting a good study Bible. Study Bibles provide commentary and other resources to help you grasp the meaning and context of the text. They also help apply the text to life in today’s world. A couple to consider is the NIV Study Bible and NIV Life Application Bible.

4. SPEND TIME IN THE BIBLE DAILY

It is important to spend time in the Bible each day. Remember, you are growing in a relationship with the Lord and this is how He speaks to you. There are as many ways to develop a daily devotional time as there are people. Each person has to pick what works for him or her. Here are some suggestions to help you develop this practice.

Find a Daily Time

The time of day does not matter. It can be any time during the day. What matters is that you strive to make it a part of your daily routine.

Find a Reading Plan

There are a number of reading plans to help guide you. Bible Gateway is a good place to find plans. One plan starts at the beginning and takes you to the end. Another plan puts the events of the Bible in chronological order. No one plan is better than another. Each plan guides your reading by highlighting a portion of Scripture to be read each day. Bible Gateway offers daily email reminders for the plan you choose.

Download a Bible App

Bible Gateway is a good app to consider. It offers the audio Bible in a number of translations. The app makes it easy to listen while you drive. You can select a daily reading plan and view other resources in the app.

Consider a Devotional Book

There are many aavailable. Devotionals highlight a passage of Scripture accompanied by a thought for the day.

5. ASK QUESTIONS TO HELP YOU UNDERSTAND THE BIBLE

This may be the most important key to understanding the Bible. Asking questions can bring answers and insight not found any where else. The desire of Christians is for others to grow in Christ. Jesus commands us to make disciples. This involves answering questions. Spending time answering questions is not a burden but a privilege. It is exciting to see other Christians growing, and answering questions fosters growth. Do not be afraid to ask questions. A wise man said, “The only dumb question is a question that is not asked.”

Understanding the Bible takes time. It should be an exciting journey filled with anticipation of what you will discover next. It should not feel overwhelming. If you are feeling overwhelmed, ask for help through prayer. The Lord is willing to help us understand Scripture. You can also ask for help from the church. We are all on the same journey and desire for you to join us. Hopefully, these suggestions have helped you get started understanding the Bible, and keep us posted. Tell us what new and exciting discoveries you are making as you grow in your understanding.