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Digging Deeper into the Word Studying the Bible

How to Read the Bible

Author: Rachel Kidd

Nearly every Christian can attest to the benefits of spending time studying scripture. But for most of us who haven’t had formal theological training, it can be difficult to feel like you’re getting the most out of your study.  

This series is designed to be an introductory guide to help you begin a regular Bible study habit. Each blog will walk through a primary question associated with biblical study, a helpful tool while growing deeper in the Word and closer to God. 

What is the Bible?  

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. – Hebrews 4:12 

 First and foremost, the Bible is the living word of God. What we have today has been interpreted by His servants and passed down through the ages.  

It is also a collection of books, written in a few different genres, from poetry to historical text. It is important to understand the original context of the scripture as well as the original languages; ancient Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic.  

 Some translations are more accurate to the original languages than others. For example,  

The Why 

It’s helpful to start by considering why you want to read the Bible. Are you looking for wisdom? Comfort during difficult circumstances?   

Are there particular times you feel drawn to scripture? Is there a time of day or season when you tend to gravitate towards the Bible?  

Take some time to determine why you have decided to make Bible study a habit and use that to help you create your goals (more on that later).  

Helpful Tips 

  • Prayer and meditation are a great way to start this journey, as you refocus and recenter your relationship with God.  
  • Spending time in fellowship with others, especially a mentor or someone who’s habits you admire, is a great way to get motivated.  

Verses on the importance of Scripture

The Bible itself tells us how important it is to study the Word. Reading and meditating on a few key verses might be just what you need to spark the desire to read your Bible regularly.  

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. –Psalm 119:105 

This Psalm beautifully describes the Word of God as a lamp, the light that allows us to see and make our way down a dark path. A metaphor for how the scripture guides us through life, we see the Bible as illuminating and revelatory.   

But He answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ –Matthew 4:4 

 Similarly, many generations later, Jesus tells the devil in the wilderness that the word of God is like bread, crucial to the survival of man.  

This story as a whole reminds us that even Satan is capable of learning scripture, as he quotes them and manipulates the words back to Jesus. Words are so easily warped and twisted, even, and most especially, the scriptures.   

Reading and studying the Word for yourself ensures that you are not manipulated by false teachings or misinterpretations. Ask questions, talk to people and leaders you trust, and spend time with God, as you form your understanding of the Bible.  

Where do you start?  

Whether you are out of the habit or are just starting to grow your faith in this way, It can be daunting to start a Bible study routine.   

These steps can help guide you in creating a routine that works for you and your lifestyle, enabling you to get the most out of God’s word.  

1.Set (Realistic) Goals  

If you aren’t already reading your Bible daily, it isn’t realistic to expect yourself to suddenly start spending an hour in the word everyday.  

 Consider your goals and how you can work up to them in a realistic way. Maybe you want to have a morning quiet time, but feel rushed out the door on an average morning.  

Start by setting aside 10-15 minutes one morning a week for uninterrupted time. Find a quiet spot. I love sitting out on the porch on sunny mornings. Bring your journal, bible, and maybe a cup of coffee, open His word and take the first step in walking with Him.  

Once you’re in the habit of setting aside that time for bible study, it’ll become easier to make it longer or more frequent. Good habits are formed over time, be patient as you incorporate this practice in your life.  

Set SMART goals to set yourself up for success. 

Specific:  

  • Be specific about what you want to achieve.  
  • I want to read my Bible more.  

Measurable:  

  • How will you measure your success? 
  • I want to read my Bible three times a week for 10 minutes.  

Attainable:  

  • Is this a realistic goal for you and your life right now?  
  • I have morning’s available and like to have a slow start to the day with coffee and reading. 

Relevant: 

  • How will this add to your life? (Your why!) 
  • I look to the Bible for comfort during times of stress. 

Timely:   

  • When do you want to achieve this?  
  • I want to be regularly reading the Bible three days a week for 10 minutes by next month.  

More examples of SMART Bible Goals: 

  • Read the Bible every day for 15 minutes. 
  • Read the entire Bible in one year. 
  • Memorize one line of Scripture every week. 
  • Read the New Testament in one month. 

2. Monitor your Progress 

Check in with yourself periodically to make sure you are making progress on your goals. Take a few minutes at the end of each week or month to track your progress.  

 Tracking on a calendar, whether physical or digital, is a great way to see visually how often you’re studying.  

Ask yourself how many times this month did I do my Bible study? Do I feel satisfied with that number? And most importantly, what did I gain from this time? How did God speak to me this week/month? 

3. Re-asses  

At the end of each month, quarter, or year, revisit your goals and take a look at your progress. Look over your calendar or notes and see the progress you have made.  

Take notice of times when you may have spent more time in the Word or less. Do these times have anything in common? How can you help yourself during these times?  

Celebrate your successes and don’t dwell on your shortcomings, it’s okay if you didn’t meet your goal perfectly; anytime spent in scripture is beneficial!  

Forming good habits can be difficult, but making time to study scripture doesn’t have to be hard. Set goals for yourself as you work towards spending more quality time in the Word.  

Categories
Digging Deeper into the Word Spiritual Development Uncategorized

Living a Life of Grace and Freedom in Christ

Author: Charles Hegwood

When I was a student, I thought of the word ‘freedom’ as that one moment on the last day of school as I walked out the door. The promise of summer and all of the fun that it would bring could be felt riding on the breeze. I could wake up late with no real schedule. The chains of study and homework were at least temporarily loosened and I was free. Well, mostly free. Temporarily free. Thanks to God that freedom in Christ is much more permanent and much more valuable than a brief reprieve from schoolwork. Paul talked about freedom from sin and death. He talked about freedom in Christ. Hear the words of Paul as he pleads with his readers to stand firm in the freedom Christ gives and avoid placing the law’s yoke back around our necks.  

What is Freedom  

There is beauty in the freedom we have in Christ, but what does it mean to be set free? Freedom in Christ is not freedom to sin. We are not to think of being free as an excuse to sin and do whatever we want, all the while waving around the credit card of grace. Far from it. Paul’s definition of freedom is wrapped up in the context of Galatians chapter 5.  

The issue in the Galatian church was that they wanted to place the yoke of the law back on their shoulders. They wanted to be circumcised because they thought that circumcision would grant them favor in the eyes of the law and the eyes of God. Verse 2 helps the reader to understand the mindset of those seeking circumcision. Paul stated that “Jesus would be of no advantage.” This should alert us that these men were trying to obtain or add to their salvation in another way apart from Christ. The cultural law was familiar and therefore comfortable. Paul, however, relates their previous state to that slavery. Freedom was new and scary for these men. They were quick to retreat to what they knew. They wanted circumcision as a “faith and…” This desire displayed a lack of faith in Jesus according to Paul.  

For us today, it is not a question of circumcision. It is about us chaining ourselves to other practices with the hope of obtaining salvation or holiness apart from Jesus. The add-ons are often the former things we left behind before submitting our lives to Christ. Those things are comfortable and easy. These add-ons could also be extra behaviors too. We may feel insecure about our faith in Jesus and therefore try to add qualifications on top of Jesus’ sacrifice. This is an attempt to further be justified, which is our way of telling God, “you are not enough to save me, let me help.” This is textbook legalism, obsession over obedience apart from faith in Jesus.  

What Freedom Looks Like 

The freedom in Christ that Paul speaks of, frees us from sin and from trying to earn God’s favor. Paul said in many other places that we are not to crawl back to our sinful lifestyles. Some in the church at Galatia thought the blood of Christ was not sufficient for them and therefore they must do more to earn their own righteousness.They then crawled back to their old beliefs and practices. Paul called for freedom from the chains of earning God’s merit because the reality is you cannot. Freedom in Christ is the knowledge that because of Jesus, God is pleased with us. God sees the righteousness of Christ when he looks at us. This is great freedom. Freedom is the grace of God poured out on us. Do not throw extra steps into salvation. In verse seven, Paul called this action disobedience to Christ.  

Where Freedom Is  

Freedom in Christ is found in our daily lives. As I mentioned earlier, freedom from doing things to earn salvation does not equal doing nothing. A believer who is enjoying true freedom in Christ still lives an obedient life to Christ. This believer does not go through life uncaring about what they do, say, or think. Freedom manifests itself in your interactions with people and when no one is looking. Paul was saying that freedom in Christ was the freedom to obey Christ. This means we do good things to please Christ. Doing good things to please God is far different than doing good works to earn God’s favor. Do you see why this is freedom? We never have to wonder if we have done enough good to be righteous. So do not do what the believers in Galatia were doing. They were trying to add extra works to earn God’s salvation in their lives and in the lives of others. Be free to obey Christ because you love Him, and not to earn His love for you.  

3 Important Questions to Ask of Freedom and Grace 

As we wrap up this discussion of freedom in Christ, we must ask ourselves how we apply this text in particular and the freedom of Christ in general to our lives.  

  1. What freedom in Christ truly looks like? 

We have to be aware of the patterns in our lives that we tend to fall back to. If you are like me, a result-oriented person, your temptation might be to add results as a measure of salvation. This is folly and sinful according to Paul.  

  1. Where is freedom in Christ in our lives? 

We need to see this freedom in the good things that we do. It is refreshing to think that as believers, God already loves us . Doing good works is but the icing on the cake of our relationship with God.  

  1. Have I added works and actions to earn faith or call others’ to do so? 

Do good works as an outpouring of your love for God. Help your brothers and sisters embrace their freedom in Christ, breaking free of the shackles of legalism. It is after all, for freedom that Jesus set you free, so be free to live for Christ.  

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Spiritual Development

Living for the End: How We are called to a Life of Holiness

Author: Charles Hegwood

Have you ever wondered how you should live in light of the end times? I mean if the world will end in fire and creation will melt away, what do we do with our time now? Live it up? Be oblivious? Or live like there is no tomorrow? I remember sitting in a Systematic Theology class and hearing the professor say, “the end of all things is near, and I know many of you are hoping it comes before this test and paper are due. But Peter said you should be found preparing for both when Jesus returns.” Every student was hoping the Day of the Lord would come before the day of the test. But the professor’s words ring true. In light of the end, be found doing what God called you to do. Be found living a God-honoring life. In 2 Peter 3:13-18, Peter told us how to live as we face the end of all things. Peter commands all believers to live holy lives as we eagerly await Jesus’ return.  

 A Firm Promise to the End 

2 Peter 3 is all about the end times. It is after all the end of the letter and Peter is giving us his parting words. His words are also encouraging believers as they wait for the end to come. We must ask ourselves if we believe that the end will come just as Peter said it would, what then should we do with our time and our lives now? Peter would answer that with a firm promise that the destruction of the old creation is much less about destruction and more about a renewal. The promise Peter gives us is that the old creation will be destroyed and there will be a new heaven and a new Earth. Peter encourages his reader to hope in the promise of that new heaven and new Earth. Yes, the old will be destroyed, but the promise is that God will make all things new. That is good news in tough times. We can hope in the promise that God will make a new place for His people to dwell with Him. As we consider the end times and the scary imagery used in 2 Peter 3, let this promise of a new creation bring you hope and peace.  

In the Meantime  

You may be wondering, but how does this settle the question of what we are to do in the meantime? Do we just sit idle until this happens? The answer to that is in verse 14. “Therefore,” marks a purpose for what had just been said. It was verse 14 that my professor had in mind as he encouraged us to continue writing and studying. “As you wait, be found without spot or blemish.” As we wait for the promise of the new heaven and the new Earth and as we wait for the current creation to fail, be found living holy lives and doing the things of God. The world ending is not an excuse to do whatever we want. Instead, it is every reason to “be diligent” and put effort towards being active living in holiness.  

Peter is pushing us to be found doing godly things by Jesus when He returns. It is like preparing for the arrival of a baby. What do you do? You get things ready to bring the baby home. If you are awaiting a meeting with an honored guest, you are getting the house in order. The promise of Jesus’ return that Peter talked about should also inspire us to prepare ourselves for His return as we would a baby or an honored guest.  

If Jesus tarries, then we take that as an opportunity to share the gospel with more people. Take the patience of Jesus in returning as a time to get your life and the lives of those around you in order. God’s patience should inspire us to go to the nations and proclaim the good news to those who have no hope. Share Christ in the meantime. So let us answer the question, what do we do in the meantime? We share the gospel and live lives that are pleasing to the Lord.  

Practical living for the End  

As Peter concludes his letter, he reminds his reader that Paul has also written about these things. Peter encourages the reader, and us, to know Paul’s teaching. This is practical advice. As we seek to live holy lives in light of the End Times, we need to grow in our knowledge of God. Put simply, read and know your Bibles. You will grow in the “grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Peter warns us however, that Scripture can be difficult to understand and that some people use it wrongly for bad purposes. So Peter commands that we, therefore, take care and be diligent in knowing what Scripture rightly says. Read your Bibles and read them well. Stay away from Bible teachers whose lives are marked by lawlessness for they will only lead you away. Find Bible teachers whose lives are marked by Jesus and learn to read Scripture from them. So as we wait for Jesus let us live holy lives, share Christ, and read God’s Word well.   

Conclusion  

Hear the words of Peter as we think about Jesus’ return. One, these promises are sure. We can trust our God. Two, we are to be diligent in living holy lives marked by repentance and grace. Three, share Christ as we wait for His return. And four, we are to read and know God’s Word so that we can grow in our understanding and knowledge of Him. In doing these things we may be found by Jesus without spot or blemish seeking Him in everything we do. Go and do likewise.  

 

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Digging Deeper into the Word Prayer Spiritual Development

Peace in Chaos

Author: Rachel Kidd

Joy is peace dancing. Chaos is peace undefined. 

-F.B. Myer  

Baptist minister and prophetic evangelist Frederick Brotherton Meyer is best known for his part in the revival. Fittingly, his words on peace describe not a still peace, but rather one that moves, a living, active sort of peace.  

Revival happens when God’s presence brings hope and new life to His people, a renewal of faith, energy, and worship. Revivals tend to be on a large scale, inciting broad social change and inspiring zealous action.  

In short, revivals are not typically associated with peace. Many would describe revivals as chaotic, even sometimes energetic, and impassioned. Yet, they are also places of profound joy and peace, springing with God’s presence.  

I understand Myer’s description of peace as a spectrum, where joy becomes abounding peace personified and defined by the act of dancing. On the other hand, peace can also be utter chaos in its undefined and unregulated state.  

Without a clear definition and boundaries, peace can easily descend into chaos. God has the unique power to create, define, and transcend peace. Without the scripture, peace lacks the anchor it needs to exist. God and His word are the grounding force that defines peace, breathing it into our lives.  

 Peace, Defined 

You turned my wailing into dancing, you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy. –Psalm 30:11 

Here in Psalms, God is described as a giver of joy, the source of a joy so profound, it overwhelms deep sadness and grief. A sackcloth was a piece of clothing made from rough, unfinished fabric worn by the Israelites in times of mourning.1  

By replacing the fabric associated with grief and death with fibers made from pure joy, we see God working to define peace as joy. This joy is manifested through dance, transforming into praise from tears.  

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,  a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. –Ecclesiastes 3:1-:4  

A scriptural support for the idea that peace exists on a continuum, this verse describes seasons of life. There is a time for everything, like the seasons change from summer to fall, from winter to spring, so we have times of sadness and times of joy. 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. –Romans 15:13  

Romans encourages us with the hope of believing, praying joy and peace over those who believe in Christ and are filled with the Holy Spirit. It’s a beautiful reminder of the power of faith and the peace that follows.  

For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. –Isaiah 55:12 

A prophecy of peace, this verse proclaims joy in the name of the Lord that is expressed through singing and clapping.  

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.  

—John 14:27  

Jesus reminds us that He leaves us in peace, that He is the source of peace. He calls us to live not in fear and worry, but in peace that is not of this world.  

Peace Framework 

The concept of the peace framework helps us break down what it means to curate a peaceful life and truly understand the steps needed to take towards peace. There are three sides to the peace framework triangle; place, provision, and physical health.  

Each month in this series, we will dive deeper into each piece of the framework and get a better understanding of how we can apply these concepts as we create a peaceful life.  

 Much like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the Peace Framework provides a structure that helps us understand the components of a broader concept. It breaks down something that can be difficult to grasp into pieces that are much easier to understand. 

  1. Place:  
    • Your environment, whether physical, mental, or social. 
    • Your place can impact your peace for the positive or negative. 
  2. Provision: 
    • Your belongings and monetary provisions that sustain you.  
    • Whether you have enough or not enough, the worry of providing for yourself and your family impacts your peace. 
  1. Physical Health 
    • Your well-being, safety, and mental stability.  
    • In times of sickness, whether physical or mental, people often experience a lack of peace.  

Each piece of the peace framework is applicable to everyone, regardless of where you live or your socioeconomic status. Helpful frameworks are broadly applicable and are easily adaptable to nearly anyone’s experience.  

 This series will delve deeper into each aspect of the peace framework and how we can apply the concepts to our lives, along with biblical knowledge, for a more peaceful and joy-filled life.  

Categories
Digging Deeper into the Word Spiritual Development

That Sinking Feeling

Author: Rachel Kidd

Jesus Walks on Water 

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.  

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said.   

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”  

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.  

Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” –Matthew 14:25-29  

Many of us heard this bible story retold to us in Sunday School as kids, intended to encourage our budding faith in Christ. I don’t think it occurred to me then how miraculous, how frightening it would be to truly see someone walk on water in front of me.  

Sinking Feeling 

When I was 16, I had the privilege of traveling to Israel on a school trip. That incredible experience connected me in a very tangible way to the Bible that I grew up reading, making it come alive.  

My group took a bus to the Dead Sea, a greatly anticipated final stop on our educational tour. In our swimsuits and sandals, our tour guide made sure we understood that the salt concentration in the water would be unlike anything we’ve experienced before and would make our bodies buoyant. 

As prepared as I thought I was, I cannot quite describe to you the shock I felt when I slipped into the oily, crystalized water. Like a ball of dough being dropped in hot oil, you don’t sink. Instead, the thick water immediately pushes you back up and cradles you on the surface.  

 I had never felt anything like it, floating on the Dead Sea. It defies logic, upends everything you thought you knew, the principles of the universe you previously believed were concrete and unchanging.  

I can imagine that even though the disciples knew that Jesus performed miracles, seeing Him walk across the water would have been incredibly shocking. Defying the laws of gravity in front of their very eyes, upending everything they thought was true.  

 I probably would have screamed too, out of fear and disbelief. I can’t even imagine Jesus then asking me to walk out to Him, asking me to suspend my understanding of the world. I certainly would have been afraid, even knowing Jesus was right in front of me.  

Peter the Rock  

I think we are often judgmental of Peter, who’s failings are frequent throughout the Gospels. It can be easy to do, but we also should be mindful to remember Peter’s strengths and successes too.  

Peter was the only man in the boat on the Sea of Galilee to step off and into the storm. And yet, we only remember the fact that he sank because he took his eyes off of Jesus.  

Peter demonstrates incredible discernment, only walking on the water once he is sure that it is in fact Jesus, and that He has called him to do so.  

When Peter does stumble, he calls out to Jesus for help; “Lord save me!” and Jesus does. He models responding to Jesus’ call and asking for help when we need it.  

Peter is often the face of doubt, impulsivity, and misjudgement. But, he is also a great church leader, the one who Jesus called the rock. He becomes who Jesus called him, the Rock.  

Ordinary People, Extraordinary Purpose 

Like Peter and His other disciples, Jesus called ordinary people to His ministry. He used people who may have otherwise been discounted and ignored for His purposes, which often ran in opposition to the religious leaders of the time.  

In Mark 7, Jesus is sitting down to a meal with the Pharises.1 Instead of cleansing themselves in the proper way as per tradition, Jesus and His disciples simply sit down to eat.   

The Pharisees are appalled and rebuke Jesus, asking why He allows His followers to eat with unclean hands. Jesus takes this opportunity to teach, replying:  

“Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” 

You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions. –Mark 7:6-8 

Jesus explains that it is the soul, the inner part of man, that makes us reflections of God the Creator. It is not our outer bodies, our external appearances, our cleanliness that makes us righteous in the eyes of God.  

He then declares all food clean, again defying the Jewish tradition of eating Kosher.2  

“Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) –Mark 7:18-19 

Jesus says that nothing from the outside can defile a person, rather it is the inside that defiles them. It is not dirty hands, unclean foods, or unfit friends that we should be worried about. He instead places the blame on the internal and the spiritually dark.  

“…sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” –Mark 7: 21-23 

Jesus consistently and persistently flipped the rules and traditions of His time on their heads. He upturned natural laws like gravity even, calling Peter to walk on water and raising people from the dead.  

He calls ordinary people, people that will likely be scared by these abrupt changes to their world, to have faith. He calls even people like Peter, sinking Peter, to be the rock of the church and fulfill extraordinary purposes.  

Categories
Prayer Spiritual Development

What is True Peace?

Author: Rachel Kidd 

In a tumultuous world riddled with anxiety and pressures ranging from irritating to life-threatening, we are constantly battling attacks to our peace. We are also bombarded with potential solutions for our anxieties, from spa days and self-care to therapy and medication.  

While these things are certainly beneficial and often life-saving and necessary, it is impossible to substitute any of these solutions for a relationship with God.  As believers, we know Jesus as the peace that passes understanding. He is the source of true peace.   

Finding Peace in Hard Times  

There is no doubt that life is hard, for everyone. We all experience the pain, heartbreak, and stressors of being human. While our experiences differ greatly based on our age, socio-economic status, and location, part of being human is going through hardships.  

 Particularly as Christians, God tells us that difficult times are to come, that we will face persecution and difficulties because of our faith. These trials, while seemingly impossible in the present, are used by the Lord to fortify us and bolster our character and faith. He provides us with strength and peace, enabling us to get through even the most difficult of circumstances. Leaning on Christ through earnest prayer and petition, casting our worries on Him, brings peace in dark times. When I feel discouraged, lonely, hurt, or scared, I open my Bible to find comfort. Praying and pouring over the Word promotes peace and a feeling of security, helping you grow closer to God.  

Peace in the Scriptures 

If you are feeling anxious, scared, discouraged, or alone, these verses may be what you need in those moments. Read these verses for a breath of God’s peace in your overwhelming day.   

Philippians 4:11-13 

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. 

Paul is an excellent biblical example of finding the peace of the Lord in even the most dire of circumstances. He was beaten, imprisoned, and alone- yet he remained joyful and thankful to God. Paul reminds us that he understands our pain and that anything is possible with God.  

Matthew 5:9 

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 

When you work to bring peace in your relationships and to others, God is sure to bless you. Blessings are not always tangible on earth in the form of money or possessions, but Christians can find comfort in the knowledge of heavenly rewards.  

Psalm 29:11 

The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace. 

When you are a believer and walk in faith, God calls you His and blesses you with strength and peace.  

Isaiah 26:3 

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.  

In the Old Testament, in Isaiah, we are told that there are two conditions that must be met before God can bless us with peace. First, we must keep our minds steadfast, or resolute in our faith, and we must fully and completely trust in Him.   

Philippians 4:6-8 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, 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.  

Paul tells us that our thoughts are connected to our peace. When we ruminate on pain or darkness, we feel unsettled and discouraged. But, when we think of good and lovely things, even when those things are hard to find, we feel uplifted and encouraged. While it can be difficult to take control of our thoughts, doing so can make a dramatic difference in our emotional state.  

2 Corinthians 13:11 

Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.  

Paul encourages us to live in a joyful community, fostering a spirit of peace and unity with our brothers and sisters. When we are in harmonious relationships with others, God blesses us with peace.  

Colossians 3:15 

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.  

We are called to be thankful for what God has given us, allowing Him to rule over our hearts with peace.  

Romans 5:1 

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  

 Being faithful and sanctified through trials enables us to grow close to God and find peace in Him.  

To read more on peace and Paul’s explanation of the conditions God sets for peace, check out Prescription for Peace.  

Categories
Can You Trust the Bible? Digging Deeper into the Word

Gospel Confidence: In an Age of Fear and Shame

Author: Charles Hegwood

Have you ever had this happen? You are talking to a friend and then an opportunity for the gospel pops into the conversation. Suddenly you are filled with a sense of dread and stress that you know you shouldn’t be feeling. You may later try to assess why you felt this way. Could it be shame? It could. Could it be fear about what to say? It could. Either way a good reminder for us today was captured by the apostle Paul almost 2,000 years ago. Paul reminds us why we should not be ashamed, but instead empowered by the gospel. That was his motivation and that should be our’s as well.  

Romans 1:15-17 is a well-known passage of Scripture. And it is vital for us in our gospel endeavors. Paul reminds us that we should be eager to share the gospel and unashamed of it because the gospel is the power and righteousness of God to save those who believe.  

Eagerness to Share the Gospel  

In verse 14, Paul told the Romans that he was obligated to share the gospel with Gentiles. This obligation is not one of burden but of mission. Like Paul, we do not remain on this Earth to simply exist and enjoy life, instead we have a mission; a gospel mission. For Paul this mission gave him an eagerness to share the gospel with the Gentiles in Rome. He longed to strengthen their faith. We never move beyond the beauty and power of the gospel. More on that later. Back to Paul. Paul was eager to get to Rome and preach the gospel. A mark of a healthy disciple is one who is eager to share the gospel with those around them. Gospel sharing is our mission. If you were wondering what to do with your life, or what God called you to do, it is simple and clear: Share the gospel with as many people as you can. And be eager to do so.  

Confident in the Gospel  

Maybe today you would say you are eager, but like I mentioned above you sometimes become nervous and maybe a little ashamed when sharing the gospel. I get nervous sometimes when I have a chance to share the gospel too. Paul’s letter to the Romans in general and these few verses in particular encourage me and I hope they encourage you as well. Why? Paul said the gospel is the “power of God.” We should not fear sharing the gospel because the power of God is displayed in it. We see that through the gospel, God has the power over sin and death. There is nothing that can overwhelm or overtake God. After all, Paul said that the gospel is the power of God to save. The gospel’s power saves a lost and dying people from a lost and dying world.  

Do not be ashamed and do not fear telling a lost and dying world there is hope in the gospel. The hope of the gospel does not balance on our ability or eloquence, though those are nice, but instead the power of the gospel rests on the shoulders of our mighty God. The gospel is His power to save. It is our mission to share it. So when you feel ashamed or when you feel fear when sharing the gospel, remind yourself of this great reality. Remind yourself of Romans 1:16. I am convinced that when we do remember that the gospel is the power of God to save, we will have confidence to share with our friends and family.  

The Scope of the Gospel 

We should be confident in sharing the gospel because it is God’s power to save. But save whom we may ask. “To save everyone who believes.” Paul talked about his obligation in verse 14, and we can call that mission. Paul talked about his eagerness in verse 15 and we can call that motivation. He talks about his confidence in the gospel as the power of God in verse 16, and we can call that encouragement. Then he expressed his hope and scope of the gospel. Paul’s motivation and confidence is that God has the power to save all that come to Him in faith. It is our mission, confidence and motivation to take that power and hope to all people. The scope of the gospel is global. It knows no cultural or geographical boundaries. “First to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” Here ‘gentile’ means the rest of the world. Paul here is not creating a new scope for a new message either. The Old Testament always showed God as having a global scope to His mercy and grace. The only thing that is new is the new covenant which is grounded in the blood of Jesus. It is with this gospel that we can go to all people with confidence!  

Hope of the Gospel 

 “For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.” Our confidence to share the gospel is in our hope of the gospel. We see that the gospel is the revelation of God’s righteousness and goodness. We can be confident and unashamed because when we share the gospel we are doing more than just speaking mere words. We are revealing the righteousness, justice, and moral uprightness of God to a lost and broken world. That should inspire hope that in the sharing of the gospel the light of God shines on a dark world. Have hope as you tell people about the powerful gospel that we have an eagerness to share.   

Go In Gospel Confidence 

This is just skimming the surface of this great and deep passage of Scripture. Even in skimming we should be encouraged in our gospel ventures. Again, this is a great reminder that when we feel ashamed or fear concerning the proclamation of the gospel, we must remember what the gospel is. The gospel should drive our mission and eagerness to tell others about this great truth. It is the power and righteousness of God to save all that come to Him. We are to go to all people and introduce them to the power of God and the hope within. Let these thoughts drive you to go to friends and family and tell them of the God who has the power to save all that come to Him. Do not be ashamed of the gospel, be empowered and emboldened by it.  

Categories
Digging Deeper into the Word Prayer Spiritual Development

Prescription for Peace

Author: Rachel Kidd 

Blessings 

Since the dawn of time, people have waged war and wished peace on each other. In the midst of feast and famine, peace and war, Believers in the early church pronounced blessings of grace, peace, and mercy. In the years that followed, followers of Christ continued this tradition of blessings of peace, especially in the most trying times.. This Gaelic Blessing is an excellent example of this emphasis on the peace that comes with Christ.  

Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the gentle night to you.
Moon and stars pour their healing light on you.
Deep peace of Christ, of Christ the light of the world to you.
Deep peace of Christ to you.
A Gaelic Blessing
God of Peace 

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. – Isaiah 26:3 

In the Old Testament book Isaiah, we are told that there are two conditions that must be met before God can bless us with peace. First, we must keep our minds steadfast, or resolute in our faith, and we must fully and completely trust in Him.  

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, 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. – Philippians 4:6-8  

In Philippians 4, Paul shares his practical advice for daily Christian living; a prescription for peace. He is talking about the peace of God, not world peace, rather the kind of perfect, personal peace that can only come through God.  

 Like Isaiah, Paul prescribes us twelve additional conditions we must meet in order for God to grant us His perfect peace.  

  1. Do not worry about anything.  

Paul was shackled in filthy, painful conditions in a Roman prison, beaten, whipped, and stoned. Paul was shipwrecked and blinded, experiencing all the horrors of persecution at the hands of the Romans. Yet, he did not worry because he relied on God’s grace.   

  1. Pray about everything.  

Sometimes prayer will deliver us from the pain we are experiencing, sometimes it will not. God sometimes chooses to give grace to live through the difficulty, the ability to endure it for His glory. 

  1. Think about good things.  

We are to control thoughts instead of letting them control us, not only for peace, but for sanity. To dwell on things that are unjust, painful, or impure only makes us feel discouraged and low. Even in the most difficult circumstances, thinking of good things that praise God will be uplifting to our soul.   

  1. Do what is right.  

Paul encouraged the Philippians to follow his example and live in a way that is right in the eyes of God. He tells them to do what they know and believe to be good and right.  

  1. Do not question the value of the good you have done.  

It can be difficult to live righteously and suffer in poverty, pain, or sickness while watching immoral, evil people live in comfort and wealth. But Paul reminds us that even if our good works are not rewarded on earth, we will be rewarded in heaven.   

  1. Be thankful.  

In prison, beaten and alone, Paul had two choices. He could grieve his unfortunate circumstances, or he could thank God for what he did have. He was alive and able to commune with the Lord, and so he chose to thank God for the opportunity to spend so much time with Him. We have that same choice too in our own difficult circumstances.  

  1. Be gentle.  

When we accept even our most difficult circumstances as the will of God instead of fighting against them, we can be at peace. This gentleness is of acceptance, understanding that we are a part of God’s plan.  

  1. Be patient.  

We have to learn to wait on the Lord, even when we don’t understand His ways or His plan for our life.  

  1. Remember the nearness of our Lord.  

The Lord always stands by us, even when others desert us. Paul was never alone, even when everyone he knew abandoned him, God never left his side. Remembering that our God is near brings us peace when we are lonely or afraid.  

  1. Find joy in knowing Christ and growing closer to Him.  

Our relationship with God should bring us joy as we learn about Him, bringing us peace rather than relying on the unreliable joy of earthly things.  

  1. Value the approval of God, far above that of others.  

The approval of man is conditional and fleeting, but walking in the way of the Lord means peace.  

  1. Rest your hearts and minds in Christ, knowing that He can do what you cannot do.  

It’s not what I am, it’s what He is. It’s not what I can do, it’s what He can do.  

God wants you to find true and lasting peace in Him. While the Western mind typically operates in “either, or” categories, the Eastern mind operates with the understanding of “both, and” categories. While God is a God of righteous wrath and judgment, He is also a God of peace.  May His peace rest upon you knowing that he wages war against the evil one on your behalf. 

Utilize this list from the Great Physician as a blessing and medicine for your soul in the midst of the battle. 

Categories
Digging Deeper into the Word Spiritual Development Studying the Bible

The Grace of Giving

Author: Rachel Kidd

Paul’s teaching about Christian stewardship 

Money is a tense subject, something that causes arguments and fights in nearly every relationship. Having too much or too little can put a strain on even the healthiest marriage, and poor money management can lead to immense stress.   

Some pastors even avoid the subject of money altogether in hopes of avoiding this tension. But, good stewardship and understanding of money is an important factor in spiritual wellness. Paul and his ministry provides us with a clear picture of how to teach about money and what good stewardship is in a Christian context.  

Faithful Stewardship 

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.  

2 Corinthians 9:6-8 

 In 2 Corinthians, Paul provides us two of the greatest chapters in the bible on the subject of stewardship. An adept salesman with keen diplomacy skills, Paul persuades Gentiles to give to a collection to benefit persecuted Jews In Jerusalem and Judea. Paul had incredible empathy for these particular persecuted Christians, as they were the primary targets for his own crusade against the church prior to his conversion. While Paul’s ministry was primarily centered on Gentiles, like those at the church in Corinth, Ephesus, and Colossi, he was able to raise an impressive collection for the persecuted Jewish Christian community.  

Paul holds up the giving patterns of the Corinthians, or the Maccedonians, to the Phillipians as an example of faithful stewardship. He tells us about the principles that should be involved in our stewardship.  

Primarily, he says that we must give ourselves to God. Paul did not accept monetary gifts from non-believers on principle, he only accepted gifts from those who were faithful. He asserts that you must keep in the will of God in order to further the will of God.  

Joyful Giving 

As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;  their righteousness endures forever.” 

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. –2 Corinthians 9:9-13  

Paul also says that giving should be of our own volition. He emphasized the importance of giving only when the Lord leads us to, rather than at the coercion of a pastor or spiritual leader. We give because we love Him, because we are grateful for what He has done for us, and because we are full of joy and want to give back to Him. Our motivations should be love and gratitude, joyfully giving back to God a portion of what He has given us. 

It may seem difficult to imagine giving joyfully when you are not financially blessed. Maybe you are struggling, much like the Phillippians in poverty. They gave out of their severe poverty in a time of trials. Paul says that their giving was based on what they had, not what they did not have. God blesses us with money as He sees fit and with whom He can trust us with. If you have little now and do not tithe 10% as commanded, then you will not give more if you had more.  

Paul explains that our gifts are not measured by their size or worth, rather on the attitude with which we give. Paul called giving a “grace” because we are enabled to give by His power and blessings on our lives. It’s proportional to what we have, not to what we could have. All that we have is God’s, we are simply stewards of it, called to further the kingdom of God with our wealth. When we give freely to God what He has given to us, God responds to our good stewardship. God provides for us and makes sure that we have all we need. When we give of our own volition in joy, God sees us and blesses us in return.  

 

Categories
Digging Deeper into the Word Studying the Bible

What Would Jesus Do?

Author: Rachel Kidd

Growing up in the renaissance of Western cultural evangelicalism, I remember nearly everyone I knew had all the trappings of Jesus-freak culture. We wore our WWJD bracelets with pride, a physical reminder to ourselves and to everyone else, that we were Christians and proud to be so.  

But, I began to realize that wearing a bracelet does not a good Christian make. Wearing a WWJD bracelet doesn’t inherently make me good or Christ-like. In fact, the bracelet alone doesn’t even make me a Christian. Neither does a Jesus-fish on the back of your car, a Third Day t-shirt, a Bible verse in your Instagram bio, or even regular church attendance on Sundays.   

Christianity was born long before American material culture. It began with the birth of a baby in a manger in the modern heart of the Palestinian West Bank, in Bethlehem.   

Jesus was a poor carpenter, a friend to fisherman and prostitutes, an advocate for the silenced, and healer of the sick. If Jesus had been born today, would He be nestled in luxury in the U.S.? I’d argue that He wouldn’t. In fact He would likely be born in the middle of the conflict in the Middle East, gunfire and bomb explosions; modern warfare marking His entrance into the world. Forced from their homes, Jesus and His parents might be nation-less refugees searching for safety in neighboring countries, just like they fled to Egypt in the wake of Herod’s violent anger.  

What does it mean to be a Christian?  

The bible tells us that Jesus is the model for a perfect, godly life. We are called to pursue a Christ-like life as His disciples, a life-long pursuit of holiness that can only be found through a relationship with Jesus.  

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 

“He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” 

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 

–1 Peter 2:21-23 

Because Jesus lived a perfect life and sacrificed Himself on the cross, to be followers of Christ we are asked to follow in His steps. To be a Christian means to live like Jesus.  

What does it mean to live like Jesus?  

In 1 Peter, we see that living like Jesus means rebuking sin and being truthful. While it is impossible to live a perfect, sinless life, we should be striving for that ideal. As we grow closer to Christ through scripture reading, Christian community, and prayer, we find ourselves becoming more like Him.  

 Jesus is the Word 

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  

2 Timothy 3:16-17 

Timothy tells us that scripture is the key to training us to become good Christians. All scripture is God-breathed, meaning that it comes from the source of all truth. It is a tool to teach us, to guide us in the way of righteousness, and equip us for what God has called us to.  

Jesus is Life 

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  

Hebrews 4:12 

In order to use the scriptures as God intended, as a living sword designed to penetrate into our hearts and judge our darkest thoughts, we must be good students of the Word. Understanding scripture and meditating in the word of God  

Jesus Relied on the Spirit 

We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.  

Acts 5:32 

In Acts, Paul emphasizes the importance of the Holy Spirit. He says that the power of the Holy Spirit, the third member of the Trinity, is given to those who obey God. When we live in obedience to the scripture, we are sanctified and filled with the gift of the Holy Spirit.  

In the New Testament, we see evidence of this gift in early believers through their ability to speak in tongues. Speaking in tongues is a spiritual gift, enabling the believer to speak in languages that they were unable to before. These can be earthly or heavenly languages, a sign to everyone who can hear that you are filled with the spirit.  

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.  

Acts 2:4 

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  

1 Corinthians 13:1 

However, speaking in tongues is not the sole evidence of being spirit-filled. This verse tells us that this ability means nothing without love. This incredible miraculous gift is worth nothing more than mere noise without love. 

Jesus Decreased so that the Father Might Increase 

He must increase; I must decrease.  

John 3:30 

 In order to grow in our faith and become more like Jesus, John tells us that we must decrease in order for God to increase in us. To be more like Christ, we are called to become less sinful, less selfish and proud, and to be more loving, gentle and faithful.  

 To become less is not to be less of who you are, like your personality or passions, rather it means to work actively against your sinful nature and pursue holiness. As we are sanctified, or becoming more like Jesus, we are allowing Him to increase in our lives. We can see and experience the goodness God has to offer as our thoughts and desires align with His.  

Sanctification requires faith and daily diligence, spending time in the Word and in prayer. It means having a supportive community of fellow believers, like iron sharpens iron, who will hold you accountable to your faith. It means living in love, forgiving those that hurt you, giving freely, and pursuing peace.