VIDEO Taking that step

Aug 6, 2015

As a music teacher Simon Smith enjoyed his job, but he knew there was more. He was frustrated that he couldn’t share his faith with his students, so he started Voice. This ministry combines his passion for music and for God, while allowing him to help young people develop their musical talents and share their faith. It gives them a voice for God in this world through music. There have been challenges and ups and downs along the way, but Simon allows God to lead this ministry that He planted in Simon’s heart. “I don’t think it was so much me taking a step of faith,” Smith says, “but me taking a step into God’s faithfulness.”

Why You Should Read the Bible Every Day

Reading Bible
I was talking with a friend recently about how I’d been spending a lot of time reading books about the Bible, but less time reading the Bible itself.

The spaces between my personal reflections on Scripture were growing wider. I still felt like I was growing and learning, but deep down I knew I was missing something.

Our conversation turned to my parents, who have been incredible, faithful examples of what it means to follow Jesus all my life—but they rarely read the Bible. For my parents, years of task-oriented, check-the-box dedication to Bible study left them with a bitter taste in their mouths. Reading the Bible and memorizing its verses had been impressed upon them so strongly that they could no longer read the Bible without also recalling the negative reinforcement and guilt that often accompanies regimented Bible-reading groups. Both of my parents have preferred to learn and grow by reading someone else’s reflections on Scripture rather than diving into it themselves.

They were spiritually scarred by their perspective of Bible study.

I grew up thinking, “But that’s still no excuse.” Yet, as I found myself encountering similar methodologies for Bible study, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Is this going to wear me out too?” My parents were once just as enthusiastic about Bible study as I was.

The church has more Bible study plans, methods, groups, and techniques than we know what to do with. But here’s the thing: these methods help you create discipline to do something you should want to do. If you don’t see the purpose behind the methods, you’ll burn out. On their own, Bible reading plans and verse memorization techniques are overwhelming—they take time and effort, and can leave you feeling guilty for missing a day, a week, or a meeting.

What’s the point of Bible study plans?

Starting a Bible reading plan is like starting a new diet.

Changing your diet takes discipline. Even if it’s something you really want for yourself, it’s easy to slip up and forget about it. If you let bad habits keep footholds in your life, you’ll fail before you start, and you’ll never create the healthy new habits you want.

Bible-reading-plan

The Bible is one of our greatest sources of spiritual food. But sometimes we still fill up on junk food. Blogs, social media, news, shows, books, and games. These things aren’t bad in themselves, but when they’re the only sources of perspective, information, and insight you consume, something is missing.

When you have a sodium deficiency, your body craves salty foods. You might not even notice that you’re craving salty foods in particular, but your body is reacting to that deficiency by creating a desire for something that restores it.

Many non-Christians have no desire to read the Bible. They want nothing to do with it. But that doesn’t mean that as God’s creation they don’t, on some level, crave his truth, his wisdom, his love, or his perspective. I see non-Christians all the time who have no idea how closely their innermost desires parallel God’s desires for them.

A Christian, though, is much more likely to notice the source of this spiritual deficiency—we’ve already been exposed to the source of God’s wisdom, truth, and perspective. God’s Word is meant to permeate every aspect of our lives. Our knowledge of him is supposed to transform us into “the aroma of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:15), but something smells fishy.

The more the spaces grow between my daily readings, the more I find myself saying things like, “That reminds me of a verse in [book of the Bible],” or, “That sounds kind of like the passage where . . .” Before I know it, I’m not just paraphrasing Scripture anymore—I’m making vague references to it, or letting other sources have a greater impact on my understanding of God’s character.

In those moments, losing sight of the value of daily Bible study is more like cutting caffeine from my diet. I’ve never been a coffee drinker, but I have energy drinks all the time because they help me stay alert and focused when I need to be. Caffeine is something I’ve made a part of my regular diet for a purpose—and when I stop having it, I feel it. I don’t have the energy I used to throughout the day. I can’t focus as long. Or, worse, I get headaches.

Without your daily dose of Scripture, it’s tough to be at your best all day.

But reading your Bible isn’t just something you need to do to stay spiritually healthy. It’s not a pill you have to swallow or a chalky vitamin you have to chew. Reading the Bible is something you should do because you want to.

What if I don’t want to read the Bible?

Imagine that your parents wrote a book for you—it’s the history of your family, their marriage, your childhood, how you’ve become the person you are today, and their hopes and dreams for your future. Woven throughout the book is a clear, underlying theme: they love you very much. Maybe, just maybe, you pick up on another theme as well: you haven’t always known what was best for you, and they usually know what they’re talking about.

How do you think they would feel if you told them, “Look, at least I read a chapter today”?

How much you read and how frequently you read is not the point.

Part of my job lets me write reflections on Scripture or dig into biblical topics. To do that well, I need to dig into the Bible daily. But whenever I read the Bible for work, I’m reading with an agenda—I’m hunting for a verse or prowling through a passage. For Scripture to penetrate my heart and permeate my life, I have to read it just to read it, too.

Reading the Bible exposes you to the history of the creator’s relationship to creation—that includes you. If you want to know who God is, he had 40 people write a whole book about him over the course of about 1,500 years. Now all you have to do is pick a Bible up off the shelf, read the Bible online, or download the Bible on your phone.

However you read the Bible, you’re going to get the most out of it if you do it because you want to.

Don’t do it because someone is making you.

Don’t do it to show off how much you read.

Don’t memorize verses to get a cookie, a prize, or acknowledgement.

Those can all be useful motivators to help you get on the right track and create healthy spiritual habits you want to have. But don’t let those be the reasons you read the Bible.

Read the Bible because it excites you.

Read the Bible because you want to know God.

Read the Bible because it’s living and active (Hebrews 4:12).

Read the Bible because it can speak powerful truth into your life right now.

Read the Bible so that your life reveals more of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:3).

Those are reasons to open your Bible every day.

So why bother with reading plans?

I lead a small group of high school freshmen boys. Every two weeks this year we’ve read a chapter of Mark and talked about it together.

Every time we meet, at least half of them say, “I didn’t have time to read it.”

One chapter. Two weeks.

Without discipline, you’ll never read the Bible regularly—no matter how badly you want to.

Daily Bible reading plans, Bible study techniques, and external incentives are all tools designed to help you develop discipline and make Bible study part of your regular routine.

My wife started a diet because she wanted to. At first, she knew that she wouldn’t always be able to resist the unhealthy foods she used to have whenever she felt like. A group of her coworkers started dieting too, and together, they held each other accountable. Sometimes my wife would decline cookies because she knew she would have to tell her coworkers she’d cheated on the diet. But she didn’t start the diet because of her coworkers. She started because she wanted to eat healthier. After eating healthier for a few months, the reasons why she started were enough to keep her going. She didn’t need reminders or accountability.

In the same way, those external factors that help us read the Bible regularly are not the reason why we read. But they are, hopefully, tools we can use until we’ve created healthier habits and made Bible study part of our daily lives. These tools, coupled with meaningful, personal reasons to read the Bible will help you have a far richer spiritual life.
My church recently went through a series called, “Room for Cream.” The premise was that if we want to have room for God in our lives, we couldn’t “fill our cup” until there’s no room for the good stuff. If you don’t have time to read your Bible, what do you need to remove to make time?

The conclusion was profoundly simple:

If you want room for cream in your life, put the cream in first.

If you’re trying to make Bible study a habit, start your day with it. Don’t wait until you’ve filled your day with everything else. Don’t wait until you’re too tired.

You could even read the Bible right now.

Room for cream

By Ryan Nelson

Conquering Fear

Psalms 63:1-11

Each of us will experience moments of apprehension. Denial or trying to hide from it will do no good. When you feel fear begin to rise in you, ask yourself the following questions: Where does it come from? (You know it isn’t from God.) Has God ever failed me in the past? Does He promise to meet all of my needs? Does He keep His promises?

If we read the Bible, we’ll find countless stories of God’s faithfulness. For example, the apostle Paul lived through hardship, persecution, pain, and all kinds of terrible circumstances, yet he was able to make the bold declaration that God weaves it all together for the good of His followers (Romans 8:28). This testifies to the fact that for those who trust in Him, God turns every difficulty, loss, and separation into something good.

Whatever we read in Scripture—whether a story about Abraham, David, Job, Isaiah, Jonah, John, Paul, or others—we see God’s constant love and care for His people. His Word is a lamp that will give us clear guidance when circumstances are bleak. It offers the best direction we will ever find. When we meditate upon it, pray over it, grapple with it, and incorporate it into our life, His light chases away the darkness. The psalms, in particular, are helpful in dealing with fear.

God, the sovereign ruler of this universe, is in control of your life. Don’t make the mistake of thinking He isn’t, simply because He does not operate according to your will and schedule. If you read your Bible and meditate on it, you will find genuine strength in His promises.

A Nail in a Sure Place

And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place; and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father’s house.” (Isaiah 22:22-23)

This prophecy was originally applied to Eliakim, the keeper of the treasuries in the reign of King Hezekiah. The wearing of the key to the treasuries on his shoulder was symbolic of authority. Isaiah, in fact, had used this same symbol in his great prophecy of the coming Messiah, saying that “unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder” (Isaiah 9:6).

Eliakim thus became a type of Christ in his capacity to open and shut doors with his special key. The Lord Jesus quoted from this passage in His promise to the church at Philadelphia: “These things saith . . . he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name” (Revelation 3:7-8). This strong assurance has been a great bulwark to many who were trying to maintain a true witness during times of opposition and suffering.

But Eliakim was also called “a nail in a sure place,” and in this also he becomes a wonderful type of Christ. Eliakim was trustworthy in his office, and so is Christ. The nail in a sure place speaks of stability in time of trouble, as Ezra later said: “Now for a little space grace hath been shewed from the LORD our God, . . . to give us a nail in his holy place” (Ezra 9:8). Eventually, of course, Eliakim’s nail had to be removed (Isaiah 22:25), but never that of Christ, for He is “an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast” (Hebrews 6:19) who will never fail. HMM

Calling Us Back

And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? —Genesis 3:9

Although the human mind stubbornly resists and resents the suggestion that it is a sick, fallen planet upon which we ride, everything within our consciousness, our innermost spirit, confirms that the voice of God is sounding in this world— the voice of God calling, seeking, beckoning to lost men and women!…

Sacred revelation declares plainly that the inhabitants of the earth are lost. They are lost by a mighty calamitous visitation of woe which came upon them somewhere in that distant past and is still upon them.

But it also reveals a glorious fact—that this lost race has not been given up!

There is a divine voice that continues to call. It is the voice of the Creator, God, and it is entreating them. Just as the shepherd went everywhere searching for his sheep, just as the woman in the parable went everywhere searching for her coin, so there is a divine search with many variations of the voice that entreats us, calling us back.

Thank You, Father, for Your grace that continues to call so patiently. Lord, You’re calling some today with whom I could have the privilege of sharing the gospel. Give me a sensitivity today to opportunities where I might be Your human voice. Amen.

True Believers Do Not Shy Away from Obedience

But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. Romans 6:22

It has been quite overlooked in recent times that the faith of Christ is an absolute arbiter!

It preempts the whole redeemed personality and seizes upon the individual to the exclusion of all other claims. Or more accurately, it makes every legitimate claim on the Christian’s life conditional, and without hesitation decides the place each claim shall have in the total scheme.

The act of committal to Christ in salvation releases the believing man from the penalty of sin, but it does not release him from the obligation to obey the words of Christ. Rather it brings him under the joyous necessity to obey!

Look at the epistles of the New Testament and notice how largely they are given over to what is erroneously called “hortatory” matter. By dividing the epistles into “doctrinal” and “hortatory” passages we have relieved ourselves of any necessity to obey. The doctrinal passages require from us nothing except that we believe them. The so-called hortatory passages are harmless enough for the very word by which they are described declares them to be words of advice and encouragement rather than commandments to be obeyed. This is a palpable error.

The exhortations in the epistles are to be understood as apostolic injunctions carrying the weight of mandatory charges from the Head of the Church. They are intended to be obeyed, not accepted or rejected as we will. If we would have God’s blessing upon us we must begin to obey!

Christ, the Blessed One

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me… For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.MATTHEW 11:29-30

I feel great sorrow for those who read the Sermon on the Mount and then conclude that Jesus was providing a word picture of men and women comprisingthe human race. In this world, we find nothing approaching the virtues of which Jesus spoke in the Beatitudes.

Instead of poverty of spirit, we find the rankest kind of pride. Instead of mourners, we find pleasure seekers.

Instead of meekness, we find only arrogance, and instead of hunger after righteousness, we hear men saying, “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing” (Revelation 3:17).

Instead of mercy, we find cruelty. Instead of purity of heart, we encounter corrupt imaginings. Instead of peacemakers, we find men quarrelsome and resentful, fighting back with every weapon at their command.

Jesus said He came to release us from our sad heritage of sin. Blessed is the sinner who finds that Christ’s words are the Truth itself, that He is the Blessed One who came from above to confer blessedness upon mankind!

Thank You, Father, for Your open-armed invitation for Your children to cast all of their worldly cares upon You. Lord, teach me how to trust You more deeply.