Christianity 201

September 25, 2017

Knowing God’s Will in the Absence of a Direct Message

Last year at this time we introduced you to California pastor Brian Loritts, author of Saving the Saved. We decided to track him down again this year at his blog and found this helpful teaching. Click on the title to read at source.

When I Don’t Hear From God…

Every last one of us has asked the question, What’s next? High school students trying to figure out where to go for college have asked this question. So have college students trying to lock in on a major (80% will change majors at least once), along with singles who are in a dating relationship and married people needing to discern when to have kids and how many. While these questions defy any unique faith category, Christians have historically filed these under the heading of the will of God. “God, what are you saying?,” we groan when faced with life’s proverbial forks in the road.

But this very question now sparks an age-old theological debate. While Christ followers contend that Christ does speak, we can be at odds over the method. Sure God’s primary voice is the Word of God, but does He also speak audibly? Garry Friesen’s, Decision Making and the Will of God, is weighted towards the no, while the title to Dallas Willard’s, Hearing God, let’s you know where he stands on the question.

If you’re looking for an answer to whether you should attend Stanford or Morehouse, marry Shiela or break up with her or take the out-of-state job, you just won’t find a chapter or verse in the Bible that will give you that answer. So what are we to do when faced with these decisions? I’ve found the following steps to be helpful:

Step One: Ask Him

In John 10, Jesus describes himself as “The Door” and “The Good Shepherd.” The metaphor of “The Door” points to salvation—how one gets into the sheepfold of the flock of God. The metaphor of “The Good Shepherd” depicts Jesus’ relationship with His sheep once they’re in. Then Jesus says, “When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice” (John 10:4).  The Greek word for know is an intuitive knowledge, like the kind of knowing I had when after a few months of dating Korie I just knew she was going to be my wife. Or the kind of knowing one has when they meet someone for the first time and just know something’s not right.  It’s that knowledge the sheep have when their shepherd speaks. Do you see what’s being implied here? The Shepherd is speaking long after the sheep have come through the door (of salvation). Jesus speaks.

A few chapters later, Jesus pictures the Holy Spirit as our guide. Now what does a guide do? He speaks. When I was a little boy, my father taught me the timeless principles of fishing—things like how to bait a hook, cast and reel. A few years ago, I went on a fishing trip where I hired a guide. All he did was take the basic truths I’d learned of fishing and he showed me how to apply them in specific places at specific times so that I had great success. This is how the Holy Spirit works with the Word. The Word gives us the timeless principles, and the Holy Spirit—our guide—shows us how to apply them in specific ways. We just need to ask Him.

Step Two: Use Wisdom

In his book, Hearing God, Dallas Willard tells the story of a preacher who was out in the middle of a field late one night, and he couldn’t see. The field was full of rocks which made his journey treacherous. Several times he heard someone calling his name. Finally, he stopped and felt around. It was a good thing he did this. A few more feet and he would have died. Oh, by the way, he never saw the person who was speaking to him, and concluded it had to have been God.

Can I confess to you that this rarely happens to me. Maybe a handful of times in my whole life have I heard the voice of God in this way. The normal pattern for me is that I pray and ask God to speak into something, and I don’t hear anything. Now what?

There’s a whole section of the Bible called Wisdom Literature. Books like Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and several others make up this genre of Scripture. Wisdom is skillful living.  It’s practically applying the timeless principles of Scripture to the specific scenarios of every day life. Now this is interesting, because embedded in the very idea of wisdom is choice.

By the end of this year, my boys will be teenagers, and what I’m trying to do, the older they get, is to not tell them exactly what they need to do. Hard, I know. I think good parenting empowers children to make age appropriate decisions. I also think this is how God parents us. A sign of immaturity is the need to be told exactly what to do in every situation. It’s the mature person who can make decisions within certain parameters.

So, when I don’t hear from God, I take that as God saying, make a decision. Now I know this will rub some of you the wrong way, because you think God needs to speak into every decision you make. But can I ask you a question? Did you pray about what pants to wear today? Or if you should wear pants at all? Did you pray about brushing your teeth, or where to get gas? Of course you didn’t, and you shouldn’t. We make decisions every day, wise ones. It’s the child who needs to be told to brush his teeth. The mature person doesn’t. Again, when you don’t hear anything from God, make the decision, a wise one.  But how do we do that?

Step Three: Figure Out the Fences

Imagine your child asks you if she can play in the backyard. You say, “yes,” but a few minutes later she comes in and says can I play on the slide? You agree. A few minutes later she asks if it’s okay to play on the swing set? “Of course,” you say. Then she asks comes back in moments later and asks if she can play in the sandbox. You look your sweet daughter in the face and tell her your will is she plays within the fences of the backyard, and she can make whatever decision she wants as long as its within those fences.

The same holds true for us. I think it’s good to ask God about our “sandboxes,” but when we don’t hear an answer we have to figure out the fences—those biblical parameters—that will help us make a decision. So, for example, when thinking through a job situation, it’s always helpful to process these fences: 1. Will the job contribute to the common good of society; 2. Will it allow me to provide for my family (As a man this is my call); and 3. Has God given me the gifts and capacity to meet the demands of the job? While there are more questions we could ask, these are the fences. Now we are free to choose.

August 17, 2016

Foolish Prophets Then and Now

God has spoken in Christ and the Christian Church is called to a prophetic role in speaking on His behalf to the world.

…The full title of today’s article is found in the link below:

Out of Their Own Imaginations and Out of Their Minds: Foolish Prophets Then and Now

by Clarke Dixon (Welcome back, Clarke!)

Spirituality seems to now be what you want it to be. This has many implications, both obvious and subtle. Let me give an example. As a pastor I do not receive as many phone calls from people looking for a wedding officiant anymore and just this summer it dawned on me as to why. Google. I am old enough to remember the days when an unchurched couple looking for a wedding officiant would phone around the churches. Now they just Google it. So I tried Googling “wedding” [plus the name of our town] and must admit that it was somewhat of a reality check. There is no lack of officiants in the area willing to marry you, or fulfill some of the other celebrations that we clergy once almost exclusively took care of. What dismayed me most was that in the typical “hire me to marry you” blurb, there were no offers of pre-marriage guidance, no promises of talking with and walking with the couple through what the Bible has to say about love and marriage. Instead there were offers to individualize and personalize the wedding, so that the wedding could be exactly as you want and so that you will be happy at the end of the day. It seems that the means has become the end. The “perfect” wedding ceremony has become the goal when a wedding ceremony ought to point beyond itself, indeed beyond even the happy couple, to God’s gift of, and plan for marriage. It is fascinating and sad that “personalize” and “individualize” are words, but “Godize” isn’t. Many a wedding, not to mention a marriage, needs “Godized.” Many a spiritual or religious leader needs to take a lead in this.

In the prophet Ezekiel’s day there was a tendency for prophets to individualize and personalize their messages, rather than “Godize” them:

1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 Mortal, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who are prophesying; say to those who prophesy out of their own imagination: “Hear the word of the Lord!” 3 Thus says the Lord God, Alas for the senseless prophets who follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing! Ezekiel 13:1-3 (NRSV)

The “prophets” were prone to saying what they thought the people wanted to hear rather than what God had to say. So they went about telling people to relax, that there was no danger. Ezekiel on the other hand heard God’s message, and then delivered it. Judgement is coming. Tough times are ahead. Not a message people wanted to hear, but it was true.

Ezekiel chapter 13 has much to teach a prophet, one who would presume to speak on God’s behalf. Let us consider some points. You may want a Bible handy (or click on the link above):

  • In verse 2 Ezekiel is to say to the prophets “Hear the word of the Lord.” This is not something you would normally say to a fellow prophet, who should be dependable in speaking the word of the Lord. We would hope that all teachers of religion are hearing and understanding the Word of God before teaching it.
  • In verse 4 the foolish prophets are likened to “jackals among the ruins”. In other words they are opportunistic just like the wild animals that would enter a city once it has been destroyed by an enemy. We would hope that religious teachers are leading from a place of servanthood rather than opportunism.
  • In verse 5 the foolish prophets are said to have left breaks in the walls. That is, they do not help people defend against evil. We would hope that religious teachers are part of how God answers the prayers of the people “deliver us from evil.”
  • In verses 6 and 7 the prophets are straight-up called liars. We would hope that religious teachers are honest and seeking, speaking truth.
  • In verse 8 God tells the prophets “I am against you”. We would hope that all who are religious teachers never get into such a sorry place of having God against them. Therefore they should avoid being against Him like the plague.
  • In verses 10 and following the prophets are said to be using “whitewash” to hide problems with the walls. I have come to learn that you can hide a multitude of renovation sins under a “whitewash” of drywall mud. However, a solid frame underneath is far more important than a good looking wall. We would hope that religious teachers are involved in some solid framing work.
  • In verse 18 the prophetesses are spoken of as magicians and they are likened to those hunting for birds with nets. They trap people. We would hope that religious teachers are in the ministry of freedom, not entrapment.
  • In verse 19 the prophetesses are spoken of as acting purely out of self interest, and worse they pervert the justice of God. We would hope that religious teachers are not in it for themselves, and point to the wonderful justice of God.
  • In verse s22 and 23 the prophetesses accomplish the opposite of what God wants. We would hope that religious teachers are serving the will of God.
  • In verse 23 it is assured that false prophecy and divination will come to an end. We would hope that religious teachers understand that anything false will not last, but the Word of God will stand forever.
  • Also in verse 23, people need saved from the prophets. We would hope that people do not need to be rescued from religious teachers.

As we contemplate the above let us keep in mind that anyone who speaks their mind on spirituality and religion in effect becomes a “religious teacher” no matter their claimed religion or lack thereof. So this includes me, but probably also you. However, Ezekiel 13 pertains especially to prophets who claim to speak on behalf of the God of Israel. God has spoken in Christ and the Christian Church is called to a prophetic role in speaking on His behalf to the world. We want to be sure we are being consistent with what God has said, not what we might want God to say, or what people might want to hear. We run the risk of becoming foolish prophets when we try to make Christianity palatable. I forget who said it, but we are called to be salt, not sugar. We are called to shine a light, when people who have something to hide would prefer the dark. Light is not welcome everywhere by everyone.

But as we consider the trap of making Christianity palatable, let us remember that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is beyond palatable. God’s expression of love, justice and grace through Jesus is a most wonderful truth. It is the admission of sin that is the unpalatable part. No amount of whitewash, drywall mud, sugar, or darkness can make that part go away. And thankfully, in God’s faithfulness, nothing can make His grace in Christ go away either. With the wonderful truth of God’s love we would be out of our minds to speak out of our own imaginations.


August 9, 2016

Judah and the Modern Church

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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JudahThis is our second time sharing the writings of Pastor George Belobaba who was in full-time ministry for over sixty years.  Through almost 750 posts, Susan E. Johnson copied the pastor’s writings so they could be preserved on the internet at the blog Scripture Nuggets. Today’s post here is the first part of a two-part article. The link below is to part one, and then you’re directed to part two to read at source.

Judah: The Backslidden Nation

Hosea 14:1-7… Take with you words, and turn to the LORD: say unto Him . . .” (v. 2, KJV).

Hosea wrote about Ephraim, who represented the nation of Israel and her spiritual downfall. He says in Hosea 4:1,6, “There is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land . . . My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee” (KJV). Lack of knowledge was destroying the people of God. “Lack of knowledge” refers to forgetting the law of God in word and practice. In our terms it would be not knowing the scriptures or the power of God. God wanted to do mighty things in their midst, but they were backslidden. Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:19-21 that every Christian should have knowledge of the wide range of the love of God, and they should know that it is God who will do above all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us. Hosea 4:14 says, “Therefore the people that doth not understand shall fall.” This may be the reason why the power of God is absent in today’s churches. The text says, “Bring your confessions, and return to the LORD. Say to him, ‘Forgive all our sins and graciously receive us, so that we may offer you our praises” (v. 2, NLT). I heard in my spirit the words, “My people do not know how to repent.” Think on it… many do not know how to say, “I am sorry, Lord.”

“Backsliding” means “turning from God, defection, apostasy, without adherence to God or to His word, stubborn, rebellious, bent on sinning, failure to grow in the knowledge of God.”

Hosea exposes the nation’s backsliding… These same signs are in the church today.

Hosea 4:17… Ephraim is joined to idols. In other words, divided loyalties were in his heart. There is danger in incomplete separation. Our nation is full of idolatry. People have made idols of other people, big homes, money, fancy items, big churches, big business, positions, and status, among others.

Hosea 5:3… Ephraim has defiled himself through immoral practices. Proverbs 12:28 says, “In the way of righteousness is life: and in the pathway thereof there is no death” (KJV). Sex is a big business in our nation.

Hosea 5:11… Ephraim, because of oppression, cannot make sound judgments because he willingly did wrong things. How can our leaders make sound decisions when their conscience tells them they are doing wrong? We are no different.

Hosea 5:13… Ephraim went to Assyria for help. Assyria represents taking a step in a wrong direction. The trip did nothing for Ephraim. The United Nations will never be the answer for our nation.

Hosea 7:1… Ephraim’s iniquity made an opening for the enemy to come in so that the enemy could strip him of his wealth.

Hosea 7:8… Ephraim brought mixture into his life. He was cake that was half-baked. Partial holiness is not good enough. The Bible has been compromised. The truths that the nation was founded upon have been watered down. Half-holiness will bring you death, not life.

Hosea 7:9… Ephraim was not aware that strangers were devouring his strength. So also in our nation–people who are alienated from God are bringing much damage. Spiritual deterioration comes in silently.

Hosea 7:11… Ephraim is pictured as a silly dove, i.e., senseless and confused about what direction he should take. God was silent; His counsels are refused.

Hosea 8:11… Ephraim made altars to sin. He was devoted to a false thing. Today, people love their SUVs and their big houses.

Hosea 8:14… Ephraim (Israel) had forgotten his Maker and built temples of false worship. Meanwhile, Judah multiplied its fenced cities and isolated itself behind walls. The church world divides for various reasons. A group splits, leaves a church, and starts their own church, giving it a spiritual sounding name to cover up their act. No splinter group ever calls their new work “We Split Life Center,” or “We Dislike One Man Leadership Fellowship,” or “Legalism Tabernacle.” Judah put up walls of exclusiveness around itself and acted as if they only had God in their midst…

Judah: The Backslidden Nation, Pt. 2

Hosea exposes the nation’s backsliding

Hosea 9:3… Ephraim goes back to Egypt and eats unclean things. In other words, people go back to doing the things that God has delivered them from.

Hosea 9:16… Ephraim is stricken, and not only that, his roots dry up. His fruit (children) are murdered (v. 13) and many others are aborted in the womb. Hosea may have also seen our day and our nation.

Hosea 11:7… Ephraim was bent on backsliding. The word “bent” means “determined.” He still had a love for the Most High, but refused to exalt Him. Most backsliders care about the Lord but they love their evil ways too.

Hosea 12:1… Ephraim feeds on the wind and follows the east wind. The east wind is the doctrine that came from Babylon. “Take with you words, and turn to the LORD: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves [fruit] of our lips (Hosea 14:2, KJV). Our nation knows that it is doing the same as ungodly societies that are all around them. Very few prophets stand before our politicians and prophesy the word of God.

Hosea 12:8… Ephraim prospers financially because he became crooked in business and said, “I did nothing wrong.” Many giant corporations have fallen because of this same attitude.

The prophets called for Ephraim and Judah to return. The countries were determined to backslide. Yet, God, in Hosea 11:8, says, “How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim?” (KJV. God says that He chose mercy, because He is God and not a man.

Hosea calls for the nation to return to God

Hosea 14:1… God lays it on the line. “You are fallen and a backslider because of your own iniquity. You have no excuse, you can’t blame others; you made your own decisions.” The nation needs to call sin, sin, and not bad habits or something that you will get over. Our jails are full because of sin. Our medical costs are rising because of sin. Sin without repentance can rob Christians of their power against evil.

Hosea 14:2… God shows His concern. “Take with you words, and turn to the Lord: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves [fruit] of our lips” (KJV). The Lord wants to help the backslider by giving him the right vocabulary. Often the sinner doesn’t know what to say. Our nation knows that it is doing wrong, and it doesn’t know what to say. Repentance has its own vocabulary. What does God want to hear from the backslider? “Take with you words.” Say to God, “Take away my sin, cleanse me, forgive me.” Hosea is saying, “Acknowledge your sin before God. Ask God to receive you again.” “Take me back, Lord.” Worship vocabulary comes after repentance. The backslider (v. 3) must recognize that the world (Assyria) can’t help him. You don’t repent by coming back on a “show horse”; i.e., making a big thing out of it. Repentance involves humility, remorse, being sorry, and often weeping. You don’t return carrying any good works that you may have done while you were backslidden. You are saved by God’s grace and by God’s mercy, not by your own works (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Hosea tells what God will do for the returning nation

Hosea 14:4-9… He heals them, loves them, and removes His anger from them. He refreshes them, He causes new growth, and He strengthens the nation’s roots. God enlarges them, gives them a new fragrance, brings a reviving into their life, brings a revival in their jobs and families, and brings new joys. He removes their desire to serve sin. They receive fresh prophetic direction. They are exhorted and shown that the way of the Lord is right. “You have been restored. Now walk in God’s ways.

March 5, 2016

Having, Or Not Having, A ‘Specific’ Calling

Elsie Montgomery BlogToday we pay a return visit to the writing of Elsie Montgomery at the blog Practical Faith.

Okay, I simply copied and pasted that. And it’s easy to take the various contributing writers — some of whom never knew the first time they were contributing — for granted; but this is the tenth time we’ve used Elsie’s writing here. As someone who prepares something like this every day, even though I don’t do original writing each time, I know the work that goes into this. Take a look at Elsie’s archives in the graphic at right and note the number of posts per year. Wow! More than 10 years, and closing in on 4,000 blog posts. Faithfulness!

So today, even if you don’t normally, click on the link in the graphic or in the title below and then pick out one more blog post to read.

The work is not as important as why I do it

Some Christians are called to specific tasks, but I’ve never received a “calling” from God, or a vision from Him concerning how I’m supposed to serve Him. In several places, the Bible mentions people who have special tasks:

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11–12)

However this is a list of gifted people with titles and functions, not the same as a specific vision like “preach the gospel to the Inuit” or “teach children in your local church.”

Chambers assumes it is easier to serve God without a vision because you use common sense or human logic to guide whatever ministry to be involved in, giving more opportunity for personal leisure and prosperity. He says that having a commission from Jesus Christ is like a goad to keep you from working on any other basis than sacrificial service. His comments come from this verse . . .

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:24)

Paul’s life was precious only on the basis of fulfilling his ministry. He refused to use his energy for anything else. This is my goal too, but is a “calling” necessary toward having that attitude? Echoing in my ear is the speaker at a writers’ conference who said: “We are called to love and obey God; today He might be asking you to write, tomorrow it might be something else.”

What if Paul, bent on building churches, was asked by God to stop and take care of a Samaritan in a ditch? Would he say no, this is not within his calling? Is it more difficult to have a vision and aim at only that, or more difficult to moment by moment listen to the voice of God and do whatever He asks for that moment?

While it didn’t happen to Paul, I can imagine those who have a vision or a calling being so focused on it that it becomes an idol, a “this is my work” thing. Chambers says “practical work” (aka ‘no vision’) is based on this argument—‘Remember how useful you are here,’ or—‘Think how much value you would be in that particular type of work.’ I don’t see why a person with a vision could not fall into the same trap.

He says those who are “not gripped by Jesus Christ” will “count service dear, time given to God dear, life dear” as if having a vision makes others immune to such temptations. I am not convinced. I’ve seen those with a vision who began to count their vision dear, their time given to God dear, their life dear, all because of their calling.

John Calvin suggests that the human heart is an idol-making factory. Being gripped by God is one thing, but our fight between the flesh and His Spirit is constant. Vision or not, that sinful nature can rear its ugly face and twist motivations from glorifying Christ to glorifying self. Paul admits that he fought it just as all of us do, and shares with his readers what God did to help him stay on course . . .

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:7–9)

The danger is not in the “practical work” which Chambers say can become competition “against abandonment to God.’ Instead, it seems that the greater danger is any kind of attitude that abandons Jesus Christ as my Guide and lures me into using my own judgment.

The point is not about a life-calling or even what I am doing in day-to-day obedience, but that I must forever remember that I am not my own but His.

March 1, 2015

Self Evaluation

James MacDonaldAs I read today’s thoughts by Harvest Bible Chapel pastor and Walk in the Word host James MacDonald, I was reminded of those times in school when the teacher would allow you to mark your own paper. That is what God asks you do in the various verses of scripture highlighted below.  To read this at source at James MacDonald’s blog, and then have an opportunity to look around at other articles and available resources, click the title below.

Revive Your Soul through Self-Examination

I confess to a little ‘blogger’s block’ the past few weeks, at least in part due to my own grieving over the fall, failure, fallout, and firestorm about men formerly in ministry who are very dear to me personally. In the past two years, I count 6 or 7 . . . wow, wow, wow. Knowing their backstories provokes my heart to greater mercy than those who only think they know. But I don’t have a single word of critique about others on any side of any battle, not in public at least. I can say this for sure: Men, for the most part, are far more stricken with self doubt and awareness of their own sinful flaws than ever seems to reach the public awareness. Further, those who have failed in significant ways often come to a new and deeper awareness of their need for daily grace and the importance, above all, of extending that grace to others. Oswald Chambers has rightly said, “I will never despair of any man, when I rightly discern what lies in me apart from the grace of God.”But that is an incredible hardship, “rightly discerning what lies in me.” If we were better at the discipline of personal reflection and confession, we would be better men for Christ and His church. Where this discipline is neglected, we grow in pride and presumption. Worst of all we grow in self-righteous oblivion about our own condition. As ministers of the gospel, we need frequent personal detox. We need time to cultivate our own souls and revive the authenticity of our own relationship with Christ. From Isaiah’s “unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5), to Peter’s “Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8), to John’s “When I saw the Lord, I fell at his feet as though dead” (Revelation 1:17), all genuine contact with our Creator Christ initially produces an immense sense of personal sin.

How long has it been since you had tears of conviction about yourself, instead of the sorry substitute of self-righteous superiority over others? How long since you were truly grieved by an accurate assessment of the actual condition of your soul in God’s eyes? When rejoicing in our positional standing of ‘declared and treated as righteous’ through faith in Christ impairs our comprehension of here-and-now stalled sanctification, we can be sure that hyper grace has found a home in our hearts. As Tozer said, “A man can believe in total depravity and never have any sense of it for himself at all. Lots of us believe in total depravity who have never been wounded with the knowledge that we’ve sinned.” What an incredible insight. To get there, to get to accurate self-examination that dismantles self-righteousness and elevates afresh our reveling in grace for self and others, we need three things: 1) attention to the voice of conscience; 2) listening for Holy Spirit conviction through the Scriptures; and 3) insight from a trusted friend who knows us well and observes us frequently.

1) Attention to the voice of conscience.

To harness the directives of a biblically-informed conscience, defined by Hobbes as the soul gazing upon itself, we must search our own hearts and confess our own sins. But what exactly am I gazing upon? What can I do so I don’t just sit still in feigned spirituality and let my mind wander? I find it helpful to pray in four areas, with my Bible and journal open and a pen in hand.

a) Look up. I turn to God in His Word, which is a mirror, and get down on my knees in prayer, centering my life back on the Lord. b) Look back. Where have I been this week? And this month? What failures should I confess as sin and forsake? What priorities have been lost that must be regathered with focus and emphasis? c) Look around. Who am I neglecting? Who have I hurt? Who has needs I should be meeting? I’m not alone in this world. Other people matter to God and they should matter to me, too. d) Look ahead.  What’s up ahead? How should I be different? How can I make it so? What is important that has been neglected? What’s unimportant that has had my attention?

2) Listening for Holy Spirit conviction through the Scriptures.

Recognizing the deceitful nature of my own heart, I would never allow the foolishness of thinking, I don’t see anything wrong in my actions or attitudes. To get beyond our lack of self-awareness, we invite the Holy Spirit to engage with us about matters our conscience is blind to. “Search me oh God, and know my heart. Try me and know my anxious thoughts, see if there be any wicked way in me” (Psalm 139:23-24). “The Spirit bears witness with our Spirit, that we are the children of God” (Romans 8:16), and “As many as are led by the Spirit of God these are the sons of God” (Romans 8:14). It is interesting to me that those who decry the personal ministry of the Holy Spirit in speaking to us are often those most apparently in need of that work. Oh, Holy Spirit come now and convict me of sin (the things I have done and the attitudes I have allowed which grieve your heart), of righteousness (Your holy standard revealed in Your Word), and the judgement to come (the reality of my pending accountability) (John 16:8).

3) Insight from a trusted friend who knows us well and observes us frequently.

All ministry of the Holy Spirit to us as individuals remains in the category of the subjective. To truly examine ourselves, we must seek a final quality check of our self-examination through the counsel of a trusted friend. Even the apostle Paul said, “I know nothing against myself, but I am not justified by this” (1 Corinthians 4:4). Paul was aware, as we must be, that claiming to be without fault simply because we are not aware of any is akin to “I see, said the blind man.”  “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future” (Proverbs 19:20). “Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel” (Proverbs 27:9). When a friend who knows us well is assured of our intention to listen without rebuttal and embrace their counsel without hesitation, we are in a position to learn what we are blind to and score big gains in progressive sanctification. When that happens, everyone wins—our spouses, our kids, our ministry partners, our congregants. Most of all, the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

“But let a man examine himself” (1 Corinthians 11:28). Someone has said “the unexamined life is not worth living.” I was going to look up the source of that quote, but I thought it better just to get busy doing it again. I know from experience that many will read this; few will actually do it. Will you?

UPDATE: Here is an excellent diagnostic tool that we found after this blog post had already published. 35 Questions to ask yourself.

December 4, 2014

Praying Without a Doubt

Today we pay a return visit to the blog, Created to Give God Glory and its author Prentis McGoldrick. To read this at source, and look around the blog, click the title below.


Do Our Doubts Keep Us from God’s Blessings?

Mark 11:23-24 (ESV)
23 Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
James 1:6 (ESV)
6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.

I do not believe that God gives us everything we want. I do not believe that God gives us things simply because we are deluded into thinking that it will happen just because we say it will. I do not believe that God supplies on the basis of our own desires that our wishes be granted. I believe that God provides on the basis of His word. His word reveals who He is. Therefore, He provides on the basis of His character. So, what do our prayer have to do with it?

The definition of prayer for many must be changed. It is more than “talking to God.” Prayer should reveal our hearts. Prayer should reveal our faith. Faith is based on the word of God. We believe because He has said it is so. Our prayers should simply repeat what God has said. Prayers will be in a general attitude, i.e.,” God I know you are loving and care about my situation”, and specific, “God, I need to pay my rent this week and I don’t have it. Will you please help supply my need?” However, there are times we must have more than a general or specific request. We need a specific word from God which allows us to ask and state what God will do. We can do so because we have heard from Him specifically.

Elijah prays that it won’t rain. He says he has done so at God’s command. Jesus prays that Lazarus will be resurrected because He has already heard from His Father. There must be some times in which we have heard from God and we pray that which He has already told us. Doubt in what God has already said is denying that God is truthful and/or powerful enough to answer our prayers.

God refuses to answer the prayers of people who refuse to believe Him. God desires a people who will know Him. People cannot know Him until they have believed in Him. They cannot believe in Him by doubting Him.

Years ago I spoke to an evangelist who said, “You must believe it is so when it isn’t so, so that it will be so because with God it is already so.” I asked him to tell me how you know its so. He said, “First, you have to receive a word from God.”

I asked, “How do I get a word from God?”

“That’s the hard part,” was his reply.

Most of us don’t want to spend the time receiving a word from God. It may take intense prayer. It may take fasting. It may take losing sleep (remember the Garden of Gethsemane). Yet, somehow God has to speak, we have to hear and believe.

How far can we go in our prayers to God? They are limitless. We can ask Him to speak to us about anything. However, we are ridiculous in asking for something we already know God doesn’t want us to have. For example: Please don’t let me get caught after I rob the bank!

Listening for a word from God always exposes the possibility He will refuse our request. He may say that He is simply not going to do so. Paul continued to have a thorn in the flesh. Jesus went to the cross. God’s word spoke to them and they quit asking God for what He had revealed. Thus, the answer may not be to our liking but it will speak to our faith.

Often, we need a word from God to be the real answer to our prayers. Are you willing to ask God to speak to you and continue asking until He does? If so, you must receive what He says by faith and you shall have what He has promised.

Faith in God’s word is the key.

May 25, 2014

Communication Cutoff Ends; Transmission Restored

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…Now in those days messages from the Lord were very rare, and visions were quite uncommon.   I Samuel 3:1b NLT

…And the word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision.  I Samuel 3:1b KJV

It was like the cable carrying messages from God had been cut. The wires had been severed. The obvious question we want to ask is, Why were visions infrequent and messages rare? Perhaps it was necessary to set the stage for the calling of Samuel in this same chapter.

Matthew Henry writes:

The word of the Lord was precious in those days. Now and then a man of God was employed as a messenger upon an extraordinary occasion (as 1 Sam. 2:27), but there were no settled prophets, to whom the people might have recourse for counsel, nor from whom they might expect the discoveries of the divine will. And the rarity of prophecy made it the more precious in the account of all those that knew how to put a right value upon it. It was precious, for what there was (it seems) was private: There was no open vision, that is, there were none that were publicly known to have visions. Perhaps the impiety and impurity that prevailed in the tabernacle, and no doubt corrupted the whole nation, had provoked God, as a token of his displeasure, to withdraw the Spirit of prophecy, till the decree had gone forth for the raising up of a more faithful priest, and then, as an earnest of that, this faithful prophet was raised up.

A few verses later (7) more of this background comes clear:

Samuel did not yet know the Lord because he had never had a message from the Lord before. NLT

Well of course that was true, the text says that really nobody was having messages from the Lord.

Rick Morley writes:

What I find so very interesting here though is that God was calling upon Samuel before Samuel was a man of faith.

It is, of course, why Samuel didn’t know what was going on when God was calling to him in the night. But, isn’t it strange that God was calling upon him before Samuel knew God?

Isn’t it strange when there was in fact a faithful priest, and follower of God, right there?

I’ve marveled for quite sometime now that God calls the strangest people to do His work, and to spread His Word. He’ll call an old man like Abraham, and a young girl like Mary. He’ll call a man who killed a guy like Moses, or a someone who was complicit in the death of a Christian like Paul. He’ll call someone who is so morally compromised like David, and God will even call pagan-Zoroastrian-astrologers from the east by sending them a star.

And here, in First Samuel, God calls someone who is not yet a person of faith.

So often in the  modern church we can get preoccupied with qualifications, status, education, and rank. We’ll want to see a resume and a few letters after someone’s name before we issue a call—or we’ll deny someone a position because they aren’t technically “a member” or been through confirmation yet.

But, if the call of Samuel says anything—amidst all the calls of the Scriptures—it’s that God calls whomever God decides to call, and oftentimes God calls the most unlikely of people.

In fact that’s not even the exception to the rule, it seems to be the rule.

And, the gem that’s buried in this text is that Eli knows this. Eli could have sent the boy off to bed, chiding him for his lack of faith, or his immaturity.

I mean really, what kind of God would call someone like Samuel?

…Or David, or Moses, or Mary, or Paul, or Peter…

…or me?

May we, the People of God, be granted the wisdom of Eli, AND the willingness of Samuel, when we draw the “least-likely-candidate” straw.

And God comes calling in the night.





January 22, 2014

Did You Really Hear from God?

Today we’re in Jeremiah 23:

21 I did not send these prophets,
yet they have run with their message;
I did not speak to them,
yet they have prophesied.  (NIV)

21 I didn’t send the prophets,
yet they ran anyway.
I didn’t speak to them,
yet they prophesied anyway. (CEB)

21 I did not send those prophets.
Yet they were in a hurry to give their message.
I did not tell them anything.
Yet they prophesied anyway.  (NET)

21 “I have not sent these prophets,
yet they run around claiming to speak for me.
I have given them no message,
yet they go on prophesying.  (NLT)

The force of this verse is clear, but the second line is nuanced differently in each of the above translations. The CEB brings out the idea that the prophets went out regardless of having not heard; the NET Bible suggests that they were in a big rush to speak, and the NLT suggests what we sometimes call a “beehive of activity.”

Each one of these three alternatives to the NIV offers a different potential application.

To me, the CEB suggests someone who, like the characters in the comedy The Blues Brothers goes forth saying to themselves, “We’re on a mission from God,” when in fact God didn’t authorize that particular mission. Blogger Johnny B. writes that this really turns a true prophet into a false prophet:

How many times do we follow false gods or do things against God, yet try to give God the credit?  Beware false prophets as you venture out and open yourselves to the world today.  Constantly, throughout the day, be in tune to God and what He wants you to do.  Be not a false prophet, but a man (woman) who follows God and displays Jesus in his (her) daily walk and actions. 

In an article about problems in the church in Africa, someone recently wrote:

They prophesy lies in God’s name, but God did not send them, command them nor speak to them.  They prophesy lying vision, worthless divination and the deceit of their own minds.  Jeremiah 14:14.  They are all over the place and they spring up every day like mushrooms.  They claim to be “men of God,”  “apostles,”  “pastors,” “prophets,” “bishops,” “archbishops,” and what-nots, but they lie!  They are ordinary criminals parading as “men of God” and deceiving the gullible who don’t know their Bible and have no discernment.

With the NET Bible, we think of the times we think first and speak later. This is even more important when we presume to speak for God. I’ve already covered the idea that each of should be “slow to speak” in this article and this article.

However, we can’t assume that if a pastor feels he hasn’t heard from God this week he should simply move directly to the closing hymn and dismiss the service early. But it does suggest that there are indeed such times. Could the pastor phone up a church member and offer him or her the pulpit? In conversation with hurting people do we open our mouths when perhaps just our presence — even in silence — or an offer to pray is what is called for?  Do we know someone who needs encouragement, but we pick up the phone or send the email before we’ve really been given something of substance to say?

In ministry this is sometimes called burnout; though the term would have been somewhat foreign to Jeremiah or this context. In a review of the book Leading on Empty by Wayne Cordiero, a reader defined it:

Burnout happens when you keep pushing yourself and don’t know when to slow down… As a leader you give and give, but you can’t give what you don’t have…

Singer Jackson Browne called this Running on Empty,

Running on-running on empty
Running on-running blind
Running on-running into the sun
But I’m running behind

Can it be that in so doing you cross the line from true prophet to false prophet?

The Voice Bible echoes this with the addition of an extra phrase:

21 Eternal One: I did not send these so-called prophets,
        but they have run to you with their empty words.
    I did not speak to them,
        but they claim to speak for Me.

With the NLT, I see the breadth of ministry defined. God gave us a word to give to person “A”, and we then scurry out thinking that “B,” “C,” and “D” need to hear it as well.  Probably entire churches have been founded on what was a single word that was meant for a particular individual, location or situation.

In the NLT rendering there is a picture of running around, ‘to and fro’ as some say; a picture of busy church people busy doing church things.  A great deal of energy is expended, but the result is heat when what’s needed is light.

Sometimes this flurry of activity is about the building of someone’s personal empire, either a pastor or a ministry organization. The Reformation Study Bible says the verse reflects ” a picture of zeal in their self-serving propagation of falsehood.”

This doesn’t mean that all overburdened, overtaxed pastors are necessarily spreading false doctrine, but certainly it can be a variable that increases the propensity to error.  The phrase “yet they go on” suggests an individual in desperate need of an “off” switch or even a “pause.” We need to take time to refresh and dare I say reload in the sense of hearing from God afresh.

That’s the message in the very next verse:

22 But if they had stood in my council,
    they would have proclaimed my words to my people
and would have turned them from their evil ways
    and from their evil deeds.

Hearing from God is key.

Tomorrow: In preparing today’s message I uncovered an article that really deserves to be featured here on its own. If you thought today’s coverage of this topic was too light, take a deep breath and come back tomorrow for in-depth exposition of today’s key verse.

November 30, 2012

Scripture Teaching on Physical Drought

I’m always wary of some of our Charismatic brothers and sisters who purport to make predictions for a new year, but I respect the balance I find in former Charisma editor J. Lee Grady. Here he looks at the weird weather we’ve experienced recently and notes some scripture passages that speak to periods where this a lack of rain. This is more forthtelling than foretelling. Click through to read this at Fire In My Bones where it is titled Serving God in a Dry Season.

While Hurricane Sandy’s floods dominated recent weather headlines, a very different weather pattern has cost us more than the superstorm’s $50 billion in damages. The United States actually needs rain—and lots of it.

Forecasters say our nation is experiencing its worst drought since 1954. As of this week, 60.1 percent of the nation is in drought, with six states—Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Colorado and Iowa—entirely in drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Lakes are drying up, crops are dying and ranchers are scrambling to feed their cows.

DroughtSome people figure this prolonged dry spell is just the result of cyclical climate patterns. Maybe so, but the Bible suggests that droughts and famines can be linked to spiritual realities. Sometimes the natural world reflects our spiritual condition. Man’s pride, greed, injustice and idolatry can actually disturb nature.

When you consider how hostile our culture has become to God and biblical morality, it’s no surprise we are in a recession—both economically and ecologically. (Note to all my green friends: Sin is actually very bad for the environment.)

The good news is that even in seasons of drought, whether physical or spiritual, God has a knack for getting His people through challenging times. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all experienced famine—yet they inherited a divine promise. Moses led God’s people through a dry wilderness. David wrote psalms about the dry seasons. And it was during a prolonged drought that Elijah called down fire from heaven.

I’m not superstitious, so I have no fear of the number 13. While I do believe 2013 will be a challenging year financially, I see some silver linings behind today’s storm clouds. As we enter this difficult time, remember what the Bible says about drought:

1. It is a time to repent. Back in the old days people repented when the rain stopped. They feared God. They knew they couldn’t rely on their sophisticated technology, scientific achievements or social engineering. The prophet Joel led the way when he wrote: “To you, O Lord, I cry; for fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness and the flame has burned up all the trees of the field” (Joel 1:19, NASB). When times are tough, make sure you are not offending God in any way. Turn from all known sin. Adjust your attitudes, starve your lusts and refocus on the Lord.

2. It is a time to seek the Lord fervently. Many of America’s trees are in danger because of the current drought. The only tree that can survive drought is one that has roots deep enough to soak up water that lies far below the ground. Your ability to survive tough times depends on how deep you are willing to go with God. Shallow devotion isn’t enough.

The prophet Jeremiah wrote about the righteous man: “For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit” (Jer. 17:8). Instead of fretting about the future, extend your roots farther than you ever have before. Seek the Lord and tap into the strength of His presence.

3. It is a time to worship the Lord passionately. Worship has a proven therapeutic effect on our souls, but it also has the power to change our circumstances. When times are tough, the tough start praising! If your situation looks bleak, don’t fall into the trap of depression. You can worship your way out of this.

The prophet Habakkuk described a dark time in Israel when the fig tree did not blossom and there was no fruit on the vines. Still, he chose to praise. He said: “Yet I will exult in the Lord; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation” (Hab. 3:18). As you enter 2013, use the weapon of praise to conquer your anxieties, fears and doubts.

4. It is a time to expect supernatural supply. King David said the righteous would enjoy abundance “in the days of famine” (see Psalm 37:19). That doesn’t make sense! How can we experience provision during a recession? It is possible because God’s economy is not linked to this world’s corrupt system. Just as the widow’s oil flowed even when her bank account was dry, you too can know supernatural blessing even when the nation is dangling over a fiscal cliff.

Regardless of what the history books say about 2013, it can be a time for God’s people to shine. Raise your faith level and expect a miracle.

J. Lee Grady

October 26, 2012

You Can’t Multitask With God

Clark Bunch was good enough to write something especially for C201 last month, today we’re simply raiding his blog! I don’t think he will mind, especially if some of you click through. The first commandment tells us that God wants to be the center of our attention. Nothing else should capture our hearts when he wants to speak. This article appeared at The Master’s Table this week under the title, Multitasking Worship.


Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. 3 And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” 4 When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. Exodus 3 (ESV)

My mother uses her cell phone for one thing, and that is to make and receive calls. She has no camera, internet or mp3 player. But let’s be honest, that isn’t how most of us do it. Most of us are downloading music, texting, instant messaging, uploading pics, and some of us still talk once in a while. We do business on the way to work. We listen to audio books while on the treadmill. Nobody does one thing at a time anymore.

Moses sees the burning bush in Exodus 3, and in verse 3 he says “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” Moses was doing his job as a shepherd when the sight of the burning bush got his attention. He then turned aside; he put what he was doing on hold in order to pay attention to this curious sight. He discovers God in the bush, and for the rest of chapter 3 and 4 does nothing but talk and listen to God.

The Apostles waited in the upper room for the Holy Spirit. They weren’t also on the job, writing letters and giving lectures; they prayed and waited for God. Psalm 46:10 says to “Be still and know that I am God.” In 1 Kings 19 the LORD speaks to Elijah; but it was not in the whirlwind, nor the earthquake, nor the fire, it was in a still small voice.

Would we even notice a still small voice? We cannot multitask time with God. Maybe on Sunday morning during the 11 am service you can sing praise songs, text Mom about lunch, change dates and times on your iPhone, and sort of listen to the sermon. But have you met God? You can check your email, eat a bowl of cereal, watch the news, and listen to a daily devotional play in the background… but should you?

Moses attention was captured by the burning bush. With Balaam it was a talking donkey, for Simon Peter it was a miraculous catch of fish. God is alive and well, and still speaks to his people. But God is not the Stock Market update or the latest baseball score. He requires our full attention. Moses took off his shoes because he was standing on holy ground. At times we need to turn aside and take some things off in order to meet with God. His promise is that if we draw near to him he will draw near to us. If you haven’t met with God in a while he is still in the same place, possibly right where you left him.

~Clark Bunch

December 13, 2011

When God Spoke Audibly to the King

Albert Rommal is the newest blogger at Alltop.Christian; he’s in pastoral ministry in Phoenix, AZ, and his blog is titled The Sovereign God. This piece appeared recently under the title, The Interesting Case of King Nebuchadnezzar

At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:29)

So here you have a great king of a great kingdom, the kingdom of Babylon. And he’s walking around one night surveying his kingdom. And he thinks to himself, “you know what? I’m pretty awesome. Look what I have accomplished. I am a great empire builder. Man, I’m something else, the real deal, the man.”

Well, it didn’t go just like that, but you can see in the verse above that according to the language of his day, he thought himself to be a pretty neat guy.  Bad move!

What did God do? Something He didn’t do too often.  He intervened orally.  He spoke directly to Nebuchadnezzar.

And what was His message?  It was this. I am God and I do whatever pleases me. Anything you accomplish is because of my will, my work, my decree.

Now to get Nebuchadnezzar to see this, He had to take care of the issue, which was Nebuchadnezzar’s pride. And to accomplish that, God humiliated him.

He made him like the basest of creatures, who ate grass and became unkempt. “While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.”(Daniel 4:31-32)

“Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.” (Daniel 4:33)

God always does things for a purpose and the purpose here was to show the ole king who God is. And who is God? He is the one who “rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” In other words, there is no room for boasting, save in God in heaven. Not ever. Not anyone.

Have you accomplished something?  Great!  Give God the glory.

Many struggle with the idea that God is sovereign even though He tells us over and over again in His word that He is so.  This is just another example and a pretty nifty one at that. It’s almost as if He decided in Heaven that it was high time He joined the conversation, even though briefly.

When we get to heaven ourselves, we will see that God was and is far more sovereign than even the most ardent Calvinist might believe here on earth. For we see through a glass dimly. “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)

OK, so back to Nebuchadnezzar. God ended his time being a human aardvark, restoring him, not only to his kingdom, but to his senses as well. “At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me….”

His reason returned to him.  What a great thing to say because up that point he was being unreasonable. (That’s another lesson to us folks. It is unreasonable to think that God is not sovereign all the time and over everything and everyone.)

And so what did Nebuchadnezzar learn? What did he declare when he came to his senses? Read carefully and take note.

“I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever,

for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?”

At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.” (Daniel 4:34-37)

Is there anything more we can add to this?

Our God is God. Jesus Christ! And He reigns in heaven and over all the kingdoms of men. So much so that we can do nothing about it and can’t even say to Him, “What have you done?”

Let us learn from the interesting case of King Nebuchadnezzar, who had the Lord of heaven and earth intervene in his life in a most unusual way – all to make the point that He is God over all.

Let us get the point and imitate good king Nebuchadnezzar.

~Albert Rommal

December 26, 2010

Five Reasons to Read the Bible

  1. For the truth about God. The world gives us a multiplicity of meanings as to who God is and what He is all about.   The Bible gives us a proper standard for truth by which to test everything else we hear or read.  For the LORD gives wisdom;  from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path.  (Proverbs 2: 6, 9 NIV 2011)
  2. To keep our thoughts focused. Living in the world, we think worldly things.   That can cut off our focus on God and our communication with him.   It’s a tug of war.   God’s word will draw us to Him even as the world tries to draw us away.   Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2 NLT)
  3. Because we need direction. Just as our thoughts can be drawn away from God so our will and decision making can be drawn away from His best.   Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.  (II Tim 3: 16, 17 The Message)
  4. As an act of obedience. If we love God, we will want to do the things that please Him.   He should keep it with him all the time and read from it every day of his life. Then he will learn to respect the Lord his God, and he will obey all the teachings and commands.  (Deut 17: 19 NCV)
  5. As a weapon of our spiritual warfare. The Bible is described as the “sword of the Spirit.”   It can be used against the ideas that Satan confronts us with through others, or simply puts into our minds.   Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'”  (Matt 4:10 ESV)