Tag Archives: Bible study

Do You Have 30 Minutes for God?

“I don’t have time.”

“I’m too busy.”

At one time, these were my mantras whenever somebody would speak to me about investing time each day to read my Bible and go to God in prayer.  One day, it hit me. Am I really too busy for God? Can I not find 15 to 30 minutes for Him during my supposedly “too busy” day?

Here’s how I spent my time: I set a morning alarm that went off just in time to allow me a quick shower, wake the kids, skip breakfast and rush to work. After working all day I dodged traffic, talked a little bit with my wife, ate dinner, sometimes helped the kids with homework, watched TV, set my alarm and went to bed. All to repeat itself day after day, week after week. Nope, I clearly had no time for God. Or so I thought.

To be honest, I do not recall the exact circumstances under which God convicted me of my misuse of the time He gives me each day – but He did. So one night I set my alarm to wake me 15 minutes earlier than usual, and with that extra 15 minutes I would get up before anybody else and begin reading my Bible. The rule was no Facebook, no Twitter, no email and no news until I had completed my daily reading.

Studying Jeremiah

Travel Bible study. Taken 9.15.2013, Chicago, IL

You know what? It didn’t take long for God to bless that investment of 15 minutes each morning. He blessed it by connecting me more closely with Him. I approached my day with a different attitude than I had before. And if, for some reason, I missed my morning Scripture time I felt it throughout the day.

You see, God created us to be in relationship with Him; Not just for one hour each Sunday morning, but always. He reveals Himself and He speaks to us through His Word, the Bible. The Bible, from Genesis through Revelation, is rich with words to us from God Himself. If we never open our Bible, if we never read His Word, we deny ourselves access to the deep relationship God wants with each of us.

Over the last two years I have read through the Bible in its entirety twice. I am more in tune with who God is and how I am to relate to Him than ever before. Through my (almost) daily Bible reading, God has given me a filter through which I can discern truth from fiction, sound teaching from false teaching. I believe I am a better husband, a better father, a better employee, a better boss, and a better friend. No, I’m not perfect – not even close. But God has used my daily investment of time to sanctify my life and help me become closer to the man that He wants me to be.

My daily time with God has grown to 30, sometimes 45 minutes. You know how time seems to fly when you’re engaged in conversation with your best friend? That investment of time is no longer a burden. On the contrary, I cannot imagine my day without Him.

Through technology, God has given us a wonderful tool to aid in our reading and study. I use The Bible App on my Kindle Fire and on my iPhone. The app offers access to Scripture in a variety of versions. It offers a plethora of Bible reading plans of various lengths. Even when traveling on business, I have God’s Word available to me in an easy and convenient format. It is through this app that I have read the entire Bible twice in two years time, and through it I have embarked on my third journey through Scripture in 2016.

“I’m too busy.” No, you’re not.

“I don’t have time.” Yes, you do.

Don’t let the devil keep you from your Lord. Today is the day; why not begin today?

20/20 Hindsight ~ John 2:18-25

Thankful for the 20/20 vision I enjoy through these lenses!

Thankful for the 20/20 vision I enjoy through these lenses!

Clarity sometimes comes long after events have unfolded. In the heat of the moment, we’re in the moment and, thus, God’s purpose for the moment can be somewhat elusive to us at the time. Once we are removed from the situation and take the opportunity to look back and ponder it, we begin to understand the gravity of the events we witnessed. We may even feel a bit foolish for having missed the real meaning until later, stating that the clarity offered by hindsight makes the gravity of the moment obvious. “How did I miss that?” we ask. Such is the limitation of the human mind, limited in scope and bound by the passage of time.

Jesus had just cleared the vendors and money changers from the temple courts, and with that, potential temple revenue had been thrown out with them. The Jews in charge asked Him to show a sign proving that He had the authority to take such action. Jesus replied, “destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (2:19) Standing in the temple court and looking at the temple structure, it’s easy for me to understand why these men, and presumably Jesus’ disciples, took him literally, chiding Him that it took 46 years to build this structure; no way could Jesus destroy it and rebuild it in three days.

But He was speaking of the temple of His body. So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken. (John 2:21-22)

Fast-forward a few years. Jesus had been crucified and resurrected from the dead. The victory had been won. I can almost picture His disciples sitting around a table reminiscing about all of the things Jesus said and did. And I can almost see the disciples collectively slap their foreheads as the Holy Spirit revealed the gravity of this moment to them. “He was speaking of the temple of His body.” (verse 21). “Aha!” They didn’t get it at the time, but it makes so much sense now! The Jews destroyed this Temple, and on the third day He made His point abundantly clear as He rose from the dead and appeared in triumph to His disciples and to many others. Sin and death were defeated once and for all. It was time to spread the word.

Travel Bible study. Taken 9.15.2013, Chicago, IL

Travel Bible study. Taken 9.15.2013, Chicago, IL

Friends, we weren’t there to witness the words and deeds of Jesus when He came to earth. But God has given us an amazing gift in His Holy Word. By reading and studying the Bible, we in essence are tapping into hindsight. We can sit in the comfort of our homes and in the pews of our churches and read the words inspired by God and recorded by the likes of Moses, David, Solomon, the prophets, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, James – every section and every book of the Bible is about one Man. It is about God’s relationship with us and the redemptive gift He offers through His Son, Jesus Christ. Indeed, Scripture in its entirety points straight to our Savior! The more we read and the more we study, we too will slap our foreheads and yell, “Aha!” as the Holy Spirit works through God’s Word to bring us closer to Him.

I’ll share a secret. I’m glad people read my blog, and I am overjoyed when they glean some nugget of wisdom or inspiration from something I’ve written. But the real reason I write my blog is completely selfish: it is the tool by which I read, ponder, learn, and inwardly digest God’s Word. God’s Word is an amazing gift. When is the last time you picked it up?

Ponder this: Is any section of the Bible more relevant today than other sections of the Bible? Some would answer, “yes.” I answer with a resounding “No!” Read it. Read all of it. Read it in an attitude of prayer and longing. And be prepared to slap your forehead.

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of Your Son, and thank you for revealing Yourself through Scripture. Bless my study and grant me the wisdom to discern and understand Your eternal, unchanging, and universally true message to Your creation through Your Holy Word. Help me to take what I learn and become salt and light to this dark world. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN.

Need a New Year’s Resolution?

Are you looking for a New Year’s Resolution that takes relatively little effort but will change your life?

On January 1, 2014 I embarked on a 365-day plan to read the entire Bible in one year. Tomorrow I tackle day 365 as I read the closing chapters of the Old and New Testaments.

To be honest, I embarked on this quest because I wanted to be one of those believers who could say they’ve read through the entire Bible. I suppose that sounds a bit self-serving, but God did give us His Word with the intention that we read it. My journey through the Bible during 2014 was not a scholarly read; it was a casual, relaxing “read-through” using the paraphrased New Living Translation via the YouVersion Bible App on my Kindle Fire. Some of my clergy brethren may cringe at that, but before you cringe, I’d like to share three blessings I’ve gained from having completed this journey.

  1. God has given me an invigorated love for Him and His Word. I see now, for myself, that the Old and New Testaments are completely intertwined. The Bible is not two books set together within one binding; it is The Book – God’s revelation of Himself to His people. The entire Bible is about The Word Made Flesh, Jesus the Christ. Even through this casual “read-through” I see that so clearly. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” ~ John 1:1-2
  2. God has given me an enhanced appreciation for my salvation by reminding me of sin’s evil nature and God’s just and right reaction to sin. Truly, there are passages that are difficult to read from a purely human standpoint. As I read many of the writings about sin and the results of sin I saw myself, and at times that was somewhat disturbing. Even as I saw myself separated from God by a chasm of sin, I was reminded every day that God doesn’t leave us hanging – out of His love for us He rescued all who believe in Jesus from the just punishment we all deserve. “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;” ~ Romans 3:23-24
  3. God has led me to love and appreciate His sovereignty. We are in the midst of a spiritual battle. Take note of today’s current events, scroll through Facebook or Twitter; note the content of the entertainment we consume through movies, TV, music, and electronic games. Notice how some Christian churches are celebrating sinful lifestyles as they embrace the notion that these lifestyles are natural and pleasing to God. Take note of these things and you might come away with the notion that God is irrelevant; He is losing the battle and He no longer reigns. No! Thank God for His sovereignty, for although the battle is raging it is already won! “Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM “; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” ~ Exodus 3:13-14

To complete my journey through God’s Word, I used one of the reading plans on the YouVersion Bible app on my Kindle. The app is free and includes a plethora of Bible reading and study plans. Don’t have a Kindle? That’s OK – there are several 365-day Bibles available in print at your local Christian bookstore.

Completing this journey required only about 15 minutes of time each day. In exchange for those 15 minutes a day, God gave me some incredible blessings.

How about you? Are you seeking a resolution for 2015 that will truly change your life? Why not consider joining me as I embark on the journey again? Open your mind and your heart to God’s Word. I’m convinced that you, too, will be richly blessed.

Happy New Year!

Our Day of Rest ~ Jeremiah 17:19-27

“But it will come about, if you listen attentively to Me,” declares the LORD, “to bring no load in through the gates of this city on the sabbath day, but to keep the sabbath day holy by doing no work on it, then there will come in through the gates of this city kings and princes sitting on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they and their princes, the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and this city will be inhabited forever. ~ Jeremiah 17:24-25

English: American Airlines Boeing 737-800 taki...

English: American Airlines Boeing 737-800 taking off from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in October 2007. Français : Un Boeing 737-800 décollant de l’aéroport international de Los Angeles (LAX) en octobre 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What does it mean to keep the Sabbath? This passage hits home for me this weekend, as I am on a rare weekend business trip. Today is Sunday and here I sit in a Chicago-area airport hotel preparing to travel home. The timing of my return flight early this afternoon juxtaposed against the worship schedules of local churches is keeping me from worship. Can I still honor God in this situation?

In this passage God tells Israel that they must rest on the Sabbath; doing so carries a promise of blessing while ignoring this command carries a consequence: “But if you do not listen to Me to keep the sabbath day holy by not carrying a load and coming in through the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day, then I will kindle a fire in its gates and it will devour the palaces of Jerusalem and not be quenched.” (17:28)

Keeping the Sabbath day holy is the third of God’s Ten Commandments delivered through Moses:

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:8-11)

Why did God command we keep the Sabbath? He answers that question in the Exodus passage above: God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. Therefore He declared the seventh day of the week to be a day of rest, so important that He made it holy. God knows the needs of His creation; we need to rest from our daily toils. Rest is so important that God commanded we take it.

English: The Sabbath Rest

English: The Sabbath Rest (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I study this question, my mind recalls a show or movie I watched on TV many years ago as a child. I remember the show was set in the 19th century. The family lives in the country. After attending church on Sunday morning, they sit in their chairs at home, Bibles in hand. The family’s children keep asking to go outside and play and the parents repeatedly tell them “no”. It’s the Sabbath and they must rest. The children are miserable. Is that what God intended?

To coin a popular phrase (I almost hate to do this, but in this context I will), “What Would Jesus Do”?

Here are two clues from Mark’s Gospel:

They went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath He (Jesus) entered the synagogue and began to teach. ~ Mark 1:21

Jesus addressed the Sabbath when confronted by some Pharisees:

And it happened that He was passing through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples began to make their way along while picking the heads of grain. The Pharisees were saying to Him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” And He said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions became hungry; how he entered the house of God in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the consecrated bread, which is not lawful for anyone to eat except the priests, and he also gave it to those who were with him?” Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. “So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:23-28)

Based on these passages, it would appear that the Sabbath has two main purposes: (1) It is a day on which we deliberately take time to focus on the things of God. Jesus went to the synagogue and began to teach. Presumably, there were believers at the synagogue ready to study and learn God’s Word. So it is permissible to travel to the synagogue and exercise our brains in worship and study. On the Sabbath we worship, we study, we pray, we congregate with fellow believers to be refreshed and reenergized through worship and the reading and teaching of God’s Word; (2) It is a day on which we rest from the chores of daily life. It’s OK to tend to and provide for our daily needs. Lightning won’t strike us if we rise from our chair and do something physical. This Sabbath, this day of rest, was not intended to be a millstone around our necks; it is a gift to us from our loving Heavenly Father.

Travel Bible study. Taken 9.15.2013, Chicago, IL

Travel Bible study. Taken 9.15.2013, Chicago, IL

In Jeremiah, God is angry at Israel because they have set Him aside in exchange for a worldly lifestyle in which they seek after false gods. Every day looks the same. The true God has been shoved into the background as they pursue their lives of sin. I can relate to that, can you? God’s stressing to them the importance of keeping the Sabbath is a reminder to all of us that we must deliberately seek Him. We must take time from our daily routine to focus on Him and His Word. Setting aside a day in each week for these purposes – worship and rest – allows us the opportunity to recharge our spiritual and physical batteries so we are equipped to face a world enamored with sin.

As I spend this Sunday morning packing and preparing to fly home, I will do so with holy music filling my hotel room. My plane ride home will be a time of Bible study. I will miss my time of corporate worship this morning, but I will set aside my work today to consider all that God has done for me. First and foremost, I will remember and confess my sins and rejoice in the hope of eternal life in the presence of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Ponder this: Do I take enough time during the week, and even on each day, to consider the things of God?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, as I travel home today I pray that You will guard and protect me. Let my mind focus on You and Your Word as I rest from my daily toils. Forgive me of my sins, and help me to honor You with this day of rest. In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN.

It’s About the Gospel ~ Acts 19:1-22

God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them. ~ Acts 19:11-12

Eustache Le Sueur - The Preaching of St Paul a...

Eustache Le Sueur – The Preaching of St Paul at Ephesus – WGA12613 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We see in this passage what happens when the word of God is preached boldly and honestly according to the will of the Holy Spirit. We also see what can happen when one abuses the name of Jesus.

Paul spends two years in Ephesus, preaching first in the synagogue as was his custom. As opposition to the Gospel message grew in the synagogue, Paul began preaching in the public gathering place – the

lecture hall of Tyrannus – where both Jews and Greeks heard The Word. As the passage above states, God did extraordinary things through Paul. Through Paul’s preaching, God’s Word spread throughout the province leading many to confess their sins, “In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power” (verse 20).

We’re also told about seven sons of a Jewish chief priest who apparently wanted a piece of the action. They went around trying to drive out demons:

Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. [One day] the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.  ~ Acts 19:14-16

Given the end result of this encounter, it appears that these men were not acting in obedience to the Holy Spirit. Why were they doing this? What was their motivation? We are not told; but their actions clearly were not aligned with God’s plan. Their serving of the proverbial “humble pie” by this demon-possessed man was likely never forgotten.

In this passage we see a stark contrast between a sincere ministry led by the Holy Spirit and an apparent effort to practice ministry under less than honorable pretext. Ministry that serves God has its focus on the Gospel. Such a ministry focuses on the Object of our worship, not on the messenger.

It’s not about me; it’s about Him. Now, let’s go out and live it.

Ponder this: Are my motives for action aligned with God’s plan? Is my message to the world about Him?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, I surrender fully my life and my ministry to You. Give me a servant’s heart and tune me in to your Holy Spirit; that all that I do and every word I write or speak in Your name is fully aligned with Your good and perfect will. Keep me humble and keep me focused, I pray, in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, AMEN.

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