Inside BST


Inside BST

Inside BST goes behind the curtain of BibleStudyTools.com and into the minds of our editors and developers. You'll discover encouraging stories, information about the site, links that interest us, and devotionals.

Contributors:

John UpChurch, Senior Editor (BibleStudyTools.com)

Stephen McGarvey, Senior Director of Editorial

Stephen Sanders, A/V Editor

A Bible-Reading Famine?

According to a recent LifeWay study, many Christians in America truly desire a close relationship with Christ. They even think about God's Word. But that desire hasn't translated into engagement with the Bible.

From the report:

"The survey found 90 percent of churchgoers agree "I desire to please and honor Jesus in all I do," and 59 percent agree with the statement: "Throughout the day I find myself thinking about biblical truths." While the majority agree with both statements, there is a significant difference in the strength of agreement. Nearly two-thirds of churchgoers (64 percent) strongly agree with the first statement, but only 20 percent strongly agree with the second.

"However, when asked how often they personally (not as part of a church worship service) read the Bible, a similar number respond "Every Day" (19 percent) as respond "Rarely/Never" (18 percent). A quarter indicate they read the Bible a few times a week. Fourteen percent say they read the Bible "Once a Week" and another 22 percent say "Once a Month" or "A Few Times a Month."

Let's change that in 2013 and make it a year to honor God with our hearts and our minds. Sign up for a Bible reading plan, and we'll get you into God's Word each day.

LifeWay research



5 Things Great Leaders Do that Others Don’t

When Nehemiah rode into ancient Jerusalem, he found a broken down, dispirited ruin. For years, the refuges had lived in the crumbled mess without much hope of seeing any improvement. This was, they assumed, “Just the way things are.” They had no vision or plan to turn the city around.

The people needed an uncommon leader, called by God, who could see more than broken walls and shattered structures. They needed to believe that something could come from all this nothing, that splendor could rise from squalor. And that’s just what God gave them.

What allowed Nehemiah to accomplish God’s purpose is that he understood five things that most people never do—whether they’re leaders or not. This cupbearer brought revitalization because he never lost sight of these principles of great leadership:

They Obey Their Calling

Nehemiah had been training for his job as rebuilder in Jerusalem for years, though he didn’t realize it at first. When his brother Hanani came with a report about the condition of the city, that calling became apparent:

They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. (Nehemiah 1:3–4)

Great leaders work from the passion God has given them. They see a need that tugs at them or they experience an injustice, and they know they have to do something. Even when they aren’t sure what that passion is just yet, leaders like Nehemiah prepare themselves by making the most of whatever situation they’re in. They grow by learning from other leaders, by reading God’s Word, by prayer, and by doing the best work they can.

When the calling hits, they’re ready.

They Study the Situation First

As much as the struggles in his homeland bothered Nehemiah, he didn’t immediately jump into the work. Instead, he took some time to study the situation for himself and to learn:

I set out during the night with a few men. I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem. There were no mounts with me except the one I was riding on. By night I went out through the Valley Gate toward the Jackal Well and the Dung Gate, examining the walls of Jerusalem, which had been broken down, and its gates, which had been destroyed by fire. (Nehemiah 2:12–13)

His first course of action involved inspecting the walls and listening to the “few men” who went with him. He needed to know the problem first-hand, to see how bad the damage was from one end of the city to the other.

Great leaders know that you can’t start “fixing” the problem until you truly understand it. You may have plenty of training to tackle even the most complicated projects. But bringing your expertise alone doesn’t have the same impact and inspire the same confidence as does showing that you truly know what’s happening. You’ve been there; you’ve seen it; you’ve listened to the concerns.

They Call It Like It Is

Many managers like to put the “gold ring in the pig’s nose.” They want to make everything seem better than it really is so that no one worries. But your workers most likely already know how bad something is, and making it seem better will only come across as hollow. You’ll lose credibility.

In contrast, Nehemiah simply pointed out the truth:

Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire.” (Nehemiah 2:17a)

The city is in shambles; it’s a big mess. That may seem like a demoralizing message, but great leaders know that honesty helps people see the problem for what it is. Making it seem less urgent could actually lead to apathy and distrust. Nehemiah faced it head on first before painting a vision for the future.

They Start the Work Themselves

While Nehemiah pointed out the difficulty faced by those in Jerusalem, he did something that truly sets him apart as a great leader. He started the work:

“Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” (Nehemiah 2:17b)

This job looked immense and foreboding. Rallying the workers and painting a vision for the future wasn’t enough. Nehemiah needed to take the lead and do something about it. A leader who isn’t willing to do something first shouldn’t expect to see positive results. Great leaders know they have to make the first sacrifice to get things moving.

Nehemiah worked shoulder to shoulder in the city to make sure the wall got built. His dedication and commitment to God inspired those around him.

They Keep Going

Nearly as soon as the project got off the ground, opponents jumped in to stop it through discouragement and even threats. But Nehemiah had no intention of letting them win:

I answered them by saying, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.” (Nehemiah 2:20)

The greater the opposition, the greater his response:

So we continued the work with half the men holding spears, from the first light of dawn till the stars came out. (Nehemiah 4:21)

That’s exactly what great leaders do. They know that challenges will pop up, and they know that critics will weigh in. Instead of letting those roadblocks stop them, they trust God and inspire others to work around whatever may come. They may get discouraged, but they don’t stop heading toward the vision they have.


A 31-Day Journey Through the Book of Proverbs

by Stephen Sanders

I make my living as a videographer. I film interviews of pastors/professors/authors answering questions about the Bible. Then I edit this video footage into individual videos and thousands of people click on them online because they are looking for answers. Books like Proverbs make it easy for us to develop this habit of learning who God is; obtaining the answers to life’s common problems… developing a hope and a trust in God (and a confidence in ourselves, even) that will keep us on the right track like we so desperately want to be.

I recently took a 31-day journey through Proverbs on my blog on Christianity.com, and I hope it will encourage you like it did me:

31 Days of Proverbs

Proverbs 1: Wisdom That Shouts!

This wisdom in Proverbs makes itself undeniably obvious to us. It “shouts at us” right in the middle of where we exist. This wisdom contains the answers that we so desperately search for.

Proverbs 2: Simple Knowledge

This wisdom Solomon keeps speaking about isn’t simple knowledge that we learn by living life, learning from our mistakes, etc. It doesn’t just come by natural means. Godly knowledge comes by seeking God fervently by reading the Bible, talking to Him in prayer, and seeking His will for our lives specifically.

Proverbs 3: Love & Loyalty

We see it over and over. Love God. Love others. Seek God for wisdom, knowledge, and understanding and obtain fulfillment in life. We can sleep at night knowing that we aren’t in trouble.

Proverbs 4: More of the Same

Chapter 4 comes across as a reiteration. All four of these chapters word it a bit differently, but it’s altogether the same key points. I guess these principles really are important, right?

Proverbs 5: Polluted Streams

This is where things begin evolving and we get into some more detail as to what this wisdom & knowledge truly is. Solomon warns us of those who will try to deceive us specifically with sexual temptation.

Proverbs 6: Six Things That God Hates

This one is a really meaty chapter. We go from handling business deals the right way, to the trouble that goes along with procrastination, to the trouble with troublemaking, to the consequences of adultery.

Proverbs 7: The Infamous Harlot/Seductress

It seems adultery hasn’t changed much over the past few thousand years. If we pay attention, we can learn something that will change our lives forever.

Proverbs 8: You Gotta Trust God’s Word

This is one of those passages in the Bible that I love to read slowly and over and over again. I feel like I get a small taste of how amazing God is when I read it. I also feel an enormous sense of gratitude in knowing that He wants me to have the same wisdom that has been by His side since the beginning of time.

Proverbs 9: Wisdom vs. Folly

But one thing that stuck out to me in this chapter is that there are a lot of similarities between Wisdom and Folly. The difference is in what they are offering and the type of life that results in following each of them.

Proverbs 10: Righteousness vs. Wickedness

I’m gonna be honest here. This chapter makes my eyes cross (that probably happens to me when I read the Bible more than it does for most people). One of the things I like to do to eliminate some of that confusion is to break passages up into bite-sized chunks.

Proverbs 11: Where’s the Integrity?

God loves humble people with integrity who are righteous. During Solomon’s time, people found this right standing by following rules and giving God sacrifices when they fell short of these rules. Today, we find it through Jesus Christ.

Proverbs 12: A Little Bit of Everything

The righteous and upright have integrity. Let’s continue to ask God to help us become those people who the world can begin trusting again. 

Proverbs 13: Our Whole Heart

The further we dig into these chapters, the more I realize how important it is that God has our whole heart. I mean, we have to be committed to Him for it to be possible for us to follow these instructions.

Proverbs 14: Priceless Wisdom

It’s easy to get in a habit of just living life without putting much thought into what causes you to be the kind of person that you are. But after studying these Proverbs, I’m now convinced more than ever that following Jesus is not a cakewalk. If anything, it is actually harder to be a Christian because you can’t just be who you want to be.

Proverbs 15: Speak Your Mind?

In this chapter, I’m noticing a lot of wisdom on watching your words. In this day and age where the vast majority expresses their opinion openly, it’s becoming more and more difficult to “think before you speak.” ESPECIALLY, online where we make comments without running the risk of consequence for our actions.

Proverbs 16: Providence vs. Creating Your Destiny

God is the one who is in control. We should take great comfort in that fact because it means that we don’t have to put so much pressure on ourselves to perform.

Proverbs 17: Minor Tweaks

God’s Word is alive. It tells us when we need to tone it down a notch or crank it up a bit. I can’t help but think that all these minor tweaks along the way are what will surely bring us closer to who we are in Him.

Proverbs 18: The Golden Rule (on Facebook too!)

Isn’t it fascinating how much social media has changed the way we communicate with one another? I’ve known myself to be guilty of saying some things that I normally wouldn’t be bold enough to say in real-life conversations.

Proverbs 19: Where Does Poverty Fit In?

The more mature I become as a Christian, the more I find that God doesn’t want us to worry about money. He doesn’t want it to control our lives because it has the power to control us to the point where we value it more than Him.

Proverbs 20: Just God

We all know that life isn’t fair. Sometimes the cards we are dealt don’t result in a winning hand. Does that mean that God isn’t “good?”

Proverbs 21: The Contentious Woman

Basically, she’s the kind of person that pretty much no one wants to be around. The people that do surround her are either (A) just like her or (B) stuck with her.

Proverbs 22: Common Bond

Proverbs 22 is so important because it tears down this facade of wealthy, healthy, successful = blessed by God. It levels the playing field because it doesn’t matter where you come from. Nothing we achieve enables us to get more of Jesus.

Proverbs 23: More Money, More Problems

Solomon, the same man who could have had anything he wanted, actually warns us about wealth.

Proverbs 24: A Balancing Act

Moderation is a good thing, not only because of what it keeps us from doing too much of, but because of the things that we need to experience just a little bit to still be effective in ministering to the lost and loving the unlovely.

Proverbs 25: Vinegar in a Wound

We really need to be sensitive to how we interact with people who are suffering. Many times, I think we try so hard to be “happy, positive Christians” that we forget that we are really supposed to be suffering with these people.

Proverbs 26: How to Stop Doing Foolish Things

That little voice in our head warns us and, for whatever reason, we ignore it just long enough to not do what it tells us to do.

Proverbs 27: Flattery, Bragging & Jealousy

When was the last time you analyzed the way that other people perceive you?

Proverbs 28: Rulers & Laws

We are always supposed to support our leaders through prayer. We are supposed to love them, as we want to be loved.

Proverbs 29: Giving & Receiving Criticism

Always accept criticism from others with humility and take those things to God in prayer and by studying the Bible. You’ll likely discover that there were things that you thought you knew about Jesus that you really didn’t… and that is okay.

Proverbs 30: Poverty Nor Riches

Material things (specifically our lack or abundance of them) have a way of replacing God. According to the Bible, it’s perfectly okay to be content with what you have.

Proverbs 31: A Different Focus

Sure. We’ve all heard of the “Proverbs 31 Woman,” but what about everything else in the chapter?

 


Pray Without Ceasing? Really?

For many Christians, the command in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to "pray without ceasing" seems... well... impossible. But in this video from Mark Dever, you'll see that it's not so out of reach as you might think.

BibleStudyTools.com:What does 1 Thessalonians 5:17 mean by saying pray without ceasing?-Mark Dever from biblestudytools on GodTube.


12 Essential Books to Give Your Graduate

You have so much you want to tell your graduating senior—whether a child, grandchild, or friend. Although you’ve spent years sharing the wisdom you’ve gleaned from life, somehow that doesn’t seem to be nearly enough. There’s always something else you meant to say, some piece of advice you forgot to mention, some story from your past that could definitely help.

Instead of loading them down with everything you think they’ll need, sometimes it’s better to supply them with solid books that can shape them over the long run. But which ones should you choose? We’d love to help. These books have made an impact on us as editors and Christians, and we believe they are essential for any graduate’s library.

We’re assuming here that they already have a solid Bible for study (and know a good website for in-depth reading on their smartphone). None of these recommendations matter if there’s no solid foundation in Scripture. But if that’s there, then here are 12 books to give your graduate to help them in their journey.

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

Mere Christianity

This classic explanation and defense of the Christian faith has stirred up men and women for decades. The conversational style and vivid prose make chewing through even complex theological concepts enjoyable. You may not agree with Lewis on all points, but Mere Christianity will challenge you to examine what you believe and why you believe it. Every grad needs to take a look inside.

Every Young Man’s/Woman’s Battle by Stephen Arterburn, Fred Stoeker, and Shannon Ethridge

Every Young Man's Battle Every Young Woman's Battle

Sex. Every graduate will face an onslaught from the world when it comes to sex. Porn is more common on the Internet than cat memes, smartphone apps encourage hooking up with a simple swipe, and temptations have become nearly constant. In fact, the battle they face will likely only grow more intense. They need help, and the Every Man’s Battle series gives them the weapons to overcome. Both Every Young Man’s Battle and Every Young Woman’s Battle tackle this topic in a way that will stick with them.

The Reason for God: Belief in the Age of Skepticism by Tim Keller

Reason for God

Considered by many an instant classic, The Reason for God by Pastor Tim Keller often appears on lists of the best Christian books of all time. There’s a good reason for that. This well-reasoned volume has become the go-to book for answering the skeptics of our day. With his firm grasp of Scripture, Keller will provide your graduate with a new trust in God’s unfailing Word.

Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God by Francis Chan

Crazy Love

Millions of Christians have responded to the passionate appeal Francis Chan unleashed on the world in the form of Crazy Love. This book has become fodder for small group studies and awakened many to the need to do more in their love for God than just “trying not to cuss.” Easy to read, but impossible to put down, Chan’s short book will charge your graduate up to pursue a wild love for Jesus.

Clout: Discover and Unleash Your God-Given Influence by Jenni Catron

Clout Book

Every teen and young adult longs to be significant, to do something that matters. That’s why it’s often so hard for many to “settle down” into one decisive career choice or major—and why they often doubt their influence. In Clout, Jenni Catron examines the life of Jesus to see exactly what His Philippians 2 leadership looks like. She wants us, as Christians, to follow His example in unleashing our “clout” and using our gifts to impact the world.

Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt

Radical Book

Pastor David Platt has become widely known for his multi-hour sermons during special “secret church” events. But his fire for sharing the gospel is the true engine that drives him, and you can see that in his best-selling book Radical. Most grads take the comforts of home for granted—security, money, convenience. But this book will challenge them to see beyond the world to what it truly means to take up their crosses and follow Jesus.

The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell

New Evidence Book

For many Christians, Josh McDowell’s timeless defense of the faith has answered the skeptical questions of the world and given them a renewed sense of confidence. The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict isn’t a casual read, to be sure, but the in-depth research from science, history, archaeology, philosophy, and more will provide some serious food for thought. Any grad can return to this reference book over and over to get answers for the questions posed in classes and by friends. (Bonus: The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel makes an excellent companion book.)

Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good by Amy Sherman

Kingdom Calling

Too often, Christians make a distinction between “holy work” and “secular work.” Some jobs, the argument goes, have a Kingdom impact, and some don’t. But Jesus never presented vocation as an impediment to sharing the gospel—He worked through fishermen, tax collectors, soldiers, and doctors. In Kingdom Calling, Amy Sherman shows how any job can be a launching pad for advancing the Kingdom. Plus, there’s practical advice on how it works in daily life.

(The Cost of) Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Discipleship Book

Thanks to recent biographies, Bonhoeffer’s stature among Christians has risen once again. And that’s a good thing because his classic work Discipleship (also called The Cost of Discipleship) is a must-read for any believer. Although the core of the book is a study of the Sermon on the Mount, the true power of this work is its insightful (and sometimes devastating) explanation of what it means to follow Jesus—no matter the cost.

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

Redeeming Love

True, Redeeming Love is fiction, and not what you might expect in a list of books to help send grads into the journey of life. But Rivers’ novel goes beyond simply an engaging retelling of the book of Hosea. It helps us catch a powerful glimpse of the amazing, pursuing love of God. For many grads, knowing that God loves us and truly believing that are two different things. This story weaves them into one.

Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul by John Eldredge

Wild at Heart

Good examples of manhood in our culture are few and far between. In fact, even the church can sometimes try to make men feel like their masculinity is out of place. With all that, most guys don’t really know what to do with the passions they have, the wildness. Enter Wild at Heart. For many men (young and old), this book has been the call to godly adventure that they’ve been desperate for.

Heaven by Randy Alcorn

Heaven Book

Let’s face it. There’s a lot of bad information floating around out there about heaven and not nearly enough careful study of what the Bible actually teaches on the topic. That’s why Pastor Randy Alcorn’s Heaven is such an important book. This in-depth look at what Scripture teaches should be in any Christian’s library—and it will help your graduate to remember that a much better graduation is coming.


5 Powerful Prayers from Scripture

If you ever feel at a loss for what to pray, there’s no better guidebook for petitions to our Heavenly Father than the very book He wrote—the Bible. Almost every book in there contains a plea or request, and page after page points to another reason we need a Savior. So, when you feel like you just don’t have words, turn first to the Word.

Although we could list hundreds of prayers, we plucked out five of our favorites to show just how filled to the brim the Bible is with ways to call upon our great God.

The Prayer of Jabez (1 Chronicles 4:10)

When the author of Chronicles dutifully provides us with a list of Judah’s descendants, he can’t help but stop himself. Right in the midst of all these names, he comes to Jabez, a man he wants us to notice, a man of true honor. If you’ve ever felt like you’ve caused pain or if you’ve ever wanted to believe that God can do more than you can ask or imagine, this prayer is for you:

“Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, ‘Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.’ And God granted his request.”

The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9–13)

This prayer is the true classic. Most of us have said this prayer and could likely recite it right now. But there’s much more to this model that Jesus gave us than rote recitation. This is a prayer with real power: God’s kingdom coming, God’s will being done, all that we need for the day. It’s truly power packed. So, take a closer look at what it teaches:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.”

Jonah’s Prayer for Salvation (Jonah 2:2–9)

We may never be swallowed by a great fish, but we can still experience the shame and regret that Jonah felt after he ran from God. The prophet’s plea to the Father provides a poignant scaffolding for our own prayers of repentance. And remember that God heard and answered this humble, honest prayer:

“In my distress I called to the Lord,
    and he answered me.
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
    and you listened to my cry.

You hurled me into the depths,
    into the very heart of the seas,
    and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
    swept over me.

I said, ‘I have been banished
    from your sight;
yet I will look again
    toward your holy temple.’

The engulfing waters threatened me,
    the deep surrounded me;
    seaweed was wrapped around my head.

To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
    the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, Lord my God,
    brought my life up from the pit.

“When my life was ebbing away,
    I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
    to your holy temple.

“Those who cling to worthless idols
    turn away from God’s love for them.

But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
    will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
    I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’”

David’s Prayer for Deliverance (Psalm 3)

This one was a tough choice because the Psalms are stuffed full of cries and petitions. If you ever want a primer for prayer, you can’t go wrong with this wisdom book. But we chose Psalm 3 because it provides a concise portrait of crying out to God in the midst of great stress. David’s words are no less relevant to our modern workplace and lifestyle as they were to his battles:

Lord, how many are my foes!
    How many rise up against me!

Many are saying of me,
    “God will not deliver him.”

 But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
    my glory, the One who lifts my head high.

I call out to the Lord,
    and he answers me from his holy mountain.

I lie down and sleep;
    I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.

I will not fear though tens of thousands
    assail me on every side.

Arise, Lord!
    Deliver me, my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
    break the teeth of the wicked.

From the Lord comes deliverance.
    May your blessing be on your people.

Hannah’s Prayer of Praise (1 Samuel 2:1–10)

When Hannah received the child she begged God for, her first instinct is to praise the One who provided. She wants to thank Him for His greatness and His deliverance. Too often we pray before receiving, but then forget to pray after God answers. Let this prayer guide you in thanks:

“My heart exults in the Lord;
my horn is exalted in the Lord.
My mouth derides my enemies,
because I rejoice in your salvation.

“There is none holy like the Lord:
for there is none besides you;
there is no rock like our God.
Talk no more so very proudly,
let not arrogance come from your mouth;
for the Lord is a God of knowledge,
and by him actions are weighed.
The bows of the mighty are broken,
but the feeble bind on strength.
Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger.
The barren has borne seven,
but she who has many children is forlorn.
The Lord kills and brings to life;
he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
he brings low and he exalts.
He raises up the poor from the dust;
he lifts the needy from the ash heap
to make them sit with princes
and inherit a seat of honor.
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord's,
and on them he has set the world.

“He will guard the feet of his faithful ones,
but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness,
for not by might shall a man prevail.
The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces;
against them he will thunder in heaven.
The Lord will judge the ends of the earth;
he will give strength to his king
and exalt the horn of his anointed.”


5 Ways for Active Bible Reading

As you read His Word, God will often use verses and passages to prompt you to action. You’ll see where you've fallen short of His standards, a prayer to cry out, or a promise to claim. Here are five ways to respond to what you're reading.

Praise

There are thousands of reasons to praise God each day. And the more you read the Bible, the more reasons you’ll find. When you read about His grace, don’t miss the opportunity to praise Him for it.

Promises

God makes many promises in the Bible to those who follow Jesus. Each time you come across a promise, be sure to highlight it or write it down. That way, when you face difficult trials, you’ll have God’s promises right at hand.

Reflection

Sometimes, we just need to stop and reflect on what the Bible teaches and how we’re living our lives. Are we living the life Christ called us to? Are we straying into the errors that Scripture points out? What does this passage say about who God is?

Correction

In the letter James wrote, he explains an important aspect of reading Scripture: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (1:22). God's Word helps us see the areas where we need to make a course correction.

Prayer

Quite a bit of God’s Word is dedicated to prayer. Whenever you run across a passage that cries to God, let that passage be your prayer, too. Even passages that aren’t explicitly prayers can lend themselves to your conversation with God.

Whatever you do, just be sure to make reading the Bible more than a spectator sport. Respond to the words through confession, praise, believing promises, reflection, correction, and prayer.


5 Things Christians Should Stop Saying on Facebook

Despite the flaws of social media, it can be a powerful force to share God’s amazing love over the long run. Our witness can be deeply powerful when our unbelieving friends see our continued faithfulness year after year and our hope of glory in the midst of pain (Colossians 1:27).

But that doesn’t mean everything we share on Facebook contributes to this witness. In fact, there are some types of updates we Christians share that, for the most part, do more damage than good.

Here are five status update traps to avoid:

1. Pastor So-and-So is a Big Ol’ Heretic

Imagine, if you will, your unbelieving friends tap into their Facebook app, and the first update they see is you complaining (again) about that pastor you love to complain about. You know the one. You mention, for the third time this week, another thing he taught that is heretical, and you make sure everyone knows it.

First of all, we absolutely must call out false teaching. Jesus laid the groundwork for this when He rebuked the Pharisees and scribes for their hypocrisy (Matthew 23). Paul and John weren’t afraid to point out many false teachers in their letters. So, that’s not the issue.

The issue is that your unbelieving friends don’t know all this. What they see, instead, is one Christian attacking another Christian for what seems like a minor matter. Such updates make it look like we spend most of our time beating each other up instead of doing that “love thing” we claim to do. (Think about how Pilate and other Roman officials responded to the complaints the Jews brought against Jesus and Paul. They didn’t see the difference; they just saw what looked like petty jealousy and bickering to them.)

Calling out false teaching is much better done in personal settings with other believers or in a private way with someone who isn’t a believer—and usually when you have time to really explain. The context is very important here. Slapping it all over Facebook makes the church seem hypocritical and hyper-judgmental.

2. Some People Just Don’t Know How Much Pain They Cause

Trust us. We get it. Someone talks about you behind your back or lies to your face. It makes you mad. You want to vent, but you don’t necessarily want to give all the details to everyone. So, up on Facebook goes a passive-aggressive post that you hope the person sees.

Maybe they will, or maybe they won’t. Either way, this isn’t what Jesus meant about us approaching that person privately to discuss the problem (Matthew 18:15–18). More than likely, you’ve made your innocent friends feel like maybe they were the ones who hurt you in some way, but they don’t know how. Now they’re paranoid.

If you need to vent, do it to someone you trust in person so that they can bear your burden (Galatians 6:2). Don’t post that vague status update.

3. Something Terrible Just Happened to So-and-So. Please Pray for the Family.

Requests for prayer can be very tricky matters on Facebook. For one thing, always-on Internet means that we can now get updates in seconds. That adds a new level of responsibility, especially in tragedy.

When something bad happens, we want people to be praying for those involved. That’s a good thing. But if we post an update about it on Facebook as soon as it happens, there’s a very good chance that family members and close friends who haven’t been notified yet could get the news through cold digital bits along with lots of strangers. That makes it even worse—especially if they don’t know all the details. At that point, our prayer request doesn’t bring the comfort we’re supposed to bring (1 Corinthians 1:3–4).

It’s much better for us to hold off on the post until we’re sure everyone knows the news (but see the next point). If you need to get prayer warriors going, text or call them directly.

4. Please Pray for So-and-So’s Failing Marriage and the Bad Rash on His Back

Another potential problem with Facebook prayer requests is TMI (too much information). Most of the time, we like to be specific about what we’re asking prayer for, and there’s nothing wrong with pointing to a specific need (Philippians 4:6)—in the right setting.

Not every single one of your hundreds of friends needs to know all the details about a sickness, relationship struggle, or other personal matter. In fact, those details could cause problems later for the people you want to help. (Remember that whatever you post on Facebook will likely be “out there” forever—even if you think you deleted it.)

It would be much better for us Christians to gather together in person and pray for these needs. Grab friends and family who know the details and pray right there with the people who need it (James 5:16). If they don’t live close by, use FaceTime or Skype.

5. If You Don’t Support Such-and-Such Cause/Candidate, Just Unfriend Me Now!!!

Court rulings, elections, and world events can certainly get us mad and make us want to take to social media to explain just how mad we are. But no cause should be more important to a Christian than the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19–20). Court rulings and elected officials come and go, but making disciples lasts forever.

When we post our anger on Facebook, we can—unwittingly—give our unbelieving friends the idea that what’s most important to us is politics. They may think that being a Christian means having a certain set of political opinions—not a life-changing relationship with Jesus. Worse yet, they might take you up on your offer to stop listening to you by unfriending you. That’s one less Christian witness in their lives.

That doesn’t mean we should never post on controversial topics. Instead, it means that we must weigh our words very carefully and speak the truth with gentleness (1 Peter 3:15). Lashing out or making threats to unfriend does not qualify. (If someone in particular bothers you, you can always “unfollow” their updates for a time.)

You’ll probably get mad at something that happens, and maybe an unbelieving friend will post something about it that drives you to distraction. But—and this is big—they aren’t saved. They’ve been blinded by the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4). Show them grace. They need it—even if you’re sure they’re wrong.


Does the Bible Say Worry Is a Sin?

A reader recently asked if the Bible says worry is a sin. Here was our response:


While the Bible never explicitly says that worry is a sin, we can conclude this based on Scripture. That’s because most worry or anxiety is a failure to trust God and His goodness or to believe what He told us. For example, the Sermon on the Mount records Jesus’ admonition to His followers to trust God to take care of them and not worry (for example, Matthew 6:25). Psalms 55:22 puts it like this:

“Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.”

And 1 Peter 5:6-8 makes it even more explicit:

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

In other words, our worry leads us astray and allows Satan a foothold into our lives. Since “sin” is, at its core, “missing the mark” that God has set for us, then worrying is not living up to God’s standard. Jesus made the mark clear here, and our sin is failing to believe that God will care for us, even though He promised to do so. Of course, we all fall short of this mark and allow ourselves to worry. And you’ll find quite a bit of worry in the Psalms and in the actions of Jesus’ followers. That’s why we have to be even more grateful that God sent Jesus to pay the penalty for our sins, including our lack of trust in Him.

We have several verses on worry and anxiety that will allow you to study this further.


Jonah: Not Just a Fish Story

The account of Jonah can be a tough story for some to... well... swallow. After all, the Bible explains that this prophet was swallowed by a sea creature for three days. It's tempting to make this into some metaphor, but as you'll see in this video with Sam Allberry, that would be a mistake.

 

BibleStudyTools.com: Jonah and the Whale: Real or Symbolic?-Sam Allberry from biblestudytools on GodTube.


3 Bible Verses You May be Getting Wrong

Bible verses need a home. When they get plucked out of their dwelling place—that is, the surrounding paragraphs—they can make a great deal of mischief. Many times, isolated verses can cause damage to our understanding of the truths of Scripture. They can get tossed around to end arguments, shut down discussion, and instill false hope. That’s why one verse a day isn’t enough. You need hearty daily bread, not a daily crumb.

So, if you’ve mastered the verses that aren’t in the Bible, now make sure you know the true meaning of these 3 commonly misused verses. After all, when we truly understand what they say, our knowledge of God grows, too.

1. “Do not judge….” Matthew 7:1a

This one seems so straightforward on the surface. When Jesus was explaining how Christians should live the Kingdom life, He explicitly told us not to judge… anyone... ever. At least, that’s how some have come to understand this verse. If anyone questions their lifestyle choices, moral decisions, or actions, they remind us that Jesus said not to judge.

But we need to be careful how we use this verse by understanding what’s happening. Namely, this verse comes in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus explains to His followers what a God-first life looks like. He shows them why they don’t need to worry, how they should pray, how they should fast, and so much more. His main concern, in fact, involves believers and how they treat other believers or “brothers” (i.e., the Church). In other words, this isn’t really a discussion of confronting someone in sin as it is examining someone else’s Christian walk.

Even still, Jesus tells us that the problem isn’t in judging itself. The problem is in that we must judge a matter in the same way that we would want to be judged (a form of the Golden Rule from Matthew 7:12). And if we are to be fit to do the judging, we must do so only after examining ourselves (Matthew 7:5; Romans 2:1).

After all, Jesus—only a few paragraphs later—says that we must watch out for “false prophets” by looking at their fruit (7:15–19). We cannot do so without making a biblical judgment about their lives. Otherwise, we’d be in danger of accepting any teaching without testing it by the Bible.

In addition, God has already declared what is sinful in His Word, and we know that His rulings about morals, lifestyle chioces, and actions are always right. It is not “judging” anyone if we point out what God says about a certain sin. The ruling has already come, and showing them that something is against God’s perfect standard is the most loving thing we can do:

“Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases?” (1 Corinthians 6:2)

So, while we must be very careful about examining ourselves first and treating others with love, we also must judge when judgment is warranted or God has already declared a verdict.

2. “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” Galatians 6:7

What goes around comes around, karma, poetic justice, sowing and reaping—for many, this Bible verse proves the concept of getting what we deserve. If someone hurts us or treats us badly, we know they’ll reap what they sow. Right?

Well, that’s not exactly what this verse means. In fact, taking a look at the context shows that the idea isn’t about some “cosmic retribution”; it’s really about how we live our lives. Let’s step down one verse:

“The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:8)

In other words, when we live a life to please ourselves and satisfy all our desires, we do reap the consequences of our actions. These include heartache, shame, regret, fear, physical effects, and more. Our earthly appetites can cause real damage, not to mention the spiritual ramifications. But when we pour ourselves into Spirit-led living, we reap eternal treasures.

Really, the idea of “karma” is completely contrary to God’s Word. Why? Because we humans deserve one thing, and that’s death:

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

We all sin, but we don’t get what we deserve. We get grace instead—all of us. In fact, you could say that God even blesses the “evil” and “unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). His love is so powerful that Jesus came to earth to blast karma to pieces by taking the “reaping” that we should have gotten:

“For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” (1 Peter 3:18)

To be sure, sin-obsessed living will lead to physical consequences. But God’s mercy and patience mean that He gives us the opportunity to turn to Him (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9). We don’t deserve the chance, but we get it anyway. We pray that you will take it if you haven’t already.

3. “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.” Proverbs 31:10

This one isn’t so much just the verse as it is the whole chapter. We know this virtuous lady as the Proverbs 31 woman, but for many wives out there trying to live up to the example, the better name might be “impossible standard woman.” After all, she rises up before it should be legal, goes to bad crazy late, and has her hands in every single aspect of the household. She does it all with a smile and nary any bags under her eyes.

But using this chapter as the definitive job description for a wife isn’t really fair to anyone. Husbands who expect their wives to do everything listed will be sorely disappointed, and the wives who try to make it happen will be sorely exhausted. What was supposed to be encouraging and affirming becomes something that is, instead, a big pain.

Here’s the secret, though. Proverbs 31 works like an amalgamation, a collection of snapshots of women of faith and solid character. (You could think of it like the hall of fame of great wives and some of the amazing things they do for us.) One wife like this wakes up early to get things ready for her house; one knows how to make savvy business deals; one makes clothes like nobody’s business. Some may even have done a couple of them well.

But the point is that the noble wife is a godly woman who loves her family and blesses them. She uses the gifts and talents God has given her uniquely. How she uses her gifts depends upon the situation and what God leads her to do. That doesn’t mean she’s a failure if she doesn’t sew her own clothes; it means she’s a success if she allows God to use her to point her family and others to Christ.