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

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.

 


Bible Study FAQ

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions we receive about Bible study.

Where Should I Start? Really, there’s no wrong place to start studying the Bible. The important part is just to start. You could begin your journey in the beginning with Genesis 1, since that book establishes many important points that will help you as you study further. You may also want to start in the John 1 because it’s written to help us understand what Jesus did for us.

What Tools Should I Use? It’s usually best to read the Bible by itself first. As you read, take notes about questions you have (tip: use My Bible to make this easier). After you’ve read a section, you may want to examine some of our free online commentaries. You’ll find relevant links to them below the reading pane on any selection of Scripture (scroll to the bottom of the page). You can also find them in the navigation menu at the top of the site.

How Often Should I Read the Bible? As often as you can. There’s no “right” amount of time to spend reading the Bible, and where you are in life may determine how much time you have available to read. But the minutes and hours spent in study and reflection are never wasted. In fact, you’ll usually find that the more you read, the more you want to read. An easy way to make sure you get in some Bible reading each day is to sign up for one of our Bible reading plans. We’ll help you stay on track.

What if I Get Stuck? Our free commentaries and articles will likely answer most of your questions. But if not, ask a pastor or mature believer for help.


5 More Verses You Just Won’t Find in Your Bible

With the rise of social media, the spread of biblical sounding phrases has—well—gone viral. Beautiful images filled with inspirational phrases slowly take on the status of being “somewhere in the Bible.” But when you take a closer look, you’ll have a great deal of trouble finding them. That’s because they aren’t really there—and sometimes they’re even contrary to what God actually says.

There’s so much wisdom in Scripture that these false verses can often lead us down the wrong road. So, in addition to the ones we already covered, here are 5 more “verses” to watch out for:

1. “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” 1 Memes 7:77

When some difficulty arises in the life a believer (or anyone else), this supposed verse gets tossed out there like a Scripture bomb. Sure, it sounds compelling, and it does remind us of God’s care and concern for each of us. After all, He knows exactly the number of follicles growing out of your cranium:

“Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:7)

But it’s because God loves us and knows us that He must give us more than we can handle. After all, we humans have a tendency to think that we can do everything on our own. Our pride has a way of dragging us down:

“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18)

To keep us grounded in the reality of our need for a Savior, God graciously allows us to see just how much we can’t handle. He put the prophet Elijah’s back against the wall and made him depend upon birds, He gave Moses 600,000 impossible-to-please travelers, He tasked the 11 apostles with spreading the gospel all over the world, and He’ll give you way more than you can handle, too.

Now, the Bible does say that God won’t allow you to be tempted beyond your limits:

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

And that is certainly great news. We all need the assurance. But temptation is not usually what people mean when they say this supposed verse.

Can Handle Globe 600

2. “If God brings you to it, He will lead you through it.” Suburbians 3:9

This so-called verse does conjure up images of the Israelites passing through the Red Sea or Joshua leading God’s people through the Jordan River. We can see David’s Shepherd guiding us through that Valley of the Shadow of Death. Plus, it rhymes.

However, this isn’t necessarily what the Bible teaches.

It is true that God is with us always, no matter what we face, just as Jesus said:

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20b

But oftentimes we use this supposed verse to mean that God will always remove us from a bad situation. Tough job? God will get you out the door. Struggling marriage? God will fix it before you know it. Made a dumb decision? God will take care of it.

Could He get you out of that tough spot? Sure. Will He? That’s up to Him and His perfect will.

With the prophet Daniel, for example, God led the boy off into captivity. But He never brought him “through” Babylon and back to Israel. Instead, He kept him there through king after king, battle after battle, danger after danger. Daniel grew old and died far from home—never seeing the land he longed for. But God used that time for some amazing displays of His power.

So, you may never get “through” your struggle. God may lead you to stay right where you are so that you can have an impact there—and He can get the glory.

3. “If God closes one door, He’ll open another (or a giant window).” Ingressions 2b

You could say this folksy verse is closely associated with number 2 above. It has the same potential for stock image inspiration in your social media feed, and it does have some truth to it. The Bible does promise that God will keep us headed in the right direction:

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. (Psalm 32:8)

But the “way you should go” doesn’t necessarily mean God will make an escape hatch for us when times get tough or when we don’t seem to be making progress. In fact, God often does some of His best work in our waiting, and He teaches us to trust Him more:

“Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.” (Psalm 37:7)

If God closes a door, we need to stop and consider what’s going on in our life. Perhaps we’re trying to force our way into something that He wants to protect us from. Looking for another door or window may make us miss the lesson because we’re sure we should be doing something—anything. We keep trying to go where God wants to protect us from.

If God stops you, don’t immediately look for another way through. First, stop and ask Him if that’s truly what He wants you to do. Otherwise, you could be like Peter who tried to keep Jesus from being arrested when arrest was exactly what God had planned (John 18:10).

4. “ ‘Your wish is my command,’ says the Lord.” Genie-says 1:1

Okay, so you may never have heard this supposed verse put so bluntly before. But the sentiment has certainly been shared all over the Internet. If you keep asking, if you believe enough, if you have faith enough, then God will give you whatever you want.

We have to be careful here, of course, because God does promise many times to hear the prayers of those who call on Him (2 Chronicles 7:14; Micah 7:7; 1 John 5:14). We also know that God answers those prayers (Psalm 120:1; Matthew 7:7; etc.). We’re even told this:

“Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)

But there’s much more here than God being some sort of genie in the sky. Whenever God promises to hear our cries or to answer our prayers, there’s always an important stipulation—whether explicit or not. Take Psalm 37:4 as an example. God will give us the desires of our heart… when we delight in Him. And that’s the point: He is what we truly need—not fame, fortune, or anything else this world can offer. When we seek Him first and His righteousness, we have exactly what we truly need.

So, does God answer our prayers? Absolutely. Should we bring our needs to Him? Every single one. Should we expect Him to answer our prayers exactly as we want? No—not unless we’re mainly praying and desiring for His will to be done. He knows way better what we need than we do.

5. “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life!” Limnentations 3:16

Years ago, this phrase became a staple of evangelism, and since then, it’s taken on an aura of something biblical. The problem, though, is that it suggests an idea that’s not biblical at all. How? Let’s break it down.

We can be sure that God loves us, the first part of this phrase. After all, the most famous verse in the Bible assures us of God’s love (John 3:16), and He sent His Son to prove that love (Romans 5:8). So, there’s nothing amiss there. God sent Jesus to save us, and that’s solid ground for evangelism.

But the trouble starts when we add to that the idea that once we’re saved, everything will suddenly be awesome. Despite what it may have meant at one time, that “wonderful plan for your life” part sounds an awful lot like “He’ll fix all your problems.” The truth is that following Jesus may actually cause problems for the believer.

Jeremiah obeyed God’s call, and he ended up at the bottom of a cistern. David trusted God, and he spent years running for his life and dodging spears. Paul surrendered to Christ, and he forfeited prestige for prison. And this apostle wasn’t one to hide what following Christ means:

“So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God” (2 Timothy 1:8)

God loves us and has a wonderful future in store for those who love Him:

“Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 8:17)

But in the present age? Not necessarily. The road will likely be very hard.


This article first appeared on BibleStudyTools.com.


5 Destructive Lies You Tell Yourself Every Day

Just go ahead and admit it. You’re lying to yourself today. Life gets complex, relationships get sticky, loneliness creeps in—and sometimes we just feel the need to bend the truth to make it through the week. We need our lies to keep the pain tucked away where it can’t get to us. That deceitful heart of ours has a way making it easy for us to be okay with these lies (Jeremiah 17:9)—that is, until they’re drawn out by God’s scalpel (Psalm 139:23).

These lies don’t just cover up the pain of life, though. They actually make it harder for us to grow in our faith and in our connection with others. We’ve gotten so numb to them that we don’t necessarily even see the damage they do.

But here’s one time when it’s definitely okay to “name it and claim it.” If we’re to get beyond these lies that we drag around with us, we have to identify them and call them what they are.

Have you seen any of these 5 lies in yourself today?

1. I’m Okay.

We don’t like to dig around inside and examine what’s going on. Why? Because when we start looking, we often find areas that need some major renovations. That gets messy, and most of us are far too busy to go and look for things to fix.

So, we just tie on the “I’m okay” superhero cape and trudge onward. It’s usually only when some sort of tragedy strikes that we finally realize we aren’t as okay as we thought.

But that’s not the biblical model. In the Bible, the Psalmist continually cries out for God to search him and test him and examine him so that He can keep doing the necessary renovation work (for example, Psalms 11, 17, and 26). The attitude of Scripture is more like this:

“Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the LORD.” (Lamentations 3:40)

Honestly, admitting daily that we’re not okay and that we need God’s help can be scary. It means owning our weaknesses and doing the hard work of self-examination on a regular basis. But thankfully for us, God specializes in weakness, especially when we aren’t sure where to start:

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” (Romans 8:26)

We’re weak. He’s strong. And that’s the best truth there is.

2. No One Will Ever Find Out.

If we’re ever looking for justification to do something dumb, we usually start here: No one will ever know. True, there might be a thousand variations on that theme, but it almost always comes back to anonymity. That’s why private browsing on the Internet and personal devices such as smartphones and tablets can be some of the most dangerous tools known to humanity. (They’re not necessarily bad, but “personal” devices do have drawbacks.)

No one will know if I watch this. No one will know if I go here while I’m on that work trip. No one will know if I post this anonymous and hurtful comment. No one will ever know.

First of all, there’s no such thing as true anonymity in our world. What we do in “private” very often has a way of being found out and exposed. (Just pay attention to all those hacking breaches you see in the news.)

More importantly, though, God has a way of making our “no one knows” sins come out—and He doesn’t miss any:

“You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.” (Psalm 90:8)

Day by day, we let this lie bring us low and keep us from living the life God has planned. You see, God knows—He always knows the dumb things we do.

But He still loves us:

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

You can’t hide... and you don’t need to.

3. No One Will Get Hurt.

This lie really could be 2b, since these two excuses are like twins. If it’s not enough that no one will know, we also like to tell ourselves that no one will get hurt. If it’s behind closed doors, if it only involves two responsible adults, if it only impacts me, then it’s got to be okay.

However, what we usually mean is that no one will get hurt that we can see right now. We often don’t like to follow the chain of problems beyond the moment or the immediate circumstances. But what we don’t always consider are the spiritual ramifications that could pop up or the problems that might not be so obvious.

We also don’t take into account that God Himself is grieved and pained by our bad choices. God felt major pain because of raging sin before the Flood (Genesis 6:6), the rebellious grieved His Holy Spirit in Israel (Isaiah 63:10), and Jesus longed to gather His people to Him when they refused to accept Him (Matthew 23:37).

In other words, our sins always inflict grief and pain. And they do so to the very one we should want to please.

4. That’s Just the Way I Am.

Often, the easiest way out of dealing with a destructive pattern in our lives is simply to make it an acceptable or unchangeable part of who we are. Whether we see it as a part of our nature or simply as something we “can’t fix,” this lie helps us avoid feeling responsible. We can’t stop it because it’s just too deeply embedded.

But what we don’t like to admit is that God is the one who made us. We were intended to look like, act like, and be like Him (Genesis 1:27; 1 John 3:2). Sure, we all trip up somewhere on the way to that goal, but saying something is “just the way I am” means saying that God messed up or was taken by surprise by our struggles. We’re really just saying that He can’t change us.

Thankfully, we’re wrong. He specializes in making broken things new.

Your struggles are real. Just confess that first. They stink; they hurt; they mess us up. Once you get that out of the way, you can begin the often very long, very painful process of being made like Christ. Just keep this promise in mind:

“… he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

Got that? He’s not going to give up halfway through because you mess up or because you’re just a special case. He will complete the work.

We just have to admit that it is a problem before we’ll ask and seek transformation.

5. I Can Do That Tomorrow.

Tomorrow is the time for Bible study, for that new morning prayer routine, for that meeting with our pastor or Christian friend. Tomorrow is when we’ll tell our spouse the truth. Tomorrow is when we’ll get honest with God.

But—and this is the truth—many times that “tomorrow” never comes. Even in the midst of how miserable some of our bad life choices make us, we just don’t like to make changes today. We look for a more opportune time—when it won’t be so hard.

That’s why the Psalmist and the writer of Hebrews make sure that we get focused on today:

“So, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…” (Psalm 95; Hebrews 3)

Telling yourself that you’ll make a change tomorrow certainly makes you feel better about today’s failures, but it rarely ever changes us. We must remember that a lack of commitment to change today comes with a steep price:

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:13)

We don’t even know if we’ll have a tomorrow, but we do know we have a right now. And God is faithful in that right now.

“He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” (1 Corinthians 5:8–9)


Article first appeared on BibleStudyTools.com.


1 Cross, 1 Savior, 7 POWERFUL Sayings—THIS is How Much He Loves

 
1 Cross, 1 Savior, 7 POWERFUL Sayings—THIS is How Much He Loves

Jesus cried out from the cross 7 times, and each one shows the MIND-BLOWING depth of His love for all of us. These are powerful!

Posted by Crosswalk.com on Wednesday, April 1, 2015

An Early Easter Sermon

The early church had no lack of excitement for the resurrection of Christ, as revealed in a sermon from Leo the Great (d. 461). In other words, the knowledge that Jesus really rose from the dead gave them reason to celebrate. We'll show you what we mean:

And then there followed many proofs, whereon the authority of the Faith to be preached through the whole world might be based. And although the rolling away of the stone, the empty tomb, the arrangement of the linen cloths, and the angels who narrated the whole deed by themselves fully built up the truth of the Lord's Resurrection, yet did He often appear plainly to the eyes both of the women and of the Apostles not only talking with them, but also remaining and eating with them, and allowing Himself to be handled by the eager and curious hands of those whom doubt assailed. For to this end He entered when the doors were closed upon the disciples, and gave them the Holy Spirit by breathing on them, and after giving them the light of understanding opened the secrets of the Holy Scriptures, and again Himself showed them the wound in the side, the prints of the nails, and all the marks of His most recent Passion, whereby it might be acknowledged that in Him the properties of the Divine and Human Nature remained undivided, and we might in such sort know that the Word was not what the flesh is, as to confess God's only Son to be both Word and Flesh.

Read the rest of this sermon and many more like it in our history archives.


What Does Our Logo Mean?

A guest on our site recently wrote in to ask what our logo means. Great question, and one we're glad to share the simple answer to.

The logo that you see at the top of our website and on our social media pages represents an open Bible with light pouring out of it. That idea isn't ours, however. It comes straight from the book we love to study:

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

In other words, we see God's Word as our guide, and we want all our guests to see the same thing. Our logo is meant to show that the Bible is exactly what the world needs because its pages tell out the Savior. Or, as Peter put it:

And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. (2 Peter 1:19)