Bethany Pyle is the editor for Bible Study Tools.com and the design editor for Crosscards.com. She has a background in journalism and a degree in English from Christopher Newport University. When not editing for Salem, she enjoys good fiction and better coffee.
It’s humbling to remember that even if we work hard and save plenty of money, if our plans are not in line with God’s plan, it just isn’t going to happen. That’s not to say that our plans and God’s will never align, but we need to be seeking after Him first, and our plans and priorities second.
God is called our Good Father, and he is the ultimate loving teacher and guide. But how often, when we think of our lives and our sin, do we tuck tail around Him? It can be easy for us to talk ourselves into the lie that God is sitting up in Heaven doing the “I’m watching you, punk” look.
But that’s just not true.
“I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips” (Psalm 34:1).
When we read the Psalms, or even look at the writings of Paul or many other Bible heroes, it seems like these followers of God did nothing but worship, night and day. It is encouraging for us to read about the ways their faith helped them through trials, but their devotion can also feel intimidating. You may find yourself asking “could I ever be that faithful, that joyful to worship the Lord?”
To “pray without ceasing” as 1 Thessalonians tells us, can quickly start to feel like a chore. Our lives are busy, and to add “be more faithful” to the list encourages stress, not peace. However, when our thoughts start to drift in this direction, I would argue that we have entirely the wrong mindset. God doesn’t give us these verses to shame us, and having our whole lives focused on praise is honestly not an unrealistic expectation for believers. This goal is something we all can achieve, even with busy careers, young children, travel plans and endless piles of dishes.
To understand this a bit better, let’s look at an earthly example. Hopefully this helps reframe your mindset when it comes to focusing your life on Christ.
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God speaks to us through His Word, so take some time each day this month to write down the following Scripture. If you have time, you might want to also write a prayer.
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In college one year I took a history class that focused entirely on Stalinist Russia. (It was not the most uplifting class.) But one of our assignments was to read a biography of a woman who was arrested and put in various prisons and communist work camps. One of the things she did to keep her spirits up, and to encourage her fellow prisoners, was to recite poetry from memory.
My professor asked us what we would recite if we ever found ourselves in a similar situation. Some people said song lyrics, some said favorite stories from movies or books, and some did say they would recite Scripture. But my professor’s question to all of us – especially those who said the Bible – was how much would we actually be able to remember?
Everyone has a favorite song or two, and every Christian has a favorite Bible verse. But how much of the Word do you actually have memorized? Lord forbid any of us should find ourselves in a situation like the woman in my class discussion. But even in everyday life, we remember that “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
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“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful” (John 15:1-2).
The phrase “bear fruit” is one of those phrases that we often throw around in Christian circles. But what do we really mean when we say this? And what does it look like for our lives to be fruitful? As it happens, all of us will spend our lives bearing some sort of “fruit,” but the question is whether that fruit will reflect the world’s standards, or Christ’s.
When a person gives their life over to Christ, the Holy Spirit begins to dwell in that person’s heart. What happens in this situation is supernatural and miraculous – it isn’t just a happy personal decision the person has made. Becoming a Christian isn’t like making a New Year’s resolution, where you plan to do better. Instead, you have the Holy Spirit working in you and sanctifying you to be more like Christ every day. We call this sanctification, and part of that will likely come with some lifestyle changes as the person starts to act and pursue the things of Christ, instead of the things of the world.
When we see these changes in behavior and character, in ourselves or others, we call this “bearing good fruit.”
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Unless you have been gifted with a beautiful singing voice, at one time or another, all of us have struggled with singing in church. It's an established part of Sunday mornings in almost every church around the world. But do we have to sing? Let's take a look at why we sing, and what the point of it is anyway.
How can you not just love summer? The days are longer, the produce is fresh, the world is inviting you to come outside and explore. But perhaps one of the best things about summer is the expectation to rest. Children are out of school for a few months, college kids return home after exams, and most workers block off a week or two for vacation.
Even if you have a busy summer coming up, there’s just something about the heat and long days that forces us to slow down and rest a bit more. So whether you are planning an exotic trip overseas this summer, or a stay-cation exploring your own backyard, remember to take a minute to thank God for the good gift of rest. Grab a hammock, a good beach read, and a tall glass of lemonade, and take a break.
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Exodus 20:12 does indeed say that children should honor their fathers and mothers. So does that mean that my parents have a biblical right to make demands on me for the rest of their lives? Or was I correct, and once I took over the cellphone bill, I could do whatever I wanted?
Families, hard work, health, and even money are all good things. But when a good thing becomes the only thing in your life, it becomes sin. Suddenly, we are not working with our eyes towards Heaven. Now we are working with our eyes planted firmly on our own shoes. We start to believe – even if we don’t consciously think it – that this promotion, this relationship, this activity or hobby, is more important than Christ. This is what will make me happy and complete.