Archive for the 'Bible' Category

The Dread of God

Is the fear of God on the decline? Culture slips in, “God is love”–although completely true (1 John 4:8; 16)–becomes all he is. Jesus has become only meek, mild, and tame.

Though many read the Psalms for comfort, there we can see how dreadful God’s judgement is through how the Psalmists portray it. Does this apply to ‘New Testament Christians’?

If we pay attention to all of what Jesus says in both the Gospels and Revelation, we can see that he isn’t tame, that he can’t stand sin and he is ready to eradicate it in a very non-meek way in the end. He is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15).

Two benefits that I see to respecting God’s wrath is that: 1) We can better appreciate what Jesus did on the cross for us by receiving the wrath we deserve. 2) It compels us to be holy as he is holy (1 Peter 1:16)–wanting to please our Father by learning more about his holiness and imitating it, as feebly as we do. Thank God that he compels us, strengthens us, and shows us how to become more like him.

I like how the Revised English Bible translates Psalm 119:120:

The dread of you makes my flesh creep,
I stand in awe of your decrees.

In the verses before this, the Psalmist is recounting God’s judgement of sinners.

Here is what Spurgeon has to say in The Treasury of David:

“My flesh trembleth for fear of thee.” [KJV] Such was his awe in the presence of the Judge of all the earth, whose judgment he had just now been considering, that he did exceedingly fear and quake. Even the grosser part of his being, – his flesh felt a solemn dread at the thought of offending one so good and great, who would so effectually sever the wicked from among the just. Alas, poor flesh, this is the highest thing to which thou canst attain! “And I am afraid of thy judgments.” God’s words of judgment are solemn, and his deeds of judgment are terrible; they may well make us afraid. At the thought of the Judge of all, – his piercing eye, his books of record, his day of assize, and the operations of his justice, – we may well cry for cleansed thoughts, and hearts, and ways, lest his judgments should light on us. When we see the great Refiner separating the precious from the vile, we may well feel a godly fear, lest we should be put away by him, and left to be trodden under his feet.

Love in Psalm 119:119 is quite consistent with fear in this verse, the fear which hath torment is cast out, but not the filial fear which leads to reverence and obedience.

The Lord Watches Over Everyone

Unpopular Scripture of the Day:

I am going to watch over them. I am going to watch over them to bring disasters, not blessings. In Egypt the people from Judah will die in wars and famines until everyone is gone. 28 Those who escape the wars will return to Judah from Egypt. Then all the people of Judah who went to live in Egypt will know whose words have come true, mine or theirs. 29 I will give you this sign,’ declares the Lord. ‘I will punish you in this place so that you will know that my threats of disaster will happen to you. 30 This is what the Lord says: I’m going to hand Pharaoh Hophra, king of Egypt, over to his enemies and to those who want to kill him, just as I handed over King Zedekiah of Judah to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and to those who wanted to kill him.’”
Jeremiah 44:27-29

John Calvin says,

I will watch over them, he says, for evil and not for good. This mode of speaking we have observed elsewhere, and explained why the Prophets spoke thus, even because hypocrites, though they think God cares not for human affairs, and imagine that he sleeps in heaven, and hence audaciously provoke him [see context before this passage], as though they were fugitives and their purpose hid from God, yet boast of God’s providence, and pretend that they acquiesce confidently in him. For this reason the Prophet answered, that God watched indeed, but not for good. We then perceive the object of the Prophet; he derided the presumption of the people, who thought that God had a care for their safety. He then says, that God indeed does not sleep, but that this would bring no benefit to hypocrites; for though God watches as a father to preserve his own people, he yet watches as a judge to destroy all the ungodly.

We can be sure that God is watching over the evil that is done and will punish now or certainly at the end. We need to remember how much more God hates sin than we do.

He is also always watching over his children, whether good or bad comes. I always cringe when somebody averts disaster and says, “God was really watching over us”, because as I see it, this implies that God wasn’t watching over them if bad would have happened. (I understand that most people say this sincerely.) We will have trouble in this world (John 16:33 as just one example of many) but God will work it for the good of those who love him–who have been called according to his purpose–namely, his children (Romans 8:28). This to make them more like Christ–infinitely more important that any temporal thing we can receive (we mustn’t leave out Romans 8:29).

We Are Slaves of Christ

As opposed to servants, not that we don’t serve. We were “bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19, 1 Peter 1:18-19, Revelation 5:9). A very great price. Most English translations avoid using the word slave when referring to believers, although that’s changing.

The underlying Greek word is doulos, which always means slave. I realize that the way languages work, there is often more than one definition for a word given its context. But I’m agreeing with those who say that doulos always means slave, as opposed to servant or bondservant (1 Corinthians 7:22 ESV). The word “‘servant’ for ‘slave’ is largely confined to Biblical transl. and early American times” according to the entry on doulos in A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament by Bauer along with Gingrich and Danker, often referred to and known as BDAG by scholars. (If you like to read commentaries you will find that referenced a lot.) In other words, it’s always translated as ‘slaves’ in most literature, with English (I suppose) Bible translations being an exception, which is regrettable.

Here are some examples. The ESV uses the traditional KJV, ASV, RSV rendering and HCSB, NLT, NET, and parts of the NASB use ‘slave’ when describing our identity in Christ.

Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle and singled out for God’s good news–
Rom 1:1 HCSB

Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,
Rom 1:1 NASB

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,
Rom 1:1 ESV

And remember, if you were a slave when the Lord called you, you are now free in the Lord. And if you were free when the Lord called you, you are now a slave of Christ.
1 Cor 7:22 NLT

For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ.
1 Cor 7:22 ESV

Am I now trying to gain the approval of people, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ!
Gal 1:10 NET

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Gal 1:10 ESV

You cannot be slaves of God and of money.
Matt 6:24 HCSB

You cannot serve God and money.
Math 6:24 ESV

(The translation I read, God’s Word, uses ‘servant’ the majority of the time. Can’t have everything.)

John MacArthur wrote a book on this subject called Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ. As he is wont to do, he goes a little bit far and calls using the word servant a conspiracy among translators. I’m not sure how translators get together to conspire about this, but it sounds like an otherwise good book. MacArthur was apparently unaware of the newer translations–that not being his forte. He has a sermon you can find online” Slaves for Christ. There is also a book called Slave of Christ: A New Testament Metaphor for Total Devotion to Christ by Murray J. Harris.

Why is this important? John MacArthur says in an interview:

I read the other day the No. 1 group in the world in drawing audiences is YouTube; No. 2 is Joel Osteen. How in the world did that happen? But what’s his message? This message is whatever you want, whatever you desire, whatever you dream, whatever your heart longs for, Jesus wants to come along and give it to you. So now you have an inverted Christianity in which you are Lord and he’s your slave. That doesn’t exist if you understand what it means to confess Jesus is Lord and you’re his slave. That has been allowed to flourish to such a massive degree along with the health, wealth prosperity message which basically says the same thing – you’re in charge and Jesus will give you what you want. This whole inversion is because of a skewed understanding of doulos.

Read the rest here:
Interview: John MacArthur on Being a 'Slave' for Christ
Even if you don’t like John MacArthur, I think you might like this. I certainly did.

I wish I would have known this a long time ago, although the concept of us not being our own has already made a significant impact in my life with God.

Although we are slaves of Christ, we are also heirs, and he even treats us as friends:

Listen, my dear brothers: Didn’t God choose the poor in this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that He has promised to those who love Him?
James 2:5 HCSB

I do not call you slaves anymore, because a slave doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from My Father.
John 15:15 HCSB

Be still and let Scripture interpret Scripture

Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
Psalm 46:10

For some reason, many people have made this verse out to be about prayer. As if we should sit and be still and listen for God to speak and receive ‘A word from the Lord‘. If you look at the context, it says nothing of the sort. If we’d like to hear from God, he wrote a great book that we can read at any time. It’s amazing.

Although the context of Psalm 46 is pretty clear, when reading in Exodus, I saw a great example of Scripture interpreting Scripture in a specific situation. I don’t know Hebrew, and can’t compare the vocabulary or confirm this is an absolute parallel, but I think it’s similar enough to be a valid repetition in Scripture that strengthens ideas. Finding them is one of the objectives of Professor Horner’s Bible Reading System.

As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
Exodus 14:10-14 (emphasis added) both NIV

What Is Biblical Wisdom?

It may not be what many of us thought.

I was reviewing memorized Scripture and noticed parts of these two:

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
James 1:5-8

What I would think is this is the type of thing where somebody asks you about something and you answer that you’ll pray about it and ask God for wisdom. Not that I believe that God whispers in our ear and tells us what to do, but he guides us and reminds us of Scripture that may help. Which he does…

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.
James 3:17

This is a much different portrayal of wisdom than the scenario I wrote above. We often ask for wisdom and don’t get it. We’re sometimes asking for the wrong thing or expecting God to tell us what he doesn’t usually reveal to us. Biblical wisdom isn’t necessarily about making the right decisions or being able to answer people’s important life questions, although it could indirectly lead to that in some cases. Biblical wisdom is something that God promises to give to everyone. This is his will for believers.

I recently read Knowing Scripture and remembered a quote in there that really struck me as I was also pondering how James and other inspired writers portray wisdom. I’m now reading Communion With God and just read something about wisdom in that book. And I have a saved quote from a commentary on Job that I read a year or two ago (which is very good) that describe these things much better than I can.

Sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation (2 Tim 3:15). Paul refers to the Scripture’s ability to give wisdom. When the Bible speaks of wisdom, it refers to a special kind of wisdom. The term is not used to connote an ability to be “worldly wise” or to have the cleverness necessary to write a Poor Richard’s Almanack. In biblical terms, wisdom has to do with the practical matter of learning how to live a life that is pleasing to God. A cursory glance at the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament makes this emphasis abundantly clear. Proverbs, for example, tells us that wisdom begins with the “fear of the LORD” (Prov 1:7; 9:10). That fear is not a servile fear but a posture of awe and reverence, which is necessary for authentic godliness. The Old Testament distinguishes between wisdom and knowledge. We are commanded to acquire knowledge, but more to acquire wisdom. Knowledge is necessary if wisdom is to be gained, but it is not identical with wisdom. A person can have knowledge without having wisdom, but he or she cannot have wisdom without having knowledge. A person without knowledge is ignorant. A person without wisdom is deemed a fool. In biblical terms foolishness is a moral matter and receives the judgment of God. Wisdom in the highest sense is being wise with respect to salvation. Thus wisdom is a theological matter. Paul is saying that through the Scriptures we can acquire that kind of wisdom that concerns our ultimate fulfillment and destiny as human beings.

–R.C. Sproul, Knowing Scripture

The path of wisdom, godlikeness, and holiness would rely on Scripture for guidance without necessarily looking to specific texts to lay down hard and fast rules (though it occasionally might and we dare not neglect them when it does). Wisdom brings order to life and relationships, and the wise take God seriously. Wisdom derives from biblical values, but it is not necessarily bound to Israelite culture. Holiness recognizes that aspects of our behavior will sharply distinguish us from those around us. God’s holiness is embodied in his distinguishing attributes; we exhibit holiness by reflecting God’s communicable attributes (e.g., by exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit). We can build ideas about godlikeness around the biblical text’s portrayal of God.

–John Walton, Job (NIVAC)

What Biblical wisdom is:

The sum of all true wisdom and knowledge may be reduced to these three heads: (1) The knowledge of God, his nature and his properties. (2) The knowledge of ourselves in reference to the will of God concerning us. (3) Skill to walk in communion with God.

–John Owen, Communion With God

What Biblical wisdom is not:

There are two things that might seem to have some color in claiming a title and interest in this business: (1) civil wisdom and prudence, for the management of affairs; (2) ability of learning and literature—but God rejects both these, as of no use at all to the end and intent of true wisdom indeed. There is in the world that which is called “understand— ing,” but it comes to nothing. There is that which is called “wisdom,” but it is turned into folly, “God brings to nothing the understanding of the prudent, and makes foolish this wisdom of the world” (1 Cor. 1:19-20). And if there be neither wisdom nor knowledge (as doubt— less there is not) without the knowledge of God (Jet. 829), it is all shut up in the Lord Jesus Christ: “No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he has revealed him” (John 1:18).

–John Owen, Communion With God

These are things I love to learn about. It’s great to be corrected by God through his Word because he’s speaking to us. When God speaks, it’s always, always about simple, practical, spiritual things that matter the most.

I’ve often thought that when I’m old(er), I would like to be a wise man without knowing or thinking that I am. I’m now much farther away from that ideal than I thought. It’s a great subject to explore. I’m oftentimes embarrassed that I don’t realize many of these things that seem to be so plain sooner than I do. It shows that “the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Proverbs 2:6) And his timing can be peculiar.

Counter-cultural Thought of the Day: Dependency

Sounds like a bad word, doesn’t it?

I was meditating on how we are dependent on God and how dependency is seen as a bad thing in almost every way in our culture, whether it’s medications (except caffeine of course) or people or many other things. God wants us to be dependent on him. It’s for our good. We need to humble ourselves in that way. It was good to think about; it’s difficult to do.

Blessed are those who recognize they are spiritually helpless.
The kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
Matthew 5:3 GW

The LORD is good. He is a fortress in the day of trouble. He knows those who seek shelter in him.
Nahum 1:7

The LORD is my shepherd. I am never in need.
Psalm 23:1

My soul clings to you. Your right hand supports me.
Psalm 63:8

Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive,a and your joy will be complete.
John 16:24 TNIV

That could be an extremely long list obviously. I just picked a few in my head.

The Value of the Law

If you take any of your neighbor’s clothes as collateral, give it back to him by sunset. It may be the only clothes he has to cover his body. What else will he sleep in? When he cries out to me, I will listen because I am compassionate.
Exodus 22:26-27

Any person of sound mind who has read the Bible and says that the Old Testament shows God’s wrath and the New Testament shows God’s love should be punished for their poor reading comprehension. Those who haven’t read the Bible shouldn’t make such silly statements.

The law can be valuable in teaching us about how to think of and treat others, and show us more of God’s character.

For more on the law see:
The Law of Moses and the Christian: A Compromise | TGC including more links at the bottom.

Reformed Scholars Misquoting Rev. 3:20?

And I’m not just referring to any old scholars, but two of the three big Johnnys, Owen and Edwards.

It has often been criticized that Christian newbies interpret Revelation 3:20 as being God’s calling unbelievers to salvation. But as the interpretation goes–for those who are in the know–this was said to the church in Laodicea which was supposed to be made up of believers, albeit lukewarm, and God is calling them to have fellowship with him.

I just finished reading Jonathan Edwards’ sermon(s) titled The Excellency of Christ. In it I read this:

Rev. 3:20. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and I will sup with him and he with me.” Christ condescends not only to call you to him, but he comes to you; he comes to your door, and there knocks. He might send an officer and seize you as a rebel and vile malefactor, but instead of that, he comes and knocks at your door, and seeks that you would receive him into your house, as your Friend and Savior. And he not only knocks at your door, but he stands there waiting, while you are backward and unwilling. And not only so, but he makes promises what he will do for you, if you will admit him, what privileges he will admit you to; he will sup with you, and you with him.

This was during the last part where he makes a long plea for the listeners to trust Christ for salvation.

Then I remembered that John Owen wrote about something similar in either The Glory of Christ or the Sin and Temptation trilogy. It was the latter–the Crossway edition.

[He is patient] toward the elect not yet effectually called. He stands waiting at the door of their hearts and knocks for an entrance (Rev. 3:20). He deals with them by all means, and yet stands and waits until “his head is filled with the dew, and his locks with the drops of the night” (Song 5:2), as enduring the cold and inconveniences of the night, that when his morning is come he may have entrance. Oftentimes for a long season he is by them scorned in his person, persecuted in his saints and ways, reviled in his word, while he stands at the door in the word of his patience, with his heart full of love toward their poor rebellious souls.

The idea that God is referring to believers here is widespread enough that I even saw a meme (a photo with text on it) about how Rev. 3:20 shouldn’t be used in this way. The modern interpretation is that he wants his children to have fellowship with him and not ignore him as the lukewarm Laodiceans did. I’ve also read good blogs that explain this and it’s certainly makes sense to me.

The only modern commentary I have is an excellent one by Craig Keener in the NIVAC series. He says the Laodicean Christians have shut Him out of their lives and God is saying that he wants fellowship with them.

What do you think?

Here are some others for reference.

Adam Clarke:

Christ stands – waits long, at the door of the sinner’s heart; he knocks – uses judgments, mercies, reproofs, exhortations, etc., to induce sinners to repent and turn to him; he lifts up his voice – calls loudly by his word, ministers, and Spirit.

Matthew Henry:

[1.] Christ is graciously pleased by his word and Spirit to come to the door of the heart of sinners; he draws near to them in a way of mercy, ready to make them a kind visit…

John Wesley:

I stand at the door, and knock – Even at this instant; while he is speaking this word. If any man open – Willingly receive me. I will sup with him – Refreshing him with my graces and gifts, and delighting myself in what I have given. And he with me – In life everlasting.

Geneva Bible note:

This must be taken after the manner of an allegory; (John 14:23).

Fling the anxiety to God and keep looking up

Not as easy as it sounds.

These are all NIV because that’s what I have them memorized in, and also to be consistent, especially the first two. I put these in an order that I think shows a progression. I would always encourage looking at the context of verses; single verses are used to show the main point.

Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you;
he will never let the righteous be shaken.
Psalm 55:22

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Philippians 4:6

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Matthew 6:33-34

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Colossians 3:1-4

I’ll Pray It My Way

“The compass of our knowledge of ways and means is very narrow, as, if one is blocked up. Often we cannot see another; but our God knows many ways of relief, where we know but one or none at all, and it is very usual for the Lord to bring the lifting up of His people in a way they had no view to, after repeating disappointments from those quarters from which they had great expectation.”

–Thomas Boston, The Crook in the Lot

At some point in the past I realized that when I (and probably many others) pray for relief of affliction, and if God is to make it happen in this life, I’m praying for the solution that I see is the way out, instead of realizing that God could make it so in an infinite number of ways. I don’t think this means that God won’t answer our prayer because of this–that would be ludicrous–but it narrows our perspective of how God can work. We shouldn’t expect him to do it our way, or that we even know what that way is.

Contemplating Jesus

See if this makes sense; I’ve been thinking about it for a while:

The temple Jesus spoke about was his own body.
John 2:21 GW

I have asked the LORD for one thing –
this is what I desire!
I want to live in the LORD’s house
all the days of my life,
so I can gaze at the splendor of the LORD
and contemplate in his temple.
Psalm 27:4 NET

She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he said. […]
“but one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the best part; it will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:39, 42 NET

I read a book about the Lord [Jesus] by a Catholic scholar (they can be quite good in many things) quite a few years ago and he said that Mary was contemplating (word used in the NET for Ps 27.4) Jesus. I liked that description.

We contemplate what Jesus says by reading the Bible. I’ve always loved that passage. The ‘historical Jesus’ (not the polemic, apologetic, or reconstruction types) or Jesus as a man has been one of my favorite subjects. Do you have any books you like on that subject? I have one by another Catholic scholar called The Lord by Romano Guardini, although extremely comprehensive, not just about Jesus when he was on earth as a man. I read it quite a few years ago like the other one. I want to read it again. The only two Roman Catholic things I noticed at the time were that he said Jesus had no blood brothers because Mary remained a virgin, and he was especially lenient with John the Baptist when describing him in prison, questioning if Jesus was the Messiah. I want to read it again as a devotional. There are probably some things I would disagree with now, but it’s too good not to read. The Glory of Christ by Owen was excellent.

A Curmudgeon’s Take On New Year’s Resolutions

I’m not into them, at least not on January 1st, but I won’t bore you with my opinion. Plenty has been written on the interwebz. I realize that some people like to evaluate their life as the calendar turns, so I thought I might gather an oft-neglected quote, some Bible passages, and ideas that might be applicable.

I was thinking about this subject right before I read the first passage in Ecclesiastes below the quote by Edwards. That’s what brought all of this up. This is just my take on this subject. If it’s not idealistic enough, or if you don’t have visions of unicorns, rainbows, and everything shiny and happy for next year, there is plenty of other material out there for you. (I’m doing my best to stay true to the subject line.) I do pray that everyone reading this post will grow closer to God and more Christ-like as the year progresses, whatever situation God has you in.

I’ve seen resolutions that contain a list of resolutions. Nobody can remember and do a long list of things. Saying that you’re going to do this, that, and the other thing will inevitably lead to failure unless you’re the 1% of the population that can do that. Jonathan Edwards couldn’t keep up with his 70 resolutions. Here is a quote from him later on in his life (emphasis added):

“My longings after it, put me upon pursuing and pressing after them. It was my continual strife day and night, and constant inquiry, how I should be more holy, and live more holily, and more becoming a child of God, and disciple of Christ. I sought an increase of grace and holiness, and that I might live an holy life, with vastly more earnestness, than ever I sought grace, before I had it. I used to be continually examining myself, and studying and contriving for likely ways and means, how I should live holily, with far greater diligence and earnestness, than ever I pursued anything in my life: but with too great a dependence on my own strength; which afterwards proved a great damage to me. My experience had not then taught me, as it has done since, my extreme feebleness and impotence, every manner of way; and the innumerable and bottomless depths of secret corruption and deceit, that there was in my heart.”

Source of Edwards quote: (Marsden, Jonathan Edwards, 53). The quote is from his “Personal Narrative” in the Yale Works, 16:797.

HT: CAMPONTHIS: JONATHAN EDWARDS: RESOLVED TO GRACE…enjoying the beauty and sweetness of Christ

Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. 3 A dream comes when there are many cares, and many words mark the speech of a fool. 4 When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. 5 It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it. 6 Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, “My vow was a mistake.” Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? 7 Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore fear God.
Ecclesiastes 5:2-7

Don’t make promises to God. Make very small attainable goals. It doesn’t matter how small. Though I don’t identify with it, it seems that most people’s eyes are bigger than their discipline. They don’t have the ability to calculate what they’re capable of. This ends up making people look and feel pathetic. I know that sounds arrogant and mean, but it isn’t much different than what the Bible says. Start small and you can always progress. (As in proe-gress)

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
Luke 14:28-30

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.
Romans 12:3

Since most Bible reading plans are based on a calendar year (although electronic devices and other methods make that moot), many embark on a reading plan, which is the most fantastic thing anyone can do. If you for some reason have a hard time reading the Bible, set a goal of reading one paragraph a day. You can do that, right? Then move on from there. After a while you’ll find yourself liking and reading it more and more. As much as I hate to say it, maybe a one year Bible reading plan is too much for some types of people early on. Better to read a little consistently than to start out with a plan that ends up being abandoned and leaving one full of guilt.

As another example, look at exercise, if that’s something you don’t do. Instead of spending money on a health club membership (a “gym” is where the serious people workout), which takes 25 minutes to drive to and 30 minutes to get in a workout where it seems like it was worth the money, start out doing one set of bodyweight squats and one set of pushups leaning against the kitchen counter at home three times a week. You’ll find that you’ll make progress each time. This may motivate you to do more. Plus if you keep going and keep learning, when you’re elderly you’ll be able to stand up from a deep couch, pick things up off the floor, and maybe even avoid preventable diseases, God willing. Plus more importantly, you’ll feel better now (after you’ve been doing it for a while), which will help you spiritually.

Things like attitudes, behaviors, taming our tongue–those are more difficult to quantify. I think those are the types of things where we can’t work on very many at once. If we keep our mind on Scripture, God will convict us of sin and help us work on specific things. He will guide us on the right path.

Have a humble attitude. Realize that some goals may have life getting in the way.

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.
James 4:13-16

If we mess up, God isn’t holding it against us. Remember that we are in God’s favor because of what Christ did for us at the cross. We can always start over (whenever we want!) and know that God is for us (Romans 8:31).

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23

For someone who doesn’t like resolutions, I have a lot of thoughts on them; I suppose it’s because I like to make goals and plans throughout the year. I like the structure. There is much more that could be written, but I will leave it there.

If you need an idea, here is a random resolution: Read one chapter of Proverbs a day for the month of January. Easy to keep track. That may lead you to other things you need to work on. In any case, it’s a book that should be read regularly.

Also see:

Scripture Memory and Smartphones

If you have a smartphone, now you really have no excuse. I’ve been thinking about possibly memorizing some Scripture again. I wrote about the watch beep method in Scripture Memory: My Story (in two parts with links to other resources). The problem with a watch beep is it’s so easy to get used to the sound and stop hearing it. I firmly believe that when I memorized Scripture for the first few years, God enabled me to hear it every single time. Now with smartphones, we can use an hourly chime app to remind us to look at our current verse. (For a while I did this on my computer, working at home.) The chime can be changed if we get used to it, and there is the option to use vibrate. There are also Scripture memory apps. It’s great how we can use technology for Bible reading plans, reading or listening during downtime (as little as that happens for some people), and memorizing. If you have one, do you use yours in any other ways?

Which means you’ve gotta fight to learn these [verses] and memorize these things and have these verses tumbling around in your fore-frontal lobal brain part. Whatever that is.

–John Piper

God Afflicts Those He Loves

Just a few:

It was good that I had to suffer
in order to learn your laws.
The teachings that come from your mouth
are worth more to me than thousands in gold or silver.
Psalm 119:71-72 GW

The LORD tests righteous people,
but he hates wicked people
and the ones who love violence.
Psalm 11:5

The Lord disciplines everyone he loves. He severely disciplines everyone he accepts as his child. Endure your discipline. God corrects you as a father corrects his children. All children are disciplined by their fathers. On earth we have fathers who disciplined us, and we respect them. Shouldn’t we place ourselves under the authority of God, the father of spirits, so that we will live? For a short time our fathers disciplined us as they thought best. Yet, God disciplines us for our own good so that we can become holy like him. We don’t enjoy being disciplined. It always seems to cause more pain than joy. But later on, those who learn from that discipline have peace that comes from doing what is right.
Hebrews 12:6-11

Even if he makes us suffer, he will have compassion in keeping with the richness of his mercy. He does not willingly bring suffering or grief to anyone,
Lamentations 3:32-33 GWN

Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His great mercy, He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, uncorrupted, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. You are being protected by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to struggle in various trials so that the genuineness of your faith — more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire — may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 1:3-7 HCSB

‘Must Read’ Blog Post

I don’t know if I’ve ever written ‘must read’ other than I feel that the book Knowing God is a must read for every Christian, especially those somewhat new (advanced beginner?), as far as I’m concerned.

I found a blog post titled Bible Ignorance at Reformation21 Blog to be one of the best posts I’ve ever read. It’s aimed largely at ministers and students of theology. I’m not pointing it out for ministers; I think this applies to any student of theology, which is all of us.

You can just stop reading here and go there if you’d like.

A few years ago I made a commitment to make sure I read the Bible every single day.* What’s being said in this article makes that seem like nothing, not that I’m minimizing the importance of it. It’s nothing new; nothing we probably haven’t read before, but it really hit me this time. Matthew Henry says to pray using the language of the Bible. D.A. Carson urges us to imitate Paul in our praying. Comparing my worldly prayers to Paul’s really changed how and what I pray for. This can’t happen without knowing the Bible.

Scripture is so deep and multi-faceted, not just because of what’s written, but because the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to more and more of it the more we read and understand it (Ephesians 1:17, Hebrews 4:12). If we’re born again and the Holy Spirit resides in us, we should be glad to spend time in Scripture. If we don’t feel that way, we can pray for God to enable us, and he will do that for us–this being his will for us (Joshua 1:8, Psalm 119:9-11), as we strive to spend more time (Matthew 21:22, Psalm 37:4, 1 John 5:14, Philippians 2:12b).

I often think about how much time I spend reading the Bible versus how much time I spend reading books and articles. It’s difficult to know how to balance it because the books all help to know God better through better understanding of Scripture.

*If I should forget a day for some strange reason, which I’ve done a few times in the past, God is in no way displeased with me and I don’t feel guilty–just a little silly to forget something so important. I don’t read twice as much the next day to make up for it, unless I’m on a reading plan. This doesn’t happen anymore. Just thought I’d point that out so that it doesn’t sound like a legalistic or works oriented thing.