QUESTIONS FOR DEVOTIONAL BIBLE STUDY

The following questions help shuttle God’s Word from my head to my heart.  I often use them to keep my devotional study of a passage from becoming  too sterile or academic.  Undoubtedly there’s overlap to some of these questions, and not every Bible passage offers an answer for every probe.  But using them helps personalize the text for me.  *How does this passage increase my appreciation for God the Father, Jesus the Son, or the Holy Spirit? *How should what I am reading affect my prayers?  Explain.​*What insight encourages or sustains me?  Why? *What insight challenges me to change, or convicts me in some way? *Does the passage expose a sinful behavior or failure that I should confess and forsake? *What circumstances, people, or decisions come to mind as I read?  Why? *What positive course of action does the passage propose? *What impact should what I’m reading have on my relationships? *What is God saying to my heart—my affections, motives, and attitudes? *Who in my sphere of influence could benefit from the insights in this passage?  What form can my communication with this person take? *How does what I’m reading enhance my awareness of God’s grace, or facilitate my experience of it?  What other questions have you  found helpful in …

IS IT EVER OKAY TO LIVE IN THE PAST?

4 Reasons Why My Answer Is “Yes!” “Living in the past” isn’t  normally  associated with spiritual vitality. But there’s one sense in which repeated excursions into our past is integral to a more robust walk with Christ.  Digest these reasons for looking over your shoulder, for recalling specific incidences in your personal spiritual pilgrimage. 1.    Recalling the Lord’s past deeds boosts the faith needed to face current trials or stressors.      I may not know why I’m smack-dab in the middle of a frustrating circumstance, or why  God remains silent in response to repeated prayers.  But when I’m questioning God about the present, it helps to recall past trials that forced me to lean on Him, which served as a catalyst for growth.  Or I remember a prayer He ultimately answered, and realize the formative benefits of waiting on Him back then.      In Psalm 13, David starts with a lament over God’s apparent forgetfulness.  “How long…?” was his refrain in the first two verses. But here’s how the Psalm ends: “But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness…I’ll sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me” (vs. 3-4).  His situation hadn’t changed, but his faith …

3 Things I’m  Learning the Hard Way About Aging

Not everything we learn is fun or fascinating.  Take lessons about growing older as an example.  I didn’t register for the course on aging, but at 66, I daily take my front-row seat in the classroom.  I don’t know if this will be on the test, but what follows are three takeaways I’ve gleaned, and adjustments I’ve made in response. 1.     One’s physical capacity wanes with age.This conclusion is so obvious you’re tempted to think, “Duh!”  But many of us act like we don’t believe this fact. I regularly exercise, eat lots of protein, take so many supplements I carry around a small pill box, yet I tire quicker than I did a decade ago.  Whether the culprit is low testosterone, the side effects of essential prescriptions, or inability to sleep well,   fatigue envelops me more often and I don’t accomplish as much.  Some days I feel like the old codger who told a friend, “These days, when I don’t ‘feel like myself,’ it’s an improvement!”  Over-commitment in recent years exacerbated this problem, compounding the fatigue.  Now I’m saying “No” more often to noncompulsory ministry opportunities, and asking God for wisdom to direct my limited energy where the greatest …

WHEN YOU DON’T FEEL THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT…

It just doesn’t feel like Christmas this year.  The joyful anticipation I once had prior to December 25 has evaporated as I get older.  Maybe it’s because the kids are grown and I don’t get to observe their excitement any more.I tend to feel depressed the closer we get to Christmas.  It’s as if there’s no longer any meaning in my spirit attached to this special day, yet I know there is supposed to be. It’s worse if we don’t gather with relatives or friends.  The loneliness exacerbates the despondency.Can you identify with either remark?I can. That’s because I wrote both statements in my journal years ago as Christmas approached. But more recently, there’s a particular insight I “preach to myself” each December that assuages the angst.  I’m not saying this perspective eliminates all emotional difficulty, but the reminder definitely improves my attitude each year.I tell myself that the meaning of Christmas doesn’t depend one iota on my feelings or personal experience. Whether or not I feel the religious significance of Jesus’ birth or that elusive “Christmas spirit” isn’t what matters.  What matters is truth:  God the Son came to earth, and for the first time in all eternity the divine …

God’s Law of Provision

A Christmas Meditation and Poem If you  can fully grasp and explain this truth, you’re a whole lot smarter than I am.  Yet this principle reassures me, and massages my heart.Somehow, in the incomprehensible mind of God, He planned for our salvation before mankind existed. The late Ron Dunn called this “God’s Law of Provision.”  He provided a means for dealing with our sin before there was a need for it. This “Law of Provision” explains the first Christmas, the birth of Jesus.  God had mapped out His plan of redemption before creation.  Paul reminded Timothy that saving grace had been granted to us in Christ “from all eternity” (2 Tim 1:9), a phrase that means “since before time began.”  Reputable commentators believe Revelation 13:8 refers to Jesus as a “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”  As Ron Dunn put it, “Before there was a garden in Eden, there was a cross on Calvary.” I wrote the poem that follows in an attempt to capture this biblical perspective.  This Christmas, may reading it enhance your awe of God the Father and increase your appreciation for God the Son. ​BEFORE​Before He flailed tiny arms, and cried;Before His virgin birth was prophesied,On a …

FOUR THNGS I’D DO THE SAME

Turnabout is fair play, especially when I’m involved. My previous post cited “Four Things I’d Do Differently” as I looked back over the decades of my life. Here are four things I’ve done right in life or ministry. 1. I’ve worked at being creative with gifts I’ve given my wife for birthdays, anniversaries, or for Christmas.  Not every year, but often enough to avoid sameness and instill a sense of anticipation.  Want examples?*The love letter, hand-written, that began, “I thank God for you because…”  Several pages followed, citing specific traits and anecdotes of her loyalty to me, or her nurture of our sons.  (Hand-written letters pack more of an emotional wallop!)*The 20 letters I requested from her friends, ministry associates, and relatives in which they told what they liked and appreciated about her.  These were mailed to my work address, put in a box wrapped as a Christmas present, and put under the tree for her to open on Christmas morning.*The 100-page hardcover book in 2010 that contained all the poems and love letters written to her since we began dating in 1970, along with 115 photos providing a storyline of our years together. I titled it, TERRY’S CROWN (based on Proverbs …

4 THINGS I’D DO DIFFERENTLY

​I’m not trying to browbeat myself through this post.  The good Lord knows I’ve done too much of that in my lifetime. As a vocational Christian leader, husband, and father, I’ve done some things well and right.  But now that I’m 66, I’m reflecting on my life and these four things I’d do differently bubbled to the surface of my mind.   1,  I’d more ruthlessly guard my heart against sin.  As a young man, I viewed one hard-core porn movie.  That God forgave me is unquestionable.  Yet even forgiven sins have consequences. The consequence comes in the form of a lifelong vulnerability to temptation in the sexual sphere, despite having a wife that makes me the envy of other men.  Certainly I’ve been physically faithful to her, yet decades later, that videotape buried in my mind replays scenes from that flick.  I believe this realm of spiritual battle, which all men encounter, is more heated for me because of my exposure to those gross scenes.      If you haven’t exposed yourself to such a video, please heed my warning.  If you have, like me, keep an accountability partner who will consistently ask you hard questions about personal purity. …

If i were a Christian College Freshman again…3 Things I’d do differently

I began my freshman year of college in the Jurassic era, 48 years ago this month. What if I could start all over, knowing what I know now about life and relationships? 1.  I’d write my parents a letter soon after arriving on campus. No matter how imperfect or dysfunctional you perceive your home life, chances are you have at least one parent who cherishes you, worries about you, and prays for you. Your mom and dad wonder if they’ve prepared you adequately for adulthood. Niggling thoughts create doubts about their effectiveness. This new phase of your life probably causes them to feel more insecure than you feel. Ponder these questions: How are they sacrificing so you can attend college?  What’s one thing your parents did right in raising you? What’s one trait you admire in your mom and dad? How would you finish this sentence in relation to your parents: “I thank God for you because…”? Let your replies to those questions inform your letter to them. If you write it out by hand and mail it, your words will carry a greater emotional impact than using an email or a text. I wrote my dad a similar letter …

4 Reasons to “Preach to yourself”

What a privilege I’ve had to hear, in person, renown preachers: W. A. Criswell, John Stott, Stephen Olford, Stuart Briscoe, John MacArthur, Jr., Charles Swindoll, Erwin Lutzer, John Piper, Bruce Wilkerson, and George Murray, to name a few.  But the value of their messages pale in comparison to the ones I preach to myself. “Preaching to Yourself” is the assertive act of combating discouragement, temptation, or harmful thought patterns with the truth of Scripture.  It’s giving a biblically-informed rebuttal to erroneous or distorted thinking.  It’s when we’re proactive in “talking back” to the false messages that we (or Satan) tell ourselves. Here are four reasons every Christian should learn this strategic response to unbiblical thinking: 1.      It’s practiced by the Psalmists.  Though many psalms are prayers to God, sometimes the writers are literally talking to themselves about God and their own circumstances.  One psalmist talked back to depression by pointing himself to a brighter future stemming from faith in God: “Why are you in despair, O my soul? Why have you become disturbed within me?  Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence” (Ps. 42:5).  In a psalm prompted by an experience of …

3 lessons on Worship

A worship chapel at Columbia International University stoked the embers in my heart’s fireplace. All music and responsive readings were framed around the Apostle’s Creed.  As we sang “How Great Thou Art,” a faculty colleague who sat on the front row near an inside aisle, turned and faced the 1000-plus worshippers, with a face-splitting grin.  How joyful he looked!  What joy it was for me to see him happy as he listened to us sing! It wasn’t the first time I observed this person turning around and grinning during songs.  But it was the most meaningful.  During worship services in heaven, when God’s people assemble around the throne, I want to stand behind this colleague.  I want to see his head turn and enjoy him enjoying the praise songs!  I want to see the delight on his face as he watches the masses praise the Lord, because watching him watch us fed my soul for some reason.   BUT WAIT….I’m wrong.  In heaven, while we worship, my friend won’t be turned around facing the multitude of singers.  He won’t be focused on the song or the ones who sing.  And I won’t be staring at him, hoping to see him …