Category: Inspiration

The Satisfied Life – Psalm 91

Posted by on 12/07/2017 in:

Life can be difficult and dangerous, but in the Psalms we see God’s faithfulness to us through the difficult and dangerous times. This excerpt, taken directly from the BE Series Commentary by Wiersbe, walks us through Psalm 91. Even when life is dangerous, in God we can have a hidden, protected, and satisfied life.

BE Exultant – Book IV, Psalm 91

The previous Psalm focuses on dealing with the difficulties of life, but the emphasis in this psalm is on the dangers of life. The anonymous author (though some think Moses wrote it) warns about hidden traps, deadly plagues, terrors at night and arrows by day, stumbling over rocks, and facing lions and snakes! However, in view of terrorist attacks, snipers, reckless drivers, exotic new diseases, and Saturday-night handgun specials, the contemporary scene may be as dangerous as the one described in the psalm.

The saints who abide in Christ (vv. 1, 9) cannot avoid confronting unknown perils, but they can escape the evil consequences. Moses, David, and Paul, and a host of other servants of God faced great danger in accomplishing God’s will, and the Lord saw them through. However, Hebrews 11:36 cautions us that “others” were tortured and martyred, yet their faith was just as real. But generally speaking, walking with the Lord does help us to detect and avoid a great deal of trouble, and it is better to suffer in the will of God than to invite trouble by disobeying God’s will (1 Peter 2:18-25). The psalmist described the elements involved in living the life of confidence and victory.

FAITH IN GOD–THE HIDDEN LIFE (vv. 1-4)

The most important part of a believer’s life is the part that only God sees, the “hidden life” of communion and worship that is symbolized by the Holy of Holies in the Jewish sanctuary (Ex. 25:18-22). God is our refuge and strength (46:1). He hides us that He might help us and then send us back to serve Him in the struggles of life. (See 27:5) The author of the psalm had two “addresses”: his tent (v. 10) and his Lord (vv. 1, 9). The safest place in the world is a shadow, if it is the shadow of the Almighty. Through Jesus Christ we find safety and satisfaction under the wings of the cherubim in the Holy of Holies (36:7-8). Jesus pictured salvation by describing chicks hiding under the wings of the mother hen (Matt. 23:37; Luke 13:34), and the psalmist pictured communion as believers resting under the wings of the cherubim in the tabernacle.

The names of God used in these verses encourage us to trust Him. He is the Most High (Elyon, vv. 1, 9), a name found first in Genesis 14:18-20. He is higher than the kings of the earth and the false gods of the nations. He is also the Almighty (SHADDAI), the all-sufficient God who is adequate for every situation. (See Gen. 17:1.) He is Lord (vv. 2, 9), Jehovah, the covenant-making God who is faithful to His promises. He is God (ELOHIM, v. 2), the powerful God whose greatness and glory surpass anything we can imagine.

This is the God who invites us to fellowship with Him in the Holy of Holies! This hidden life of worship and communion makes possible the public life of obedience and service. This God shelters us beneath the wings of the cherubim, but He also gives us the spiritual armor we need (v. 4; Eph. 6:10-18). His truth and faithfulness protect us as we claim His promises and obey Him. The shield is the large shield that covers the whole person. (See Gen. 15:1; Deut. 33:29; 2 Sam. 22:3.) Some translations give “bulwark” or “rampart” instead of “buckler.” The Hebrew word means “to go around” and would describe a mound of earth around a fortress. But the message is clear: Those who abide in the Lord are safe when they are doing His will. God’s servants are immortal until their work is done (Rom. 8:28-39).

PEACE FROM GOD–THE PROTECTED LIFE (vv. 5-13)

When we practice “the hidden life” we are not alone, for God is with us and compensates for our inadequacies. This paragraph emphasizes that we need not be afraid because the Lord and His angels watch over us. In the ancient Near East, travel was dangerous, unless you were protected by armed guards. (It is not much different in some large cities today.) “Terror by night” could mean simply “the fear of the dark” and of what can happen in the darkness. Contaminated water and food, plus an absence of sound health measures, made it easy to contract diseases by day or by night, although “the destruction that lays waste at noon” (v. 6 NASB) could refer to the effects of the burning rays of the sun.

Verses 7-8 read like the description of a battle and may have a direct relationship to the covenant promises God made with Israel (Lev. 26:8; Deut. 32:30). With their own eyes, Israel saw the grief of the Egyptians over their firstborn who died on Passover night (Ex. 12:29-30), and they also saw the Egyptian army dead on the shore of the Red Sea (Ex. 14:26-31), yet no harm came to the people of Israel. God’s angel went before them to prepare the way and to lead the way (Ex. 23:20). Satan quoted part of verses 11-12 when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness (Matt. 4:6), and the Lord responded with Deuteronomy 6:16.

If the Father had commanded Jesus to jump from the temple pinnacle, then the angels would have cared for Jesus, but to jump without the Father’s command would have been presumption, not faith, and that would be tempting the Father. In Scripture, the lion and serpent (cobra) are images of Satan (1 Peter 5:8; Gen. 3; 2 Cor. 11:3; Rev. 12:9; 20:2; and see Luke 10:19; Rom. 16:20). In the ancient Near East, both were dangerous enemies, especially for travelers walking along the narrow paths.

LOVE FOR GOD–THE SATISFIED LIFE (vv. 14-16)

The Lord spoke and announced what He would do for those of His people who truly loved Him and acknowledged Him with obedient lives. The word translated “love” is not the usual word but one that means “to cling to, to cleave, to be passionate.” It is used in Deuteronomy 7:7 and 10:15 for the love Jehovah has for His people Israel. (See John 14:21-24.) Among His blessings will be deliverance and protection (“set him on high”), answered prayer, companionship in times of trouble, honor, satisfaction, and a long life (see 21:4; Ex. 20:12; Deut. 30:20).

The salvation mentioned at the end of the psalm may mean help and deliverance during life, as in 50:23, or the joy of beholding the glory of God after a long and satisfied life. To the Jewish people, living a long life and seeing one’s children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren was the ultimate of blessing in this life. Like Abraham, they wanted to die in a good old age and “full of years” (Gen. 25:8), which means “a fulfilled life.” It’s one thing for doctors to add years to our lives, but God adds life to our years and makes that life worthwhile.

QUESTIONS FOR DEEPER THINKING

  1. What two addresses did the psalmist have (vv. 1, 9, 10)? Which one is everlasting? How should you live, knowing which address is everlasting?
  2. Do you agree or disagree that the believer who does the will of God is safer in a war zone than in a house in the suburbs? Explain.
  3. How would you define “high quality of life” according to this psalm? What is the good life?

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Interested in more articles and questions like these to enrich your study of God’s Word? The BE Series Commentary is currently on sale! You can learn more about this resource and how it works in our app by visiting our website.

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The Greatness of Forgiveness

Posted by on 11/27/2017 in: ,

What does Matthew 18 teach us about forgiveness? We’re giving you a huge peek inside the renown Preacher’s Commentary because we love what it has to say!

THE NATURE OF FORGIVENESS

The nature of forgiveness is a most profound aspect of reconciling grace. Forgiveness is never easy; it is hard.

It is the most difficult thing in the universe. Forgiveness means that the forgiving person as the innocent one resolves his own wrath over the sin of the guilty one and lets the guilty one go free. To forgive means that one genuinely loves, and this love can move beyond the issue to the person, and that one cares more about the person than about what he or she has done. Forgiveness liberates. Forgiveness frees the person for the options of living. Our refusal to forgive is a power play that limits the offender, that holds the guilty “under one’s thumb,” or power.

But such forgiveness is always in relationship, hence the condition of repentance. It is not a package that one accepts and runs away with. It is only known in reconciliation.

THE NEED FOR FORGIVENESS

Following a sermon which I had preached in a meeting in western Pennsylvania, a gracious lawyer thanked me for the message, but then added, “I’m not a Christian; I’ve never accepted this idea of the innocent suffering for the guilty, this blood religion.”

I said, “Sir, I’m very sorry for you, for you can’t have a happy marriage, or a happy family, or any lasting friendships in your social relations.”

He responded with, “And why not?”

To this I replied, “Because you are not an angel, and you make mistakes, and as you make mistakes the only way in which people can keep on accepting you is if they, as innocent, will forgive your guilt and accept you. But you just told me that you don’t believe in the innocent suffering for the guilty!”

He was honest enough to say he would think this over. And he came back to the next meeting when I preached on the Cross, which showed in Jesus’ death the depth of God’s forgiveness as He absorbed His own wrath on our sin by His love and extended forgiveness.

FORGIVENESS IN MATTHEW

This is the remarkable truth of this story. Matthew says Peter asked how often we should forgive. In his question he goes beyond the rabbinic rule of three times and extends it to seven. But Jesus answered, “Not seven, but seventy times seven.”

Jesus taught that forgiveness is qualitative, not quantitative.

And that forgiveness takes the place of revenge. A man in Christ never reaches the limits of love (Rom. 13:8). The following points express:

  1. Forgiveness creates the deepest awareness of sin: we can’t change the facts.
  2. Forgiveness costs the innocent one, for he resolves the problem in love.
  3. Forgiveness conditions one to forgive others for he is forever accountable for his privilege of freedom.

AN EXPLANATION OF THE PARABLE

The statement, “The kingdom of heaven is like ” sets the parable in the context of divine grace.

A king, settling accounts with his servants, found one servant owing ten thousand talents. The amount is so great that there is no conceivable way in which he could pay. This is the equivalent of at least twelve million dollars in our currency. It was fifty million denarii, and one denarii was a normal daily wage. Herod’s annual income was only nine hundred talents. The tax on Galilee and Perea together was only two hundred talents, and this man owed ten thousand! Jesus is illustrating our debt to God as totally beyond our payment.

The king decided to collect what he could, and ordered the man and his family to be sold (see Josh. 7; 2 Kin. 4:1). But the man fell on his face and entreated the king for patience, promising to pay everything. With this attitude toward the impossible, the king had compassion on him and forgave him the debt.

Forgiveness was because of his attitude, not his ability. In view of the interpretation given earlier of the meaning of forgiveness, we note that the guilty man was liberated, and the innocent person, the King, paid the debt, for He crossed ten thousand talents off of his accounts! This is Jesus’ illustration of forgiveness.

JESUS ADDS A SEQUEL

But human nature is inclined to resent rather than to release, to be demanding rather than to forgive. And Jesus adds a sequel to the story.

The forgiven man, who should have lived accountably in gratitude for his freedom, went out and met a man who owed him a relatively small sum. The figure was one hundred denarii, about twenty dollars, 500,000 times less than the forgiven man’s debt; but even so he demanded payment. He took him by the throat, throttled or strangled him, demanding the money.

His debtor now fell at his feet, begged for patience as he had, promised to “pay all” with the same words the forgiven man had used in his own desperation. But he would not extend patience, and threw the man in prison until the debt should be paid.

The behavior was so scandalous that his fellow servants were shocked at his injustice and reported it. The king called him in, and placed his condemnation in the form of a question—“I forgave you all that debt because you begged me; should you not also have had compassion?” The king was angry, and measuring judgment by the same measure in which the man had treated his debtor, delivered him to the tortures of prison until he should pay.

THE PUNCH LINE

The punch line is, so will my heavenly Father do if you forgive not.

This is not a legalism, but states the expectation of responsible persons whose moral sense of responsibility will call them to express the forgiveness towards others that they have experienced from God. “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile” (Ps. 32:1–2, KJV).

Our joy in this gift of grace keeps us from ever holding it to ourselves. This is illustrated by David having longed for a drink of water from the well at Bethlehem, whereupon three of his men risked their lives and broke through the ranks of the Philistines and brought him a drink.

He said, in effect, “I cannot drink it; it is the price of blood,” and he poured it out as an offering to God (1 Chr. 11:16–19). It is this awareness of the cost of our own forgiveness that keeps us from audacity in relation to those we are called upon to forgive. We only extend God’s forgiveness.

Thus Matthew concludes the “fourth book” of Jesus’ teachings.

LEARN MORE

The Preacher’s Commentary gives an outline and introduction for each book of the Bible. Then, story by story, it provides fantastic commentary that makes the Bible applicable and easier to understand. This resource is great for teachers, small group leaders, and preacher’s, and those looking for new input into their quiet time.

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Life Lessons: Ephesians 2:1-22

Posted by on 11/27/2017 in: ,

SITUATION

The Ephesians forgot what God did to save them and to make them a part of his Body.

OBSERVATION

God’s mercy plucks us from the destruction of our countless sins and places us in Jesus Christ’s righteousness.

INSPIRATION

When I read a verse like Ephesians 2:4, I feel I have discovered God’s roadblock on one’s way to hell—[But God’s mercy is great.] He is so rich in mercy that none need perish, but individuals must come to God in his appointed way. I adore the mercy that had lovingkindness, pity and compassion on me. . . .

Let me give you a modern illustration of mercy in action.

One day, a Christian named Paul went into a coffee shop, sat on a stool, and ordered his lunch. When he began speaking to the man next to him, he realized that Fred was in deep spiritual need. After sharing the gospel with him, Paul arranged to meet him again. It was at the second meeting that Fred was converted. Then Paul began to disciple him on a one-on-one basis, and Fred grew in grace and in knowledge of the Lord Jesus.

But it wasn’t long before Fred learned that he had a life-threatening disease. He had to go to a convalescent hospital that was sadly substandard. Paul visited him regularly, bathed him, changed the sheets, and did other chores that the staff should have been doing. The night Fred died, Paul was holding him in his arms, whispering verses of Scripture in his ear. That’s mercy. It’s a wonderful thing to see that Godlike quality in a human life.

APPLICATION

Are there some people around you who slip through the cracks unnoticed? Is there a lonely widow? An insecure junior-high student? A struggling single mother? Pay these people a visit—bring flowers or another gift; invest some time in their lives.

EXPLORATION

To learn more about mercy, look at Matthew 5:7; Luke 6:36; and 2 Peter 3:9.

THE DEVOTIONAL BIBLE NOTES

The Devotional Bible Notes — Experience the Heart of Jesus is written by Max Lucado. Not only will you have access to plenty of life lessons (like the one you read above) but also several indexes to help you find verses for certain life situations. Some of these lists that Lucado provides are “When You Feel Depressed,” “When You Encounter Discrimination,” and “When You Need to Lead.”

To learn more about this resource, visit our website.

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Un-Earned Acceptance

Posted by on 11/07/2017 in: ,

This blog post is an excerpt of C.A. Coates Commentary and Articles.

It is the privilege of every believer to be consciously in the favour of God–to be in the unclouded light and joy of Acceptance. But, alas! many who are truly converted are not in the enjoyment of this privilege. It may be helpful to consider briefly why not.

HIDDEN SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS

When I speak of self-righteousness in this connection I do not mean the proud self-righteousness of the unconverted man. I refer to the very different form of self-righteousness which leads many to doubt their acceptance with God because of the imperfections which they find in themselves.

You may say, “But ought I not to have misgivings when I find my spirit and the state of my mind so contrary to that which befits a Christian? and when I am conscious of inconsistencies and backslidings?” That you ought to judge yourself, and be humbled before God about these things, is most true; but it is in no wise true that your righteousness and acceptance with God depend upon yourself, or are measured by your condition or conduct. To have such a thought in the mind is really to suppose that you could be in the favour of God by being worthy of that favour in yourself.

It is simply self-righteousness.

TRYING TO EARN ACCEPTANCE

Then souls reason in this way: “Surely if I were converted I should be very different. There must be a great change in one who is born again. And if I had the Spirit of God He would help me to gain the victory over evil habits–over the lusts and tempers of the flesh–and to become pleasing to God. But instead of this more temptations seem to come in my way than ever before, and the evil tendencies of my heart seem to have acquired greater strength. I never felt more utterly unworthy of God’s favour and acceptance”.

It is not always easy to see that self-righteousness is hidden under all this, yet such is the case. There is the thought that, either by our own efforts, or by God’s grace and the help of His Spirit, we should become in ourselves suitable to God’s favour; and we are disappointed and distressed to find that we make so little progress in this direction.

IT’S IMPOSSIBLE—ON OUR OWN

It is important to know that the effect of the new birth, and of the grace of God, is not to bring about some change in us on which we could rest, but to convince us of the impossibility of finding righteousness, or suitability to the favour of God, in ourselves.

An unconverted man may think himself worthy of God’s favour, but every converted person is made conscious of utter unfitness in himself for that favour. The awakened soul gives account of itself in such language, as, “I have sinned”; “I am undone”; “I am vile”; “I abhor myself”.

Indeed, it is a common thing for such to suppose that since they turned to God the evil tendencies of their hearts had increased rather than otherwise. The fact is that before conversion we went with the stream, and not a ripple impeded our progress; when, by grace, we made some stand against the current, we began to feel its force, and to be distressed by it, as never before.

AN ILLUSTRATION

[…]Allow me to use a very simple illustration.

I was lately in an old English city, and I observed that the principal streets were marked out in squares, and on every square a name was written in large white letters. I asked the meaning of this, and I was told that a fair was to be held shortly in the streets of the city, and that persons had paid for the right to stand during the fair in the square spaces on which their names were written.

BUT CHRIST

Now it is a blessed thing to know that Christ has secured for us a standing in that circle of light and favour where He is.

To use my illustration, there is a place in that circle of light on which, dear fellow-believer, your name is written. You are entitled to stand there, but it may be that you have never by faith occupied your standing. I feel sure that the men whose names I saw written on the ground were not content to know that they had right and title to a standing in the fair. I think I am safe in saying that everyone would be careful to appropriate and occupy his standing.

It is a wonderful moment for the soul when by faith we appropriate and occupy our standing in the favour of God–when we know that we are received by God in all the acceptance of Christ. We do not then think of ourselves, or of our worthiness, at all.

We think of CHRIST–His perfections, His suitability to divine favour, His infinite acceptance with God–and by faith we have access into the favour of which He is so worthy.

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This excerpt was taken from C.A. Coates Commentary and Articles, which contains 37 volumes of his writings. Coates’ writing is extremely applicable, speaking directly to the Christian on matters of the heart. Learn more on our website.

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Thoughts on Meekness

Posted by on 10/12/2017 in: ,

A LUTHERAN’S PERSPECTIVE

Have you ever heard of Lenski’s Commentary on the New Testament? R.H.C. Lenski was a German-born American and conservative Lutheran. He lived from 1864 to 1936 and loved to write. For our blog today, I’ve pulled out Lenski’s commentary on Matthew 5:5: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (NKJV). I found a great reminder in his writing; While we wait for Jesus’ return, we ought to remain meek, trusting that God will cut down the wicked.

THOUGHTS FROM LENKSI

Blessed the meek; for just they shall inherit the earth. The best commentary is Ps. 37; note v. 11. “The meek” are the mild, gentle, patient. The word refers to an inward virtue exercised toward persons. When they are wronged or abused they show no resentment and do not threaten or avenge themselves. The opposite are the vehement, bitter, wild, and violent. Jesus is the greatest example of meekness.

The paradox is again startling, the fact that people of this kind “shall inherit the earth.” Jesus does not say, “the new earth,” yet many regard his word as a reference to the millennial earth or to Rev. 21:1. And Jesus says “shall inherit,” namely with Christ, the heir of all the earth. This lot is theirs in accordance with their Lord’s will and testament. Read Ps. 37: the wicked shall soon be cut down like the grass and wither as the green herb-evildoers shall be cut off-yet a little while and the wicked shall not be; yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be-and so the story of the wicked goes on. There is not much inheriting of this earth according to the Psalm. But look at the ‘anavim (also in Isa. 61:1), “the meek.” Jesus is merely repeating Ps. 37:11, 22.

They are cautioned not to vex themselves when the wicked grow haughty and appear mighty and great. They may suffer, but the divine blessing constantly follows them also in this life and on this earth. It will not do to say that the temporal blessings promised to Israel in the old covenant are not to be regarded as being promised also to those living in the new covenant. The Christian Church has fared even better than Israel fared. The idea that in the Psalm “earth” signifies Canaan and thus the heavenly Canaan in Jesus’ beatitude, is specious; for Jesus indicates no difference of this kind. It will always be true (v. 16): “A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked,” for his little has God’s blessing, and their much God’s curse.

Our meekness, however, often shines by its absence; our covetousness, pride, and other faults necessitate God’s discipline, who always follows higher aims that reach beyond temporalities. Chemnitz writes that God lets his children find a little nest on the house that is intended entirely for them. Luther agrees that this beatitude adds the promise of “temporal life and goods on earth.”

WANT TO LEARN MORE?

Lenski’s commentary isn’t for everyone. He is very meticulous about his work with the Greek language! But if you are a lover of original languages, you should definitely look into this resource more. Just follow this link to our website.

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A SOAP Study on Matthew 12

Posted by on 10/02/2017 in: ,

What’s a SOAP study? SOAP is an acronym, meaning: Scripture, observation, application, and prayer. This is one, very helpful way to get more out of your Bible study time. Join us in this short study of Matthew 12:1-14!

SCRIPTURE

Matthew 12:1-14, NIV

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”

He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”

He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.

OBSERVATION

Taken from the Gospel Transformation Bible Notes

Matthew gives two examples of how Jesus’ yoke is easy and his burden light (11:30). In both examples, Jesus opposes the Pharisees’ imposition on others of their burdensome way of observing the fourth commandment (Ex. 20:8–11; Deut. 5:12–15). The purpose of the Sabbath law was to show mercy to human beings and their farm animals by mandating regular rest from the hard labor of agrarian life (Matt. 12:8; Ex. 23:12). If its “observance” somehow made hungry people more miserable by forbidding them from obtaining food, or required a disabled person to remain disabled longer than necessary, then the purpose of the law itself had been violated (Matt. 12:7, 12; Hos. 6:6; Mic. 6:6–8).

APPLICATION

Taken from the Gospel Transformation Bible Notes

Christians of every age and culture have formulated ideas about how the moral teaching of Scripture should be obeyed in their own time and place. Often these ideas become translated into rules for avoiding temptation in basic areas where Christians must interact with a non-Christian culture, whether over clothing, food, speech, or entertainment. Matthew 12:1–14 cautions believers as they engage in such rule-making to understand what they are doing: they are not formulating authoritative Scripture but giving fallible human advice, however prudent (5:29–30; 18:8–9), on how best to obey Scripture in particular circumstances. Whenever the tendency of these rules hinders the basic concern of Scripture for mercy, justice, and kindness, the rules have themselves become a hindrance to obeying God and need to be set aside.

PRAYER

Have you ever struggled with this, putting rules before mercy, justice, and kindness? Take some time today to think and pray about this. Ask Jesus how he would like you to respond.

LEARN MORE

This content was taken directly out of the Gospel Transformation Bible Notes. You, too, can do quick, easy, and formative Bible studies with these notes—and they are currently only $15 (normally $50!). Visit our website to find out more.

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God’s Will: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Posted by on 09/25/2017 in: ,

Every time I read 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28, I’m deeply encouraged. Here, Paul gives his final instructions to the Church at Thessaloniki, calling them to love, act justly, and do the will of God. Not only that, but he tells them how they can accomplish all this. He says, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (1 Thess. 5:23-24).

How will we become the kind of people that Paul depicts in this passage? God will work it out. He is faithful in sanctifying us completely.

THE WILL OF GOD

As I was looking to learn more about this passage, I was drawn to delve deeper into verses 16-18: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Ever wondered what God’s will is!? It’s this! That we rejoice, that we pray, and that we give thanks—and that we do all of these things all the time. Even though I was just reminded that God will complete this work in me, I felt overwhelmed. I’m certainly not doing those three things continuously! So, I looked to a resource for some help and encouragement.

This is from the New Bible Commentary:

“A series of brief, staccato commands indicates the basis for Christian living. They are quite general and would apply to any group of believers. Christians have grounds for joy in both their experience of salvation and their hope of what God will do in the future, but they need to express that joy; there is a right and proper place for the expression of joyful emotion.

Christians must also pray—here probably in the sense of making requests to God, since the next command is about the need to be thankful. Common to the three commands is the stress on fulfilling them all the time and in all circumstances; this does not mean, for example, that one prays uninterruptedly but that one prays regularly and frequently. Such a life is made possible, Paul adds, because God intends it to be so; he wants his people to be joyful, prayerful and thankful, and he makes it possible for them to be so.”

{Insert sigh of relief here} I think D.A. Carson probably has the right idea. God doesn’t expect us to rejoice, pray, and express gratitude uninterruptedly, but often. I can picture myself living a life where I rejoice often and a life where I’m thankful often. But I wonder, what exactly did a life of frequent prayer look like for Paul?

The New Bible Dictionary (which comes bundled with the New Bible Commentary) has a lot of content around prayer. It explains what prayer looked like in the Old Testament (and it’s different periods: patristic, pre-exile, exile, post exile… ect.), the Gospels, Acts, and the Pauline Epistles. There’s a TON of information on Paul alone, but I took away this one tidbit:

“Prayer was thanksgiving, intercession, the realization of God’s presence (cf. 1 Thes. 1:2f.; Eph. 1:16ff.). He found that the Holy Spirit assisted him in prayer as he sought to know and do God’s will (Rom. 8:14, 26).”

To Paul, prayer was even the realization of God’s presence! Not that this is something I am perfect at, but it seems much more attainable than needing to always sit down and have a very deep conversation with God. Don’t get me wrong—that’s important, too! But prayer in the believer’s life is more than confession, thanksgiving, and intercession. It’s seeing God, recognizing Him in our circumstances, and acknowledging Him. All in all, when we realize God’s presence, it’ll be nearly impossible for us to act outside of God’s will. That should be a comfort.

LEARN MORE

Did you find this information just as helpful as I did? We offer the New Bible Commentary and New Bible Dictionary as a bundled product, usually for $79.98. But this week, we are able to drop the price to only $29.99. So, if you’re interested in learning more about these great resources, visit our website!

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Psalm 51: Repenting Like David

Posted by on 09/20/2017 in: ,

Psalm 51 has long been one of my favorite passages of Scripture, and I came to love it because of Jon Foreman’s song White as Snow. Funny thing is, this psalm is entirely about sin. It’s pretty humbling to read (and even more humbling to sing and confess to God yourself!).

This week, we have the MacArthur Study Bible with ESV on sale, so I was looking through it. I came across MacArthur’s notes on this passage, and they were so helpful in reminding me of the power of this psalm.

BACKGROUND

If you didn’t know already, here’s the background of Psalm 51:

“This is the classic passage in the OT on man’s repentance and God’s forgiveness of sin. Along with Ps. 32, it was written by David after his affair with Bathsheba and his murder of Uriah, her husband (2 Sam. 11–12). It is one of seven poems called penitential psalms (Ps. 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143). To David’s credit, he recognized fully how horrendous his sin was against God, blamed no one but himself, and begged for divine forgiveness.

OUTLINE: Plea for Forgiveness (51:1–2); Proffer of Confession (51:3–6); Prayer for Moral Cleanness (51:7–12); Promise of Renewed Service (51:13–17); Petition for National Restoration (51:18–19).”

TAKEAWAYS

Ps. 51:1 steadfast love. “Even though he had sinned horribly, David knew that forgiveness was available, based on God’s covenant love.”

Have you ever been overwhelmed by your own sin, to the point of believing that God would abandon you? Or perhaps, you are so frustrated by what you have done, you become severely depressed and don’t know how you can keep on going? Sin can make us feel as if we are entirely unloveable.

But MacArthur points out here in his notes that David, before apologizing for his sin, calls on God’s unconditional love. Remember, David just MURDERED someone. Murder! I can’t image the weight of the shame and guilt he must have been carrying. I’m so thankful that the Bible doesn’t cover up the mistakes God’s people. Instead, we can read this and be encouraged.

Ps. 51:4 Against you, you only. “David realized what every believer seeking forgiveness must, that even though he had tragically wronged Bathsheba and Uriah, his ultimate crime was against God and his holy law (cf. 2 Sam. 11:27). Romans 3:4 quotes Ps. 51:4.”

When we sin, it is so important to remember that our mistakes are ultimately against God. I can think of two good reasons for meditating on this idea. The first is that we don’t want to act as if our sin only has to do with other people—it affects our relationship with God and we need reconciliation with Him. We need to ask for forgiveness! But also, we know that God is faithful and just to forgive us, and it is His forgiveness that matters. We are able to move past our sin and pursue holiness, even when the people we have sinned against won’t accept our apology.

Ps. 51:6 you will not delight in sacrifice. “Ritual without genuine repentance is useless. However, with a right heart attitude, sacrifices were acceptable (see v. 19).”

What kind of rituals surrounding repentance have we created? Maybe at your church, you recite a prayer of repentance each week. Or, it may be that you have a habit of asking God for forgiveness, but it’s become numb to you. God cares less about the action and more about the heart. Make sure to take the time you need to truly repent of your wrongdoing. Your relationship with God (and own struggle with sin, guilt, and shame) will be better for it.

LEARN MORE

These insights were inspired by the MacArthur Study Bible with ESV. Not only are there notes about Psalm 51 that I didn’t cover, but there are thousands of other notes, giving insight to all the passages of the Bible! This title is currently a part of our Fall Sale, so head on over to our website to learn more about it.

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11 Principles for Studying Biblical Culture

Posted by on 09/05/2017 in: ,

Proverbs 2:1-2, 5-6 NKJV

“My son, if you receive my words,
And treasure my commands within you,
So that you incline your ear to wisdom,
And apply your heart to understanding…
Then you will understand the fear of the Lord,
And find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.”

STUDYING CULTURAL BACKGROUNDS

The study of cultural backgrounds is important because grasping the original audience’s perspective helps us understand the setting in which the inspired authors communicated their message. What we learn may show contrasts as well as similarities between our own culture and that of the ancient world. Here are some principles to consider when evaluating the biblical text with its ancient contexts:

11 PRINCIPLES

  1. Both cultural similarities and cultural differences must be considered.
  2. Similarities may suggest a common cultural heritage rather than borrowing from a specific piece of literature.
  3. It is common to find similarities at the surface but differences at the conceptual level or vice versa.
  4. All elements of the text must be understood in their own context as accurately as possible before cross-cultural comparisons are made.
  5. Proximity in time, geography and spheres of cultural contact all increase the possibility of interaction leading to influence.
  6. A case for literary borrowing can rarely be made and requires identification of likely channels of transmission.
  7. Similar functions may be performed by different genres in different cultures.
  8. When literary or cultural elements are borrowed they may in turn be transformed into something quite different.
  9. A single culture will rarely be monolithic, either in a contemporary cross-section or in consideration of a passage of time.
  10. Specificity in marking dates for events in the ancient world is inherently debatable. There was no universal cultural reference point with which the ancients could mark time (such as our dates of BC and AD). Different cultures used different historical reference points when marking time, so that even when researchers find recorded dates in ancient cultural literature or on artifacts, these can rarely be cited as definitive. The differences in dates for specific events in the Old Testament notes reflect this reality as various contributors reflect their own assessments. The earlier the time period, the more tenuous the dating becomes.
  11. Cultural terms in the text of the notes (e.g., use of the term “Palestine” in the Old Testament, which refers to the larger region in which the Hebrew people lived), do not refer to current political realities unless the notes indicate such.

LEARN MORE

This blog post was adapted from the NKJV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible which is on sale right now in our store.

What benefits have you experienced in learning cultural backgrounds of the Bible? Comment below!

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Life Lessons: Hebrews 8

Posted by on 09/01/2017 in: ,

SITUATION

Hebrews 8: Jewish Christians struggled to understand the relationship between God’s free salvation and the Mosaic Law. The author explained that Jesus Christ was superior to the Law of Moses.

OBSERVATIONS of HEBREWS 8

God does not keep a record of our sins in order to use them against us. Rather, He forgives and loves us even as we suffer through the consequences of our sins.

INSPIRATION

I was thanking the Father today for His mercy. I began listing the sins He’d forgiven. One by one I thanked God for forgiving my stumbles and tumbles. My motives were pure and my heart was thankful, but my understanding of God was wrong. It was when I used the word “remember” that it hit me. . .

God doesn’t just forgive, He forgets. He erases the board. He destroys the evidence. He burns the microfilm. He clears the computer. . .

No, He doesn’t remember. But I do, you do. You still remember. You’re like me. You still remember what you did before you changed. In the cellar of your heart lurk the ghosts of yesterday’s sins. Sins you’ve confessed; errors of which you’ve repented; damage you’ve done your best to repair.

And though you’re a different person, the ghosts still linger. Though you’ve locked the basement door, they still haunt you. They float to meet you, spooking your soul and robbing your joy. With wordless whispers they remind you of moments when you forgot whose child you were. .

Poltergeists from yesterday’s pitfalls. Spiteful specters that slyly suggest, “Are you really forgiven? Sure God forgets most of our mistakes, but do you think he could actually forget the time you . . . ”

. . . Was [God] exaggerating when He said He would cast our sins as far as the east is from the west? Do you actually believe He would make a statement like “I will not hold their iniquities against them” and then rub our noses in them whenever we ask for help? . . .

You see, God is either the God of perfect grace . . . or He is not God. Grace forgets. Period. He who is perfect love cannot hold grudges. If He does, then He isn’t perfect love. And if He isn’t perfect love, you might as well put this book down and go fishing, because both of us are chasing fairy tales.

But I believe in his loving forgetfulness. And I believe He has a graciously terrible memory. (From God Came Near by Max Lucado)

APPLICATION

Because of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice, God forgets our sins. Jesus paid the penalty for sins. We must no longer feel guilty for sins that God forgave.

EXPLORATION

Promised Pardon of God—Isaiah 43:25; 44:22; 55:7; Micah 7:18; 1 John 1:9.

LEARN MORE

This blog post was taken directly from Max Lucado’s Life Lessons Study Bible Notes. For Labor Day weekend, this title has been discounted from $49.99 to $9.99. Check it out here! [Deal ends September 5!]

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