Bible Studies

Helpful Articles

  • A Mistake in the Kitchen

    A Mistake in the Kitchen

     

    The Bible tells of a guy who experienced a miracle that shows the bigness of God's heart and eternal plan. No, not Moses at the Red Sea or Daniel amid the lions. I'm thinking of a minor colleague of the prophet Elisha, a no-name guy remembered only for making a mistake in the kitchen.

     

    A group of prophets had gathered during a famine, and they put on a pot of stew.

     

    One of the young men went out into the field to gather herbs and came back with a pocketful of wild gourds. He shredded them and put them into the pot without realizing they were poisonous. (2 Kings 4:39)

     

    When the others tasted the poison they wouldn't eat the stew. I can only imagine how the young man felt. His blunder had ruined what might be the only decent meal his friends would have for days. What an idiot! They'd all be better off if he just didn't try to help.

     

    Elisha said, "Bring me some flour." Then he threw it into the pot and said, "Now it's all right; go ahead and eat." And then it did not harm them. (2 Kings 4:41)

     

    At first glance, this miracle may seem trifling-a trick that would make Elisha a big hit at birthday parties, but isn't in the same league with the Bible's greatest wonders. So let's look more closely. What does this story teach us about God?

     

    To me, this story seems to be all about work. In Elisha's subsistence-farming society, famine made a mockery of work. A man could spend months plowing and seeding and weeding only to watch his family starve. On top of that, the story reminds us how evil or foolishness can destroy good work.

     

    I can relate. How often has my own work seemed insignificant? How many times have I messed it up, or seen it destroyed by others? And how many people have lost desperately needed jobs due to economic famine or incompetence or evil?

     

    This story shows that God is determined to redeem our poisoned work. It anticipates the day when Jesus will come to usher in a new earth, free of thorns and thistles and delightful for work. His final victory is assured, and already we are told, "Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless" (1 Corinthians 15:58).

     

    Read More: Read Psalm 90:13-17. How might this make a good prayer amid the frustrations of work?

     

    Jack Klumpenhower is a freelance writer, communications consultant, and church curriculum writer living in North Carolina.

  • Elvis and the Glory of God

    Elvis and the Glory of God

     

    Ezekiel 11:22-23

     

    "Elvis has left the building" is a cultural catchphrase. At one time the singer's promoters used the line to control overeager fans, assuring them that there was no longer any reason to push and crush each other since the hero they were hoping to glimpse was gone. Today the phrase is a joke denoting an opportunity that's vanished.

     

    Elvis helps me understand one of the strange visions of the prophet Ezekiel. Ezekiel lived in Babylon. He and many of his fellow Israelites had been exiled there after the people's persistent sin led God to allow Babylon to conquer Jerusalem. Some Israelites remained in Jerusalem. But the Temple there, home to God's glory since the days of Solomon centuries before, had become a place of idols and greed.

     

    In his vision, Ezekiel is taken back to Jerusalem where he sees the cloud-like glory of God, attended by heavenly creatures called cherubim, exit the door of the Temple. Then:

     

    The cherubim lifted their wings and rose into the air with their wheels beside them, and the glory of the God of Israel hovered above them. Then the glory of the LORD went up from the city and stopped above the mountain to the east. (Ezekiel 11:22-23)

     

    The meaning of the vision is plain: God has finally had enough of his people's sin and He is leaving. The people will no longer have reason to seek His presence or to hope for His protection. The show in Jerusalem is over. God has left the building.

     

    The warning of God

     

    This sort of Bible passage is unpleasant to think about. The departure of God is far more serious than missing a chance to see Elvis. But God's action is a necessary consequence of the people's disobedience. After all, if God were to decide He could live with evil, He would hardly be worth worshipping.

     

    For churches and individual believers today, there's a serious warning here. We must not assume God will hang around just because He's been with us or our ancestors in the past. Unless we constantly retune our hearts to fit His, sooner or later He is bound to withdraw His blessing from us like He did the people of Jerusalem. This means we need to attend to our relationship with God if we expect to feel his presence and blessing in our lives.

     

    The wonder of God

     

    But there's another side to this passage. Notice that the glory of the LORD doesn't disappear altogether. It stays nearby. God separates Himself from evil but does not desert His people. In fact, God's glory stops east of the city, in the direction of Babylon. And earlier in the book, Ezekiel has seen God's glory in Babylon itself (see Ezekiel 1:1-28). So God, who punishes His people with exile, also goes with them into that exile.

     

    I am amazed, not only by the strange splendor of Ezekiel's vision but amazed by God himself! I'm amazed that God would stoop to share in the hurt and indignity of the punishment he imposed. And like those Elvis fans, through the cloud of Ezekiel's vision I glimpse my own hero, Jesus. In Jesus, God has come to us in our land of exile. He walks alongside us in this hurtful and undignified world. He suffers with and for us. He has not left us after all.

     

     

     

    Jack Klumpenhower is a freelance writer, communications consultant, and church curriculum writer living in North Carolina.

  • How to Love Meanies and Misfits

    How to Love Meanies and Misfits

     

    Are you like me? I often find myself edging away from people who aren't fun to be with. I avoid those who don't fit in or might not be nice to me, but Jesus said, "Love your enemies" (Matthew 5:44).

     

    Such love isn't easy. The Apostle Paul wrote, "I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding" (Philippians 1:9, NLT). You see, the Bible links loving with getting to know and understand Jesus, which is a lifelong process. Thankfully, the Bible also points out markers along this road-truths we can learn and pray about and begin to live out-that help us love those meanies and misfits. Here are four of them:

     

    1.Understand Your Own Failure.

     

    Jesus told the proud Jewish leaders, "I know you don't have God's love within you" (John 5:42, NLT). Pride and love don't mix. As we realize how deeply we've failed God and how he loves us anyway, we become less critical of others. When we stop being judgmental, we're able to love other messed up people.

     

    2.Know Where Your Security Lies.

     

    Paul told the Colossian believers that their love came from their confident hope in what God had reserved for them in heaven (Colossians 1:5). Loving hard-to-love people is risky. We may lose money, time, reputation and privacy. Only a deep assurance that God will take care of us and give us great rewards will free us to sacrifice self-security for the sake of other people.

     

    3.Live In Community.

     

    The Bible says, "Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds" (Hebrews 10:24, NLT). We cannot overcome pride and self-security without other believers to help us. We must admit our struggles to each other, daily if possible, and encourage each other with God's promises.

     

    4.Most Importantly, Believe Your Status In Jesus.

     

    Jesus is the best there ever was at loving meanies and misfits. He befriended smelly fishermen, prostitutes, dishonest tax collectors, and the thief on the cross next to him. If Jesus were anyone else, this would make us say, "Why bother? I could never love so well."  But Jesus is our Savior who died and rose for us, so the way he loved becomes our résumé. What's more, God "has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love" (Romans 5:5, NLT). Who you are-both your standing before God and your heart itself-has fundamentally and forever changed.

     

    Until we reach the next life, our love for meanies and misfits will be a struggle. But we go at it with confidence because we know it is our calling and our true heart. Never think this love is beyond your grasp. No! You are a child of God. Love for others is your birthright, your anthem and your destiny.

     

    Read more: Read Luke 18:35-19:10. What two people does Jesus choose to love on his visit to Jericho? Think about the humbleness and the assurance of God's approval that Jesus must have had as he befriended these people.

     

    Jack Klumpenhower is a freelance writer, communications consultant, and church curriculum writer living in North Carolina.

  • Jesus’ New Way to Think

    Jesus’ New Way to Think

     

    Mark 1:14-15

     

    “Repent! The end is near!” In movies and cartoons, this phrase is typically found on handmade signs held by self-righteous, alarmist crackpots. So you may be puzzled to open the Bible, come across a summary of Jesus’ preaching, and realize that Jesus said nearly the same thing.

     

    Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News. “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News.” (Mark 1:14-15, NLT

     

    Since we’ve heard words like these before, we might miss what Jesus really meant. So let’s examine three points he’s making.

     

    1.“Repent”

     

    Unlike fanatics in the movies, when Jesus says “repent” He is not scolding, nor is He merely calling for a superficial change in outward behavior. It goes deeper than that. It involves a fundamental change in mental attitude.

     

    Followers of Jesus re-think. We develop new core ideas about what it means to be successful and how to get that success. We hate the idea of merely trying harder to be good. Instead, we realize that deep, lasting change in behavior only happens when we’re changed on the inside.

     

    2.“The Kingdom Of God Is Near”

     

    The call to repent is Jesus’ invitation to join a movement unlike any other: God’s Kingdom. Political kingdoms thrive on military power and shrewd alliances. Business empires grow rich through aggressive competition. Personal dynasties are built on charisma. But God’s Kingdom is altogether different. It is powered by peace, love, and sacrifice, and it is populated with outcasts.

     

    God’s Kingdom also stands apart from other religious systems. Other religions tell people to find God and earn his favor. Jesus is the opposite. He comes, as God, and finds His people. He brings the Kingdom near to us and we receive him. All this is part of the new mindset.

     

    3.“Believe The Good News”

     

    The most startling feature of God’s Kingdom is that it springs from “Good News.” News is something that happens. It’s a real story. Unlike other religious leaders, Jesus wants His followers to center their re-thinking not exclusively on His teaching or wisdom, but also on the story of His life.

     

    All too often, our thinking is muddled and selfish, yet Jesus died and rose again for us. His sacrifice lets us share in God’s Kingdom as His Spirit teaches us to think more clearly. That’s news! Jesus’ life story gives us everything we need. It frees us to stop living for those political and business and personal kingdoms, and embrace Jesus’ new way to think.

     

    Read More: Read Romans 12:2. How is “re-thinking” a central part of a believer’s life? What are its benefits?

     

    Jack Klumpenhower is a freelance writer, communications consultant, and church curriculum writer living in North Carolina.

  • Work: A Job Made in Heaven

    Work: A Job Made in Heaven

     

    You do not have to have a perfect job to serve God! Although God does bless some people with wonderful careers, He does not promise us a job made in heaven. This lesson will teach you God’s purpose for work and how to honor Him, even in what the world considers to be an ordinary job. You will be encouraged to use the abilities God has given you in the job where He has placed you.

     

    Starter

     

    1. When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

     

    2. What is the best job you have ever had?

     

    Study

     

    Read the following three sets of Bible passages and application notes. Answer the questions for each set before moving on to the next.

     

    Genesis 3:17-19

     

    And to the man he said, “Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains. By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust and to dust you will return.”

     

    Work is God’s idea. After God created Adam, He placed Adam in charge of caring for the Garden of Eden. The work was enjoyable and completely fulfilling. But when Adam and Eve sinned, they were kicked out of Eden, and their work became a struggle against the elements in order to provide food, clothing, and shelter for themselves and their family. Work was no longer refreshing and delightful but a curse, involving painful toil. Today, we are still under this curse, but it is possible to experience moments of satisfaction in our work. If we are searching for the perfect job, however, we will only be disappointed. Every job will involve frustration and toil. But we should strive to do  our best and honor God in our work.

     

    3. Why do you think so many people are unfulfilled or dissatisfied in their jobs?

     

    4. Why is it important to realize that work is created by God but spoiled by sin?

     

    5. What struggles or challenges do you face at work?

     

    6. How does this passage enable you to face those difficulties?

     

    Matthew 25:14-15, 19-21

     

    “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip. . . .

     

    “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’

     

    “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more                          responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’”

     

    Jesus is coming back—we know that is true. Does this mean we should quit our jobs in order to serve God? No, it means we are to use what we have well until He returns. The talents in this parable represent any kind of resource we are given. God gives us time, gifts, money, and other resources according to our abilities. He expects us to use them wisely. For a few people, this may mean changing professions. For most of us, it means doing our daily work out of love for God. You are responsible to use well the talents God has given you.

     

    7. When have you been tempted to quit your job? Why?

     

    8. What is one skill or talent that God has given you?

     

    9. How does that skill help you fulfill your responsibilities at work?

     

    10. How can you make better use of the talents God has given you?

     

    1 Corinthians 7:20-22

     

    Yes, each of you should remain as you were when God called you. Are you a slave? Don’t let that worry you—but if you get a chance to be free, take it. 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.

     

    Apparently the Corinthians were making sweeping changes without thinking through the ramifications. Paul wrote to say that people should be Christians where God has placed them. You can do God’s work and demonstrate your faith anywhere. Often we are so concerned about what we could be doing for God elsewhere that we miss great opportunities right here and now. Paul says that when someone becomes a Christian, he or she should usually continue with the work he or she has previously been doing—provided it isn’t immoral or unethical. Don’t assume that you are in the wrong line of work. You may be just exactly where God wants you.

     

    11. In what way can your work also be a ministry?

     

    12. How can you know if your job is the one that God wants you to have?

     

    13. What commonsense advice would you give to a new believer who finds him- or herself in the wrong line of work?

     

    14. How can you ensure that you are doing your work for God’s glory?

     

    Summary

     

    Scripture does not tell us how to find the “perfect” job, but it does tell us that no job is perfect anymore. Work was created by God but spoiled by the Fall. God gives us work to do and asks us to do it for His glory. We should carefully explore the gifts God has given us and find work to match those gifts and then commit ourselves to faithfully complete our work.

     

    15. What could you do differently this week that would bring honor to God through your work?

     

    Supplemental Questions

     

    Read Exodus 35:30-36:7:

     

    Then Moses told the people of Israel, “The Lord has specifically chosen Bezalel son of Uri, grandson of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. The Lord has filled Bezalel with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts. He is a master craftsman, expert in working with gold, silver, and bronze. He is skilled in engraving and mounting gemstones and in carving wood. He is a master at every craft. And the Lord has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to      teach their skills to others. The Lord has given them special skills as engravers, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple, and scarlet thread on fine linen cloth, and weavers. They excel as craftsmen and as designers.

     

    “The Lord has gifted Bezalel, Oholiab, and the other skilled craftsmen with wisdom and ability to perform any task involved in building the sanctuary. Let them construct and furnish the Tabernacle, just as the Lord has commanded.”

     

    So Moses summoned Bezalel and Oholiab and all the others who were specially gifted by the Lord and were eager to get to work. Moses gave them the materials donated by the people of Israel as sacred offerings for the completion of the sanctuary. But the people continued to bring additional gifts each morning. Finally the craftsmen who were working on the sanctuary left their work. They went to Moses and reported, “The people have given more than enough materials to complete the job the Lord has commanded us to do!”

     

    So Moses gave the command, and this message was sent throughout the camp: “Men and women, don’t prepare any more gifts for the sanctuary. We have enough!” So the people stopped bringing their sacred offerings. Their contributions were more than enough to complete the whole project.

     

    This passage describes the blending of various artistic and construction skills in the building of the traveling sanctuary. It is easy to think that God would provide people with “spiritual” abilities like leadership, preaching, and healing to serve in the tabernacle. And yet Bezalel was filled with God’s Spirit in such a way that all his artistic and design skills took on an added quality appropriate to the work he was called to do. God is the source of our skills, and he wants us to use them. Even if our work is not what we think of as “spiritual,” it can still be done to God’s glory.

     

    16. Why do we tend to think that only spiritual work is worthwhile?

     

    17. What do you do well that some or many would not consider spiritual?

     

    18. How can you change the way you work to better employ the creative abilities God has given you?

     

    Read 2 Samuel 5:12:

     

    And David realized that the Lord had confirmed him as king over Israel and had blessed his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.

     

     Although the pagan kingdoms based their greatness on conquest, power, and wealth, David knew that his greatness came only from God. He kept his ambition under control by keeping a close relationship with God. Although he was famous, successful, and well liked, David gave God first place in his life and served the people according to God’s purposes.

     

    19. How can ambition keep us from serving God in our work?

     

    20. How can we keep our ambition under control?

     

    21. What can you do at work to acknowledge God and fulfill his purposes?

     

    Read Isaiah 45:1:

     

    This is what the Lord says to Cyrus, his anointed one, whose right hand he will empower. Before him, mighty kings will be paralyzed with fear. Their fortress gates will be opened, never to shut again.

     

    This is the only place in the Bible where a Gentile ruler is said to be “anointed.” God anointed Cyrus because he had a special task for him to do for Israel. Cyrus allowed God’s city, Jerusalem, to be rebuilt, and he set the exiles free to resettle there. Few kings of Israel or Judah did as much for God’s people as Cyrus did.

     

    22. What does it mean to be anointed by God for a special task?

     

    23. How does God call us to work for him today?

     

    24. What can Christians do if they feel they have missed God’s calling for their life?

     

    Read John 3:22-30:

     

    Then Jesus and his disciples left Jerusalem and went into the Judean countryside. Jesus spent some time with them there, baptizing people.

     

    At this time John the Baptist was baptizing at Aenon, near Salim, because there was plenty of water there; and people kept coming to him for baptism. (This was before John was thrown into prison.) A debate broke out between John’s disciples and a certain Jew over ceremonial cleansing. So John’s disciples came to him and said, “Rabbi, the man you met on the other side of the Jordan River, the one you identified as the Messiah, is also baptizing people. And everybody is going to him instead of coming to us.”

     

     

    John replied, “No one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven. You yourselves know how plainly I told you, ‘I am not the Messiah. I am only here to prepare the     way for him.’ It is the bridegroom who marries the bride, and the best man is simply glad to stand with him and hear his vows. Therefore, I am filled with joy at his success. He     must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.

     

    John’s main purpose was to point people to Christ. His disciples wondered why He continued to baptize people even after Jesus came onto the scene. John explained that because God had given him his work, he had to continue it until God called him to do something else. Even with Jesus beginning His own ministry, John could still do the job God had given him.

     

    25. What does John’s response to his disciples reveal about his attitude toward work?

     

    26. Is it easy or difficult for you to stay humble in your line of work? What helps you to stay humble?

     

    27. How can we keep from becoming distracted or sidetracked from the work God gives us?

     

    Read 1 Corinthians 15:58:

     

    So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.

     

    Paul says that because of the Resurrection, nothing we do is in vain. Sometimes we hesitate to commit ourselves fully to our work because we do not see any results. But if we maintain a heavenly perspective, we will not expect to always see the good that results from our efforts. Do not let discouragement over an apparent lack of results keep you from working hard. Do the good that you have the opportunity to do, knowing that your work will have eternal results. Be confident that when you work for God, all your effort is worthwhile.

     

    28. What kind of work is never a waste of time?

     

    29. In light of this passage, how can we deal with discouragement on the job?

     

    30. How can you remind yourself of this passage the next time you feel discouraged about your work?

     

    This study is adapted from Work: Life Application Bible Studies (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1996).

  • Money: All That Glitters

    Money: All That Glitters

     

     Change is never easy, especially when it comes to spending habits. It is more comfortable to continue our present spending habits than to learn how to use money more wisely. Fortunately, the Bible provides an abundance of practical instruction on using money. Sometimes it hurts to hear God's instruction on this topic. But those who are growing in Christ will want to please him in the way they use their God-given resources as well. This lesson will help you examine your own attitudes and actions concerning money in light of God's Word.

     

    Starter

     

    1. How much money would it take to make you feel rich?

     

    2. In what ways do you think your life would be easier if you had more money?

     

    Study

     

    Read the following three sets of Bible passages and application notes. Answer the questions for each set before moving on to the next.

     

    Deuteronomy 8:17-18

     

    He did all this so you would never say to yourself, "I have achieved this wealth with my own strength and energy." Remember the Lord your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful, in order to fulfill the covenant he confirmed to your ancestors with an oath.

     

         Most people, when they are financially well off, take credit for their good fortune and prosperity. They believe that their hard work and cleverness have made them rich. They may become so busy collecting and managing wealth that      they push God out of their lives. Moses reminded the Israelites that it is God who blesses them with abundance. He wants us to have the attitude of stewards, rather than owners. In other words, God asks His people to manage wealth for Him.

     

    3. Why is it so easy to forget that God provides for our financial needs?

     

    4. What does it mean to manage wealth for God? Why do people tend to depend on money to solve their problems instead of depending on God?

     

    5. How can you guard against becoming overconfident in your financial security?

     

    Mark 10:23-25

     

    Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!" This amazed them. But Jesus said again, "Dear children, it is very hard to enter the Kingdom of God. In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!"

     

    The young man in this story approached Jesus to find out how he could be sure he would have eternal life. Jesus told him to "go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor." This challenge exposed the barrier that      was keeping this young man from the kingdom: his love of money. Money can become a barrier between people and God. Christians need to be willing to give up anything that may harm their faith or stand in the way of their relationship with God. Having this kind of attitude will keep Christians from using their God-given wealth selfishly.

     

    7. What are the various ways in which people learn personal financial management?

     

    8. How can money get in the way of doing what God wants us to do?

     

    9. How can you tell if money has control over you?

     

    10. What committed Christian friend could help you evaluate your use of money?

     

    Matthew 6:19-21

     

    Don't store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

     

    The world tells us to do whatever it takes to succeed financially. But Jesus says that storing up treasure in heaven is more important than storing up material possessions here on earth. Instead of focusing on how many things you can acquire, use your financial resources to care for your family, help those in need, and spread the gospel. In this way, your earthly investment will bring eternal benefit.

     

    11. What does it mean for us to store up "treasures in heaven"?

     

    12. If anything were possible, how would you use your money for eternal benefit?

     

    13. What are some common ways that Christians misuse their financial resources?

     

    14. What practical steps can we take to keep a proper perspective on possessions and material wealth?

     

    Summary

     

    The three passages we explored in this lesson show us that (1) all wealth comes from God, (2) Christians must be careful not to let their money become a barrier between them and God, and (3) God wants believers to use their financial wealth for eternal benefit. How you handle money is a good indicator of the Lordship of Christ in your life. The key to using it wisely is to see how much can be used for God's purposes.

     

    15. How do you need to adjust your lifestyle to reflect biblical principles on wealth?

     

    16. What first step can you take this week to begin to master your money instead of letting it control you?

     

    Supplemental Questions

     

    Read Psalm 119:36:

     

    Give me an eagerness for your laws rather than a love for money!

     

    In today's world, people crave financial gain. Money represents power, influence, and success. For many people, money is a god. They think about little else. True, money can buy certain comforts and offer some security. But far more important than financial independence is spiritual dependence on God.

     

    17. What is more important to you: earning a living or spending time with God?

     

    18. How do your actions back up or contradict your previous answer?

     

    Read Ecclesiastes 10:19:

     

    A party gives laughter, wine gives happiness, and money gives everything!

     

    Government leaders, businesses, families, even some churches get trapped into thinking money is the answer to every problem. Throwing money at problems does seem to bring immediate results for some problems. But just as the      thrill of wine is only temporary, the soothing effect of spending soon wears off, and people have to spend more. Scripture recognizes that money is necessary for survival, but it warns against the love of money. Loving money is dangerous because it deceives people into thinking that wealth is the easiest way to get everything they want. In addition, the love of money is sinful because people trust money rather than God to solve their problems. Those who pursue wealth's empty promises will one day discover that they have nothing because they are spiritually bankrupt.

     

    19. How have you seen governments try to fix social problems by spending money?

     

    20. How have you tried to solve your own problems by spending money?

     

    21. Instead of spending money, what else could you do to deal with one of your problems?

     

    Read Acts 4:32-37:

     

    All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God's great blessing was upon them all. There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need.

     

    For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means "Son of Encouragement"). He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus. He sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles.

     

    Recognizing the other believers as brothers and sisters in the family of God, the Christians in Jerusalem shared all they had so that all could benefit from God's gifts. It is tempting-especially if we have material wealth-to cut ourselves off from one another, each taking care of his or her own little piece of the world. But as part of God's family, it is our responsibility to help one another in every way possible. God's family works best when its members work together.

     

    22. In these passages, what people received money or gifts?

     

    23. How can you use your money to help meet the needs of others?

     

    Read Acts 8:18-23:

     

    When Simon saw that the Spirit was given when the apostles laid their hands on people, he offered them money to buy this power. "Let me have this power, too," he exclaimed, "so that when I lay my hands on people, they will  receive the Holy Spirit!"

     

    But Peter replied, "May your money be destroyed with you for thinking God's gift can be bought! You can have no part in this, for your heart is not right with God. Repent of your wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive your evil thoughts, for I can see that you are full of bitter jealousy and are held captive by sin."

     

    "Everyone has a price" seems to be true in our world of bribes, wealth, and materialism. Simon thought he could buy the Holy Spirit's power, but Peter harshly rebuked him. The only way to receive God's power is to do what Peter  told Simon to do-turn from sin, ask God's forgiveness, and be filled with his Spirit. No amount of money can buy salvation or God's power.

     

    24. How do some people try to "buy" God's favor today?

     

    25. Why do you think some people try to buy God's favor?

     

    Read James 5:1-6:

     

    Look here, you rich people: Weep and groan with anguish because of all the terrible troubles ahead of you. Your wealth is rotting away, and your fine clothes are moth-eaten rags. Your gold and silver have become worthless. The very wealth you were counting on will eat away your flesh like fire. This treasure you have accumulated will stand as evidence against you on the day of judgment. For listen! Hear the cries of the field workers whom you have cheated of their pay. The wages you held back cry out against you. The cries of those who harvest your fields have reached the ears of the Lord of Heaven's Armies.

     

     You have spent your years on earth in luxury, satisfying your every desire. You have fattened yourselves for the day of slaughter. You have condemned and killed innocent people, who do not resist you.

     

     In these verses, James proclaims the worthlessness of riches but does not say that money in itself is evil. Christian leaders need money to live and to support their families. Missionaries need money to help them spread the gospel. Churches need money to do their work effectively. It is the love of money that leads to evil and causes some people to oppress others in order to get more.

     

    26. How does money's influence tempt people to disregard others?

     

    27. In what ways does money make people more selfish?

     

    28. What attitudes do you have about money that you need to change and guard your heart against?

     

    This study is adapted from Money: Life Application Bible Studies (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1996).

     

     

  • What is the Bible all about?

    What is the Bible all about?

     

    Do you have questions about life, friends, family, God, or your future? If so, the Bible is for you! Thousands of people just like you find their lives more meaningful because of the Bible's message. People all over the world turn to it to find answers to questions like:

     

    Does God really care about me?

     

    What does God expect of me?

     

    Can I really make a difference in the world?

     

    Is it really possible to live forever?

     

    Is there really a hell? Is heaven for real?

     

    Does God really listen when we pray?

     

    What should I do with my life?

     

    But the Bible is more than an answer book to turn to when the pressures of life are overwhelming. It is really a library of books. It's filled with stories about real people. It has great poetry and beautiful songs. It has prophecies and promises. But most important, it is the true story of God's visiting our earth through his Son, Jesus Christ.

     

    As you read about Him, you will discover the most terrific friend you could ever have-someone who's around twenty-four hours a day, any time you need Him! So take some time each day to read the Bible. It could be the most important and life-changing step you will ever take.

     

    The Message of the Bible

     

    The Bible begins by telling how the eternal God created the world and everything in it. He gave people a beautiful place to live and supplied everything they needed. Best of all, He was their friend.

     

    That glorious beginning, however, was ruined when people disobeyed God and plunged into rebellion and sin. This broke humanity's relationship with God and brought judgment and death to the earth, its creatures, and humanity itself. Even so, God did not abandon his disobedient creatures. He set out to reclaim fallen people, much as a shepherd sets out to restore lost sheep to the fold.

     

     

     

    The Old Testament provides many references to a special individual who would provide salvation for his people. That special individual, the Messiah, was not to be merely a man, however. The Messiah was to be "Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14; 8:8), which in Hebrew means "God is with us." The Messiah would be both God and man, and those prophecies were fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ.

     

    When Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sin, he also removed all guilt produced by that sin and restored the broken relationship between God and humanity. Furthermore, he lives today and speaks continually to God on our behalf. "Therefore he is able, once and for ever, to save everyone who comes to God through him" (Hebrews 7:24-25). He gives eternal life to all who trust in Him.

     

    How to Study the Bible

     

    To get the most out of this Bible, you will need to study it on a regular and orderly basis. You may, however, have some questions. You may wonder, Where do I begin reading? Or, What do I need to know before I start? The following paragraphs and features will help you get started and give you some important hints and information to help you begin an effective study of the Bible.

     

    Pray for Wisdom and Understanding

     

    The most often overlooked and undervalued aspect of Bible study is prayer. Yet prayer is essential to gaining wisdom and understanding when you read God's Word. Through prayer, you can approach God and acknowledge your incomplete knowledge of His Word, as well as your need for Him to open your heart to His instruction. So determine to begin each time of study with prayer. Only God can give you the wisdom to understand His Word.

     

    Read in an Orderly Manner

     

    If you receive a letter from a friend and read only a few sentences here and there, the letter will not make much sense. But sadly, this is how many approach their study of the Bible. They read a portion of Matthew, a story from Daniel, a verse or two from Exodus, and then a chapter or so from Revelation and wonder why they don't have a clear understanding of God's Word. They often misinterpret the meaning of a passage because they fail to grasp the larger context from which the passage or verse comes.

     

     

     

    To avoid such pitfalls, you need to discipline yourself to read the Bible in an orderly manner. One way to do this is to use an established reading plan. A reading plan lists Scripture passages to be read in a certain order. Many of the existing plans were created with a goal in mind. Some plans break the whole Bible down into 365 daily readings. Others help you read through the Bible in the order that the events actually happened.

     

    One such reading plan is based on fifty-two great Bible stories that all Christians should be familiar with. This plan touches on great accounts of God's work in history, giving you the large sweep of the contents of the Bible. Another reading plan, the one-year New Testament reading plan, will lead you through the entire New Testament in a year. In this plan, you will read through the gospel accounts of Christ's life and study God's wisdom for believers in the letters to early Christians. Some of you may prefer a more topical approach to your Bible study. In the following topical indexes, the truths of the Bible are related to real life issues. You may want to look for topics that are of special concern to you and study the related Scriptures to see what God's Word has to say.

     

    Finish What You Start

     

    In life, the benefits of doing anything are often not realized until the task is completed. The same is true when reading a book from the Bible. Once you choose a book to read, read it from beginning to end. Although you may benefit spiritually by reading a verse from one book or a story from another, you will benefit more by reading the entire book from which the verse or story came. Reading the entire book puts each verse and story in its proper context. Thus, you will have a better understanding of what each verse and story means. In addition, by reading books from beginning to end you will become more familiar with the Bible as a whole. You may even discover passages that will one day become your favorites.

     

    Meditate on God's Word

     

    Thinking or meditating about what you have read helps you to discover the importance of a given passage. It also helps you to examine your life in light of what God reveals in His Word. One of the best ways to begin meditating on God's Word is to ask questions. Here are a few questions to help you get started: What is the main subject of the passage? To whom is this passage addressed? Who is speaking? About what or whom is the person speaking? What is the key verse? What does this passage teach me about God? To see how the text might apply to you personally, ask yourself these questions:

     

     

     

    Is there any sin mentioned in the passage that I need to confess or stop doing?

     

    Is there a command given that I should obey?

     

    Is there a promise made that I can apply to my current circumstances?

     

    Is there a prayer given that I could pray?

     

    Invest in a Few Good Resource Books

     

    The Bible alludes to many ancient customs that are unfamiliar to us today. So the subtle meaning behind such allusions can easily be lost to us. To understand the culture in which the Bible was written, you may want to purchase a few good biblical resource books.

     

    There are two types of resource books you should look into purchasing: first, a one- or two-volume commentary on the whole Bible; and second, a Bible dictionary. Most one- or two-volume commentaries are concise. They give you the necessary information on important words, phrases, and verses from the Bible. They will not give you commentary on each verse, and they will not go into detailed explanations on any one verse. But they are good resources to help you begin to understand God's Word in its ancient context.

     

    Bible dictionaries contain short articles (in alphabetical order) on people, places, and objects found in the Bible. Most Bible dictionaries also contain maps, diagrams, and pictures of biblical cities, regions, and artifacts. Bible dictionaries also cost between fifteen and thirty-five pounds. You can find these resources wherever Christian books are sold.

     

    If you apply these practices to your daily personal Bible study, you are bound to develop habits that will help you grow in your faith.

  • Why the Sabbath Really Matters

    Why the Sabbath Really Matters

     

    Observing a Sabbath-a period of rest-has gone out of fashion. But it is a huge theme in the Bible. It's one of the Ten Commandments and a key cultural mark of God's people.

     

    The Sabbath is tangible. People in the Bible take real rest from real work. The Sabbath enters the guts of day-to-day existence, creating shared habits, rituals, and language-culture. In 1 Peter 2:9, the Bible calls believers a "holy nation." Like any other nation, our unique culture has vast implications. Tangible practices like Sabbath-keeping determine how we think and live for God.

     

    Here are some of the fundamental life attitudes that the Bible says flow with the Sabbath:

     

    Live for God, not for yourself. "Keep the Sabbath day holy. Don't pursue your own interests on that day" (Isaiah 58:13).

     

    Trust God to provide. "Stop carrying on your trade at Jerusalem's gates on the Sabbath day" (Jeremiah 17:21).

     

    Follow God's example. "And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation" (Genesis 2:3).

     

    Devote attention to worship. "[Jesus] went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath" (Luke 4:16).

     

    Practice good deeds. "Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?" (Luke 6:9)

     

    Be stewards of the earth. "The land itself must observe a Sabbath rest" (Leviticus 25:2).

     

    Remember how God saved you. "Remember that you were once slaves in Egypt, but the LORD your God brought you out with his strong hand and powerful arm. That is why the LORD your God has commanded you to rest on the Sabbath day" (Deuteronomy 5:15).

     

    This list shows that Sabbath-keeping isn't just a single idea. Rather, the Sabbath reinforces an entire godly lifestyle. Our worship, good deeds, stewardship, trust, and theology all suffer if we neglect the Sabbath.

     

     Colossians 2:17 tells us, "These rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality." This is an amazing claim. It says that our special-day Sabbaths, so real and practical, are only shadows compared to the day-to-day realness of Jesus.

     

    Jesus gives a real rest that reaches our souls. We live with real power to love hard-to-love people because Jesus really died to put sin to rest. His sacrifice gives us real acceptance with God, real friendship in prayer, and a real, bodily, eternal life of rest beyond the grave.

     

    Do we believe this? Do we believe prayer, heaven, and forgiveness are a Sabbath even more down-to-earth than our decision about how to spend the weekend? We must believe. We must keep this Sabbath. We must immerse ourselves in the Sabbath of Jesus.

     

    Whenever we preach and teach, study the Bible, help the needy, pray and meditate, we must pay constant attention to this Sabbath-to the wonders of forgiveness in Jesus and heaven to come. This will create a culture of God. It will have vast implications for how we think and live, as any Sabbath should.

     

    Read More: Read the Sabbath command in both accounts of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:8-11 and Deuteronomy 5:12-15). How does the reason behind the Sabbath differ? Why would the Sabbath be central to both the creative and the saving work of God?

     

    Jack Klumpenhower is a freelance writer, communications consultant, and church curriculum writer living in North Carolina.

  • Why Study the Bible?

    Why Study the Bible?

     

    Do you avoid the Bible? Perhaps the Bible was a part of your past, but it's spent years on your shelf collecting dust. Perhaps you've tried reading it and you've given up. You may be saying, "The Bible puts me to sleep. I can barely understand it. Will it really do anything for me?" The short answer is yes! The Bible can change your life.

     

    Let's back up from that question for a minute and consider what the Bible is. "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives" (2 Timothy 3:16). This means that the message of the Bible comes from God himself. To understand what kind of book the Bible is, we need to look at who God is.

     

    God is the creator and ruler of the universe. He created all of humanity, and it is God who defines the moral laws that govern humanity. He is very close to us in His care and attention and yet far beyond us in His wisdom and power. There is no one like Him. It's no accident that people call it the Holy Bible. As the unique communication from our mysterious and all-powerful King, it is sacred. For that reason alone it deserves our respect and attention.

     

    But the Bible was written for our benefit, and it benefits us in a number of ways. For one thing, since it's the Word of God himself, the Bible is a source of truth. In fact, it is the yardstick of truth. It gives us an anchor so we will not be lost on the sea of public opinion. The truth it reveals is primarily about God and our relationship to him. With this knowledge we are able to love, serve, and worship him.

     

    The Bible also provides us truth on a very personal level. It gives us principles to live by, guidance for our everyday decisions, and motivation to follow God's ways. In that sense the Bible is not passive like many other books. It has the capacity to change us. "For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires" (Hebrews 4:12).

     

    The Scriptures are one of the keys to spiritual growth and vitality. In Psalm 1, the psalmist writes about true believers, "They delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do" (Psalm 1:2-3).

     

    We should feed our spirits as regularly as we feed our bodies. If we don't, we may be in danger of spiritual starvation. Let God's Word be your guide to living a life that is nourished by God's Word.

     

     

     

    This article is adapted from "The Importance of Bible Study" by Clark H. Pinnock and "What Will the Bible Do For Me?" by John Perkins, in Practical Christianity, edited by LaVonne Neff, Ron Beers, et al (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1987).

  • How To Have Meaningful Time With God

    How To Have Meaningful Time With God

     

    Once you're convinced that a daily quiet time is necessary for spiritual growth, then how do you go about having one? You may be motivated to do it but may not know how.

     

    You need to consider four essentials elements of a good quiet time:

     

     1. Start With The Proper Attitudes.

     

     2. Select A Specific Time.

     

     3. Choose A Special Place.

     

     4. Follow A Simple Plan.

     

    1. START WITH THE PROPER ATTITUDES

     

    In God's eyes, why you do something is far more important than what you do.

     

    On one occasion God told Samuel, "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."~1 Samuel 16:7

     

    It is quite possible to do the right thing but with the wrong attitude.

     

    This was Amaziah's problem, for "he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord but not wholeheartedly."(2 Chronicles 25:2)

     

    When you come to meet with God in the quiet time, you should have these proper attitudes:

     

    Expectancy - Come before God with anticipation and eagerness. Expect to have a good time of fellowship with Him and receive a blessing from your time together. That was what David expected: "O God, You are my God, earnestly I seek You." (Psalm 63:1)

     

    Reverence - Don't rush into God's presence, but prepare your heart by being still before Him and letting the quietness clear away the thoughts of the world. Listen to the prophet Habakkuk: "The Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth be silent before Him." (Habakkuk 2:20; see also Psalm 89:7) Coming into the presence of the Lord is not like going to a football game or some other form of entertainment.

     

    Alertness - Get wide-awake first. Remember that you are meeting with the Creator, the Maker of heaven and earth, the Redeemer of men. Be thoroughly rested and alert. The best preparation for a quiet time in the morning begins the night before. Get to bed early so you will be in good shape to meet God in the morning; He deserves your full attention.

     

    Willingness To Obey - This attitude is crucial: you don't come to your quiet time to choose what you will do or not do, but with the purpose of doing anything and everything that God wants you to do. Jesus said, "If anyone chooses to do God's will he will find out whether My teaching comes from God or whether I speak on My own." (John 7:17) So come to meet the Lord having already chosen to do His will no matter what.

     

     2. SELECT A SPECIFIC TIME

     

    The specific time has to do with when you should have your quiet time and how long it should be. The general rule is this: The best time is when you are at your best! Give God the best part of your day - when you are the freshest and most alert. Don't try to serve God with your leftovers (leftover time). Remember, too, that your best time may be different from someone else's.

     

    For most of us, however, early in the morning seems to be the best time. It was Jesus' own practice to rise early to pray and meet with the Father: "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed." (Mark 1:35)

     

    In the Bible many godly men and women rose early to meet with God. Some of these were:

     

    Abraham - Genesis 19:27 Moses - Exodus 34:4

     

    Job - Job 1:5

     

    Hannah and Elkanah - 1 Samuel 1:19

     

    Jacob - Genesis 28:18 David - Psalms 5:3, 57:7,8 (See also Psalm 143:8; Isaiah 26:9; Ezekiel 12:8.)

     

    Throughout church history many Christians who were used most by God met with Him early in the morning. Hudson Taylor said, "You don't tune up the instruments after the concert is over. That's stupid. It's logical to tune them up before you start.

     

    "The great revival among British college students in the late 19th century began those historic words: "Remember the Morning Watch!" So we need to tune ourselves up at the start of each day as we remember the Morning Watch.

     

    If Jesus is really in first place in our lives, we ought to give Him the first part of our day. We are to seek His Kingdom first (see Matthew 6:33). Doctors tell us that the most important meal of the day is breakfast. It often determines our energy levels, alertness, and even moods for the day. Likewise, we need a "spiritual breakfast" to start our day off right.

     

    Finally, in the morning our minds are uncluttered from the day's activities. Our thoughts are fresh, we're rested; tensions have not yet come on us, and it's usually the quietest time. One mother sets her alarm clock for 4 a.m., has her quiet time, goes back to bed, and then rises when everyone else in the household gets up. Her explanation is that with kids around the house all day, early morning is the only time when it is quiet and she can be alone with God. It works for her; you need to select a time that will work for you.

     

    You might even consider having two quiet times (morning and night). Dawson Trotman, founder of the Navigators, used to have code letters for his night quiet time: HWLW. Whenever he was with a group of people at night or home with his wife and the conversation seemed to be ending, he would say, "All right, HWLW." HWLW stood for "His Word the Last Word;" and he practiced that through the years as a way of ending a day with one's thoughts fixed on the Lord.

     

    Stephen Olford, a great Christian and minister in New York for many years, said, "I want to hear the voice of God before I hear anyone else's in the morning, and His is the last voice I want to hear at night.

     

    "David and Daniel even met with the Lord three times each day (see Psalm 55:17; Daniel 6:10).

     

    Whatever time you set, be consistent in it. Schedule it on your calendar; make an appointment with God as you would with anyone else. Make a date with Jesus! Then look forward to it and don't stand Him up. A stood-up date is not a pleasant experience for us, and Jesus does not like to be stood up either. So make a date with Him and keep it at all costs.

     

    The question is often asked, "How much time should I spend with the Lord?" If you've never had a consistent quiet time before, you may want to start with seven minutes and let it grow naturally. You should aim to eventually spend not less than 15 minutes a day with the Lord. Out of 168 hours we all have during a given week, 1 hour and 45 minutes seems terribly small when you consider that you were created to have fellowship with God.

     

    Don't try for a two-hour quiet time at first. You'll only get discouraged. You must grow in this relationship as you do in any other. So begin with a consistent seven minutes and let it grow; it's better to be consistent with a short time than to meet for an hour every other week.

     

    Don't watch the clock. Clock-watching can ruin your quiet time faster than almost anything else. Decide what you can do in the Word and prayer during the time you have selected; then do it. Sometimes it will take longer than you have set aside, and sometimes less time. But don't keep looking at your watch.

     

    Don't emphasize on quantity, emphasize on quality. There is nothing super spiritual about having a two-hour quiet time. It's what you do during your time - 15 minutes or two hours or anything in between - that's important. Aim for a quality relationship with the Lord.

     

    3. CHOOSE A SPECIAL PLACE

     

    The location where you have your quiet time is also important. The Bible indicates that Abraham had a regular place where he met with God (Genesis 19:27). Jesus had a custom of praying in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. "Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and His disciples followed Him." (Luke 22:39, emphasis added)

     

    Your place ought to be a secluded place. This is a place where you can be alone, where it's quiet, and where you will not be disturbed or interrupted. In today's noisy Western World, this may take some ingenuity, but it is necessary. It ought to be a place ...

     

    Where you can pray aloud without disturbing others;

     

    Where you have good lighting for reading (a desk, perhaps);

     

    Where you are comfortable. (WARNING: Do not have your quiet time in bed. That's too comfortable!)

     

    Your place ought to be a special place. Wherever you decide to meet with the Lord, make it a special place for you and Him. As the days go by, that place will come to mean a lot to you because of the wonderful times you have there with Jesus Christ.

     

    Your place ought to be a sacred place. This is where you meet with the living God. Where you meet the Lord can be just as holy as the place where Abraham met God. You don't have to be in a church building. People have had their quiet times in their cars parked in a quiet place, in an empty closet at home, in their backyards, and even in a baseball dugout. Each of these places has become sacred to them.

     

    4. FOLLOW A SIMPLE PLAN

     

    Someone has said, "If you aim at nothing, you are sure to hit it!" To have a meaningful quiet time, you will need a plan or some kind of general outline to follow. The main rule is this: Keep your plan simple.

     

    You will need the following three items for your planned quiet times:

     

    A Bible - a contemporary translation (not a paraphrase) with good print, preferably without notes.

     

    A Notebook for writing down what the Lord shows you, and for making a prayer list.

     

    A Hymnbook - sometimes you may want to sing in your praise time (see Colossians 3:16).

     

    Wait on God (Relax). Be still for a minute; don't come running into God's presence and start talking immediately. Follow God's admonition: "Be still and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10; see also Isaiah 30:15; 40:31) Be quiet for a short while to put yourself into a reverent mood.

     

    Pray briefly (Request). This is not your prayer time, but a short opening prayer to ask God to cleanse your heart and guide you into the time together. Two good passages of Scripture to memorize are:

     

     "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Psalm 139:23-24; see also 1 John  1:9)

     

     "Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in Your law [the Word] ." (Psalm 119:18; see also John 16:13)

     

    You need to be in tune with the Author before you can understand His Book!

     

    Read a section of the Scripture (Read). This is where your conversation with God begins. He speaks to you through His Word, and you speak with Him in prayer.

     

    Read your Bible ...

     

    Slowly. Don't be in a hurry; don't try to read too large an amount; don't race through it.

     

    Repeatedly. Read a passage over and over until you start to picture it in your mind. The reason more people don't get more out of their Bible reading is that they do not read the Scriptures repeatedly.

     

    Without stopping. Don't stop in the middle of a sentence to go off on a tangent and do a doctrinal study. Just read that section for the pure joy of it, allowing God to speak to you. Remember that your goal here is not to gain information, but to feed on the Word and get to know Christ better.

     

    Aloud but quietly . Reading it aloud will improve your concentration, if you have that problem. It will also help you understand what you are reading better because you will be both seeing and hearing what you are reading. Read softly enough, however, so that you won't disturb anyone.

     

    Systematically. Read through a book at a time in an orderly method. Do not use the "random dip" method - a passage here, a chapter there, what you like here, an interesting portion there. You'll understand the Bible better if you read it as it was written - a book or letter at a time. To get a sweep of a book. On some occasions you may want to survey a whole book. In that case you will read it quickly to get a sweep of the total revelation. Then you need not read it slowly or repeatedly.

     

    Meditate and memorize (Reflect and Remember). In order to have the Scriptures speak to you meaningfully, you should meditate on what you are reading and memorize verses that particularly speak to you. Meditation is "seriously contemplating a thought over and over in your mind." Out of your meditation you might select and memorize a verse that is particularly meaningful to you. Write down what God has shown you (Record). When God speaks to you through His Word, record what you have discovered. Writing it down will enable you both to remember what God revealed to you and to check up on your biblical discoveries. Recording what God has shown you is the way of applying what you see in the Scripture that pertains to your life.

     

    Have your time of prayer (Request). After God has spoken to you through His Word, speak to Him in prayer. This is your part of the conversation with the Lord.

     

    What if you miss a day? Don't worry about it if it only happens occasionally. Don't go on a guilt trip. "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:1,)

     

    Don't get legalistic because missing one day does not make it a flop. BUT don't give up. If you miss a meal, it does not mean that you should give up eating because you're inconsistent. You simply eat a little more at the next meal and go on from there. This same principle is true with your quiet time.

     

    Psychologists tell us that it usually takes three weeks to get familiar with some new task or habit; it takes another three weeks before it becomes a habit. The reason why many people are not successful in their quiet times is because they have never made it past that six-week barrier. For your quiet time to become a habit, you must have had one daily for at least six weeks.

     

    Make a strong resolution (vow). You must always start with a strong initiative. If you begin halfheartedly, you'll never make it. Make a public declaration by telling others about your decision.

     

    Never allow an exception to occur until the new habit is securely rooted in your life. A habit is like a ball of twine. Every time you drop it, many strands are unwound. So never allow the "just this once" to occur. The act of yielding weakens the will and strengthens the lack of self­-control.

     

    Seize every opportunity and inclination to practice your new habit. Whenever you get the slightest urge to practice your new habit, do it right then. Don't wait, but use every opportunity to reinforce your habit. It does not hurt to overdo a new habit when you are first starting.

     

    Rely on the power of God. When it is all said and done, you must realize that you are in a spiritual battle, and you can only succeed by the power of the Holy Spirit of God. So pray that God will strengthen you and depend on Him to help you develop this habit for His glory.If you have been convinced that this is what you need to do, would you pray the following:

     

    A PRAYER OF COMMITMENT "Lord I commit myself to spending a definite time with You every day, no matter what the cost. I am depending on Your strength to help me to be consistent."

     

     Adapted  from Dynamic Bible Study Methods by Rick Warren.

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