Favorite Finds

Favorite Finds ~ January 14, 2020

Here are a few of my favorite online finds…

“How can I know with certainty what the Bible is saying? How can I be certain what books really belong in the Bible? How can I be sure that my interpretation of any text is correct, and, still more, what its proper application is…?” Have you ever tried to explain a biblical principle to someone only to hear the retort, “But That’s Just Your Interpretation!“? D.A. Carson has some helpful words for us in the latest issue of Themelios.

 

“Pastors, I have a plea for you. Please, love your women enough to warn them against false teachers. It isn’t enough to simply teach the good stuff; if they don’t know what is out there that is not good and why it isn’t good? They will continue to fall for it.” Check out Amy Spreeman’s article, When Seemingly Solid Pastors Fail to Protect Women.

 

“Christianity is sexist!” “The Bible is patriarchal and just wants to keep women down!” We hear these tired arguments trotted out again and again, but are they really true? No, Eric Davis explains in his excellent article over at Cripplegate, 10 Reasons Why the Bible Regards Women Higher than All Other Systems, “The fact is…the Bible regards women higher than any other ideology, religion, philosophy, or system in history. Nothing teaches a higher view of women than biblical Christianity.”

 

Crossway has an interesting infographic for us on a study they conducted on prayer: “Over 14,000 people recently shared about various aspects of their prayer lives with us…we invite you to dig into the data, looking at established prayer habits, common pain points, and useful practices and tools for prayer.” Take a look at Infographic: How Is Your Prayer Life?.

 

Hermeneutics is the lens through which we view Scripture. Dr. Dane Ortlund helpfully explains some right and wrong lenses to use when studying Scripture in 6 Ways Not to Read the Bible (a brief excerpt from a longer seminar). Are you handling Scripture correctly?


The resources listed above are not to be understood as a blanket endorsement for the websites on which they appear, or of everything the author or subject of the resource says or does. I do not endorse any person, website, or resource that conflicts with Scripture or the theology outlined in the Statement of Faith and Welcome tabs at the top of this page.
Prayer

Praying Scripture

Could you use a little change up in your prayer routine?

Sometimes, when I’ve been praying for months on end about certain situations – a loved one’s salvation, a stagnant circumstance that just won’t resolve itself, a need that God hasn’t yet provided – I feel like my daily time of prayer is stuck in a rut. Like I’m praying all the exact same things every day.

That doesn’t bother God, of course, and we are to be persistent and fervent with our requests, but every now and then I need a break from petitioning to focus on another aspect of prayer. And one of the ways I like to do that is to pray Scripture back to God.

Occasionally, I’ll sit down with my Bible and pray through a Psalm, but I usually have my prayer time while I’m out walking, so I have to rely on the Scriptures that are hidden in my heart. I was praying this way the other day, and it occurred to me that maybe you’d like to pray Scripture too. So I thought I’d share with you some of the Scriptures I pray and how I pray them.

and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Ephesians 5:10

Lord, help me today to discern what is pleasing to You, and do it.

 

Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! Psalm 141:3

Father, help me to keep my mouth shut when it needs to be shut, and to speak up when I need to speak up.

 

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Let everything I think, say, and do bring  honor and glory to You.

 

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. James 1:22

Please show me how to obey your Word, Lord, not just hear it.

 

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. John 17:17

Father, would you please answer Jesus’ prayer to sanctify me in the truth of Your Word.

 

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Psalm 51:10-12

Please cleanse me and forgive me for my sin, and give me a fresh start with a clean heart and a right spirit. Thank You that because of the blood of Christ and the seal of the Holy Spirit, You will never cast me out or take Your Spirit from me. Thank You for giving me back the joy of unhindered fellowship with You.

 

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. Proverbs 4:7

Father thank You that You generously give wisdom to those who ask. Please give me wisdom and help me to pursue wisdom and understanding.

 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. Proverbs 3:5-7

Lord, help me to trust You with all my heart – over and above what I can see with my eyes and understand with my mind. Let everything I think, say, and do bring glory and honor to You. Smooth my path before me. Let me not trust in my own wisdom and understanding, but grow in me a godly fear of You that turns me away from evil.

 

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

Father, remind me that my life is a vapor. Help me to honor You with my time and steward my time well. Help me to get everything done today that You want me to get done.

 

O Lord, you have searched me and known me! Psalm 139:1

Thank You that You know me inside and out. That I can come to You in prayer, and I don’t have to explain everything, and make sure You understand correctly, because You already know. That You know everything about me and You still choose to love me.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:14

Thank You for creating me. I stand in awe at the magnificence of Your creation in the human body: You can read every strand of DNA in my body. You not only understand the difference between meiosis and mitosis (which I was never able to master in biology class), You created each of those processes. You keep my heart beating, my cells reproducing, my lungs filled with air, my synapses synapsing.

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting! Psalm 139:23-24

Examine my heart, God, and whatever is in me that is displeasing to You, get rid of it.

 

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

Father, thank You for sending Your Son to die for me while I was still Your enemy. Thank You, Jesus for being willing to die for me, a sinner. Thank You for turning me from Your enemy into Your friend.

 

In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, Ephesians 1:4b-5

Lord, I will never understand why You would choose someone like me to be Your child, because there is nothing good in me, but I’m so glad and so grateful that You did.

 

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9

Father, thank You that You are smarter than I am, that You know the best way to handle every situation, and that You are powerful enough to work everything out for Your glory and my good. Thank You for the comfort and rest it brings me to know that You have everything under control.

 

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

Lord, help me to truly delight myself in You- so much so that You are putting Your desires into my heart. I want to want what You want.

 

So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.” Genesis 16:13

God, thank You that You see me – that You haven’t forgotten or forsaken me. Thank You that You are a God who sees and rewards our good works done in secret. Thank You that because You are a God of seeing, there are no unsolved crimes or unpunished evil with You. Nothing escapes Your notice, and no one gets away with anything. Thank You that when earthly justice systems fail, You bring ultimate justice. Thank You that You will one day vindicate Your servants.

 

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more….“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:1, 3b-4

Lord God, thank You that the sin, pain, and separation of this life is temporary. Thank You that one day You will make everything right. Thank You that, through Christ, You have made a way for me to live with You forever.

 

As you’re choosing Scriptures to pray back to God, it’s a good idea to study those passages in context and make sure you’re understanding and handling His Word correctly as you pray. Claiming biblical promises that don’t apply to you, for example, will only set you up for frustration and disappointment. And you certainly don’t need that standing in the way of your prayer time or hindering your fellowship with the Lord.

If your prayer life needs a breath of fresh air, I encourage you to try praying God’s own words back to Him. There’s no better way to be sure your prayer is pleasing to Him and that you’re praying within His will.

What are some of your favorite
Scriptures to pray back to God?

New Year's, Sanctification

Sanctification > Resolutions: 6 Ways God Could Sanctify You in the New Year

Originally published January 1, 2018

Happy New Year!

There’s just something about the beginning of a new year that brings with it a yen for getting a fresh start. We think back over the past year, evaluate what we’ve spent our time and efforts on – or what we should have spent our time and efforts on – and, invariably, there’s a desire to make this year better.

Lots of people will make lots of resolutions on January 1: to lose weight, to stop smoking, to exercise more. And by mid-February, some 80% of those people will have failed and given up on their resolutions.¹ Why? Partly because (statistically speaking) most of those people are lost and the flesh is exceedingly hard to tame by sheer “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” willpower. Even Holy Spirit-indwelt Believers can testify to the pull of the flesh.

Should we, as Christians make New Year’s resolutions? Is it OK to set a goal to get a certain area of our lives under better control? Sure, there’s nothing wrong with that. But, is it possible there’s a bigger picture we need to take a look at?

The Christian life is not one of putting out fires via resolutions. We don’t tackle one problem, get it under control and then move on to each of the other five problems that popped up while we were working on the first one. It’s more like fire prevention. We get up every day and hose down the house and yard by resting in Christ, communing with Him through prayer and the Word, and seeking to obey Him throughout the day. Sanctification is not mainly reactive, it’s proactive. And it doesn’t come by our own outward effort and striving, but by Christ growing us, changing our hearts, and enabling us to obey Him from the inside out.

And guess what? Along the way as Christ is conforming you to His image, you’re going to fail. You’re going to give in to temptation, and you’re going to sin against your Master. But here’s what biblical sanctification offers you that New Year’s resolutions cruelly withhold:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23

You don’t just get a fresh start once a year. You get a fresh start every time you confess your sin, repent, and receive Christ’s cleansing and forgiveness. You get the mercy of Christ, the grace of God, and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to move forward in submission to God’s Word. You get the steadfast, never ceasing love of the  Father who is out for your good rather than the unfeeling “do more, try harder, be better” taskmaster of New Year’s resolutions.

So, bearing all that in mind, how might God be trying to grow you in Christlikeness this year? What are some ways you can get up each day and proactively rest in, and obey Christ? Let’s prayerfully consider the following aspects of our walk and ask God to sanctify us and help us submit our will to His as we follow Him in this new year.

Growing in the Word

1. Daily personal Bible study. Do you set aside daily time for the personal study of God’s Word? Have you ever read the Bible from cover to cover? Have you considered, maybe just for this year, putting away all of the Bible study books and materials authored by others and using only the Bible during the next 365 days of your personal study time? Evaluate your daily time in God’s Word. Here are some resources you might find helpful:

📖 Bible Study Resources (how to study the Bible)
📖 Bible Studies
📖 Bible Reading Plans for the New Year- 2020
📖 You’re Not as Dumb as You Think You Are: Five Reasons to Put Down that Devotional and Pick Up the Actual Bible

2. Scripture memorization. This is something God has gotten a hold of me about recently. It’s important to store up God’s Word in our hearts as a weapon against temptation, for comfort, for prayer, and to encourage others. Try starting with verses you’re already somewhat familiar with. Many find it easier to memorize Scripture in song form, or by typing it out. If your pastor is preaching through a certain book, memorize a verse or passage out of each chapter as he comes to it. I’ve found it helpful to recite my verses in my head in bed at night. It helps me fall asleep faster, and there’s actually research that shows retention is improved if you study right before bed.

Growth In Prayer

3. Daily prayer time. Of course we should be talking to the Lord throughout the day as we go about the routine of life and work, but that’s not a substitute for having a daily block of time set aside for focusing all of our attention on communicating with God. Jesus set this example for us, and we should follow it. Do you have a daily time of prayer? Do you know how to pray in a way that’s pleasing to God and helps you grow in Christ?

🙏 Prayer
🙏 After this Manner Therefore Pray
🙏 Basic Training: 8 Things You Need to Know about Prayer
🙏 Sweet Hour of Prayer (Bible study on prayer)

Growth in the Body of Christ

4. If you don’t have a church, find one. Physically gathering with the Body of Christ for worship, teaching, fellowship, prayer, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, giving, serving – and so much more – is not optional. It’s vital to your growth in Christ.

 Basic Training: 7 Reasons Church is Not Optional and Non-Negotiable for Christians
 Six Ways Not to Forsake the Assembly
 Searching for a new church?

5. Faithful church attendance. At a minimum, Christians should be at Sunday morning worship and Sunday School/Bible study class/small group every week unless Providentially hindered (circumstances beyond your control: illness, emergency, the rare out of town trip, occasionally having to work). That’s not legalism, that’s loving the Bride of Christ and having your priorities in line with Scripture. Contrary to popular metrics, habitually missing Sunday worship twice or more a month (when you could be there if you made it a priority) is not faithful attendance. If you’re lackadaisical in church attendance, examine your heart. What’s going on in your spiritual life that’s keeping you from wanting to gather with your brothers and sisters in Christ? (And if it’s a problem with the church itself, see #4.)

6. Don’t just “go to church,” invest yourself in it. Are you serving your church in some capacity? Do you regularly and fervently pray for your church, your fellow church members, and your pastors, elders, and teachers? Have you poured yourself into personal relationships with others at church for fellowship, care, and discipling? Do you regularly, sacrificially, and joyfully give offerings? Are you sharing the gospel with the lost? As with anything else, you get out of it what you put into it. God loves you and wants you to invest yourself in His Bride for His glory and for your joy.

⛪ The Servanthood Survey
⛪ Let Me Count the Ways: 75 Ways Women Can Biblically Minister to Others
⛪ Servanthood
⛪ Top 10 Ways to Pray for Your Pastor
⛪ To Tithe or Not to Tithe…
⛪ Evangelism
⛪ 10 Fun, Practically Effortless, and Free Ways to Do Missions and Evangelism

How might God want to conform you more to the image of Christ this year? Could it be in one of these areas? Maybe another area? New Year’s resolutions are often about how you want to shape your life. Sanctification is about how God wants to shape your life. Not just for the new year, but for eternity.


¹Luciani, Joseph. “Why 80 Percent of New Year’s Resolutions Fail.” U.S. News & World Report. December 29, 2015. Web. December 29, 2017.
Prayer Bible Study

Sweet Hour of Prayer: Lesson 12- Wrap Up

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

Wrap Up

As we wrap up our study today, think about the things God has taught you through His Word and how you might apply them to your prayer life.

Questions to Consider

1. Was there anything new God taught you that particularly impacted you? What was it, and why was it so significant?

2. How is your personal prayer life different after this study than it was before?

3. Has this study helped you to notice things about the way your brothers and sisters at church pray that would strengthen your own personal prayer time and/or the way you pray in public (ex: leading your children in prayer, leading prayer in your Bible study class)?

4. What have you learned about prayer that you could implement in your public prayers so that others could learn things to strengthen their own prayer lives from your example?

5. What have you learned about God and how He wants to be approached in prayer?

6. What have you learned about your heart’s motives as you approach God in prayer?


Homework

Spend some time in prayer this week asking God to show you how to put into practice one thing you learned from this study.

Recite all of your memory verses from this study. Which one is most meaningful to you right now?


Additional Resources

Additional Scriptures on prayer: Part 1  Part 2 (Be sure to study these in context.)

Basic Training: 8 Things You Need to Know about Prayer

“Can We Talk?”

Praying the ABC’s of Jesus

Priming Your Prayer Wall

The Mailbag: What is Contemplative Prayer?

The Mailbag: Help! Our ladies’ prayer meeting is a disaster!

More resources on prayer

Gratitude, Holidays (Other), Prayer, Thanks/Thanksgiving

Throwback Thursday ~ 25 Things I Forgot to Thank God For

Originally published March 13, 2015

25 things

I’ve just been in a funk, lately. Nothing out of the ordinary is wrong, but it’s been raining for eleventy two days in a row, and the constant darkness and dreariness seems to have wormed its way into my psyche and, I noticed recently, even into my prayer life.

A couple of days ago, I started out my prayer time with a huge sigh followed by a bunch of wimpering and whining about nothing of consequence. I was just moody. And I didn’t feel like praying.

And then God graciously brought a lovely little snippet of Scripture to my mind:

give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5:18

Want to know God’s will for your life? There it is: give thanks in all circumstances. When you get a new car. When you catch your spouse cheating on you. When you’re on a glorious vacation. When you get laid off from work. When you’re happy. When you’re sad. When you’re in the mood, and when you’re not in the mood.

Give thanks in – not necessarily for, but in – all circumstances.

Well, this was certainly a circumstance. Why not give gratitude a try? I was in the car headed to pick up my boys from school, and I decided to spend the entire twenty minute drive just thanking God for things.

I started with the big stuff: salvation, forgiveness for my sin, times when God has miraculously provided, specific answers to prayer…

I was starting to slow down and I still had about half the drive left. Surely there was more to be thankful for! And that’s when it struck me. How often do we forget to thank God for all the (in our eyes) tiny little unnoticed things He does for us every day? We thank Him for the miracles, but what about the mundane? What “little things” had I forgotten to thank God for?

1. Air conditioning. I live in the South. Enough said.

2. I know where my next meal is coming from.

3. Social media and e-mail. I can keep up with far off loved ones, and I’ve “met” some awfully nice people.

4. I can see. I can hear. I can think clearly. I can walk.

5. I live in a country where Christianity is not yet against the law.

6. Sunsets.

7. Cute baby animals.

8. I can read and write. That’s not the case for women, globally.

9. I was able to conceive and carry my children to term.

10. Warm quilts on cold nights.

11. The Bible is available in my native language, and I have several copies of it.

12. I have no fear of suicide bombers in my community.

13. The beach.

14. A crawfish boil with friends.

15. Reliable electricity.

16. Hearing my children sing when they think no one is listening.

17. My husband is a believer and is good to me.

18. Mountains. I miss mountains.

19. Indoor plumbing and clean drinking water.

20. Laughing hysterically with my family.

21. Level-headed discernment ministries.

22. Peanut butter and chocolate ice cream.

23. A roof over my head.

24. Home schooling.

25. People who are kind (or crazy) enough to read my blog articles all the way to the end.

Well, that was my list, and I think I’ll keep looking for things to add to it. Thanking God for the “little things,” realizing they might be big things to others, and recognizing the pervasiveness of God’s blessings and provision cheered me up and was truly a worship experience.

What kinds of things would you put on your list?