The Word must lead us to Love

This is a great quote – from today’s post over at “In my Father’s House” – which reminds us why we read and seek to understand God’s Word. There are so many other things that could motivate us, but here is surely the most important:

Beloved, our understanding of Scripture must lead us to love—to love God more and to love others unconditionally. Otherwise, we will stay in our fear-based paradigm and ultimately use Scripture as a club against one another because of our insecurities. Our diligent study will only lead to biblical idolatry, “having a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge”(Rom.10:2), using “the letter that kills”rather than the “Spirit that gives life” (2 Cor.3:6). Our understanding must tenderize our hearts and lead us to show the same grace for others that we would want for ourselves. And this love will never do our neighbor harm, which fulfills all righteousness (Rom.13:10).

The hermeneutics of love – part two – http://wp.me/p3I7Ty-3zy

Four Prayers for Bible Reading | Desiring God

Great article:

When we open our Bibles to read, we’re never alone. The Holy Spirit hovers over and in the words of God, ready to stir our hearts, illumine our minds, and redirect our lives, all for the glory of Christ (John 16:14). The Spirit is the X factor in Bible reading, making an otherwise ordinary routine supernatural — and making it utterly foolish to read and study without praying for our eyes, minds, and hearts.

Prayer is a conversation, but not one we start. God speaks first. His voice sounds in the Scriptures and climactically in the person and work of his Son. Then, wonder of all wonders, he stops, he stoops, he bends his ear to listen to us. Prayer is almost too good to be true. With our eyes on God’s words, he gives us his ear, too.

How then should we pray over our Bibles? Here are four verses you might pray as you open God’s word.

1. Psalm 119:18: Open My Eyes to Wonder

“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Psalm 119:18). We ask God to open our spiritual eyes to show us the glimpses of glory we cannot see by ourselves. Without his help, we are simply “natural” persons with natural eyes. “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand [see] them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14–15).

“Seeing they do not” was Jesus’s phrase for those who saw him and his teaching only with natural eyes, without the illumining work of the Spirit (Matthew 13:13). This is why Paul prays for Christians, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,having the eyes of your hearts enlightened” (Ephesians 1:17–18).

Join the psalmist in praying not just for the gift of spiritual sight, but for the gift of seeing wondrous things in God’s word. Wonder is a great antidote for wandering. Those who cultivate awe keep their hearts warm and soft, and resist the temptations to grow cold and fall away.

2. Luke 18:38: Have Mercy on Me

Pray, like the blind man begging roadside, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” For as long as we are in this life, sin encumbers every encounter with God in his word. We fail friends and family daily — and even more, we fail God. So it is fitting to accompany our opening of God’s word with the humble, broken, poor plea of the redeemed: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18:13).

Bible reading is a daily prompt to own our failures, newly repent, and freshly cast ourselves on his grace all over again. Prayer is the path to staying fascinated with his grace and cultivating a spirit of true humility.

3. James 1:22: Make Me a Doer of Your Word

Pray that God, having opened your eyes to wonder and reminded you of the sufficiency of his grace, would produce genuine change in your life. Ask him to allow the seeds from Scripture to bear real, noticeable fruit in tangible acts of sacrificial love for others. “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). You need not artificially capture one, specific point of application from every passage, but pray that his word would shape and inform and direct your practical living.

Ask that he would make you more manifestly loving, not less, because of the time invested alone in reading and studying his word.

4. Luke 24:45: Open My Eyes to Jesus

This is another way of praying that God would open our eyes to wonder, just with more specificity. The works of God stand as marvelous mountain ranges in the Bible, but the highest peak, and the most majestic vista, is the person and work of his Son.

As Jesus himself taught after his resurrection, he is the Bible’s closest thing to a skeleton key for unlocking the meaning of every text — every book, every plot twist, the whole story. First, “he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27), then he taught his disciples that “everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44). And in doing so, “he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45).

The great goal of Bible reading and study is this: knowing and enjoying Jesus. This is a taste now of heaven’s coming delights. “This is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). This gives direction, focus, and purpose to our study. “Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD” (Hosea 6:3). This forms great yearning and passion in our souls: “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8).

Keep both eyes peeled for Jesus. Until we see how the passage at hand relates to Jesus’s person and work, we haven’t yet finished the single most important aspect of our reading.

We are desperate for God’s ongoing help to see, and so we pray.

Related Articles

Three Tips for Better Bible Reading

Resolved: To Read the Bible

How to Read the Bible for Yourself

David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor for desiringGod.org, pastor at Cities Church in Minneapolis/Saint Paul, and adjunct professor for Bethlehem College & Seminary. He has edited and contributed to several books and is author of Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines.

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http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/four-prayers-for-bible-reading

“The dark before the morning” – our suffering and the weight of glory

Dawn_-_swifts_creek“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

JOHN PIPER: “Paul claims in these verses to have found the secret of an experience that virtually everyone in the world wants to have. This is an amazing claim. . . And I am referring to the experience of not losing heart, but being renewed day by day. . . There are suicidal people in the world who want life to be over. But that’s because they have tried and tried, and they don’t think there is such a secret, or at least think it’s not for them. They have lost heart. They don’t think there is anyway to be renewed in hope and strength and joy. It’s too late. If you came here like that tonight, I am praying for you, that God would free you from that lie. The devil is a liar. But I pray that you will know the truth and be set free. Paul has found this secret. He is not a liar. There is a way not to lose heart. There is a way to be renewed day by day.” (Read more and listen to John Piper’s talk THE GLORY OF GOD IN THE SIGHT OF ETERNITY here: http://www.desiringgod.org/conference-messages/do-not-lose-heart)

This is the same claim explored in a beautiful song by Josh Wilson “Before the morning” – that in our sufferings we still have a reason to sing, that joy is coming, the pain we feel is just the “dark before the morning”. Listen/read the lyrics below and be encouraged! Dare to believe!

BEFORE THE MORNING (Josh Wilson & Ben Glover)
Do you wonder why you have to,
Feel the things that hurt you,
If there’s a God who loves you,
Where is He now?

Maybe, there are things you can’t see
And all those things are happening
To bring a better ending
Some day, some how, you’ll see, you’ll see

Would dare you, would you dare, to believe,
That you still have a reason to sing,
’cause the pain you’ve been feeling,
Can’t compare to the joy that’s coming
So hold on, you got to wait for the light

Press on, just fight the good fight
Because the pain you’ve been feeling,
It’s just the dark before the morning

My friend, you know how this all ends
And you know where you’re going,
You just don’t know how you get there
So just say a prayer.
And hold on, cause there’s good who love God,
Life is not a snapshot, it might take a little time,
But you’ll see the bigger picture

Once you feel the weight of glory,
All your pain will fade to memory
Once you feel the weight of glory,
All your pain will fade to memory
Memory, memory, yeah

Bethlehem’s Supernatural Star

Star-over-Bethlehem“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” (Matthew 2:2) 

John Piper writes: “Over and over the Bible baffles our curiosity about just how certain things happened. How did this “star” get the magi from the east to Jerusalem?

It does not say that it led them or went before them. It only says they saw a star in the east (verse 2), and came to Jerusalem. And how did that star go before them in the little five-mile walk from Jerusalem to Bethlehem as verse 9 says it did? And how did a star stand “over the place where the Child was”?

The answer is: We do not know. There are numerous efforts to explain it in terms of conjunctions of planets or comets or supernovas or miraculous lights. We just don’t know. And I want to exhort you not to become preoccupied with developing theories that are only tentative in the end and have very little spiritual significance.

I risk a generalization to warn you: People who are exercised and preoccupied with such things as how the star worked and how the Red Sea split and how the manna fell and how Jonah survived the fish and how the moon turns to blood are generally people who have what I call a mentality for the marginal. You do not see in them a deep cherishing of the great central things of the gospel — the holiness of God, the ugliness of sin, the helplessness of man, the death of Christ, justification by faith alone, the sanctifying work of the Spirit, the glory of Christ’s return and the final judgment. They always seem to be taking you down a sidetrack with a new article or book. There is little centered rejoicing.

But what is plain concerning this matter of the star is that it is doing something that it cannot do on its own: it is guiding magi to the Son of God to worship him.

There is only one Person in biblical thinking that can be behind that intentionality in the stars — God himself.

So the lesson is plain: God is guiding foreigners to Christ to worship him. And he is doing it by exerting global — probably even universal — influence and power to get it done.

Luke shows God influencing the entire Roman Empire so that the census comes at the exact time to get a virgin to Bethlehem to fulfill prophecy with her delivery. Matthew shows God influencing the stars in the sky to get foreign magi to Bethlehem so that they can worship him.

This is God’s design. He did it then. He is still doing it now. His aim is that the nations — all the nations (Matthew 24:14) — worship his Son.

This is God’s will for everybody in your office at work, and in your neighborhood and in your home. As John 4:23 says, “Such the Father seeks to worship him.”

At the beginning of Matthew we still have a “come-see” pattern. But at the end the pattern is “go-tell.” The magi came and saw. We are to go and tell.

But what is not different is that the purpose of God is the ingathering of the nations to worship his Son. The magnifying of Christ in the white-hot worship of all nations is the reason the world exists.”

(http://solidjoys.desiringgod.org/en/devotionals/bethlehem-s-supernatural-star)

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God’s Word leads us in prayer

prayer2Sometimes we can feel like our prayers are going unanswered, or that our feeble efforts to be consistent and persistent in prayer mean God probably doesn’t even want to answer! But God is not like us. He is compassionate and gracious. His grace is new every morning.

“Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.” (Psalm 116:2)

If you need help to get praying again there are plenty of books to read on the topic. There is also journalling, prayer partners and other methods to try. But today I’d like to suggest a few simple points (courtesy of John Piper) to remind you that the greatest help for the practice of prayer is probably God’s Word itself. Consider the following reasons why:

  1. Much of the Bible is prayer (most of the Psalms especially).
  2. The Bible is full of commands and encouragements for us to pray (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
  3. We are told to pray according to the will of God (1 John 5:14 ), and the Bible is the revealed will of God.
  4. The Word of God cannot be truly desired (Psalm 119:36) or spiritually comprehended (Psalm 119:18) or savingly spoken (2 Thessalonians 3:1) without the work of the Holy Spirit, whom we ask for by prayer.
  5. Being saturated with the Word of God produces an effective prayer life: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you , ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7).

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The blessed and God-breathed Book (2 Timothy 3:16)

GodBreathed_slide1x_365_y_273This is one of the most breath-taking Three Sixteens, one which you may have already committed to memory.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 is that great statement of assurance concerning God’s Word, the Bible, the God-breathed book on which we build our faith.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (ESV)

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realise what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” (NLT)

I recently read through 2 Timothy with a friend, over several weeks and many great coffees! The whole letter is a call to persevere in the faith, despite persecutions and difficult people. These are (possibly) Paul’s parting and most important words. He wants Timothy to stick to the truth of the Scriptures, which he’d been taught from his earliest days. (For Timothy this would mean the Old Testament scriptures as well as the teachings of the apostles.) There are so many treasures in this 3:16 (and 17), but I’ll focus on just three points:

1. The Word is God-breathed:  Just as we speak with our actual breath, which forms and carries the sounds of our words, so it is with God’s breath. He has exhaled these words, he has breathed them into the minds and hearts of people who have faithfully written them down, carried along by the Holy Spirit who always does the Father’s will. How else could this extraordinary book, penned by so many authors across millennia, have such consistency and unity of message? This is His Word to us and he has ensured that his breath, his voice, will continue to be heard as we await the return of Christ, the Word of God.

I love what Peter Blowes says about the way the words of the omnipresent and eternal God apply across all time and space:
“. . . God had every reader of Holy Scripture in mind at the time of its ‘exhalation’. This means not only that God’s word is inspired and universally applicable, but also that, in it, God is speaking presently to every particular reader (or hearer) of his Word.” (2011, “Reading the Bible”, Matthias Minizine). 
This leads to my second point.

2. Reading the Word is the most profitable thing we can do.
More than the early morning coffee, jog, paper, news update, more than crossing things off our to do list, more than any amount of television viewing, study or social media, more than relaxing with the family, more than making money .  . . investing in the Word of God is THE most profitable thing we can do. The world shouts at us, calling for our attention, telling us that those ancient words are dead, irrelevant and useless. But as we immerse ourselves more and more in his Word we understand why reading it is the most profitable thing we can do. By reading we come to know our immortal, invisible, all wise, good and gracious God. The Spirit works in us and we grow in confidence of his power, his might and the reality of his work in our world and hearts. We grow in the certainty of our salvation won in Christ.

3. The Word is wonderfully sufficient, equipping us for every good work.
The Bible equips us not by containing enough lists of do’s and don’ts to train us how to do good in every situation (this is the world’s view of the “good book” – which shouldn’t be ours. Christ has fulfilled the law!) Instead, the Word of God equips us by making us more like Christ – who is entirely and always about the Father’s good work. The Word changes us from the inside out and drives our behaviour. This behaviour becomes good work, good fruit (like those good works prepared in advance for us, which Paul described in Ephesians 2:8-10).

John Piper explains well:
Bearing fruit in “every good work” (see Colossians 1:10 ) means that it comes out on the branches of your life naturally from something that has changed inside. And what has changed is that you are dead to the law as a set of lists to constrain from the outside, and are now united to Jesus Christ in a relationship of joyful trust so that when he speaks—even speaks some of that same law—it comes from within as the desire of your heart. . . .The Scripture, day after day, reveals to us the greatness and the beauty and the power and the wisdom and the mercy of all that God is for us in Christ so that by the power of the Spirit we find our joy in him, and the ways of sin become distasteful—indeed ugly and repugnant. Yes the Bible gives us many specifics as pointers how to live. But most deeply the way the Bible equips us for every good work is by changing what we find satisfaction in so that our obedience comes from within freely, not by coercion from without. It does this when we read it and meditate on it and memorize it and meditate over it every day.”
(John Piper from Desiring God)

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