What’s Right Inside Your Bible

But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.  16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. – II Timothy 3:13-17

The greatest verse about biblical inspiration is also a great verse about biblical application. Second Timothy 3:16–17 not only tells us who gave us the Bible but also why it was given. God breathed out His Word for our benefit. Every part of it is profitable. Waiting in its pages is a wealth of blessings ready to teach, reprove, correct, and train us in righteousness.

We call the Bible “God’s Word” because it contains what He wants to say. He speaks into our lives through it. Each verse and every word accomplishes at least one of the purposes listed above. No matter what our need, God has provided a response in His Word.

The Bible teaches us. The word used here has often been translated doctrine—meaning core teaching. Whatever we find in Scripture is truth that’s worth being taught. Every time we read it we should be asking, What is God teaching me in this passage?

God’s Word reproves us. It is the precision instrument of the Holy Spirit, often stopping us in our tracks through the conviction of sin. When the Lord says “don’t” in Scripture, it’s like He is saying, “Don’t hurt yourself.” He graciously reprimands us.

God’s Word also corrects us. It not only points out the wrong, it also provides the right response. The Bible straightens out our lives like nothing else. On our own we steer in wrong directions, but God consistently directs us in the way we should go.

Scripture trains us in righteousness. It is an unerring guide for the lifelong process of discipleship God wants to bring about. We will never outgrow our need for His guidance.

Truth, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness are all ways God brings light to our lives by His Word. When we need to see where we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re going, it is our trustworthy source of guidance. This is the picture described in Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

But there is a catch in this great promise about the benefits found in Scripture. Note this phrase: “. . .that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” What God has for you in His Word will only come if you dig into it. If your Bible remains closed, though the benefits are all there, you have not accessed them.

Amazing things can happen when you open your Bible. Get familiar with it. Figure out how to find your way around. Ask for help. The spiritual maturity you long for will never be a reality until you practice regular, careful study of Scripture.

Becoming a mature disciple of Jesus—one who is equipped to carry out the tasks He places before you—will always involve His Word. When you are reading His inspired thoughts, the Lord is breathing into you His truth, loving reproofs, gracious correction, and the guidance you need.

– James McDonald
Walk in the Word

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The Future Resurrection

15 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he deliversthe kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 Whenall things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf? 30 Why are we in danger every hour? 31 I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! 32 What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” 34 Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another.41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.

42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
    O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

– I Corinthians 15

Tension in the Tank

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. – Romans 5:3-5

In the northeastern United States, codfish are not only delectable, they are a big commercial business. There’s a market for eastern cod all over, especially in sections farthest removed from the northeast coastline. But the public demand posed a problem to the shippers. At first they froze the cod, then shipped them elsewhere, but the freeze took away much of the flavor. So they experimented with shipping them alive, in tanks of seawater, but that proved even worse. Not only was it more expensive, the cod still lost its flavor, and in addition, became soft and mushy. The texture was seriously affected.

Finally, some creative soul solved the problem in a most innovative manner. The codfish were placed in the tank of water along with their natural enemy—the catfish. From the time the cod left the East Coast until it arrived in its westernmost destination, those ornery catfish chased the cod all over the tank! And you guessed it, when the cod arrived at the market, they were as fresh as when they were first caught. There was no loss of flavor nor was the texture affected. If anything, it was better than before.

A couple of questions seem worth asking. First, can you name some catfish swimming in your tank? Maybe you live with one of them. Or it’s somebody at work whose irritating presence drives you to your knees several times a week. Every church has a few catfish as well! They’re there to keep all the cod from getting soft, mushy, and tasteless. Second, have you given thanks for them lately? Yesterday, we talked about God’s mission being to shape you into the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). Just think, it’s that tension in the tank that helps “the image” emerge. With the right attitude, we can learn how to keep from resenting them as intruders as the chase continues.

To do so we’ll need to put an end to pity parties and whine clubs and gripe gatherings in the tank. When we do, it is nothing short of remarkable how closely the chase begins to resemble “the race” mentioned in Hebrews 12 . . . but whoever heard of Hebrews 12 since Hebrews 11 is so much more popular? It’s one of those passages I told you I feel sorry for, one that is overshadowed by its neighbor.

If you haven’t heard of it, it’s you I feel sorry for.

– Chuck Swindoll,
Insight for Living

A Prayer of Gratitude for Our Friends

When we came into Macedonia, we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus. 2 Cor. 7:5-6 (NIV)

     A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. Prov. 17:17 (NIV)

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today”. Heb. 3:13 (NIV)

   Dear heavenly Father, I’m so thankful for the friends you’ve woven into my life—the brothers and sisters who pursue me, though my default mode is withdrawal; who reach out to bear my burdens, though I feign self-sufficiency and hate to be a bother; who comfort me when I’m downcast, though I struggle to being emotionally honest and genuinely weak in the presence of others.

     Father, thank you for friends who know how to encourage me with their presence and words—those who remind me of the gospel and help me get a better perspective on disappointments and hurts. Thank you for those who know how to confront me, and “call me out” from self-pity and cynicism, to faith, freedom, and hope.

     Make me the same kind of friend, Father, especially in this next season of life. Whether you give me five, ten or fifteen more years of life, I want to finish my days in this world as an encourager and comforter—as a conduit of your mercy and grace. I don’t need any more stuff and I don’t need to get busier. As I preach it, so may I live it: “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love.”

     Help me to be better at giving presence than answers; tears more so than advice; hope and not spin; my heart, and not just my hands. All of this, and so much more, you so freely give me in the gospel, Father. I’m a rich man because of the way you love me in Jesus. Love through me, to your glory. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ kind and near name.

– Scotty Smith, Heavenward

Why Love Must be One-Way to be Worth Anything‏

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. – I Corinthians 13:1-3

You only go around once, so you’d better make it worth it.” Even people who give millions of dollars to charity usually do it to receive something in return: notoriety, reputation, a building with their name on it. We all want to leave a mark. We’ve heard it said that “you can’t take it with you,” but deep down, we’re not 100 percent sure that the statement’s true. At least, our lives of accumulation and aspiration would seem to reveal we don’t think so.

One of the students in a high school youth group I was involved with asked me about the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This young man had completely misunderstood Jesus’s words; he had turned them into a kind of karmic good advice: “Do good unto others and they will do good unto you.” This understanding of doing good is probably most exemplified today with the “pay it forward” movement.

It seems so simple: if you want other people to do good to you, you should do good to them. But as Christians, we must read deeper into the Golden Rule. We ought to understand Jesus’s words this way: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you—with no expectation of the good in return.” It’s not “Do unto others so they will do unto you.”

If you have not love, you have gained nothing. If you do good expecting good in return, that’s not love. That’s a business transaction. Love is doing good regardless of reciprocation.

Love must be one-way to be worth anything. If we “give away all [our] possessions,” but do it with an eye on the return on investment, we gain nothing. Jesus Christ is the only one-way lover in the history of the world. He loved His enemies—not only those from whom He would get nothing, but those who were actively killing Him—asking God to forgive them because they didn’t know what they were doing. We don’t get out of life what we put in. What we “get out” of life is exactly what Jesus Christ wins for us—the very righteousness of God.

– Tullian Tchividjian, It is Finished

Love for God

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 Anda second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 22:34-40
The first and second of these questions designed to trap Jesus were somewhat silly and were easily answered. The third was serious, and we would probably think it an honest question if Matthew had not added the words “One of them, an expert in the law, test him with this question” (v.35).
Apparently, after the Sadducees had been bested by Jesus, the Pharisees got together for one last try. Calling on their “expert,” they asked Jesus a question they must have been debated in their own circles often: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?” (v. 36). It is hard to guess what they expected to gain by this, but they probably hoped to catch Jesus in some misstatement that they could then pounce upon and condemn as heresy. At the least, they must have thought this an extremely difficult question. Not long afterwards the Pharisees would be making lists of the commandments. They would distinguish 613 commands, 248 of them positive and 365 negative. They thought that ranking and relating these was critical.
Jesus replied with a true and unchallengeable answer: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (vv. 37-40). The first of these commandments was in Deuteronomy 6:5; the second, from Leviticus 19:18.
It was a brilliant reply, and Mark records that it produced a favorable reaction from the lawyer who had asked it. “You are right,” he said.
Jesus replied by telling him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34), True, but he was not there yet. And the other Pharisees who were in on this terrible attempt to trap Jesus were, for their part, far from the kingdom and heading rapidly in the contrary direction.
Jesus summarized the law by saying, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37,39). But as one teacher has said, “Man as sinner [actually] hates God, hates man, and hates himself. He would kill God if he could, He does kill his fellow man when he can. [And] he commits spiritual suicide every day of his life.” This is obvious in the plottings of these very men against the Savior. Jesus was love incarnate; he alone loved God the Father with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his mind, and he loves us also. But they, like all sinners, were doing everything they could to eliminate Jesuspresence from their lives.
Everyone should know that true religion consists in a perfect love for God and of other human beings. But none of us do that or can. It is why we need a Savior. We need Jesus. You need Jesus. You need to commit yourself to him as the only possible Savior and your rightful Lord.

Just Do It

Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality. – Colossians 3:21-25

To borrow a theme from Nike (but not any content at all), here are some thoughts based on Ecclesiastes 9:10: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.”

Here is a universal command – just do it! Do what? There are some things everyone needs to do: whatever there is to do, what needs to be done, what one is able to do, what one is gifted to do, what no one else will do, and you can fill in the rest. Actually, “just do it” pertains to all of life – work, family, home, business, ministry, etc., but for now, ministry is in focus. So we can safely say that there is something for everyone to do, some things that anyone can do, some things that you can do, and even some things that only you can do. Seems we need to ask the Lord honestly what Paul asked Him in Acts 9:6: “Lord what wilt Thou have me to do?”

But is not only a universal command, it is also what I call an “unfolding” command. We are told how to do it: with all your energy and ability. We are told when to it: today, not tomorrow because tomorrow is too uncertain. We even know the real reasons why we don’t do it: all talk and no act, the consuming demon of regret, the paralysis of good intentions, focus on the work of others (we are either overawed into inaction or swallowed up with criticism), the ravenous animal called procrastination, preoccupation with other interests, etc. You can probably add to this list.

But the command is not only universal and unfolding, it is also urgent; life at best is brief and extremely uncertain, and there is a day of judgment coming when we will be called into account for what we have done with what we have been given. This one troubles me, because I am acutely aware that I have not always done all I could with what I have been given by the Lord. It would be awful to meet Him and find that I had been very successful in regard to temporal issues and a failure in regard to eternal factors. Finally, it is urgent because we are building for the future – not only our own but also for those who come behind us. No matter our situation in life, there are those who are looking to us and also to some degree patterning after us.

Whatever it is that the Spirit has prodded you about as you have read these words, JUST DO IT!!

– Charles Wood, The Woodchuck’s Den