Do you ever struggle to connect with the Bible as you’re reading it? Does reading scripture ever feel more like a duty than a delight? We’ve all been there. Could it be though, that we find God’s Word unsatisfying because like the Pharisees in Jesus’s day, we “search the scriptures,” but are looking for the wrong things?
Pastor and author Kevin DeYoung says, “We take hold of Christ as his words take hold of us.” The quality of our lives and our satisfaction with our relationship with Christ is deeply connected to our intimacy and relationship to His Word. Not because it’s a good deed, or because God loves us more or less based on our amount of Bible reading, but because intimacy with God’s Word is the means that we are reminded of and rooted in the hope of the Gospel.
There are times our hearts aren’t prepared to meet with God in His Word, when we don’t really want to hear what the Bible has to say. Or we don’t believe that we need more than anything else to hear God speak into our lives. We may be distracted by countless other voices (like what’s trending on twitter, our to-do lists, or our televisions). We may simply believe that the Bible is a number of archaic rules and so, not find it beautiful and captivating.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor who died in a Nazi Concentration camp for opposing the Nazis and defending the Jewish people wrote to his brother, “I believe the Bible alone is the answer to all our questions, and that we need only to ask repeatedly and a little humbly, in order to receive this answer. One cannot simply read the Bible, like other books. One must be prepared really to enquire of it…Only if we seek him, will he answer us…If it is I who determine where God is to be found, then I shall always find a God who corresponds to me in some way, who is obliging…But if God determines where he is to be found, then it will be in a place which is not immediately pleasing to my nature…This place is the Cross of Christ. And whoever would find him must go to the foot of the cross…And I would like to tell you now quite personally: since I have learnt to read the Bible in this way…it becomes every day more wonderful to me… I know that without this I could not live properly any longer.”
In Luke 24, Jesus Christ, resurrected from the dead, meets two disciples on the road (though they don’t recognize Him until moments before He leaves!). As Jesus speaks with these men, Luke, the Biblical author, writes something remarkable, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he (Jesus) interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”
Did you catch that? When Luke says, “Moses and all the Prophets,” he’s using a shorthand way to say that Jesus started from Genesis and finished in Malachi. Jesus is saying that the entire Bible is ultimately, about Him. This suddenly brings life to the most obscure passage of scripture we might find!
Studying God’s Word, should never be dry and dusty. It may be challenging, but never dry. Once more, Kevin DeYoung puts it this way, “Doctrine is not a distraction from Christ. In fact, we do not have communion with Christ apart from truth about Christ and from Christ.” We love God’s Word because in it, we meet the living God. We love and study God’s Word, because Jesus is the treasure and prize of our lives, and until we see Him face to face, this is where He has chosen to let us see Him most clearly.
Do you ever struggle to connect with the Bible? What are some of the obstacles you encounter in loving God’s Word and seeing Christ?
excerpts from Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in Our Holiness, Crossway 2014. and Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer - Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, Thomas Nelson 2010.
picture courtesy of Stephen Lively. all rights http://tinyurl.com/p96pbsa
If only we had more money.
If only I had a date...
If only I could get my house really clean.
If only I had alone time.
If only I could sleep more.
Feeling inadequate and out of control of any number of life stresses, I feel small and weak. Instead of being humbled, I tend to reject the discomfort of my need, and become prideful. I demand control, believing that if I regain control, I will be restored. My wandering, grumbling heart searches for some end to my familiar fatigue.
IF ONLY I’D HOPE IN GOD
Here’s what my “if only’s” tell God: what he has given me in some moment is not good and I’ll hope when the conditions are met, not in him. Exhaustion is an occasion to demand, grumble or to find hope in God, again.
Recently, frazzled and mumbling “if only’s,” I opened Psalm 23 with a chaotic heart, throwing a silent fit with God: "OK, fine! I will read my Bible. I know that is what you want." The Psalm surprised and confronted me with words that exposed the sin of my misplaced hope.
God whispered through his word: "Daughter, I am your only restoration."
I foolishly believe I could escape exhaustion by submitting my “if only” list for God to fulfill totally missing that he is my greatest restoration. If God would just give me sleep or alone time, then I would be OK. But God, relentless in his faithfulness, reveals all the measly hopes of my soul being restored, because nothing actually satisfies a craving heart more than Jesus. When I’m tired, weak, and tempted, he gently leads me to himself.
“He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.” Psalm 23:2
It is he who restores my soul. All of the alone time and money in the world can’t compare to God’s presence. Clean homes and date nights are blessings, but meaningless without God’s presence enjoyed. Sure, sleep boosts my weary body, but my soul is only restored by Jesus.
GOD IS THE MEANS AND THE END
It’s not magic, though. I don’t just limp toward God’s word, open and magically return to my joyful and rested self. Sometimes, it is a tooth and nail fight to resist grumbling and doubt in my heart. To let God restore us is to want him more than the effects of being restored. Get that? It’s like wanting coffee merely for an energy boost, rather than its taste and aroma, too. God is not the way to get rest. He is both the way and the destination for our soul rest.
A QUIET, PEACEFUL JOY
As we submit our hearts to Jesus, weariness becomes a quiet joy. Our gloom turns to peace. God’s word gives us hope, as our weakness is laid at his feet, telling us that his power is made perfect in our weakness.
The precious gift of weakness shows us how powerful Jesus really is. It’s amazing. Wearily, we can come to the Father and he always meets us, comforts us, speaks to us, and holds us close. The only soul restoration is in God alone, and there’s no “if” to it: he always satisfies.
By Trisha Wilkerson for The Resurgence. For more resources like this, go to www.theresurgence.com
Memorial Day is here, school is nearly done, and the days are growing longer and hotter. The firstfruits of summer have arrived.
As the summer season approached in 1995, Pastor John reminded his church of the spiritual benefits of summer, along with the annual temptations to spiritual laziness in his article, “Setting Our Minds on Things Above in Summer” (May 31, 1995).
Every season is God’s season, but summer has a special power.
Jesus Christ is refreshing, but flight from him into Christless leisure makes the soul parched. At first it may feel like freedom and fun to skimp on prayer and neglect the Word, but then we pay: shallowness, powerlessness, vulnerability to sin, preoccupation with trifles, superficial relationships, and a frightening loss of interest in worship and the things of the Spirit.
Don’t let summer make your soul shrivel. God made summer as a foretaste of heaven, not a substitute. If the mailman brings you a love letter from your fianceé, don’t fall in love with the mailman. That’s what summer is: God’s messenger with a sun-soaked, tree-green, flower-blooming, lake-glistening letter of love to show us what he is planning for us in the age to come — “things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Don’t fall in love with the video preview and find yourself unable to love the coming reality.
Jesus Christ is the refreshing center of summer. He is preeminent in all things (Colossians 1:18), including vacations, picnics, softball, long walks, and cookouts. He invites us in the summer: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). This is serious summer refreshment.
Do we want it? That is the question.
Christ gives himself to us in proportion to how much we want his refreshment. “You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13, RSV). One of the reasons to give the Lord special attention in the summer is to say to him, “We want all your refreshment. We really want it.”
Resources on the spiritual value, and temptations, of summer
-by Tony Reinke, for the Desiring God blog. For more articles like this, go to www.desiringgod.org
SO MANY WORDS COME TO MIND WHEN I THINK OF THAT WORD. FUN. MESSY. LIFE-GIVING. TRYING. INTIMATE. LASTING. COMMITMENT. REFINING. GIVING. TAKING. LAUGHTER. UNDERSTANDING. SUPPORT.
The older I get, the more I value my girlfriends. The more I see the need for them. The more I love them! And as I listen to those around me, I see that so many women and men DON’T have deep relationships in their lives. We NEED friends. Not mere acquaintances. Deep, lasting, committed friends. I’m talking the kind of friend that you can rely on. The kind of friend that will walk with you through ANYTHING.
My friends have seen the deepest, darkest, silliest, most annoying, parts of me. They have also experienced some of my best moments with me.
I have 3 friends that I would refer to as “LIFE-LONG” friends. By life-long, I don’t mean that I’ve known them all of my life. I mean that they will be in my life for the REST of my life. Of the three, I’ve actually had verbal conversations with two of them where we’ve committed to be friends for life. No matter what, forever, weather the storms kind of relationships. No relationship on this earth will rival that of the marriage covenant, but the commitment I have to these friends would at least shadow the covenant I have with my husband. Two of my life-long friends lived next door to me at LSU. The third, I got to know after joining staff with Cru.
THE FOLLOWING THINGS ARE TRUE OF ALL OR AT LEAST ONE OF MY LIFE-LONG FRIENDS. THEY HAVE:
▪ been with me in loneliness
▪ known the intricacies of my relationship with Christ
▪ prayed with me and for me (on their knees at times)
▪ stood in my wedding
▪ traveled overseas with me
▪ asked me hard questions to hold me accountable
▪ laughed so hard with me that we’ve peed our pants
▪ known that I accidentally peed in the bathtub while bathing (give me some grace, I was 9 months pregnant and just forgot what I was doing)
▪ slammed the door on me
▪ studied God’s word with me
▪ asked for forgiveness
▪ granted forgiveness
▪ given me a good reason to end the friendship
▪ has been given a good reason (by something I’ve done) to end the friendship
▪ cried to me over a miscarriage
▪ had me cry to them over a miscarriage
▪ called me out
▪ been angry at me (let’s be honest…ALL of them have had reason for this one)
▪ confided in me that their hearts are full of hate toward someone
▪ rejoiced with me in my marriage (even when they are lonely)
▪ rejoiced with me over a pregnancy (even when they long for children)
▪ made fun of my question-asking, never satisfied with the answer personality
▪ confessed to me that they are so jealous of someone that they can’t see straight
▪ encouraged me to remain faithful to the Lord
▪ stood up for me
▪ stood by me
I can truly say that I have three friends that know me and have been known by me. Our friendships have ebbed and flowed. I’m closer to each of them during different seasons. They each bring something very different to the table in our relationships.
I’ve learned that we grow with one another. We have to, because if we don’t allow room for one another to grow and change, we will grow apart. We honor one another by honoring what God is doing in one another’s lives.
As I’ve thought about my friends (and the fact that so many people I meet don’t seem to have deep friendships), I’ve come up with some tips, some things that seem valuable.
THINGS TO LOOK FOR IN A POTENTIAL LIFE-LONG FRIEND, AS WELL AS THINGS TO DO WITH YOUR FRIENDS TO CONTINUE TO DEEPEN THE RELATIONSHIP:
▪ look for someone who can accept your weaknesses and idiosyncrasies yet is still willing to help you grow
▪ look for someone who you can laugh with
▪ look for someone who shares your same values
▪ look for someone who will keep their word
▪ look for someone who has capacity to listen and not just talk
▪ allow one another to change; the friend you start with should not look the same as the friend you end with years down the road
▪ encourage each other to have other friends
▪ pray together and for one another
▪ be intentional to spend time together
That’s my 2 cents, but I don’t know that much. But, I know of someone who knew much about true friendship. The beloved Jonathan, son of King Saul of Israel. Jonathan and David had a beautiful friendship. And I believe much of what made it so special was Jonathan’s ability to look beyond himself and his circumstances and embrace God’s plan. Ever thought about the fact that Jonathan SHOULD have been the next in line for the throne? And yet God himself chooses his best bud to have that high seat. Ouch. Ouch times a bunch.
Isn’t that reality? Friendship can put us in some sticky spots. When you’re BFF gets asked out by the guy you’ve been crushing on….when your friend gets engaged first even thought you’ve been dating your boyfriend for WAY longer….when you are really struggling financially and your friend gets a killer job making a bizillion dollars….when you struggle with your weight and your bestie is as stunning as a supermodel…..
I’m well aware that these are all female issues! But I’m not a man, so insert something equally as gut-wrenching and manly and you guys can get the picture. There will ALWAYS be things we long for that our friends get and we don’t. But rather than allowing jealousy and entitlement ruin the friendship, Jonathan remains faithful to the covenant he made to David. He stands by him. He serves him. He allows room for David to become who he needs to be. And even at the end of their story, David shows his honor for his friend Jonathan by extending great kindness to dear friend’s family.
My encouragement would be to overcome the fear of rejection and go there. Invest well in your friends.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
-Written by Jessica Vaughn for the CruPress Green blog. To read more from CruPress Green, go to http://crupress.campuscrusadeforchrist.com/green/index.php/blog/
Let’s face it. Summers can pose a major challenge to our faith and obedience to Christ. It can be a very spiritually isolating time because you are away from the environment and friends that have helped you grow spiritually this past school year. It can be a dangerous time to your faith and your future.
But it also can be a great opportunity to see your faith tested and increase and an opportunity to make some key steps on your own. You can make some decisions now that will put you in a position of advantage and strength as you go into the summer. As a Christian, we can embrace challenges because we recognize the opportunity to trust God in new ways and see our faith grow in ways that we would have never seen otherwise.
Now is the time to act. How can you prepare to meet the spiritual challenges that the summer will bring? Three key essential elements will help you be “more than a summer survivor”. Click here to view the More than a Summer Survivor Guide and let us know how God is working in your life this summer!
Until next week-
Your friends at Cru
A community where Jesus Christ captures hearts, transforms lives, and launches men and women into a life long adventure with Him.