Bible Study Tools and Devotional Resources

Making room for God’s Word in our lives is a healthy discipline of growing Christ-followers. God’s Word is transformative in renewing our minds, healing our hurts, restoring our damaged souls, and navigating our future. It’s the truth that sets us free. Give yourself to a daily Bible reading plan and see how this timeless gospel changes your life.

The Discipleship Journal Bible Reading Plan offers special features that will aid you in your journey through the Bible.

  • By reading from four separate passages in the Bible every day, you will be able to better grasp the unity of the Scriptures, as well as enjoy the variety of seeing four different viewpoints. You can begin at any point of the year.
  • To prevent the frustration of falling behind, which most of us tend to do when following a Bible reading plan, each month of this plan gives you only twenty-five readings. Since you’ll have several “free days” each month, you could set aside Sundays to either not read at all or to catch up on any readings you may have missed in the past week.
  • If you finish the month’s readings by the twenty-fifth, you could use the final days of the month to study the passages that challenged or intrigued you.

As you read the passages each day, ask God to speak directly to you from the Scripture portions you read. I like using the I-O-U-S acronym in approaching my Bible reading. Be expectant, and let your continual exposure to God’s Word reshape your attitudes and behavior as you gain a better understanding of every part of His written testimony to us. It is helpful to also journal your thoughts from the passages you read, highlighting some of the key thoughts that are relevant to you in that moment.

Bible Study Portals

Devotionals

Devotionals are publications which provide a specific spiritual reading for a daily time of prayer and meditation.

Dictionaries

Bible dictionaries are one of the most practical and useful theological reference books available. The combination of definitions and proper names for Biblical words with online verse reference, allows users to define and analyze Scripture. Discover the meaning of words and study them in context to the theological concepts of that specific verse or passage. Many word searches also include the original Greek and Hebrew word with meaning. Popular dictionaries of the Bible include Baker’s Evangelical, Easton’s, and Smiths – named after their well-known theological authors.

Concordances

A Bible concordance is a concordance, or verbal index, to the Bible. A simple form lists Biblical words alphabetically, with indications to enable the inquirer to find the passages of the Bible where the words occur.

When People Are Big and God is Small

51ZE84GV6HL._SX350_BO1,204,203,200_When People Are Big and God is Small: Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency, and the Fear of Man

I read this book earlier this year and it is a great resource for helping people overcome the fear of man.

However you put it, the fear of man can be summarized this way: We replace God with people. Instead of a biblically guided fear of the Lord, we fear others.

Of course, the “fear of man” goes by other names. When we are in our teens, it is called “peer pressure.” When we are older, it is called “people-pleasing.” Recently, it has been called “codependency.” With these labels in mind, we can spot the fear of man everywhere. Diagnosis is fairly straightforward. Continue reading “When People Are Big and God is Small”

John Wesley: Do All The Good You Can

(Revelation 4:9–11 ESV)

And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

In this vision that Jesus gave John, we capture a scene in heaven where “the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: ‘You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.’”

Jesus promised various rewards for those who faithfully serve Him on earth (Matthew 5:12; 1 Corinthians 3:14; Revelation 22:12). Some of those rewards are crowns (James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:4; Revelation 3:11).

While we certainly don’t work to earn our salvation, God’s approval, or spiritual affirmation, we should labor passionately and fervently to bring before Jesus the very best crown we could possibly lay at His feet.

Our salvation comes from grace alone; God’s unmerited favor (Ephesians 2:8-9). It is made possible only by the blood of Jesus and His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21), and nothing of our human efforts. But Paul also exhorts us that grace “trains us” to live a life that honors God (Titus 2:12) and that we were “created” for good works (Ephesians 2:10). In that sense, grace should move us to give ourselves to the kind of works that honor God and bring much fame to the name of Jesus Christ.

As John Wesley said, “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”

I want this to be a staple in my life. How about you?

Paul’s Spirit-Filled ‘Uncertainty’

As I’ve been studying the Book of Acts, it’s been interesting to see pictures of Paul’s leadership fleshed out in various five fold ministry expressions. We get snapshots of him as apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher. Often we see Paul the evangelist; but here in Acts 20, we get a unique picture of Paul the pastor. We glean what was important to him as a leader and shepherd of God’s people.

Study notes from (Acts 20:17-38 ESV)

Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. And when they came to him, he said to them:

“You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.

Paul calls ministry leaders together to encourage them as he prepares for a transition in his missional direction. He is about to depart and understands that where the Holy Spirit is leading him means that there is a good chance he might never see some of his friends again. It’s a bitter-sweet time of bidding farewell.

Paul first calls attention to himself as an example. Not an example instead of Jesus, but an example as he followed Jesus. Paul didn’t act like a religious celebrity and expect people to serve and honor him; he simply gave of himself to serve the Lord with all humility. He poured himself out, investing in the lives of others.

Paul could confidently say with a clear conscience that he had preached and taught the whole counsel of God without holding anything back. He didn’t preach what was going to draw a crowd, but what was going to build people up and grow mature followers of Christ. He didn’t only teach the topics that pleased him. He proclaimed it all. As he continued on his missionary journey, he could boldly say that he was faithful in this particular context.

Then we get a glimpse into what I refer to as Paul’s “Spirit-filled uncertainty” (v22-24). Paul didn’t know what was ahead of him and had reason to believe it was going to be exceedingly difficult. But this doesn’t trouble him. He could give it all over to God even when he didn’t know what would happen. There should always be more Christ-followers who will faithfully declare, “none of these things move me.” (KJV)

Paul recognized the dangerous road ahead of him; apparently he had received many words of prophecy telling him of this danger already. Yet he was not set off the track by danger, but was willing to lay down his life for the gospel of the grace of God.

Paul thought of himself as an accountant, weighing carefully the credits and the expenses; and in the end, he does not count his own life dear to him, compared to his God and how he can serve him.

Paul thought of himself as a runner who had a race to finish, and nothing would keep Paul from finishing the race with joy. Additionally, Paul speaks of my race – he had his race to run, we have our own – but God calls us to finish it with joy.

This shows that even at this point, Paul had his death in mind. It would be many years until he actually died, but he considered that what he did with his life now was worth dying for. In the words of Spurgeon, he preached a gospel worth dying for. It is a worthy challenge to any preacher: Is the gospel you preach worth dying for?

A gospel of political correctness is not worth dying for. A gospel of feel-goodism that only entertains and breeds more spiritual consumers is not worth dying for. A gospel of spiritual hipness or social acceptance is not worth dying for. Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ is worth dying for. And unless you have counted the cost of following Jesus fully, you haven’t truly owned this Gospel. If you will only do for Jesus what is safe, convenient, and comfortable for you, you haven’t truly owned this Gospel. Because the true Gospel of Jesus Christ will cause you to embrace a different aim in life than merely playing it safe. It will lead you to a cross where you are expected to lay down your very life and be crucified of every ambition that doesn’t have His glory as its chief aim.

Many of Paul’s friends didn’t want him going to where it was dangerous. But Paul understood that he wasn’t called to a place called safe; but to an altar where our lives are laid down for the sake of His Gospel.

Charles Spurgeon once said:

“Yet there used to be a gospel in the world which consisted of facts which Christians never questioned. There was once in the church a gospel which believers hugged to their hearts as if it were their soul’s life. There used to be a gospel in the world, which provoked enthusiasm and commanded sacrifice. Tens of thousands have met together to hear this gospel at peril of their lives. Men, to the teeth of tyrants, have proclaimed it, and have suffered the loss of all things, and gone to prison and to death for it, singing psalms all the while. Is there not such a gospel remaining?”

It’s been said that many preachers today simply use a Bible text as a launching pad, and then go on to say what they want – what the people want to hear. Others throw in Bible quotations to illustrate their points, or to illustrate their stories. Yet the real calling of a preacher is to simply let the Bible speak for itself and let it declare its own power. Paul was confident he had done this.

For Paul, one chapter is closing. It is saddening that he must move on from these deep bonds he has built. But a new chapter is about to be written. As he moves out into faithfulness to God’s missionary calling on his life, the apostle can transition with incredible peace. Because:

1. He had served the Lord faithfully in this missional context, with great humility, with many tears, and through many trials. He had loved people and poured into these relationships with everything he had. (v18-19)

2. He was faithful to the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. Instead of preaching a feely-good gospel, he didn’t shrink back from declaring what it would really cost them to follow Jesus. Paul had great peace in his work because he didn’t compromise God’s Word. (v20-21)

3. His life was constrained by the Spirit, or “Spirit-filled.” He had great peace because he was led by the Holy Spirit even when the Holy Spirit told him that his obedience would be met with danger and hardship ahead. (v22-23)

4. He was more concerned with following God into the unknown than trying to get God to fit into his own little comfort zone. Let that statement resonate for a moment.(v24)

5. He could commend his work and his friends to God. Paul knew that it was very likely that after his departure “fierce wolves” would come in, even “from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.” He warned them to be alert and to remember that he had served them faithfully for three years with many tears, but ultimately he knew that God alone was the only One Who could be trusted with their fate. They wouldn’t be better suited because of Paul’s presence, but because they were in God’s hand. God could be trusted, as only He can, with their continual process of sanctification. (v29-30)

Paul lived with a “Spirit-filled uncertainty.” What does that look like for you right now?

A True Test of Faith: Why Do We Worship God?

A True Test of Faith: Do we worship God for WHO He is, or what He has given us?

The LORD said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD. (Job 1:7-12 ESV)

Satan’s big case against Job: He will only worship God in the good times, but if God took away all of his blessings, then Job would curse him to his face. Thus the vetting begins to prove his thesis.

Fiery trials come upon Job. He loses all his possessions and his children are killed in a violent natural disaster.

Satan has him on the ropes.

But just when he thinks Job will validate his thesis, the man of God… fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:20-21 ESV)

The WHY of our worship is critical in authenticated our faith.

If you lost everything you have today, would you still worship the Almighty? God wants us to love Him for WHO He is, not what He gives. This is the heart of true worship.

God’s Master Plan and the Church

old-church

God has a master plan to unite all things to himself (Ephesians 1:10).

Christ is at the head of this plan (Ephesians 1:22).

His strategy involves the church fulfilling this plan (Ephesians 1:23).

Christ has so identified himself with his church that it is said to be his very body, much as Adam described Eve as “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Gen. 2:23) and as God declared man and wife to be “one flesh” (Eph. 5:28–30). The church, filled by Christ, is God’s priority in filling all of creation with the fullness of God. It’s obvious from scripture that we cannot divorce the church from God’s master plan.

QUESTION: If the church is a top priority in God’s plan to fill all of creation with his fullness, is it a priority in your life?