An Urgent Call to Study the Bible and Tips on How to Do It

This blog is an urgent call, in light of the times we are living in, to study the Bible carefully, not just devotionally–and some basic “how to” steps to do it.

Many Christians make time for devotional moments with God, but fewer set aside space to regularly study the teachings of Scripture more deeply. Maybe it is an issue of time, not knowing how, or thinking that deeper Bible study is primarily for teachers and pastors.

In any case, we lose out on much spiritual growth and many rich insights in our relationship with God when we miss this kind of study. Also, our faith and relationship with God could very much be at risk, as I’ll explain later.

There has been a major trend in Christianity that “doctrines aren’t important; it is one’s relationship with Jesus that counts.” The idea of “doctrine” (the teachings of a Bible on a given topic) has become suspect to many. Doctrinal fights and judgmental attitudes within or between denominations helped birth this “Jesus only” trend. But it is a huge mistake and a serious spiritual danger. Here’s why:

1. You Need a Solid Foundation for Your Faith

The doctrines of the Bible work like the frame of a building, or the skeletal structure in the human body. They give stability, strength, and form. A broken or missing member causes major challenges. We’ve heard of buildings collapsing, with tragic loss of life, because codes were not followed. Paul pionts to this role of Biblical truth when he calls the church “the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15 NIV). The Church–and our spiritual lives–are built with a foundation and superstructure of Biblical truth.

The teachings of the Bible describe the truths that form a Christian worldview and inform our concept of God and reality. They are not just like boards or dry bones. Bible teachings fill out the beauty of depth of God’s character and reveal His plans and purposes for us. The nature of God, Christ, the Holy Spirit; the nature of humans, the truths related to salvation, judgment, heaven, the afterlife, the Last Days, the Second Coming, and so many more, make up our belief system and give us stability and hope.

The bottom line is that Jesus is fleshed out by the truths of Scripture. Bible doctrines tell us more about Him, and about God’s amazing, beautiful character. To ignore doctrine is to diminish God and all that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are to us.

2. To Be Secure in Jesus and Safe from Deception

Years ago, I knew two young women who got caught in a cult. Both died as a result. The grief for their family and church was gut wrenching. Ever since, I have been cautious about leaders who exhibit cult-like personalities. While this is an extreme case, false teaching is nevertheless destructive.

Bible writers sound many warnings about false teachers and distorted doctrines, both in their day, and the Last Days. They warn that the goal of these misguided people is often to recruit followers and make money. Ego is foremost, rather than the glory of God. In my early pastorate, a man began to produce videos criticizing leaders and presenting his take on truth. He eventually began accepting donations and became quite wealthy. Later, he confessed to his wrong motives. Here are two cases from the Bible:

“For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain.”

Titus 1:10-11 NIV

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter (false teaching), because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have departed from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some.”

2 Timothy 2:15-18 NIV

Be cautious of people claiming to bring you a new message or truth from God, especially if they have attitudes of criticism, or self-promotion. There are many false teachers today, as in Bible times. Following them can be damaging to your faith and even dangerous. On the other hand, take time to prayerfully and carefully study out what they are saying, in the ways I’ll describe later. It is an opportunity to grow and see real truth more deeply. You may be able to help others as well.

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3. To Keep Safe in Our Relationship with Jesus Through the Last Days

Bible writers left us urgent warnings about deception and false teaches in the Last Days of earth’s history. Satan knows that His time is short. He hates God and everyone connected with Him, so he wants to destroy our belief structure and collapse our faith. He gets demonic pleasure out of tearing down what God has built up. He delights in attacking and troubling us as he pokes a finger in God’s eye.

Corruption of truth come from challenges outside the faith, such as when social or political movements co-opt and misapply, or redefine, thought categories. They can also originate from inside the Church when teachers distort key doctrines, sometimes with apparently well-meaning motives. John urges us: “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits (people, teachings) to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1 NIV). I have seen so many distortions of Scripture in my years as a pastor. Fact check everything you aren’t sure about.

Paul tells us he received his gospel directly from Jesus, probably through visions (Galatians 1:11). This included revelations of what would happen in the last days. Here are two of his serious alerts about the Endtimes:

“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 

2 Timothy 4:1-4 NIV

“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.” 

1 Timothy 4:1-2 NIV

Paul wasn’t alone in warning about spiritual dangers in the last days. The apostles were all aware this will happen.

“Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’ But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.”

2 Peter 3:3-7 NIV (See also Jude 3-4)

Revelation, Jesus’ message to the Church about what would take place between His Ascension and Second Coming, especially in the Last Days, warns about the false teachings of Balaam (Revelation 2:14), the Nicolaitans (2:15), and Jezebel (2:20) that had infiltrated the Christian Church.

In Revelation 12-18, Jesus describes the deceptions and false miracles that will become nearly universal in the world. Paul refers to the same thing:

“Then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.”

2 Thessalonians 2:8-12 NIV

Jesus told a powerful parable about building a solid faith. He described two men building homes. One built his house on sand, without taking time to dig deeply and build a solid foundation. The other chose solid rock to build on. When a torrential flood came, the house built on the rock was able to withstand the storm while the house built on sand collapsed.

Jesus’ crucial lesson is that we must take time to dig deeply and build our faith on Jesus (our Rock) and His word. Character and faith built on the word will survive the many kinds of storms that come against us.

We are all building a house of faith. Jesus’ parable shows us how.

How to Study Doctrine (Bible Teaching)

By now, it is clear how important it is to study God’s word more deeply, for our own spiritual growth and for our spiritual safety. I’ve had the privilege of theological training and being a pastor for many years, so I want to share a few things that have helped me. Here are 7 simple suggestions:

1. Accept questions and challenges as an opportunity to learn and grow.

When a question comes up, perhaps in a sermon, Bible teaching, or in your devotions, make a mental note of it. Keep a notebook or computer document of topics for future study.

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2. Set aside time for Bible study in addition to your devotions.

If you want to study more deeply, you must set aside time for it. Even 30 minutes of study each day will begin to yield great dividends. Some combine their devotions with deeper study by keeping their focus on God. Choose a place with comfortable seating, good lighting, and fresh air for brain oxygenation. Take breaks every 25 minutes or so and walk around to keep the blood flowing.

3. Collect a notebook or computer doc, your Bible (or Bible App), a concordance, and a Bible dictionary.

A concordance lists all major words and where they are found in scripture; an online site like has a concordance search box that allows you to look up a word, words, or phrase, and with click of your mouse see all the verses in the Bible where they are used. A Bible dictionary will give definitions for Bible words, names, or places. A good search engine can substitute.

Bibles come in all varieties and levels of accuracy today. A “formal” translation which more literally follows the Greek and Hebrew is preferable for accuracy in Bible study. The King James Version (and New KJV), The New American Standard Bible, and the English Standard Version are formal translations. The later are easiest to understand. I prefer the New American Standard Bible for readability and accuracy.

Dynamic equivalency Bibles are good for devotional reading, but are not as accurate in some places. The Message, the Living Bible, and the New Living Translation are examples of this kind of Bible. The New International Version tried to strike a balance, but is not as literal as the formal translations I listed earlier. Don’t stress over this. Better to begin with the Bible you have than not begin at all.

Studying the Bible to know God and His truth gives deep meaning and happiness.

4. Begin with prayer for the Holy Spirit to guide you in your study.

Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to “guide us into all truth” (John 16:13). He said the Father is more willing to give us the Spirit’s help than an earthly father is willing to give good things to his child (Luke 11:13). When we ask humbly in dependence on Him, He will always help us. Jesus died to fulfill the promise of the Spirit’s help in this, and every aspect of our lives.

The Bible was prepared by God to be an inspired and sufficient guide for our lives. It tells how to have a relationship with God and ultimately spend eternity with Him. The Spirit “inspired” Bible writers, and He will open it up (reveal the meaning) to you as you ask His help and depend on His guidance.

5. Write down key words, phrases, and concepts in your question. Research these.

In your concordance, look up key words or phrases in each verse they are used. Using (described above), you can scan the verses it lists for the most relevant. The Bible often defines its own terms, either in the immediate context or related passages. Write down what you find as you go. Use a Bible dictionary as a help, if you wish.

Doing this kind of study is building a conceptual framework made up of definitions and ideas. It is like constructing something piece by piece, painting a picture one stroke at a time, or putting a jigsaw puzzle together. The end product will emerge little by little. The joy is in seeing it come together and having the Divine Teacher at your side guiding you.

Scripture itself calls us to this kind of study: “From infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:15-17 NIV)

Bible study helps you see God’s character more deeply and as a result, love Him more.

6. As you study ask what this tells you about the God’s character, His plan to save you, and what He wants you to do about what you learned.

When Jesus revealed Himself to Saul (later Paul) on the Damascus Road, Saul asked, “Who are you, Lord?” and “What do you want me to do?” These are good questions to ask as we study.

We should relate everything we study to the great central truth of Jesus’ atonement for our sins on the cross and the gift of salvation. This will draw our hearts to Him. “If I be lifted up, I will draw all people to myself,” He said (John 12:32).

Currently, I am studying words that describe what Jesus’ death means. It has helped me see His love even more.

7. God’s greatest desire

God longs for us to love Him with our whole heart and mind. Understanding things logically and intellectually without seeking to know God’s heart can be spiritually self-defeating. Ask God to show you His love and heart for you as you study.

A Wonderful Promise of Spiritual Treasure

The Wise Man, Solomon promised that if we do this kind of study, with the same intensity of purpose as if we were looking for say treasure buried in our back yard, we will be richly rewarded. Indeed, we are searching for eternal, spiritual treasure which will fill our hearts and minds with God’s truth and goodness. We will build a house of truth on the Rock, Jesus, He will keep us safe in the coming storms of life.

“My son, if you accept my words
    and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom
    and applying your heart to understanding—
indeed, if you call out for insight
    and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
    and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
    and find the knowledge of God.

For the Lord gives wisdom;
    from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” Proverbs 2:1-6

Search for Bible truth as if you were looking for buried treasure. Source:

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How Much Do You Need to Know to be Saved?

A few days ago, I wrote about “Why Religious Knowledge Alone Won’t Save You–And What You Can Do About It.” However, I realized that more needs to be said. How much do you need to know to be accepted by God and begin a relationship with Him?

Very little, as it turns out; but an essential minimum. Even if you believe a lot of wrong things, God can still accept you and do what He does best. We see this clearly in the ministry and teachings of Jesus.

A Canaanite Woman

Matthew and Mark tell us about a trip Jesus took from Jerusalem to the mostly gentile region of Tyre and Sidon where He met a woman who knew very little, but just enough to receive Jesus’ help.

This story actually begins in Jerusalem with a debate between Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees about a technical question in their law. These leaders had a LOT of religious knowledge. They knew the Hebrew Bible back and forth, and volumes of theology too.

But Jesus ended up telling them: “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:7-9). Jesus’ point is that we can have a lot of religious knowledge, but be far from God.

It is at this moment Jesus leaves the center of learning and culture and travels with his disciples to Tyre and Sidon (northern Syria today, quite a journey on foot). From the center of religious knowledge in Judaism, Jesus led His followers to an area known for its superstition and false gods. From great knowledge to little knowledge. It was a cross-cultural mission trip; and I think Jesus was trying to teach His disciples a lesson.

A Canaanite woman pleads for help

There, a Canaanite woman came begging Jesus to cast a demon out of her daughter (Matthew 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30). She cried, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly” (Matthew 15:22).

A pathetic situation, one which should have aroused the disciples’ compassion. Instead, they complained to Jesus, “Send her away because she keeps crying out after us” (v. 23).

Their reaction is hardhearted, for sure. But a little background helps us understand their reaction from their perspective. Canaanites were gentiles, with very distorted views of God (from a Jewish viewpoint). They were the corrupt people of the land when Israel arrived centuries before, which God told Israel root out. In Jesus’ time, they were still seen as pagans, and under curse of God.

Unexpectedly and out of character, as the woman begs for help, Jesus ignores her. When He finally speaks, He tells her that it wouldn’t be right for Him to take the children’s (Jews’) bread and give it to their dogs (gentiles).

I can hear His disciples muttering, “Right!” Some Jews referred to gentiles as dogs in Jesus’ day. So Jesus is treating her as some of His people might do. He is giving His followers a lesson–one we also need today.

The woman’s desperate and persistent response is, “True Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table” (v. 27). Jesus immediately replied, “‘Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.’ And her daughter was healed at that moment” (v. 28)

What gave her this persistence? Was it Jesus’ expression of sympathy, His tone of concern, a twinkle in His eye? Was it her own desperation? Something made her keep trying.

How much did this woman know? Not much; but enough. When she first called on Jesus, she cried, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (v. 22).

Clearly, she had heard of Jesus. She believed He was the Jewish Messiah, descended from David. Jesus had learned about His willingness to extend mercy and love to those who did not deserve it. She had heard of His miracles, and perhaps a few rumored teachings. Where had she gotten this sparse, but important information?

Much earlier Matthew reports that news about Jesus had “spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them” (Matthew 4:24).

The woman may have talked with some who heard Jesus teach or received His healing touch. Her knowledge was limited, but it was enough. She believed Jesus had come from God and that He extended grace and mercy to those who needed it. Putting her trust in Him, her daughter was healed.

Jesus disciples were amazed. God loves everyone the same? He has no favorites? He will love and give race and blessings to even the “heathen?”

The people God entrusts with a knowledge of Him are blessed so they can bless others, not horde His gifts. Jesus died for all, bearing the sins of every human on the cross, so all who wish may receive mercy. How much knowledge is necessary for that?

At Jesus’ Birth Too

We see this illustrated at the beginning of Jesus’ life. Poor shepherds, considered unclean and low class by the Jews, and the gentile Magi, both groups slim on Jewish religious knowledge, are the ones to come to the welcome Messiah. His own people who should know the prophecies, are oblivious, or preoccupied. Even at Jesus’ birth, God was signaling that His love and mercy were for everyone.

God calls high and low, shepherds and Wise Men.

First Sermon Nearly Ends in Death

Later, we observe it at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. In his first sermon at his home town of Nazareth, He reminds the worshipers that God’s heart is bigger than Israel. Elijah had been sent to provide food for a heathen widow in Zarephath. Namaan, an Aramaean (Syrian) army officer in the time of Elisha, had been healed of leprosy. God’s own people had not asked, but these “non-believers” had.

If you’ve read the story, you might have been shocked that Jesus home-town people tried to throw Him off a cliff when He said this. Why?

When we grow up in a religious community, it is easy to believe that God’s blessings are restricted to those who believe the right things, those who have the “correct” theology. It is possible to look down on others.

With that perspective, we may feel we don’t “know enough” for God to accept us. But God’s love and mercy and acceptance are as wide as the world, and He gives them freely to those who simple believe and ask.

At the Cross

We see this again at the cross.

A young man hangs from nailed wrists, mouth dry as cotton, flies buzzing, body and brain exploding with pain. He is in agony, slowly dying. He has lived a life of crime, led on by bad associates. A lapsed Jew, he may have had some religious knowledge, but he had tossed it aside like a crust of stale bread years ago. It was like a hazy memory now.

A criminal calls on Jesus

Yet strange, hopeful thoughts are going through his mind. He has heard Jesus’ followers say they had believed the crucified Man on the center cross was the one who was going to deliver Israel. He heard the religious leaders mock, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ of God, the Chosen One” (Luke 23:35).

He remembered his mother telling him about the sacrifices and how they pointed forward to a Messiah deliverer who would die for others. He watched Jesus’ behavior, heard His few words, and as the Spirit spoke to his heart, slowly the realization dawned on him that this was the Messiah, dying for the world’s sins, his sins. Did Isaiah 53, the prophecy of Messiah’s suffering and death come back to him?

This life held nothing for him now; it was almost over. But what about his eternity? In a parched voice, he called out from the depths of his heart, “Lord, will you remember me when you come in your kingdom?” (Luke 23:42). And immediately, Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth today, you will be with me in paradise” (v. 43).

This backslider, with faint religious memories, sees in Jesus a gracious, loving Savior, puts all his trust in Him, and is assured of eternity.

I have heard stories of addicts, incarcerated persons, and people from all walks of life who had little religious knowledge, but called out to God in their time of need; and God responded and gave them a new spiritual life. It turned their lives around. Why is this possible?

Because, simply, Jesus died for the whole world and every person in it. God’s love is not restricted to a chosen few; it is for everyone. That is wonderful news. God’s grace and love are as free and available as the air we breathe because of the cross. If you realize your need of God, you can call on Jesus today and put your faith in Him as your Savior. He will accept you because He paid for the right to do so.

A Place for Knowing More

I am not saying here that religious knowledge and education is unnecessary. It is extremely important. The Bible encourages parents and the church to teach this as the foundation of faith for children and believers. And once we come to faith, Peter says we should “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

The more we know about God and the One He sent, the more we love them. And the more we know about God, the more we can become like Him. Truth describes God’s will and path for us. It helps us avoid spiritual deceptions and stay in the center of God’s will.

What I am asserting is that it is wonderful news that God’s love is so broad and Christ’s grace is so free that anyone in the world can call on them, no matter how much or how little they know, and God will forgive and receive them as His children.

Jesus did the really hard work of overcoming Satan in our flesh and then dying for the sins of the world–so God can accept absolutely anyone who comes to Him in need and faith. Knowledge is no barrier. Your wandering, sinful past will not stop Him.

That is really good news. And so the saying is true, “It’s not how much you know, but Who you know, that counts.” “This is life eternal that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ, Whom You have sent” John 17:3.

Yes, Jesus accepts anyone, even me and you.

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Why Religious Knowledge Alone Won’t Save You – And What You Can Do About It

I grew up knowing a lot about God. My family attended church regularly. I was in children’s classes every week. My dad and mom were both Christians. Dad, especially seemed to have a personal relationship with his “heavenly Father,” as He called Him. I could tell by the way he talked about God and the way he prayed. He had grown up in the back alleys of Denver in a home where his dad was mean and abusive when he drank. It came as a relief to my dad when he learned about a heavenly Dad who was full of love and kindness.

I went to Christian schools for fifteen years and denominational summer camps nearly every summer. Christian clubs and extracurricular activities added to my knowledge and religious acculturation. I knew a LOT about God and His Book and could answer many questions in a Bible trivia game. But I didn’t know either God or Jesus, personally. In fact, I didn’t feel a need because I somehow equated knowing “about” God and participating in religious services and activities with what I thought was real religion.

However, this did not “work” for me. Throughout my high school and college years, I struggled with personal sins, often violating what I knew was right. There were many cycles of giving in to temptations of various kinds, experiencing religious guilt, yet failing again. I seemed to have no power in areas where I was weak.

Yet, somehow, I thought of myself as quite a good person, better than some, maybe most, because of the right things I knew and did. . .and didn’t do (and that list was pretty long). I was sometimes miserable, and certainly self-deceived. But I didn’t know what to do about it.

In college (a Christian one), I majored in theology (because I liked my high school religion teacher, also my coach, and I wanted to “help people). I joined a summer ministry team and became religious vice president of our student association, all the time struggling privately with pride and sin. My religious pursuits and the good feelings that came from serving kept me from seeing my need, and the solution to my problems.

In my freshman year, some students on my campus began to talk a lot about having a personal relationship with Jesus. They had been trained at Campus Crusade for Christ, which made them a bit suspect in my mind, because Cru was a non-denominational ministry, and I almost equated salvation with being in the “right” church.

At the same time, I was intrigued and a bit troubled by what these young men were saying. The “relationship” they talked about seemed real. On one level, it reminded my of my dad. But, I didn’t have what they were describing. I was weirdly uncomfortable for a religious kid.

I went to their meetings, attended a prayer gathering or two in dorm rooms (where they prayed conversationally with God) and got to know some of the guys personally. What they were saying was shaking what I had been trusting in. They said religious knowledge and doctrinal beliefs were not enough. Knowing “about” Jesus was not the same as knowing Him personally, and good works could never “save” anyone for eternity. The foundation I had been trusting in for acceptance with God was getting rattled, but not enough to topple my house of cards yet.

In the meantime, a friend began asking me questions like, “Who do you think Jesus Christ was?” And, What do you think having eternal life means?” I could give theological answers, but not relational, experiential ones. Rick was finding a relationship with God and wanted to nudge me in that direction too.

Looking back, what was keeping me from trusting Jesus as a personal Savior was my false belief that religious knowledge and good works were enough to earn God’s favor. My pride and sins also got in the way too, though, as it turned out, they were the result of my condition, not the cause of it. The root cause was that I didn’t know how lost I was without Jesus as my personal Savior, and my failure to trust and surrender my life to Him.

In the summer of my Junior year, my sister Susan was killed in a car accident. She was a sunny, cheerful, likable girl of seventeen. This shattered my world. My deep grief led me to read the Bible. I had to see for myself if the things I had believed were true. Was there a heaven? Would there be a Second Coming of Christ and a resurrection from the dead? Would I get to see my sister again? I wrote the date of Susan’s death beside meaningful verses. At this point, I was seeking comfort and assurance about things I had only known in my head, not my heart.

One evening after work, I found my self reading John’s description of Jesus’ passion–His struggle to surrender in Gethsemane, His trial, crucifixion, and resurrection. I have often said it was like God shined a floodlight into my mind and heart, and I saw clearly, as I’d never seen before, how much He loved the world–and how much he loved me personally. Immediately, I knew I had a choice to make; it was clear and obvious: to give my life to Him and follow Him.

It was an easy choice in some ways. I saw a love like I’d never understood this deeply before, and Someone who loved me like I had never been loved. I wanted to follow this Jesus. I knelt down and prayed a ridiculously simple prayer for a third year theology student and life-long “religious” person: “Jesus, I don’t know how to follow you, but if you’ll accept me, I will.”

It was a prayer of repentance (turning to God), surrender, and desire–to know God personally in the way I had never known Him.

I know without any doubt that He accepted me and changed my life. I became voraciously hungry to read the Bible–to know as much about God and Jesus, and what they had to say,as I could. The power of sin was broken in my life, and my heart and behavior changed. I learned later, this was the new birth Jesus told Nicodemus about (John 3). Now I went to class and worship to know God better.

In case you are wondering, did I ever struggle with temptation again? Did previous sinful patterns suddenly evaporate? No. I found that as time went along that there were areas God needed to address in my life, but this happened in a growing relationship with Him, over time–learning how the Christian life worked and what He offers to help. In a word, He offers the power of His Spirit and His work of grace in our hearts. This happens as we read and accept His words and walk in a trust relationship with Him.

Jesus offers us so much when we give up depending on ourselves and our own goodness and knowledge. He can do this because He died to earn the right, and He freely forgives and accepts whoever puts their trust fully in Him.

So, why won’t religious knowledge and good works save you, and what can you do about it?

  1. Knowledge and human goodness can be a trap. The biggest illusion in Jesus’ day was that religious knowledge and belonging to a certain group could save you. It felt so complete being full of information about God and worshiping with large groups of people. It felt so right to believe the “right” things. But theoretical knowledge is not enough. It is like describing the sun without moving into its light and warmth, or explaining a cold drink on a hot day without sipping it. Being a fine, upstanding person; having some morality and good works in your life; and being religious, can actually prevent you from feeling your need of God to rescue and change you. It is not even enough to see God’s love and believe it intellectually. Jesus came, lived, explained God, and died for our sins, then rose for one purpose: to make it possible for us to choose a relationship with Him. We must choose to trust in and follow Him in order to have a religion that really works. No Jesus, no life. Know Jesus, new life.
  2. Without Jesus, we’re dead. We are born with a nature that is dead to God, spiritually blind to our own need, and naturally resistant to God and the life of God. Romans 3:9-18 is a description of human nature. It is not hard to see oneself in the list. Galatians 5:19-21 has a similar list of what our natural sinful nature produces. Not only are we spiritually dead by nature, but sin in all its forms deadens our hearts and prevents us from seeing God clearly. “The god of this age (Satan) has blinded (us). . . , so that (we) cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4). This is why we need the new birth, in which God supernaturally, through the Holy Spirit, gives us a new nature. We receive the new birth when we give up trying to be good in our own strength and trust Jesus to be our Savior from sin. When we do, He sends the Spirit to live in our hearts to rebirth us and change us over time. The veil which has been shrouding our minds is removed, and we see Jesus and His new life clearly (2 Corinthians 3:14).
  3. You can’t have a relationship without a relationship. A good mutual friend told me about the woman who is now my wife. The way he described her certainly made me interested in getting to know her. I emailed her, and we began a three month correspondence. We share many things about our life and got to know each other very well. Sending that first email opened the possibility of knowing her, and the more I knew her, the more I loved her. We were created for a relationship with God. There is a God-shaped vacuum in each of us, as one writer said. The First Sin changed human nature and separated us from God. Jesus came to show us what God is really like and to build a bridge (His death on the cross) to give us the right to be forgiven and have a personal relationship with God as our Father. Jesus died to pay the price for all human sin, and when we admit our need and trust Him to forgive and receive us, accepting Him as our personal Savior, our relationship with Him and heaven begins. Why not tell Him now that you would like to know Him? He will certainly take you up on it. Then begin reading things to help you know Him personally. The Gospel of John in the New Testament is a good place to begin. When you are ready, ask Him to be your Savior and God. He died for the privilege of accepting you. Don’t ever doubt He wants you and will be so glad to receive you.

An Appeal

I want to urge you not to take what I’ve written lightly. Accepting Jesus is the only way to the new life He offers. It is like being resurrected in this life. By the power of His Spirit He changes our hearts and raises us spiritually from the dead. The reason many people have no power over sin in their lives is that only Jesus can free us from our old nature and give us a new heart. He says, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). To reject or delay turning to Jesus is to live defeated and miss the assurance and amazing love that come with surrendering to Him.

Please think deeply about what I’ve written. Talk it over with God. Tell Him your fears and concerns, and ask Him to help you to make this decision.

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

John 1:12 NIV

“For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.”

Psalm 36:9 NIV
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Grace in Hard Times – Hebrews 4:16

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Hebrews 4:16 NIV

In the Bible and in Christian teaching, God’s grace is defined as His mercy, kindness, and favor toward we who are undeserving. We usually think of grace in relationship to sin–disobedience of God’s will and human failing in general. God extends His grace to us when we realize our shortcomings and ask His forgiveness.

In the middle of the COVID-19 Pandemic and all its fallout, we are all struggling in many ways. Couples and families cooped up in Quarantine. Employers struggling to understand government requirements and getting needed supplies. Employees asked to do additional work, or let go indefinitely. Children being educated on Zoom or video chat, frustrated by the new ways. And so much more.

Personal and societal stress results in much need of God’s forgiving grace. In this short blog, I want to describe the two kinds of grace God offers us and how they can help us.

Two Kinds of Grace

1) Justifying, Saving Grace

God’s first gift of grace is amazing, almost unbelievable; but it is the foundation of every other dispensing of grace He gives us. It is the grace that saves us.

God offers me this grace when I realize how broken I am as a human being and how sinful attitudes, thoughts, words, and actions keep bubbling out of me, no matter how hard I try. When I realize there might be help from God and turn to Him, admitting my need for His forgiveness and help, He forgives me, justifies me, and changes my heart. Paul describes this in his letter to Titus.

“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. 

Titus 3:3-7 NIV

What allows God to do this for us is this: Jesus came in human form, lived our life without sin and died for our sins on the cross. In His life, he did what we had failed to do. By depending deeply on God (it was a daily battle fought by prayer and self-surrender), He resisted every from of temptation and lived a sinless life. Then on the cross, He willingly accepted the guilt and punishment of every human being (1 John 2:2; 1 Peter 2:24; Isaiah 53:5-10). Our sins broke His heart and crushed out His life.

“He bore our sins in His own body on the cross.” 1 Peter 2:24 NIV

When I understand this, and put my trust in Jesus to help me, He does several things.

He forgives all my past sins because Jesus liquidated my moral debt on the cross. He justifies me, a legal action, which means He pardons me and erases my guilt because Christ took it on the cross. At the same time, He credits Jesus’ perfect life to me, covering my past life with His perfect life, so I stand before Him faultless.

He also changes my heart in a supernatural “new birth” experience, so now, from my heart, I desire to love and follow Him and His path instead of my former selfish ways. Now, I am a child of God by spiritual rebirth, and He sends His Spirit to live in me to help me live a new and different life. The Spirit helps me become more and more like Him and grows the fruit of true goodness and holiness in me, more and more, as I learn how to walk with God.

Many people look at Christians and think they are living through self-effort, that they have accepted certain behaviors and practices and do this hard work to earn God’s favor. Probably many do. But real Christianity is a supernatural experience. God changes our hearts, and we live differently because He loves us and lives in us.

We have peace because we have been forgiven and justified. We have been accepted by God and are His loved children. We are pictured as “standing in grace,” in God’s favor and mercy, no longer under guilt and condemnation.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. 

Romans 5:1-2 NIV

How would you like to have God take all your failures and forgive them? How would you like Him to take your life history with all the dark places, and cover it all with Jesus’ perfect life? How would you like Him to change you from the inside out. If you will admit your need and confess you sins to Him, surrendering your heart and life to Him, He will. The Bible describes this as being covered with a white robe of righteousness, Jesus’ life.

“He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness.” Isaiah 61:10 NIV

2) Helping, Growing Grace

God not only justifies us and takes us into His family, but He gives us daily grace to help us live a different, new life.

This grace is a different expression of God’s kindness than justifying grace, but it comes from the same place–God’s kind mercy. It is also based on Jesus’ death for us. But the first kind of grace is forgiveness, the second is God’s help to lives a different life. The second is based on the first.

This is the grace we need for patience with our spouse and children. We can ask for this grace when we have not been treated fairly. This grace is needed when we face inward brokenness and sin of any kind. God gives us this grace to grow and become more like we were intended to be.

Because we have been forgiven, justified (#1 above), God can now help us whenever we ask. We can request for this grace whenever we need it as our opening scripture said, Hebrews 4:16.

“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

Romans 8:32 NIV

This second gift of grace is known by different terms: inward grace, assisting grace, strengthening grace, sustaining grace, sanctifying grace, grace to help us in our times of need, grace that matures us, grace for obedience. This shows that God has grace for us for every situation in life. All we need to do is humbly ask in faith, depending on God for His help. His grace is sufficient for every need.

Adequate to Our Needs

Here are a few scriptures that describe this helping grace God is so willing to give us:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

“It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace.” Hebrews 13:9

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” Philemon 1:25

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. . .” 1 Corinthians 15:10

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

All Scriptures from The Holy Bible, New International Version® Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.

So, as you face the challenges of these times, I invite you to take God up on His two amazing offers of grace. He is so ready and willing to hear your prayer.

Lonely? – Psalm 25:16

One sad effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Quarantine is the loneliness so many are feeling. Many kinds of loneliness.

Probably the worst kind is the loneliness thousands of sick people are feeling as they are quarantined in hospitals or nursing homes, unable to received the love and support of family and friends. The the Pandemic first began, our pastors went to visit our members in their retirement homes, but for safety, visitation from outside people had been curtailed. Loneliness.

We have seen the pictures of elderly spouses waving to their loved ones through hospital windows, unable to speak to them and give the gift of loving touch. We are grateful for healthcare workers who are doing their best in such circumstances, but being very ill and dying without family around you must be so very hard.

And there are other kinds of loneliness. Not being able to gather as families. Grandparents who can’t be with their grandchildren. Being suddenly isolated from our social and work networks, the people we love to be around. Missing up-close, personal human interaction. Social media, Skype, and Zoom, help; but they are not the same.

Sometimes we are lonely even with others, if we feel unloved or unappreciated. That is a difficult kind of loneliness. The Quarantine may bring out the brokenness in our close relationships.

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Then, someone pointed out the other day how dehumanizing it is to relate to people through masks. We communicate so much below the level of our eyes–affirming smiles, expressions of agreement, acknowledgment, and more. Wearing masks is important, but we lose so much of human warmth in doing so.

In the middle of all this, God can help us with our loneliness. That is what I want to share with you today.

“Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.”

Psalm 25:16 NIV

King David wrote this at a time when he was facing attacks by political enemies and people who wanted to do him harm. He felt alone. Who could he trust? Who could he turn to in such circumstances? Only to God.

The truth is, God promises to be with us in our troubles, our isolation, our loneliness. Whatever circumstances are causing us to feel alone, He is there for us.

When Jesus was preparing to go back to heaven after His resurrection, he acknowledged that His followers would feel alone; so He made a wonderful promise we can take to heart now.

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. . .Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”

John 14:18, 23 NIV

This promise was not just for those disciples. It applies to everyone who accepts it. God offers to make His home in us.

This is not a replacement for human love and presence, but it is a deep help with the problem of loneliness. Having a God who loves us so much, a Jesus who lived, died, rose, and always lives for us be willing to be with us at all times an in all circumstances is a wonderful blessing.

Jesus experienced His Father’s presence with him in this way. He said, “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me” (John 16:32).

Friend, if you accept Jesus as you Friend and Savior, and God as your Father, you can have the comfort of their presence with you all the time. You don’t need to ever be lonely in the sense of being completely alone.

Since I accepted Jesus, I want to tell you I have never been lonely, because He has always been with me. Yes, I have missed family when I couldn’t be with them. In some situations, there was a sense of being alone. But I have never felt truly alone because God has been with me. This is a gift He offers to everyone.

What about those who are dying alone? This is so tragic. My heart goes out to families who long to be with their loved one and cannot, and the sick person who so much would like to have their family with them.

I believe that in ways known only to God, He has been there for them. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted. . .” “the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down” (Psalm 34:18; 146:8).

When my wife’s late husband died of cancer, they were alone at home together. My wife had prayed that her trust in God would not fail when the moment came.

After her husband took his last breath, and she realized he had died, she prayed, thanking God for His help and faithfulness during their difficult journey. She thanked God she still trusted Him. Suddenly she felt a physical touch like someone pressing on her back, hugging her. She knew instantly that God was truly with her and would be with her always. This reminds me of Jesus’ promise when He left:

“Surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28:20

You can take hold of these promises from Jesus that I have shared today. We may not feel we deserve this, but He loves us more than we can imagine. In His eyes, we were worth enough to give His life for. He wants to be with us, to be a Friend and Companion. You can invite Him if you choose.

Discouraged or Depressed? – Psalms 40, 42

Years ago I attended a large pastor’s conference. One speaker was the well known counselor and author, John Townsend. His topic very much spoke to where I was in life at the time, and I wanted to have more conversation with him.

I found him later on campus, and as we talked about his presentation, he asked, out of the blue it seemed to me, if I was depressed. His question caught me off guard. But after reflecting a moment, I said, “No, I don’t think so.” He replied kindly, “You might want to give it some thought.”

Who me? Depressed? I was a pastor with answers for others. I was a source of wisdom and help to many under my care. I was a healer. I didn’t need to be healed.

But his question stuck with me, and I thought about my life. A pastor in a challenging position in a large church with an attached school. ministering to youth, college students, and young adults. Three young children. Married and each of us working long hours in leadership. Who me; depressed? In retrospect, I think I was.

Discouragement and depression develop in situations that are overwhelming, where we are taxed beyond what our conscious coping mechanisms can handle. When life challenges are unrelenting, with no solution in sight, hope begins to fade and discouragement and depression sneak up, settling like a fog on our mind.

In this time of the COVID-19 Quarantine, with all its personal and national fallout, discouragement and depression are real for many.

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King David struggled with depression and wrote about it several times in the Psalms. As monarch of Israel, he often faced overwhelming challenges–administrative, political, and military. He also grappled with his personal failings.

In Psalm 40, he describes some of what he faced:

“For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me. . .May all who seek to take my life be put to shame and confusion; may all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace. May those who say to me, ‘Aha! Aha!’ be appalled at their own shame.”

Psalm 40:12, 14, 15

So, how did David cope? I believe his psalms hold solutions for us. In Psalm 42 he writes:

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Psalm 42:5

I once heard the pastor of a very large church describe his struggle with depression. He had a young family, a child with mental health challenges, and a large, growing congregation with multiple staff. He slipped into depression and couldn’t find a way out.

One day, the idea came to him to write down encouraging things from Scripture and memorize them. He wrote these out on cards and read through them each morning and evening. Promises of God’s care. Passages about His goodness and love.

He shared with us that after three weeks, his depression lifted and joy returned.

What was it that helped him? Reading his cards shifted his focus from His problems to God’s goodness and promises of help. His faith strengthened. No doubt, God was at work in him too.

King David had learned that when he felt down, He could remember God’s goodness and guidance in the past. He could recall stories of His care, His promises to assist. And this became like a strong hand that lifted him out of quicksand and set his feet on solid ground again.

There are times when when we may need to see a counselor, or take medication for a while. Some depression has a physiologic or brain chemistry source. But God is a personal, caring God. His word is full of more than 3,000 promises which describe how He is willing to help us in a variety of life situations. This may, indeed, be the best medicine. While it may be hard to see a counselor or doctor during the quarantine, this remedy is as near as your Bible and your sincere prayer for help.

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In Psalm 40, David describes how this prescription helped him with his discouragement and depression. “Waiting” for David meant trusting God, putting his hope in God’s character and promises while He waited for God to help.

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.

Psalm 40:1-3

God be with you today. He is.

Peace in the Middle of Trouble – John 16:33; 14:27

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John 16:33; 14:27 NIV

Can we have peace in the middle of our troubles? Can our minds and hearts be at peace in the center of a storm, whatever kind of storm it is? Peace in stress? Peace in problems? Peace amid fear and worry?

I believe the answer is Yes. Because someone named Jesus can give us that peace. Because it is a supernatural peace. Because God has power to give it.

In both verses above; in each instance, Jesus was speaking about fear, separation, and trouble. And He was offering peace in the middle of it.

In the first verse, John 16:33, He has just told His followers that the time is coming shortly when they will be scattered to their own homes, like frightened sheep chased by a wolf. And they will leave Jesus alone. He is predicting His arrest and crucifixion, and the disciples’ failure to keep faith in that traumatic moment.

In the face of that reality, as frightening and discomforting as it will be, He is promising to give them peace.

Jesus is saying that experience is symbolic of what life will be like for them going forward, as His followers. “In this world you will have trouble; but I have told you ahead of time, so that in me you may have peace.”

Jesus pulls no punches. It is going to be hard. There will be trouble. But “in Me you may have peace.”

Jesus is the Peace Giver. He stilled the storm on Galilee by saying, “Peace, be still.” He stilled the demon possessed men by speaking the word of deliverance.

Jesus Can Still Our Hearts

He can still our hearts and give us His peace. Because He has overcome the world.

His mission was to reveal the Father’s character and to do what humans failed to do. To trust, to obey His Father whatever the personal cost. To reveal self-sacrificing love. He did it perfectly by surrendering to and depending on God. Even to the cross.

So, He has the right to forgive us, the right to help us, the right to sustain us in our storms.

In the other verse, John 14:27, Jesus is telling His closest followers that He is going to leave them and go back to heaven (verse 28).

This was not at all what they were expecting. Not in their plans at all. In Jewish theology of the day, the Messiah would come as a super-human being, defeat all foes, and take the throne of David to reign forever. This left out the suffering servant teachings of the Old Testament, the dying for sin and resurrection of Isaiah 53.

So, a dying and leaving Messiah was not in their cards. No way!

Anxiety producing without question! But this was the reality, the truth of what they would experience.

Help Promised

So Jesus promises two things in John 14. He is going to send them a Helper, a Person very much like them–the Holy Spirit who will be with them forever. He will comfort them, teach them, bring Jesus’ words back to their minds when they need them, and more.

And He is going to give them His peace, a calmness, an assurance that is beyond anything the world can give. Look at His promise again. It is for you.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27 NIV


It is from Him. To summarize, Jesus offers us to give us peace in a world filled with trouble, whether personal or in our world. It will be a peace HE gives us. Not something we concoct or think up ourselves. A peace from Him.

It is supernatural. It will be a supernatural peace, a peace that only He as God can give us. He IS the Peacespeaker, the Calm Maker, as this old song beautifully says.

It will calm your mind. And it will be a peace of mind because the Spirit will bring back Jesus’ teachings and promises.

It will be peace in your Storm. All this doesn’t mean your storm will go away, always. But it means He will give you peace in the middle of your storm.

Tell the Peace Giver

Do you need peace, friend? Do you need it especially now? I want to encourage you to tell Jesus directly. He died for the right to help us, and He is faithful to His promises. He has helped me so many times in this. He is the Peace Giver.

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Big Problems, Bigger God – Psalm 77

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For the last twenty-two days, I have joined an online group of people who are praying for God’s intervention and guidance during this Pandemic. It has been a true blessing and has really strengthened my own faith during this time.

I found that my general outlook shifted after a few days of listening to other people, many of whom have clearly been tested in life and learned a deep faith. I realized I was not so worried or preoccupied with the problems of COVID-19 during my day, because I had been in the presence of people of great faith who trusted a big God

When trouble comes to our lives in any form, it is easy to react in with fear, worry, a sense of foreboding. These rise up like a great monster from the deep, towering over us (imagine a Disney animation).

We might be tempted at such times to turn to gods of our own creation to handle our problems. As good and helpful as they are: scientists, intelligent people, news anchors, human leaders, even religion; they are not God. It is God himself we need at times like this. And of course, always.

At nearly 20 meters tall, this guardian robot was built in Kobe, Japan, following a deadly earthquake that devastated the city in 1995. The Testuijin-28 character’s purpose, according to its creator, is to guard over the citizens of Kobe and symbolize strength in any further disaster. Image: Matt Doraemon

That is when we need to remember how big our God is. He is our Creator. He keeps the universe going, “sustaining all things by His powerful word” Hebrews 1:1-3). He is the real Problem Solver, Help Giver, and Overseer.

We have begun each prayer session with a time of thinking about Who God is and praising Him for His character attributes–love, faithfulness, mercy, kindness, power, ability to rescue and help us, etc.

Like most people, I have tended to come to God with my list of needs first. I have a prayer list made up of many deep concerns for family, friends, and others I hear about. It is easy to go right to those.

Of course, God wants to hear our personal needs and our prayers for others. But being in the prayer group has reminded me to think first about the God I am praying to and to be grateful and praise-full for who He is. That shrinks my problems, as serious as they are, to their proper size before a big, strong, loving, personal God.

That is what Asaph, one of the Psalmists, is reminding us through his own story, in Psalm 77. Notice how he begins, overwhelmed by his problems. Then he begins to remember who God is and what He has done in the history of God’s people. He ends his prayer in a much better place than when he began. Now, his faith and hope are stronger.

Notice, that this psalm ends abruptly. Perhaps Asaph is placing an ellipse at the end, so we can continue with our own memories, our own personal story of what God has done. Blessings He has given, times He intervened, comfort received, prayers answered, rescues provided. . . . Try writing your own list, even just a quick mental tally, at the end of this psalm.

Your faith will grow because we have an awesome, loving, capable God.

For the director of music. For Jeduthun. Of Asaph. A psalm.

I cried out to God for help;
    I cried out to God to hear me.
When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
    at night I stretched out untiring hands,
    and I would not be comforted.

I remembered you, God, and I groaned;
    I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.
You kept my eyes from closing;
    I was too troubled to speak.
I thought about the former days,
    the years of long ago;
I remembered my songs in the night.
    My heart meditated and my spirit asked:

“Will the Lord reject forever?
    Will he never show his favor again?
Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
    Has his promise failed for all time?
Has God forgotten to be merciful?
    Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”

10 Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
    the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.
11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
    yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
12 I will consider all your works
    and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”

13 Your ways, God, are holy.
    What god is as great as our God?
14 You are the God who performs miracles;
    you display your power among the peoples.
15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
    the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.

16 The waters saw you, God,
    the waters saw you and writhed;
    the very depths were convulsed.
17 The clouds poured down water,
    the heavens resounded with thunder;
    your arrows flashed back and forth.
18 Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
    your lightning lit up the world;
    the earth trembled and quaked.
19 Your path led through the sea,
    your way through the mighty waters,
    though your footprints were not seen.

20 You led your people like a flock
    by the hand of Moses and Aaron. Psalm 77 NIV

Continue with your memories of God’s leading and helping. . .

Thank Him for Who He is and for His faithfulness and involvement in your life, or the lives of those you know.

Chasing After God

This morning on my walk, I saw a man riding his bicycle with a small dog running after him. I’ve seen them before, getting their morning exercise together. The man rides all over the Manoa Park and Rec area, and his doggy friend chases him. It’s great fun to watch.

About ten minutes later, I saw them coming toward me on a walking path–the man on his bicycle and his dog about a hundred feet behind, still running. As Doggy passed me, he made eye contact and slowed a bit; but I wasn’t the one he was after, and he sped up to catch his friend.

I got to thinking, why does this dog run all over the park chasing his owner? There are plenty of other things to chase–birds, other bicycles, people, best of all, other dogs (lots of them; even lady dogs). But he runs as if on an invisible leash, attached to the man on the bicycle.

Clearly, the reason he chases this bicycle is because his friend is riding it. No doubt he has bonded with the man since puppyhood. Now, he has a heart and eyes for no other. Maybe at first, there were treats for following. Now, he just follows for the joy of following. At the end of the chase, I’m sure there are joyful embraces, puppy kisses, and loving words.

You might guess where I am going with this. God longs for us to chase after Him, to long for Him, to have eyes for no other, to follow him on an invisible leash of love.

Speaking to His people in Bible times, God said, “I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the desert. . .” Jeremiah 2:2.

What would it take to become a God-follower, a God-chaser, as it were?

First, simply seeing what is so good about Him, what is worth chasing. That is why He has revealed Himself in the Bible, and also so often in our lives–so we can get to know Him. To know Him is to love Him. It is as simple as that. Reading the Scriptures regularly can help us form that invisible attachment.

Truth is, the chase is not just ours to make. God has been chasing us. He chased His people (and others) all through the pages of the Old Testament, calling them, longing for them:  “All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations. . .” Isaiah 65:2

Then in the greatest chase of all time, He sent Jesus, the Good Shepherd, to seek and save us. He lived among us, showing us the heart of God for broken people like us. Then He made the ultimate Sacrifice by dying for our sins, to win our hearts and set us free and restore us.

So the reality is, we who chase God are those who have seen how passionately He has chased after us. His pursuit has won our hearts.

As a famous God-chaser once wrote: “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14. The prize is spending forever with our Friend, Jesus.

If we are not chasing after God, it might be because we are distracted by other things in the park. We are tempted to chase all kinds of things: our profession or trade can be very satisfying; and rightly so. Relationships; God made us for relationships. Amusement and recreation. Nothing wrong with having fun and enjoying beauty. God made us for that too. But are we chasing these things to the exclusion of chasing Him?

Francis Thompson wrote about it in his famous poem, The Hound of Heaven:  “I fled Him, down the nights and down the days; I fled Him, down the arches of the years; I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways of my own mind; and in the midst of tears I hid from Him, and under running laughter. Up vistaed hopes I sped; and shot, precipitated, adown Titanic glooms of chasmed fears, from those strong Feet that followed, followed after. But with unhurrying chase, and unperturbèd pace, deliberate speed, majestic instancy, they beat—and a Voice beat more instant than the Feet. . .”

God never gives up.

Have you let Him catch you? I have. His love is better than life. It is the ultimate love because He is so amazing, so wonderful. But I still chase after him. I am not perfect. There is still so much I want to see and know about Him. So much to learn.

But the Man on the Bike, longs for us to chase ultimately after Him, above all, in all, and through all we do.

Will you become a God-chaser with me?

Pastor Michael Brownfield

dog chasing man on bike