Psalms on Saturday: Psalm 55:22

“Cast your burden on the LORD,
and he will sustain you
He will never permit
the righteous to be moved.”

Psalm 55:22

What burdens do you have? What is heavy upon your heart and soul? One burden we carry is guilt. It is astounding how much guilt we carry with us. We look on Instagram, see that someone has worked out and think, “Why didn’t I work out today?” We wanted to, we know we should have and in that moment we put a little guilt on our backs. We yell at our children, apologize to them and hug them, but we still feel badly because we know that so-and-so would never yell at their children; we grab a little more guilt and put it on our backs with the rest. And so we live our lives until our souls are hunched over, groaning for relief, too weary to go on. If you know the feeling, this psalm is for you. Continue reading “Psalms on Saturday: Psalm 55:22”

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Psalms on Saturday (Mar. 18, 2017)

“My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food…
when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night.”

Psalm 63:6

Earlier this week my wife and I had the excellent opportunity to stay at the Haven River Inn in Comfort, Texas. On Tuesday evening, we ate at the Subway there in Comfort and at 4 o’clock in the morning, I discovered that the Subway food and I were having a large disagreement in my belly. For quite a while, I rolled around and could not fall asleep as the battle raged on in my belly. Giving up the fight for sleep, I reached over, grabbed my phone and began browsing through social media, blogs, etc. for an hour.

My wife eventually woke up and I flipped on the lamp and began reading Psalm 63 and in verse 6, the Holy Spirit dropped the hammer upon my heart. In my rolling around, searching for sleep and relief from the Subway-stomach carnage, I never once prayed and asked God for relief. I never once thought back to the Scripture I memorized for just such an occasion. I didn’t even pull up the YouVersion Bible app on my phone to read the Bible for comfort. Instead I sought comfort in the backlit, blue light screen of my iPhone. I did not exemplify Psalm 63:6 (which is quoted above).

Psalm 63:1 says, “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” I love this verse; it is one of my favorites in all of Scripture and it is what I aspire and hope would describe me. But if these things are true, if I truly and earnestly desire the Lord, then why was the Bible the last place to which I turned?

The answer is not that I do not love Scripture or do not love God. But the answer is that earnestly seeking the Lord, having a soul which thirsts and yearns for the Lord is a daily and lifelong process with many victories and failures. I failed to turn to Scripture because I was not trusting that God could take care of my problem or provide comfort. However, I did think that my phone would provide the comfort I needed. I failed to trust God.

But even amid the failures, the Lord is gracious and plants the seeds of victory. If I would not have failed, I would not have realized how easily distracted my mind can be and how I do not turn to the Lord in moments of crisis and pain. But through my failure, the Lord showed me these things and now they will be more and more present in my mind the next time a small crisis arises.

“Thank You, Lord God, for showing me that I was not trusting and finding my comfort in you. Please Lord, help me and every Christian to find our comfort, not in our phones, or something else, but to find our comfort in you.”

Reading the Bible When You Have No Time

busyModern life is busy and is predicated on busyness. You are not really successful or even really living unless you are busy. Between work, family, children, hobbies, church, television, time slips through our fingertips and we wonder where it has gone. So when pastors (like myself) say, “You need to be reading your Bible daily,” we can feel the collective eye roll and thoughts like this flashing across people’s mind: “Yeah, like I can fit that in too! Between Jimmy’s basketball practice, my doctor’s appointments, Suzy’s piano lessons, I will magically pull some time out of my hat in order to read my Bible.”

Our busyness has resulted in American Christianity being biblically anemic. Most Christians today do not even read their Bible daily or even weekly. Daily Bible reading is not just another hoop that pastors dream up to sadistically torture their church members; it is one of the primary means by which the Lord strengthens and empowers Christians to live the Christian life. With so many Christians reading the Bible so little, is it any wonder that so many Christians feel distant from God and powerless before temptations to sin? Reading our Bibles is too important to be set aside; we must find the time to read the Bible. Here are some helpful tips to help you read the Bible when you have no time.

  • Reading some Bible is better than reading no Bible. In January, well-intentioned Christians choose a Bible reading plan. Most Bible reading plans have you reading between 3-5 chapters a day so that you read through the Bible in a year. But these plans can also burden a Christian who has little time for Bible reading. My advice is read a chapter a day and don’t start in Genesis. Choose a Gospel or a New Testament letter. One chapter a day amounts to five minutes. Anyone can find five minutes to spare to read their Bible. If you were to read one chapter a day from your Bible, you will have read through the Bible in three years.
  • Choose a time that works for you. The traditional line is: “YOU MUST DO YOUR BIBLE READING IN THE MORNING!” This is good advice, but it does not work for everyone. Some people cannot cognitively function before 8 AM. Instead, choose a time that works for you. If it is the early morning, great. If it is at the end of your lunch break, that’s fine. If it is in the evening, fantastic. Just choose a time and stick with it. Consistency is more important than the time you actually pick.
  • Use an audio Bible. Remember reading some Bible is better than reading no Bible. If you have a commute, redeem it. Very little of what is on the radio is worth the time. The pop stations only play five songs. Talk radio is a bunch of old white men ranting and raving. Public radio is hit or miss. Redeem your commute by listening to Scripture. The YouVersion Bible app for the iPhone has audio Bibles built into the app that you can stream while you drive.
  • Use a digital Bible. This dovetails with the last bit of advice. If you have a smart phone (and odds are that you do), download a Bible app, such as YouVersion. Take five of the minutes you would use to scroll through Facebook or Instagram to read the Bible instead. Smart phones can be enormous wastes of time or they can be great advantages in our walk with Christ.

Paul’s admonition to the Ephesians to make “the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:16) is as true today as it was when Paul penned those words. We must not bow to the idol of busyness and sacrifice our time on its altar. These tips ultimately boil down to one fact: our time is a gift from God to be used in His service. So let’s use our time wisely so that we will have enough time to read our Bibles and grow in our relationship with the Lord.

Sermon Notes – July 17, 2016

This Sunday, in light of the recent events in Nice, France, I preached a sermon on Genesis 3 that answered two questions: why do bad things happen? and why doesn’t God do something about it.

All evil can be traced back to a single event that happened near the beginning of creation: the Fall. Even in our rapidly secularizing culture, the narrative of Adam, Eve and the Serpent is a fairly familiar one. Satan in the guise of serpent deceives Eve (Gen. 3:1b-5) and his particular method of deception is convincing Eve that God’s word is not to be trusted. Satan lies about God’s motives in commanding Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2:16-17). Satan states that God is holding out on Adam and Eve; Satan tells Eve that God does not want Eve to be like God.snakeandfruit Continue reading “Sermon Notes – July 17, 2016”

The Worst Advice I Received On Studying The Bible

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“Don’t you be using no study Bible, ya hear!”

During college, I received some terrible advice about reading the Bible. The advice was this: “Read only your Bible and nothing else. You do not need to read what anyone else has said about the Bible. You don’t need commentaries or study Bibles. Just read your Bible.” These statements sound very pious and in most Protestant ears, they are quite laudable. The Bible is our only authority for life and doctrine after all. But this advice is unsound and leads to dangerous ends. The reasons why this is a dangerous teaching is: Continue reading “The Worst Advice I Received On Studying The Bible”

How (Not) to Read the Old Testament

The Old Testament is filled with stories we know, or are at least vaguely familiar with. Adam and Eve. Noah and the Ark (and all of those animals). David and Goliath. Jonah and the Whale. We know the plot lines, the conflict, the endings. We know these stories. We learned them in Sunday School or through Grandma or Mom and Dad or a friend or just through cultural osmosis. There is a danger when we approach these stories that we know. The danger is that we will read them and many other portions of the Old Testament (and even the New Testament) and we moralize them.

What does it mean to moralize a part of the Bible? Moralizing is when you draw a moral out of the story which may, but is probably not, what the author intended. An excellent example of moralizing is with a modern interpretation of David and Goliath. Continue reading “How (Not) to Read the Old Testament”