BEST SELF-HELP BOOK: THE BIBLE

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Walk into any bookstore and you are likely to find a “self-help” section in the Christianity aisle. The plethora of books available today to match any personal need is enough to make one’s head spin.

There are books written by men, women, couples, doctors, pastors and teachers of various backgrounds of faith. You can find books about parenting, marriage, faith, depression, success and yes, even topics of opposition to the Christian faith.

Many people do not believe the bible to be enough. I would say those people need to go back and read it. The Bible is chalked full of the only truth and wisdom needed to function in this crazy world. If you are left unfulfilled after reading the bible, consider a different approach. The magical “open my bible to any page and read” approach or the “one verse a day” method, should be revised. Read the bible with purpose. Pick a book of the bible and read through it and study it for 30 days. Another option that really pounds the Scripture in is one John MacArthur suggests. For the New Testament, pick a short book of the bible and read it all the way through every day for 30 days. For longer books, divide is you’re reading no more than 7 chapters or so and read those chapters every day for a month. Then do the same thing for the next 7 or so chapters of that same book. There are many options for how you can go about making your bible reading worthwhile. Make your bible reading time a priority and do it at the same time every day and build the habit of getting into His Word. Eventually, you will feel unfulfilled if you miss a reading.

Often when I read the bible I may not fully understand the text. This leads me to reach for a commentary or a bible companion type book to further expound upon the original text from Scripture. There are many resources out there to increase our understanding of God’s Word, but it is imperative to pick from those written by scholarly sources, men or women who write with deep spiritual bible believing conviction.

You see, the danger in self-help books in and of themselves, is the ease in reading them. Many books out there are “light” reads. They do not dig deep, they motivate you to think positive and help you feel as though you can conquer the world with a smile. Scripture warns us about adding to and taking away from His words:

Proverbs 30:5-6, “Every word of God proves true; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you and you be found a liar.”

Deuteronomy 4:2, “You shall not add to the word that I command you, or take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you.”

Revelation 22:18-19, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.”

He also warns us to watch out for false prophets, those who look appealing in the light but are filled with darkness.

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. Matthew 7:15

Self-help books may not blatantly take from or add to scripture, sometimes subtleties are the most dangerous and less obvious. But I tell you this believer, if a book is not overtly reaffirming the hope we have through Jesus Christ, then they are a real danger. True outside sources of biblical depth, will fill you with questions, convictions and ALWAYS point you back to scripture. If you read a book that does not do this, burn it.

If you are using outside books alone to be your source of spiritual fulfillment, I would encourage you to set those aside and create a meaningful bible reading plan for yourself before adding back in extra reads. Or read them in the evenings to reaffirm the truth of God’s Holy Word. I am an avid reader and on the regular, I read books that encompass all genres. My personal preference in recent years leans towards foundational faith books, written by pastors who I highly regard as scholarly men of faith. My overall goal when I read is to be challenged, convicted and deeply drawn back to the word so I can grow and flourish from what Jesus is already leading me to learn from the ultimate source of self-help, the Bible.

Other authors/resources to check out:
John MacArthur – gty.org
Albert Mohler – albertmohler.com
John Piper – desiringgod.org

The Purpose of Prayer

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Prayer is the means by which we communicate with our Heavenly Father through intercession made by Jesus Christ.

“Christ Jesus is the one who died-more than that, who was raised-who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” Romans 8:34

Prayer is not about asking God for something in hopes of simply getting what you want. Prayer is sacred. It is constant. It is relational, a way to receive wisdom, guidance and words. Prayer is essential in strengthening your relationship with the Lord.

In Matthew 6, Jesus teaches the disciples how to pray:

9 Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

In this prayer in Matthew 6, also referred to as, “The Lord’s Prayer,” Jesus used it to model for the disciples how to pray. The Lord’s Prayer gives us a road map to guide our prayers to the Lord. Glorification, Provision and Shelter.

Glorification: 9-10
Glorify God in heaven asking for His plans and will to be accomplished despite what we might deeply desire. Our lives are to be a reflection of who He is and our desires should never supersede His ultimate means of glorification. EVEN if it means we do without what we want.

Provision: 11-12
For the majority of us, it is feasible to attain all we want and need. Jesus wants to teach us to rely on God for our daily needs. Be mindful in how you spend your money, give generous of your time, talents and treasures and providing open communication through the act of confession when we have done wrong against others. It is through provision where you may tell God your souls desires. BUT be mindful, God grants us the desires of our hearts ONLY if they are in line with His desires for our life.

Shelter: 13
Requesting protection from the enemy to avoid pitfalls into temptation. Obtaining wisdom will help us clearly see things to avoid. The author of Hebrews reminds us how Jesus can relate to our temptations:

For because He Himself has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.” Hebrews 2:18

Matthew 6 and other passages of scripture can and should be read and prayed literally, but overall prayer is a time for Jesus to present your request to God and intercede for us. The Lord does want to hear our fears, failures, frustrations, wants and needs, but first, “self” must be removed and honor should be given to the One and Only Glorious King. Matthew 6 is our instruction manual for organizing the priority of prayer to the Lord. The purpose of prayer is to glorify God. If you can remember nothing else, remember your life, your actions, your prayers and your purpose for anything you do, is to bring glory to God.

Jesus prayed often, sometimes all night! He prayed in the garden before he took the penalty for our sins. He broke bread and prayed for miracles from heaven.

John 17:20-23 English Standard Version (ESV)
20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

There is no prayer too silly, too serious or too ugly to pray. God hears all. Prayer works. Prayers are answered. God hears prayers.

PSALM 118-PART 4

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Welcome to part 4 of Psalm 118! Today we explore the last section to this truly beautiful Psalm. Verses 25-29 read:

Save us, we pray, O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success!
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! We bless you from the house of the Lord.
The Lord is God, and He has made His light to shine upon us. Bind the festal sacrifice with cords, up to the horns of the altar!
You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God; I will extol you.
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!

Verse 25, “Save us, we pray, O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success!” This verse brings reference to the New Testament when Jesus arrived on a donkey and all the people cried out “Hosanna.” The word ‘hosanna,’ in the Hebrew language comes from the word, ‘save.’ At the coming of Jesus, people wanted redemption because they believed Him to be the Messiah. Just because we live in a more modern time than what it looked like in the bible does not change our need for salvation. Our prayer should always be for salvation, for ourselves and for others who desperately need His grace.

Verse 26, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! We bless you from the house of the Lord.” Much like people were crying out for salvation in verse 25, they cry out blessings over Him in this verse. The people had been waiting on this Messiah and even though some did not believe, others knew He did indeed come in the name of the Lord. Blessing was bestowed to Him from the people in hopes to express their thanks for His coming.

Verse 27, “The Lord is God, and He has made His light to shine upon us. Bind the festal sacrifice with cords, up to the horns of the altar!” The people continue to rejoice in God’s goodness and honor the Lord with a celebration.

Verse 28, “You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God; I will extol you.” This verse resembles the words of Moses in Exodus 15:2, “The Lord is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my Father’s God, and I will exalt Him.”

Verse 29, “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!” Just like that, Psalm 118 closes in the same fashion it opened. A reminder to us when we rise up in the morning and lay down in the evening, our day long prayer of thanksgiving should be lifted up to Him because His love endures forever.

What has this Psalm meant to you?

As we close, I am reminded of the full circle of emotions felt from start to finish of this Psalm; Praise, distress, salvation and victory. I will continue to turn to this Psalm when I face trials or when I need a simple reminder that God is on my side and He will always fight for me. Remember, God is always fighting for you, in fact, the war has already been won. Do not fall prey to the lies of the world which doubt the strength of our Lord. He is our strength, our song and our salvation. We should never fear, but praise and expectably wait on all He can do in your life.

Psalm-118-Part-3

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Today is Part 3 in our study of Psalm 118. If you tuned in last week, hopefully you remember the powerful conquering from verses 10-18. Go ahead and read verses 19-24.

Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it.
I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Right off the bat in verses 19-21, our Psalmist Author, possibly Moses of the Old Testament, immediately expresses praise with adoration and thanksgiving.

“Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it. I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.”

Our Psalmist was experiencing great peril in the previous section of this psalm. He was being pursued by his enemies and the Lord saved him by fighting for him. It is only natural now, on the side of victory, that he wants to extol gratitude for being spared tremendous calamity. It is uncertain if our author is referring to a physical gate of a temple somewhere providing him with a place in which to praise, or a metaphorical gate much like the one referenced in Matthew 7:13-14:

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

A faith relationship with Christ is something many reject. Jesus told His disciples of many who would choose the world and enter through the wide gate and only a small few of would choose the narrow gate because of the sacrifices it requires. I see this to mean the Psalmist wanted to walk through that gate again to praise his Redeemer, reaffirming His choice to follow after Christ. In verse 21 he extols gratitude to God for listening and coming to his aid. God does listen, God does respond. Sometimes it does take us nearly falling on our face to see our need for God’s goodness and His magnificent power in which He can conquer even our darkest enemy.

Verse 22, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”

This verse could be referring to Christ Himself. Acts 4:11 says, “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.” We all know Jesus Christ coming to us claiming to be the Messiah was not accepted by everyone. His ultimate plan of His death on the cross was set in motion because of the rejection He faced. If Psalm 118 was written by Moses, then it is possible Verse 22 could also be referring to rejection Moses faced. The Jews rejected him in Exodus 2 and the people of Israel rejected Him as he was attempting to lead them out of the wilderness, which encompasses most of the book of Exodus.

Verses 23, “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.” Everything God does is perfect. All He does is done to bless and teach us. He desires all honor, glory and praise from us, His children. Psalm 118 uses this reoccurring theme throughout the entire passage.

Verse 24, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” The Author had experienced so much trial and victory, his natural response was a full heart wanting to rejoice in the Lord. A wonderful testimony to those of us who believe. Let us live each day joyfully aware that God Himself designed it. To live in constant worship of our Creator and what great things He has done in our lives and in the world around us.

Stay tuned next week for our final section of Psalms 118!

Psalm-118-Part-2

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Today we jump into part 2 of our Psalm 118 series. Previously we covered verses 1-9 and it was phenomenal. Let’s go ahead and dive into verses 10-18. They read:

All nations surrounded me; in the name of the Lord I cut them off!
They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side; in the name of the Lord I cut them off!
They surrounded me like bees; they went out like a fire among thorns; in the name of the Lord I cut them off!
I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the Lord helped me.
The Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.
Glad songs of salvation are in the tents of the righteous; “The right hand of the Lord does valiantly,
the right hand of the Lord exalts, the right hand of the Lord does valiantly!”
I shall not die; but live, and recount the deeds of the Lord.
The Lord has disciplined me severely, but He has not given me over to death.

As mentioned before, it is unspecified who the author of this beautiful psalm is. We can tell given by the continued authority and conviction this writer possesses, he was a leader. Speculation of Moses being the author makes sense because God chose him as the leader of a nation, even though Moses had plenty to say in opposition to God’s call on his life.

Verses 10-12
“All nations surrounded me; in the name of the Lord I cut them off!
They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side; in the name of the Lord I cut them off!
They surrounded me like bees; they went out like a fire among thorns; in the name of the Lord I cut them off!”

In the opening verses of this section, the psalmist provides incredible imagery of the battle he was facing. His enemies obviously had come to battle for his end. I sense great power in his voice as he fights for his life. Without hesitation his response to all these evil men encroaching upon him was consistently, “In the name of the Lord I cut them off.” Christian, you and I need to believe in God’s ability and desire for us. When our enemies have set out to destroy us, in whatever way you experience it, the Lord will fight for you. This does not mean you stand there and take it. This means you ask God for wisdom in those moments for knowledge how to combat it, relying on His strength and not your own.
In verse 13, the psalmist takes it one step further, “I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the Lord helped me.” I imagine myself being pursued by my enemy, thousands of them and come to a cliff. I try hard to hold my ground, but inevitably I am pushed down by one of them incredibly close to the edge. I fall and as I look down, I can see rocks began to break off and fall into a dark seemingly endless pit. But somehow, with renewed strength, I get up. “But the Lord helped me.”

Verse 14 “The Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.” Do you realize without the Lord; you are doomed? He is spiritually and physically our strength and joy in song and salvation. He physically protects us all day long and He fights battles welling up around us. When insurmountable odds of evil seek to claim us, we claim His power because We. Are. His. NOTHING can stand a chance. Just as Jesus told His disciple Peter in Matthew 16:18,

“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Seeing the ways God becomes our strength, song and salvation is an awesome reminder that the powers of hell have no grip on us.

Verses 15-16, “Glad songs of salvation are in the tents of the righteous; “The right hand of the Lord does valiantly,
the right hand of the Lord exalts, the right hand of the Lord does valiantly!”
When the Lord’s salvation is apparent in our lives, He is worthy of the praise. His valiance is affirmation. It requires our thanks and helps us keep confidence in the power He has.

Verses 17-18, “I shall not die; but live, and recount the deeds of the Lord.
The Lord has disciplined me severely, but He has not given me over to death.” I LOVE verse 17. It is an amazing reminder of Gods glory in my life. When you face trial, challenge, death and come out alive, your testimony is worth sharing of the nature of how the Lord is a mighty warrior and conqueror. When He conquers evil attempting to subdue us, I delight in letting that become my testimony to expose truth of what MY God CAN do. Although we are all worthy of death, He will not hand his children over to it if you take hold of His salvation and let Him be your strength. Your enemies don’t stand a chance because God Never Fails.

I look forward to seeing you back for Part 3!