Amplified Study Bible

Just a brief note to praise the new Amplified Study Bible. I have used the Amplified Bible itself for some time now and find it to be a valuable tool in studying God’s Word. The references, explanations, and footnotes of the original version are quite a valuable asset to have along with the amplifications that bring out the meaning of the original Greek and Hebrew texts. The 2015 version of the Amplified Bible has many new amplifications in the Old Testament and most of the original amplifications and been refined to make reading a little easier.

Now we have not only the new Amplified Bible to enjoy but also a new Study edition with added commentary that I find to be mostly non-biased and very helpful. I have been using it for a while alongside my trusty ESV and HCSB. Together, they make a great team for study.

Hang In There…

Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.

For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.

Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.

Psalm 37:1-3

Delivered from FEAR

I sought the Lord, and He answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to Him are radiant with joy;
their faces will never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
and saved him from all his troubles.
The Angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear Him, and rescues them.

Psalm 34: 4-7 (HCSB)

Did you notice that the psalmist didn’t say that he sought the Lord and was delivered from whatever was going on, but rather from his fear? You may come back with the fact that it says that the poor man cried and was “saved from all his troubles” — but what are the troubles? For me in my life, the troubles are primarily born somewhere between my left and right ears!

JOY: a : the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires : delight

I was recently watching some videos from “Touching Lives,” a ministry of James Merritt, in which he discussed the difference between happiness and joy.  He pointed out that one can be happy without knowing the Lord, but happiness (as it comes from external stimuli) is fleeting — as it is dependent on outside stimulation for its existence. True joy, on the other hand, comes from the LORD. One can have happiness but not have joy. One cannot have joy without the LORD.

When I am filled with cares,
Your comfort brings me joy.

-Ps. 94:19 (HCSB)

For much of my life apart from my relationship with Jesus, joy was a fleeting concept that I chased in many forms. What I thought was the acquisition of joy was usually passing happiness that came from euphoric feelings induced by things such as alcohol, drugs or anything that made me ‘feel good.’ Whatever it was always left me eventually feeling unfulfilled and empty. Thank God that the joy I have in my life today comes from a source that never fails and is eternal.

His Incredible Grace

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. -Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT)

I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t reflect on God’s incredible grace that I so desperately depend on. One of the issues we sometimes lose sight of in churches is exactly that: our absolute dependence on grace and not “religion” to save us. Sometimes we need that grace to cover sins we have committed after salvation — never mind what we did before we came to saving knowledge of Christ.

Some think that we can lose our salvation because of sin. I do not. I believe the blood of Jesus is sufficient to take care of our sin once and for all when we accept Him and make Him Lord of our lives. However, I mean really coming to faith and working on a relationship — not some emotional experience we may have had at one time in a church or crusade that ended when the event was over. The kind of relationship I am talking about invokes a conscience to remind us when we sin. When the Holy Spirit comes to live in us, our sin gets exposed. He does not come to condemn us, but to point it out and correct us so we can better walk in harmony with God.

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. -Hebrews 4:16 (KJV)

So often we put our own spin on something that Jesus or perhaps one of His disciples stated in scripture and build a personal, judgmental theological system around it. It is sad when that happens because it often demeans the work of Christ on the Cross and most certainly ends up excluding people for some less-than-critical doctrine or perhaps some past sin which that particular theological system considers worse than another.

So, as I ponder the meaning of grace and its deep value, I cannot help but wonder how much pain and suffering would be excluded if we simply embraced grace and its Giver in love and appreciation? Much of it, I suspect.

Sin must not have power over you. You are not living by the Law. You have life because of God’s loving-favor. -Romans 6:14 (New Life Version NLV)

The First Step

One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” -Mark 10:13-15 (NLT)

In any twelve step program, the first step involves admitting the fact that you are powerless over whatever dependency your are facing and it has made your life unmanageable. You cannot face an addiction head-on without first acknowledging that it is real and you can do nothing about it on your own without help. Many people show up to a program like Alcoholics Anonymous and either don’t get or stay sober [clean] because they convince themselves that they can do it on their own and don’t need other people — and most importantly God. In some cases, people get sober and take credit for it all themselves. Those are unfortunately of the type that don’t stick around. Ultimately, if I admit I am powerless, I don’t suddenly gain the power that is necessary to stay sober or clean on a daily basis.

In the same way, we must approach the idea of God and our salvation.

In The Life Recovery Devotional, the very first day discusses the idea of approaching and admitting our powerlessness to whatever our dependency is with the attitude of a little child. The devotion for that day goes on to say that children are a society’s most dependent segment and certainly completely dependent on their parents during the formative years of their development and beyond.

One of the many stumbling blocks between myself and God for the longest time was my addiction. It tried to blind me to everything and keep my sinful nature in check and in service to Satan for as long as it could. I listened to the lies of the enemy that would tell me that God would have nothing to do with me because of the person I had become and that I would never be able to get clean and live a decent God-centered life — ever. Lies, all lies.

Have you approached God as a little child? Jesus will welcome you.

Crazy…

Acquitting the guilty and condemning the just—
both are detestable to the Lord. – Proverbs 17:15 (HCSB)

It seems that the world has gone crazy! Even the pretense of having some morality in our society is quickly vanishing. Some many things that were considered sinful and contrary to the law of God are now celebrated and those who oppose them are rebuked and called haters, among other things. Thank God He has given us His law to know what is good and acceptable in His sight.

Suffering…

I realize it has been quite a while since I did any posting, so I thought it was time to start making up for that!

My wife and I have been busy settling into a new church fellowship. It is a small, somewhat rural church with a faithful gathering of believers who have done much to make us feel welcome as part of the church family. Revisiting our former church family this past Saturday evening served to validate our decision to move on — although we miss some people there and were happy to see them again. Between the new church, my job and the Spring improvement projects we’ve undertaken, my focus has shifted to some degree from my writing to other matters

And not only this, but [with joy] let us exult in our sufferings and rejoice in our hardships, knowing that hardship (distress, pressure, trouble) produces patient endurance; and endurance, proven character (spiritual maturity); and proven character, hope and confident assurance [of eternal salvation]. Such hope [in God’s promises] never disappoints us, because God’s love has been abundantly poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. -Romans 5:3-5 (AMP)

The pastor at the church we attends now has been focused on suffering the past couple of weeks. Certainly not a topic that most Christians wish to engage in or practice! Nonetheless it serves us well, in terms of building ourselves up in Christ as His followers and children of the most high God. Sometimes, I think that people in countries that persecute Christians can be better off. Why? I know that, for me, I am closer to God and more thoughtful of Him when things aren’t going the way I want them to. More than once has fear and anxiety driven me to the throne of God for help. When things are going well, it is easier to buy into the flesh — which tells me that all that matters is right here and now (in front of me and material in nature) and that I deserve some credit for what I have or have accomplished. It is such thoughts that drive me from the foot of the cross to the threshold of the enemy. That I must always be on guard against.

The God of Comfort

Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction,[a] so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. -2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (HCSB)