Recently we began a new series in our middle school ministry called “Talking with God.” The whole purpose of this series is to help students understand how they can communicate with God and grow in their relationship with Him. For the first week of the series we talked about how God communicates to us through the Bible. We wanted to help students understand not only what the Bible is but also how they can go about reading and studying it consistently. You can watch that entire talk here.
To help them get started in this we created a short handout with various Bible reading plans and methods. It’s not exhaustive but includes a few ideas to get them going in the right direction. We wanted to make this handout available to others so feel free to click the link below and use the handout yourself or in your own ministry context as you help others get into God’s Word.
Whenever I sit down to read the Bible I make sure to have some form of study help close by. I’ve learned over the years that good and Biblical sound resources are a huge when it comes to better understanding and applying the Scriptures. I have some great physical resources that help me in this area but I’ve come to love digital resources well. There are thousands of digital Bible study resources you can use but there are three that I use the most and would highly recommend to others.
ESV Bible App. In addition to offering a sharp and clean layout for Bible reading this app offers great resources to help you dive deeper into the Scriptures. It comes with free access to the ESV Global Study Bible and it’s study notes and for a few bucks you can purchase and download even more resources such as the ESV Study Bible and notes, Literary Study Bible and notes, Gospel Transformation Bible and notes, and the ESV Men’s and Women’s Devotional Bibles. This tends to be my go to digital resource as I study God’s Word.
MacArthur Study Bible App. There are a ton of great study Bibles out there. One of those is The MacArthur Study Bible. In this study Bible pastor and theologian John McArthur offers in depth study notes to go along with the Biblical text. This app is basically a digital version of that study Bible. In the app you can read the Bible in either the ESV, NASB, or KJV. You do have to pay a few bucks to get full access to the study notes but it’s a one time charge and well worth it. I’ve always enjoyed MacArthur’s study helps whether that’s through his study Bible or commentaries and this app helps me continue learning more about God’s Word through his resources. I do disagree with him on various parts of theology (for example, his dispensationalism position as well as other parts of eschatology) but overall the study notes I have access to through this app are very beneficial.
Faithlife Study Bible. I don’t use this app as much as the two previously mentioned but it’s a solid resource I go back to from time to time. The most basic use of this app is for the Faithlife Study Bible and it’s note. The best part is this is entirely free! However, if you have a Logos Bible Software account you can get access to all your resources to go along with the Biblical text. I’d highly recommend using this app if you have Logos as a simpler and faster way to view your resources alongside the Biblical text.
Even though there are many digital resources I have used three tend to be the ones I use the most. I’d highly recommend you check them out if you are looking for tools to help you go deeper in your study of God’s Word.
This past Sunday was Student Ministry Sunday at our church. This is a Sunday where our student ministry takes over the weekend worship services. One of my favorite things about this Sunday is that I get to preach in all the services. I continued our Acts series by talking about the beauty and ugliness of the early church from Acts 4:32-5:11. Below is the video of that sermon.
So far in this series I have talked about what the Bible teaches about pain and suffering (post one) and some of the reasons God allows pain and suffering into our lives (post two). In this final post I want to share a few things we can hold onto and remember when we go through pain and suffering.
God promises He will always be with us. We see this promise throughout the Bible. In Deuteronomy 31:6 we see God promise His chosen people that He will always be with them and that He will never forsake them. It’s His presence that will help them be strong and courageous as they move forward. In Psalm 23:4 David says he can walk through the valley of the shadow of death and not fear because God is with Him. As you move into the New Testament we see that Jesus’ name Emmanuel actually means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). The very coming of Jesus is a reminder that God is near to us. He came to us. Then in 1 Corinthians 6:19 we are reminded that even now as Christians we have God in us through the indwelling Holy Spirit. God promises to always be with us. His constant, real, and powerful presence is something we must hold onto and remember during times of pain and suffering.
God understands our pain and suffering. The second truth we can hold onto when we go through pain and suffering is the fact that God Himself understands how we feel because He Himself went through pain and suffering Himself. He entered into this world of pain and suffering and suffered through it. This is a teaching that’s unique to Christianity. Christianity not only gives us a God who is above our pain and suffering but a God who entered into our pain and suffering. He willingly puts Himself through it and knows how it feels. Don Carson says, “The God on whom we rely knows what suffering is all about, not merely in the way that God knows everything, but by experience.” God’s Word reminds us of this powerful truth as well in Hebrews 4:15 (ESV), which says, ““For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” When we go through times of pain and suffering we can run to our Savior because He understands how we feels.
God will end pain and suffering one day. For Christians, the pain and suffering we face on this earth will one day end. There is coming a day when the curse of sin will be lifted and this earth will be made new. One of the amazing things about that coming day is that pain and suffering will be done away with. Speaking about this coming day, John says in Revelation 21:4 (ESV) that “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Christians can look forward to this day and have hope.
Below is the sermon where I preached much of the content above. I hope this series of posts has encouraged you and helped you.
In the first post of this series I shared three truths Christianity teaches in regards to pain and suffering. In that post I said that God uses pain and suffering for a purpose. God doesn’t allow things to happen in our lives for no reason. He uses pain and suffering in our lives with a purpose. In this post I want to continue that thought by sharing three ways God uses pain and suffering in our lives as Christians.
God uses pain and suffering to discipline us. One of the lies Christians buy into is that we can live in sin and nothing will happen. Maybe we boast that our sins are already forgiven and God’s grace is covering us. However, Paul says in Romans 6:1-2 that we should not use God’s grace as a license to sin. Because our sins are forgiven and we do have grace we should strive to live in holiness. But what happens when Christians walk in sin? What happens we start to live in a way that doesn’t line up with God’s Word and we chose not to repent? Hebrews 12:5-11 gives us the answer to those questions. When Christians live in sin God will discipline them. Like good parents discipline their children when they disobey, God as our perfect Father disciplines us when we walk in disobedience. He loves us too much to let us live in sin. Matt Chandler said it well in a sermon: “If you, as a believer in Christ, fondle what Christ put to death on the cross, please don’t be surprised when He breaks your hand. Please don’t be surprised when He breaks your legs when you keep running toward what He came to kill.”
God uses pain and suffering to grow us. Sometimes it’s not because of disobedience that God allows pain and suffering in our lives. Sometimes it’s just because He is trying to grow us up in our faith. Our faith usually grows the most in times of trials. James 1:2-4 is a great place to go to see this. James tells believers to actually “count it all joy” when trials coming. He says that because those trials, as hard as they may be, will strengthen our faith. Think about a football coach. If a coach wants to make his team better and stronger what does he do? He makes practices harder. He makes his guys lift more. He may even add additional practices and workouts. All of this may hard more pain and pressure onto the players but the coach knows at the end of it all they will be better and stronger. God knows in order to grow us up in our faith we often times have to go through pain and suffering.
God uses pain and suffering in mysterious ways. I would be foolish to believe that all pain and suffering fits into the two categories above. God may use it for one of those two reasons but He may also have a whole other reason in mind. Sometimes God allows pains and suffering into our lives and we have no idea why. That’s because God doesn’t have to reveal to us why He does what He does. The story of Job is a great example of this. Job really never learned why he went through what he went through. God never told him. Instead, God helped Job see who he was in light of Him. Job learned to trust God in light of pain and suffering. We, like Job, are often left in the dark about our pain and suffering but that doesn’t mean God doesn’t have a purpose for it. He knows what He is doing and we must trust Him.
Below is the sermon where I preached much of the content above. In the next post I will share a few things about God that we can remember and hold onto during times of pain and suffering.