5 Great Ways to Study Your Bible

•April 30, 2014 • 1 Comment

5 Great Ways to Study Your BiblePsalm 119:11
Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You. (NKJV)

 

2 Timothy 3:16-17
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (NKJV)

 

I have to admit, I get pretty excited about studying the Bible! I love to dig into the Scriptures and discover the amazing depths of truth and wisdom that are there. I’ve heard it said that “the closer you look, the greater the Book!”  I’ve certainly found that to be true in my journey.

Over the years, I have found five specific ways of studying the Bible that have been very helpful for me.  Since they have been such a blessing to me, I thought I’d take a few moments to share them with you. Here they are:

 

1. Book Study

This is a Bible study in which you focus on a specific book of the Bible. The idea is that you are seeking to master the content of one specific book. As a part of this study, you will want to research many details about the books such as the author, recipients, date of the document, general themes of the book, place where the book was written, purpose of the book, people of interest in relation to the book etc. When doing this type of study, it is helpful to read through the specific book several times. I know one pastor who would read a book 50 times through to master the book.

 

2. Topical Study

The topical study is an approach to Bible study in which you start with a topic of interest and then trace all the Scriptures through the Bible that relate to that topic. When done properly, this is basically a form of systematic theology. In other words, you are systematically going through the Bible and developing a theology around a specific topic. This is helpful when you want to gain a fuller understanding about what God has to say about a specific issue.

 

3. Character Study

A character study, also known as a biographical study, is when you research everything the Bible has to say about a specific person in the Scriptures. It can be fascinating and enlightening to gain a fuller understanding of a character from the Bible when you begin to piece together all the things that the Scriptures say about that person. Studying great men and women of faith can help you immensely when you begin to piece together the clues about their lives as they are described from various passages in the Scriptures. And studying the lives of people who fumbled in their faith can also serve as a healthy warning about things to avoid in your own life.

 

4. Saturation Study

A saturation study is when you decide to completely saturate your mind with a specific portion of scripture. The idea here is that you pull out a specific passage, and then you read that passage over and over and over until your mind is completely filled with every meaning and every nuance from the selected verses. For instance, you might pull Romans 12 out for special study. In this type of study, you might read the chapter perhaps every day for 30 days or so. Or you might choose a short (or long) book of the Bible to saturate your mind. Some have chosen books such as The Epistle of James to read 10, 20, 30 or more times in order to completely soak their minds with those truths.

 

5. Word Study

The word study is when you take a specific word in the Bible and discover every single way that it is used throughout the Old and/or New Testaments. For instance, you may decide to study how the term “Spirit” is used in the Bible. And you may find differentiations between the ways that it is used in the Old Testament as compared to the New Testament. Likewise, there are many, many great words that would be helpful for you to study: grace, peace, faith, courage, discouragement, send, devil, idolatry, etc. The list of great words is never-ending.

 

WARNING: Be extremely careful when studying the Bible. It just might change your life forever!

 


 

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Chris Russell (send me a Facebook friend request!)

Veritas Church (Cincinnati, OH)

http://www.biblestudytools.com/blogs/chris-russell/

_____________________________

For further reading, growth, and encouragement, check out some of these great sites and blogs:

Church Leadership

Church Outreach Blogs

Kirk Cameron

Bible Study Tools Blogs

Desiring God Blog

The Gospel Coalition Blog

Al Mohler

 

A Quick Tip for Interpreting the Book of Proverbs Properly

•April 30, 2014 • 2 Comments
Understanding Proverbs

Some people stumble while reading the Book of Proverbs when they when they fail to interpret those poetical passages properly.


 

Here is an important tip:

 

Proverbs are principles,

not laws or promises.


When you read a statement from the Book of Proverbs, keep in mind that the statement is merely a general principle. Those statements are not intended to be a promise for every situation, nor are they immutable laws of the universe that will never be broken. Proverbs are generalities.
For example, in today’s language, I might say something like, “Seatbelts save lives.” Would you agree with that statement?  Sure you would.  But while that statement is generally true, there can be some exceptions to the rule . It is a principal, but it is not a promise. Has anyone ever died while wearing a seatbelt? Yes. However, it is still very wise to wear your seatbelt, because, in general, seatbelts do save lives.

Let me give you an example in the Scriptures of a Proverb that people occasionally misinterpret, and this misinterpretation often leads to a lot of pain and anguish:

Proverbs 4:27 - Train up a child in the way he should go,
and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

I have seen many people over the years stumble when they misinterpret this verse as a law or as a promise rather than as a principle. For instance, I have known some really great parents whose kids grew up and went astray from their faith. Some of those parents have found themselves in great despair, because they have blamed themselves due to their misunderstanding of what that verse in Proverbs says.  They believed that it had to be their own fault.  They must have blown it as a parent.

The reality is that all parents make mistakes. And we all have things we wish we could change from the past. However, that does not mean that any time a child goes astray it is the fault of the parents. Remember, there is this thing called free will. Not even God Himself forces us to do right. Some kids turn away from God even when their home was a very godly environment.  Nevertheless, the general principle is accurate: godly parenting will tend to produce godly children. That is the general principle here.

So, when you go through the book of Proverbs, be careful to interpret them correctly. This great book is filled with many, many amazing principles that can truly change your life forever.

 



If you believe anything in this blog post has been helpful, I would encourage you to share it on the social media platforms where you are active.  Chances are great that you have friends/connections who will also benefit from the post.

 

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Chris Russell
 (send me a Facebook friend request!)

Veritas Church (Cincinnati, OH)

http://www.biblestudytools.com/blogs/chris-russell/

_____________________________


For further reading, growth, and encouragement, check out some of these great sites and blogs:

Church Leadership

Church Outreach Blogs

Kirk Cameron

Bible Study Tools Blogs

Desiring God Blog

The Gospel Coalition Blog

Al Mohler

5 Terrific Ways to Ruin Your Life (from Proverbs)

•April 23, 2014 • 3 Comments

5 Ways to Ruin Your Life

The Book of Proverbs gives us some amazing wisdom for life.  Along with that, Solomon also exposes some common ways that people end up messing up their lives.  There are many listed in this great book, but allow me to highlight five of them.  Along with each point, I have included some brief comments about avoiding these disastrous mistakes in your own life.

 

OK, here’s how to ruin your life:

 

1. Live your life as if there is no God.

The greatest mistake you could ever make in your life would be to live as if there is no God. Some people choose to believe that there is no God. Big mistake. Others claim to believe in God, but they still seem to live their lives as if he does not exist. Another big mistake.

Proverbs 9:10
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
A
nd the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
(NKJV)

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding;
I
n all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.
 (NKJV)

Proverbs 10:9
He who walks with integrity walks securely,
But he who perverts his ways will become known.  (NKJV)

 

2. Choose people who are spiritually foolish to be your closest friends.

You are basically a composite of the five friends you choose to spend the most time with. It is important to choose them well. John Kuebler once made the great statement, “Show me your friends, and I will show you your future.”

Proverbs 13:20
He who walks with wise men will be wise,
But the companion of fools will be destroyed.   (NKJV)

 

3. Never learn to control your emotions.

Many people seem to live with the misguided notion that it is healthy to just let your emotions go with whatever you are feeling. “Just let it out!”  However, the Bible tells us that it is a position of great strength and character to learn how to control your emotions. I have never met a truly happy person who fails to control his/her emotions.

Proverbs 29:11
A fool vents all his feelings,
But a wise man holds them back. 
 (NKJV)

Proverbs 16:32
He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
And he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.   
(NKJV)

Proverbs 25:28
Whoever has no rule over his own spirit
Is like a city broken down, without walls.  
 (NKJV)

 

4. Stay down once you have fallen down.

Everyone fails at various points in their lives.  But not everyone gets back up after they have fallen.  The ability to get back up once you have fallen is one of the greatest indicators of your overall success in life.  Never, ever give up. Whether you stumble spiritually or with some other area of your life, always be sure to get back up when you fail.

Proverbs 24:16
The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again.
But one disaster is enough to overthrow the wicked. (NLT)

 

5. Fail to spend your entire life learning.

Wisdom and great success in life tend to follow those who are on a lifelong pursuit of knowledge. I once had a professor who told me in relation to learning that, “You should get all you can, can all you get, and sit on the can.”

Proverbs 9:9
Instruct the wise, and they will be even wiser.
Teach the righteous, and they will learn even more.
 
 (NKJV)

 

BONUS!  

If you’ve made it through the list to this point, then I will give you a “bonus” way to ruin your life (straight from the words of Proverbs)!

Disregard God’s principles for financial stewardship.

God’s Word is so amazingly practical that He has even given us many, many great principles that apply to our finances. Soak them in and thrive. Reject them, and you will struggle perpetually.

Proverbs 23:5
Will you set your eyes on that which is not?
For riches certainly make themselves wings;
They fly away like an eagle toward heaven.   
(NKJV)

Proverbs 22:7
The rich rules over the poor,
And the borrower is servant to the lender.   
(NKJV)

Proverbs 17:18
It’s poor judgment to guarantee another person’s debt
or put up security for a friend.
 (NLT)

Proverbs 10:2
Tainted wealth has no lasting value,
but right living can save your life.  (NLT)

Proverbs 6:6-8
6 Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones.
    Learn from their ways and become wise!
Though they have no prince
    or governor or ruler to make them work,
8 They labor hard all summer,
    gathering food for the winter.  (NLT)

Proverbs 13:4
Lazy people want much but get little,
but those who work hard will prosper.  (NLT)

 


If you believe anything in this blog post has been helpful, I would encourage you to share it on the social media platforms where you are active.  Chances are great that you have friends/connections who will also benefit from the post.

 

Be sure to sign up at the top right

of this blog to be notified

of new posts!

Chris Russell (send me a Facebook friend request!)

Veritas Church (Cincinnati, OH)

http://www.biblestudytools.com/blogs/chris-russell/

_____________________________

For further reading, growth, and encouragement, check out some of these great sites and blogs:

Church Leadership

Church Outreach Blogs

Kirk Cameron

Bible Study Tools Blogs

Desiring God Blog

The Gospel Coalition Blog

Al Mohler

 

Who Won the Debate Between Ken Ham and Bill Nye?

•February 5, 2014 • 4 Comments

Who Won the Debate Between Bill Nye and Ken HamWell, now that the dust is settling from the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham, many are wondering, “Who won the debate?”  I would submit to you that the winner is … God.  He is the winner, because His name was exalted throughout the event and in a myriad of communications leading up to the event.

That aside, here are a few, brief thoughts about the exchange:

1. Ken Ham demonstrated amazing humility throughout the debate.  And mixed in with that humility, he communicated a sincere care and concern for Bill Nye as well as all who do not know Christ.  For me, that went much further than the technical arguments.

2. Bill Nye’s arguments seemed to me to be extremely simple and basic.  If he had actually strolled through the museum, he would have found the answers to nearly all of those points.  Answers to all of Bill’s complaints against creation science can be found on the website for Ken Ham’s ministry, Answers in Genesis.  Take a few minutes to search some of those issues out, and you will discover that there truly are many great scientists and brilliant thinkers who believe in the Almighty Creator of Heaven and Earth.  And they do a terrific job defending the authority of the Scriptures.

3. Scientific arguments about the origins of the universe may be interesting, but they carry no true power to transform a soul from death unto life.  Consider the strength of the following passage:

1 Corinthians 1:18-21

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” 20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.

Ken Ham very wisely took time during his address to share the powerful message of the cross of Jesus Christ.  If you didn’t catch that, it is important to understand that portion of his message was strategic, intentional, and vitally important.  Science does not rescue souls.  The message of the cross does.

4. Bill Nye seemed to use the standard debating approach that many use when attacking Christianity.  That formula looks something like this:

A )  Non-believer asks loaded question which attacks a Christian tenet. (This is much like a verbal “drive-by shooting.”)

B)  Believer responds with a reasonable answer.

C)  Non-believer completely ignores response.

D)  Non-believer asks another loaded question and continues the sequence without ever acknowledging the answers.

I came away from the debate realizing that Ken had done a solid job of sharing the message of redemption to hundreds of thousands of people (and perhaps millions once the DVDs begin to sell).  Whether they accept Truth is not up to Ken, and it is not up to us.  Our responsibility is to share the Truth.  How each person responds to the message is between them and their Creator.

So, in the end, God won the debate, because His message of the Gospel was proclaimed for all to hear.  And through that, He was glorified.

 

____________________________________

If you believe anything in this blog post has been helpful, I would encourage you to share it on the social media platforms where you are active.  Chances are great that you have friends/connections who will also benefit from the post.

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Chris Russell (send me a Facebook friend request!)

Veritas Church (Cincinnati, OH)

http://www.biblestudytools.com/blogs/chris-russell/

_____________________________

For further reading, growth, and encouragement, check out some of these great sites and blogs:

Church Leadership

Church Outreach Blogs

Kirk Cameron

Bible Study Tools Blogs

Desiring God Blog

The Gospel Coalition Blog

Al Mohler

How to Fix Bad Decisions

•January 16, 2014 • 2 Comments

How to Fix a Bad Decision

I recently did a blog post called, “8 Keys to Finding God’s Will For Your Life.”  That post covered the big questions regarding God’s will, and it was intended to help people understand God’s calling for their lives, particularly in how it relates to ministry and vocation.  I then followed up with another post called, “How to Make Right Decisions.” That post offered a different slant on following God’s will.  In particular, it brought it down to the day-to-day decisions we have to make that all add up to fulfilling God’s will overall.

I hope those posts were helpful to some.  However, I do realize that a key question that comes up when addressing this issue is, “OK, so what do I do if I’ve already messed up?  How do I fix a bad decision?”  With this question in mind, I wanted to offer help for those times when we realize we’ve blown it.

 

How to Fix a Bad Decision

 

The first step is to answer the following question:

Was this bad decision a morally-bad decision (right vs. wrong), or was it just a stupid-bad decision?  The way you deal with the bad decision will vary depending on your answer to that important question.

 

How to Fix a Morally-Bad Decision

 

1)   Confess it to God.

1 John 1:9

The first step to fixing a sinful mistake is to confess it directly to God.  By “confess,” I mean that you should agee with God about how bad it was and ask Him to forgive you for what you did.  Amazingly, once we confess our sins to God, He will cast them as far as the East is from the West, and he will remember them no more.

2)   Stop doing that bad thing.

Proverbs 28:13

It’s one thing to confess your sin, and it is another thing to forsake your sin.  You must do everything you can to turn away from that sin.  This begins with an utter commitment to do whatever it takes to change.

3)   Wrap your head around everything God has said about that issue in the Scriptures.

Joshua 1:8

It is absolutely essential that you learn everything you can about what God has to say about that sinful mistake you have made.  When you learn His thoughts, you will begin to pave a path away from that sin and toward restoration.  But you just can’t wing it.  You must study the Scriptures to know God’s heart on that issue.

4)   Ask for forgiveness from any who were hurt because of your bad decision.

Matthew 5:23-24

When we sin, we often hurt others.  Sometimes we don’t even realize how badly we’ve hurt others while we are in the midst of the sin.  So, take time to look around and take an honest look at what harm you may have caused others.  Then, go to those you have hurt and apologize and do whatever you can to fix that hurt.  You may not be able to fix it completely, and they may not even forgive you.  But you need to do all that is within your power to make it right.

5)   Set up guardrails in your life that will help you keep from doing that again.

Proverbs 27:12

Proverbs 26:11

We all have sinful desires, and so we must establish guardrails that will keep us from careening off the road spiritually and wiping out in sin.  If you struggle with internet sin, then enlist an accountability partner who can monitor your online activity.  If you struggle with anger, then enlist an accountability partner (a godly friend) who will lean into you to help you do right and correct you when you do wrong.  Set up boundaries that will make it impossible for you to do that wrong thing even if you wanted to do that.

6)   Seek godly counsel for solutions in getting back on track.

Proverbs 11:14

We all need people to speak into our lives to give us a fresh perspective on how to fix our problems.  None of us can solve all of our own problems alone.  When you find godly advisors who can help to guide you, you will be amazed at how great of ideas they can come up with at times that will help you to find victory.  They will see things that you cannot see yourself.  It’s sort of like you’re walking around with a “kick-me” sign on your back.  Others can see it, but you cannot.  A godly counselor can help to remove it from your back.

7)   Surround yourself with a godly support system that will help you to do right.

Hebrews 3:13

In addition to one or two close advisors, you need a whole network of Christian friends who can help you to do right in your life.  And the best places to find these close friends will be at church, small group Bible studies, and when you get involved in ministry.  These relationships will make a huge difference in strengthening you and helping you to stay on the right path.

8)   Make a long-term commitment to change.

Matthew 16:24-26

To change, you must be committed to the long term.  Plenty of people get into trouble in their lives and show up at church to find a “quick fix.”  But then you often see those people fade away after just a few weeks or months.  They return to the same old paths of sin that got them into trouble in the first place.  So, up front, you must understand that this is a long-term commitment, and you must be committed to changing over the long haul.  The Christian life is not a sprint, it is a marathon.

But what if the bad decision you made was not necessarily sinful, but it was just stupid?

 

How to Fix a Stupid Decision:

 

1)   Take full responsibility.

Proverbs 28:13

If you made a mistake, own it.  Don’t explain it away, minimize it, or shift the blame to others.  Just admit that you blew it, and take full responsibility.  If you fail to own it, then others will question your integrity, and your problems will mount.  It takes guts and true character to admit when you’ve made a mistake.

2)   Wrap your head around everything God has said about this specific issue.

Joshua 1:8

The principles of God’s Word are miraculously able to help you navigate the paths of life, so take advantage of that treasure trove of wisdom.  Saturate you mind with God’s very own thoughts.  Allow His thoughts to become your thoughts.  The principles of God’s Word will guide you in getting things back on track.

3)   Work to understand fully what it was that went wrong.

Proverbs 10:23

It’s one thing to make a mistake.  And it’s another thing to make the same mistake over and over and over, week after week after week.  To stop the cycle, you must take time to stop, evaluate your situation, and figure out what it was that went wrong.  Do everything you can to gain knowledge and understanding that will prevent you from making the same mistake repeatedly.

4)   Stop doing the stupid thing (if possible).

Proverbs 26:11

It may seem odd to have to actually make this point, but … you need to stop doing that thing that has gotten you into trouble.  The reason I’m making this point is that I have counseled with too many people to count over the years who have recognized that they’ve made a bad decision, but then they go on to do it over and over again.  So, stop doing that stupid thing.  This means making a COMMITMENT to putting it to an end.  You’ve got to want to stop it so badly that you will do whatever is required of you to forge a new path.  Make that commitment right now!

5)   Ask for forgiveness from anyone you may have hurt by your bad decision.

Matthew 16:24-26

Even though your bad choice may not have been sinful, it still may have been hurtful to others.  If so, do what you can to rebuild those relationships.  Humbly take responsibility and ask for forgiveness.  Don’t add any qualifiers to your apology.  In other words, don’t say, “I’m sorry I did that, but ….”  Just apologize and ask them to forgive you for blowing it.

6)   Do whatever you can to offer restitution to anyone you have hurt by your bad decision.

Exodus 22

The Bible speaks of confession and forgiveness, but it also speaks much of restitution.  If your mistake has caused a loss for others, then it is your responsibility to repay that loss.  And if the loss is not a clearly tangible loss that can be quantified, you need to do whatever you can to fix the problem you have caused.  This is difficult at times, but it is the right thing to do.  And God will bless you greatly when you pay restitution to those you have harmed.

7)   Seek wise counsel to help you formulate a solid solution. (Formulate a “board of directors” for your life.)

Proverbs 11:14

1 Corinthians 15:33

I highly recommend that you find several godly advisors who will sort of act like a “board of directors” for your life.  No, you probably won’t conduct annual meetings or hold votes, but these advisors will be your go-to people when you need input for making decisions and resolving problems. These godly friends can help you to make good decisions and help you to resolve problems that arise when you make bad decisions.

8)   Create a plan for getting yourself back on track with where you should be.

Proverbs 21:31

Proverbs 16:9

Now it is important to prayerfully establish a plan to get yourself back on track, and then allow God to lead you each step of the way as you move forward within that plan.  Determine what the best potential outcome can be considering the circumstances, and then think through the specific steps you will need to take to get to that preferred outcome.  Write out those steps, and then assign deadlines for when you plan to complete those steps.  Once you have your plan in place, share it with your closest advisors.  They can help you greatly by giving you additional input and by holding you accountable to sticking to your plan.

If you would like to hear the audio teaching of this material, click here.

____________________________________

If you believe anything in this blog post has been helpful, I would encourage you to share it on the social media platforms where you are active.  Chances are great that you have friends/connections who will also benefit from the post.

 

Be sure to sign up at the top right

of this blog to be notified

of new posts!

 

Chris Russell (send me a Facebook friend request!)

Veritas Church (Cincinnati, OH)

http://www.biblestudytools.com/blogs/chris-russell/

_____________________________

For further reading, growth, and encouragement, check out some of these great sites and blogs:

Church Leadership

Church Outreach Blogs

Kirk Cameron

Bible Study Tools Blogs

Desiring God Blog

The Gospel Coalition Blog

Al Mohler

How to Make Right Decisions

•November 19, 2013 • 6 Comments

How to Make Right Decisions

I recently published a blog post called “8 Keys to Knowing God Will For Your Life.” That post was directed toward helping believers to figure out the big picture in regard to God’s will. For instance, those keys have much to do with God’s plan for you vocationally, in ministry, and in the important stages of life.

This post, on the other hand, lends help for the “smaller” decisions that we make from day to day.  In order to continue in the middle of God’s perfect will, it is vital that we make right decisions each day and each week. But that is not always easy.  As a tool to help you make right decisions from a biblical perspective, I have pulled together 13 questions you should ask when facing a choice. Here they are:

 

1)  Does God already have a clear teaching about this?

Joshua 1:8
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

If God has already spoken clearly about this, you do not have to wonder any longer. Just do what he has told you.

Simple, right?

Well, the problem here seems to be that most people in our culture today seem to have a fairly low level of knowledge of the Scriptures.  They are “low-information believers.”

So I would encourage you to saturate your mind as much as possible with God’s Word.  Read it.  Study it.  Memorize it.  Learn it.  Once you have done so, you will be amazed at how much better you are at making good, solid decisions in life.

 

2)  What do my top spiritual advisors tell me about this?

Proverbs 11:14
Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.

 

It is vital that you surround yourself with godly friends who will be able to speak into your life about life’s decisions. Do you realize that you are basically a composite of the five people you spend the most time with? It is crucial to choose those people carefully. If you don’t have those types of friends, I would encourage you to increase your involvement in church and small groups and ministry in order to establish those godly relationships.

 

3)  What do authority figures in my life have to say about this?

Titus 3:1
Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work.

(Also see Romans 13:1-7; Hebrews 13:17)

God often works through authority relationships in our lives. For instance, it would be extremely rare for the best choice to be something that is illegal. Look at this choice from the vantage point of authority figures in your life, and at least use that as an important reference point for you.

 

4)  How will this affect me spiritually?

1 Corinthians 10:23
All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.

 

There is much more to this life than just earning a bigger paycheck or improving your status amongst peers. When you make choices, make sure you consider how this decision will affect your spiritual development. Will this draw you nearer to God or further from him?  Will this decision interfere with your ability to attend church, maintain godly relationships, or spend time cultivating your spiritual disciplines?  If it harms you spiritually, then I would suggest pulling the plug on that choice.

 

5)  How will this affect my family?  Will this draw us closer to God or further from God?

1 Corinthians 8:9
But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.

 

Not only must you consider how this decision will affect your own spiritual development, but you must also consider the affects it will have on the spiritual state of your family.  Will this help your family to grow in Christ, or will it interfere with that spiritual growth?  Will this pull them away from godly friends and away from a healthy, godly church environment?  Will this divide your family in any way?  Be careful not to make decisions that will cause your family to pay a big price.

 

6)  Is this going to bring more peace or less peace to my life?

1 Thessalonians 4:11
That you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you.

 

Did you know that God actually wants you to have a peaceful life?  Of course, this is not the “American way,” but it is definitely an important consideration when it comes to making decisions.  Be cautious that you are not stacking your life with more and more “stuff” that will send you over the edge with stress and anxiety.  And make sure it is not going to steal the peace from your family as well.

 

7)  Is this consistent with the way God has wired me?

1 Peter 4:10
As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

 

God has created you for a purpose, and He has designed you specifically to fulfill that purpose.  You are a gifted individual, and His plan will be for you to function within that area of giftedness.  When we veer outside of the way He has wired us, we often feel excessive stress, anxiety, and burnout very quickly.

When it comes to making decisions, make sure you evaluate the choice in light of the way that God has designed you. Are you creative?  Are you detail-oriented?  Are you relational?  Are you task-oriented?  Are you a communicator?  Pay attention to how God has wired you.

 

8)  Am I paying attention to the risks that are associated with this?

Proverbs 27:12
A wise man foresees evil and hides himself; the simple pass on and are punished.

 

When making decisions, it is very important to honestly assess the risk that is involved.  Sometimes we can become so mesmerized by a “golden carrot” that we overlook the risks that are associated.  For this one, I would suggest that you have an outside voice speak into the situation.

In his book Entreleadership, Dave Ramsey says that anytime he has made a business decision that has gone against his wife’s advice, it has cost him at least $10,000.  Sometimes others, like a spouse, can see the risks that we overlook.

It is a sign of wisdom to be cautious.  Not fearful, but cautious.

 

9)  Do I have total peace from God about this?

Philippians 4:7
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

 

Sometimes everything can look right on the outside when I’m making a decision, but there will still be angst within my spirit.  I have learned that making a decision without that inner peace is nearly always a mistake.  God gives us peace as a protection and a guide.  Seek His peace, and be cautious of making decisions that move against that peace.

 

10)  Are the doors of circumstances clearly open here?

(See Acts 16)

 

God often works through obvious circumstances.  For example, He did that for Paul in Acts 16.  In that chapter, Paul and his entourage kept facing closed doors as they were seeking where they were to minister next.  And then, one door to Asia flew open while all other doors were closing.

God often directs me more by closing doors than by opening them.  But there have been times in my life when I have attempted to force open a door that was not truly open.  That never ends well.

It’s always good to look at how God is opening or closing doors in front of you.  And while an open door does not always mean that you are to pass through, it is often an indicator that God is at work.  Pay attention to open doors, and be cautious of forcing doors open when they are closed.

 

11)  Is now the best time for this?  Could waiting be better?

Ephesians 5:16-17
Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

 

Haste does not always produce the best decisions.  Sometimes everything might seem right about a choice, but making the decision at a later time might make more sense.  This isn’t always easy, because we often want to move forward quickly when we see an opportunity.  But sometimes the wiser decision is to slow down, plan more, get more input, and give it more time to develop.

 

12)  Am I willing to let God close this door?

(Again, refer to Paul’s journey in Acts 16.)

 

An important element to making good decisions is to make sure that you are completely submitted to God’s ultimate plan for your life.  Sometimes we get it into our heads that we want to do a certain thing, and then we struggle immensely when we begin to realize that God may not want us to move forward with that particular choice.

The disaster comes when we place our desire above God’s plan.  Let me be clear here.  That never turns out well.  The best decision you can ever make is to submit your choices to God’s plan and be willing to give up an opportunity when you sense God does not want you to move forward with that decision.

 

13)  Am I willing to trust God if He asks me to step forward?

Hebrews 11:6
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

 

Closely related to the above question is this:  are you willing to trust God if He asks you to step forward?  This is basically the flipside of question 12.  It’s important to stop when God says, “Stop,” and it is equally important to move forward when He says, “Move forward.”

Are you willing to do that thing He might want you to do?  What if it makes you feel uncomfortable?  What if it moves you out of your comfort zone?  What if it requires faith?

I can testify to you that the most exciting moments of my life have been when I have submitted to God and stepped forward with Him in faith.  I hope you can experience that same joy.

 

Wrapping It Up

 

OK, so when you have a tough choice to make, I would encourage you to go over these questions before confirming your decision.  Perhaps print these questions out and keep them as a reference point for the future.  Talk through each of these questions with your spouse or a friend in the context of a decision you are currently making in your own life.  I know of some parents who have used these with their kids to help train their children to make good decisions as well.  In essence, these questions can serve as guidelines for helping you and your family make decisions that you will not regret.

* All Scripture quotes are taken from the New King James Version of the Bible.

 

If you would like to hear the audio teaching of this material, click here.

 

 

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Chris Russell (send me a Facebook friend request!)

Veritas Church (Cincinnati, OH)

http://www.biblestudytools.com/blogs/chris-russell/

_____________________________

For further reading, growth, and encouragement, check out some of these great sites and blogs:

Church Leadership

Church Outreach Blogs

Kirk Cameron

Bible Study Tools Blogs

Desiring God Blog

The Gospel Coalition Blog

Al Mohler

Experiencing God’s Grace — Even at the Death of a Child

•November 4, 2013 • 6 Comments

Baby EllaI’ve been in pastoral ministry for over twenty-five years, and the most difficult experience I’ve had to help people through is the death of a child.  Most of us cannot even conceive of the anguish of a parent who has had to endure such a loss.

Recently, I officiated at a memorial service for a precious baby who passed away just ninety minutes after birth.  While a memorial service like this would normally be filled with indescribable grief, this particular service was filled with a special sort of joy which I have only witnessed a few times in my life.  While this young couple from my church, Erik and Jessica, were grieving over the loss of their beautiful little girl, Ella, they were able to experience God’s grace in a profound way.

This was most clearly demonstrated by the words they each read as a part of the service.  Following is a transcript of their words which brought tears to every eye in the auditorium:

 

Erik’s words:

I had never expected that nearly five months ago Jess and I would receive life changing news after what I had thought would be a simple, routine ultrasound. I remember the day that the doctor told us that Ella had a severe brain deformation and was likely to have an impaired and very short life. That was the hardest day. The shock of going through the experience was jarring and devastating. It crashed headlong into my dreams and ambitions for Ella, destroying them and leaving in it’s wake a landscape of fear and uncertainty.

The night of the diagnosis I remembered lying in my bed, hoping I would wake up the next morning to find out that everything had been a horrible nightmare. I hoped that I would awaken the next morning and the memory of what had transpired would fade from my recollection quickly and painlessly. But when the morning came and I asked my wife, “Was it just a dream?” I was again confronted with the harsh reality of our circumstance.

That morning I sat with Jessica on the floor of what would have been Ella’s room, and I held her hands, and together we prayed. I opened my heart up to the LORD, and I cried out to Him with tears in my eyes. Between sobs of desperation, I pleaded with God to give us direction for Ella’s life. I asked the LORD to give me strength to lead my wife through this time of hardship. I asked God to take away our fears and help us to give Ella the unconditional love any child deserves from his or her parents. I asked God to protect our hearts from the despair and depression that loomed around us and to give us His spirit of peace that surpasses all understanding.

I thanked God for the many blessings in our life, and I acknowledged Him for His sovereignty in all things, including Ella’s life. I thanked Him for giving her to us to be her parents. I prayed that he would lead us to be the parents he wanted for Ella. I asked that God would give us the strength to honor him during our hardships and not turn our backs on Him, our only shelter from the storm.

During this time in our lives,  Jess brought a verse to my attention, and I think it is has great relevance. Psalm 34 is a beautiful psalm that encapsulates much of what I want to convey to you today. Here is what it says:

 Psalm 34:

1  I will praise the LORD at all times. I will constantly speak his praises.

2  I will boast only in the LORD; let all who are helpless take heart.

3  Come, let us tell of the LORD’s greatness; let us exalt his name together.

4  I prayed to the LORD, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.

5  Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces.

6  In my desperation I prayed, and the LORD listened; he saved me from all my troubles.

7  For the angel of the LORD is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear him.

What I would like everyone to know is that the LORD holds true to every promise he has made to me. The LORD freed me from the bondage of all my fears and my troubles. The LORD has given me joy in this dark hour of my life. The LORD has surrounded me with his angels which are those of his children whom I am blessed to know as friends and family. The LORD is truly great, loving, and deserving of exaltation. HIS grace has overwhelmed us, and the power of HIS spirit has overtaken our weakness.

Ella’s life on Earth was tragically short, but it was entirely sweet and filled with joy. I miss her and long to hold her. But I am comforted by the truth that her life hasn’t ended but only begun. HIS promise to us is that we will be reunited with HIM in heaven some day.

This is the reason Jess and I wanted this to be a celebration of life, because we are grateful for the one she was given! It was filled completely with love. And Ella’s life hasn’t ended! It has merely been transformed from the one here on Earth to the one the LORD has created for those who love and believe in Him in heaven. Thank you all for coming and being with us tonight as we remember her short life on Earth and celebrate God’s greatness and His eternal life for us. It is our honor and privilege to share our little girl’s life with you so that you can know her as we did.

 

Jessica’s words (a letter from her to Ella):

Dear Ella,

Today is the day we have chosen to celebrate your life and acknowledge the impact you have made in your very short time here on earth.  You were a true gift of God to your Daddy and I, and we know that our lives will forever be changed because of you.  Your Daddy and I are closer to each other now and stronger as a couple because of you. Most importantly we are closer to God and so thankful that, because of you, we know what it means to truly surrender our lives and trust to Him each day.

The day you were born seems like a blur to me now. I remember checking into the hospital and getting things in place for your arrival, and before I knew it, the doctor was in the room telling me that it was time! You were so beautiful. You had a full head of dark hair and the most wonderfully unique features. Your little lips reminded me of your big brother Ethan when he was a baby.  You cried when you were born, which filled mommy’s heart. It would be the first and last time I heard you cry, but I treasure that sound you made. You even opened your eyes which I took as your way of saying hi to me. We knew, little girl, that you might not know how to breathe once you didn’t have mommy’s help anymore, and that turned out to be the case. Thank you for trying to figure it out, though, for so long. Thank you for letting us love you and hold you and share you with all of the people that came to meet you. I am happy to have filled your short life with love.  I have learned so much about unconditional love from carrying you. I would have traded my own life so that you could have experienced the joys of this world, and I understand so much clearer now the love our Savior has for me.  I know that you are made perfect now, though. And I also know that part of my love included being okay to let you go and be with the Lord instead of getting to raise you here.  My perfect healed baby girl, you are experiencing a life that Mommy could have never given you here. I am so happy for you that you get a headstart into eternity!

In the book of James he says we should consider it a joy when we face trials of any kind, and now I know what he means. I consider it a joy to have walked this journey with you Ella and a true privilege to be the one that God chose to be your mommy. He has a strong purpose for your life with us, and we are only beginning to see the impact you are making in this world.  I will treasure every minute that we shared together and have great expectations for our time in eternity together.  Your Daddy and big brother Ethan and I will never forget you. Fly high sweet angel girl.  Mommy loves you very much.

Love,

Mommy

———————————

I have known Erik and Jessica for many years now — since they were teenagers.  And I can tell you that the reason they were able to find God’s grace in this difficult trial was because they knew what it means to walk with God.  I have watched them for many years as they have sought the Lord, served Him in ministry, and surrounded themselves with a support system of godly friends.

When you find yourself in a dark hour of trial, my encouragement to you is to lean into God.  That is where you will find strength, hope, and courage.

 

When the storms of life approach,

run to God and not away from Him!

 

______________________________________________________________

 

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Chris Russell (send me a Facebook friend request!)

Veritas Church (Cincinnati, OH)

http://www.biblestudytools.com/blogs/chris-russell/

_____________________________

For further reading, growth, and encouragement, check out some of these great sites and blogs:

Church Leadership

Church Outreach Blogs

Kirk Cameron

Bible Study Tools Blogs

Desiring God Blog

The Gospel Coalition Blog

Al Mohler

 
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