4 Steps to Remove Idols in Your Life

Whom do you serve?

As Christians, we are to serve our God Jesus Christ alone (see Exodus 20:2-6), but sometimes, without even realizing it, we find that we have built altars to idols in our lives. The Bible speaks often about idolatry, and this is an issue the people of Israel struggled with a lot. They were called to serve one God—Yahweh—but all throughout the books of Judges and 1 and 2 Kings (among many others), we read how they began to serve false idols and little gods rather than serving their Creator alone.

“Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

Joshua 24:14-15 (KJV)

There are countless examples of idolatry in the Bible from Aaron making the golden calf for the Israelites to worship while Moses was on Mt. Sinai (see Exodus 32) to the young man who would not sell his possessions to follow Jesus (see Matthew 19:16-25). However, idolatry is not only a thing of the past. Sure, many of us may not be serving literal statues in our homes and praying to them every day, but many have built altars to idols of money, success, and fame. Idols come in all forms today.

We see people make idols of other people. I read a comment from a woman on social media a while back, and in this comment, this woman said she repeated to herself as a mantra when she became scared of the current virus rampaging the world, “I trust Fauci. I trust Fauci.” Indeed, many have made political figures and celebrities idols in their lives, investing more of their time in thinking about these people and having more hope and faith in these people than the very God who created them and the entire universe.

People make idols of ideas and ideologies. They worship a scientific theory as though it is Bible. They hold onto a political belief system with greater conviction than the Word of God.

People make idols of things—things like social media, expensive cars, or even (Lord, help me) their phone.

People also make idols of their habits and of themselves. As my pastor has explained, even something as seemingly harmless as going fishing can become an idol if you give all of your time to it. If a hobby or habit takes up most or all of your mental energy, your thoughts, your time, and your passion until it controls you and compromises your walk with God, then it is an idol. If you can’t say “no” to it, it’s an idol. And if you have set yourself and your desires and plans above God, then you have made an idol of yourself.

So, how do we get rid of idols that we have set up in our lives, whether we did so intentionally out of rebellion or ignorantly out of distraction? Thankfully, God’s Word shows us clear steps we must take to remove idols in our lives:

1. Examination.

When king Josiah of Judah was about 20 years old, he began to purge “Judah and Jerusalem from the high places, and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images” (2 Chronicles 34:3). In order for Josiah to get rid of the idols, he had to seek them out first.

The first step to removing idols in our lives is daily examination. We must search our hearts each day and ask ourselves these questions: To what or to whom am I giving my time? My treasures? What are most of my efforts going toward? For what or for whom am I most passionate? Is there anything in my life that I cannot say “no” to?

2. Recognition.

In order for Josiah to purge the land of idols, he had to do a thorough job, which required recognizing which things were idols or were related to idol worship and had to be destroyed. After searching high and low for idols and destroying them all over the land in II Kings 23, Josiah even went so far as to destroy the high places that king Solomon had built for the false gods Chemosh, Ashtoreth, and Milcom (see also 1 Kings 11). Solomon failed to recognize the gravity of what he was doing as he turned away from God and toward idols.

After searching our hearts and lives for idols, we must be able to recognize what counts as an idol. In order for us to remove idolatry in our life, we must ask God for the wisdom to discern what we have made an idol, and we must be honest with ourselves. For example, if we allow playing video games or watching sports to take up more of our time and passion than praying to God, studying His Word, and investing in His Kingdom, then we must exercise wisdom, discernment, and good judgment to understand that those things are idols that we must remove.

3. Eradication.

King Josiah was very thorough in removing idols from the kingdom. He removed horse and chariot decorations in the Temple, broke the altars and images of false gods, and even killed the priests of the high places of false gods upon the altars and “burned men’s bones upon them” (II Kings 23:11-20). Josiah put away those who were “workers with familiar spirits, and the wizards, and the images, and the idols, and all the abominations that were spied in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem” (II Kings 23:24).

If we are to remove idolatry from our lives, then we must do so in completion, holding nothing back for ourselves. We must totally remove the idol (be it a habit or an obsession), leaving no trace of it for us to return to in a moment of weakness. For example, if a person is obsessed with sports to the point of committing idolatry, but this person only stops obsessing over baseball and basketball but still places football above going to church or praying to God, then they have not totally eradicated that idol from their life.

4. Re-dedication.

After we have examined ourselves, recognized the idols in our lives, and totally eradicated them, then we must re-dedicate our hearts to the Lord. After putting away idols out of Judah and Benjamin, king Asa “renewed the altar of the LORD,” and the people renewed their covenant to seek the Lord (II Chronicles 15:8-12). King Hezekiah repaired the Temple, restored worship to God, and had the people sanctify and cleanse themselves before God (see II Chronicles 29). After Manasseh turned to God from a life of wickedness, he took away the idols and “repaired the altar of the LORD, and sacrificed thereon peace offerings and thank offerings, and commanded Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel” (II Chronicles 33:15-16).

Our bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost, and when we remove the idols from our lives, we must then recommit ourselves to God.

Rebuild your altar to God. Sanctify it with prayer. Commit yourself to studying the Word and following His commandments. Sacrifice your time, talents, treasures, and passions and give it all to God. And renew your covenant with God to serve Him alone.

This world is all about serving yourself, worshipping your desires and plans, and elevating yourself and man’s creations above God. But we are not called to be like the world. Though we be in this world, we are not of this world.

Our God created us, came for us, died for us, and rose again, defeating death and overcoming the world all because He loves us and wants us to live with Him in His Kingdom for eternity. The least we can do is serve Him and Him alone.

7 Things to Do at The End of Your Rope: A Guest Post by Jake Walden

We’ve all heard the expression, “I’m at the end of my rope.” And we all get to the end of our rope at some point. How do we get there? Life, usually. Things happen. We get tired, worn out, burnt out. Or maybe we do it to ourselves. We let ourselves slip to the end of our rope. No matter how we get there, the end of our rope is a place where we have nothing left. If we get any lower, there’s no more rope to hold on to.

The end of our rope is not final, however, and I’ll tell you why. Here are 7 things to remember at the end of your rope:

1. Don’t let go.

This is very important to remember. Letting go at the end of your rope is definitely not the answer. As the old saying goes, “When you’re at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hold on!”

“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”

Galatians 6:9 (KJV)

Don’t stop coming to church. Don’t stop praying. Don’t stop fasting. Don’t stop giving. Don’t stop seeking the face of God. Tie a knot in the Word of God and hold on! Letting go is not the answer to your problems.

2. Don’t blame God.

Too often, when people are at the end of their rope, whether life got them there or they got themselves there, they start to blame God.

“Why did God let me get here? God must not care about me anymore. God must have more important people to help. He must not have His hand on me anymore.”

All are lies that we can begin to tell ourselves if we aren’t careful and don’t keep our hearts right. Job’s wife told Job to curse God and die when he was at the end of his rope, but he would not curse God. The Bible says that in all this Job did not sin with his lips. The Bible also says it rains on the just and the unjust.

God tells us, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jeremiah 29:11, KJV).

“Don’t stop seeking the face of God. Tie a knot in the Word of God and hold on!”

Jake Walden

3. Forgive yourself.

We’ve got to learn to forgive ourselves. We will get nowhere if we cannot forgive ourselves. Maybe you condemn yourself because your decisions got you to the end of your rope. Or maybe you cannot forgive yourself because you simply feel that you were not strong enough, and now you’ve ended up at the end of your rope.

Whatever the case, you’ve got to forgive yourself. You’ve got to realize who you are to God. You’ve got to realize that He will not hold your shortcomings against you, and you shouldn’t hold them against yourself.

His mercy endures forever. He loves you. And it is not wrong to love yourself enough to forgive yourself.

4. Let go of the past.

Even if you have forgiven yourself, you’ve still got to let go of the past. What has happened has happened. Sometimes, we have the opportunity to make amends, and that’s good. But you’ve still got to let it go.

Stop dwelling on what got you to the end of your rope. Stop losing sleep over it. Stop worrying about it. The only way to ever escape it is to let it go and move forward. You can’t change what has happened, but you can control what you will do next!

5. Surround yourself with Godly influences.

When you are at the end of your rope, don’t go to the people that are going to fill your mind with a bunch of mess.

Don’t go to someone like Job’s wife who will tell you to blame God. Don’t go to someone who is going to turn you on your brothers and sisters. Don’t go to someone who will gossip about and trash talk other people or gossip about and trash talk your church. Don’t go to someone who will tell you to let go of what you believe in. Don’t go to anyone who will tell you to lash out at people.

Don’t go to someone who will tell you to do ANYTHING that contradicts the Word of God.

Like the Bible says, don’t be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. Surround yourself with Godly, positive influences—someone who will pray for you and with you, someone who will encourage you and lift you up. Like the Bible says, seek WISE counsel.

6. Trust God.

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.”

Proverbs 3:5 (KJV)

This is a very important step. Even when you don’t understand why you’re at the end of your rope, trust God. Like the Bible says, lean not unto thine own understanding. It also says right after that, “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:6, KJV).

God’s ways are higher than our ways. We do not know more than God. Sometimes, things happen, and we end up at the end of our rope, wondering, “Why am I here? This was not my intention.” But God knows right where you are, and He knows exactly what He’s doing. He isn’t punishing you. He won’t let us carry more than we can bear. Things just happen sometimes, and we end up at the end of our rope. But don’t ever stop trusting and believing that God has got you. 

“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

Romans 8:18 (KJV)

“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.”

Psalms 121:1-3 (KJV)

Romans 8:28 says ALL things work together for the good of them that love God and are called according to His purpose.

7. Bless the Lord at all times!

Job said, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21, KJV). One of the most important things you can always remember is to bless the Lord at ALL times.

David said, “I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Psalms 34:1, KJV).

When you’re at the end of your rope, don’t stop praising. Don’t stop worshipping. Don’t stop giving God the honor and the glory. There is power in that, and it gives us authority over the voice and influence of the enemy.

Don’t stop saying, “Blessed be the Name of the Lord!”

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Jake Walden is a licensed minister with the United Pentecostal Church, the youth pastor at Restoration Apostolic Church in Winterville, Georgia, and the Section 3 youth director for the Georgia District Youth Ministries. He is also the host of the podcast What Was I Thinking? with Jake Walden in which he covers Biblical topics with an informal, easygoing demeanor. You can follow along with his ministry on Instagram (@jakewalden39). Be sure to check out his podcast on Spotify or Apple Podcasts and subscribe today!

How God Changed Me

My childhood friend, sister, cousin (in the back), and me a very long time ago.

I hate change. As a super nostalgic person, I’ve always had a habit of romanticizing the past, of looking back at my childhood through rose-colored glasses.

It’s true that I did have a pretty awesome childhood. God blessed me with Apostolic parents who raised me in a good church with leaders who followed God and His Word. I spent my days annoying my older sisters, playing with my cousins, and writing short stories about—wait for it—dogs and their owners going on adventures. Yes, it’s true. I went through a weird phase in which I was obsessed with dogs and dog stories. 10-year-old me adored Homeward Bound and thought it was one of the best movies ever. I spent my summers digging in the mud outside, playing catch and frisbee, running around the backyard with my dogs, and playing Spyro the Dragon on our PlayStation. Ah, yes, the early 2000s. What a wonderful time.

I spent my teenage years going to my church’s private school that consisted almost entirely of my sisters and our cousins for several years, and we constantly tried to stall our teacher (also my cousin) from starting class each day. We threw notes to each other in class, watched silly videos on the old computers during breaks, and laughed at the boys as they picked on each other among other shenanigans. Of course, there was learning going on, and I didn’t earn the nickname “Ms. Perfect” from my cousins for nothing. I was very adamant about getting all gold stars (which stood for a grade of 100%) on my test score chart. From the 5th grade until the 11th grade, I spent practically all day at church almost every day of the week.

My church school gang in 2011.

As a lifelong Apostolic Christian, my church was my second home. I went to school there, and I played with my cousins there as we roamed around the halls downstairs in the dark (as if it was scary) while our parents participated in music practice upstairs. When I got a little older, I became more involved and went to music practices and youth events in addition to spending all day at church because of school. Church was my life, so one might think that I had a super close relationship with God and that I was super spiritual from a young age, right?

Wrong.

No, I wasn’t a rebellious child who didn’t like my upbringing. I loved church. I loved God. I loved living for God. I just wasn’t truly digging deeper into my own relationship with Him. Instead, I rode the waves of the high I was on during that time of my life. After all, most people’s teenage years tend to be a breeze compared to the adult world. Life was great, so I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking that I needed to change anything in my personal life.

I went to church twice a week faithfully. I mean, I practically lived there. I was involved in ministries. I skimmed through a chapter or two of the Bible almost every day. Sure, I talked to God a lot. But I wasn’t breaking through. I wasn’t seeking God with all of my heart.

Why? Because I was also giving my heart to something else.

“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other….”

Matthew 6:24 (KJV)

I was the biggest movie buff. Not only did I watch a movie or a few episodes of one of my favorite tv shows every evening, but I researched film and television trivia all the time. I obsessed over my favorite films and characters—I was a HUGE Marvel girl, and I may have chanted “Loki” along with the crowd at San Diego Comic Con several years ago when I watched it on my phone as Tom Hiddleston, dressed up in character, screamed to the delight of his fans, “Say my name!” Being a fangirl of various movies and series was not something I shared with many, but it pervaded my thoughts constantly as I geeked out over new stories and plots and characterization (because I’m a writer with a very vivid imagination, and I couldn’t resist that type of stuff).

Now, I’m not explaining all of this to tell you, “DON’T WATCH ANYTHING EVER AGAIN YOU HEATHENS, OR YOU’LL ALL BE CONDEMNED!” After all, I know many people who watch films or series every once in a while with their family, and it doesn’t affect them or take them away from God. But if it does, then it becomes a problem. Know who and what you are serving. If the answer isn’t God alone, then it becomes a problem.

I needed to change, and once I began my early young adult years, and my life began to get harder, and my family and I began to go through things I had never faced before, I realized I needed much more of God than I had. You get out of your relationship with God what you put into it. And so I examined my life and realized that I had not been progressing in my walk with Him. I wasn’t getting closer to God. I wasn’t really hearing from Him. I wasn’t digging deeper into the Word. I had let myself become obsessed with things of the world all the while trying to serve God.

For many years, I thought I was “just fine” in my relationship with God until the rubber met the road, and I needed more of God but was farther away from Him that I realized. That’s when I knew I needed to change.

“A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”

James 1:8 (KJV)

Change is not easy. It’s a long process, filled with mistakes and trial-and-error and going back to God for forgiveness and asking Him to give you the strength to do better and live right. With His help, I put away those obsessions. I began to pour myself out so that He could fill me. I began to study His Word more closely, searching the Scriptures to be closer to Him. I began to pray for longer than five or ten minutes each day. I began to search for Him with everything I had, and through that process, He began to change me.

God’s been so good to me, and now I’m privileged to be a youth worker and spend time with great kids who love God and want to serve Him more.

You see, when God changes us, He gives us new and better desires to please Him in all we do. He takes us to a deeper level where we receive revelations and a greater understanding of what it means to walk with Him. There were things I no longer watched anymore. There were songs I no longer listened to. He changed the way I spoke about others and my attitude toward them. He helped me understand the habits I had that were not wise.

The more time I spent in His Word and His presence, the more I came to love His Word and His presence. The more time I spent putting away old habits and trying to live a righteous lifestyle, the more I came to love holiness and living for Him.

Of course, I still have so many moments in which I need my Jesus to help me overcome my flesh. Just as none of us are perfect, I (in absolutely no way) claim to be nor do I claim to be super righteous or have it all together. Of course, there are still some things I will watch with my family and enjoy every now and then (I do love Star Wars, but my sister has not been drawn to it—yet!). But those things, those old habits no longer have a hold on me.

My God delivered me and changed my mindset and attitude. And He will do the same for you if you will put away those unhealthy habits, sacrifice your flesh on the altar, and draw near to Him.

Life in the Spirit: 3 Reminders From Romans 8

School and work are often drudgery.

Back-to-back tests and papers due. Piles of work that lead to overtime. New company policies that are confusing and make your work harder. It can make your life seem completely miserable at times.

As children of God, however, we have an avenue to living a purposeful and rewarding life even when our school and work responsibilities try to drain the life from us.

Today, we’ll look at three key reminders from Romans 8:1-18 of what it means to be alive in Christ.

1. Through Christ, we are free.

You might feel like a prisoner to the drudgery of life, clocking in and out of work in robotic fashion or dragging yourself to school every week, but we are not meant to feel like prisoners in this world.

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom!

In fact, Romans 8:1-3 explains that we are free from “the law of sin and death.” When we believe in and live for Jesus Christ, the sins of our past no longer have a hold on us. Without Christ, we are prisoners to sin, and eternal death is an inevitability. With Christ, no matter what mistakes we may have made or difficult circumstances we may have to endure, the consequences of sin and the ways of this world no longer have us bound.

The weight of this world and of the things that accompany life in this world do not have to keep us down or burdened because our God already defeated sin and death and has overcome the world (see John 16:33). “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” has made us free (see Romans 8:2), and so we can walk in the freedom we have through Christ each day no matter how stifling life may seem on earth.

2. We must continue to walk after the Spirit.

When group projects and research papers pile up, when the customers are rude and your boss keeps giving you more responsibilities, and when traffic is backed up after a really long day, we must continue to walk after the Spirit—yes, even when we are tempted with road rage. If you live in or near Springfield, Missouri, then you might understand the frustration that accompanies dealing with mindless drivers who pull out in front of you while you’re doing 60 and they’re doing 35 or who cruise in the fast lane and refuse to move over. Truth be told, many a Holy Ghost-filled Christian has almost lost their Holy Ghost when dealing with rush-hour traffic.

Walking after the Spirit means living a righteous lifestyle every day. Simple, right? Not when we feed our carnality more than the spirit, but when we pursue righteousness and a closer walk with Jesus on a daily basis, it becomes more natural to maintain a spiritual mindset.

Having life through Christ means forsaking our carnality.

“For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”

Romans 8:5-6 (KJV)

If you follow your flesh, it will lead to death. If you follow after the Spirit, then it will lead to eternal life and the peace of God. We cannot expect the peace of God and His blessings if we follow our own lusts and desires. Verse 8 goes on to say that “they that are in the flesh cannot please God.”

Ouch.

Want to please God? Pursue Him. Pursue righteousness. Even when people annoy you and schoolwork overwhelms you and your job is miserable, pursue a lifestyle that reflects His Spirit within you.

3. As His children, we have a divine inheritance!

The more we walk after the Spirit, the more we realize another truth of what it means to have life through Christ.

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”

Romans 8:14 (KJV)

Those who walk after the Spirit are called the children of God. Our salvation is not based on a “once saved, always saved” ideology. Walking after the Spirit means that we continue pursuing Him and practicing a righteous lifestyle every minute of every day. If we do so and are filled with His Spirit, then we have what verse 15 calls the “Spirit of adoption.” Being “adopted” by Christ not only means His Spirit dwells within us but that we have 1) a loving relationship with Him and 2) a divine inheritance.

“And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

Romans 8:17-18 (KJV)

Being joint-heirs with Christ means that we join in suffering with Him and that we also get to experience the benefits of what we may have to endure on earth—eternal life with Him. No amount of suffering we may experience here can compare to the glory that awaits us in Heaven with our King.

As the old song says, “It will be worth it all when we see Jesus. Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ. One glimpse of His dear face, all sorrow will erase. So, bravely run the race till we see Christ.”

No matter what you’re facing, whether you’re going to school or working or both, encourage yourself with these truths.

Through our God, we have freedom, and our past mistakes cannot keep us bound. Through Him, we have everything we need to maintain a righteous lifestyle. Through Him, we have the promise of eternal life.

The weight of this world no longer has a hold on us. We are alive through Christ!

BPR Post Update + Thought of the Day

This week’s post is just a little blog update for all my readers and subscribers. I’ll be at Missouri’s senior youth camp this week, so there will be no blog post this Friday. However, I’m working on a Bible study post for Friday of next week that I hope you’ll enjoy.

My family and I are back from our vacation to the east coast in South Carolina, and as we were driving back in the rain through Tennessee, I had a thought that I wanted to share with you.

How often do we shut the windows of our heart and soul when things get a little uncomfortable? It starts pouring, life gets hectic, or God moves us in a direction that shifts us out of our comfort zone, and sometimes, we decide that we can’t take it all at the moment, so we close the window.

God, I don’t like this. I just can’t deal with it right now.

We don’t want the discomfort that comes with getting wet. After all, who wants that uncomfortable feeling of being in wet clothes in the rain?

Sometimes, the rain of His Spirit is pouring down, but we still have that window closed. We don’t want the discomfort that can accompany spiritual growth. So, we keep the window closed and prevent more of His Spirit from flowing into our lives.

If we want more of Him, we’ve got to open the window in our hearts and let Him in to nourish us, clean us out, and help us grow.

Just as a plant needs water for growth, so do we need the living water of God’s Spirit to pour into our lives and transform us into who He wants us to be.

Transformation and spiritual growth aren’t necessarily comfortable, but they are necessary.

My prayer is that we succeed in resisting our fleshly desires for an “easy way out” and instead continue to grow in Christ no matter what may come our way.

Again, there will be no new blog post until next Friday the 18th, but I encourage you to go back through the Breathe Pray Repeat archive and read any post you may have missed!

Thank you to all the BPR readers and subscribers who are still here. I appreciate each of you and pray this blog has blessed or encouraged you in some way.

Have a great week, everyone!

3 Helpful Bible Study Methods

Reading and studying the Word should be a daily commitment if we want to grow closer to God. When I was a teenager, I found myself becoming satisfied with reading a short chapter here and there and calling it good. (Woo-hoo! I read an entire chapter of Psalms! I’m good for the day!) Everyone has to start somewhere, and there is no shame in a child reading a chapter of Psalms a day to develop a daily habit of reading the Word, but as we grow older, we must become more dedicated to studying the Word in depth.

As always, we must remember that God is calling us deeper.

Sometimes, figuring out how to study the Word can be difficult when you’re out of the habit or don’t know where to start. For today’s post, I thought I would share with you three Bible study methods that I have adapted and that have helped me dig deeper into the Word.

1. Summarization

This involves what we English majors like to call “close reading.” When you’re reading a chapter of the Bible, ask questions about the chapter and write down your answers. I like to use the typical 5W1H method.

  • Who are the people involved in this chapter? Who is speaking? Who is the author? Who is the audience?
  • What is taking place in this chapter? What are the implications of the events? What Biblical principles or lessons does this chapter explore?
  • Where do the events in this chapter take place? This question can refer to an actual location or where the events take place within the story’s timeline, which brings us to the next question.
  • When does this chapter take place? When did the author write this? (This also helps you understand the context of the chapter as you look at the events in the surrounding chapters.)
  • How can I apply the principles or lessons this chapter teaches to my life?
  • Why are the events in this chapter important? This question helps you under the significance of the passage both within the context of the story and within your own life.

2. Cross-referencing

This method involves going from verse to verse, often across different books, to study key terms and concepts. It helps to have a Bible that contains references within the page that point you to related verses. I recommend the Apostolic Study Bible, which is what I use.

Here’s an example of using this method:

In the footnotes of Psalm chapter 7 in my Apostolic Study Bible, it directs me to read the related verses of II Samuel 18:19-33. David wrote Psalm 7 in reference to the news of his son Absalom’s death, which we read about in II Samuel 18. Through cross-referencing, I can read and study the situation to which David is referring in Psalm 7 to better understand the context of both passages of Scripture.

You can also use this method on your own by using the concordance at the back of your Bible and finding multiple verses throughout the Bible that discuss a particular topic.

3. Word Study

What I like to call the “word study” method involves using a Strong’s Concordance to study the root meanings of words in the original Hebrew or Greek texts. When I use this method, I simply begin by looking up a word in a particular verse in the Strong’s Concordance. (I use the Bible Strong’s Concordance app on my phone, but I also have a physical copy of Strong’s Concordance in my home library.)

This method helps you understand how a word is used differently in the Bible and what its different uses mean. For example, “love” in Romans 12:10 is from the Greek word philadelphia, which means fraternal affection or brotherly love. In John 15:10, we find that the love mentioned here is unconditional love (or agape). Here, Jesus is giving the command that we abide in the kind of unconditional love He has for us, whereas the love mentioned in Romans 12:10 specifically refers to love toward members of the church.

The above Bible study methods and tips are designed to help you understand the context of a passage of Scripture, what lessons a particular passage teaches, the connection between verses, how multiple verses extend the same topics, and how we can understand a word or concept based off a word’s original meaning. If we devote even a little bit of time daily to studying the Word, then we will come to understand Him more and how He wants us to live.

Studying the Word fosters a love for the Word and Godly living, allowing us to bury His Word within us so that we might reflect His glory to others and share the Gospel message.

BPR Schedule Update: There will be no blog post next week as I’ll be on vacation. To see how I’ve applied the word study method to my Bible studying time, check out the “comfort” series in the “Bible Studies” column.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

3 Qualities of a Good Servant

A man opens his Bible.

What makes a good and faithful servant?

Is it simply someone who does good deeds and tries to be kind to others? Is it someone who serves their community? Is it someone who prays an hour every day and fills journals with Bible study notes? Is it someone who goes to Bible college and becomes a preacher or worship leader?

What does it take to simply be that good and faithful servant the Lord will welcome into Heaven?

Well, a person can certainly be a good and faithful servant by doing any or all of the above, but pleasing and serving God does not mean that we have to attend Bible college or that we have to become a preacher or singer. Those things are wonderful things but are specific callings rather than general requirements for all Christians.

When we study the Word, we see many examples of various people who were faithful servants—Abraham, Job, and Mary are a few that come to mind. One man in particular who appears very early in the Bible shows us three qualities of a faithful servant that are a good foundation upon which we can build and develop a strong relationship with God.

“And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all he had, Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh: And I will make thee swear by the LORD…thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac…And the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and sware to him concerning the matter.”

Genesis 24:2-4, 9 (KJV)

1. Attentiveness

When Abraham was old, he tasked his eldest and most trusted servant with finding a wife for Abraham’s son, Isaac. Here, we have an example of a servant who was not only attentive to his master’s requests and needs, but he was also mindful of Abraham’s requirements to accomplish his task.

After he met Rebekah and her family, he faithfully repeated to them his errand, detailing every aspect of his oath (see Genesis 24:34-41). A testament to the servant’s mindfulness in completing his task, he even refused their request to let Rebekah stay with her family a little longer:

“And her brother and her mother said, Let the damsel abide with us a few days, at the least ten; after that she shall go. And he said unto them, Hinder me not, seeing the LORD hath prospered my way; send me away that I may go to my master.”

Genesis 24:55-56 (KJV)

In order for us to be good servants, we must not only listen to our Master’s commands, but we must be mindful of how we go about our work for the Kingdom. Abraham’s servant carefully heeded each aspect of his oath to his master. Even though some might deem it unkind to not allow Rebekah to stay with her family a few more days, Abraham’s servant was persistent in fulfilling his task, mindful of the time and his master’s needs. Abraham’s son needed a wife, and it was his job to deliver on his task—pronto!

When we serve in the Kingdom, we must be mindful of how we go about our ministry and of how we answer to God’s commands, which brings us to the second quality Abraham’s servant displays.

2. Obedience

Abraham’s servant was obedient to the letter. He swiftly went about finding his master’s son a wife and made sure she was of the same household as Abraham’s family as his master requested. Now, we know Abraham’s servant had a reputation of faithfully obeying his master because Abraham trusted this man with all of the goods of his house (see Genesis 24:2, 10). Over the course of the chapter, we see that Abraham’s servant was forthright as he set out to the well to find Isaac a wife and was very thorough. Before assuming Rebekah was the one God had chosen for his master’s son, Abraham’s servant watched Rebekah carefully and questioned her about her family:

“And the man wondering at her held his peace, to wit whether the LORD had made his journey prosperous or not…And [he] said, Whose daughter art thou?…And she said unto him, I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, which she bare unto Nahor…And the man bowed his head, and worshipped the LORD. And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of my master Abraham, who hath not left destitute my master of his mercy and his truth: I being in the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master’s brethren.”

Genesis 24:21, 23-24, 26-27 (KJV)

Abraham’s servant waited for confirmation to ensure Rebekah was the one God had appointed for Isaac, and then he praised God and continued with his task. A good servant obeys, yes, but a good servant must pay close attention to every detail to ensure complete obedience.

3. A Relationship with God

Finally, a good servant must commune with God. We see throughout chapter 24 of Genesis that Abraham’s servant regularly spoke to and praised God. In fact, he spoke to God and worshipped Him three times in this chapter, showing his trust in God and a thankful spirit.

First, Abraham’s servant surrendered the situation to God by asking God to show him the woman He had appointed for Isaac (see Genesis 24:12-14). Second, he praised God when he realized God had blessed his journey and led him to the right woman (see Genesis 24:26-27). Third, he worshipped God when Rebekah’s family released her to accompany him back to Abraham and marry Isaac:

“Behold, Rebekah is before thee, take her, and go, and let her be thy master’s son’s wife, as the LORD hath spoken. And it came to pass, that, when Abraham’s servant heard their words, he worshipped the LORD, bowing himself to the earth.”

Genesis 24:51-52 (KJV)

Through each aspect of fulfilling his work, Abraham’s servant gave the glory to God and surrendered his task into God’s hands.

A woman throws her hands up in surrendering everything to Jesus.

In order to become the child of God that He wants us to be, we have to start somewhere. Applying to our own lives the qualities that Abraham’s servant shows us will help us begin a foundation for building a healthy and strong relationship with God. When analyzing your own walk with Him, ask yourself these questions: Am I heeding and obeying God’s commands in my life? Am I faithful in my work in the Kingdom? Am I seeking the Lord faithfully? Have I given Him honor and worship for the things He’s done for me?

If we build a strong relationship with God and follow His guidance and instructions for our lives, then He will ultimately bless us with the greatest reward—hearing the words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” as we enter into His Kingdom to be with our King for eternity.

How to Overcome Doubt with Determination

Overcoming doubt with determination by studying the Word.

Ever feel like bad things always happen to you, or like you just aren’t as lucky as those other people on social media who are living the dream and have it all together?

Ever doubt that things will work out because it seems they never do?

Sometimes, we make things harder for ourselves when all we focus on is the negative. It interferes with our ability to trust God and give Him our cares. Doubt can be crippling.

As someone who’s teetered between pessimism and optimism, I know the back-and-forth can make you emotionally and physically exhausted.

“God, I just want something good to happen in my life for once!” I’ve said before.

Our doubt blinds us from seeing how God is working, and it keeps us from moving forward with determination.

Doubt damages our determination.

After all, why bother embracing the future when you can’t see what’s ahead or when it seems bleak and uncomfortable? Why trust that things will work out when it seems nothing good ever happens?

You know, we often get stuck on patterns. If there’s a pattern of negative events in our lives, we come to expect negative things, and negativity becomes the lens through which we see life. As humans, we like patterns because they’re predictable. They give us a feeling of control. If we can predict what might happen, then we can prepare for the worst.

But God does not operate according to the predictions of man. His ways are higher.

When we learn to trust that God always has a plan for our lives, then we can turn our doubt into determination—the kind of determination that says, “I will trust in God no matter what happens.”

God's ways are higher than ours.

We say Thomas doubted that Jesus really had risen from the dead with a kind of disdain for Thomas’ attitude, but I’ve always found Thomas relatable here.

Think about it: Jesus Christ, whom the disciples had hoped would help them overthrow the government, was crucified three days prior. Their movement seemed hopeless and crushed. Bad things kept happening. And all of a sudden, a man stood in front of Thomas claiming to be the resurrected Christ. Perhaps many of us, if we had been Thomas in that moment, would feel it was too good to be true. After tragedy and disappointment, we might have responded to Jesus’ resurrection with hesitation and doubt.

Have you ever asked God for a sign if something really was Him?

God, if this is You moving, send me a sign!

Thomas declared that he would not believe until he had seen the scars in Jesus’ hands and touched His spear-pierced side. How did Jesus respond?

“Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.”

John 20:27-28 (KJV)

If we are to see Jesus, we must reach out and touch Him.

If we are to overcome our own doubt and pessimism, we must get closer to Him and believe.

Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God!

(See Romans 10:17.)

When we study His Word, we begin to hear His voice. When we hear Him, our faith in Him grows. As our faith grows, so does our trust and our confidence in Him.

The more we seek Jesus in determination, the more our doubt will diminish.

4 Ways to Be Consistent in Prayer

How often do you attempt to organize your day perfectly, so you can spend quality time with God, and you fail?

Consistency can be difficult when we get overwhelmed with life and busy with distractions, but it is the key to having a strong prayer life.

Today’s post is taken from Bro. David Brown’s pre-sermon message on this past Friday night at Missouri District Youth Convention. Below is the transcript of an excerpt from the beginning of Bro. Brown’s Friday night message as he describes 4 ways you can be more consistent in your prayer life.

*****

1. Make it a priority.

You’ve got to make prayer first. And I know that all of you, you have things that you do right when you wake up. Hopefully, it involves something like brushing your teeth.

But I wonder if you’re struggling to make prayer a priority in your life, I wonder if you could make up your mind just between you and Jesus to say, “You know what? Before I (fill in the blank).” It could be brushing your teeth. I promise Jesus doesn’t mind your stank breath. But say, “Lord, before I brush my teeth, before I pick up my phone, before I check a text message, Lord, I’m going to spend time with You in prayer and with your Word.”

So, make it a priority.

2. Place—designate a space and time to fully be with the Lord.

I would encourage you to designate a space and a time to be fully with the Lord. Have a place, whether that’s in your bedroom or a specific place in your bedroom. Maybe it’s even in your closet. But have a place where you can eliminate distractions, and you can set aside time just to be with Jesus.

3. A.C.T.S.—have a plan.

I don’t know about you, but at some point, I got tired of going into that time of prayer, and I say, “Hallelujah, thank you, Jesus,” about 1,000 times, and I say that’s prayer. So, I just have a very simple plan. I can’t even remember the first time where I saw it, but my plan is very simple: it’s A.C.T.S.

I start my time with the Lord by adoring Him, by worshiping Him, by just talking about how awesome God is. Then, I go into confession, and I confess the things I’ve done that I shouldn’t have done and the things I should’ve done that I didn’t do, for to him that knows to do good and doesn’t do it, to him it is sin. And I also confess each day that I could not live this day without Him.

And from confession then I move into thanksgiving, and I begin to thank the Lord for the incarnation, that the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. I thank God for the life of Jesus Christ that though He was tempted in every way as I’m tempted, He was without sin so that He might present Himself a sinless sacrifice. I thank God for every spiritual blessing, every good gift, every perfect gift. I thank God for every spiritual blessing, material blessing, physical blessing.

And after I thank God, then I begin to seek Him. I begin to seek the Lord, and I usually begin by putting on the armor of God, putting off the works of the flesh, and putting on the Lord Jesus Christ. And then I allow the spirit of God to lead me where to pray and what to pray. So, a plan.

4. Playlist—Helps Clock Disappear

And last but not least…this is totally odd-school, but it’s helped me, and perhaps it will help you.

Have a playlist, a set of songs that you pray to, that you don’t necessarily sing to, but they just serve as a means of getting rid of the clock. You forget about the time because you build a playlist—you know exactly how long it is, and so if you’ve got to be somewhere in 30 minutes, have a 30-minute playlist. If you’ve got to be somewhere in 45 minutes or 60 minutes, have a playlist that serves that time.

And typically, I build my playlist to follow my plan. The first song is all about worship, and the second song about confession, and the third song about thanksgiving and seeking the Lord. Before you know it, if I’m praying a playlist, and I’m praying confession or adoration during a song, six minutes and seven minutes and five minutes passes, and before you know it, I’ve spent 30, 45 minutes with the Lord.

*****

The above tips from Bro. Brown are excellent helps for taking a practical approach to be more consistent in your daily prayer life.

If we want to get to the altar and allow God to change us, we must first be consistent in prayer. We must 1) make it a priority, 2) have a place and time designated to be with God, 3) make a prayer plan, and 4) build a playlist to pray along with.

Bro. Brown also mentioned that subscribing to Spotify or Apple Music might be worth the investment if you want to build a prayer playlist so that advertisements do not pull you out of the presence of God:

“There’s nothing like being there with the Lord, and all of a sudden an advertisement for Home Depot comes on. You’ll get out of the altar real quick!”

Bro. David Brown

If we build consistent prayer lives, we’ll be able to develop a closer walk with Jesus, allowing Him to mold and lead us according to His Will.

“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;”

Ephesians 6:18 (KJV)

“Pray without ceasing.”

1 Thessalonians 5:17 (KJV)

2 Lessons from the Lame Man and the Blind Man: Learning to Recognize Jesus in Your Life

Holding the Bible up to the sky.

What will it take for you to see God in your life?

In the book of John, we see two examples of Jesus healing two separate men—a lame man and a blind man—who both had opportunities to recognize Jesus as their God who had personally touched their lives. Only the blind man recognized God. As for the lame man, there is no record of his salvation, but there is record of his disobedience and lack of gratefulness. When we look at both accounts together, we can see from their differences how important it is to not only glorify and recognize God in our lives but to do whatever it takes so that we can see Him. There are at least two ways the lame man and the blind man differed.

1. They differed in their responses to their peers.

A man looks over the mountains, and a caption reads, "One thing I know: I was blind, now I see."

Both the lame man and the blind man were honest when answering the Jews’ questions about their healings, but the lame man cared more about the interests of his peers while the blind man was able to see through the Jews’ questioning and recognize their antagonistic motives.

“The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed. He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk? And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place. Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee. The man departed, and told the Jews that is was Jesus, which had made him whole.”

John 5:10-15 (KJV)

“Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened? He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight. Then said they unto him, Where is he? He said, I know not….They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet.”

John 9:10-12, 17 (KJV)

The now-healed lame man was at first unable to identify Jesus by name after he deferred blame to Him, but once he learned who it was who had healed him, he went back to the Jews to inform them that it was Jesus “which had made him whole.” The blind man appeared to care more about pleasing the Jews who were after Jesus than obeying Him. The healed blind man, however, knew Jesus by name and (inadequately) described Him as a prophet.

As they questioned him further, he discerned the Jews’ motives to catch Jesus and remained true to his testimony, refusing to be swayed by his interrogators. Pay attention to his response below:

“He answered, and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see….Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is. The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes….Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.”

John 9:25, 28-30, 32-33 (KJV)

The formerly blind man was now defending Jesus against the Pharisees’ accusation that Jesus was a sinner, discerning their attempts to disprove his story and smear Jesus. He pulled from his theological knowledge to expose the flaws in the Pharisees’ argument, confirming to them that if Jesus had been a sinner, He would not have been able to heal the blind man, proving that He was “of God.” The healed man’s bold and clever responses to the Pharisees resulted in them casting him out of the synagogue (ex: “They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out” [John 9:34, KJV]). Even though the healed man knew what might happen to him, he stood his ground against the Pharisees.

2. They differed in their responses to Jesus.

Jesus bends down and draws in the sand.

While both men initially obeyed Jesus’ instructions to be healed, the formerly lame man disobeyed Jesus later and failed to recognize who He is, whereas the formerly blind man responded to Jesus with both recognition and praise. Notice the blind man’s response to Jesus below:

“Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.”

John 9:35-38 (KJV)

The now-healed man recognized Jesus as Lord and worshipped Him, eager to believe. When Jesus told the formerly lame man not to sin anymore, the man turned right back around and tattle-taled on Jesus to the Jews.

One man recognized Jesus as Lord, and the other man failed to see who Jesus is, and his information to the Jews resulted in the Jews’ plan to persecute and kill Jesus.

From both of these accounts, we can glean at least two lessons:

1.) We must value God and the things he wants from us above all things, even if it costs us.

2.) We must not forget to give Him the glory for all He’s done for us.

The formerly blind man recognized and praised Jesus even after the Pharisees had excommunicated him from the synagogue for his defense of Jesus, but the formerly lame man did not recognize or believe on Him. He placed more value in pleasing the Pharisees. In fact, he showed no interest in obeying or praising Jesus whatsoever, perhaps proving he was the true blind man as were the Pharisees for lacking spiritual vision (see John 9:39-41).

A boy looks up at the sunset over the trees. A caption reads, "What will it take for you to see Jesus?"

What will it take for you to see God in your life and give Him the glory?

We may find ourselves going through the motions and doing what we’re told (as both men initially did when Jesus gave them instructions to be healed), but as we learn from the account of the lame man, we can still fall short of recognizing God at work in our lives.

Each day, we must look inside ourselves to ensure we are placing Jesus above all things in our lives. Getting closer to Jesus requires an attitude of willingness, devotion, dedication, and sacrifice. The kind of attitude that says, “No matter what it may cost me, I will stand by Jesus and testify of this truth.” The kind of attitude that makes us willing to remove anything that might keep us from recognizing Jesus. The kind of attitude that says, “I will do whatever it takes to follow and obey Him no matter what.”

If we want to see Jesus, we must devote ourselves to Him, give Him the glory, worship Him alone, and tell the world of His greatness.