I love the story in Judges 6 where God called Gideon to save the Israelites from the land of Midian. Gideon was the weakest of his clan from the weakest clan, yet God chose to use him for a powerful leadership role for God’s people. You might read the story again HERE.
Consider a small part of Gideon’s conversation with angel of the Lord:
(I’ve embellished the story a bit to illustrate the way I view the story. My embellishment is in parenthesis.)
“The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor”
“Well, please sir…(I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but) if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? …
…And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us…”
Imagine the scene. An angel shows up, which was usually a pretty scary part of the story, but instead of reacting in surprise, Gideon respectfully questions where God has been lately. He’s not disrespectful, but he is gut honest with the concerns he has with God.
Do you ever wonder where God is when life seems to be falling apart?
Do you ever question God’s involvement when He seems to be nowhere around?
Do you ever think things may never improve?
Gideon had those type questions, and he didn’t cover them up with phony praise, he let his concerns be known.
Yet God’s angel didn’t curse Gideon. Instead, God used Gideon, in spite of his doubts and fears.
“The Lord said to him, but I will be with you…” Judges 6:16 God simply pointed Gideon back to the faith he originally had in Him. That was not the end of Gideon’s fear or questioning, but it was the beginning of his journey back to complete faith.
Perhaps instead of continuing in our own doubts and fears, you and I should get gut honest with God. Maybe we should tell Him how we really feel. I’m not suggesting we become flippant towards a Holy God. That’s never a good idea. I’m suggesting we be honest with the God who already knows our heart and allow Him to restore our faith and strengthen us for the journey ahead. That often begins when we become real with God with who we are, who we are not, and who He is.
God uses people who are willing to humbly surrender their insufficiencies; their doubts and fears, to His sufficiency.
By the way, He knows your heart because He made your heart.
How are you at being honest with God?
I am often asked how to know if the plans we make are God’s will for our life. This is a common concern. Most of us want to do God’s will, but God seems to give us a tremendous amount of freedom. If you’re like me, you’re fully capable of making a mistake. I’ve made many.
Here are 5 Questions I often ask myself to help discern God’s will:
Does what I’m doing (or planning to do) conflict with Scripture?
God’s will never will. God is always true to Himself and His Word is the best place to start. We may differ in interpretation of a passage, but if it’s clearly spelled out in Scripture, then we clearly know His will.
Does what I am doing conflict with the counsel of others?
God uses others to confirm His will. I am thankful for the people in my life, including my wife and sons, who have helped shaped the path of my life. Often they see things I can see or believe in me when I can’t believe in myself. God sends the body of Christ to encourage, challenge and strengthen the body. (Don’t be confused, however, with times God calls us to go against the grain of life and walk by faith when everyone is saying we are crazy. See Noah about that one.)
Does what I am doing conflict with the spirit within me?
God sent the Holy Spirit as a helper. He guides us with an inner peace or a holy unrest. If Christ is in you, He will not leave you to make a decision completely alone. Often God provides a peace or a lack thereof when He is trying to confirm His will.
Does what I am doing conflict with my life experience?
God uses our experiences in life to teach and mold us to His will. Often it isn’t as unusual of a path when we look back over our life experiences. Again, don’t be confused, because He usually stretches us out of our comfort zone also.
Does what I am doing conflict with my passion for life?
God tends to work with the things that fuel our fire. He loves when we are energized for the tasks He calls us to. When I look at Bible characters like Joseph, David, the disciples, Abraham or Paul it appears their calling matched their wiring. Paul was zealous for whatever he did. God used that passion for good. What’s your passion? God may work within it to confirm His will.
Try those 5 questions together and see how they line up to help discern God’s will as it relates with your plans.
Here’s some good news.
I fully believe God works all things for good even when we miss His will in individual decisions. You can make a bad decision, but God retains the right to finish your story His way. Proverbs 16:9 says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”
Do you ever struggle as to whether your plans are God’s will? Tell me your current situation and I’ll pray with you.
You may want to read 7 Ways to Distinguish God’s Voice from the Circumstances of Life
I have a hard time saying something is my “favorite” of anything, but perhaps especially a Bible verse. There are so many.
What about you?
Do you have a favorite Bible verse?
What if we shared some of our favorites with each other? It could be an encouragement.
I’ll go first. As I said, not sure I can land on just one, but here is certainly one of my favorites:
There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Now your turn.
God is not afraid to stretch you to fit His will
God is patient
God never lacks for resources
God has creative ways of accomplishing His will
God is never stressed by my current situation
God works bad for good in its time
God loves a good redemption story
God is never interested in a halftime commitment
God’s power knows no bounds
God loves with an everlasting love
God never wastes an experience
God forgives thoroughly
Which of these do you need as a reminder today?
So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if He calls you, say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 1 Samuel 3:9 NIV
Has God been trying to get your attention lately? Is God trying to tell you something? Are you having a hard time hearing?
Samuel was in training to be a prophet. He was set apart from birth to be God’s anointed one. God had something to tell Samuel, but Samuel couldn’t yet recognize the voice of God. Eli told Samuel to lie down and simply say, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”
You and I live in an often crowded and busy world. There are lots of “voices”. I can’t remember the last time I had a day with nothing to do. My home is quieter than it once was when two boys kept the hallway filled with the sounds of football, basketball, and any other sport that Mom will let them get away with in the house, but there’s still plenty of noise and activity.
Often, I find myself surrounded by the “stuff” of life. The idea of hearing from God in the midst of all this clutter seems nearly impossible. Yet, I know that my very existence hangs on my God relationship. I need a word from my Father!
How about you? Perhaps you too would love to hear from God, but your life is too thick for His word to filter through.
Why don’t we heed the advice of Eli?
First, he told Samuel got still. He laid down, in the stillness of the night and waited for God to speak.
Second, Samuel listened expectantly. He knew he was waiting, and he knew who he was waiting for. He wasn’t surprised when God spoke, because he was anxiously awaiting His voice.
Third, and perhaps most important, Samuel obeyed God’s word. It is one thing to hear from God, and quite another to do something about it. When God speaks to you, that is a monumental event! It is important to obey. I often wonder if God speaks most to those He knows will do as He asks.
God may be trying to speak to you at this point in your life. Are you in a position to hear?
Stop, wait, listen…and obey the word of God today!
Those have to be two of my favorite words from the Christmas story. The phrase may be “do not be afraid”, but I’ll take that also!
I love the fact that Christmas removes the need to worry, to be fearful, to dread the future.
Consider these familiar verses of the Christmas story:
But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:20
And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him.But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.” Luke 1:12-13
“But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” Luke 1:29-30
“And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” Luke 2:10
Are you fearful this Christmas? Are you worried about the future?
It’s Christmas! Our Savior has come! He has a plan! He’s on His throne.
God’s ways are not my ways…I know that’s true, but still, some days I wish He took suggestions.
For example, I’d suggest:
It should never rain on Mondays…
In fact, can we do away with Monday’s altogether?
There should be some times where time really does stand still…
Eating should be an exercise and burn calories…
Love should never fade…
That “write God’s will in the sky” idea…I’d consider that…
Puppies shouldn’t grow up…
Snakes, ants, flies, and gnats could be done away with some weird, temporary climate change (You can do this!)
Everyone should have a sense of humor…
Could you make women (and some men) easier to understand…
Well, at least that’s a start to God’s suggestion box.
This is a satirical post. It’s in the “funny” category. If humor bothers you I understand. It’s one of my suggestions. Honestly, there are so many other (more serious) suggestions I would put in such a suggestion box and I’m glad God operates apart from my “suggestions”. I tend to mess things up when I’m in charge. God knows best. In fact, this whole sin problem the world suffers from started when a couple of people thought they could compete with God.
Scrap the suggestion box idea after all. Let’s simply (or not so simply) trust God.
But, just in fun, if God had a suggestion box, what would you suggest?
(This diagram is attributed online to Zondervan.com, although I could not find it on their site now.)
Every year, especially at Christmas time, one of the most common questions I receive from people in my church and online is “What Bible version should I buy as a gift?” It’s a great question, so I decided to give my answer in a post. (You may want to read THIS POST first, so you’ll understand my philosophy in not answering the question with a single answer.)
Let me make this VERY clear. I am not writing to theologians or scholars with this post…mostly because I am not one. I have been a Bible student for many years, I am a seminary-trained pastor, I have a couple master’s degrees and consider myself well-read, but this is one subject that often divides the best of scholars, and that’s not my intent with this post. This is not written for scholars, but for the average person in my church or those just beginning to become a Bible student.
So, which Bible version should you buy?
First, you should understand that every Bible we are reading today, including the King James Version (KJV) is a translation from the original text. Most of us don’t read Greek or Hebrew very well. The translators of all the major Bible translations have each attempted to take the original language and write a Bible that helps us grow in our walk with Christ.
As you can see from the diagram in this post, there are different approaches to this, with the goal leaning either more towards making it readable (thought for thought) or making it as close in accuracy to the original text (word for word).
I like to explain it like this by adding another phrase. The translators have chosen one of these approaches:
Word for word – This is where every word is attempted to be translated from the original language to an English word. If you want to be a serious student of the Bible, you’ll want a Bible using this approach. While this makes the version more accurate, it may be harder to understand at times, because we have sometimes changed the order in which we say something as much as we changed the words. The original language, for example, did not always follow the same sequence of sentence structure you learned in English class. This is one reason there are newer, more “modern” translations, trying to remain accurate, but make it more readable. (The ESV, HCSB, KJV, NKJV would be examples of this approach.)
Phrase for phrase – This is the middle of the two approach. I don’t know who originate this term, but I like it explain this approach to translations. In this attempt, instead of word for word, the translators broke sentences down into smaller phrases in the translation, so they could adapt to more of the sentence structure we use. This approach makes the Bible easier to read and is still considered an accurate translation, but may not be as accurate as the previous approach. (The NIV or NLT would be examples here.)
Thought for thought – This is where the translators, more concerned that the translation be readable, took an entire passage and translated it into the most modern language they can find. This is often called a “paraphrase” of the Bible. It can be fun to read and help illuminate a passage, but shouldn’t be considered extremely accurate when trying to apply the Bible. (The Message is the most popular example here.)
In reality, all the translations use parts of each of these approaches, but, as the diagram indicates, most will fit somewhere along this continuum.
With that explanation, here are some common versions all of which I use on a regular basis:
ESV – In recent years, this Bible has been one of my favorites. It’s actually replaced the NASB as my “go to” for accuracy Bible. I read it almost daily and more than other versions at this point. I highly recommend this translation for those wanting to read and study the Bible.
HCSB – This is one of the newer translations and fast-growing in popularity in Bible schools and personally speaking. I am liking more each day and highly recommend it. They are limited in selection at some retailers, but if you find one you like, this can be a great choice.
KJV – The King James Version is the oldest and therefore best-selling version of all times. I love it for the beauty of the language and there are some passages that I simply want to read from this translation. I do believe it uses older and harder to understand words and so I don’t usually recommend it for people as a first choice. Also, ancient texts of the original language Bible have been found since the KJV was written which have helped define some of the newer versions accuracy. (I realize those last statements alone makes me discounted by many “KJV Only” people, but that’s a whole other argument and not the focus of this post.)
The Message – This is highly readable (aimed at 3rd grade level), but it is a paraphrase. That means it’s completely translated thought-for-thought and you will lose some of the original meaning. This can be a “fun” read and I love it for illustration purposes, but I never rely on this as my sole reading experience. It’s certainly not a Bible for serious Bible study.
NKJV – The New King James Version has attempted to take the beauty and accuracy of the KJV and make it more readable. It’s a good option for those who want to feel they haven’t strayed too far from the KJV. I have several copies of this translation, including one that sits open on my desk at the office, and I do read it often.
NIV – I have preached and taught from the New International Version almost since the 1984 version was released. I love the readability. In very serious study, I always refer to another version before concluding my understanding of a passage. This remains a good option in the 1984 version, but I am not a fan of the newest revision after several major verses, such as Philippians 2:5, lost significance in the revision. (I wrote about that in THIS POST)
NLT – This is still a fairly new translation and has become a favorite of many, especially it seems among college and youth groups. It is highly readable and credible in accuracy. This is a good choice for the beginning Bible student or someone who simply wants to read for pleasure and inspiration.
(Some will wonder where the NASB is on this list. I still use it occasionally, but not as frequently as I once did.)
My advice if you are going to give a Bible to someone:
Make sure it’s readable – Open it up to several passages you enjoy and read it. Perhaps read a little in the beginning, such as Genesis 1, then read a Psalm or Proverb, then read something from one of the Gospels. Is it easy to understand for you?
Make sure it’s accurate – In most cases, if I were buying a Bible for someone because they are wanting to grow in their knowledge of the Scriptures, I would stick with something at least in the “word for word” or “phase for phrase” category, as I’ve listed them above. If you are buying for someone who already has several Bibles and just wants something fun to read or for someone who thinks they’ll never be able to understand the Bible, then something such as The Message may be an option for them, but it wouldn’t be my first choice in gifting a Bible.
Make sure it’s practical – Make sure the Bible is easy to hold, that it has a cover that fits with the person’s personality, and that it is written in a font that the person you are buying for can easily read. Also, stick with a version where there are multiple styles on the shelf when gifting a Bible. Don’t buy one that is an obscure or “unique” translation, just because it’s on sale. There may be a good reason there is only one style available and it doesn’t appear as popular of a translation.
Here’s the bottom-line for me. Find the Bible you think the person will like, you can afford, in a reliable text, and that you think they will actually read! As a pastor, I personally care less about which version you choose and more than you are reading God’s Word on a consistent basis.
Which Bible version do you prefer?
You may want to include a copy of 7 Ways to Make Bible Reading Fun.
Note: I welcome the “scholars” input or for you to add your own versions I’ve not talked about here. As I said, this was not written for scholars, however, but for the average person in my church or those just beginning to become a Bible student.