The Super-Sized Book of Bible Puzzles (Product Review)

Bible-puzzlesI give this resource 4 stars.

For starters, certainly the size of the book is a plus. With 220 pages worth of Bible puzzles in this 257+ page book, this is a good value. Each page contains one Bible activity page suitable for Sunday School or other children’s ministries, so you are getting over 200 puzzles.

And you are allowed to copy the pages for use in your ministry or at home with your own children (another plus).

 

Each Bible puzzle includes a memory verse along with a short summary of the Bible passage from which that verse is taken. The “puzzle” (which can be any number of activities, such as a crossword puzzle or a word search) requires the child to interact with the Bible story or biblical concept being presented.

Often these puzzles do a wonderful job of engaging the child with the Scriptures. For example, on page 50, the puzzle is a word search of all the words in Genesis 50:20, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” The title of this puzzle is “Forgiveness.” I love that children are learning about forgiveness from one of the most amazing stores of betrayal and reconciliation in the Bible.

The cover indicates that this book is for children ages 5-10. But not every puzzle is appropriate for every age in this range. Some of the puzzles are not suitable for a 5-year old child who cannot read, such as the one mentioned above. And some of the simpler puzzles may not captivate a 10-year old.

There are also a few puzzles that didn’t communicate much about the biblical truth being taught in the accompanying Bible passage. For example, page 34 tells the story of Abraham and Sarah and how they waited patiently for the birth of Isaac. The Bible puzzle is to identify modern-day objects in the picture (“silly things” like an airplane) that don’t belong in the picture of Abraham, Sarah and Isaac. I guess I thought there could have been a more direct correlation between the puzzle and the story.

Overall, though, this is a good resource that enables children to engage in activities that promote their understanding of Scripture. And that’s a wonderful thing.

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Happy Are the Forgiven (Thoughts on Psalm 32)

majesty-mt-bakerThe one thing we relentlessly strive to obtain so often eludes us: happiness. Yet in His Word, God has repeatedly promised to give His people unspeakable joy both now and forever more.

Psalm 32 begins with one of these promises:
“Blessed (happy) is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed (happy) is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity” (Psalm 32: 1-2).

My Christian friend, the path to unshakable, everlasting joy is revealed here. Happiness is yours for the taking, today and every day. I believe that God is more willing and able to bestow upon us the bliss of forgiveness than we are to receive it.

The gift of God’s happiness is but a thought away. We only need to reflect on the divine miracle of His pardoning mercy, made possible by the death of Jesus Christ, and we can experience happiness at any time and in any situation.

Let’s do that right now, shall we?

The Scope of Forgiveness
David uses three different Hebrew words to describe the comprehensive scope of God’s forgiveness: transgression, sin and iniquity (ESV).

The first word, “transgression,” speaks of our rebellion, that inclination to revolt against our Creator, that stubborn refusal to love and obey Him. We’re wired to say “Not your will, but mine, be done.”

The second word, “sin,” conveys the idea of missing the mark. No matter how hard we try to measure up to God’s standard of perfection, we fail, and we fail miserably. As Paul writes, we all “fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

And the third word, “iniquity,” communicates the vileness of human nature. In thought, word and deed, we regularly commit perverse acts of depravity.

David wants us to know that God forgives it all. No matter the size, shape or color of our evil ways, God forgives us. There is nothing we can do which is too bad for God to forgive.

Is this not reason for incredible happiness!

The Nature of Forgiveness
Let’s not overlook what the word “forgive” means. Here in Psalm 32 David uses a word that means to lift up, to take away, to carry off. God offers to lift the burden of sin off our backs. He wants to remove the barrier of our iniquity, for it stands in the way of a reconciled relationship with Him.

Scripture is filled with verses that tell us what God does with forgiven sin. “As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).

But how can the Holy One, who hates sin and therefore must punish it, do such a thing? This is only possible, of course, because Jesus took our sin and its penalty upon Himself when He died on the cross. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24).

The work of Jesus has paid the eternal penalty of sin that hangs over our head from the day we were born. “God only forgives what’s been paid for” (John Barnett).

Rejoice, believer, rejoice!

The Source of Forgiveness
How is any of this possible? What did we do to deserve such compassion? Nothing, of course. If we got what we deserved, we’d all be in hell right now. Instead, because of the mercy of our heavenly Father and His obedient Son, “He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19).

It is God’s amazing grace that makes forgiveness possible. When God poured out His wrath on Jesus, His justice was satisfied and His kindness was revealed in all its glory.

David reminds us that God’s tender mercies are the ground and basis of His forgiveness: “Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD” (Psalm 32:10).

The Condition of Forgiveness
Yet God does not shower everyone with such bliss. Only those who demonstrate godly sorrow and genuine repentance receive God’s pardon. David is quite clear about this.

“I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover up my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin” (Psalm 32:5).

Yes, the happiness of forgiveness comes only to those who tread the path of contrition and brokenness. This is yet another paradoxical manifestation of the gospel’s saving power: forgiveness is received by those who are “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10).

Regularly, even daily, the believer both mourns over his sin and rejoices over God’s forgiveness. This is the way of divine happiness. This is God’s path to bliss.

With the scope, nature, source and condition of forgiveness in mind, David exhorts us to experience ultimate happiness: “Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” (Psalm 32:11).

Yes, forgiveness bring blessing in abundance, for the word “blessed” is in the plural, providing the believer with “double joys . . . bundles of happiness . . . mountains of delight!” (Charles Spurgeon).

My friend, do you know this happiness? Have you climbed these mountains? Today, and every day, I pray that you’ll confess your sins, meditate on God’s forgiveness and receive the joy that only Jesus can give.

Be forgiven. Be happy. Be well.

NOTE: for more thoughts on the Psalms, click here.

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How to Overcome Any Sin

prayer-man-armsWhen you’re all by yourself, what do you think about?
I have a mind that wanders relentlessly. Staying focused on any one thing for any length of time can be a challenge.
What do I think about when I’m alone?
Well, me, mostly.
I am the most narcissistic person I know.
I find myself ruminating over the day’s events and conversations, re-playing them and analyzing them, all the while looking at myself and what I said and what I did or what I didn’t say or what I didn’t do.
This inclination toward self-absorption can be a blessing or a curse.
Lately I’ve become increasingly aware of my tendency to feel sorry for myself. Self-pity can be a subtle thing. I usually don’t even notice it until it’s too late. And that’s not good.
Because most importantly, I believe that self-pity is a sin.
It grieves the Holy Spirit. It disappoints King Jesus. And it gives my Father reason to be mad at me.
(Yes, my heavenly Father gets mad at me. What father, who loves his children dearly, doesn’t get mad at his offspring? His anger is proof of His love.)
I must find a way to overcome the sin of self-pity. It is standing in the way of my sanctification. By the grace of God, I must destroy it, for Jesus said, “If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away” (Matthew 5:30).
How do I do that?
By thinking about God.
The more I think about God, the less I think about myself. The antidote to self-pity, or any other sin of the mind/heart/soul, is to focus on God more and more.
This is where reading, studying, and meditating on Scripture can play such a crucial role in the life of a Christ-follower. Time in the Word is the best way I know to follow Paul’s advice to “Set your heart on things above . . . Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:1-2).
Plus, it’s the easiest way I know to stop the mental meanderings of my wandering mind.
What sin of the soul plagues you lately?
Do you struggle with self-pity or lust or greed or discontent or negativism or anxiety?
Whatever it is, the cure is as close to you as the Word of God. Fill your mind with great thoughts about God and you’re on your way to overcoming any internal iniquity.
To that end, here’s an article I wrote recently about God. May it help you to focus on Him today.
And never forget that the Bible is, first and foremost, The Book About God.
The Bible is all about Him. When reading any portion of Scripture, the best questions you can ask are, “What does this passage teach me about God?” And “How should I then live?”
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Got Goodness? (Thoughts on Psalm 31)

half-dome-918596_1920I like to fill my mind with great thoughts about our great God. And the best way I know to do that is to read, study, memorize and meditate on the written Word of God, for here we find an infinite supply of radiant gems that describe the One who is indescribable.

God has chosen to reveal Himself through words. This fascinates me to no end. I regularly read through the book of Psalms and the plethora of nouns, verbs and adjectives that focus on the character and conduct of our God can be overwhelming.

I love reading a psalm that I’ve read many times before and “finding” a verse that tells me about God in a way I haven’t considered before. Such is the case with Psalm 31:19.

“How great is your goodness / which you have stored up for those who fear you / which you bestow in the sight of men / on those who take refuge in you.”

There is a cluster of words used of God in the Psalms that are most comforting, the source of constant delight for the people of God. Oh may we never tire of singing of His love, grace, mercy, compassion and kindness.

The goodness of God can be viewed as the one divine attribute that summarizes the others mentioned above; that’s the way I like to think of it. My mind gravitates toward categorization. I like a word that captures the essence of many other words.

David says that God’s goodness is “great” (NIV 1978) or “abundant” (ESV). God’s goodness is of such magnitude and intensity, He stores it up for us. I love the King James rendering: God’s goodness has been “laid up” for us. Incredible!

Dear friend of God, think on this today and let it take your breath away! God has so much goodness to shower upon you, He chooses to stockpile it in His divine warehouse. Every day He takes some of that goodness and delivers it to you as only He can: food, clothing, shelter; people to love and be loved by; parents and children, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters; music and art and poetry and prose. So many gifts, so much goodness!

And then when we move from the material realm to the spiritual, the goodness of God becomes even more amazing. The holy Scriptures, the holy Spirit, the Christ – the holy One of Israel. The provision of forgiveness through the death and resurrection of King Jesus. The granting of godly sorrow, genuine repentance, and saving faith. All so we can be reconciled to the One we betrayed with a kiss. Entrance into His kingdom both in this life and the next. And the sweet intimacy of His presence.

All these manifestations of the goodness of God come to us daily. Oh, may we never take them for granted! May we rise up with grateful hearts to give thanks to the King of glory, for surely His goodness pursues us all the days of our lives.

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The Brevity of Life and the Last Word on Death (Thoughts on Psalm 39)

graveyard-534616_640Have you ever prayed this prayer?

“Show me, O LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life.”

David uttered this request in Psalm 39:4. He is keenly aware of life’s brutal brevity, for he then proclaims, “You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath” (Psalm 39:5).

Yes, this life is short, especially when compared to eternity. Forever is a long time, while our years on earth are but a drop in the bucket. Take a breath, David says, and reflect on just how quickly the decades pass.

I was recently reminded of this sobering fact. I came to the office and was told that one of my co-workers had not yet arrived. The supervisor had phoned her but got no response. Concerned, the supervisor drove to Alice’s house to check on her.

Tragically and unexpectedly, Alice had died over the weekend. She could be seen through the window, lying on the couch. We don’t know the cause of death yet; it will probably take weeks for the autopsy results to be revealed. All we know is that our friend and co-worker is gone. She was here one day and gone the next.

Since her passing, our department has been in a perpetual daze. Sadness pervades the air like a fog that will not lift.  It seems so surreal. As I walk by her empty desk throughout the day, the memory of her sitting there, working away, remains strong.

Yet death is not surreal. It is the reality we face very day yet are eager to sweep under the rug. We make jokes about our “bucket list,” as if we have any control over how long we get to stay here for yet another day of fun and frolic.

What do we do when death rears its ugly head and laughs in our face? Make no mistake, death is not our friend. It is the enemy, and on any given day, while we pretend to look the other way, it appears to have the upper hand.

And so it is with great comfort that we turn to the Word of God to get the last word on death. God has spoken about the fate of this gruesome foe. One day, death will die the ugliest of deaths. For the believer in Jesus, our hope in the certainty of the resurrection overcomes the devastating inevitability of death. Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we too will be experience the resurrection of our bodies at the last day.

The Apostle Paul explains the wonderful truth that should be the cause of much delight in the heart of a true Christian: “For he (Jesus) must reign until he has put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:25-26).

As sad as I’ve been over my co-worker’s death, there is reason to rejoice — because Jesus, through His death and resurrection, has overcome death. “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory’” (1 Corinthians 15:54). Thanks be to God for the victory Jesus has won over the last enemy!

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Pros (and Cons?) of Reading the Whole Bible

bible-notebookI’ve been working on a new book about reading the whole Bible. Perhaps it will be called “How to Read the Whole Bible in a Year (or Two).”

This is something I’ve been doing regularly over the past 10 years, and God has taught me so much about Himself and His purposes through this simple practice.

In my research for the new book, I’ve come across a couple blog posts I recommend you read. They present two perspectives on the question, “Should a Christian read the entire Bible?”

Blog Post #1:
Why You Don’t Need to Read the Whole Bible
By Amy Julia Becker
http://www.christianitytoday.com/amyjuliabecker/2015/january/why-you-dont-read-whole-bible.html

Blog Post #2:
5 Good Reasons to Read the Entire Bible Every Year
By Jeff Robinson
http://www.sbts.edu/blogs/2015/09/08/5-good-reasons-to-read-the-entire-bible-every-year/

The first post is quite intriguing to me. I encourage you to take time to read not only the post, but the many responses, especially the one by Eliot Lugo-Hernandez, who says “I am sorry but the author is dead wrong.”

If you’re been reading my blog posts for a while, you probably know how I feel about this. I’ve benefited so much by reading the entire Bible. I’m currently following a 2-year Bible reading plan (Old Testament in 2016 and New Testament in 2017). I just finished Ezekiel yesterday. I love engaging God in the Scriptures this way!

But you need to decide for yourself both how, and how much, to read the Word of God.

So do yourself a favor and check out these posts.

As always, I love feedback, so let me know what you think by leaving a comment below.
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The Atheist Delusion: Why Millions Deny the Obvious

Ray Comfort has a new movie coming out soon. It will be released on YouTube for free in September. To view the trailer, Click Here.

AtheistDelusionTrailer

 

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Got Freedom? Why Every Day Is Independence Day For The Christian (Psalm 119:45)

firecracker-801902__180It’s the 4th of July and I’m thinking about freedom — God’s freedom.

For the Christian, every day is Independence Day when you read a verse like Psalm 119:45 — “I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts”.

We treasure our freedom, do we not? In the USA, we sing proudly before every sporting event that we live in “the land of the free and the home of the brave”.

I’m thankful for the frequent reminders that freedom is not free; it comes at a great price. The freedom we enjoy in this country is the result of much blood, sweet and tears.

The psalmist speaks of his life as a life of freedom. Literally, the first half of Psalm 119:45 can be translated, “I shall walk in a wide place” (English Standard Version). Isn’t that a wonderful way to describe the meaning of liberty?

What I find most compelling about this verse is the relationship between the first half and the second half. Note the all-important connecting word — “for” – which means “because”. The psalmist says he lives in freedom, and then he tells us the reason for that freedom. He has freedom because he seeks out the Word of God.

Like our blood-bought freedom as U.S. citizens, the believer’s freedom is not free. It too comes at a price. The freedom of the believer is the result of seeking God’s truth and finding it in the written Word of God, the Bible.

Once we have sought out and found God’s Word, we must spend much time reading it, studying it, meditating on it, understanding it, memorizing it, and obeying it – all by the grace of God, empowered by the Spirit of God.

This is what it takes to experience the life of freedom – God’s freedom.

Now let’s turn our attention to the question, “Freedom from what?” The answer to this question is found in one of the Bible’s major themes – liberation from the slavery of sin.

Jesus described the human condition brilliantly and succinctly: “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin” (John 8:34). That is our plight. We are in bondage to sin, for who can exclude himself/herself from the “everyone” of Christ’s indictment?

Because of our sin, we are slaves to the ugly consequences of sin in both this life and the next. The Bible is oh so clear about this: as sinners, the death sentence of hell is hanging over our heads (the ultimate penalty of sin – see Romans 6:23). Before God rescues us from the kingdom of darkness, we stand at the precipice of eternity, with nothing below but the lake of fire.

And we live every day battling temptation on every side. Apart from the grace of God, we are doomed to succumb to the forces of evil that entice us (the pervading power of sin – see Ephesians 2:1-3).

Is there any hope for us to escape the penalty and power of sin?

Yes! This is one of the many reasons that the gospel about Jesus Christ is good news! Freedom from sin is found in Jesus. He came to liberate us from slavery to sin.

Listen to these words, spoken by Jesus himself when he visited his hometown of Nazareth and read Isaiah 61:1-2 in the synagogue —

“He (God) has sent me (Jesus) to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor”.(Luke 4:18-19).

This was the definitive pronouncement of the Mission Statement of Jesus.  He came to set us free from the prison of sin. He came to release us from both its penalty and power.

And he accomplished this mission when he died on the cross, for his death paid the penalty of sin and unleashed God’s power into the lives of every person who embraces him as Savior, Lord and Treasure.

This is the freedom that we enjoy as blood-bought believers in Jesus Christ. And this freedom is found by seeking and finding the Great Liberator as he is revealed in the pages of God’s holy Word.  May we never stop praising our King for setting us free, for when we know the truth, both written and incarnate, “the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

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How to Energize Your Summertime Bible Reading

bible-hand-453220__180

Looking for a simple way to energize your Bible reading this summer?

Here’s a suggestion: During the month of July, pick one book of the Bible and read it repeatedly, once each day, in its entirety, in one sitting.

If you’ve not done this before, I recommend choosing one of the shorter New Testament books. There are many of them that can easily be read in 20-30 minutes. (See list below.)

20 in 30
Make it your goal to read this book at least 5 days each week over the next 4 weeks. I call this the “20 in 30” Bible reading method.

30 in 30
If you don’t want to take a couple days off each week, you could read the same book every day for 30 days and call it the “30 in 30” Bible reading method.

The exact number of days isn’t the point. The goal here is to so immerse yourself in one Bible book that the Word of God takes center stage in your heart and mind. Repetition is a great teacher, and when you read the same book over and over, God’s truth becomes self-evident and the Holy Spirit will instruct you and give you insights you’ve not seen before, even with familiar passages you’ve read many times.

You’ll see the big picture of the book, perhaps for the first time. You’ll get caught up in the overall flow of the author’s thought and understand why it was written and what problem or need of the audience was being addressed.

What do you say? Ready to give it a try?

Here’s a list of the shorter New Testament books that are ideal for this:
Galatians
Ephesians
Philippians
Colossians
1 Thessalonians
2 Thessalonians
1 Timothy
2 Timothy
Titus
Philemon
James
1 Peter
2 Peter
1 John
2 John
3 John
Jude

I’ve decided to read Titus at least 20 times in July. I’ve picked this book because I’m not that familiar with it, and we’ve been studying it in our adult Sunday School class at church. So reading the entire book in one sitting will be a great complement to the verse by verse approach we’re taking on Sunday mornings.

If you’re ready to do this, leave a comment below and let me know what book you’ve chosen and what your goal may be – “20 in 30” or “30 in 30.”

For a more detailed explanation of the benefits of reading one book of the Bible repeatedly, in its entirety, in one sitting, please check out my book The Forgotten Bible Reading Method: How to Read and Understand the Bible in 5 Simple Steps.

I’ve also created The Forgotten Bible Reading Method Workbook.

Warning: After you do this in July, you’ll likely want to do it again in August, with another book. Go for it!

May God bless you richly as you spend time with Him in the Word!

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Got Low Self-Esteem?

i-love-myself-417267_1920Here’s something your psychiatrist will probably never tell you:

Low self-esteem is a beautiful thing.

Check out this article by Ronnie Martin for a biblical explanation of the value and God-glorifying purpose of low self-esteem.

“The beauty of low self-esteem is that we finally have the hearts to highly esteem God.”

I could not agree more.

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/the-beauty-of-low-self-esteem

 

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