bibleIn a fresh study of “Bible engagement”released recently, LifeWay Research surveyed more than 2,900 Protestant churchgoers and found that while 90 percent “desire to please and honor Jesus in all I do,” only 19 percent personally read the Bible every day.

LifeWay also found that higher levels of “Bible engagement” were related to six actions:

1. Confessing wrongdoings to God and asking forgiveness.2. Believing in Jesus Christ as the only way to heaven and the number of years one has believed this.

3. Making a decision to obey or follow God with an awareness that choosing to do so might be costly. (63% of churchgoers say they have at least once in the last six months.)

4. Praying for the spiritual status of people they know are not professing Christians.

5. Reading a book about increasing their spiritual growth. (61% of churchgoers say they have in the last year.)

6. Having been discipled or mentored one-on-one by a more spiritually mature Christian. (47% of churchgoers say they have been discipled or mentored.)

“Bible engagement points people toward maturity and maturing Christians have practices that correspond to Bible reading,” said LifeWay Research president Ed Stetzer. “Almost all churchgoers want to honor God, but more than a third indicate obedience is not something they have done when it is costly to them.”

Reading the Bible takes work and can be frustrating at times. For many Christians what is preferred is a passive approach to the faith rather than an active one. This means that many church goers lean towards having their pastors give them the answers rather than engaging in an active pursuit of knowing God through a reading of the Bible.

What doesn’t help is that many churches do not offer their members the tools to understand the Bible and read it well and make meaningful application. Often the Bible is treated as an afterthought as a verse projected up on a screen and then removed a couple of minutes later.

The bottom line is that it’s up to you to opne the Bible and to read and follow it on a daily basis. Now the question becomes, do you?

Psalm 119:105  Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

imagesTo be insecure is to lack confidence or trust, whether in ourselves or someone else. There are many causes of insecurity, but chief among them is our failure to fully trust God (Jeremiah 17:7-8). As believers, we have this assurance: “And those who know Your name put their trust in You, for You, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You” (Psalm 9:10; also see Deuteronomy 31:8; Lamentations 3:57). If we know God is with us, why do we still experience feelings of insecurity, doubts, and fears? Why does God seem so far away?

In Satan’s arsenal, one of his biggest weapons is doubt. Satan loves for us to question who we are and how we measure up to others (Ephesians 2:1-2; Ephesians 6:12; 1 Samuel 16:7). He wants us to feel insecure over the meaning and purpose of our lives, where we’re going, and how we’ll get there.

Another cause of feelings of insecurity is reliance on wealth and possessions instead of God. The world encourages us to strive to be “number one” and promotes the adage “he with the most toys wins.” If we don’t have the latest iPhone, fastest car, biggest house, or largest paycheck, we are failures. Yet the Bible teaches us not to set our hopes on earthly riches but on God: “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17, emphasis added; see also Mark 10:23-25; Luke 12:16-21). Riches, being uncertain, will certainly bring insecurity to those who trust in them.

Many times, insecurity takes the form of worry about the future. Jesus was empathic when He said, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow. . . .” (Matthew 6:31-34). Worrisome fears about the future are rooted in a doubt of God’s provision. This breeds strong feelings of insecurity and a lack of peace, resulting in fear and depression. When we doubt God, Satan wins (Philippians 4:6; 1 Peter 5:8).

Insecurity may also result from being preoccupied with the things of the world: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). Security is not to be found in this world’s people, things, or institutions, including government institutions. Some people become obsessed with having the right leaders in government, the right laws, and the right policies. When the government is in the wrong hands, they contend, the nation is doomed. However, the Bible teaches us that God is in control and His sovereignty extends to governmental leaders (Proverbs 21:1; Daniel 2:21). While we should practice good citizenship and vote our conscience, we must also recognize that government policy cannot save us. Only God can do that (Isaiah 33:22; Psalm 143:6; Jeremiah 17:5-6).

Others place their trust in their pastor or other church leaders. However, men can and will let us down. Only Christ is the sure foundation. “So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic’” (Isaiah 28:16). Jesus is the solid rock and our only hope of security (Matthew 7:24).

Often, the reason for our insecurities is an undue preoccupation with our own selves, an “it’s all about me” mentality. The Bible warns us about self-absorption and pride (Romans 12:3). God’s work will be done “‘not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty” (Zechariah 4:6).

True security comes when you recognize that “God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). When struggling with feelings of insecurity, never forget God’s promise: “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” (Isaiah 26:3).

healingMany Christians have firmly believed that God would heal a loved one only to become discouraged because they remain sick. or pass away. . They prayed in faith. Some believed that they had confirmation from other believers or from other miracles. So they were genuinely surprised, even dumbfounded, when the loved one died. What they had believed with such certainty turned out not to be true. Their faith could not heal the person — only God could heal, and he chose not to, despite their prayers, their faith, God’s love and God’s promises.

When such disappointments happen, a new trial sets in. If faith in the healing turned out to be a mistake, what about faith in Christ? Was it also a mistake? That is one of the dangers of the “word of faith” teaching — it links faith in our Savior to faith in specific predictions.

Did Jesus promise to heal every disease? He did not heal Epaphroditus, as least not as fast as they wanted him to (Phil. 2:27). Even in his earthly ministry, Jesus did not heal everyone (John 5:3-9).

Didn’t Jesus die for us, forgiving our sins? Doesn’t that mean that we have no reason to suffer? Some say so, but we should test this line of reasoning with another fact: Jesus died for us. Does this mean that we should never die? We already have eternal life (John 5:24; 11:26). But the fact is, every Christian dies. There is something wrong with the line of reasoning. We do not yet experience everything Jesus accomplished for us.

There will come a time when we will be raised imperishable. There will come a time when we never experience pain. There will come a time when we receive the full benefits of Jesus’ redemption. But that time is not yet. Now, we share in Jesus’ sufferings (1 Pet. 2:20-21).

Jesus promised persecution, not freedom from pain and sorrow. When Paul was beaten, stoned, and imprisoned, he felt pain. Paul had great faith, but also many sufferings (2 Cor. 1:5; Phil. 3:10; 4:12). Although Jesus atoned for all sin, Christians still suffer despite their faith — and sometimes because of their faith.

We suffer from persecution, and we suffer the incidental pains of living in a world in which sin is still common. Sin hurts innocent people, and sometimes we are the innocent people who are hurt. Sometimes it results in early death, sometimes in slow and pain-filled death. We may suffer physical damage from a burning, a beating, a car accident or asbestos fibers. Our health may suffer from exposure to cold, from smoke in a house fire or chemicals in our food. We may suffer from wild animals, large or small, or even microorganisms. God has not guaranteed to protect all his people from all possible problems.

Is it always God’s will to heal people who have faith in Christ? The biblical evidence is that he sometimes does, and sometimes does not. Stephen was killed, James was killed. Eventually all the first Christians died of something. Yet, how many times did God save them out of danger before they eventually died? Perhaps many times.

Have you ever wondered about preachers who claim to heal all infirmities, yet they themselves wear eyeglasses? There is no reason why biblical promises would apply to one kind of ailment but not the other. The scriptures sometimes cited in support of a universal promise of healing do not make any exceptions for eyesight, age, accidents or anything else. But both Scripture and experience tell us that these verses were not intended as universal guarantees.

Yes, some have been healed, sometimes dramatically. These are examples of special favor, grace and mercy. We should not take these examples of exceptional grace and create universal promises out of them.

And we especially should not imply that people who aren’t healed do not have faith. Sometimes their faith is demonstrated through their suffering — they remain cheerfully confident that God will do what is best for them. Whether they live or whether they die, whether they have prosperity or poverty, they trust in God. There is nothing wrong with their faith. What is wrong is a teaching that implies that they are somehow not doing enough.

realtyWhen Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday and presented Himself to the disciples, Thomas wasn’t there. When the disciples told Thomas that they’d seen Jesus, Thomas didn’t believe them.

As described in John 20, Thomas told them he wouldn’t believe it unless he saw Jesus and experienced Jesus for himself. He doubted. That’s why we know him as Doubting Thomas.

He didn’t stay a doubter, of course. Jesus appeared to him, allowed him to touch His hands and side—at which point Thomas said, “My Lord and my God!”—and Thomas ended up taking the Gospel to India, where he was eventually martyred.

It’s easy to focus on Thomas’ doubts, but we need to realize that all the disciples doubted. Luke 24 says they were frightened when Jesus first appeared to them in a room. Matthew 28 says that they doubted him when he appeared to them on a mountaintop in Galilee.

The disciples were there. They saw Jesus, touched Jesus, and still doubted. Doubt is something all humans do.

When the Bible uses the word translated doubt, it literally means “two ways.” It means double vision—that we can see belief and trust on one hand, and we can see the other way, too. We hesitate. We can’t make up our minds.

Do you know that many famous characters in the Bible doubted? Abraham, the father of the faith, doubted when God told him he’d have children. Moses doubted God. David doubted God. Peter doubted God when he tried to walk on water.

This Post-Easter Monday, here are three things I want you to know about doubt.

First, doubt is honest. It is different from unbelief. Doubt is saying, “I cannot believe.” Unbelief is a refusal to believe. Doubt means we are trying to find a place of faith—we are looking for the light—but we are struggling. On the other hand, unbelief is contentment with darkness.

The second thing you must know is that Jesus is always gracious to doubters. If you are dealing with doubt, God is not your enemy but your friend. Jesus was not hostile to Peter, nor to Thomas. He did not reject them because of their doubts.

Please know that Jesus can handle your sincere doubts. He is sympathetic to them. He is not offended or troubled by them at all.

Thirdly, realize that doubt, in and of itself, is not sin. It only becomes sin when it causes us to disobey God—especially long-term.

If you have doubts this Post-Easter Monday, make up your mind that your doubts are not going to define your life. Don’t let doubt become something that keeps you from doing what God wants you do to in your life.

Give your doubts to God and ask Him to help you resolve them. Continue to pursue Him. Continue to read and obey His word. Romans 10:17 says “Faith comes from hearing the message… through the word about Christ.” That means you can trust God’s word to resolve your doubt. Not skeptics, not experts who oppose God, but God’s word.

This Post-Easter, I hope you choose God despite your doubt. Refuse to be overcome by your questions and hesitations and turn toward God. When you do, He can take your overcoming doubt and turn it into overcoming faith.

Luke 24friday

Jesus Has Risen

24 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ Then they remembered his words.

When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

On the Road to Emmaus

13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.

17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

19 “What things?” he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.

44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

The Ascension of Jesus

50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

TombAfter Jesus was crucified, Joseph of Arimathea had Christ’s body placed in his own tomb. A large stone covered the entrance and soldiers guarded the sealed tomb. On the third day, a Sunday, several women (Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Joanna and Salome are all mentioned in the gospel accounts) went to the tomb at dawn to anoint the body of Jesus.

A violent earthquake took place as an angel from heaven rolled back the stone. The guards shook in fear as the angel, dressed in bright white, sat upon the stone. The angel announced to the women that Jesus who was crucified was no longer in the tomb, “He is risen, just as he said.” Then he instructed the women to inspect the tomb and see for themselves. Next he told them to go inform the disciples.

With a mixture of fear and joy they ran to obey the angel’s command, but suddenly Jesus met them on their way. They fell at his feet and worshiped him. Jesus then said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee. There they will see me.”

When the guards reported what had happened to the chief priests, they bribed the soldiers with a large sum of money, telling them to lie and say that the disciples had stolen the body in the night.

After his resurrection, Jesus appeared to the women near the tomb and later at least twice to the disciples while they were gathered at a house in prayer. He visited two of the disciples on the road to Emmaus and he also appeared at the Sea of Galilee while several of the disciples were fishing.

Points of Interest from the Resurrection of Jesus Christ Story:

• There are at least 12 different appearances of Christ in the resurrection accounts, beginning with Mary and ending with Paul. They were physical, tangible experiences with Christ eating, speaking and allowing himself to be touched.

• Jesus’ resurrected body was different from his physical body. It was no longer subject to the same laws of nature. He could transcend locked doors, and yet he could still be touched and he could eat.

• Before Jesus ascended into heaven he gave the Great Commission, telling his followers to go and make disciples of all nations.

• The stone was not rolled away from the tomb so Jesus could get out. He was able to walk through walls (John 20:19) in his resurrected body. The stone was rolled away so that everyone could see that he was risen.

SacrificeWhat’s so important about Easter? It’s important because it proved that Jesus was who he claimed to be. He was God in the flesh, and he came to earth to save us.

Three events occurred in a dramatic succession on that Easter weekend: the trial of Jesus, then the death of Jesus, and finally the resurrection of Jesus. Let’s look at each of those events and their implications.

The Trial

Jesus actually went through six trials. In that one night, he was brought before Annas, Caiphas (the high priest), the Sanhedrin (the religious Supreme Court), Pilate (the governor of Jerusalem), Herod (the governor of Galilee), and then back to Pilate. At the end of those six trials, what did they find to accuse him of? Nothing. He had done nothing wrong. They brought in people to make up phony charges, but those didn’t stick. Finally they convicted him on one count: claiming to be the Son of God. That’s the sole reason Jesus went to the cross. They didn’t like that claim.

Everyone who has ever been presented with Jesus has already made some kind of decision about who he is. You either believe he’s a liar, or you believe he’s a lunatic, or you believe he’s the Lord. It can’t just be: “I believe he was a good teacher.” He couldn’t be just a good teacher, because a good teacher would not say, “I’m God, and I’m the only way to heaven.” A good person would not say that unless it was the truth.

Jesus claimed to be the Savior of the world. In John 12:47, he is recorded as saying: “I didn’t come to judge the world. I came to save it.” He allowed himself to be put on trial so there would be no doubt about who he was. He could have stopped the trial at any moment. He knew he would be proven guilty and put on the cross — but he allowed it to happen. It was all part of the plan.

The Death

After a night of beatings and mocking, after being crowned with painful thorns, Jesus was crucified. Crucifixion is probably the most brutal and torturous death penalty ever devised by men. His hands were stretched out wide against the cross and nailed through the two bones in each wrist. As the nails went through this part of the flesh, they would strike the nerve that travels up the arm and cause excruciating pain.

If you hung this way for any period of time, the muscles around your chest cavity began to be paralyzed. You’d be able to breathe in but you couldn’t breathe out. Death on a cross would have been a simple matter of suffocation — except the Romans didn’t want to make it that easy. They’d take a person’s knees and bend them a little bit and nail the feet to the cross. So a man would hang there in absolute agony until the pain in his chest was about to explode — and then he would lift himself up on his nailed feet to grab a breath. When the pain in his feet grew unbearable, he’d let himself back down again — until the pain in his lungs became unbearable. It was an incredibly torturous event. Eventually, the soldiers would break the legs of the criminal to hasten death by suffocation.

In the case of Jesus, they didn’t have to break his legs, because he had already died. But just to make sure, they stuck a spear in his side. Water and blood came out of the chest cavity, which, doctors say, only happens if the heart rips. You can call it what you want, but Jesus died of a broken heart.

Why did Jesus have to die? Because he alone was able to pay for your sins. You deserved punishment, but Jesus paid the penalty for you.

The Resurrection

After Jesus died, they took his body down and put him in the tomb, and a giant millstone was set in front of the cave. The religious leaders — worried that Jesus’ body might be stolen — asked for Roman guards to be posted in front of the tomb. They didn’t want him coming out! But of course, he did.

You know the story. But it’s important to remember that Easter is not some memorial to a nice, good religious teacher who lived 2,000 years ago. It’s a celebration of the fact that he is alive today. I’m living proof — and so are the approximately 1 billion Christians who will celebrate Easter this weekend.

“… by being raised from the dead he was proved to be the mighty Son of God, with the holy nature of God himself.” (Romans 1:4, LB)

Easter is the good news about God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who came as a human baby, born into King David’s royal family line. Four historical records say he showed himself to 500 people at one gathering. Can you imagine witnessing his death and then seeing him walking around Jerusalem three days later? What an amazing thing! When Jesus was hanging on the cross, the skeptics and critics mocked him and said, “If you’re the Son of God, why don’t you just pull yourself down from that cross? Why don’t you just come down and show that you’re really God?” Jesus had something more spectacular planned. He said, “I’m going to let you bury me for three days, then I’ll come back to life to prove that I am what I am.”

What does this mean to us today? In one sense, Jesus Christ is still on trial. He’s on trial in the heart and mind of every person who has not yet acknowledged him as the Son of God, the Savior of the world.

What’s your verdict? You see, Easter really boils down to only two issues. One, is Jesus who he says he is? Is he God? Or is he a lunatic or a liar? And two, if he is who he says he is, when are you going to start following what he says to do with your life?

Today, you sit in judgment of Jesus Christ. Just as Pilate asked, “What shall I do then with Jesus who is called the Christ?” you also must decide whether he was who he said or not.

Are you willing to gamble your life that he was wrong?

How to give your life to Christ:

1. Admit you are a sinner and need forgiveness.

2. Believe that Jesus Christ died for you on the Cross and rose from the grave.

3. Through prayer, confess that Jesus Christ is the only way to God and commit to live for Him for the rest of your life.

What to Pray:

Dear Lord Jesus,
I know that I am a sinner and need your forgiveness. I believe that You died on the cross for my sins and rose from the grave to give me life. I know You are the only way to God so now I want to quit disobeying You and start living for You. Please forgive me, change my life and show me how to know You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, please send us an e-mail to let us know. Or you can call our CBN Prayer Counseling Center at (800) 759-0700. We would love to talk with you and send you some literature to help you begin your walk with the Lord.

How you can know you are forgiven:

The Bible, God’s Word says: You were saved by faith in God, who treats us much better that we deserve. This is God’s gift to you, and you have done nothing on your own (Ephesians 2:8).

For those who put their faith in Jesus: He gave them the right to be the children of God… God Himself was the one who made them His children (John 1:12-13).