Improve your life with insight from the Bible - 2013

Some causes are hidden

Life works on cause and effect, but some causes are hidden. When Jesus' disciples saw a blind man, they assumed either he or his parents were at fault. Jesus said that wasn't the case. Then he healed the man.

This week you have an opportunity to review goals for the New Year and make it a great one.


Be faithful like Mary

Mary (the mother of Jesus) had many qualities worth copying, including humility, faithfulness, and her ready acceptance of God's amazing plan for her life.


Be faithful like Hannah and Elizabeth

Hannah and Elizabeth were childless, even though they and their husbands wanted to have families. But they both remained faithful to God, in spite of their disappointment. Hannah and Elizabeth provide good role models for how to deal with disgrace and with circumstances that aren't what we want.


Be faithful like Ruth

Ruth was faithful to her mother-in-law Naomi and to Naomi's country, customs and God. As a result, Ruth became an ancestor of David and of Jesus.


Be courageous like Esther

Esther had courage, took wise action, and was sensitive to God's timing, all attributes that we would be wise to emulate.

And after giving thanks. . .

Jesus regularly gave thanks, and the Bible encourages us to give thanks as well.

Whoever keeps my word will never taste death

Jesus said whoever kept his word would never taste death. This Bible Study explores that idea.

Jesus does not condemn you

In Jesus' day, the punishment for adultery was death by stoning. Jesus changed that when he said, "Let the person who is without sin throw the first stone." This video provides a helpful review of the Ten Commandments (which Jesus encourages you to follow) and of God's mercy for you when you forget or intentionally disobey them. Jesus does not condemn you. On the other hand, but his advice to you is, "Go and sin no more."


Rivers of living water flow out of the heart of a believer

Jesus said rivers of living water flow out of the heart of a believer.


With Jesus, you have enough

Sometimes the need seems overwhelming. But with Jesus, you have enough.


Don't reject God's mercy

Some people reject God's mercy for themselves. Some people try to reject God's mercy for others. Don't be like that!


The ABC's of signs and wonders

Jesus refused to do signs and wonders on demand for skeptics, even though he regularly did signs throughout his ministry. Unfortunately, you can't believe every sign. Some are there to deceive you.


When you see people who are ashamed, build them up, encourage them and console them

What are you most ashamed of? If Jesus talked to you about it, how do you think you would feel? When Jesus spoke to the woman at the well, she felt built up, encouraged and consoled.


To see the kingdom of heaven, you must be born from above

What are your friends like? What do they encourage you to do? Nicodemus had some lousy friends and one great one -- Jesus. Jesus told Nicodemus that he had to be born from above if he wanted to see the kingdom of heaven. Nicodemus wondered how that was possible.


Do whatever Jesus tells you

Do whatever Jesus tells you. That was Mary's advice to some servants. When they followed her advice, they saw a miracle. If you see places of great lack in the lives of people around you, maybe you should follow Mary's advice. This message gives lots of helpful examples of what Jesus might tell you.


You are God's witness

You are God's witness. All you need to do is talk to people about what you have seen and heard. Then invite them to "come and see" for themselves.


You are God's child

You are God's child. Some days you may not look like it, act like it or feel like it. Some days Jesus didn't look like a Messiah (he was born in a manger and died on a cross.) But in spite of momentary appearances, you are God's child and heir to what God and Jesus have.


God bless your labor

Advice for working, whether you're 9 or 90, from the Bible and current history.


Strive based on faith, not works

Action is required for a person of faith, but your confidence needs to be in God, not your works.


Love goes well with what you're wearing

How much time does it take for your destiny to radically change for the better? About as much time as it takes to change your clothes! This week we'll look at things Paul and other New Testament writers say are beneficial to put on and wear. You can clothe yourselves in love, or even in Jesus. And Jesus looks good on you.


Open your eyes to God's salvation

When God gives you an answer to your problem, it is often in seed form, so it is easy to overlook. Instead of getting the anser you are looking for, you get a seed that needs to mature, an idea that needs to be developed, a process that needs to unfold. It's good to open your eyes to the ways God is providing help to you.


Why God is so kind

People often ask why -- if God is good -- there is so much evil in the world. How can God be so tolerant of injustice? Why is God kind to bad people and bad nations? In this Bible study, we'll look at some of the Bible's responses to these questions.


Creation reveals God's nature

In this Bible study, we'll look at the beginning of Romans, where Paul says that even if people have never heard about God's love for them, they can identify God's attributes by looking at nature.


Don't walk away from your miracle

In this Bible study, we'll look at two people who got close to a miracle. One started to walk away from it but was persuaded to turn back and receive the miracle. The other walked away in sorrow and -- as far as we know -- never came back. Don't walk away from your miracle!


Let Jesus teach you how to pray

Let Jesus show you how to pray, both by what he modeled and what he taught.


The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want (Psalm 23)

King David wrote a song that has become one of the most beloved parts of the Bible. David said, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." This Bible Study looks at the psalm verse by verse.


Pray for the nations

Jesus said God's house should be a house of prayer for all nations. He was quoting Isaiah. We look at the passage after a review of some great promises from the Bible that are helpful to remember.


Ahead of the curve

When you are ahead of the curve, you will believe things others don't believe and do things others won't do. Some examples are Noah and his family, Abraham and Sarah, and believers today doing what Jesus taught.


You are (already!) seated with Christ in the heavenly places

Paul says we are already seated with Christ in the heavenly places. We don't always act like it, but that's the reality. Whatever we do, we should do it for the glory of God and of Jesus, who holds all things together.


Receive your full inheritance

When Elijah was worn out, God told him to appoint Elisha as his successor. Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah's spirit, a spiritual version of the inheritance he would have received if he had been Elijah's firstborn son. He got this request. In our case, Jesus said our inheritance from him of the Holy Spirit will mean that we will do greater things than Jesus himself.


Complete the journey (Don't stop half way!)

Many people start a journey (like life), get part of the way to where they were going, and then settle for second best. Don't let that be you! When you escape slavery, don't stop in the desert or even in the Promised Land. Jesus says you can have the kingdom of heaven on earth! Don't stop before you get all Jesus has for you!


The secret to receiving the gifts of the Spirit

God's Spirit gives gifts to people -- the Bible mentions 25 or so. You can ask for ones you'd like. This video outlines the spiritual gifts mentioned in the Bible and reveals a secret that will help you get full value out of the amazing gifts you receive.


Be filled with the Holy Spirit

Up to the day of Pentecost, God's Spirit was distributed sparingly. But at Pentecost the Holy Spirit became available to all. This Bible Study is based on the story of Pentecost found in Acts 2.


Set your mind on God's Spirit

In a worldwide fraud still under investigation, people around the world stole $45 million from ATMs over a few hours in February. Hopefully you weren't involved. But even if you have never robbed a bank, you've taken other actions that are sinful, and you've regularly thought about things that are unhealthy. Paul says that if you set your minds on the flesh it is death, but if you set your mind on the Spirit it is life and peace. This message reviews Romans 8:1-25.


If it is blind, it is not always obedience / How to be born anew

This message briefly points out that blind obedience sometimes is not obedience because conditions change. Most of this message looks at John 3 and 4, which talk about being born anew and how to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

How to stop bad habits and start good habits

You can stop bad habits, even if you've tried before and failed. You can start good habits, even if you haven't been able to in the past. What do you want to change? This video tells how.

Get power from the Holy Spirit

Jesus wants repentance and forgiveness of sins to be proclaimed in his name to all the nations. The kind of forgiveness he has in mind is without limit or constraint. Jesus says the power to relay this great message to the nations comes from the Holy Spirit. This Bible study looks at Luke 24:44-49 and verses relating to forgiveness.


Jesus forgives ALL your sins

Jesus forgives ALL your sins. The last instruction Jesus gave to his followers in the gospel of Luke was that repentance and forgiveness of sins was to be proclaimed in his name to all the nations. This Bible study looks at Luke 24:44-49 and other verses relating to this great command.


Look at the signs of Jesus' love for you

Jesus' disciples had fears and doubts about his resurrection. He told them to look at his hands and his feet, the places where nails had held him to the cross. That's good advice for us, too. When you're afraid or have doubts, it can be helpful to look at the resurrected Jesus and realize his great love for you.


When you make a mistake, turn around

Two followers of Jesus were with the disciples Easter morning, heard the reports of the empty tomb, heard that two people said Jesus was alive, and still walked away that afternoon. Luckily, when they realized they had made a mistake, they returned to Jerusalem that night and saw the resurrected Jesus with the disciples.


Recognize the time God visits you

You can always discover God. But some times are easier than others. Sometimes God is especially present in history. In those seasons, the choices you make can have lifelong or even eternal consequences. Learn to recognize what a day of visitation looks like, so you don't miss your opportunities to connect with God. This Bible Study is based on the story of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and his weeping over the city, since the city missed its opportunity for peace.

Some hardships are great blessings

Sometimes we are in situations that we would like to avoid -- but they are leading us to a spot where we can receive a great blessing. This Bible Study is based on the story of Simon of Cyrene, who carried the cross for Jesus.

Ask for God's wisdom

You can ask God for wisdom -- a smart move, since God's wisdom will lead you to conclusions you would not come to on your own. Without God's wisdom, you can stare at some things and still not see them. This Bible Study is based on Luke 22:66-69.

Let others know you love Jesus

Failure doesn’t have to be the end -- it can be the springboard for your success. Peter denied he knew Jesus three times in a row, then became one of his most prominent public advocates. “Let others know you love Jesus” tells Peter’s story and gives encouragement for you to overcome your failures. It is based on Luke 22:54-62.

Follow God's plan for warfare and peace

It's often hard to follow God's plan for warfare, because it is frequently counter-intuitive. It looks like it can't possibly work. But if you have the courage and faith to follow the plan, often the results are unexpectedly good. This Bible study explores God's plan for warfare and peace, including Luke 22:39-46.

Pray you avoid temptation

Jesus has some advice for his sleepy disciples: pray that you not fall into temptation. This helpful message is on Luke 22:39-46.

Jesus intercedes for you

Jesus knows you better than you know yourself. Fortunately, Jesus is interceding for you - both intervening on your behalf, and talking to God on your behalf. This message starts with three helpful illustrations: To Do Lists (on how to live your days), Fish Traps (on how to get out of trouble), and Rabbits and Lynx (on when to seize opportunities and when to abandon them).

God knows your context

When Jesus saw a widow give two small coins in an offering, he pointed it out. His disciples had been impressed by the much bigger gifts that rich people had given that day. But Jesus knew what the widow's gift represented in context of what she had. When you have little but give anyway, whether time or patience or love or something else, God notices.

Don't bury your talent

God has given you talent and abilities and resources. Don't bury them! Jesus says he expects to see they were well used when he returns.

Don't let anything keep you from Jesus

Zacchaeus could have been derailed from what he wanted by his short stature or his pride or the people trying to block his way. But he knew what he wanted and didn't let anything stop him. He provides a good example for us. Don't let anything keep you from Jesus.

Give what is due.

Just in time for a season of increasing taxes, we look at a text from Luke 20, where Jesus is asked if people should pay taxes or not. Most of the people listening to the answer didn't like the government of the day. Jesus said people should give to the government what belonged to the government and they should give to God what belonged to God.

Seize opportunities when they appear.

It’s good to seize opportunities when they appear. Some are available for decades, but other opportunities open up just for a few seconds or minutes. If you don’t seize them, they are gone. (Jeremiah 29:7-13, Luke 18:35-43)


Also included on this list are some great messages from the end of 2012:

Closed minds don’t believe signs (and what you can do about it)

Jesus says closed minds will ignore evidence, even if it is amazing. You can pray that closed minds would be open to the truth of God’s love and mercy. This Bible Study also includes a chance to examine one's goals for the year to see if they match up with your ideas of what is ultimately important. (Luke 16:19-26)

God has more in mind for you than you guess

God’s promises always come true, but not always how we expect (so believing the promises can be hard when we’re in the middle of the story). This message ends with a helpful summary of what it's like to live in the middle of the story. (Luke 1:67-71)

Trust God’s promises over appearances

God’s promises always come true, but not always how we expect (so believing the promises can be hard when we’re in the middle of the story). (1 Corinthians 13:8-13, Luke 1:31-33)

Enlarge your tent

God’s promises of greatness for you are hard to believe, they're so incredible. The message gives tips for what you should do when you hear of God's amazing plans for your life. (Isaiah 54:1-5, Luke 1:24-25)

Anything is possible For God

Anything is possible for God. What will you do when you hear the promises God has for you? When Zechariah heard his decades-old prayer had been answered, he didn't believe it. This message includes Lawn Maintenance 101. (Luke 1:13-20, Habakkuk 1:5, Zechariah 8:3-6)

Be faithful with what you have

Should you cheat to get ahead? Jesus tells a story about a man who did -- and got commended for it. This Bible Study considers the topics of cheating and being faithful with what you have. (Genesis 31:6-9, Luke 16:1-12.)

All that God has is yours

Jesus told a story that indicates that all God has is yours. It's not because you deserve it. It's because God is generous and loving. This Bible Study address the themes of God's generosity and our appropriate response of thankfulness to such amazing mercy. (Luke 15:25-32, 1 Chronicles 16:8-12)

God is waiting for your return

The religious leaders didn't like the people Jesus was hanging out with. Some of the people Jesus was with had little respect for the church. Some had committed adultery. Some were thieves. Some had lied under oath. Some were fundraisers for the oppressive foreign government. Some were unsavory. Jesus told the leaders complaining about the crowds that God cares about everyone, especially people that others don't value. He gave two examples of how long and hard God searches for such people, then told a story about how fully God accepts people. This week we look at those stories. (Luke 15:1-24, Psalm 51:1-12)

God wants to be first in your life

Jesus said that people who want to follow him should count the cost first and be sure they are willing to pay it. And the cost is steep. "None of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions." For a rich young ruler that Jesus met, that price was too much. The young man left Jesus shocked and grieving. He had wanted to be part of God's kingdom, but he didn't want to give up all he owned. For Abraham and Sarah, giving up all their possessions included giving up their son Isaac and the dream God had given them.

God wants to be first in your life, above all else, even above the promises God has made to you, even above the goals and dreams God has given you. (Luke 14:31-33, Genesis 22:1-12)

Everyone is welcome at God's party

Jesus said the kingdom of God was like a wonderful party that some people skipped because they were too busy. But all the food was ready! Jesus said the host of the party worked hard to make sure everybody who was available came to the party, including the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. Everyone is welcome at God's party. (Luke 14:15-24, Revelation 19:5-9)

The door to heaven is going to close

When Jesus was asked if only a few people would be saved at the end of the world, he told people to try to enter God's kingdom through the narrow door, since many who were familiar with God would be locked out of God's kingdom.

The Bible uses the image of Noah's ark as a metaphor: lots of people outside the ark, only a few people in safety inside. This week we'll look at verses related to this theme and discuss what the Bible means by entering heaven through the "narrow door." (Genesis 6:5-7:7, Luke 13:23-27)