Imagine studying the Bible with pastor Chuck Swindoll sitting beside you – sharing his warm personal insights, gleaning wisdom from his over 50 years of ministry and being inspired by his passion for God’s Word. That is why he created the Swindoll Study Bible. Since he can’t physically be in all of our living rooms, he still wanted a way to encourage each of us to walk closer with Jesus. Hear about it his own words:
Disappointments, frustrations, worries, the list goes on and
on. We live in an age where we can quickly become overwhelmed by all that is
happening around us and be lulled into a state of uncaring and complacency.
Read as Chuck Swindoll shares from the book of Mark about the importance of
staying awake and alert, especially in times of confusion and despair.
“Then he returned and found the disciples asleep. He said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep? Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak.’ Then Jesus left them again and prayed the same prayer as before. When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open. And they didn’t know what to say.” Mark 14:37-40, NLT
What do you do when someone strong in your life suddenly becomes weak? For as long as you can remember, you’ve been able to lean on that individual. You’ve found that person stable, strong, and reliable. But now all of that has changed.
Children face this when a parent suddenly becomes ill and then the illness doesn’t get better. They’ve always been able to rely on their mother or father, and now they can’t do that.
It happens in divorce. The children have always known Mom and Dad to work together and pull through, but then suddenly their home is fractured, and their parents may be at outright war. The children are left confused and lost.
Those who play sports rely on their coaches to be strong. The coach is always thinking about a plan for winning. As the season runs on, that intensity only grows greater. Even in a losing season, the team looks to the coach for encouragement and a boost. But when a coach throws in the towel and loses heart, the entire team loses its confidence.
Maybe you work for a company where you’ve always been able to rely on those at the top to be people of integrity. If you suddenly discovered that they aren’t, it’d be completely disheartening.
A church is dismayed if its pastor, who has always been true to the Word in the past, becomes soft in his convictions, or shows himself not to have financial accountability, or is discovered to lack moral purity. It starts a big scandal, pits people against one another, and can even destroy a congregation. Disillusionment, especially among new believers, often follows.
That state of disillusionment is exactly where the disciples found themselves in the garden of Gethsemane. For three and a half years, the disciples had trusted that Jesus would take care of everything. If they were caught in a storm on the Sea of Galilee, He could calm it. If there was a disease, He could heal it. If there was a physical abnormality, He could change it. If there were demons, He could face off against them and make them stand down. If there were critics, He could stand toe to toe with them and bring them to silence.
Suddenly, the One they counted on and relied upon was somewhere out there in the dark, crying His heart out, overwhelmed with tormenting anguish. Can you imagine how they must have felt? Jesus seemed to be falling apart, and they weren’t able to handle it. Perhaps that’s part of the reason they fell asleep, in addition to the lateness of the hour. They didn’t know what to do when they heard their Master wrestling in prayer.
Jesus came back to them and asked, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Mark 14:37-38).
We would do well to consider His words. “Keep watch and pray.” Temptation is all around us. Temptation is within us. When people disappoint us or their strength seems to be lacking, ultimately our only hope is in our heavenly Father. But He needs us awake and paying attention—not getting lulled into the sleep of complacency. The world is a dangerous place. Our spirits may be willing, but our bodies are weak. When people disappoint us or their strength seems to be lacking, ultimately our only hope is in our heavenly Father.
John the Baptist
Personality Profile taken from the Life Application Study Bible
There’s no getting around it—John the Baptist was unique. He wore odd clothes and ate strange food and preached an unusual message to the Judeans who went out to the wastelands to see him.But John did not aim at uniqueness for its own sake. Instead, he aimed at obedience. He knew he had a specific role to play in the world—announcing the coming of the Savior— and he put all his energies into this task. Luke tells us that John was in the wilderness when God’s word of direction came to him. John was ready and waiting. The angel who had announced John’s birth to Zechariah had made it clear that this child was to be a Nazirite—one set apart for God’s service. John remained faithful to that calling.
This wild-looking man had no power or position in the Jewish political system, but he spoke with almost irresistible authority. People were moved by his words because he spoke the truth, challenging them to turn from their sins and baptizing them as a symbol of their repentance. They responded by the hundreds. But even as people crowded to him, he pointed beyond himself, never forgetting that his main role was to announce the coming of the Savior.
The words of truth that moved many to repentance goaded others to resistance and resentment. John even challenged Herod to admit his sin. Herodias, the woman Herod had married illegally, decided to get rid of this wilderness preacher. Although she was able to have him killed, she was not able to stop his message. The one John had announced was
already on the move. John had accomplished his mission.
God has given each of us a purpose for living, and we can trust him to guide us. John did not have the complete Bible as we know it today, but he focused his life on the truth he knew from the available Old Testament Scriptures. Likewise, we can discover in God’s Word the truths he wants us to know. And as these truths work in us, others will be drawn to him. God can use you in a way he can use no one else. Let him know your willingness to follow him today.
Strengths and accomplishments
● The God-appointed messenger to announce the arrival of Jesus
● A preacher whose theme was repentance
● A fearless confronter
● Known for his remarkable lifestyle
Lessons from his life
● God does not guarantee an easy or safe life to those who serve him
● Doing what God desires is the greatest possible life investment
● Standing for the truth is more important than life itself
Is it okay to make fun of someone who deserves it? This question has a simple answer: No.
Do you want some proof?
“You should not have gloated when they exiled your relatives to distant lands. You should not have rejoiced when the people of Judah suffered such misfortune. You should not have spoken arrogantly in that terrible time of trouble,” Obadiah 1:12, NLT
“Don’t rejoice when your enemies fall; don’t be happy when they stumble. For the Lord will be displeased with you and will turn his anger away from them,” Proverbs 24:17-18, NLT.
“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged,” Matthew 7:1-2, NLT.
It’s so easy to make fun of others—to gloat over someone who’s been mean to you and to laugh when someone you don’t like gets embarrassed or hurt.
But in Obadiah 1:12, God rebuked the people of Edom for laughing when his people were in trouble. God didn’t laugh with them. In fact, God punished the Edomites for laughing at his people. When you’re tempted to make fun of someone else, first imagine yourself in that person’s shoes. Think about how it would feel if people were laughing at you. Then choose to be quiet and kind.
“Then Joshua said to Achan, ‘My son, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, by telling the truth. Make your confession and tell me what you have done. Don’t hide it from me.’ Achan replied, ‘It is true! I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. Among the plunder I saw a beautiful robe from Babylon, 200 silver coins, and a bar of gold weighing more than a pound. I wanted them so much that I took them. They are hidden in the ground beneath my tent, with the silver buried deeper than the rest.’” Joshua 7:19-21, NLT
After Joshua’s Victory at Jericho, the Israelites suffered defeat at Ai because a man named Achan had buried banned spoils of war under his tent (Josh. 7:1-26). Following this event, the valley of Achor (or the “Valley of Trouble”) served as a reminder of failure, setback, and defeat. The word Achor means “trouble,” so with a slight variation on Achan’s name, Joshua asked him, “Why have you brought trouble on us?” (Josh. 7:25). After Achan’s execution, the valley where he died took on the name “Valley of Trouble.” This valley may well be the Wadi Qelt just west of Jericho.
When the Jews returning from the Exile came across this story in the genealogical record, they would have remembered Achan as Achar, “disaster” But they also would have recalled that the prophets described the valley of Achor—a place once linked with sin, discipline, and death—as a place of promise. In Hosea, God declares that He will change the place from a site of trouble to a place of triumph. Most notably, the prophet Hosea spoke of the valley as a future “gateway of hope” (Hos. 2:15). Isaiah referred to the dry valley as the spot where herds will someday be pastured (Isa. 65:10).
The Valley of Trouble serves as a reminder that God can produce hope in spite of our worst situations. Even if the trouble we have experienced is a result of our own doing, God can heal us as we come to terms with and repent of our sin. As Christians, we have the promise that when we confess our buried, hidden sins, God will “cleanse us from all wickedness” (1 Jn. 1:9)— even from those sins buried so deep we don’t know to confess them. Forgiveness in Christ is not an emotion to feel. It is a promise to claim. God can change our trouble into triumph, but how and when He chooses to do so is up to Him. We simply must cling to the promise that He will.
What Does the Bible Say About Conflict?
Taken from the HelpFinder Bible
Grown men stand toe to toe, faces beet red, veins standing out on their necks as they shout at each other, “I was safe!” “You were out!” “Safe!” “Out!” If a ball player disagrees with an umpire’s call, a spectacular and entertaining argument sometimes ensues.
Since people have differing opinions on everything from politics to sports to religion, conflict seems to be a given in human relationships. The Bible does not hide from the issue of conflict, nor does it condemn all conflict as sinful.
From Moses to David to Jesus to Paul, the Bible’s greatest figures found themselves in conflict with someone or something. According to the Bible there is nothing inherently wrong with conflict. Disagreements happen. But the way we are to resolve our conflicts is extremely important. Conflict can become the catalyst to greater understanding, intimacy, and depth of relationship; or it can bring anger, bitterness, and broken relationships. How you deal with conflict will literally shape the direction of your life.
What are some ways to resolve conflict?
GENESIS 13:8-9 | Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not allow this conflict to come between us or our herdsmen. . . . Take your choice of any section of the land.” Solving conflict takes initiative; someone must make the first move. Abram gave Lot first choice, putting family peace above personal desires.
GENESIS 26:21-22 | Isaac’s men then dug another well, but again there was a dispute over it. . . . [He] dug another well. This time there was no dispute. Solving conflict takes humility, a desire to see peace more than personal victory.
2 SAMUEL 3:1 | That was the beginning of a long war between those who were loyal to Saul and those loyal to David. Solving conflict involves compromise, finding common ground that is bigger than your differences. If neither side is willing to take the initiative or show the necessary humility to seek common ground, conflict will result in a broken relationship or even war.
NUMBERS 12:1-2 | Miriam and Aaron criticized Moses because he had married a Cushite woman. They said, “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Hasn’t he spoken through us, too?” Solving conflict requires that we focus on the real issue. We focus only on resolving the problem, not attacking the person.
2 TIMOTHY 2:24 | A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. When someone disagrees with what you are saying, maintain a gracious, gentle, and patient attitude instead of becoming angry and defensive.
“In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing
certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out
with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve
them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage
others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you
leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift
for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.” (Romans 12:6-8, NLT)
Just take a look at the beautiful world around us; God’s love of diversity is evident. Just as there are differences in his earthly creation, there is also variety in the spiritual gifts he has given us. Though we all have different gifts, the goal is the same—to give glory to the giver. Read more about God’s gifts from the Life Application Study Bible:
Look at the list of gifts in Romans 12:6-8 and imagine the
kinds of people who would have each gift. Prophets are often bold and
articulate. Servers (those in ministry) are faithful and loyal. Teachers are
clear thinkers. Encouragers know how to motivate others. Givers are generous
and trusting. Leaders are good organizers and managers. Those who show kindness
are caring people who are happy to give their time to others. It would be
difficult for one person to embody all these gifts. An assertive prophet would
not usually make a good counselor, and a generous giver might fail as a leader.
When you identify your own gifts (and this list is far from complete), ask God
and others how you can best use them. At the same time, realize that your gifts
can’t do the work of the church all alone. Be thankful for people whose gifts
are completely different from yours. Let your strengths balance their
weaknesses, and be grateful that their abilities make up for your deficiencies.
Together you can build Christ’s church.
God gives us gifts so we can build up his church. To use them
effectively, we must:
realize that all gifts and abilities come from God
understand that not everyone has the same gifts
know who we are and what we do best
dedicate our gifts to God’s service and not to our personal success
be willing to utilize our gifts wholeheartedly, not holding back anything from God’s service
God’s gifts differ in nature, power, and effectiveness according to his wisdom and graciousness, not according to our faith. Our role is to be faithful and to look for ways to serve others using the gifts God has given us.
For Nate, Christianity was just something you did—you go to
church, you try to do good, and you just live your life. He was happy. He had
an amazing wife, two energetic and wonderful kids, and found fulfillment in his
job as a police officer.
“I complained to my wife that I didn’t understand the Bible.
Being a busy dad, my job as a police officer, I had other priorities that I
thought kept me too busy to spend time reading and studying it,” said Nate.
As a gift, his wife bought him a Life Application Study Bible. Though Nate thought it was a nice, he
didn’t feel he needed to open it. It remained on the shelf as the busyness of
life continued until the flu knocked him off his feet and forced him into isolation.
Nate’s wife quarantined him to his room for four days so it didn’t spread
throughout the house. In boredom, he started looking for things to do when his
eyes landed on the Life Application Study
Bible. With nothing else to distract him, he started reading.
“I opened it up and it changed my life. I read Genesis and
Proverbs and just couldn’t stop—it just spoke directly to me. I said, ‘This is
truth.’ Right there in my room I told God, ‘I am going to be working for you. I
want you to use me.’ I confessed everything, and because of it I was able to
conquer a lot of stuff I had been struggling with for years,” said Nate. “I finally
felt joy, and I realized that joy came from reading the Bible and spending that
time with God.”
Nate just couldn’t get enough of it. He was excited to read
what’s next and just wanted to consume as much of Scripture as he could.
“Soon I realized I couldn’t keep this to myself. I’ve always
been good with other people. It’s why I’m a police officer; I want to help others.
But this changed my view of other people. We are all made in God’s image. So, I
started to look for ways that I could reach out and give other people a nudge.
Help them find what I found,” said Nate.
In just a few months, he had handed out fifteen Life Application Study Bibles.
“Life can be tough. No matter what we believe, we are going
to face challenges—God says that to us. What’s different now in my life is I
know who to rely on, who can give me guidance,” said Nate. “When I give someone
a Bible I tell them, ‘this worked for me. It’s up to you if you want to use it
or not, but it completely changed my life, and I’ve found peace that I didn’t
know existed.’ You can’t force people to read it, but I’ve never had anyone turn
it down when I’ve handed them a Bible.”
When one of his long-time friends was facing some dark
moments, Nate didn’t hesitate. He reached out and shared his experience.
“Like me, he believed in God, but he didn’t have a
relationship with God. I was thinking what could I do to help? What could make
his life different? And it was like something hit me, it was a moment of
clarity. Only God could help—that’s it,” said Nate. “I asked him, ‘do you have
a good study Bible?’ He just kind of looked at me. Then I said, ‘You know I’m
dumb and can hardly read, but this one I understand. It’s like God is talking
right to me. It changed me.’”
Nate mailed him the Bible and encouraged his friend to read
it with him. He saw his friend’s life transformed. He was even asked to read
Scripture at his friend’s recent wedding.
“I pray the people who receive these Bibles open them and
actually use them. That they let God speak his truth to them,” said Nate. “I
hope it has the same impact that it had on me so others can be the light of the
world. We are to be disciples that make disciples. Use what God has given us to
serve him,” said Nate.
“In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.” (Romans 12:6-8, NLT)
Samuel lived at the end of the period of the judges and ushered in the period of kingship. He was Israel’s last judge (1 Sam 7:6, 15‑17) and first prophet (3:20; Acts 3:24; 13:20). He functioned as a priest (1 Sam 2:18) and was a great man of faith (Heb 11:32).
Samuel was born in response to his mother Hannah’s prayers. Samuel’s parents traveled annually from Ramah to the Shiloh sanctuary (1 Sam 1:3). While at the sanctuary, Hannah, who was infertile, prayed for a son and promised him to God for full-time service (1:9‑11). God answered the prayer, and Samuel was born (1:19‑20). When Samuel was weaned, Hannah took him to serve in the sanctuary with Eli, the high priest (1:24‑28).
Eli’s sons were wicked and pagan, but Samuel served the Lord. Soon it became clear that God spoke more intimately with Samuel than with Eli. God spoke to Samuel (3:1‑18) to warn Eli of the coming disaster when the Philistines defeated Israel, killed Eli’s sons, and took the Ark of the Covenant (chs 4–6). Later, under Samuel’s leadership, the people repented of their sin of idolatry and succeeded in winning an important battle against the Philistines (7:3‑17).
But as Samuel grew older, it became obvious that he suffered from the same weakness as Eli before him. Samuel’s sons were evil (8:1‑3), and the people did not want them to assume leadership over the nation. So the people saw the need for a king who could lead them in battle against their enemies (8:4‑5).
The transition from the era of the judges to kingship was turbulent. As priest, Samuel prayed for the people; as prophet, he reproved Saul for impatience and disobedience (13:5‑14; 15:20‑23). When God rejected Saul as king, Samuel anointed David as God’s chosen one (16:1‑13) and protected David from Saul (19:18‑24).
Through prayer and perseverance, Samuel was a faithful leader (Jer 15:1; Acts 13:20; Heb 11:32) who cherished his people’s well-being and courageously rebuked kings and elders. He led Israel from tribal disunity to national solidarity and established the monarchy. He wrote The Record of Samuel the Seer (1 Chr 29:29) and defined ideal kingship (1 Sam 10:25).
When he died, he was mourned by all Israel. He was buried in Ramah, his hometown (25:1).