Matt Knight

My thoughts on faith, books, and life in general

Category Archives: Bible

The Joy of the Lord is our strength

“…This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law…“Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” – Nehemiah 8:9-10 (ESV)

Today I preached on the book of Nehemiah (our congregation is going through The Story–a 31-week journey through the Bible). Out of all the material to cover, I focused on Chapters 8 & 9.

This morning, I awoke to a dreary fog. My own mood was similar. I didn’t really want to get out of bed, go to church, or preach.

It’s true, it happens to preachers too.

However, after I got to the chapel, I was pointed to the scriptures. I read Psalm 47. It begins, “Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God all with loud songs of joy! For the LORD, the Most High, is to be feared, a great king over all the earth.”

It’s a command to praise God, and through this scripture God spoke to my heart.

In Nehemiah 8, the people are weeping and mourning, but their leaders command them to rejoice and be happy. How, I wondered, could they be expected to change from weeping to rejoicing?

This morning, I experienced it. You see, the rejoicing comes, not necessarily out of happy feelings, but rather, the recognition of who God is and what He has done. Scripture directs us to praise Him, even if we don’t feel like it.

The thing is–God can change our hearts through worship. Who He is is greater than how I feel. God is worthy of praise. The Bible is full of praise for His great attributes and shows a long track record of His blessings and kindness toward people. When I focus on God, instead of myself, my feelings can change. The joy of the Lord (joy of who He is and the joy that He gives) is my strength. It can change my attitude from malaise or sadness to one of praise and gladness.

When we life out this truth, it can change our attitudes and our lives.

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A Picture of Sin as Rebellion

Grace Cover Final B1
I’ve recently begun reading Max Lucado’s newest book Grace: More Than We Deserve – Better Than We Imagine. I got it as part of Thomas Nelson’s Booksneeze program. (My review is forthcoming).

It’s often been said that Sin is rebellion against God, but Lucado does a great job at illustrating that point from the teachings of Jesus.

Read Jesus’ one-paragraph definition of sin.

A nobleman was called away to a distant empire to be crowned king and then return. Before he left, he called together ten servants and gave them ten pounds of silver to invest for him while he was gone. But his people hated him and sent a delegation after him to say they did not want him to be their king. (Luke 19:12-14 NLT)

To sin is to state, “God, I do not want you to be my king. I prefer a kingless kingdom. Or, better still, a kingdom in which I am king.”

Imagine if someone did the same to you. Suppose you go on a long trip and leave your residence under the supervision of a caretaker. You trust him will all your possessions. While you’re away, he moves into your house and claims it for his own…He claims your authority and send you this message: “Don’t come back. I’m running things now.”

It’s a shocking picture, but Lucado is right in using this picture to illustrate how God sees sin. You and I think it’s minor, but to God, who is creator and rightful ruler–it’s open rebellion.

Am I my own favorite speaker?

Sometimes I act like I’m my own favorite speaker, and I’ll bet you too may have this before (especially if you’re an extrovert like me).

A big part of my job involves interacting with people from my community, and one thing I do a lot is listen to what they have to say. Talking comes easy for me – listening, not so much. Even though I’ve had training to be an effective listener, it still can be hard.

The other day at work, a lady was talking with me, but I found it hard to be a good listener. You see, I kept wanting to interrupt and give my opinion while she was talking. Not only would this have been impolite, but I realized that (honestly) the things I wanted to say weren’t really that important anyway. It was more important for me to listen to her than to talk.

Reflecting on this and other similar situations, I realized that sometimes I talk as though I’m my own favorite speaker. Maybe you can relate. Sometimes we can talk just to fill the silence or maybe to hear the sound of our own voice. Nobody wants to be characterized that way: “they love the sound of their own voice.” What’s worse, nobody wants to listen to these “super talkers” – trust me, I’ve been around a few. It leaves me praying, “please God don’t let me be like that.”

Proverbs 18:2 says, “A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.” Wise people listen, but fools only talk. I don’t know about you, but I want to be wise. There’s also the matter of pride. The proud person believes that what they have to say really matters, but nothing you have to say could be important.

Have you ever been around someone who talks and never listens?
Have you ever been that kind of talker?
What did you learn from that situation?

Everyone Needs Mentors

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, To Timothy, my true child in the faith:Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” 1 Tim 1:1-2

Paul was a mentor to Timothy. He was like a father in the faith. All of us need spiritual mothers and fathers – mentors. Paul may not have led Timothy to faith in Christ (it may have been Timothy’s mother and grandmother – cf. 2 Tim 1:5).

Just this week I was encouraged by spending time with several other ministers. I had a great time with my contemporaries and some dear friends, but I also got to connect with some elder ministers. I am always glad when I get to glean wisdom from older ministers and men of faith. These are men who have walked with God for many years and have gained wisdom and experience that can be of great value to me.

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Review: Majestie: The King Behind the King James Bible

In Majestie, author David Teems seamlessly blends quality historical research with superb readability. Who knew King James I of England could be such an interesting character? Teems introduces us to the King, giving great background and juicy details, and making his subject accessible to today’s readers. There are helpful footnotes, but the main text is insightful, yet not too dry, and quite colorful.

Beginning with stories such as how James was almost aborted in his mother’s womb, Teems gives great background that pulls back the curtain on the royal Stuart family, revealing the good, the bad, and the ugly in all their majestic glory. From the beginning, I was hooked and this biography read like a novel – full of intrigue, plotting, love affairs, and even the Bible.

While James is certainly the star of the book, other characters like his mother Mary Queen of Scots, John Knox, Elizabeth, Shakespeare, and many others move in and out of the spotlight from time to time. Of all the other subjects, it is the King James Bible (or Authorized Version) which takes center stage by the end of the book. As has been noted, the KJB is the bestselling book in history, and the most read.

Teems explores the process of translating the Bible into English, as well as looking at the men who played crucial roles in accomplishing this monumental task. Yet through it all, at the center remains James.

I highly recommend this book for those who are interested in a primer on the King James Bible, or for anyone who loves history. I especially enjoyed the Kindle version because of the ease of looking through footnotes and looking up other 17th Century figures, items, and ideas.

Have you read this one? What did you think? What are you reading these days?

God: my source of strength

There are a few a lot of days when I feel powerless, like I have no control over my life.

We live in uncertain times, don’t we?

Maybe like me, you look around you and recognize you have no control over some of the things that are going on around you. We turn on the news and see bad things happening. It could be that you’re out of work, and can’t seem to find a job. Or it could be that you feel stuck in a job that isn’t your dream job. There could be any number of things going on in your life that might make you feel small, weak, powerless.

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What the Bible says about fools

Today is April Fool’s Day, so I thought it would be appropriate to share some ways to identify a fool. In the Bible, “Fool” is the word that is used to characterize someone who is lacking in moral character.

Here’s what ancient Hebrew wisdom has to say about fools:

– They hate, or make fun of, wisdom and discipline (Proverbs 1:7, 22; 15:5; 23:9)
– They live lives that dishonor their families (Prov 10:1)
– They are always talking and never listen (Prov 10:8,10; 12:15; 15:2; 18:2)
– They spread gossip (Prov 10:18)
– They have poor judgment (Prov 10:21)
– They say “there is no God” or live like it (Psalm 14:1)
– They have no self control (Prov 12:16; 23; 14:16; 20:3; 29:11)
– They don’t plan ahead, but instead “live for today” (Prov 21:20)

I can think of more than one time that almost every one of these has been true of me. Have you ever been foolish? How did you change?

Bad News Shows the Goodness of the Good News

Oncoming Trainphoto © 2009 Chris Streeter | more info (via: Wylio)

If you tell someone that they aren’t going to be run over by a train, it doesn’t seem like good news to them unless they recognize that they were actually going to be run over by the train.

As Christians, so often our message – the gospel, or “good news” – doesn’t really seem like good news to those around us. We try to tell those around us that God loves them and offers grace and salvation to them. The fact is that most people around you and me today don’t see the need for salvation.

The Bible says in Isaiah 53:6:
“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way;and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

And inRomans 3:10-11:
As it is written:“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.”
Then in John 3:36:
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.

These verses and others like them help give context to the good news that Jesus Christ has taken the punishment for our sins. We must recognize our own sinfulness before we can ever appreciate the fact that Jesus Christ comes between us and the judgment of God that is coming at us.

There are people who don’t believe in God, nor do they recognize His judgment (yet). These are the ones who don’t know the train is barreling down the tracks, so they can’t appreciate the fact that someone could save them from being run over by it.

You and I cannot always change minds, but we do have an obligation to tell the whole Gospel. And telling people that Jesus saves is fine, but it doesn’t seem like good news unless we also share why we need saving and what we’re being saved from.

What do you think? Have you heard someone share this news well?
For more on this, check out my recent post: The Miracle of God’s Judgment and Forgiveness.

The Futility of Planning

Colonel Hannibal Smith of the A-Team used to always say, “I love it when a plan comes together!”

agence tous risques - A teamphoto © 2008 Culture Culte | more info (via: Wylio)
I am a planner. That is, I make lots of plans: for my life, for how to land the perfect job, how to succeed at this or that assignment. I’m full of plans. So when I look at the Bible, and see Proverbs 19:21, it makes me stop and reconsider all my planning. Here’s what Proverbs 19:21 says:

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.

The writer of Proverbs recognizes that you and I have plans in our heads, but reminds us, that God has the final say.

There are many days when I find myself trying to hatch a new plan to be successful, to overcome whatever difficulty is in my life, to be more productive, etc. And the fact is that these aren’t necessarily bad things, but I can’t make them happen on my own or apart from God. Sometimes my plans don’t match up with His. In those cases, it’s His purpose–not mine–that will stand. This can be very humbling, can’t it?

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The Miracle of God’s Judgment and Forgiveness

Like many other people, I am currently reading through the Bible. I started in the middle of last year, and have been trying to finish. (You’ll recall, one of my goals for this year is to be a finisher). One of my favorite bloggers is Jon Acuff, who has recently discussed his journey through the Bible and how some parts of the Bible are harder to read through than others. That is so true, and I’m in one of those parts now.

I’m reading through the major prophets (so-called because they’re the longer books of the prophets in the Old Testament – the shorter ones are the minor prophets). The greater part of these books are discussions of God’s judgment upon the nation of Israel. Time and again, God’s prophets expose the idolatry and wickedness of the Israelites, pronouncing His judgment upon them.

As I read this, I wonder, “Why is so much of the Bible dedicated to the judgment of God?” After all, we don’t talk about that much today. Does it really matter to us today?

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