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I’m back with another Ask Pastor Chris post! This is a question we both get quite a bit. 

 

Ask Pastor Chris: What is your favorite Study Bible?

Let me start by saying no one has ever paid me a dime to endorse a study Bible. I say that, because if I were reading this answer I would be suspicious that the writer’s true motivation was monetary. I assure you, that is not the case here.

Let me start by saying that I own shelves full of Bible commentaries, and I have a lot of high-dollar Bible software. Without a doubt the best bang-for-your-buck is a good study Bible. Unless you are doing scholarly writing, or spend a significant portion of your time teaching Bible, or preaching, commentaries are probably overkill for most people. A good study Bible will answer 90% of the questions you ask when you get stuck.

My favorite study Bible is the ESV Study Bible. I use it all of the time, I give them as gifts to the graduating seniors at our church, and I couldn’t recommend it more highly—it is fantastic. I have had one for years and have no hesitations in suggesting others use it too.

Another good study Bible is the CSB Study Bible. This just came out this year, so I have not used it as much as I have the ESV. However, I have noticed that many of the study notes in the CSB are the same as the ESV, verbatim. I’m sure there are many that would do just fine, but these are my go-to study Bibles for the time being.


Chris Orr holds a Master Divinity from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and currently serves as a senior pastor of Pioneer Baptist Church. Chris and Katie are former Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ) staff members and parents to three children.

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I (Katie) couldn’t agree more! I love my ESV Study Bible. Beyond what Chris mentioned above, I love that you also get the e-version of the ESV Study Bible notes which you can access at esv.org and the ESB Bible app. All those helpful notes right at my fingertips!

Affiliate links present. At no additional cost to you, we receive a small portion of your purchase Thanks!

Have a question for Chris?

Keep them coming! Just leave your question in the comments, or you can email me

I get all fired up when I hear “preachers” saying God wants me to be happy, healthy, and wealthy. “You deserve more, better,” they say. “Just set your mind to something and go for it. God is for you. He will give you what you desire if you love and obey Him enough. Have faith, and life will go well for you.”

Problem is, these are half-truths—shadows of Scripture. Sound bites that are close enough to sound right and are highly motivational, but in actuality, hold devastating implications. When life doesn’t go our way we wonder what we did wrong or what we didn’t do enough of to get God to act on our behalf. And when life is peachy-keen, our need for God dissipates. We turn Christianity into a formula to be figured out and followed.

Fact is, we are not promised smooth sailing. We are not guaranteed to bypass the difficult storms of life just because we are Christians. And the presence of a squall does not mean God is upset with us. I’ve found the opposite to be true in my life. The trials I’ve faced have proved God to be lovingly present, tenderly purposeful, and powerfully able to use all things for my good. I’ve learned that being a Christian doesn’t give me some force-field bubble that protects me from harm. But having the hope of Christ within me—knowing and holding onto all He has done for me and all that He will do—brings a deep-down peace that no positive-thinking prosperity message can provide.

I’ll say it again: walking with God is not a formula to be found out and followed. Abundant life with Jesus is a journey of continually drawing near to His presence while holding fast to the gospel—our anchor of truth. All who are in Christ possess the treasure of hope. It’s a noun, not a verb. But don’t always experience the hope-filled abundant life because we either don’t truly know the gospel or we forget.

We often want to measure growth with external charts and checkboxes, but I believe true spiritual growth cannot be evaluated simply by our deeds. Actions can be modified. Attitudes can be mimicked. But holding fast to hope cannot be faked.

If our view of God is big, the reality of our hope will be big, too.

God, I confess the places where I have not trusted in Your promises. Help me to see that You are steadfast and sure. Open my eyes to see You more and more each day.

hope in god


This is an excerpt from my Everyday Hope Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!  study, an easy to use, four-week Bible study. Designed for women who are pressed for time, yet crave depth from their Bible study, Everyday Hope Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!  offers a relevant and lasting approach for reading and understanding Scripture. In as few as 15 minutes a day, discover how to hold fast to His promises amidst feelings of hopelessness.

I’m excited to kick off a new series: Ask Pastor Chris! As we get great questions that we think others might be wondering about, I’ll be posting them for you here. 

 

 

Ask Pastor Chris: Should Christians sue?

Recently we received a question about law suits. The one who asked the question mentioned a belief that Paul forbids Christians from law suits. The question did not provide many details about the persons involved or the situation, so I will attempt to answer with broad strokes.

It is true that the Bible forbids law suits in certain situations, and specifically the Apostle Paul gives such instructions in 1 Corinthians 6:1-11. The church at Corinth was a messy situation and Paul had much to sort out when he wrote this letter. One of the issues he addresses is law suits, and law suits between believers in particular. The issue at Corinth was that church members were taking each other to court to settle their differences, rather than solving them in house. As you might imagine, such litigation destroys our witness to nonbelievers. Just think, would you go to a church if you knew members were suing each other? In this hostile atmosphere Paul steps in and offers them better alternatives.

The first option is to find someone inside the church who can mediate the situation and bring reconciliation (1 Cor. 6:5).

The second option is to suffer wrong for a greater purpose (1 Cor 6:7). In many cases we can simply choose to let it go and move on, knowing that pursuing legal recourse may bring harm to our ability to witness to others.

Let me try to draw some conclusions from this passage.

  1. There is no blanket prohibition of law suits. There are many occasions when law suits are appropriate. For example, if you are injured by the negligence of someone else and your ability to provide for your family has ben irreparably damaged, by all means, pursue justice through legal means.
  2. There is a prohibition on suing fellow church members. I wouldn’t do it under any circumstance. Work out your issues in house, bring in trusted mediators to help, be willing to suffer wrong for the sake of Christ, and seek to honor God in all your dealings.
  3. Paul does not speak specifically of suing fellow believers who are not members of the same church. I would tread lightly here. Many of Paul’s same reasons apply to members of different churches. Surely if Christ is our Lord, we can find resolution in a way that honors each other and Jesus.
  4. The gospel enables us to suffer wrong. If this life is all there is, then absolutely sue any and everyone you can to get the most money you can and squeeze the most enjoyment out of life that you can. If however, there is life eternal we can trust that the God of the universe will bring justice to those who take advantage of us. Additionally, we know that in the end we, who have true faith in Jesus, will receive much more than we deserve anyway. Ten thousand years from now, this legal matter will be of little consequence.
  5. Paul’s system of dealing with these matters in house does not extend to criminal activity. Let’s take domestic violence as an example. If a church becomes aware that a child in the church is being abused by parents or caregivers, Paul is not suggesting we deal with these matters internally. Allow the proper authorities to deal with criminal behavior and err on the side of protecting the victims.

Chris Orr holds a Master Divinity from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and currently serves as a senior pastor of Pioneer Baptist Church. Chris and Katie are former Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ) staff members, parents to three children, and part of the church revitalization movement.

Have a question for Chris? Leave them in the comments! 

2016 has already found me in a funk.

Crabby. Tired. Discouraged. Defeated. Stuck.

I think some of it is a result of two weeks of no schedule and little order. It’s been a GREAT two weeks. Though we missed not being with family during Christmas, it was truly perfect to have our little family alone yet together as we continue to create our own Christmas traditions. But there has been a ton of laziness and trying to get back into get-it-done mode has been harder than usual.

Most people feel a sense of newness, excitement, and motivation for the new year ahead. That is usually me: recharged with motivation and a deep hope for change, growth, and all the possibilities a new year holds. But this year, instead of hope I feel pressure. Dread. Overwhelm.

And feeling overwhelmed robs me of everyday hope. My mind turns to all that is undone and not right in my life and I begin to feel as if I must act NOW, and fix it all as soon as possible. But before I even attempt a step in the right direction, the sheer volume of all the areas that need work brings a crushing blow to any fire for change that was present.

Read more to the kids, be more patient, figure out a better laundry and chore system, write more blog posts, promote my new studies without being self-centered and pushy, keep my husband a priority, coordinate church ministry details, love and disciple the women God has placed in my life . . . the list goes on and the ideals and goals and resolutions for 2016 are already off to a really bad start.

Some may want to make the case that I have too much on my plate. I take that very full plate to the Lord almost daily, asking Him what I can/should let go of. My husband and I have regular conversations about it and for now, I fully trust it is how it should be.

As I step back from it all, the problem is not any specific item on the plate, or even the multitude of responsibilities piled high. The overwhelm stems from the weight of something different. The dread and discouragement comes not from the daily responsibilities or the resolutions for development. The paralysis stems from taking my eyes off the Gospel of Christ.

Because, it doesn’t take long for me to suffocate under the pressure of not being enough for every person and capable enough for every job. I will never be completely capable. I will never be perfectly prepared. I am not organized enough or kind enough or wise enough or savvy enough to do all God has called me to do. I am weak, selfish, and all-too under qualified for what God has called me to.

But what I keep forgetting to preach to myself is this: I don’t need to be fully qualified, perfectly caring, or altogether strong. Christ is all those things, and more, on my behalf.

The role the Gospel plays in our everyday life

This is the hope of the Gospel: I am not enough, but Jesus is. I am weak, He is strong. I am messed-up, fed-up, and marked-up with the weight of all my imperfections. But in Christ, there is freedom, forgiveness, and hope for my future. All of which is independant of my behavior and performance.

My prayer is that this post will encourage others who are feeling as I am. But, honestly, this is a selfish post. A self-preaching post. A post to affirm what I know to be true but often struggle to believe.

Though I am not commanded to have hope as if it were a verb, I am to hold fast to hope. I cannot hold on to something I don’t realize is there. So we must regularly take a good, hearty look at the hope we have in Christ. It is from this position, standing on the foundation of God’s grace and with a firm belief that I am justified before Him, that I can hold fast to my treasured hope.

The gospel is my everything. My only hope.

{God, keep me in continual clinging to your grace. Through Christ alone I have a living, heavenly hope. For that I am eternally grateful.}

Everyday Hope study excerpt

On a scale of 1 to 10, where is your grip on the hope of the Gospel today?


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Dive into Everyday Hope with me! Every Saturday in January I’ll be posting an Everyday Hope teaching video and link up here on the blog. So grab a copy of the study, a friend or two, and sign up here for the study group.

It seems as if the only words I have for this space lately are grieving ones. I write much behind the scenes, for studies, for newsletters, for other blogs. But my words for my own blog seem to come only when my heart is stirred with pain. Today I had to watch yet another friend grieve the untimely loss of a father. And as friends grieve, I cannot grieve alongside of them without entering into my own.

My heart aches for them, for me, for all that’s been lost. All that is no longer. All that will never be.

For the Christian, we know there is always great hope, even within our deep pain. However, we often don’t always know how to experience that hope alongside our troubles.

As I write in my new Everyday Hope study, hope is not a verb. It is not a job I need to go and do better at. When I “lose hope” the solution is not to figure out how to be more hopeful, as if it were a state of mind I must fight for. For the Christian, hopelessness is forgetfulness. When I forget what is true — especially during the times of tears and dark days — despair takes over. Instead, I must remember who God is, and who I am because of Christ, regardless of what my situation is screaming at me.

Remembering who God is and how much He loves me doesn’t make me numb to the pain, or impervious to the shock and sorrow that comes with a great loss. But remembering does allow me to see the hope I’ve had all along. Hope is not something we do to escape the storm. Hope is what we hold fast to as we endure each wave.

What Hope Is

Our hope is only found in the glorious truth of the Gospel. There is much we have to hope in, through Christ. Here are five truths, specific to our pain and tears, we can cling to.

Five Truths to Treasure through My Tears

God knows my tears. Every one. Just as he numbers every hair on my head, every star in the sky, every grain of sand on the seashore, he numbers my every tear. The sad ones. The angry ones. The sin-stained ones. The happy ones. I am never alone. Never forgotten.

You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? . . . This I know, that God is for me. In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise, in God I trust (Psalm 56:8-11 ESV).

Jesus enters into my grief. When Jesus saw Mary, grieving over the loss of her brother, He wept. He was present in that moment and entered into grief with her and the others weeping. I have the Spirit of the living God within me, and when I weep, He is present in my grief.

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled . . . Jesus wept (John 11:33-35 ESV).

Jesus knows my pain. It’s one thing to say that God sees and enters into my pain. It is quite another to know that He humbled Himself, limited His divine nature for a time, and became human so that I could be with Him forever. Jesus loved. Jesus lost. Jesus grieved. He knows the pain I am feeling.

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief . . . Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows (Isaiah 53:3-4 ESV).

God will wipe every tear from my eye. Every single one. He sees every tear. He cares about every cry. He redeems every pain.

He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” (Isaiah 25:8-9 ESV).

My tears will end. My pain. My ache. This emptiness that longs for death to end. It will all be taken away and replaced with the all-consuming, completely fulfilling, perfectly healing presence of God.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:3-5 ESV).

Though pain and tears and sorrow are inevitable on this side of eternity, we hold a great hope. Praying you and I can continually remember the hope-filled truths of who God is, and who we are (and will be) because of Christ. Let’s hold fast to the Gospel.