Why “Fruitless” Ministries Are Never Truly Hopeless

fruitless ministry hope

We live in a world that expects results. Nobody wants to waste their life or spend their time on things that don’t matter.

That’s part of what makes it so devastating when our ministries feel fruitless—no one gives their life to Christ, the financial troubles never end, or the sermons fall flat. It feels as though all our efforts have been for nothing, or a wrong choice put us in the wrong place. We don’t have stories of transformed lives, people meeting Christ, or God’s hand in our work.

Yet.

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Strengthen Marriages in Your Church with This Free Resource

matt chandler marriage book conference

Have you ever spent time digging into the Song of Solomon? More than that, have you ever applied the verses in Song of Solomon to your love life or the love lives of those you’ve counseled?

As a pastor, you’ve probably served as a marital or pre-marital counselor at some point. Whether you’re married, dating, or single, the words recorded in Song of Solomon help us understand God’s design for love. As we strive to have a relationship that glorifies God, the words in Song of Solomon are both timeless and beautiful—but they can often feel obscure or hard to understand.

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How to Host a Marriage Retreat for Your Small Group

The Mingling of Souls Marriage Conference

Small groups help us take “community” from the abstract to the concrete. They allow our relationships with fellow believers to flourish into meaningful friendships as we grow and serve and study the Word together. They provide both a context for us to meet together and the intimacy we need to practically motivate one another towards acts of love and good works (Hebrews 10:24–25). And the better we know each other, the better equipped we are to speak wisdom into each other’s lives.

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5 Faithlife Groups Anyone Can Join

faithlife logoSome Faithlife Groups are just for you and a handful of other people—like your small group, or you and an accountability partner. But not every group needs or wants complete privacy.

You can join Faithlife Groups that use unique document-sharing capabilities, but there are a lot more ways to interact with your faith community.

If you want to explore Faithlife Groups but haven’t started one of your own yet, here are five groups anyone can join right now:

1. Prayer Partners

The prayer-list feature helps your group keep track of prayer requests. Prayer Partners is a public, user-created group that lets you share prayer requests with fellow believers who love to pray. If you have a passion for prayer, or want prayer yourself, check out this Faithlife Group.

2. Community Study Bible

There are lots of ways to use Community Notes, and this user-created group hopes to create a massive collection of insights from anyone and everyone. The group has over 150 members, and together they share thoughts on passages, notes from sermons, favorite verses, and more. If you want to see Community Notes in action, join Community Study Bible.

3. Natural Theology

To explore what can be known about God through natural human capacity, check out Prayson Daniel’s group, Natural Theology. The group shares and discusses quotes and articles about natural theology, reading plans and notes for famous works like Summa Theologica, and more. Join Natural Theology today and start a conversation. Or, grab some friends, and start a theology-based group of your own!

4. Faithlife Groups 101

If you consider yourself a hands-on learner, Faithlife Groups 101 is for you. Created by an experienced user, this public group gives you free reign to interact with new and experienced users (even some Faithlife employees!) and experiment with features until you’re comfortable starting a group of your own. Want to know how other people use Community Notes? Documents? Discussions? Ask away!

5. Faithlife Beta

Faithlife Beta is where users can make their voices heard. If you have requests about new features or fixes, this is one of the best places to go. If you use Faithlife Groups, join Faithlife Beta to give you a direct line to the developers who work on it every day. You can also use this group to test new features and provide feedback, so we can keep making Faithlife Groups a better tool for you and your faith community.

Faithlife Groups are perfect for small groups, families, and churches: start one today!

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With Logos 6, you get the tools of Logos Bible Software and the collaborative power of Faithlife Groups.

Get Logos 6 now and take advantage of introductory offers!

Jesus: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace

Isaiah 9:6

Isaiah’s magnificent prophecy spans not only history, going from creation (e.g., 42:5) to eternity (e.g., 9:7), but also geography, with an interest ranging between God’s own people through all of humanity (e.v., 2:2). Containing both words of hope and horror, its key theme is God himself, who is referred to hundreds of times.”

Zondervan Illustrated Bible Background Commentary on the Old Testament

In the first chapter of Isaiah, God expresses his dissatisfaction with the sacrifices Israel offered (Isaiah 1:11–16). On the outside, they are doing exactly as God asked: they sacrifice rams and bulls, fat and blood, lambs, goats, and incense. They honor the Sabbath. They have a system for remembering when to feast and celebrate what God has done (Isaiah 1:14).

But God says their sacrifices are meaningless. “I have had enough . . . I do not delight . . . bring no more.” Quantity is not the issue. Quality is. And it’s not a matter of extravagance. Their elaborate prayers use their lips and their hands (Isaiah 1:15) and look great on the outside (Matthew 6:5), but there is no heart behind them.

Other religions made sacrifices to their gods because they believed they were feeding them. The Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary says, “Popular Israelite religion frequently forgot that God was not actually fed through sacrifice and sought to manipulate him through such offerings.” They forgot why they were making sacrifices—they thought they had to feed the God who created the world. But God wasn’t dependent on the Israelites and their sacrifices. They were dependent on him.

The Faithlife Study Bible says, “An increase in offerings is meaningless without a change in attitudes. The sacrifice fundamentally represented Israel’s relationship with Yahweh, by which Israelites acknowledge dependence on Him. There was no point in going through the motions if they’d abandoned that dependence—either through idolatry or pride in their self-sufficiency.”

The sacrifices were meant to be an external symbol of an internal process: repentance (Isaiah 1:16–20). The FSB says “God calls for inward repentance after condemning the empty efforts of outward observance.” They were cleaning the outside of the cup, while filth festered on the inside (Luke 11:39).

The system God established for dealing with sins had been abused for too long. The death of innocent animals was not enough for guilty humans to see the error of their ways (Hebrews 10:4). The status quo wasn’t working. Isaiah called for change in the present, and pointed to a bigger change in the future (Hebrews 10:10).

Isaiah 9:6 introduces Israel to powerful names for a son who was yet to come. Wonderful Counselor. Mighty God. Everlasting Father. Prince of Peace.

The people of Israel didn’t crack open their New Testaments to John 3:16 and say, “Hey, that’s Jesus!” They looked to the current line of David for an immediate answer—someone who could live up to these prophetic titles. The Faithlife Study Bible reminds us that “the prediction of a future ideal Davidic ruler point ultimately to the Messiah, but immediate hopes for Judah’s future would have been directed at the Davidic line, continued through Hezekiah.”

But there was a problem. Some of these titles could only be attributed to God. No man could measure up to names like “Mighty God”—that’s blasphemy (John 8:58–59). As he so often does, God had a different plan than man.

People can’t overcome sin by their own power. The sacrifices which were once acceptable to God had become useless buckets on a sinking ship. God needed to intervene, or the world would drown in sin.

No matter how mighty God made a man, that man could never save Israel from sin—he himself would be corrupted by it (Romans 3:23). The names of this future son were only fit for God because God was the only one who could solve the problem.

They needed a Wonderful Counselor: someone who could give them the wisdom they needed to truly repent (James 1:5, Hebrews 2:18).

They had a Mighty God, but they needed a personal relationship with him (John 1:10–13, Colossians 1:15–16).

With Abraham, they were entitled to an earthly inheritance, but through their Everlasting Father, they had an eternal one to aspire to (Hebrews 9:15, Romans 8:16–17).

And to abolish the old sacrificial system which put a bandage on their sin, they needed the Prince of Peace to restore them (Ephesians 2:13–18, Philippians 4:6–7).

The Christmas season is a time to celebrate the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: “For to us, a child is born, to us, a son is given.” Remember where that son came from (John 3:16), and glorify God for providing the sacrifice to end all sacrifices.

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Take some time to reflect on God’s Word this Christmas season: check out the resources available in our Christmas sale.

Save 32% on Bible Study Magazine

6.5_JulyAug-BlogOrder Bible Study Magazine today and get 32% off the cover price!

Bible Study Magazine gives you the tools and insight you need to study the Bible and apply it in your life. No matter how you’re currently studying Scripture, BSM helps you get more out of your time in the Word.

In every 48-page issue, you’ll find sound advice and enriching insights from pastors and scholars who’ve spent years applying the Bible in their lives and teaching others to do the same. Read pastor profiles, author interviews, and stories of individuals whose engagement with Scripture has shaped their thinking and defined their ministries. Bible Study Magazine reveals the impact of God’s Word in their lives, and the power of Scripture in yours.

The July–August issue features Paul David Tripp, the biblical counselor, author, and international speaker. Tripp discusses street-level Christianity and the connection between knowing the Bible and transforming how we live.

You’ll also find:

  • “Hope for a Troubled Church”
  • “Not Your Average Bible Study: The Call of Discipleship: 8 Weeks in the Sermon on the Mount”
  • “The Great Dilemna of Divine Warfare”
  • “Won’t Back Down”
  • And more

BSM subscribers say:

“I eagerly look forward to Bible Study Magazine each month! I am grateful for the high quality and also for the dedicated enthusiasm of the staff and contributors.”

“Absolutely grateful for this magazine!”

Bible Study Magazine is a fantastic resource of added insight into study of the Scripture.”

“Love it! Love it! Love it! I read these cover-to-cover. Outstanding information and inspiration.”

Subscribe to Bible Study Magazine today and get 32% off the cover price!

Save up to 34% on Commentaries with Graduation Deals for Everyone!

Graduation Sale

In honor of this year’s graduates, we’re kicking off summer with great deals—for everyone! Whether you’re graduating or you just want to know the Bible better, you can save up to 34% on top commentaries. Here are a few of the bestsellers:

interpretation-a-bible-commentary-for-teaching-and-preachingInterpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (INT)

On sale for $70 off!

Interpretation combines historical scholarship and theological questions, bringing an understanding of what the text says into dialogue with contemporary questions of life and faith. A readable blend of exegetical study and hermeneutical reflection, it will equip you to better teach and preach the Bible.

NIV Application Commentary Bundle (NIVAC)

On sale for $100 off!

Most Bible commentaries take us on a one-way trip: from our world to the world of the Bible. There they leave us, assuming that we can somehow make the return journey on our own. They focus on the original meaning, but don’t discuss its contemporary application. The NIV Application Commentary series brings together both halves of the interpretive process: it bridges the gap between the Bible’s world and today’s.

pillar-new-testament-commentary-blogPillar New Testament Commentary (PNTC)

On sale for more than $75 off!

Full of contributions from authors like Douglas Moo, Leon Morris, and D.A. Carson, the Pillar New Testament Commentary is designed for both focused scholars and general readers of the Bible. The authors seek to “loosen the Bible from its pages” and help you apply its truths to your life.

The New International Greek Testament Commentary (NIGTC)

On sale for more than $130 off!

“At a time when the study of Greek is being curtailed in many schools of theology,” states the series’ foreword, “we hope that the NIGTC will demonstrate the continuing value of studying the Greek New Testament and will be an impetus in the revival of such study.” The New Testament demands exegesis that’s sensitive to theological themes, as well as to the texts’ historical, linguistic, and textual context. The NIGTC delivers. One Logos user says, “This is definitely a set that anyone serious about studying God’s Word would want in their collection.”

Celebrate a hard-earned summer by equipping yourself (or a friend) for future ministry and better Bible study: pick up your favorite commentaries today.

Get a Free Book by Walter Brueggemann

FBOTM_SocialShare_400x400Right now, you can get Walter Brueggemann’s Spirituality of the Psalms for free!

Brueggemann, one of the world’s foremost theologians and OT scholars, has led the way to compelling new understandings of ancient Israel’s faith and culture. Now you can pick up his intriguing exploration of the Psalms at no cost whatsoever.

One of the hardest parts things about interpreting and applying the OT is understanding its context and purpose. In Spirituality of the Psalms, Brueggemann explores the genres of the Psalms, and how genre affects their function. Using a model of “orientation / disorientation / new orientation,” he helps you relate Psalms to the ever-changing seasons of life.

walter-brueggemann-collectionBrueggemann has written more than 50 books, hundreds of articles, and several biblical commentaries. After you download your free book, be sure to enter to win the entire Walter Brueggemann Collection—you could take home all 24 volumes for free. That’s a $399 value!

Want more from Dr. Brueggemann?

After you download Spirituality of the Psalms, add David’s Truth: In Israel’s Imagination and Memory for just $0.99! In this completely revised edition, Walter Brueggemann examines four different sets of David narratives, each of which reflects a particular social context, social hope, and community. These stories offer a distinctly different “mode of truth” concerning this pivotal biblical figure.

Don’t miss out: get both Spirituality of the Psalms and David’s Truth: In Israel’s Imagination and Memory for just $0.99!

Pre-order the D.A. Carson Sermon Library for 36% Off!

da-carson-sermon-libraryWe’re delighted to introduce an exciting new resource: the D.A. Carson Sermon Library!

This remarkable collection gives you over 500 sermons from one of the most influential New Testament scholars of our time. It also introduces innovative new ways to learn: for each sermon, you’ll get not only the searchable, tagged text but also audio recordings and bonus video content.

And right now, you can pre-order the D.A. Carson Sermon Library for 36% off!

Over 500 of Carson’s sermons integrated into your library

Few pastors, professors, and authors have impacted the world the way Carson has. For over 35 years, generations of divinity students have explored the New Testament under his guidance. He has published more than 50 books, and his personal ministry (both as a pastor and as president of The Gospel Coalition) has helped unify the body of Christ and lead people to the foundational truths of the Word. Carson has profoundly influenced Christian academia and the church—he’s a Bible teacher worth learning from.

With the D.A. Carson Sermon Library, you can follow three decades’ worth of Carson’s teaching with audio or video sermons and searchable sermon manuscripts. His sermons focus on specific biblical passages, theological topics, and practical issues—they offer valuable insight into topics like the New Perspective on Paul, openness theology, providence, suffering, discipleship, and cross-cultural ministry. Preached in churches, at colleges, and at conferences around the world, these sermons provide instruction and edification from a preeminent evangelical voice that’s deeply committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

You’ll get 553 sermons, including:

  • Sermons from The Gospel Coalition National Conferences
  • “The Pastor as Father and Son” (from the 2008 Desiring God Conference)
  • “The Use of the OT in the NT”
  • “Making Sense of Suffering”
  • “Nehemiah: The Triumph and Failure of Reformation”
  • And hundreds more

This sermon library lets you join the ranks of divinity students, conference attendees, and members of Carson’s congregation who have benefited from his powerful insight into Scripture. The sermons’ searchable format makes it easy to find exactly the insights you need. And the new inclusion of audio and video makes this collection an invaluable addition to your library.

Pre-order the D.A. Carson Sermon Library today and save 36%!

Save 24% on the Zondervan Textbook Bundle

zondervan-textbook-bundleFor just a few more days, the Zondervan Textbook Bundle is on Pre-Pub for 24% off. Pre-order it before it ships to get the best price!

Whether you’re a professor, a pastor, a student, or a Christian looking to expand your theological toolkit, these texts give you introductory access to college-level curricula. Discover the latest texts to use in your coursework, find better ways to communicate and simplify complex theologies, or gain a better understanding of your favorite discipline. The Zondervan Textbook Bundle puts some of the best biblical scholarship at your fingertips.

Get the best price on widely used theological texts

The Zondervan Textbook Bundle provides everything a first- or second-year Bible college student needs in the course of their studies. Spanning Christian history, philosophy, ethics, New and Old Testament studies, and spiritual formation, these works have helped set the standard in their respective fields. You’ll get:

Together, these resources add a valuable layer to your Logos library: introductory texts like these serve as a bridge between general knowledge and highly academic scholarship. Grab these books to enhance your ability to understand and communicate theological principles.

Get 24% off the Zondervan Textbook Bundle today!