Category Archives: Bible study

Unreasonable Demands

Genesis 49-50

Jacob told Joseph he wanted to be buried in Canaan with Abraham, Sarah, and Leah. That wasn’t an unreasonable request considering Joseph’s position and wealth. So when Jacob died, Joseph and the family, along with a group of Egyptians took his body to Canaan and buried him there with fanfare.

Joseph, when he was dying, said he too wanted to be buried in Canaan. His request wasn’t entirely reasonable at the time. He acknowledged that, and asked that WHEN they were able to leave Egypt, he’d like them to take his bones. He knew his family didn’t have the means to make that happen right then. In fact, it took about 400 years before they were able to take Joseph’s bones out of Egypt.

I’ve heard of people who make outlandish requests of loved ones concerning funerals, ashes, or distribution of stuff after they die. I’ve known people who go to great lengths and expense to fulfill last wishes, too.

Why? Do those facing death have such a need for control? Do they think they’ll be forgotten if they don’t continue to pull strings after they’ve gone? Do the remaining loved ones think the deceased are watching them to be sure they obey them?

Here’s what I believe Scripture teaches: absent from the body, present with the LORD. (2 Corinthians 5:8)

It doesn’t say present with Grandma. It doesn’t say present with a telescope pointed at Earth.

We sometimes place unreasonable demands on our loved ones. And we make them feel guilty if they don’t do exactly what we, or some deceased loved one, tells them they must do. Sometime it’s just not feasible.

Friend, the things that happen to your body and your stuff after you die will be up to the living. You won’t know. You won’t even care. You’re going to have enough on your mind for eternity to think about who is feeding your cat.

If you are facing death, let me take some pressure off. Let go of trying to control your loved ones. Love them today. Gift them today. Make memories for them to have when you are gone.

And, if a deceased person has placed unreasonable demands on you – let it go. If you must, honor them in some other way. Trust me – they really don’t care right now.

Death at the Hand of God.

Genesis 38

Does God lie in wait to take out evil people like an army sniper? That seems to be the case with Judah’s sons Er and Onan. Scripture is very clear: these were bad men – and God killed them.

So are we to assume this is God’s MO? That if you are bad enough He just mows you down, gives you cancer, or a bullet in your head?

Yes. And no.

God wants us to know death is a part of the curse handed down because of Adam’s sin. God causes death for every human being because all have sinned and the wages of sin is death. But common sense – and life – tells us there are some very evil people in the world living to a ripe old age.

So no, God doesn’t make it a habit of killing sinners, Aren’t you glad? We don’t know why God chose to kill Er and Onan like He did. And He doesn’t owe us an explanation. But what happened to them is not a blueprint for God’s dealing with people.

In fact, Scripture repeatedly shows us how patient God is with us sinners, how quick He is to forgive a repentant heart, how He longs to save whosoever believes. Look at how many chances God gave the nation of Israel in the Old Testament. Read in the New Testament what Jesus did for sinners when He went to the cross.

I think the lesson here in Genesis is that all of us will die at the hand of God. Some will die young, others will live to be 100 years old. Our deaths won’t have as much to do with whether or not we were good or bad, as it will have to do with God’s Sovereignty.

Death will end life on Earth for all of us unless Jesus comes back first. That is His Sovereign will.

I see Er and Onan dying in their sin, because I believe had they repented we would be reading about that. That makes me want to warn us all. Because we are going to die.

My prayer is that we will be ready to die by accepting the forgiveness of sin through the blood of Jesus. Your death could come today. My death could come today.

The question is: are we ready?

(Luke 21) Mind-Numbing

Jesus, talking about what was and is to come, said something that has me thinking. Verse 34 says:

Be on your guard, so that your minds are not dulled from carousing, drunkenness, and worries of life, or that day will come on you unexpectedly like a trap.

I get the carousing and drunkenness. Alcohol dulls the senses, muddles the brain. Someone in that state is physically unable to focus because of the drug in his system. But why would Jesus put worry in the same mind-numbing category?

Do you think our society is plagued with worry? It seems people worry about COVID, whether or not someone is vaccinated, racial issues, the economy, the very future of our society. There are still people who refuse to leave their homes because of worry.

Some of the things people worry about are real, others are imagined or exaggerated. But Jesus doesn’t make that distinction here, does He? It appears He believes any worry is as mind-numbing as alcohol.

Sitting here and going over this in my mind, I am beginning to see the implication here. If we worry, we’re not thinking clearly. If we worry, it’s hard to focus on anything else. If we worry, our minds are on ourselves and our situation. And if that’s true – our minds cannot be on God.

Now here’s where I see worry like drunkenness. One drink or one moment of worry can be controlled. We put the bottle down, or we change our thinking. The second drink makes it harder to resist a third. A second moment of worry makes it harder not to continue to worry. And when drunkenness or worry overtakes us, our minds are numb to the things of God.

Verse 36:

But be alert at all times, praying…

You can’t be alert with alcohol in your system. I get that. What stands out to me today is the idea that worry has the same effect.

God has a lot to say about worry in His Word. If you are one who struggles, let me suggest that you get out a concordance, or Google “Bible verses about worry,” and let God encourage you.

Be alert. And pray.

(Matthew 16-18) Satan Loves Rabbit Trails

Evidently there are some Bible critics who say that, because the Gospel writers differ in their accounts of Jesus’ words and actions, one cannot trust Scripture to be infallible. That, my friend, is an argument that cannot hold water. I’ll tell you why.

I taught school for 37 years. So I saw 100 or more children walk through my classroom door 180 days during each of those 37 years. I would teach the same lesson to different groups of children throughout the day. Sometimes I’d teach a lesson to one group on one day, and the same lesson to a different group of children the next day. And sometimes I’d teach the same lesson to yet another group the next school year.

The message of those lessons didn’t change, but the audience, the exact words I used to convey the message, the location of the classroom I was in, and sometimes the school in which I taught changed. The message of the lessons stayed constant, however.

If Johnny wrote an account of my first period lesson, and Jimmy wrote an account of the same lesson given during third period, chances are their accounts would not be word for word. And if Johnny’s little brother wrote an account of that same lesson a year later, I’m pretty sure there would be some differences there, too. The message of the lesson would be the same. Some of the illustrations might be similar. But each boy would tell their own accounts from their own vantage point, using their own words.

Do you think Jesus taught his lessons only once? Or could it be possible he shared the same lesson in one city to one audience, and again in another city to a different audience?

My point is this: don’t get bent out of shape if you notice subtle difference in Scripture. Don’t miss the message God wants you to hear. And don’t think you can’t trust Scripture because of chronology or numbers or names.

Those are rabbit trails not worth pursuing. Satan loves it when we chase rabbit trails because it gets our focus off the truth he does not want us accepting. Read God’s Word for the message.

It’s a good one!

(Luke 7) Who’s Doubt Is It Anyway?

I have appreciated considering the opinions of Bible scholars as I read through my Apologetics Study Bible this year. (Holman Bible Publishers; 2017) It often amazes me at the issues they address, indicating the lengths some people go to try and disprove the Bible.

Evidently there is a discussion about what kind of roof tiles that were on the house the paralytic’s friends dug through to get him to Jesus. Yeah, roofing.

And, is it the Sermon on the Mount, or the Sermon on a Flat Area on the Mountain? There is actually a debate about it. Why?

Skeptics use these kinds of things to suggest because the Gospel writers differ on certain details, the Bible must be full of errors, and therefore untrustworthy. I usually just shake my head and move on, but thankful that should someone use arguments like these, I’ll be prepared to point them back to what is really important.

But sometimes the comments in the Apologetics Study Bible are just plain wrong (in my opinion). One such opinion jumped out at me today, and I’d like us to consider 7:18-30. The apologist would have you take for granted that what you read here is the fact that John the Baptist is “expressing doubt” that Jesus is the Messiah because he sent two of his own disciples to ask Jesus point blank if they should be looking for someone else, or was Jesus the real deal?

First of all, all we know is WHAT John did. Scripture does not tell us WHY. So I read what the apologist said as his opinion. You can read my comments as mine – because that is all they are.

Based on John’s life, not just his imprisonment, here’s why I believe we are seeing something other than the prophet’s doubt:

  1. John recognized Jesus before either of them were even born. (Luke 1:44)
  2. John grew up spiritually strong. (1:80). He dedicated his whole life to preparing the way for the Messiah. (Luke 3:4-6)
  3. John had no hesitation in identifying Jesus as the One he’d been telling them about. (John 1:14-15, 29-35)
  4. From that moment on, John’s ministry was all about retreating into the shadows. “He must increase, I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
  5. Now Jesus’ ministry is in full swing. Some of John’s disciples began following Jesus. But obviously not all of them had made the switch. John was in prison, and maybe he was pretty sure he wasn’t going to get out of there alive. Maybe he wanted his remaining disciples to accept Jesus before he died. They needed to believe Jesus was the One to follow. So just maybe John sent them to Jesus because of their doubt, not his.
  6. Here is my final observation on the subject, and maybe the most telling. Jesus proceeds to talk to the crowd about John. Read it for yourself in Luke 7:24-28. Is there a hint that Jesus thought John was doubting? “I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John…”

My point is this: we’ve all made assumptions based on a verse or two. Let me challenge us to let Scripture speak for itself as we consider it all. Think about what you are reading, don’t just assume you know what it means by looking at the face value. Question, then dig deeper into God’s Word to find the answers. Use your ability to reason, and ask God to direct your thoughts.

Sometimes it’s hard to get the voice of our third grade Sunday School teacher, or our youth pastor, or some renowned evangelist or popular author out of our heads. My prayer is that, as we read Scripture we won’t be able to get the voice of God out of our heads, that another verse or passage or story from the Bible will come to mind to help us consider what God is saying to us today. Let’s not just read the Bible verse by verse, but lesson by lesson, truth by truth.

And may God grow us, bless us, and find us faithful to the Truth of His Word.

(Micah 1-4) The Truth Behind the Words

I believe we spend so much time trying to assign date and time to prophecy we miss the point. There is no eternal value in predicting future events. We need to live as though today is the day we will meet God face to face.

Some people breathe a sigh of relief, thinking Jesus is going to set up a material kingdom for 1,000 calendar years, so they have plenty of time. That’s not a chance I’m willing to take, and not a chance I’d encourage you to take for yourself.

God, through the prophet Micah tells us who live in the 21st Century some things we need to hear. It’s the same message the people in Micah’s day needed to hear.

  1. God punishes sin. No one can escape His judgment. We are all found guilty before the Judge. Do you wonder what constitutes sin? Micah, in 2:6-11 tells us covetousness is a sin, or idolatry (Colossians 3:5). Rejecting God’s Word is a sin (Micah 2:6-11) Paul, in the New Testament gives a short list in I Corinthians 6:9-10. It’s not an exhaustive list, but it is specific: idolators, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, greedy, drunkards, revilers, and swindlers. Jesus said that if we even entertain thoughts about sin, we are guilty of that sin. (Matthew 5) So, my friend, listen up. YOU ARE A SINNER. And God punishes sin.
  2. There is hope. (Micah 2:12-13) Yes, the wages of sin is death. But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23). Paul, after listing the sins in I Corinthians 6 says this in verse 11: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

That’s the message I believe God wants us to hear through the words of Micah. You can pick apart Micah’s word pictures if you want. Just don’t miss the Truth behind the words.

(Ecclesiastes 5-7) Guard Your Steps

Solomon is speaking as a man who literally had an abundance of everything. The wisest, richest, most powerful, most respected, most famous person of his time had a thousand women at his beck and call, and was miserable.

His search for happiness and fulfillment apart from God could not be found no matter how hard he tried or how much money he spent. Much of the wisdom he spoke came from a dark place in his life.

That being said, there is much we can learn from the king’s experience.

Things about worship: “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God.” (5:1) Approach God in obedience, don’t be hasty to speak, don’t promise God something you can’t fulfill.

Things about wealth: use what you have to help the poor, don’t allow gaining wealth prevent you from enjoying what you have, live a balanced life with both work and rest.

Things about wisdom: pursue it, but don’t accept everything you hear. Know the difference between wise and foolish counsel by knowing God.

Yes, Solomon was in a dark place when he wrote this book. Scripture tells us that toward the end of his life he actually began worshiping the pretend gods of his foreign wives.

Let this be a warning. And let Solomon’s experience and his questions encourage us to “guard our steps” as we approach God, as we protect our walk with our Savior. Because the further we get from Him, the darker our world becomes.

(Proverbs 28-31) Read It For The Change

These proverbs – any proverb, really – aren’t meant to be taken materially as much as figuratively and, more importantly, spiritually. You don’t read verses like 29:15, then go out and buy a metal rod or a wood dowel to beat your child with. 28:27 isn’t promising financial wealth for people who give to charity.

If a proverb speaks of a man, and another speaks of a woman, neither verse is gender specific. The lesson can and should be applied to all of us. But… if you read a proverb like 29:3, and are offended at the example of a man, a father, and a female prostitute because of the wording of the proverb, Satan has successfully thrown a barrier between you and the truth God wants you too see.

If you read Proverbs 31:10-21, and limit yourself to thinking these verses are intended to teach young women how to be good wives, Satan has placed a barrier between you and the truth God wants you to learn as you consider your own walk with Him.

You, men. You, women. You, Church.

Because those verses are not just about being a good wife, although that is absolutely what it is teaching. It is also a beautiful picture of what I as a follower of Jesus should look like to my neighbors. It’s a beautiful picture of what the Bride of Christ, the Church – your church fellowship – needs to look like to the world.

A while back I was in a class where the teacher was using these verses, speaking quite literally about how wives need to treat their husbands. It was a good and challenging lesson to the married women there. But the teacher had no application for those of us who were unmarried.

At the end of the lesson, she asked for comments or questions. I complimented her on her lesson, then shared that I had heard a sermon years ago on these same verses in regard to the Church as the Bride of Christ. I said it had challenged me in my own walk with the Lord, and my role in my church fellowship.

She was silent. Then she said, “We need to be careful not to make Scripture say what it doesn’t say.”

Now, I agree with that 100%. But I also think we need to be careful not to ignore the lessons the Scripture teaches by limiting ourselves to a material interpretation only.

I share that to challenge you to read God’s Word and how it applies to you. I don’t want you to read verses like these in Proverbs and think God doesn’t have something He wants you to consider for yourself. All Scripture is God breathed and profitable to instruct, correct, and equip you for serving Him.

There is something in every verse that can encourage or convict you, cause you to rejoice or mourn. Don’t just read it for the knowledge. Read it for the change God wants to see in you.

Let Him speak to you, discipline you, equip you to be the servant you are. If you read it, and it doesn’t speak directly to your heart, read it again. That just means you weren’t paying attention the first time, because there IS a lesson for you in the pages of God’s Word every time you read it.

Read it. Read it again. Let it change you.

(Proverbs 14-17) Do You Compromise?

If you don’t have a copy of Warren Wiersbe’s “With the Word, Chapter-by-Chapter Bible Handbook,” I highly recommend you get one. Not to be used in place of reading Scripture for yourself, of course. I often will read a chapter (or several) in my Bible during my morning devotional time, then look to see how Wiersbe summarized them. Many times reading what Wiersbe said prompts me to go back to my Bible and re-read all or parts of those passages again, and let God be the final authority.

This handbook has been especially useful for me as I’ve been reading Solomon’s proverbs. Today, Wiersbe pointed out Proverbs 14 challenges the words I say, Chapter 15 challenges me about my heart’s condition.

It’s a question Wiersbe asked in his comments on page 423 concerning Chapter 17 that has me thinking. Actually, a series of questions:

What do you listen to?
What do you rejoice in?
What do you talk about?
What do you get angry at?
What do you give in to?

He points us to the verses in Chapter 17 that speak to each of those questions. It’s been a good study for me this morning.

But it’s his last question I find myself considering as I examine my heart today. It has me asking myself if I compromise on what I know to be true according to God’s Word. Wiersbe asks:

“Is your conscience for sale?”

Is yours?

(Word by Word; Warren Wiersbe; Thomas Nelson Press; Nashville; 1991; pages 421-423)

(Proverbs 10-11) Interpreting Proverbs

Proverbs can be confusing if we try to interpret them though a material lens. A proverb might say a good person lives long and an evil person dies young (10:27) when experience tells us that is not always so. A proverb may suggest good people are always rewarded and evil people are always punished (10:16) but that’s not necessarily true, either…

IF we are only considering our physical life on this earth.

The greater truth of proverbs is 100% true 100% of the time. For instance, the righteous ARE rewarded, maybe not with checks in the mail, but with peace and joy and forgiveness and fellowship with God, AND they will never die!

Those who reject God live in bondage to the sin they refuse to confess, and life on this earth will end in an eternal death – where they will be conscious of their excruciating punishment forever, according to Scripture.

Yes, many of the proverbs apply to the physical, day to day living, and tell us how we should treat each other, what our character ought to be. Most of the time we read those and get the message pretty easily. But even the proverbs that seem to contradict what the rest of Scripture teaches, or what our experiences have taught us, can and do apply to our spirit. They give us a bigger picture of the result of how we live in this life, our choices to be honest or dishonest, kind or unkind, generous or stingy, good or bad.

John MacArthur said somethings that helps me look at the proverbs with greater understanding:

“Given the context that surrounds Proverbs – the rest of God’s Word – a student’s failure to grasp a proverb ought not to lead to the conclusion that there’s something wrong with the proverb. A better conclusion would be that the student doesn’t know enough yet or hasn’t paid enough attention. A wise person puts an elusive proverb on hold for further understanding rather than rejecting it as useless. God’s further lessons in that person’s life may well cast a new light on parts of the Bible that have been difficult to interpret.” (The MacArthur Bible Handbook; Thomas Nelson, Inc; Nashville; 2003; p 166)

So let me encourage you to not give up on the proverbs just because you run across some that seem confusing, or even contradictory. Slow down. Look up and consider the bigger picture, the rest of God’s Word. And when necessary, move on. God will give you the interpretation and application at exactly the right time for you.