Category Archives: Bible study

Shouldn’t We All? (Acts 18)

I know we Christians believe in Jesus. We have faith that He is God, that He died on the cross as a substitution for us, taking on the penalty for our sin. We believe that He rose again and lives today. We believe that the Bible is true, and God is who He says He claims to be.

But are we ready to give an answer for the hope we have, in the faith we possess? Do we know WHY we believe, and can we defend what we know against someone who believes differently?

When Apollos went to Achaia, “he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.” (18:18, emphasis mine)

Shouldn’t we all be able to do the same?

Astonished? Why? (Acts 11-12)

The believers were being persecuted. King Herod had arrested many, and even had Jesus’ disciple James, put to death because James preached about Jesus. Peter was arrested and was imprisoned with a death sentence over his own head.

Many believers got together to pray. We find them in the home of Mary the mother of John Mark, no doubt pleading with God during this scary time. We don’t read their words, but I imagine they prayed for God’s mercy, His protection, His will to be done in their situation. I imagine they prayed specifically for Peter, “God, please spare his life, undertake on his behalf, save him from Herod’s evil plan.”

While they were praying, they heard a knock on the door. Rhoda, a little servant girl, went and probably put her ear to the door. She whispered, “Who’s there?” Peter, no doubt with his own ear up to the door whispered back, “It’s me! Peter!”

Rather than opening the door and letting Peter into the house, Rhoda rushed back and interrupted the prayer meeting. “Peter is here,” she exclaimed. The praying believers responded:

“Impossible!”

“You’re crazy!”

“It must be his angel, which means they’ve killed him!”

Rhoda kept insisting, Peter kept knocking, until someone from the prayer group went to open the door and see for himself.

There stood Peter! Their prayers had been answered, but Scripture tells us they were astonished. They couldn’t believe their eyes, yet they had been praying for that very thing. There before them stood the answer to their prayers, yet they were astonished.

Jesus Himself had told them, “Have faith in God… Therefore I tell you whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:22,24)

Jesus also said, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it.” (John 14:13-14)

I wonder how many times I have prayed to God for something, but somewhere in the back of my brain I don’t think He’ll answer that prayer. I know many people are praying these days that God will turn this country around, that people will return to God and that He will restore our land. But I wonder if we really believe He will.

I also wonder how many times God has answered a prayer of mine, and I was astonished to see it. Should it surprise me when God is faithful to His Word?

I am challenged today to pray believing. I am challenged to pray specifically for people and situations, to tell God what is really on my heart. I am challenged to trust Him with the outcome, and to be looking for His answer so I don’t miss it. And I am challenged to pray in His name, with the intent that the answer to my prayers would glorify Him and draw people to the cross.

I will pray, “God help us. God defeat Satan in our government, in our society, and in our churches and homes. God take away this virus. God heal the unrest, send a revival, open eyes and unite us as one nation under God.”

And I will be listening for that knock on the door, expecting God to hear and answer my prayers for Jesus’ sake and for His glory. Seeing answers to my prayers might blow me away, but I never want those answers to surprise me.

180 (Acts 9-10)

Saul obeyed. Ananias obeyed. Cornelius obeyed. Peter obeyed. And what they did in obedience was a 180 from where they’d started.

Saul was headed to Damascus to arrest all believers he could find because he wanted to stop people from proclaiming Jesus. He was an educated Jew, and educated Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah. But when Saul had an encounter with Jesus, he turned from someone who wanted to silence people, into someone who would not be silenced.

Ananias was comfortable there in Damascus. He may have felt safe in his home from the coming trouble. But when God told him to go to Saul, the very man who threatened Ananias’ life, Ananias moved out of his comfort zone and walked right up to the one person he considered an enemy, ready to pray for Saul to regain his sight.

Cornelius was a Gentile who believed in Israel’s God. But he was still a Gentile, and Gentiles and Jews had no use for each other. Cornelius had a good ministry there in Caesarea, but when God told him there was something more, Cornelius went for it even if it meant going to a Jew to get it.

Peter knew Jesus personally, was a disciple and one of Jesus’ closest friends. But he was Jewish, and Jews felt Jesus was THEIR Messiah. They were pretty protective of that relationship. A sign with “No Gentiles allowed!” was placed over the door of their clubhouse. But when God showed Peter, not once but three times (we are talking Peter here), that God makes no distinction between Jews and Gentiles, Peter turned his back on what he thought he knew, and went to the home of a Gentile to share his Messiah, Jesus, with Cornelius and his family.

Sometimes God pushes us forward, sometimes He turns us around. We, like the men in these chapters of Acts, need only to obey.

What is God asking of you today? Is it time you did a 180?

Scripture Fulfilled (Luke 23, John 18-19)

Many times in the Gospels, the writers say something like, “this was done so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.” The question is, does this mean God manipulated circumstances in order to fulfill an Old Testament prophecy, or did God give the Old Testament prophets a glimpse at what would happen in the future as the result of choices people would make, and He wants us to make that connection to prove He is Almighty God?

Is it fore-knowledge or causation we see here?

I think the beauty of this idea of Scripture being fulfilled is in the fact that God sees the end from the beginning. And because He exists outside of time, He is able to say what will happen before it happens, because He has already seen it happen.

He didn’t need to cause something to happen because some Old Testament prophet predicted it hundreds of years earlier. The prophet predicted it because it happened. Remember, God sees life on planet Earth in the past. What we do tomorrow is already in the books.

But that doesn’t mean He is not present today, or that we need not pray or obey Him because the end is already known by Him. It means God sees what happened as a result of our prayers, and what happened as a result of our lack of prayer. He sees what happened as a result of our obedience today, tomorrow, next month, next year. And He sees what happened as a result of our disobedience.

We still have a responsibility to Him. He sees the future, but we certainly cannot! Your story is still being written one minute at a time in this life. And the choices you make during those minutes determine the ending He already sees.

The Charges Against You (Matthew 27, Mark 14)

I woke up in the middle of the night last night, and couldn’t get back to sleep. After tossing and turning for what seemed like hours, I finally gave up, turned on the light, and finished a Christian fiction novel I had begun reading a couple days ago.

The main character, who had given her life to the Lord about three-quarters into the story, had been drugged and sabotaged by her conniving assistant. When the truth came out, the assistant, flanked by two police officers, stood before the main character. The guilty assistant was facing prison time for her crimes.

“Do you want to press charges?” one of the officers asked.

Then, because she realized how much God had forgiven her, the main character looked at her assistant and felt sorry for her. “No,’ she replied. “I won’t be pressing charges.”

Sounds very Christian.

Until you read the Scriptures I read this morning.

Sometimes we are led to believe that when we ask Jesus to forgive us, He simply erases the ledger. He doesn’t press charges. But that is not true. Those sins you confess don’t just go away. Each one comes with a death sentence, and saying, “My bad,” doesn’t make them disappear, no matter how sincere you are.

There is a price your sins and mine demand. It’s an awful, painful, serious price to pay. And a Holy, Just God demands payment.

Jesus paid.

He heard every lie, every insult. He felt every fist, every thorn, every lash, every nail. His blood poured out of His body like yours or mine would have flowed. He died a very painful death. His death was our death sentence.

Jesus didn’t go through all of that to simply let you off the hook. He endured that pain to pay for your sins and mine. Every sin. The debt ledger wasn’t erased. It was paid in full.

If you confess your sin you will be forgiven. But the charges against you have been made, and you have been found guilty. Accepting Jesus as your Savior means accepting the fact that He paid your death sentence. He took on Himself the punishment you deserve.

I pray you have received what Jesus died to give you, the forgiveness of your sin. But never think what He did was merely dropping the charges. It cost Him much more than that.

Complete Unity (John 14-17)

When Jesus prayed for those of us who believe on Him through the Apostles’ message, He asked the Father this:

May they be brought to complete unity, to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (17:23b)

I believe we need to hear His prayer today, to pray those words ourselves, and do what Jesus wants us to do. Our world, our nation is so divided. What about His Church?

Jesus wasn’t asking the Father to make Democrats get along with Republicans or Chinese get along with Americans. Jesus was praying for the Church, believers, we who call ourselves Christians.

What do Christians have in common? Jesus.

On what do Christians need to have complete unity? That Jesus is God, that He died for all and rose again to life so those who believe can live, that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no one goes to the Father except through Him.

We Christians need to have complete unity over the fact that sin as described in Scripture is sin, punishable by death. We need to agree over God’s grace to repentant hearts through the blood of His Son.

The Church needs to demonstrate complete unity in our love for one another, not just people who vote like we do. Methodist believers loving Baptist believers loving Presbyterian believers loving Quaker believers loving Catholic believers, united by our love for Jesus, and our obedience to His Word.

The world is watching. Are they seeing complete unity among we who name the name of Jesus? If not, why not?

The Full Extent Of His Love (John 13)

I love what John said about Jesus in verse one of this chapter:

It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.

The full extent of His love.

Have you experienced that love for yourself? We read what that looked like in the Gospels’ account of Jesus’ last days on earth in a human body.

He shared that last supper with His disciples where He asked them (and us) to remember Him every time we eat the bread and drink the cup which together represent His suffering. He washed his disciples’ feet and told them (and us) to serve each other in the same way. He said words of comfort, knowing they (and we) would face hardships because of Him. He prayed for them (and us), and promised He would come back for them (and us).

Then we watch as He is arrested, beaten, lied about, ridiculed, tortured, and then nailed to a cross. He was betrayed and abandoned by people closest to Him. He died a painful death, when the truth is He went through all of it willingly. He could have stopped it. But His love wouldn’t let Him.

What is the extent of His love? Read John 13-21 and experience it for yourself. Jesus’ love of you caused Him to feel real pain, both physical and emotional. His love of you allowed those soldiers to beat Him mercilessly. His love of you let them drive those nails into His hands and feet. And finally, His love of you kept Him on the cross until your sin debt, the death penalty that is yours, was paid in full.

I would say the extent of God’s love for each of us is limitless. If you are a believer you understand what that means, and I imagine you are rejoicing in the privilege of experiencing that love for yourself. If you don’t know Him, I pray you will take the time to read these chapters today, knowing that everything in there was said and done for your benefit. Jesus did all of that for you.

Oh what wondrous love is this!

Chosen Or Not? (Matthew 22)

Does God choose to save some people, and choose to not save others? Matthew 22:14 says that is clearly the case. Like it or not, God in His Sovereignty clearly accepts some people and not others.

BUT… do not take this verse and expect it to stand on its own. Read the first 13 verses of this chapter, too.

The invitation to the king’s banquet went out to everyone. Some people rejected it on their own. Others dropped what they were doing and accepted the invitation. But one who accepted the invitation was rejected by the king.

Why was this man rejected? Had he received the invitation by mistake? Was the invitation never meant to be extended to him because the king didn’t have him on the guest list? No! The man was rejected because he had come to the banquet on his own terms, not wearing the clothing provided by the king.

The man wasn’t rejected because the king didn’t want him there. The man was rejected because he himself had rejected the king’s provision.

Here’s God’s plan of salvation: Jesus died to pay the death penalty for every sinner who has ever lived. Forgiveness and eternity is extended to ANYONE who accepts it. Jesus died once AND FOR ALL. And God chooses to save anyone who comes to Him on His terms.

Also in God’s sovereign plan is the invitation. Scripture tells us God is drawing all men to Himself. He came to seek and to save that which was lost – and we are all lost because all have sinned. He continually reveals Himself to the world through nature and the Gospel so that no one has an excuse when on that day, every person will give an account for their response to God’s grace.

God doesn’t write anyone off until they stand before Him wearing their filthy rags instead of His own righteousness through the blood of Jesus. Many are called. But only the few who accept His invitation according to His demands are chosen.

That means you! If you have never gone to God on His terms, through His Son Jesus, by repenting of sin and accepting forgiveness through His blood, God has chosen to reject you. No one goes to the Father except through the Son. That’s God’s sovereign plan. He’s very clear about that.

But rest assured… if you come to Him today and accept what Jesus died to give you, you will stand before the King of kings wearing the proper attire, the righteousness of Jesus!

I’m praying for you.

Just Can’t Get Enough (Luke 19)

because all the people hung on his words. (verse 48b)

Have you ever been in love? Did you think that person was the smartest, cleverest, most interesting person you had ever known? Did you hang on every word he or she said? You just couldn’t get enough, could you?

That’s how the people responded to Jesus when he was teaching in the temple. And that’s how I want to respond every time I read God’s Word.

I don’t want my quiet time to be just another thing on my daily to-do list. I don’t want to read with my mind on something else. Every time I open these precious pages I want to sit at Jesus’ feet and hang on every word.

I love Him! And I just can’t get enough!

Choosing God (Luke 15)

Our God-given ability to choose is a funny thing. For most of us, it’s hard to marry human choice with the Sovereignty of God. And today, I’m not even going to try.

But there is something about our ability to make decisions for ourselves that has me looking at our Sovereign God with adoration as I read the three parables in chapter 15. Hear me out.

We make choices every day that effect our relationship with God; a thought we choose to entertain rather than putting aside, a little white lie we tell to cover ourselves, listening to gossip or being the gossip even when we disguise it as concern or by asking for prayer, an unforgiving heart, whether to speak up for the truth or stay silent. Many seemingly meaningless decisions we make every day impact our relationship with a Holy God.

It’s not just the “big” choice of choosing God or rejecting Him outright, although that is certainly a huge part of it. We make choices all the time and none of them are insignificant.

The three parables we read today has me thinking. One lamb among hundreds, or one coin among 10 doesn’t seem that big of a deal. But look at how the keepers of those things reacted when something so small was lost. They dropped everything and actively pursued that which was lost.

Look at the father in the parable of the prodigal son. That dad had been searching the horizon for his son. Scripture doesn’t say but, considering what we see in the other two parables, I have to believe that lost boy’s father searched the horizon every day the boy was gone, ready and eager to welcome him home.

Have you ever watched a baby take his first wobbly steps? Very often one parent will stand behind the child, bent over, both hands on either side of that precious one, ready and eager to catch him when he falls. The baby moves to the left, the parent moves with him. He moves to the right and teeters, the parent adjusts her hands to provide that extra safety.

I’ve seen a parent scoop up his child in his arms, with pride and excitement, when his wobbly baby falls to the ground after taking a few steps. I’ve watched the joy and love given and received between parent and child when that happens. That’s the picture that came to me today as I considered our Heavenly Father and the independence He has given us.

God wants us to grow to maturity, to step out, to make decisions for our good and His glory. And, because He has allowed us to do so (or not) He stands at the ready to catch us, to find us when we get lost. He is there to scoop us up into His arms, to rejoice with the angels when we come back to Him.

I think I love Him more today than I did yesterday as I get another glimpse of how much He loves me. My Heavenly Daddy has my back, has His arms stretched out to catch me when I fall. And I do fall.

I don’t always make choices that honor Him. The prodigal son certainly didn’t make choices that honored His dad, either. But the boy made a choice. The dad let him go. But that dad never gave up and was there to welcome the lost boy once again into His embrace, when the boy chose to come home.

I praise God for His unending love that is expressed to me in many ways I don’t even consider half the time. I am that lost lamb, that silver coin, that parodical son. The choices I make to step away from Him are never met with indifference. God remains right here, working behind the scene, steadying me, looking out for me, and rejoicing when I choose to fall into His arms in surrender and faith.

I have the ability to choose God with all that entails: forgiveness, eternity, blessings, and obedience, surrender, humility. I have the ability to choose to reject or ignore Him with all that entails: pride, unforgiveness, missing out on the blessings, judgment.

But in either case, while we have breath, God is going to pursue us, to look for us to come to Him, to do everything possible including die for us, to give us every opportunity to be found by Him, and rejoice when we choose Him.

I choose God. I pray you choose Him, too.