Category Archives: Bible study

Wearing Truth (Deuteronomy 11)

What a privilege we have to hold God’s own Words in our hands, to read it, study it, memorize it, any time of the day or night. I trust you aren’t squandering this incredible gift.

Moses told the Israelites that God said to “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road…” (Deuteronomy 11:18ff) Simply reading the Bible isn’t enough.

Moses goes on to tell the Jews what God promises to those who have His Word in their hearts. They would possess the land. Their enemies would be defeated. No one would be able to stand against them.

In Good News Club the past few weeks we have been talking to the children about the armor of God. The first piece of the armor is the Belt of Truth. In this day and age of many so-called truths, how can we know what is really truth, or is there such a thing?

The ancient soldiers wore a thick leather belt in battle. It wasn’t decorative, or meant to hold up their trousers. It was an important, life-saving, piece of armor. For one, it held a soldier’s weapons at the ready. There was a leather flap attached to the belt which covered the soldier’s manhood. If the belt was not worn properly, or if it was twisted even slightly, the soldier couldn’t access his weapons efficiently, and was exposed to an enemy’s fatal blow.

The people in the Ephesian church to whom Paul wrote his letter, knew exactly how important that belt was in battle. So when Paul told them to put on the Belt of Truth, I’m pretty sure they understood the analogy. The Truth is that vital.

So how can we know what is true? Moses shared God’s instructions. The truth is in God’s Word. This Bible that we have in our homes is that first and necessary piece of armor in this battle against the enemy. We have got to put on that Truth for protection, for readying us to use the weapons of war that are God’s righteousness, the Gospel, faith, salvation, and the Spirit. All of those things must be secured by the truth of God’s Word.

There are those who would twist what the Bible says, or replace it with man’s wisdom. But, folks, we are in a battle with eternal implications. Why would we want to fight it without state-of-the-art battle gear? Why replace the Belt of Truth with a Belt of Opinion? That would be like taking a Nerf gun into a nuclear war.

Read your Bible. Fix God’s word on your hearts and minds. Never be ashamed of what is there, never try to hide it or twist it or replace it. Talk about it to your children who are being fed a lot of lies about Truth. (actually, now that most of us are quarantined because of the virus hype, it would be a great time to have those conversations with your children stuck in your homes. What Satan intends for evil, God can bring about something really good! Don’t miss this opportunity.)

God promises to bless those who wear His Truth. Be blessed today.

 

Good Grief (Leviticus: 8-10)

Grief is such a personal experience, isn’t it? Two people in the same home can’t even go through the process in exactly the same way. Psychologists tell us there are healthy ways to grieve, and there are unhealthy ways. But they will also tell you that, even though there seems to be a common progression,  grief is different for every individual, including the period of time a person takes to grieve.

So, is there an acceptable duration of grief? Should a person grieve for a day? A week? A year? A lifetime?

Two of Aaron’s sons died violently on the same day. Yes, they’d sinned. Yes, they’d disobeyed God. Yes, they deserved to die. But these were Aaron’s baby boys.

If you’ve lost anyone suddenly like that you probably relate to Aaron. He had things to do, responsibilities, duties to perform, and Aaron went ahead and did them. But I imagine he was on auto-pilot that day. I imagine his arms felt heavy and his feet were like lead. I imagine he had to force himself to breathe. At least that’s how I felt on June 24, 2012. But Aaron had things that needed to be done, and he did what he had to do.

He just couldn’t force himself to eat. I wonder how long before Aaron could even look at food, how long before he got his appetite back. We don’t know. We just know that the day his sons died, the food sat before him untouched.

And that made Moses really mad. But Moses did something I think is important for us to consider. Moses went to Aaron and listened to him. Moses was angry until he stopped to understand Aaron was grieving. Moses may have misjudged the depth of Aaron’s grief because Aaron was able to get through his duties that day. I mean, Aaron looked like he was handling things. Why wouldn’t he eat? When Moses took the time to talk to his brother, he realized that behind the stoic front, there was a hurting man inside.

Maybe that’s what we should do when someone is grieving. Instead of going to them with answers, we should understand that they won’t grieve the same way we think we would in the same situation. They may be paralyzed by grief a day longer than makes us comfortable. But their grief isn’t about you or me.

Moses listened to Aaron’s heart, and it appears that he understood that Aaron’s grief was real, and deep, and personal. At that point, Moses stopped trying to force his own agenda on his hurting brother.

When someone in our lives is grieving, let’s determine to just listen, to try to understand or at least accept their pain as their pain. Let’s support them and love them, and pray that in God’s timing they will be able to dance again, to laugh and feel real joy again. And let’s pray that some day, they will be blessed by the memories of the one they have lost.

And if you are grieving, grieve. If you are hurting, hurt. But I pray you won’t go through this alone. Find someone willing to let you grieve, someone who will listen to you rant if you need to rant, or cry if you need to cry, or be silent if even the effort of speaking is too great. Grief is a natural thing when we lose someone. Don’t deny yourself those feelings. (I’m talking to you men, too, you know).

But let me encourage you to get out there again when you are able. I think for most of us there is an element of sadness, or grief that stays with us when we experience a loss like that. But eventually that grief doesn’t have to paralyze us. Eventually we find ourselves laughing at silliness again, rejoicing in good times (and there will be good times). We wake up one morning with joy in our hearts, believe it or not. And we get our appetites back, we actually smell the aroma of baking bread, and taste the pizza once again.

Most importantly, let me encourage to you pray. This grief is very personal, and we have a very personal God. I believe He weeps when we weep, that He gives His strength when we have none of our own, and that His joy is available in every and all circumstances.

Psalm 34:18 “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

 

The More You Know (Exodus 33-35)

One of the verses Mom underlined in her Bible is Exodus 33:13. I love this so much about her, and want this to be my prayer, too:

If I have found favor in your eyes, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you.

So many times my prayers sound more like, “If I have found favor in your eyes, heal me, or pay my rent, or make me happy.” Moses (and Mom) prayed, “If I have found favor draw me closer to You, let me know You better, Lord.”

Reading that verse makes me ask myself about the focus of my life and my relationship with my Savior. Is it health? Wealth? Happiness? Or is it God Himself, knowing Him, growing in Him, loving Him rather than always focusing on His love for me? I want my focus to be on God alone, about obeying Him and fellowshipping with Him. But sometimes what I want doesn’t translate into what I really do every day. Sometimes I’m more about me.

Mom also underlined 34:6, about what God said about Himself. Moses asked God for the privilege of knowing Him better, and in response God said this about Himself:

The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness…

God always answers the prayer, “teach me about you.” He has everything we need to know about Him in the pages of Scripture. Do you know the compassionate God He IS? Have you experienced His grace? Do you know that, although God is a righteous judge who hates sin, He is slow to anger, that He gives chance after chance after chance for us to repent BEFORE he drops the hammer?

The more you know these things about God, the more you want to know, and experience. And God never disappoints.

I go back to 33:14, God’s reply to Moses’ prayer about getting to know Him better:

My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.

I want to know more about that!

It’s A Miracle! (Genesis 30)

Have you ever wondered why God didn’t set Jacob straight when he thought putting strips of poplar and almond branches in the water trough would cause perfectly white mating sheep to produce striped and spotted lambs? Does it surprise you that God increased Jacob’s flock in spite of this ridiculous practice?

I remember a well-meaning Sunday School teacher saying the branches in the water frightened the sheep, and the trauma from that shock caused the offspring to be spotted and striped. Interesting.

But does the Bible actually teach folklore or hocus-pocus? Of course not!

I went to Google and found several different theories about this. But most of the articles I read agreed to some degree. Here’s what I found:

First, let me ask you this: How many of you take herbal supplements? Have you ever eaten a handful of almonds for their health benefits? I think Jacob, through God’s leading, might be the first recorded herbalist. (If you want to know more about it let me direct you to answersingenesis.org; Jacob’s Odd “Breeding Program” of Genesis 30. I found that article very interesting).

However, setting all the science aside, the best explanation of Jacob’s breeding program  is found in 31:6-12 when he describes his vision. The bottom line is…

it’s a miracle.

It was God who caused the increase. It was God who strengthened the sheep and produced striped and spotted offspring. God did that, with or without the medicinal benefits of the branches.

God has given us doctors, medicines, even herbs to aid in healing. But do not be misled, healing is a miracle. It is of God, not science, not medicine, not hocus-pocus. If God uses the science He created to bring about healing – it’s a miracle! If God heals apart from any scientific explanation – it’s a miracle!

We can spend all day trying to figure out the “why and how” of Genesis 30. I’ve spent too much time on it today, myself, when I firmly believe God just wants us to see Him in this passage. Period. God could take two perfectly white animals whose genetics would naturally produce perfectly white offspring, and create a spotted lamb in order to bless Jacob. That’s the bottom line.

It’s a miracle!

 

Surprised By Scripture (Genesis 16, 21)

Ishmael was fourteen years old when Isaac was born. Does that surprise you? How many of us remember that picture on our childhood Sunday School classroom walls of a weeping Hagar, with a baby in diapers under a bush behind her? The Bible does not paint that picture.

Abraham was 86 when Ishmael was born (16:16) He was 100 years old when Sarah gave birth to Isaac (21:5). Fourteen years separated the brothers. When Abraham banished Hagar and Ishmael, Ishmael was a teenager, according to God’s Word..

I am reminded today how important that God’s children read and re-read His Word, put down the commentaries, block out the voice of teachers (and bloggers), and let God speak. Sometimes when we read the Bible, instead of reading God’s Word, we end up reading Charles Stanley’s word, or Kay Arthur’s word, or the word of that dear Sunday School teacher, or the word of the writers of our church denomination’s theology. We read the words on the pages of the Bible, but we hear what others have said instead of hearing the voice of God.

I know God will not give any of us a new revelation, a “truth” not already in Scripture. But I think God would have us read what He wrote and let Him point out what He Himself would say to each of us every time we do.

Last month our Ladies’ Bible Study discovered that Mary Magdalene was NOT an immoral woman. Scripture does NOT identify her as the woman at the well or the woman caught in adultery. Does that surprise you? Read the Gospels and see if you can find Mary Magdalene’s name associated with sexual sin anywhere.

I will tell you it was hard for some of us to let go of the picture of Mary Magdalene as a reformed prostitute. We’d been taught that from childhood. Yet we had to rethink the voices from our past, and accept only what God said about Mary in His Word. It surprised all of us.

God has so much to say to you today. Read His Word and let Him tell you what that is. Don’t assume that the words you are skimming over mean what you’ve always heard they mean. Read with the intention of understanding, and let God reveal Himself to you in a personal, life changing way, according to the Bible.

You may be surprised by Scripture, too!

The Audacity! (Job 32-37)

It’s one thing to speak God’s Words. It’s another thing to speak for God. A young Elihu had the audacity to claim he spoke for God. He had all the answers, and was determined to “enlighten” the others with his superior wisdom. In the end, he was as much a fool as the rest of them.

There are way too many people who have the audacity to speak for God: TV preachers who claim to have a special message from God telling us we should be healthy and wealthy; The young woman involved in the Bethel Movement who claims she got a special word from God through a giant angel, and therefore can speak for God; Joseph Smith, who claimed he received special glasses from an angel so he could read magical scrolls, and therefore speak for God.

The audacity! Sadly, millions of people fall for the lies.

Yet the Apostle Paul said this:

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unreachable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. (Romans 11:33-36)

Paul knew we need to let God speak for Himself – because He alone is able. None of can come close to having the mind and knowledge of God. We are NOT His equals.

I always cringe when, at the casket of a person who has met their eternal fate, someone says, “It was God’s will,” or “God needed another angel,” or “Now you have someone looking down and watching over you.”

The audacity! How dare anyone speak for God, especially at such a vulnerable and critical time in someone’s life.

Do you really want to claim you know God’s will for anyone’s life and death? Where in God’s Word do you read about Him not having enough angels, or that a human ever looks down from heaven onto this sinful world? Or are you claiming God has visited you with an extra-Biblical message? Be careful.

Doesn’t the Bible tell us that in heaven, God wipes away our tears. (Revelation 21:4) I’ll tell you right now, if my mother was still watching over her children these past 24 years, God would have needed to dry bucketsful of tears as her heart repeatedly broke over the sins her five daughters have committed since she was here. Does that sound like heaven to you? It certainly is NOT the heaven Scripture describes.

Warren Wiersbe says this:

“No matter how smart you think you are, you never know enough to ‘play God’ in somebody’s life.” (With The Word; Thomas Nelson Press; 1991; p 300)

God has spoken for Himself in the pages of Scripture. Let’s not assume we can speak for Him beyond what He revealed in the Bible. Let’s determine to only speak God’s Words as recorded there.

God. doesn’t need any of us to speak for Him. In fact, we can’t.

 

 

 

 

December 21; A Charge

2 Timothy 2-4; Hebrews 1

I hope you will read Paul’s charge to Timothy and hear God speaking to you. The fact is, the time of Jesus’ return is 2,000 years closer than when Paul wrote these words. We may be 2,000 years before that blessed event yet today, but Scripture tells us to be prepared. It could be 2,000 years from now. It could be today.

This is Paul’s charge from chapter 4:

  1. Preach the Word
  2. be prepared in season and out of season
  3. correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction
  4. keep your head in all situations
  5. endure hardship
  6. do the work of the evangelist
  7. discharge all the duties of your ministry

Friend, our relationship with God has to be intentional. It cannot be mere emotion, or something we put on a shelf like a trophy. You and I need to be using our minds, keeping our heads in all situations.

In chapter 3 Paul talks about the evils of the last days and warns us about those who live lives of greed, pride, disobedience, slander… He tells us to have nothing to do with them. Why?

They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires… 

Now before you men start to feeling smug here, I’ve known some pretty gullible men, too. I don’t think I’m going out of bounds to suggest this warning is for all of us. None of us are immune from the wiles of the devil.

And I can’t help but think evil is worming its way into our homes through the internet and cable TV. Be ware!

That’s why my prayer is that any who read this blog will be encouraged to be in the God’s Word every day. Reading. Studying. Praying about it. Memorizing it. Re-reading it. And obeying it. Please let God grow you and strengthen you through the pages of His precious Word. And take Paul’s charge to Timothy as your own.