Category Archives: Bible study

(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.

(Proverbs 8-9) Logic and Folly

It’s funny to me that while this apologetics study Bible I am using this year has an article about logic, logic is not always applied in its commentaries. On the page facing the article entitled “Is Logic Arbitrary?” by David K. Clark (CSB Apologetics Study Bible; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville; 2017; page 758), the commentator (probably not Clark) wanted us to know that 9:13-18 weren’t intended to demean women. They, the author explained, apply to a “certain type of woman,” a foolish and immoral woman.

Logic tells me these verses are not about any woman at all. These verses are about folly, foolishness, and applies to humans. Solomon could have used a silly man as an example and the verses would mean exactly the same.

We are all tempted by foolish desires. We all listen to lies and wonder if they are true. Every one of us can be lured into acting foolishly, believing foolishness to be true, and not even realize that we join the ranks of the condemned when we do.

This whole gender sensitive narrative being touted these days is an example. It’s foolishness, lacks logic, and is blindly accepted by foolish, illogical people – men and women.

Sadly, it seems you can even find it in our Study Bibles.

(Psalm 143) What We Want

What do you want? Think about that for a minute. What are some things you work toward, things you consider worthy of your time and energy? What do you pray for? David shared his wish list with us, and I think it’s a pretty good one:

  1. That God would reveal Himself to David. David wrote Scripture. He didn’t have God’s complete Word in front of him like we do. Do you want to meet God face to face? Read your Bible!
  2. That he would experience God’s love. Did you wake up this morning? You did because God loves you. Do you know Jesus as your Savior? His love sent Jesus to the cross for you. Love isn’t just a feeling, it’s knowing that you can rest in God because He IS love.
  3. That he would know what to do. I believe Psalm 119:105 tells us how we can know. God’s Word shows us the way. Isaiah 30:21 tells us God will use His Word to tell us plainly, “This is the way. Walk in it.”
  4. That God would protect him. Ephesians 6 describes the armor of God available to all Christians. If you read Scripture you will discover many accounts of God’s protection for His obedient children. God’s not going to leave us hanging, if we are obeying Him.
  5. That he would know God’s will. 2 Timothy 2:15 points us again to God’s Word. Study it. Learn it. God wants to teach you His will. And He does that when we read the Bible.
  6. That God’s Spirit would guide him. Hebrews 13:5 tells us God says, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you,” as a result of our obedience.

That’s a pretty good list, don’t you think? I believe God wanted those things for David, too. And I am sure it’s what God wants for each of us as well.

What do you want?

(Psalm 119:97-104) The Master Teacher

I know there are Christians who depend heavily on Bible study curriculum to help them understand as they read God’s Word. I myself appreciate reading the opinions of Bible scholars like Matthew Henry, Warren Wiersbe, John MacArthur, and others. I actually teach a Bible Study using one such curriculum. But I stand behind my conviction that the best use of our time in God’s Word is reading God’s Word.

Referring to Bible helps occasionally and as a supplement is one thing. But substituting a Bible study guide for Scripture is another thing. The book of Job tells us we won’t find God’s wisdom from each other. Finding God’s wisdom requires searching Scripture for ourselves, digging into God’s Word one verse at a time. It requires you and I to get in there and do the work ourselves.

If you read this part of Psalm 119, you’ll hear what God inspired the psalmist to write. Verse 97 sets the stage. He expresses his love for God’s instruction. In fact, he says he meditates on it all day long.

The psalmist tells God he realizes he has more insight into and understanding of the things of the Lord than do the teachers and elders, and has learned to obey God because “you yourself have instructed me.” That is awesome! Can you have better insight into God’s Word than your pastor? Can you understand God’s Word better than your Sunday School teacher or favorite author? The psalmist seems to be indicating it’s possible if God Himself is your instructor.

So who is instructing you? I hope it’s not just me. I hope it isn’t only your pastor or the Daily Bread. I hope and pray that you spend some quiet time with your Bible open in front of you and ask God to be your teacher. I hope you’ll read the Old Testament and the New, slowly, prayerfully, expecting God to give you understanding.

You may think you “can’t” understand Scripture. Let God prove you wrong. He is the Master Teacher!

(Psalm 119:1-40) Digging for Treasure

Our Sunday School lesson yesterday was from Job 28 where Job talks about mining for treasure, and how God’s wisdom is so much more valuable than any gem or mineral men work so hard to get. Our challenge was to “mine” the treasures in God’s Word with the same intentional effort as a miner of gold.

Then today, as I continue with reading through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation in 2021, I found myself in Psalm 119. Yes, the psalm that talks about God’s Word in every verse, the psalm that celebrates the treasures in Scripture.

I love God!

I had intended to read through the entire chapter, all 176 verses. But there is so much treasure here to gather, I couldn’t just skip over the surface. I had to dig. I had to pull out everything I could, one gem at a time.

But here’s the thing: If I read God’s Word, and if I do it slowly, thinking about what I read, if I stop and look at what others have said about these verses, and go back and read the verses again, if I gain all the knowledge about what Scripture says, but don’t write in on my heart and allow it to change me, I miss out on the chance to glorify God and be blessed by Him. If I don’t actually use what treasures I’ve mined, why bother?

It would be like digging for diamonds, and just putting the lump of rock on a shelf and forgetting it. What makes the diamond valuable is the cutting and polishing and use of it.

Same thing with God’s Word. The psalmist knows the value of actually loving God’s law AND obeying it; things like happiness, a life lived without fear of being “found out” with some hidden sin, a life lived unashamed. Things like knowing God hears – really hears – when I pray. The fact that He gives me understanding of His Word when I ask Him. And the amazing blessing of life lived through God’s own righteousness.

James 1:22-25 tells us there is blessing not just from hearing God’s Word, but in obeying it.

As Christians we are God’s servants. Not the forced and oppressed kind of slaves that might come to mind. But people who are privileged to serve, people who love to please our loving Father kind-of-servants. And our loving Father has written down exactly how we can please Him, gave us our “honey-do” lists, our instruction book and lesson plan, step by step instructions that spell it all out. He makes His will known through the pages of Scripture so we CAN serve Him.

The beauty of Scripture is the fact that the more time we spend reading and taking it in, the better we get to know God. The more we know God, the more we want to know Him. The more we know Him, the more we love Him. The more we love Him the more we want to please Him, to spend time with Him reading what He wrote, which helps us to know Him better, love Him more, serve Him in a way that pleases Him, and so on and so on and so on.

It’s a glorious cycle! And in this cycle of knowing God, loving His Word, and obeying Him there is such joy!

Matthew Henry said that the joy that comes from knowing God like that should be the “wheels” to our obedience. It comes back to the Bible. Because if we want to obey God, we find out how to obey Him in His Word.

And if we read His Word, we want to obey Him.

Is your head spinning? It’s cool to think of this cycle like a spiral, or the ripples in the water when you toss a pebble into it. The rings get bigger and bigger as it reaches further and further out. God blesses us who love His word, and as we love His Word more, the blessing grow, reach out, multiply.

Now let me say I’m glad you are reading this post. I am thankful for people like Henry, Wiersbe, MacArthur and others who have studied God’s Word and shared their insight through hundreds of books and commentaries.

But A.W Tozer warns us about the difference between being “man taught” and “God taught.” I think that’s something we need to take seriously. The psalmist is celebrating the beauty of God’s Word, and the blessing of reading it, meditating on it, loving it, desiring it, longing for it, writing it on our hearts. Nothing – NOTHING – compares to spending time in the pages of the Bible for yourself and allowing God to open your minds and hearts to what He wants to say to you.

I pray that you will dig for treasure today as you open your Bible and begin to read. The treasure you will find is priceless.

(Psalm 84) Is Happiness Even Possible?

Who doesn’t want to be happy? The psalmist tells us where true happiness originates. He sets the stage in verse two:

“I long and yearn for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh cry out for the living God.”

What is it you long for? Money? Success? Relationships? Self-awareness? Health? How is that working for you? The psalmist will tell us that those who long to know God, to walk with Him in a right relationship, those who are not satisfied with a casual relationship but desire all that God is, find their happiness in Him.

“How happy are those who reside in your house, who praise you continually.” (verse 4)

Happiness comes from constant communication with God. Happiness comes from knowing God never leaves, never forsakes, and is continually blessing those who love Him. Happiness is found in praising God for who He is, what He has done in the past, what He will do in the future. And happiness comes most preciously when our focus is on God continually. When Paul and Silas praised God while chained to a prison wall, God showed up, didn’t he? He still shows up when we praise Him.

“Happy are the people whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on a pilgrimage.” (verse 5)

Verse 6 tells us that is true even when we are walking through times of sorrow and pain. The lies we believe about finding our own strength, about thinking we need to handle things on our own, that we are capable and powerful, contribute to the unhappiness so many people feel. Because the truth is, you aren’t strong enough all the time. And that’s ok. God is! The psalmist tells us if our hearts are set on the “pilgrimage” of knowing God and looking forward to heaven, if we surrender our wills to His, we will go “from strength to strength.” (verse 7). We can consider God our “shield” according to verse 9 as we look to Him.

“Happy is the person who trusts in you, Lord of Armies.” verse 12)

It doesn’t say happy is the person who is living a peaceful, successful, trouble-free life. In fact, the psalmist calls God the Lord of Armies because this is war! There will be trouble. There will be hardships and disappointments and illness and loss. There will be temptation and sin and consequences. But happy is the one who trusts in God, not in himself, not in science, not in religion, not in good deeds. Happy is the one who trusts in God. Period.

Jesus said, in John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart. I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD.” (emphasis mine)

May you be truly happy today. It’s possible.

(Psalm 71-72) Praying My Praise

Part of my study of these psalms today included reading what Warren Wiersbe had to say in his “Be Worshipful” commentary (David C Cook publisher, 2004). He asked some questions for reflection on page 233, and I just had a precious time of worship as I prayed my thoughts and praise to my dear Lord. I’d like to invite you to do the same.

Read these two psalms first, then consider these:

  1. What reasons can you cite to “rejoice and be glad” in the Lord? I know some of you are going through difficult situations. You might have to stretch yourself, but God has given you reason to rejoice and be glad today. Search your heart. Name those reasons, even if your list is short. Tell Him you recognize His grace and mercy, his blessings and provisions. Praise Him for His goodness to you.
  2. How does recounting the Lord’s faithfulness in the past help entrust your future to Him? If you’ve walked with the Lord for a day or a lifetime, you can look back and recognize His hand, His involvement in the circumstances of your life. Recall them. Bask in them. And tell Him you remember. Praise Him for His faithfulness to you.
  3. Verse 6 predicts Israel’s king will be like rain falling on a mown field, like showers watering the earth. How does trusting Jesus bring refreshing showers into your life? Is your relationship with God showering you with peace and joy and calm and assurance? If not, why not? Search your heart and see if there are things you need to repent of, sins you may not even consider most of the time. Ask God to forgive you, and know the showers of blessings that He will pour over you. For me, his blessings look like Jesus! Praise Him for Himself. Praise Him for showers of blessings.

I hope you will have a meaningful time of worship today as you consider these psalms. I’m praying for you.