Category Archives: Bible study

November 10: Ask Me

Matthew 28:11-20; Luke 24:13-53; John 20:19-22:25

I get that some people have trouble believing Jesus was raised from the dead. I mean, His disciples had trouble believing it, and Jesus was standing right in front of them with nail-pierced hands. The truth is, however, Jesus is alive.

There’s an old hymn we used to sing. “He lives! Christ Jesus lives today. He walks with me and talks with me along the narrow way. He lives salvation to impart. You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart!”

I love that old hymn. But as I read this part of Scripture today I realize it’s not just knowing Jesus lives in my heart. I believe He lives because the Bible tells me He lives.

He’s not just a spirit in my heart (although that is pretty awesome in itself). He’s a living person with a real body who actually lives in heaven. He’s as real as you and me.

You ask me how I know that? Because I know Him personally; first through the pages of God’s Word, then through the precious blood of Jesus. He does walk with me, and He speaks to me from Scripture, He is my ever present help in time of need, and the One I want to share my day with.

Ask me about Jesus. I serve a risen Savior.

October 28; Perfectly Centered

Mark 11:27-12:17; Matthew 21:23-22:22; Luke 20:1-26

Jesus is the Cornerstone, the One on whom the Church is built. There is so much in just that one statement!

My sister was at a Bible study recently where the pastor, filling in for the regular teacher, shared that he and his teenage son had recently built a retaining wall together. Dad showed son step by step what needed to be done.

They put the first stone down and the dad showed the boy how to read the level. When the bubble in the level was perfectly centered, they were ready to move on to the next stone. After wiggling and tapping the second stone until the level was perfectly centered when resting on both the first and second stones, they were ready for stone #3. The bubble needed to be perfectly centered when on it and the already level second stone before they could lay a fourth stone, and so on and so on and so on.

Eventually the dad put the boy in charge of the level, and the wall went up. With each stone, the dad would ask, “Is it level?” When the boy could assure Dad it was, they went on to the next stone. They worked together for quite some time. But around the third layer, the dad realized something was wrong. He measured and found the wall was already several inches off.

How could that happen? The boy assured his dad the bubble was always in the center for every stone. “Show me,” Dad said.

Have you ever used a level? That bubble changes position when the difference on the surface in imperceptible. Is it in the center if it touches the left line, but doesn’t go over it? Is it in the center if it favors the right line a fraction of an inch? The boy found out that mostly centered is not centered.

Being perfectly centered is an exact spot, not an area. The father and son had to remove all the stones, until they got back to the cornerstone, in order to build their wall.

Are you with me? How many infinitesimal deviations has the Church made away from the Cornerstone over the last 2,000 years? What will it take to get back to the Cornerstone? Is there damage we need to correct?

I can think of so many examples. But one has come to the forefront. And that is what I believe to be more than an infinitesimal shift from our Cornerstone. The Church seems to have decided to make the Gospel a bit more palatable, a bit easier to swallow. You never hear a “hellfire and brimstone” sermon any more. Why? Because that kind of preaching puts people off.

There are churches that refuse to use the word “sin” because it offends. We want people to see Jesus as love, to make worship of Him emotional and entertaining. But is that what you see when you go back to the Cornerstone?

Listen to what Jesus said about the Cornerstone: He who falls on the stone will be broken, but the one on whom it falls will be crushed. (Matthew 21:44, Luke 20:18)

A person, face to face with the awfulness of his sin, should be broken! Repentance isn’t comfortable or pleasant. It’s like throwing yourself onto a boulder. It hurts. It breaks our old self into pieces.

But Jesus warns, waiting until that Stone falls results in a final crushing from which there is no recovery.

Jesus is the Cornerstone of the Church, but He is also the Cornerstone of my life. When I put the level of His Holy Word on my life – is it perfectly centered? Or am I off just a tiny little bit?

I want to be perfectly centered. I want to use God’s Word as my level, and line myself up with the Cornerstone according to Scripture. I’m not looking for a comfortable relationship with Jesus. I want to be broken when I deviate from His Holiness. I want conviction to tap me into position. Because if I allow that level just a bit of leeway, it’s not going to correct itself down the road.

Because almost centered is not perfectly centered.

 

 

October 26; Second Fiddle

John 11:17-57; Mark 10:32-52; Luke 18:31-34; Matthew 20:17-28

Do you ever read something in the Bible and think, “Wow. This is totally opposite of the wisdom of the day?” That’s what happened to me today.

We in the 21st Century are told to look out for number one, to tell ourselves we are strong and powerful and capable and perfect just the way we are. And we are teaching our children to believe they are those things, too.

On the surface that might sound like wisdom. But in God’s economy, it’s foolishness. In the passages we read today, God explains His economy and you might not like what He says:

“The last will be first.”

“Whoever wants to become great, must be a slave to all.”

(I don’t see those slogans on many t-shirts these days)

I went to my cousin’s funeral yesterday, and heard the account of a servant, a woman who was a selfless friend, whose house was always open and throw-together meals were commonplace (and she often used her gold-trimmed china for impromptu entertaining). She could sit for hours with a hurting neighbor without thought for her own comfort.

She’d taught music for nearly 60 years, and especially loved teaching young children how to play the violin. We heard of incidents when Beth Joy would go out of her way to take a student home after lessons, or drive them to performances, or how she would provide violins for children who couldn’t afford one.

But what impressed me most about my cousin was something I hadn’t realized. I knew she played in two large symphony orchestras, one in Ohio then one in Charlotte, NC when she and her husband moved there. But what I didn’t realize is that for over 40 years, Beth Joy played second violin.

As a musician myself, that speaks to me. And I was reminded of it today as I read what Jesus said to His disciples about “number one.”

The great orchestral conductor, Leonard Bernstein when asked what the most difficult instrument was to play said, “The second fiddle. I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find someone who can play the second fiddle with enthusiasm – that’s a problem, and if we have no second fiddle, we have no harmony.”

Beth Joy played second fiddle with enthusiasm. She was the harmony in the life of her family, friends, and students. Why? Because she was a tireless servant of her Lord, Jesus Christ. At 80 years of age, she was still teaching children how to play the violin up to six weeks before she died.

I am challenged today to enthusiastically play the position of second fiddle for Jesus’ sake and for His glory. One thing people kept saying yesterday was that Beth always pointed people to her Savior. It was never about her. It was always about Jesus.

What a privilege it is to play second fiddle in God’s economy, His orchestra called the Church. It’s not about me. It is always about Jesus.

October 22; Beneath The Surface

Luke 17:20-18:14; John 7:1-52

I was listening to Christian radio this morning, and heard a young artist tell the backstory about a song she recently wrote. She said she felt the greatest thing about our God is how His love unites people. She assured us that God wants us to feel loved, and powerful, and worthy.

What are your thoughts? And where is the Scripture to back up your belief? Is the greatest thing about God unity among people? Does God ever in His Word tell anyone He wants them to feel worthy? What this musician said sounds Christian. But when you look beneath the surface, is it Biblical?

Her words came to mind as I read what Jesus said concerning the Pharisee and the tax collector. “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Does that sound like Jesus wants us to feel powerful and worthy?

The tax collector had bowed before God, beat his breast and cried, “God, have mercy on me a sinner.” He didn’t say, “God forgive me because I am worthy of your forgiveness.”

Later, Jesus said, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.” Friend, I think that applies to more than condemning a person for tattoos and nose rings. I think it can apply to accepting or rejecting some seemingly innocent, uplifting, empowering sounding songs and teaching. They appear to be right – but are they?

Please don’t accept anything you hear – anything I say, or your pastor says, or songs on Christian radio – without looking beneath the surface. Make a right judgment according to Scripture, not the trend of the day.

Satan is really good at sounding like a Christian. So look beneath the surface.

 

 

October 17; Do You Wonder?

Mark 9:2-37; Matthew 17:1-23, 18:1-5; Luke 9:28-48

On Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the school year, I have the privilege of volunteering at Good News Clubs in two of our local elementary schools. Between the two schools, we are sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with almost 100 children.

I wish you could see their faces and hear their comments and questions as God begins to reveal Himself to them, and draw them to Himself. Some children have never heard the Biblical accounts of real people with whom God walked and talked so many years ago. And some who have already heard the stories, begin to understand the meaning behind them. I’m telling you, it’s a blessing every week. Their wide-eyed enthusiasm is contagious.

Jesus told His disciples that all of us must approach Him through the eyes of a child. Oh, to have that wonder, that excitement in hearing God’s Word, to have open hearts and uncluttered minds eager to learn.

I think sometimes we might open our Bibles after years of walking with the Lord and think, “I’ve heard it all before.” But friend, if we go to God with the understanding that we are as ignorant as children concerning spiritual things, God will continue to teach us. If we close ourselves off to more, we’ll stay right where we are.

Now, please, I am not talking about a new revelation that is extra-Biblical. I’m not talking about twisting what God says in His Word to come up with a new enlightenment, or new religion. But there are things we can learn from God’s Word that are backed up and true according to Scripture.

Let’s not miss what God wants us to know at this time in our lives, thinking we are already mature in the Lord. Oh, maturity is a good thing. We are told to grow in grace and knowledge, to study to show ourselves approved.

But let’s not lose the wonder, and the blessing that is God’s Word.

 

October 15; From A Distance

Mark 7:1-8:10; Matthew 25:1-39

I was reminded about the centurion’s dying daughter whom Jesus healed from a distance. In the passages we read today, Jesus is again healing a little girl, this time demon-possessed, from a distance. Both the centurion and this woman were Gentiles – a whole race of people at a distance from God. Yet both put their faith in Jesus, and their prayers for their loved ones were answered – from a distance.

I’m encouraged, and I hope you are, too. I have loved ones who are living at a distance from God. I would imagine you do, too. God is reminding me today that no distance is too great for Him to save. We should never start to believe anyone is too far gone.

Let’s continue to put our faith in Jesus, and pray that our loved ones will accept His amazing grace. That is a prayer Jesus died to answer.

I would ask you to pray for my pastor, his dear wife, and their 30 year old son. They are at his bedside in a Miami, Florida hospital right now as this young man faces a life-threatening condition. He has been living a great distance from God the past few years. But I thank God that His Word has assured me today that no distance is too great for our great God.

We are praying from the distance of several hundred miles, that God will touch this young man’s body and get him through upcoming surgeries. May God give wisdom to all involved, and may He be revealed in every detail.

And we are praying that God will break through Satan’s hold on this young man, and heal his soul, for Jesus’ sake. He may be at a distance, but he is only a prayer away from the God who loves him and gave Himself for him. When you think of it that way, he’s really not all that far away.

Thank you for your prayers. And as I pray this morning, I will be praying for your loved ones, too, who seem to be at too great a distance to come to Jesus at the moment. I’m putting my faith in God, and trusting Him to handle the distance.

October 10; Pigs and Demons

Mark 4:30-5:20; Matthew 13:24-52, 8:23-34; Luke 13:18-21, 8:22-39

A friend of mine visited my church on the Sunday my pastor spoke on this passage in Mark. She was not raised in a church that encouraged the reading of Scripture, so this was the first time she’d ever heard about the demon-possessed Gadarene and the herd of pigs. The whole thing really shook her.

Myself, I have heard and read this account of Jesus’ ministry many times and had become de-sensitized to the horror of it. My friend had me looking at this passage through new eyes. I’m grateful for that.

I’ve only seen the movie “Poltergeist” once. But after that experience, I remember jumping into my bed from the middle of the room – for much longer than I care to admit. I was an adult. It was a movie. I knew it wasn’t real. But it scared the living daylights out of me.

What we read in the Gospels about this demon-possessed man isn’t make believe. I can only imagine the people who witnessed it must have been scared out of their minds.

Think of it. Legions of demons pouring out of a man. What did that look like? I can’t imagine it was gentle, or calm. Think of seeing those demons racing toward a herd of pigs, and the pigs going mad. Mad enough to run off the cliff into the sea. Hollywood has nothing on God! No wonder the people wanted Jesus to leave them. That had to be one frightening experience.

That got me thinking. I’ve always felt a little sorry for the pig owners. They lost their livelihood when they lost that herd in such a violent fashion. I’ve wondered why God would do that to people who were just trying to make a living.

I looked on a map, and read what Matthew Henry had to say about it, and was shocked to realize the area of the Gadarenes was right in the middle of the Promised Land. The sea in this account is the Sea of Galilee. Those were most likely Jewish pig owners.

Now all of a sudden I don’t feel quite as bad for them. God had declared all-things-pig to be unclean for His people. There should never have been a herd of swine anywhere near there. That herd was a symbol of a great sin that was being lived in the area of the Gadarenes. When those pigs went mad, God was disciplining sin.

I’ve always read this account and been in awe of Jesus’ command over evil, and of His healing power. Today I am face to face with His fierce judgment.

As a child of God, I need to understand that God will not tolerate sin in my life. And if I don’t deal with it, He will. Sometimes those consequences are very devastating and very public. I can understand why the people wanted Jesus out of there. He’d revealed their sin in a very devastating and public way.

I’m very sure this wasn’t the first time God had spoken to them about their sin. I am very sure there wasn’t a Jewish pig-owner that didn’t know they were breaking God’s Law. But even after this demonstration of God’s seriousness concerning sin, they didn’t repent. I think down deep they knew they deserved it. Even the people who didn’t necessarily own pigs, but allowed the pig-owners their “right” to own them, didn’t repent. Scripture tells us they told Jesus to get out of town.

My prayer today is that whenever God puts a finger on a sin in my life, I’ll repent immediately. I don’t want to wait until He takes matters in His own hands. I want to be like the healed Gadarene who wanted only to be where Jesus was, cleansed, free, and changed.