Category Archives: Bible study

Exactly! (2 Chronicles 30)

God was very clear about how the Old Testament Jew was to approach Him. There were strict laws to follow, including a very important purification ceremony. They were not to participate in the Passover unless they first went through the process of purification spelled out by God Himself. These rituals were important and pointed to God and the coming Messiah.

So when a bunch of Jews came to Jerusalem to celebrate the first Passover since the Temple had been restored, they got there too late to do the purification thing. They jumped right into celebrating the feast without going through the prerequisites. Not good.

So King Hezekiah prayed God would forgive “everyone who sets his heart on seeking God… even if he is not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary.” (verses 19-20)

I had to stop and think about that because God has made it pretty clear that He has set the rules and His rules stand. You don’t just get a free pass if you are sincere. Yet these people seem to have been given a free pass because of their sincerity.

Is that what I should take from this? Does God accept any and all worship if a heart is sincere? NO! That is not the lesson here at all.

As I was thinking and praying about this, God brought to mind an example in my own life. Years ago I was the choir director at a Christian Church where salvation through baptism was preached. In fact, there were some dear people in that congregation who firmly believed heaven was being prepared for people of that denominational affiliation only.

Anyway, one Sunday I was shocked when, after the invitation during the morning worship service, two teenage boys went forward to pray to receive Jesus and be baptized. (The baptismal was always full and ready to go.) The pastor got on his knees with the boys at the altar and quietly prayed with them. He took a minute or so to have a private conversation with them, then stood up to face the congregation.

Now this is what shocked me: he announced to the congregation that the boys agreed to come back to be baptized during the evening service instead of right then at the end of the morning service. We sang a hymn, and the service ended.

I spoke with the paster after church. He had plans that afternoon and didn’t feel like he had time to baptize the boys and get to where he needed to be on time. I asked him if that wasn’t a bit hypocritical, seeing he preached you can’t be saved unless you’ve been baptized. What if the boys die this afternoon without being baptized?

He answered, “Well, then God will judge their hearts.”

EXACTLY!!!

I feel God brought that memory to mind today to emphases that fact. I think in the case of the Jews for whom Hezekiah prayed, God is giving a glimpse of the New Covenant, His rules after the cross. Salvation is NOT found in religion, or in religious activities, not in sacrifices, not in baptism, or church attendance, or reciting prayers, or doing things like carrying a Bible, abstaining from alcohol, not shopping on Sunday, or whatever else one thinks looks Christian.

God judges the heart.

Here’s the other thing, though. The Jews in these verses weren’t sincerely worshiping Baal or some other figment of imagination. They were sincerely worshiping the God of the Bible. Not religion. God.

The point is, God sees the heart. He alone knows which of us have confessed our sins and accepted the gift of grace through the blood of Jesus. That is salvation. Whosoever believes. (John 3:16) If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)

It’s not a religion. It’s not a ceremony. It isn’t even praying a certain prayer. Hezekiah prayed for everyone who “sets his heart on seeking God.” It’s all about God.

So I ask you: Are you sincerely seeking God? If you are, you will have to look into His Word, seek Him as He revealed Himself in those pages of the Bible. You might have to give up your preconceived notions of ceremony or the rules of the sanctuary or denomination you attend.

But God promises that if you seek Him with all your heart you WILL find Him. (Deuteronomy 4:29, Jeremiah 29:13, among others) He isn’t hiding or playing games here. He wants you to know Him. And He wants to forgive your sins if you’d just ask.

Let’s not get so caught up in religion that we miss the most important thing: our hearts’ condition before a Holy God. He knows what is in there. And He will judge us accordingly.

 

The Wrong Questions (2 Kings 8)

Ben-Hadad, king of Aram, was sick. Was he dying? He wanted to know, so he sent a message to Elisha asking, “Will I recover from this illness?” Elisha answered the king, “Yes, you will recover from the illness.” But God had shown Elisha that the king would die anyway. He would actually be murdered in his sleep.

Do you remember Wile E. Coyote? The cartoon character would manage to navigate through a trap set by the roadrunner, only to have an anvil fall on his head. He would successfully get through a roadblock, only to be hit by a speeding truck.

I think that describes many of us. We pray that God will protect us from a virus, but we have not addressed sin in our lives. We ask God to bless our children, but we don’t talk to our children about Jesus. We pray for a better job, or a happy-ever-after-marriage, while our eternity is in question. We get so caught up in the present we forget there is something much more pressing, and that is our heart’s condition before a Holy God.

We may survive this virus only to be thrown into the lake of fire if we try to face God without Jesus.

I don’t think it’s wrong to pray about our health or our circumstances. In fact, the Bible tells us to pray about everything all the time. But let’s be careful to ask God the right questions.

Remember Jesus asked what good it does someone if they gain the whole word, yet lose their soul. (Mark 8) The answer to that is – none!

As we pray about this virus, our families, our nation, let’s first of all ask God to cleanse our hearts, forgive our sins. Let’s call on Him to do a work in our lives that will translate into action for His sake.

Because if the only thing we are asking God is for protection from COVID 19, we’re asking the wrong question.

 

Don’t Read My Blog (I Kings 12-14)

God used Jeroboam to rip the nation of Israel in two. But not because Jeroboam was such a great guy. God was punishing Israel’s disobedience.

So now there are two Jewish kingdoms. Jeroboam, son of Nebat and not related to King David, reigned over what was known as Israel. Rehoboam, son of Solomon and grandson of David, reigned over the tiny nation known as Judah. But both kings and nations worshiped idols.

Something struck me as I read 13:33. It tells us anyone who wanted to be a priest could be a priest. Now, remember God’s conditions for anyone holding that ministry. There were stringent requirements. Holding the position of priest meant something in God’s economy, and it was NOT open to just anyone who wanted to be a priest. But in the split Jewish nation, the opposite was true.

It reminds me of what Jesus said in Matthew 7. It’s something we need to be reminded of yet today.

I don’t know what church you attend, what TV preachers you follow, whose Bible Study curriculum you use, or whose workshops you attend. I don’t know what blogs you read. But I’m here to tell you, you HAVE to know that not everyone who names the name of Jesus is known by God. Not everyone who claims to speak for God does.

There are heresies being preached every day, by some very popular Christian-sounding “authorities.” Can you recognize the lies imbedded in the partial truths they speak?

In Matthew 7, God addresses people who prophesied in His name, who cast out demons and did mighty works in His name. Yet the bottom line was God never even knew them. They were speaking for God without taking the first step of obeying Him by dealing with their own sin. In the end, they were condemned to hell.

Dear one, YOU need to be in God’s Word. YOU need to know for yourself what He has written in Scripture. YOU need to know the truth so YOU can recognize the lies. Do not depend on someone else to do that for you.

I have often said that I would much rather you spend time in God’s Word than read my blog. I might be the only blogger out there that encourages you not to read what I write… IF the only exposure you get to God’s Word is through this blog. Because I am not the final authority. And neither is your pastor or Sunday School teacher, or that TV preacher, or Bible Study guru who writes volumes of their opinions on God’s Word.

I am thankful for theologians, for people who have studied God’s Word and share their opinions about its meaning. I am a big fan of Ravi Zacharias, of Matthew Henry, of Warren Wiersbe for example. There are some encouraging, Biblically sound devotionals and Bible Studies that are useful in our walk with the Lord. But I understand those are written by people who are merely sharing their opinions about God’s Word, and none of them are the final authority.

Thank you for taking time to read my blog. I really do hope you will continue. But I am begging you to not read this or any other text in place of reading God’s Word for yourself. Please do not listen to some TV preacher and think that’s enough. Don’t go to church on Sunday and let your pastor or Sunday School teacher read the Bible for you.

YOU need to open the precious pages of the Bible every day. YOU need to ask God to give you understanding, to speak His Word to your heart. YOU need to turn off the TV, exit out of the internet, close the study books, and open your Bible.

Because YOU are going to be held accountable for what is in there. YOU are going to stand before God and give an account for what you believe, what you’ve done with the truth recorded in God’s Word.

Read the Bible. Then read it again. Read it today and tomorrow and the next day. Pray over it. Think on it. Memorize it. Love it.

Then if you have the time, read my blog, or do a Bible Study by a trusted author. But please, let God’s Word be your first and  final authority. Read everything else through the lens of Scripture, not the other way around.

Don’t read my blog. If you get so caught up in reading God’s Word that you don’t have time to come here, or to read anything else today, that would be awesome. Nothing is more important than your time reading God’s love letter to you. Nothing is more worth your time and effort than reading the Bible for yourself.

I’m praying for you today.

 

 

All We Need To Know (Psalm 119)

Why did God inspire men to write down His words, to spell out His plan for the human race, we who are created in His image? To what degree does it pertain to life in 2020?

The reality is, God is not playing games here. In His sovereignty and because of His great love, He has told us everything we need to know about life, about death, and about Himself. We don’t have to guess about anything He considers important. It’s all here right in the pages of the Bible.

Is it relevant for today? Let me ask you this: Do people experience any emotions today that weren’t experienced by people four thousand years ago? Do people have complicated relationships any differently than they did when Scripture was written? Were there temptations to sin back then, to lie, to cheat on their wives, to take what wasn’t their’s, to put their interests ahead of others and God? Was there illness and war and poverty and unfairness and prejudice? Let me assure you there was all of that. And what God inspired men to write in what we know as the Bible is as up-to-date today as it was back then.

Verse 133 says this:

Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.

As we read God’s Word we become aware of sin and the devastating and eternal consequences for sin – for our sin. But God also demonstrates in His Word that He has done what it takes to break the chains of sin so that sin no longer has to control us.

As we read God’s Word each day, let’s pray with the psalmist:

May my cry come before you, O Lord; give me understanding according to your word. (vs 169)

Give me understanding. But, dear one, we need to be reading God’s Word if we want Him to help us understand it. May this be the prayer of our hearts:

May my lips overflow with praise, for you teach me your decrees. May my tongue sing of your word, for all your commands are righteous. May your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts. I long for your salvation, O Lord, and your law is my delight. Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me. I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commandments. (verses 171-176)

Right in Our Hands (Psalm 119)

The theme of the longest chapter in the Bible, Psalm 119, is God’s Word. In every one of the 176 verses you will find words such as laws, precepts, promises, ways, decrees, and commands as the psalmist celebrates God’s love letter to His people.

Every time I read this psalm God gives me a gut-check about my attitude toward His Word. Do I let it sit on my nightstand unopened, or do I “delight in (His) commandments because I love them?” Do I read a few verses every day, then promptly forget what I’ve read? Or do I “hasten and not delay to obey (God’s) commands?”

I would challenge you to read this psalm slowly and thoughtfully over the period of a few days. Make the “I” of it personal, and ask yourself if what you are reading is really the attitude of your heart.

I am going to do that. Then with the psalmist, I pray I will be able to say:

Oh, that my ways (Connie’s ways) were steadfast in obeying your decrees! Then I (Connie) would not be put to shame when I consider all your commands. (verses 5-6)

I (Connie) seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. (verse 10)

And…

I (Connie) run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free. (verse 32)

There is so much in this psalm. I pray we all will take time to let it speak to our hearts about the precious gift of God’s own words, right here in our hands.

Snap To It (2 Samuel 19-21)

David gave Amasa a position of great power. “May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if from now on you are not the commander of my army in place of Joab.” (19:13) With that word, Amasa became the most powerful man in Israel, second only to King David.

But we really don’t read much about Amasa’s role as military leader. In fact, his first and only mission was an epic fail. And really, what David told him to do shouldn’t have been that difficult for the commander:

“Rally the troops! Get the men together and get back here in three days.”

Granted, they didn’t have phones back then. There was no texting or social media, no TV or even snail mail to get the message to soldiers sitting at home. I can see that it would take some coordinating effort and time to get the word out, then for the men to gather.

But Scripture tells us Amasa “took longer than David had set for him.” (20:5) So the king put the army under Abishai’s command, and set them out to battle instead. He wasn’t about to lose a war waiting for Amasa to do his job.

I don’t know why Amasa didn’t meet his deadline. Were the men resistant? Was he so inept he couldn’t get organized in time? Or did he simply not take David’s time frame seriously? Does is matter?

Well, I think it matters a great deal in my life. There are things my King would have me do in this war against His enemy. I’m wondering if I see my response to God in Amasa’s response to David.

God lays on my heart a person whose heart is ready to hear the Gospel. How quick am I to respond? Do I find myself thinking I’ll get around to it eventually? Do I tell myself I don’t know what to say? Do I shrink back at a little resistance? Do I not feel the same urgency God feels for that eternal soul?

God nudges me toward a ministry, toward teaching Bible study, toward serving in the nursery, or mowing my neighbor’s lawn. Do I snap to it? Or do I drag my feet, hoping maybe God was just making a suggestion?

In the account we read here in 2 Samuel, David appointed someone else to do Amasa’s job. And, seriously, there have been times when in the back of my mind I think if I don’t go, God is going to send someone else anyway. Whew! Ball’s in their court.

Amasa’s failure at the task that was given put him in a position that cost him his life. That’s a bitter pill to swallow. God may give my assignment to someone else, but there are consequences for blowing off the King.

Besides, I want to look at God’s commands, those nudges into service, as a privilege to serve my King. I love Him so much I want to obey with enthusiasm and do the best job at whatever He is asking me to do because He deserves my 100% effort. Why would I want anyone else to have the blessings that are mine as an obedient soldier in His army?

This is war. When my King gives me a command, I want to snap to it.

Valuing Life (2 Samuel 1-4)

It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around the blatant disregard for human life in the Old Testament. This was a dark time in the history of the Jews. I mean, they were killing each other for sport. We read about a relentless pursuit that ended in murder, a deadly trick, the murder of a man sleeping in his bed. All these people thought they were right in what they did. They had a “cause.” I truly believe they expected to be applauded for their efforts.

We need to remember God was not in this. He never wanted his children to have a king except Himself. He warned them what life would be like if they chose a human king, but they didn’t listen. The result was as brutal as God had said it would be. And human life was expendable.

We are all about saving lives these days. It’s been on the news 24/7 for weeks. People are up in arms right now because businesses are slowly opening again and they think someone might contract the virus if they do. I could chase a rabbit trail.

But are we really all about saving lives? I don’t see it. Christians are still being martyred around the world, Chinese people are still oppressed. Many people, like in Italy, are being denied medical treatment from government run health care (Please pay attention all you who think Socialism is the answer for America). And abortions are still happening every day. Where is the concern for those human lives? I don’t see it.

It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around the blatant disregard for human life in our world today. We’ve tried to disguise it with masks and gloves, with closed businesses, churches, and schools. We take all the precautions we can to avoid getting sick. We have a “cause” and think we should be applauded for our efforts.

I wonder who determines which lives are worth saving? How do we know which lives we should value, and which lives are expendable? A Christian in Iran or China? An elderly person in Italy? A baby newly conceived? Who decides? Is it you? Is it me?

Or is it God who so loved the whole world that He gave His Son Jesus to die to save anyone who believes? I don’t believe God considers any life expendable!

So, dear one, let’s continue to make good choices for our health and that of others. But let’s not forget that all life is valuable to God, and all life is eternal. Let’s not get so focused on this disease that we forget about the disease of sin.

I wonder what it would be like if people would put as much effort in protecting their immortal souls as they do protecting their mortal bodies. I wonder what it would be like if the same people out there protesting the opening of hair salons would protest the killing of unborn babies. I wonder what it would be like if those people wearing masks at the grocery would protect their hearts and minds in the same intentional way.

I wonder what it would be like if we actually lived valuing life even after covid19 is behind us.

 

 

How To Read The Psalms (Psalm 17, 35, 54, 63)

I used to read the psalms where David talked about his enemies, how often he asked God to destroy them, and honestly I couldn’t relate. Now I understand that Saul was out to kill him and the king made David’s life miserable. But David said some pretty harsh things about Saul and his followers. I mean, I’ve had conflict with certain individuals over the years. But I wouldn’t describe them as enemies. And I certainly wouldn’t pray for God to destroy them liked David prayed about the people he  considered his enemies.

So for years, I’d read these psalms, check them off my reading list, and move on. I didn’t think there was anything in there that had anything to do with me. I shared my thoughts with a pastor who looked at me and said, “But you do have an enemy.”

What? I wondered if he knew something I didn’t. Was there someone in our congregation who had a vendetta against me that I didn’t know?

He must have seen the shocked and confused look on my face because he went on, “Your enemy isn’t flesh and blood. You have a much more dangerous enemy than any person on this earth. Your enemy is Satan. And believe me, he wants to see you suffer. He’s out to destroy you every bit as much as Saul wanted to destroy David. More.”

He told me I was wrong to believe the psalms didn’t relate to me. He challenged me to re-read every one and instead of picturing the conflict between Saul and David, or between me and someone I wasn’t getting along with at the time, and picture the conflict between Satan and me, the conflict between sin and holiness. He told me I would grow to love the psalms and realize that God not only understands my struggle with sin, He is the answer to my struggles.

I’ve been reading the psalms that way now for decades. When David talks about swords and arrows, I picture the temptations Satan throws at me. When I hear David say his enemy is out to get him, I know the devil is out to get me, too.

And when David in Psalm 63 says, “They who seek my life will be destroyed; they will go down to the depths of the earth. They will be given over to the sword and become food for jackals,” I know Satan doesn’t stand a chance against me.

Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I stay close to you; your right hand upholds me. (63:7-8)

I have a different attitude toward the psalms these days because I’ve learned to read them. And I can absolutely say every psalm applies to me in some way. I dare say they apply to you, too, if you learn to read them.

Read All About It (I Samuel 27)

Do you know what I love about reading the Bible? God didn’t sugar-coat anything when He whispered into the ears of the men who penned His Words. We don’t just read about the victories and the blessings. We also read about the epic failures and the devastating consequences for sin. God never paints His children as perfect. I like that.

Take David for instance. Here we read about the future king who will be described as a man after God’s own heart, murdering whole towns of people and lying about it. He’s living with the enemy and doing what he needed to do to survive there.

I Samuel 27:1 holds the key to this very dark time in David’s life:

But David thought to himself… the best thing I can do is…

There is no mention that David was obeying God. In fact, there’s no mention that David consulted God at all during this time with the Philistines.

Now some people will say it was God’s will, that it was all part of God’s plan for David. And to be honest, I can get a little angry when people brush sin off like that. I wonder if people who believe that really know God at all. Our holy God does not cause His children to sin. There is no evil in Him. But there is evil in each of us, and God is very honest to tell us that that is something we need to address, because the consequences are serious.

We read that David went on his own and sinned. He thought to himself. He came up with that plan on his own. And we will find there will be consequences he’ll face for his sins.

But David will also be forgiven. And that’s why I love reading the good, the bad, the ugly, and the grace we find when we open God’s Word. God not only tells us what happens when we choose sin, He tells us how we can be forgiven. He not only describes a heart hardened by disobedience, He describes a heart cleansed by the blood of His Son.

If you want to read the Bible in order to feel good about yourself, don’t bother. This book will break your heart. It will sit heavy on your shoulders as your sins are revealed. It will tell you you are a sinner, then it will tell you that again and again.

No, this book won’t make you feel good about yourself. But it will make you feel good about your Savior. While you were a sinner, not a cleaned up version of yourself, while you were still a sinner Jesus died for you. You, my friend, don’t deserve what Jesus did for you there. But He did it anyway.

Because He loves you that much. You can read all about it in the pages of the Bible.

The Only Answer (I Samuel 1-3)

During this time in our lives, many people are asking God, “Why?” Why would He inflict the world with this virus? Why do so many people have to die? Why doesn’t He just either stop the virus from spreading, or give the cure to some researcher?

I’m not going to speak for God because the truth of the matter is, I don’t know the answer to any of those questions. No one does. I know some people feel the need to come up with answers, but there is only one thing I, or you, can know for sure:

God is good all the time.

God loves the world. God wants the world to be blessed. God doesn’t delight in our suffering. For some, that is hard to believe right now. But that doesn’t change the fact.

I can say with Eli, who had just received some very bad news about his sons:

He (God) is the Lord; let him do what is good in his eyes. (I Samuel 3:18)

So I will continue to pray for protection, healing, a cure for this virus. I will continue to social distance, and wash my hands. But at the end of the day, I will rest in the knowledge that God is God, and He will do what is good in His eyes, whether I understand it or approve of it. He is a good God.

May the good that God wants to do through this time in our lives be accomplished because His people trust Him, are obedient to Him, are reaching out to people who need Him. May families be healed, Bibles read, and may all of us slow down and draw closer to this good God of ours.

He is the answer. He is the only answer.