Category Archives: Daily devotions

(Exodus 5-12) What About The Plagues?

My goal this year is to cement in my mind exactly what I believe, and why. I don’t want to be satisfied with “that’s what I’ve always believed,” or “that’s what I was taught.” I want my faith in God to be intentional, defined, and based solely on God’s Word. I think God wants that of me, too, so that I am able to convey the Truth to others in a clear and confident way.

So today, as I read these chapters in Exodus, I ask myself what I really believe about these plagues. I’d like to share the questions I believe God laid on my heart, and the answers he pointed me to.

WERE THESE PLAGUES SOMETHING GOD COMMANDED WITH A WORD, OR DID GOD USE NATURAL OCCURANCES TO BRING ABOUT HIS PLAN? MIRACLE OR NATURE? There appears to be a natural order of things in the first six plagues. Bloody water would understandably cause frogs to go crazy and flee the banks of the river, dead frogs would draw gnats and flies, tainted food from those insects would cause animals to die, and also to spread disease to humans. I believe God set each plague in motion with a word, and that the orderly progression demonstrates He is the God of order. I believe it’s an example of God using, if not manipulating, His creation to exact punishment, and to reveal Himself as the God of creation. Is it a matter of miracles or nature? Or miracles and nature? Either way, this is a picture of God, not the plagues.

DID PHAROAH’S WISE MEN PERFORM MIRACLES? No. The term “occult practices” indicates a deception. In the original text the term is actually “by their flames.” Like a modern-day magician who throws flash paper to distract the audience, these OT magicians probably used their tricks to distract, then exchange their staves for snakes, or to throw chemicals into water to turn it blood red, or to release captive frogs so it looked like they brought them up from the river. Remember, they were magicians. Not miracle workers. And with magicians there is always illusion.

IF ALL THE EGYPTIAN LIVESTOCK DIED IN 9:6, WHAT ANIMALS ARE LEFT TO SUFFER FROM DISEASE AND HAIL? How many days was it between the first plague and the tenth? We know Moses was 80 when he first spoke to Pharaoh. But we don’t know exactly how old he was when the Exodus began. Did the plagues take ten days? Ten months? Longer? Common sense tells me that if Egypt was without livestock because of a plague, Pharaoh wouldn’t sit around feeling sorry for himself. Wouldn’t he replenish what he’d lost? I’m very sure he would. Often, if necessary. The fact that more livestock showed up before the sixth plague doesn’t mean that what we read in 9:6 isn’t true. I believe it indicates a period of time passed between those plagues.

DID GOD HARDEN PHARAOH’S HEART AGAINST PHARAOH’S WILL? What do you think? Scripture is clear that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. But did God harden a believing heart? I am fully convinced it was Pharaoh’s own pride, his own rejection of God that caused the hardening. And that is a warning to all of us. With every rejection of God your heart – and mine -will become harder and harder toward God. Rejecting Him becomes easier and easier. Until the final, devastating moment when His hammer of judgment comes crashing down. God is very clear that He hardens hearts of those who reject Him.

I am not posting this in order to convince you to believe what I believe on these subjects. I am posting this to encourage you to think for yourself, to read God’s Word and allow Him to teach you. I challenge you to ask yourself hard questions, and to answer them according to Scripture, and to anticipate being asked the hard questions of those who are seeking.

Did you read something I wrote and say, “Now wait a minute?” Good! That means you are asking some questions yourself. Look to God for the answers.

This post is about what I am learning, about me putting into words what I believe so that I can share it with others. If you agree or disagree with me it doesn’t really matter, although I’d love to hear your thoughts. What matters is, do you know WHY you agree or disagree?

Let’s determine to study to show ourselves approved, fully equipped to share the Gospel of Jesus with a world that desperately needs Him.

(Genesis) A Challenge For The New Year

So many people read the Bible in order to prove it wrong. They assume that because there is no evidence some people named in Scripture ever existed, that there are certain cities mentioned in the Bible which can’t be traced, that dates on a timeline don’t add up to their satisfaction, that means the Bible isn’t true. They rationalize Old Testament prophecy by saying someone must have added the prophecy after the fact because it’s impossible for things to occur hundreds of years after the prophecy exactly as the prophet foretold.

Yet archaeologists and historians continue to uncover tangible evidence that – guess what – the Bible was right all along.

Rather than reading Scripture, assuming it’s wrong, why not give it a chance? Why not read it assuming it’s true, that the author is God, that He inspired men to write down His Words so that you can know Him?

We are so quick to believe CNN, or FOX, or Facebook, professors, authors, politicians, and influencers. And most of us don’t even try to discern the truth from what we hear from them.

I want to challenge you to pull out a copy of God’s Word and read it this year. Ask God to reveal Himself to you in those pages, and assume He will. I’ve had people tell me they read the Bible and it meant nothing. Let’s just say, I doubt they sincerely asked God to give them understanding. Jeremiah 29:13 says:

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

That means you, dear one. Start today. Ask God to draw you to Himself. If you don’t want to start in the Old Testament, read the New. Seek God with all your heart…

Then buckle up. You are in for the ride of your life. And you will be forever changed.

(Genesis 3-5) Because I Love You

I never considered God’s judgment on Adam and Eve an act of love before. Had He allowed them to continue to live in the Garden, and had they eaten from the Tree of Life, they would have been forced to live forever in their sin, struggling in this sinful world century after century, millennium after millennium. They would have had no hope of heaven, because they would not have died.

Yes, they were doomed to a difficult existence during life on earth. They were to experience sickness, loss, heartache, enemies, and death. Sin does that to a person.

But God, even as He sent them away, promised the Savior. God did not leave them without hope.

The writer of Hebrews, and Psalm 3:12 tell us:

the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.

God always punishes sin because He loves us. He wants us to turn from sin so that we can enjoy a relationship with Him in this life, and forever. We can’t do that if we hold on to sin. He is holy. Holiness and sin do not exist together. God wants us to exist together.

God didn’t wash His hands of Adam and Eve when they sinned. When He threw them out of the Garden, He didn’t turn off the sun, or destroy creation to teach them a lesson They still enjoyed sunsets, smelled the flowers, tasted the food. God didn’t stop blessing them. I’m sure they laughed again, were excited about the births of their children, enjoyed a romantic get-away to the mountains occasionally. (Well, I’m not sure of that last one, really. I’m a bit of a romantic.)

I think they even enjoyed a relationship with God eventually, although much different than the one they knew before sin separated them. God still was involved in their lives as seen in His conversation with Cain, giving Cain a chance to repent. (4:6-7)

I’ve gone through times of discipline because of sin in my life. Our world experiences the judgment of God because of sin. And often our natural response is to ask, “Why?”

“Why is life so hard?” “What did I do to deserve this illness, or this loss, or this hardship?”

“WHY ME?”

And I hear God answer:

Because I love you.

(Genesis 1-2) A New Year, A New Study of God’s Word

For some time now I’ve had the conviction that having faith, being a follower of Jesus is not enough. Oh, it’s enough to get me into heaven. But it’s not enough to be obedient. I believe we all need to study to show ourselves ready to do God’s work, to give an answer for the hope we have in Jesus.

Now, I am not an intellectual. I am not a deep thinker. There is more to this life that I don’t understand than do. But I bought a Christian Standard Apologetics Study Bible, and I intend to dig in this year.

My prayer is that as I look at God’s Word in light of opposing views, and with the help of men who have studied much more than I, I will be able to defend what I know to be true. I don’t want to be satisfied with merely believing, I want to be able to express why I believe in a clear and factual manner. I think God wants that of me.

Did God create the universe with a word? Is the earth thousands or billions of years old? Was Adam a physical man, or a symbol for humankind? Is there Truth, morality, a standard of right and wrong? Is God real?

I don’t intend to write an apologetic study guide this year. I won’t be posting my thoughts every day. And I seriously doubt I’ll finish my study by this time next year. But I will touch base every now and then to let you know what I’m learning. Pray for me.

As with any commentary, I will listen to what these people have researched. But I will let God’s Word be the final authority. I want nothing more than to know God as He is, and to be able to share Him with people who don’t.

I pray you will be reading the Bible every day in 2021. I pray that you will ask God to challenge and encourage you, to reveal Himself to you more and more, and equip you to be the obedient servant He intends for you to be.

It’s a new year. Let’s make it a year to grow in grace and knowledge of our dear Savior. One day at a time.

God’s Last Enemy

The writer of this blog, Bill Sweeney, went home. His physical death is an eternal victory because he is in the presence of His Savior, Jesus. I imagine he is lifting his once paralyzed hands in praise, singing at the top of his lungs, and throwing his arms around Jesus about now. He has thrown off the perishable, and has put on immortality! I hope you’ll take time to read what was meant to be his last post. And I hope it speaks to you like it did to me. I’m going to miss this guy!

Unshakable Hope

As most of my regular readers know, I have been battling ALS for 24 years. I was diagnosed in 1996, just weeks after turning thirty-six. How’s that for a birthday gift? The neurologist over the ALS Clinic in Houston, Texas, told me that I had 3-5 years to live. This relentless disease progressed pretty much how the neurologist predicted it would—except for the part about my dying within five years.

Ten months after being diagnosed, because of some painful and embarrassing falls and my voice beginning to sound like I had a few too many, I was forced to resign from the job I loved as a Regional Sales Manager in the grocery industry. I finally figured out that it probably wasn’t a good reflection on the company to have a salesman walking funny and slurring his words. When I finally resigned, my boss was probably thinking, “It’s about time!”.

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Without Ceasing (Jude)

Do you pray in the Spirit? What does that even mean? Jude encourages us to build ourselves up in our most holy faith and pray in the Spirit. (Vs 20).

As I was sitting here thinking about this and asking God for insight, I looked at the verse printed at the bottom of the page in my journal:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (Matthew 22:37)

I’m sitting here at the kitchen table with my sister. I’m very aware that she is here. If I have a thought, I can share it and hear her response. Her presence next to me is a comfort, and brings me joy.

I think praying in the Spirit is similar to that. It’s an awareness of the Presence. It’s the natural impulse to share a thought or ask a question, or just to stop and listen. It’s intentional communication with the Spirit who lives in me.

It’s the choice to love God with all my heart, down deep in my soul, not just an emotional feeling of love. It’s loving God with my thoughts, my intellect, my careful reading of His Word.

Paul puts it like this: “Pray continually.” Or in another translation: “Pray without ceasing.” (I Thessalonians 5:17) That is God’s will for you and me.

What a privilege to have the Spirit of God living in me. May I never take that for granted, but always be aware of the Presence. May my thoughts and words include Him, intentionally, lovingly…

Without ceasing.

Last Days (2 Timothy)

Paul’s words to Timothy are still words to live by in 2020. There is no doubt we are in the “last days.” Paul told Timothy he was living in the last days, and we are 2000 years closer to the end than Timothy was.

The following verses describe life in Paul’s day. I believe he is describing 2020, too:

People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. (3:2-5)

Sound familiar? I bet you saw most of those behaviors on the news last night. Maybe in your own family. Maybe when you look in the mirror.

Oh, there’s more:

(They are) always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. (Verse 7)

It reminds me of the present day “Woke” movement. It reminds me of modern academia, our “cancel culture,” Bethel worship.

Here’s the thing. We can shake our heads, point fingers, even pray for Jesus’ quick return because things are so bad. Or we can do what Paul told Timothy to do:

I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction. (4:1b-2)

Paul goes on to tell Timothy and us that eventually people will not put up with sound doctrine. And the movement will be huge.

But, dear one, it’s not enough to recognize our circumstances in God’s Word, in verses such as these that Paul wrote Timothy. Recognizing that our world is in serious trouble is important in so far as it motivates us to share Jesus with lost souls. If it is true that Jesus’ return is around the corner, then the window of opportunity for people to be saved is closing. Does that bother you?

Paul encourages us to be in the Word, but then to use what we’ve learned to evangelize:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (3:16)

Do you believe we are in the last days? Then God is asking us to patiently correct, rebuke, encourage each other. We need to be training people in righteousness, not just right living. People need to know Jesus and accept His righteousness.

We are celebrating the birth of Jesus this week. What better time to start a conversation with our unsaved loved ones about what that birth means. Jesus was born to die for them!

These are no doubt the “last days.” What are you and I doing about that?

My Response (Hebrews 10)

Mom would have been 96 today. I would have enjoyed celebrating with her. But since she’s in heaven, she has no age, no birthday, no need for candles or cake. She’s in glory!

Reading her Bible today gave me a special connection with her. I love that woman! I was touched my some verses that touched her. Chapter 10 talks about the amazing work Jesus did on the cross, His sacrifice and what it means for my life and my eternity. Here is what she underlined:

Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (22-25)

I want my response to Jesus to be exactly that! A sincere heart, full of the assurance of my faith in Him, a guiltless conscience because of the decisions I make as His representative. I want to hold unswervingly to the hope I have, even when my hope is not politically correct or “woke.” I want to encourage you even more as we see the very real possibility that the end of life as we know it may be coming to an end. Let’s stand together in the Truth that is Jesus!

I hope you’ll read Hebrews today. It always makes me love Jesus more every time I read it. He did it all. The old is gone, the new is come. I want my response to His sacrifice, to bring Him joy.

Carnal Christians (Titus)

Our belief in God, and the privilege of wearing His name HAS to be evident in our lives. Just saying we are Christians means nothing if our choices and life style isn’t markedly different from the world’s.

Paul said of people who aren’t changed by their encounter with Jesus, “They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him…” (1:16a)

You can’t be a carnal Christian. There’s no such thing. You either reveal Jesus by your life choices – or you deny Him. There is no third option, no middle of the road.

Paul goes on to say people whose lives deny God even though they claim the name Christian, “are detestable, disobedient, and unfit for doing anything good.” (1:16b)

Do you claim to be a Christian? What does that look like in real time?

James had a lot to say on the subject. In fact, in James 2:26 we read, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” If your walk doesn’t match your talk, your Christianity is dead. Not just on life support, D.E.A.D.

You can claim to believe that God sent Jesus to pay for your sins. But believing in God isn’t enough. James warns us:

You say you believe in God? “Good! Even the demons believe that…

and shudder! (2:19)

The demons understand what many of us don’t. They know the holiness, the authority, the righteousness of God first hand, and have experienced His wrath. Just the mention of His name causes demons to shake in their boots. Oh, you bet they believe in God. But they are not saved.

Your choices today won’t save you. Good deeds aren’t the same as salvation. But if you have placed your faith in Jesus, if you have accepted Him as your Savior, He promises to fill you with Himself. And being filled with the Spirit of God will spill out into the things you do and say. If Jesus dwells in you, people will see Him in you!

Do you call yourself a Christian? What will that look like today as you go to work, as you spend time with family, as you rub shoulders with people who are lost? What choices will you make today based on the fact that you have placed your faith in Jesus? How will you stand out today in the midst of an evil world?

Will you reveal God today? Or deny Him?

Don’t Destroy The Work Of God (Romans 14)

I’ve shared that there is an ongoing conflict in CEF with some people leaving the organization, others being fired from their positions. Even though I do not know the details of the core issue, it is not a theological issue. The Gospel of Jesus is not being compromised. Yet, I can say that I have not seen Romans 14:19 played out from either side.

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.

I am not their judge. But the Bible tells us we will be held accountable for our actions, especially in regards to the ministry of the Gospel. I ask you to be in prayer for all involved.

Now the split has trickled down to our local chapter. It hurts. Our once cohesive Board is divided and some are choosing to leave, others to stay with CEF and carry on the Good News Clubs in our district.

Yes, it hurts. But my prayer is that all of us on the Board will make every effort to do what leads to peace between us, and that we will encourage each other because we all have a passion for sharing Jesus with children.

Paul warns, in verse 20: “Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food.” Now, I know some people believe God’s work can’t be destroyed because He is Sovereign. I read the Bible and hear God’s warning through Paul and through the example of the Old Testament Israelites that God’s will is NOT always done if we get in the way.

Paul is talking about food. “Don’t let an insignificant issue like food harm the ministry,” he tells us. But I also hear him say, “Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of change, or pride, or power, or your need to be ‘right.'” It’s easy to get caught up in the emotion of the issue. I’ve had to fight anger myself these days. It’s tempting to view people with differing opinions as the enemy, and fight against flesh and blood.

“I’ll show them!”

“No one treats me that way!”

Don’t destroy the work of God because you think you’re not being heard, or because you want the other side to suffer in some way, to get what you think they deserve.

My church is in the middle of a building project. Churches have split over paint color. Let’s not destroy the work of God for the sake of a building’s aesthetics. Rather, let’s make every effort to bring peace, and to edify each other. (I’m not actually worried about this in my church. I’m so thankful for this congregation of people on this island who, with differing opinions, are still living out verse 19).

You don’t like the preacher in your church? Don’t destroy the work of God.

You don’t like the music? Don’t destroy the work of God.

You don’t like the amount of money given to missions? Don’t destroy the work of God.

Rather, do everything in your power to bring peace to the situation, and to encourage each other with the love of God.

And don’t think that means offering an olive branch will automatically get you what you want. People may never see things the way you see them in issues of administration, or design, or music, or pot-luck dinners, or wearing masks. Keep the peace anyway.

Don’t destroy the work of God.