Tag Archives: Bible study

Look Up

Psalm 57

David didn’t have Google. He couldn’t pull a MacArthur, Henry, or Moody Commentary off the shelf, turn on the TV to a Charles Stanley sermon, or listen to a podcast by a popular preacher. David didn’t look to Kay Arthur or Joel Osteen for answers.

In 1 Samuel 23 we see David go directly to the Lord for answers. And in Psalm 57 David shares what that entails.

  1. I look to you for protection
  2. I hide beneath the shadow of your wings
  3. I cry out to God most high
  4. I cry out to God who will fulfill his purpose in me
  5. I place my confidence in God
  6. I thank and praise God
  7. I praise God for his unfailing love and faithfulness

If you read 1 Samuel 23 you’ll see God did answer all of David’s questions.

Now, if you’ve been with me for awhile you know I don’t discount the wisdom of people shared in sermons, blogs, and commentaries. In fact, Matthew Henry said something that got me thinking along these lines this morning, and prompted me to take a closer look at Scripture.

In regard to Psalm 57:3 Henry points out “that all (David’s) expectation is from God… Those that make God their only refuge, and fly to Him by faith and prayer, may be sure of salvation, in His way and time.” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary in One Volume; Marshall, Morgan & Scott; 1960; p 636)

Did you catch the word “only” in that? Henry goes on to say that we can look for answers on earth, but if we do “refuge fails, no help appears.” Have you found that true in your life? I don’t care if it’s my blog rantings or the careful study of men like Matthew Henry. We can’t be your refuge! Only God can be that, and really, you shouldn’t want or need another!

Henry also says on page 636 that “those who lift up their hearts to things above may expect all good.” If we look at the Bible, in the accounts of people like Moses, Joel, David, Paul, James, etc. we will hear the exact same thing. God is the giver of good things, including insight into His Word and the rules and ability to follow them.

Oh that the Church – you and I – would put aside the books and blogs and TV shows and open our Bibles. Oh that we would not depend on the teaching of man, but would allow God to teach us by His own Words. Oh that we would stop fashioning our religion, our worship, our churches according to what makes people comfortable, and look to heaven above.

Be exalted, O God, above the highest heavens. May your glory shine over all the earth.

Are You Taking Notes?

Deuteronomy 17

In Good News Club yesterday, one of the third graders got out his notebook and began to take notes. One of the volunteers, not knowing what he was doing, asked him to put it away. He obeyed.

Later, he let me look at what he’d written. He’d copied the memory verse, our five rules, our “Word Up” which was: God Can Change Me. He jotted down things from the lesson like, “All have sinned,” “Not everyone goes to heaven,” “Jesus died for our sins,” and John 3:16. He did such a good job!

One of the commands God gave the kings of Israel was to copy His law in their own hand. Then they were to keep their copy and read it every day.

This regular reading will prevent him from becoming proud and acting as if he is above his fellow citizens. It will also prevent him from turning away from these commands in the smallest way…” (17:20)

Moses also said that in writing and reading the Law, the king would learn to fear God and learn to obey the instructions.

Here’s a thought: if you are one who says you have trouble understanding Scripture, or have trouble concentrating on what you’re reading, get a notebook and a pen and begin to copy a portion of Scripture in your own hand.

Maybe copy the book of John. Or some psalms. Or copy James or one of Paul’s letters. You might be surprised at how that simple act can help your understanding, and retention of God’s Word.

It was commanded of Old Testament kings. It might be useful for God’s servants in 2022.

But even if it doesn’t help – it certainly can’t hurt!

(Matthew 16-18) Satan Loves Rabbit Trails

Evidently there are some Bible critics who say that, because the Gospel writers differ in their accounts of Jesus’ words and actions, one cannot trust Scripture to be infallible. That, my friend, is an argument that cannot hold water. I’ll tell you why.

I taught school for 37 years. So I saw 100 or more children walk through my classroom door 180 days during each of those 37 years. I would teach the same lesson to different groups of children throughout the day. Sometimes I’d teach a lesson to one group on one day, and the same lesson to a different group of children the next day. And sometimes I’d teach the same lesson to yet another group the next school year.

The message of those lessons didn’t change, but the audience, the exact words I used to convey the message, the location of the classroom I was in, and sometimes the school in which I taught changed. The message of the lessons stayed constant, however.

If Johnny wrote an account of my first period lesson, and Jimmy wrote an account of the same lesson given during third period, chances are their accounts would not be word for word. And if Johnny’s little brother wrote an account of that same lesson a year later, I’m pretty sure there would be some differences there, too. The message of the lesson would be the same. Some of the illustrations might be similar. But each boy would tell their own accounts from their own vantage point, using their own words.

Do you think Jesus taught his lessons only once? Or could it be possible he shared the same lesson in one city to one audience, and again in another city to a different audience?

My point is this: don’t get bent out of shape if you notice subtle difference in Scripture. Don’t miss the message God wants you to hear. And don’t think you can’t trust Scripture because of chronology or numbers or names.

Those are rabbit trails not worth pursuing. Satan loves it when we chase rabbit trails because it gets our focus off the truth he does not want us accepting. Read God’s Word for the message.

It’s a good one!

(Luke 7) Who’s Doubt Is It Anyway?

I have appreciated considering the opinions of Bible scholars as I read through my Apologetics Study Bible this year. (Holman Bible Publishers; 2017) It often amazes me at the issues they address, indicating the lengths some people go to try and disprove the Bible.

Evidently there is a discussion about what kind of roof tiles that were on the house the paralytic’s friends dug through to get him to Jesus. Yeah, roofing.

And, is it the Sermon on the Mount, or the Sermon on a Flat Area on the Mountain? There is actually a debate about it. Why?

Skeptics use these kinds of things to suggest because the Gospel writers differ on certain details, the Bible must be full of errors, and therefore untrustworthy. I usually just shake my head and move on, but thankful that should someone use arguments like these, I’ll be prepared to point them back to what is really important.

But sometimes the comments in the Apologetics Study Bible are just plain wrong (in my opinion). One such opinion jumped out at me today, and I’d like us to consider 7:18-30. The apologist would have you take for granted that what you read here is the fact that John the Baptist is “expressing doubt” that Jesus is the Messiah because he sent two of his own disciples to ask Jesus point blank if they should be looking for someone else, or was Jesus the real deal?

First of all, all we know is WHAT John did. Scripture does not tell us WHY. So I read what the apologist said as his opinion. You can read my comments as mine – because that is all they are.

Based on John’s life, not just his imprisonment, here’s why I believe we are seeing something other than the prophet’s doubt:

  1. John recognized Jesus before either of them were even born. (Luke 1:44)
  2. John grew up spiritually strong. (1:80). He dedicated his whole life to preparing the way for the Messiah. (Luke 3:4-6)
  3. John had no hesitation in identifying Jesus as the One he’d been telling them about. (John 1:14-15, 29-35)
  4. From that moment on, John’s ministry was all about retreating into the shadows. “He must increase, I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
  5. Now Jesus’ ministry is in full swing. Some of John’s disciples began following Jesus. But obviously not all of them had made the switch. John was in prison, and maybe he was pretty sure he wasn’t going to get out of there alive. Maybe he wanted his remaining disciples to accept Jesus before he died. They needed to believe Jesus was the One to follow. So just maybe John sent them to Jesus because of their doubt, not his.
  6. Here is my final observation on the subject, and maybe the most telling. Jesus proceeds to talk to the crowd about John. Read it for yourself in Luke 7:24-28. Is there a hint that Jesus thought John was doubting? “I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John…”

My point is this: we’ve all made assumptions based on a verse or two. Let me challenge us to let Scripture speak for itself as we consider it all. Think about what you are reading, don’t just assume you know what it means by looking at the face value. Question, then dig deeper into God’s Word to find the answers. Use your ability to reason, and ask God to direct your thoughts.

Sometimes it’s hard to get the voice of our third grade Sunday School teacher, or our youth pastor, or some renowned evangelist or popular author out of our heads. My prayer is that, as we read Scripture we won’t be able to get the voice of God out of our heads, that another verse or passage or story from the Bible will come to mind to help us consider what God is saying to us today. Let’s not just read the Bible verse by verse, but lesson by lesson, truth by truth.

And may God grow us, bless us, and find us faithful to the Truth of His Word.

(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 it 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.

(Job 32-37) Whatever Your Age

I found myself laughing out loud today as I read these chapters in God’s Word. And every time I have that experience, it’s because I see myself in what I read. And usually, not in a good way.

I don’t know how much younger Elihu was than Job and his buddies. But is seems there were more than a few years between them because Elihu sat with them for some time without speaking, out of respect for his elders.

Now, I’m projecting here but I imagine Elihu was a typical young person. I see him rolling his eyes, shaking his head, snickering under his breath at what he perceived as ignorance in the older generation. After all, Elihu was woke. So when he got his chance, he would teach those old geezers the wisdom of youth.

“Pay attention,” he says. “I’m going to open my mouth and tell you where you are wrong.”

He then proceeds to prove he has no more understanding than the others. If you read his sermon, you’ll see him refer to himself about as often as he refers to God. Elihu isn’t hesitant about pointing out his knowledge and wisdom.

Oh, there are several times Elihu gives God a nod for giving him knowledge, and for having superior knowledge. But I see a lot of young Elihu in these chapters.

Now, before anyone thinks I am targeting millennials, let me confess I remember being young, too. I remember rolling my eyes at the things my dad would say. I mean, I’d gone to college and he didn’t. I was enlightened and he wasn’t (or so I thought).

Trust me when I say this, kids. One day you are going to be faced with the realization that you aren’t as stupid as your kids will think you are, either.

I don’t think this portion of Scripture has to be only about youth versus age. There’s a little Elihu in all of us. And it’s a sin. It was a sin when Adam and Eve thought they understood God apart from His Word, and it’s a sin today. There is no wisdom, no understanding that isn’t written in the pages of the Bible.

Now here is where I laughed out loud today. Elihu’s final words are found in verse 37:24b and they are hilarious.

(God) does not look favorably on any who are wise in heart.

Except, of course, me. Right?

Dear Elihu is condemning the very thing he himself is guilty of. But I don’t think he sees it like that. He thinks he’s pointing a finger at Job and his friends, not considering there are three fingers pointed back at him.

I hope you have knowledge of Scripture. I hope you study your Bible, memorize verses, can share the accounts of people who lived during that time. I hope you have an understanding of who God is and what His plan is according to the Words He inspired men to write down. I hope you have wisdom from above.

But let’s not think, even for a second, that any of that is our own doing. Let’s not put ourselves anywhere near the level of God. I don’t care how old you are, or how young.

It’s about God. Whatever your age.

(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 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.

Are You Listening? (Luke 8)

The parable of the Sower has something to say to all of here in 2020. Jesus says good seed was planted, and there were four results from the planting:

  1. Some seed fell along the path and were trampled, then eaten by birds.
  2. Some fell on rocky soil and didn’t take root.
  3. Some fell among weeds that choked the growth out of them.
  4. Some fell on good soil and yielded a harvest.

I have heard this passage interpreted to show how sinners receive the Gospel message. Some pay no attention, some hear it but don’t receive it, some allow the Gospel to take root but then the trials of life and the lust of the world smother it, but some receive the precious Gospel of Jesus with gladness and grow to maturity in the Truth.

I certainly can’t argue with that interpretation. And all of us, whether believers in Jesus or not, have or do fall into one of those categories.

But Jesus is talking to His disciples, His followers here in Luke 8 and, as always, I try not to apply God’s Word merely to any “them.” What does this parable have to do with my walk with Jesus today?

Therefore, consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.” (verse 12)

Jesus said these words to His disciples after sharing the parable of the sower, and the parable of the lamp stand. Be careful how you listen, He warns.

Every time I open my Bible or hear a sermon preached or lesson taught, there will be a response similar to one of the “seeds” in Jesus’ parable. Think about it:

  1. Maybe I don’t like the preacher or the tone of voice of my teacher. Maybe when I open my Bible I am distracted by the TV or by thoughts about my plans for the day. I hear or read the words, but they fall on deaf ears. The devil comes and takes away the word from my heart. That is a sobering thought.
  2. Maybe I really do listen to the message and/or lesson and may even squeak out an “amen” if I agree with something that is being said. But I walk out the doors of the church and promptly forget. I go about my life as though I never heard the Truth at all. Maybe I read my obligatory Bible verses in the morning and, although I read every word, my mind is elsewhere and I get to the end of my “quiet time” without allowing it to take root. Jesus said that when the trials of life come, there is a danger that I could fall away. Another sobering thought.
  3. Maybe I’m trying to balance my love of God with my love of the world. I go to church, maybe serve on committees and sing in the choir. But I surround myself with ungodly people the other six days of the week, I blend in, compromise, compartmentalize my life into the church me and the worldly me. My “quiet time” takes a back seat to the busy-ness of my day. I read my Bible and listen to the lessons, but all of that has to fit into an already cluttered heart. Jesus said I’ll never mature if that’s the case. Is it possible to be comfortable among the weeds? Yet another sobering thought.
  4. Or maybe I’m that fourth seed. I listen AND obey. I dig my roots deep into Scripture, I trust the Gardner to water and nourish my soul, and I use what I learn to get out there and share Jesus with people in my world.

I have to ask myself if I am growing every day or am I stunted, ineffective, allowing Satan to steal what is mine? Do I hunger to know more about God, eager to grow and learn and be strengthened by the Truth of Scripture? Do I take it in and allow it establish root to become a fruitful disciple of my Lord?

Every time I hear a sermon, every time I read God’s Word, there will be a response by me. God is challenging me to be careful how I listen.

It’s Not Enough (John 5)

First of all, if you think Jesus never claimed to be God, read this chapter in John’s Gospel. Verses 45-47 says clearly that He is the one about whom Moses wrote in the Old Testament. Jesus is the Messiah.

The other thing that stood out to me today is found in verses 39-40. Jesus was talking to Old Testament scholars, men who had dedicated their lives to the study of Scripture. These men knew everything they could know about the history of God in Israel. Their brains were full, but their hearts were empty.

It’s not enough to read the Bible, to memorize verses, to study the events surrounding the chosen people of God. So many people spend so much time with genealogies and timelines and blueprints that they neglect the most important thing God has to say to us through the pages of His Word.

Jesus chided the Old Testament scholars for thinking their knowledge about Scripture brought them eternal life. They had refused to go to Jesus for life. They missed the whole point of Scripture.

I hope you read your Bible every day. I hope you memorize verses, dig into its history if that is important to you. But understand none of that guarantees eternal life. Only Jesus can do that.

You and I have to go to Jesus Himself for the forgiveness of sins and our hope for eternity with Him. We must receive Him as our Savior, accept His grace, and obey Him as His dearly loved children. Your head can be overflowing with facts, but your heart empty, your soul doomed without Jesus.

Go to Him. Believe on Him. Accept Him as your Savior as you repent of your sin.

He is more than enough!