Tag Archives: Bible study

November 13; On Every Page

Acts 5:17-7:53

Many people find the Old Testament hard to read. It’s repetitive, long lists of hard to pronounce names, accounts of things that happened so long ago, who even cares?

Well, Stephen for one. His 53 verse sermon is an overview of Old Testament Scripture. He knew the Old Testament pointed to Jesus as the Messiah, and he wanted everyone to know it, too.

I hope you’ll read what Stephen had to say about the Old Testament, about how God worked in and through a nation of people to prepare the world for His Son. Then I hope you’ll turn to the pages of the Old Testament for yourself and read first hand what God wants you to know.

Don’t read it merely as a history book, but as God’s love letter to you. Get to know Him by reading about Abraham, Joseph, Job, David, Esther, Daniel… Put yourself in their stories and hear God tell you how much you are loved, how He longs to fellowship with you, and how He works in your life to bring about good. Understand that He is the same God today as He was back then, and He wants you to know Him.

And He wants you to see Jesus. The entire Old Testament is a beacon pointing the way to the Savior. I believe you, like Stephen, will see Jesus on every page.

September 21; A Layer At A Time

Psalm 119:73-176

The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. (verse 130)

I like the word the NIV uses as the “unfolding” of the understanding of God’s Word. The truth is, no one completely  understood Scripture the first time they read it. No one. Not even Billy Graham or Ravi Zacharias. God unfolds understanding through His Word one layer at a time.

For years I would begin with Genesis 1:1 on January 1, determined to read it all by New Year’s Eve, only to find myself still in Exodus in May. Life, my job, stuff took priority over my time in God’s Word.

I began earnestly reading through the Bible every year when I retired in 2011. Before that I may have made it from Genesis to Revelation maybe four times total. But this year, before we welcome 2020 in January, I will have read the Bible cover to cover for the seventh time in eight years, God willing. (I slowed down in 2017-18 and read it through in two years. You can read that journey in the archive of this blog)

I have sat here and considered how God has unfolded understanding of His Word to me over the years. For many years I would read a passage and my thoughts would go to a sermon I had heard about those verses, or a lesson my Sunday School teacher had taught on the subject. I’d remember some author I’d read, and be assured that what I’d always heard was true, that my denomination had a lock on Scripture.

Even when I’d come across a verse that seemed to contradict what I’d always been taught, I’d get out a commentary from a like-minded theologian and rest in his or her take on it. I read the Bible through other people’s eyes.

But today as I consider what the psalmist said, I realize that isn’t the case so often any more. In fact, now when I am reading the Bible, instead of recalling a sermon I’ve heard, my thoughts often go to a parallel Bible verse I’ve read in the past. I recall a Bible story that illustrates the truth I’m reading. I realize God is unfolding understanding of His Word by His Word.

Verse 169 says:

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

According to your word.

Folks, I am not an intellectual. I was never in gifted classes in school. I graduated from college right in the middle of the academic standings. I am a simple woman.

But God is unfolding the understanding of His Word one layer at a time, because I’m reading it. I’m thinking about it, praying about it. I write about it, but even that is just my personal way of recording what I am learning. The point is God is helping me understand Scripture because I am reading Scripture.

I promise you, if you read the Bible asking God to unfold understanding – HE WILL! He wrote it with you in mind. Of course He wants to help you understand it.

Read it. Then read it again.

September 20; A Real Life Author

Psalms 111, 112, 117, 119:1-72

When I worked in the middle school, we invited one of our students’ favorite authors to come and spend a day with us. This woman had written a series of books about children which had captured the imagination of pre-teens all over the country. And she was coming to visit us!

The kids were in awe when that woman entered a classroom. I have to admit I was a bit awe-struck myself.

Here’s what I remember about that day. The students who had read the books were attentive, and asked great questions. It was almost like they already knew and loved her. They couldn’t get enough of this woman’s story. The students who hadn’t read the books looked bored, either didn’t participate or they asked silly, meaningless questions. And those who hadn’t read the books were the students who were first out of the door when class was over. The others had to be pried away from the author.

The author of Psalm 119 spends 176 verses writing about his love for God’s Word. He believes it, studies it, cherishes it, lives by it, considers it precious. The psalmist knows and loves the Author because he’s spent time reading and learning what the Author has written.

Sometimes I think we put so much emphasis on worshiping and serving God we forget to get to know Him. And the only way we can know Him is by reading what He wrote. I find that the more I read God’s Word, the more I love reading God’s Word. The more I get to know God through His Word, the more I love Him. The more time I spend in God’s Word, the more I want to worship Him in Truth, serve Him out of gratitude for the privilege of knowing Him through His Word.

As I look back on the day that real life author came to town, I realize some of the kids got to hear about her books, the plots and characters, through what other people said about them. But the kids who had spent time actually reading the books got to know the author, could understand the plots and characters because they had experienced them first hand on the pages of the books. It seemed they shared an inside secret with the author the others could not understand.

One day we will all meet the real life Author. Will I know Him as a result of having had the first hand experience of getting to know Him through His Word? Or will I look into His eyes and only know what others have told me about Him?

Well, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to hit “publish,” and re-read these psalms today. I’m going to spend some more time with the real life Author.

 

September 16; Getting Our Priorities Straight

Ezra 7:1-8:14; Psalm 106

There’s no question Ezra was used by God in amazing fashion. He was instrumental in re-establishing Jerusalem as the City of God, of re-settling the returning Jews into the Promised Land, and of reminding the Jews of their relationship with God and their need of Him.

But there is one verse that struck me today as I read these verses. Ezra 7:10:

For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.

Sure, Ezra wanted the temple up and running again, he wanted the exiled Jews home again. But he wasn’t devoted to any of that. His devotion was toward God’s Word, for himself and for others. Ezra had his priorities straight. And because he spent time in God’s Word for himself, then shared it with others, he was able to then do great things for God.

Sometimes I think we forget that first important step. We get busy doing things for God, teaching SS, singing in the choir, volunteering, visiting… we neglect our personal time in God’s Word.

Please don’t let this blog, or a commentary, or a study guide replace your time reading the Bible, opening God’s Word and allowing Him to speak to you personally. I mean, I’m glad you drop by here to see what God has impressed on my heart. But don’t ever let that take the place of allowing Him to speak to you directly through the pages of His love letter to you.

What are you devoted to? Let’s be sure we all have our priorities straight.

August 3; A Ten Day Challenge

Jeremiah 46:1-28; Daniel 1:3-21, 2:1-49; 2 Kings 24:7

I would imagine most of you know the account of the Jewish men exiled to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were among the young, strong, handsome men hand-picked to serve in the king’s palace. We first meet these four in training camp.

As part of the grooming process, the captives were given “royal food and wine.” I’m not sure of the exact menu items, but it’s likely the food was rich and perhaps had been sacrificed to the Babylonian pretend gods. Our boys politely declined the royal food, and asked for veggies and water instead.

When their guard told them to forget it, the Jewish men made a deal. “Give us 10 days. Just 10 days, and if we look like we’re starving after 10 days, we’ll eat the food you give us.” The guard agreed.

And after 10 days of just the basics, “they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food.” (Daniel 1:15)

So as I was reading this this morning, God seemed to be throwing down a challenge. What if we put away our commentaries and theology books, study guides and sermon notes. What if we turned off the TV preachers and, as much as I’d miss you, stop reading blogs, and for 10 days determined to read just the Bible. What if we read it, re-read it, studied it, prayed over it, memorized it. What if we would let the Bible speak for itself for 10 days.

The captive Jewish boys thrived after getting back to the basics. I wonder if we wouldn’t, too.

You might argue that it’s hard to understand Scripture without the help of others who have studied it before us. If that’s what you are thinking, make this a part of your challenge: Grab ahold of it and don’t let go until God blesses you, like Jacob did the night he wrestled God. Pray that God would speak to you through His Word, reveal a bit more of Himself through the Words He breathed. And don’t stop reading until He does. Do you think that if you read God’s Word, and ask Him to speak to you, to reveal Himself to you, He won’t?

This thought just came to mind. What if we would all get out a notebook and record at least one thing God reveals to us as we study His Word each day. Maybe copy a verse that spoke to us. We would end up with 10 personal messages from God. Does that thought thrill your heart?

When Daniel heard that his life and the lives of his friends were threatened, they got together and prayed. God heard their prayers and revealed the mystery. If you take this challenge, you might ask a friend to pray for you, too. Please know I’ll be praying for you.

Are you in? I hope so. Maybe I’ll see you again Tuesday August 13, and maybe you’ll be so excited about reading the Bible you won’t have time to read my posts. That would be awesome!

May God bless you as you open His Word every day. May He teach you, open your eyes, convict you, encourage you, and give you the understanding He has for you. He wrote this Book for you. Let it be to you what He has wanted all along.

July 9; Voices

2 Kings 18:13-19:37; 2 Chronicles 32:1-23

How do you know what to believe? The Assyrian king made some good points, used facts and figures to prove his point. It was true that King Hezekiah had removed all the high places and altars the people had used to worship the gods of the surrounding nations. The children of Israel had seen those places and altars removed themselves, so they knew what Sennacherib said was true.

It was true that the Assyrian army had defeated many people in many lands, and not one of their gods had been able to save them against Sennacherib’s forces. Not one. Sennacherib was not lying.

He made a good argument. It sounded right. But he was wrong. Read what he actually said to the Israelites:

Do not believe (Hezekiah), for no god of any nation or kingdom has been able to deliver his people from my hand or the hand of my fathers. How much less will your god deliver you from my hand! (2 Chronicles 32:15)

Again, Sennacherib wasn’t lying. He was absolutely right to say he conquered those nations and not one god stepped up against him. So what were the people supposed to do with that?

There are so many voices vying for our attention these days. Some try to do what Sennacherib did and say God is like all other gods. Some voices try to deny God all together, and can give scientific “proof” to support their distorted opinions. There are voices that quote Scripture to convince us that what they say is from God, but they are only twisting what God really says in His Word.

What I learned from theses Scriptures today is this: The Israelites new what God said BEFORE Sennacherib opened his mouth. They’d heard the Truth spoken and, therefore, could recognize the lies.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles. (2 Chronicles 32:7-8a, emphasis mine)

And that’s what I want to get across to us today. Read, meditate on, devour God’s Word. Spend quality time in the Bible every day. Put down the self-help books, the parenting books, the positive thinking books, and open your Bible. Turn off the TV preachers, the “experts” who want you to feel good about yourself, and open your Bible.

There are voices out there speaking your language. But what they say is straight from Satan. Oh, they sound good. They site impressive studies, quote a Bible verse or two. But their opinions are not necessarily God’s Truth.

So how do you know if the voices you are hearing are true? Open you Bible.

 

March 22; Minds, Eyes, and Ears

Deuteronomy 29-31

The Israelites certainly saw God do some amazing things since their rescue from Egypt forty years earlier. Parting waters, manna from heaven, water from rocks… and after forty years, they were still wearing the same clothes and sandals! God had performed a miracle even on their clothes.

Yet Moses told them they had minds that didn’t understand, eyes that didn’t see, and ears that didn’t hear. They just didn’t get it. They may have assumed God did these things because He loved them so much, and favored them above all other nations. Moses wanted them to hear God say, “I did this so that you might know that I am the Lord your God.” (29:6)

It was never about Israel. It was always about God. Warren Wiersbe says:

“What could have been spiritual experiences was only a series of historical events because they did not focus on the Lord.” (With the Word; Wiersbe; Thomas Nelson Publishers; 1991; page 123)

If you’ve been with me very long you know I read the historical events in Scripture as pictures of spiritual truths. I pray for a mind that understands what God wants me to learn from the experiences of the people whose stories are written here. I pray for eyes that see the connection between what happened and what that says about God. I pray for ears that can hear God’s voice through the words He inspired men to write down, every time I open the pages of His love letter to me. In short, I want my time in God’s Word to change me for His glory, to draw me close to Him, to show me how to worship and serve Him better.

If you are reading the Bible for the facts, or to put together a timeline, or to create an authentic model of what is described, you might as well pick up an encyclopedia. (that’s an old hard-copy of Google, kids. Ancient history, I know)

Please don’t reduce this precious book to a series of historical events. See God in every word. Hear what God has to say to you about your own relationship with Him here in 2019. Open your mind to understanding the riches contained in its pages. Allow Scripture to be the spiritual experience God intends for it to be. It will change your life.

Remember, God is in these pages.

It’s all about God.