Tag Archives: Bible study

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!

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.

 

 

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.

It’s Time (Joshua 9-11)

God promised to give the land to the Israelites. But accepting that gift meant going to war. It required bloodshed and obedience. God went before them, fought for them, even miraculously brought victories on occasion. But the land wasn’t simply handed over to the Jews.

Scripture tells me Jesus died for the sins of the world. But that doesn’t mean the whole world is saved. Accepting God’s gift of redemption requires obedience.

God promises to never leave or forsake us, that He works all things together for our good. But to receive the blessing of these promises, we must obey.

I’ve heard it said in regard to this pandemic, “God’s got this.” That seems to be a common response when people go through difficult or uncertain circumstances. And absolutely our Sovereign God not only has got this, He’s already on the other side of it. Yes He’s got this. But do we?

Satan may have used his limited power to get this virus going, believing it would throw the world into a tailspin, that it would close church doors, and cause people to blame God. He’s not wrong, really.

But what if every quarantined Christian pulled out his or her Bible and began to read, to pray, to search, to get to know God again, to allow God to put a finger on sin in our lives, to break us, and heal us. What if during this forced isolation, Christians regained our first love, and were revived as we renew our faith through God’s own Words?

I know the temptation is to pick up a good commentary or study guide, or to read our favorite author. And I’m not telling us not to do that. But if you have time to read Josh McDowell or Joel Osteen or John Grisham, you have time to read the Bible. And, dear ones, we all have a lot more time than we did before this virus scare.

I know without a doubt that our world could experience the greatest revival of our history if Christians, if you and I, spent time reading the Bible, and asking God to do His thing in our lives as a result. Revival isn’t only possible, it’s a sure thing if we obey.

What Satan intended for evil, God can turn into something amazing. Think about it. When this time of isolation is over, can you imagine the impact revived Christians will make on our world? Can you picture what the Church will be when Christians are right with God? Can you even dream how our world would be changed if Christians change?

Is revival possible? I guess that depends on you and me. God’s giving us the land. Will we take it?

I think it’s time we did.

 

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.