Tag Archives: reading the Bible

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.

 

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.

 

May 8; The Last Word

2 Samuel 24:1-25, 15:7-36; 1 Chronicles 21:1-30

Recently I have been challenged, I believe by God, to read His Word and try not to assume facts that aren’t written there, or to tweak my own interpretation of His Words to fit what I’ve always heard it meant. It’s been a difficult, and exciting journey.

But then I come across verses like 2 Samuel 24:1. I read what it says, but how do I reconcile that with other verses in the Bible that clearly say God does not tempt us to sin? That nothing bad exists in God?

Then to complicate matters, the same account recorded in I Chronicles puts the temptation to sin squarely on Satan’s shoulders. So which is it? Did God incite David to sin or did Satan?

I don’t know about you, but I can confidently say it wasn’t God. (James 1:13; I John 1:5) The “he” is 2 Samuel 24:1 has to refer to Satan, as is seen in I Chronicles 21:1.

In my resolve to read God’s Word for what it says, I am reminded it will never contradict itself. When I come to a verse that doesn’t seem to fit, I need to look at it as part of a whole.

For example, the Old Testament Jews were instructed to mete out an eye for an eye kind of justice. Letting that verse stand on its own would seem to support a physical maiming of people guilty of a crime. But is there any evidence in the rest of Scripture that a person lost a tooth for knocking out another person’s tooth, or lost an eye for injuring someone else’s eye? I’m not saying they didn’t. I’m just saying God doesn’t record that they did.

In the context in which it was written concerning a judicial system, those words might indicate that the penalty should equal the crime. (Speculation on my part.) Then Jesus in Matthew 5, uses the “eye for an eye” to tell us to turn the other cheek, to do good to those who are bad to us.

I always try to personalize what God has said in His Word because I believe He wrote those things to me. I do have opinions, and interpretations. But I am not an authority. I don’t have the last word. And I can be wrong.

But God can’t. That’s why I am challenged to let God’s Word speak for itself. All of it. That’s why when I read something I question, I look to God’s Word for the answers. I don’t know. This post today seems to be me thinking out loud. I’m not sure why I’m even going to post it.

Except maybe someone today needs to be encouraged to put aside their assumptions or maybe even their commentaries, and let God speak for Himself. These words we read in the Bible are God-breathed for our benefit. Maybe it’s time we get back to basics and just let God have the last word.

April 13; How Much Better Would It Be?

I Samuel 13:24-14-52; I Chronicles 8:1-9

The Israelites were at war, and God gave them one victory after another. Saul had tunnel vision, which probably isn’t really a bad thing for a leader. But what I see here is that Saul’s tunnel vision had him wanting to defeat the enemy, without caring for the fighting men who were putting their lives on the line. The Bible tells us Saul was so intent on winning, he threw out an oath and cursed anyone who ate anything until he had “avenged himself on (his) enemies.”

“Fight!” he seems to say. “Attack and kill! And don’t you dare stop even long enough to eat anything until I have the victory.”

The Bible says the men were in distress because of it. I love what Jonathan said when he heard what his dad had demanded of them. In effect, Johnathan replied,

“That’s just stupid.”

Just a taste of honey made a noticeable difference in Johnathan’s appearance and strength. How much better would an entire meal be?

We are at war with our enemy Satan. And I wonder if some of us aren’t fighting one battle after another without stopping to feed our souls. We neglect our private time with the Bread of Life. We don’t drink from the Living Water when we don’t pray, when we don’t meditate on His Word.

Yet we’re out there fighting Satan, weak as we are. Johnathan asked, “How much better would it have been if the fighting men had stopped to eat…?” I’m asking the same thing of us.

How much better would our day be, how much more decisive would our victory be, if we’d take on every day, every battle, not in our own strength – but in the strength of the Lord? Thinking we can fight Satan without a nourished soul is, in effect just… well…

stupid.

 

April 4; That First Step Is A Doozie

Judges 8-9

Israel, under Gideon’s leadership, enjoyed a decisive victory over the enemy. I get excited whenever the Cleveland Indians win a ballgame. I can only imagine emotions were running much higher there in the Israelite camp when they won their victory that day. The people wanted to make Gideon their king. But Gideon politely refused the offer.

He could have cashed in on his success, but he kept his integrity in check. He didn’t even take any of the plunder for himself, although I’m pretty sure the people would not have objected if Gideon had wanted to walk away from the battle a rich man. Who deserved it more?

What Gideon did, however, was take the first step toward sin. Maybe he did it innocently enough, the Bible doesn’t tell us his thought process. He collected one earring from each of the fighting men, added the things taken from the two defeated enemy kings, and made a gold shirt.

An ephod was a sacred garment worn by priests as they served God. This sleeveless shirt held a lot of meaning to the Jews at that time.

Now, I’m only guessing here, but I wonder if Gideon, like lovers who carve their initials in the trunk of a tree to immortalize their love, wanted to “mark the spot” where God granted them the victory. Was it an ancient equivalent of a memory bench, or an 8×10 photo intended to remind everyone who saw it about the greatness of God?

The thing that’s glaringly absent from this story is God. I don’t see anywhere that Gideon asked God what He wanted him to do. “Here, God, let me do this for you. Surprise!”

The Bible says that the gold shirt “became a snare to Gideon and his family.” People actually started worshiping the gold ephod instead of the God it was supposed to point them to. It became an idol.

Gideon’s collecting of the gold earrings seemed innocent enough, maybe even spiritual, or sacrificial. “Look at what Gideon’s doing for God.” But that first step was like stepping off a cliff. It was a doozie. And the result was devastating.

I would like to challenge us all as we serve God to take steps directed only by Him. You might get a great idea and want to run with it. But let’s learn from Gideon’s mistake and stop to ask God His take on our great idea. If He’s not in it, no matter how good an idea you think it is, it just might “become a snare” for you and for others.

Here’s something else God has impressed on my heart today: what I do influences others for the good or for the bad. If I take a step toward sin, how many people will think it’s ok for them, too? And how many of them will take the sin further than even I will?

I’m reminded of Isaiah’s words:

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (30:21)

Let’s determine to listen to that voice, and obey it; to take those steps set before us by our loving Heavenly Father. Because if we aren’t careful, we could find ourselves on the brink of disaster. And taking that first step out of God’s will is a doozie, a step that could take us and others down.

Please read your Bible every day. Pray. Be sensitive to God’s leading. Listen to His voice through His written Word. And obey Him. You will be blessed… and a blessing to others.

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.

March 17; You Must Not Listen

Deuteronomy 12-14

The first commandment God gave Moses was “You shall have no other God before me.” Now, as the Israelites are ready to take the Promised Land, God inspired Moses to remind them of that. But something he said has me thinking today.

In his warning about worshiping false gods, God inspired Moses to tell the Jews, and us, that there will be people who look and sound religious. Some will be able to perform miraculous signs and wonders. Don’t be deceived. If they preach a doctrine, a gospel other than the one spelled out in the Bible, “You must not listen…” (13:3)

The other day I saw several TV ads from someone who claims to be a minister, selling “miracle water.” There was a Bible verse on the screen, testimonies from people who supposedly received thousands of dollars in the mail after drinking the water. The affordable “seed faith donation” must make it tempting to some. After all, he says he’s a preacher and he talks about the Lord.

Let me ask you this: According to Scripture, did Jesus or the disciples ever charge people for healing them? Was money ever exchanged? Does the Bible indicate that there is even something close to “miracle water.” Did Jesus or the disciples use water as the source of their power to do miracles?

This questionable preacher was already exposed as a fraud a couple decades ago. But here he is again on TV, reeling in a new generation of needy, vulnerable people. Makes me angry.

Friend, please let the Bible be your final authority. Please don’t fall for the lies because you haven’t searched the Scripture for the truth. “You must not listen to the words of the prophet…”

Moses says this is the test: do you love God with all your heart and soul? Follow Him. I know for certain that He is the God who answers prayer without you buying a miracle potion from anyone.

I guess I hadn’t thought that listening to false prophets, giving consideration to doctrines that don’t align with Scripture, (even religious-sounding as some are) is breaking the first Commandment. a form of worshiping another god.

Once again I am encouraging us to be in the Word. Reading our Bibles, not just picking out a verse here and there. Meditating on Scripture and asking God to reveal His Truth. I know it’s tempting to think “I’ll try anything,” when things are difficult. But don’t.