Tag Archives: Scripture

(2 Kings 16-17) What Do We Lose?

I’m going to challenge you to read these two chapters today. I’ll let Scripture speak for itself. But if you can’t read both chapters, hear what I believe God would have us consider today:

“To satisfy the king of Assyria, he (King Ahaz) removed from the Lord’s temple the Sabbath canopy they had built in the palace, and he closed the outer entrance.” (16:18)

“They (the Jews) feared the Lord, but they also worshiped their own gods according to the practice of the nations from which they had been deported.” (17:33)

“They (the Jews) feared the Lord but also served their idols.” (17:41)

Do you recognize the Church, or maybe your own heart? Are we trying to worship God and still satisfy the world? What do we lose when we do that?

I once heard someone we commonly refer to as a “worship leader” say his goal was to make worship fun.

Fun for whom? God?

Really?

What do we lose if worship becomes about the enjoyment of the worshiper? What do we lose if we water down Scripture to make it more palatable for the listener? What do we do if we hide behind a cutsie name for our fellowship so the world will feel comfortable?

What do we lose? What does Scripture tell us?

(I Kings 13-16) For Generations To Come

Why did God not wipe out the blatantly disobedient people of Israel? One king after another – on both sides of the Israeli teams – obeyed God to differing degrees. Most disobeyed Him unashamedly. Their open rejection of everything God stood for would seem to be reason enough for God to wipe them off the face of the earth.

Why didn’t He do that? First of all, Scripture makes it clear God doesn’t delight in the deaths of His enemies, that His Sovereign will is that no one die without His saving grace. God didn’t – and doesn’t – destroy the Jews because of that one person whose heart is stirred, that one who is softening toward Jesus, and who will receive what the Messiah died to provide.

The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. (Psalm 103:8)

But here is what occurred to me this morning as I sat here praying about these chapters in I Kings: God had made promises about Israel’s preservation to Abraham and to King David. Why? Because these men had vital relationships with God based on complete surrender and great faith. Neither man was perfect. But both men trusted God, and confessed and repented of sin. They were faithful to God, and He was faithful to them.

I am sure we are all praying for our children. We want God to bless and protect them today and every day. But I’m wondering how many generations of our descendants will be touched by God’s hand of protection, His grace and mercy, because we are living lives of obedience here and now? How many of our children and grandchildren will be blessed because we ourselves are surrendered to God, and demonstrate complete faith in Him? How many years will God continue to answer our prayers long after we are gone from this earthly body?

Our lives are lived in a few decades on this earth. But our prayers live into eternity. Our example goes on without us in the hearts and minds of our children. Our influences influence them whose influence impacts our grandchildren who will have children and grandchildren of their own.

What example of obedience are those dear ones seeing in us today? More importantly, what is God seeing in us that would cause Him to want to answer our prayers for the next generation and the next?

Abraham’s and David’s prayers are still being answered today because they were faithful to God while they had that opportunity. May the same be said of us a few thousand years from now.

(I Samuel 3-7) What Do You Know?

So many questions seem to arise from the Old Testament account of God’s history with Israel. Just in these few chapters in Judges people have asked:

“Who or what toppled the Dagon idol?”

“What kinds of tumors were there, and what caused them?”

“Why would God kill people simply for being curious?”

“How could an entire army of trained soldiers be that afraid of a thunder storm?”

People who think they have to understand everything written in Scripture are foolish. But so is the person who reads Scripture and never tries to understand. It’s one thing to have faith. It’s another to be satisfied with blind faith.

What if you were asked the questions cited above? What if someone who is seeking the truth came to you for answers? What do you know about falling idols, tumors, thunderstorms, and the ark?

What do you know about God? Simply saying you believe is not enough. You need to know what you believe… and why you believe it.

I started telling you how I would answer the questions I shared at the beginning of this post. But I feel God is challenging you to do your own investigation. Just let me encourage you to let Him speak to you through His own words, not the words of a blogger like me, or a study guide, or the internet, unless they point you to specific verses in the Bible that back up what they say. Be careful to not accept opinion as fact. The answers, everything you need to know has been given you by God Himself. I would encourage you to start – and end – in the pages of Scripture to find the answers you are looking for.

So let me ask you again, what do you know? Can you share it with someone who needs to know? I believe God would have us all be ready to give an answer for the hope we have in Him. I believe we need to be ready to share what we know to be true, according to Scripture.

(Numbers 21-25) Are You Listening?

Two things from the Balak/Balaam account struck me this morning.

The first is the importance of knowing God’s Word. Balaam was adamant when he said he would only speak God’s words and nothing else. He spoke only God’s words to Balak, even though it was not at all what Balak wanted to hear, and in fact, had the potential to cause Balaam a great deal of trouble, maybe even death.

The thing is, many of us can quote a verse here and there to support a belief:

God is love.

Judge not.

I will never leave or forsake you.

He will give you the desires of your heart.

All scriptural. All truth. But what I noticed about Balaam is that he didn’t pick and choose the parts of the words God gave him that would make him look good, or would make Balak happy. God gave Balaam the words, and Balaam quoted them to Balak exactly as God had spoken them.

We can’t quote, “God is love” without also declaring His holiness, His Lordship, and the fact He punishes sin without mercy. We can tell each other “judge not” but we must also tell each other to address sin in lives so those sins can be forgiven by God. We can rest assured God will never leave us, but that promise is for His children only. He does leave those who reject Him by holding onto sin. God gives us the desires of our hearts when we trust Him, when His desires become ours. Do you know where to find the verses that complete the verses I quoted above? You should. They are God’s words.

God not only speaks to us through His written word, He uses Scripture to speak through us to hearts that are in need of His saving grace. When we witness to someone we shouldn’t be sharing our opinions about Scripture. We should be using Scripture honestly, pointing out the very verses that speak to their need of Jesus, and allowing God’s own words to move in hearts.

We have got to put down the commentaries and shut down the internet, and open the precious pages of the Bible to hear God’s voice. We need to study God’s words to show ourselves approved by Him so that we are fully equipped to share God’s Word with others. God’s words. Not ours.

The second thing that struck me today is how Balak tried to finagle God into giving him what he wanted. Three times he tried to manipulate God into putting a curse on the Jews.

Maybe if I sacrifice here I’ll get what I want.

Maybe over there God will give me the desire of my heart.

Maybe there on that mountain. Maybe there God will do what I say.

Have you ever tried to manipulate God? You go to church thinking God will reward you with what you want. You’ve heard that if you claim it, you can have it… so you claim it loud and clear, believing that is the key to getting God to move. You convince yourself that if you quit swearing, or drinking, or if you sing in the choir, lift your hands and pray out loud God will do whatever you ask.

Is that how you see God working in Scripture? Can God be manipulated into being your magic genie?

Goes back to my first point. Read the Bible. Read it again. Pray for understanding. Then live it, use it, love it. The answers to your questions are there. God’s plan of salvation is there. God’s hope for the future is there. God’s instructions about how we should treat others, what He thinks of sin, what Jesus did on the cross, and what He wants you to do because of it is there.

You can’t manipulate God. But you can get to know His heart, and transform into the man or woman He wants you to be by listening to His voice through His own words. You can’t hear Him if you aren’t reading those words for yourself. Read the Bible.

And listen.

(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 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.

Wisdom and Understanding (Colossians)

In these days when lies are declared truth, and madness applauded as sanity, we need to be reminded of a few things.

Paul said:

My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. (2:2-4)

I, too, want to encourage you in heart and unite with you in love so that we can have complete understanding. I pray that we will know the mystery of God – Jesus! Because only in Jesus will we discover real wisdom and understanding.

And I, with Paul, want us to be grounded in the truth which is Jesus, so that we’ll recognize – and reject – the deceptive arguments being touted by the world’s authorities today. They not only speak lies, but they would make us feel guilty, intolerant, bigoted, selfish, and deplorable if we dare not go along with them in their lies. Can you see it?

Paul tells us who have received Christ as Savior to:

,,,continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (2:6-7)

We have to grow our roots deep in Him! We need to read His Word, spend time in prayer, intentionally walk with Him every moment of the day. We need to believe and hold on to what He has revealed to us in Scripture.

Then listen to this word of warning:

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. (2:8)

Who are you listening to?

Paul goes on. We need to clothe ourselves “with compassion, kindness humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (3:12-14)

We Christians should not be fighting amongst ourselves over petty grievances. The world needs to see what a difference Jesus makes in our lives. They don’t need to see us acting like them, or in some cases, worse than them!

Now why is this so important? Is it so you and I can get our ticket to heaven? Paul says this:

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. (4:2)

What should we watch for? What do we have to be thankful for?

that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ... loudly and clearly! (from 4:2-4)

Paul encourages us to make the most out of every opportunity that comes our way to share Jesus with someone who is lost. Jesus is a mystery to those who don’t know Him. It’s up to us to help them solve the mystery by introducing them to the Savior.

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (4:6)

People are believing the lies. Even some who call themselves Christians are falling for it. “A man is not a male unless he feels like a male.” “You can’t help who you love.” “Life begins with birth so that which is in the womb is not life.” “A woman should have say over what she does with her body.” “Truth is subjective.” “Faith is a crutch.” “All roads lead to heaven.” “God is love so He accepts everyone.”

LIES! But they are lies that have become a false truth to many. And woe to you who don’t agree with them.

I hope you’ll read Paul’s letter to the Colossians today. There is so much in here for us Christians in 2020. Let’s know what God has revealed in His Word, and let’s stand firm on that foundation. Let’s proclaim the Truth of Jesus loudly and clearly, and let’s never miss an opportunity to introduce a lost soul to their Savior.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (3:17)

180 (Acts 9-10)

Saul obeyed. Ananias obeyed. Cornelius obeyed. Peter obeyed. And what they did in obedience was a 180 from where they’d started.

Saul was headed to Damascus to arrest all believers he could find because he wanted to stop people from proclaiming Jesus. He was an educated Jew, and educated Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah. But when Saul had an encounter with Jesus, he turned from someone who wanted to silence people, into someone who would not be silenced.

Ananias was comfortable there in Damascus. He may have felt safe in his home from the coming trouble. But when God told him to go to Saul, the very man who threatened Ananias’ life, Ananias moved out of his comfort zone and walked right up to the one person he considered an enemy, ready to pray for Saul to regain his sight.

Cornelius was a Gentile who believed in Israel’s God. But he was still a Gentile, and Gentiles and Jews had no use for each other. Cornelius had a good ministry there in Caesarea, but when God told him there was something more, Cornelius went for it even if it meant going to a Jew to get it.

Peter knew Jesus personally, was a disciple and one of Jesus’ closest friends. But he was Jewish, and Jews felt Jesus was THEIR Messiah. They were pretty protective of that relationship. A sign with “No Gentiles allowed!” was placed over the door of their clubhouse. But when God showed Peter, not once but three times (we are talking Peter here), that God makes no distinction between Jews and Gentiles, Peter turned his back on what he thought he knew, and went to the home of a Gentile to share his Messiah, Jesus, with Cornelius and his family.

Sometimes God pushes us forward, sometimes He turns us around. We, like the men in these chapters of Acts, need only to obey.

What is God asking of you today? Is it time you did a 180?

Church (Acts 3)

That early Church is a model I think the Church in 2020 needs to revisit. Let’s see what the Church looked liked after Pentecost:

  1. They devoted themselves to studying God’s Word. They didn’t do book studies or use Bible helps. They devoted themselves to Scripture. Today we use videos and music, programs which are viewed as important as God’s Word, and sometimes more important. I remember disagreeing with a pastor of mine concerning his focus on the kind of music we were singing. I felt his focus was in the wrong place. His words, said with smirk, “Oh, you’re one of those people who think preaching is the most important part of a worship service.” I think the early Church thought that was the case, according to this chapter in Acts.
  2. They fellowshipped, enjoyed meals together. We Baptists are famous for our pot-luck dinner. But that’s been stopped in 2020. Have we lost an important aspect of being God’s Church?
  3. They devoted themselves to prayer. I learned to pray as a teenager by attending Wednesday evening prayer meeting. I started out with sentence prayers, then felt more comfortable praying aloud. Today, I doubt there are many teenagers attending prayer meetings. My own church schedules Youth Group during our prayer meeting. Prayer meetings aren’t fun. Most churches don’t even offer them any more. I know there are prayer warriors among us. But would you say the Church is devoted to prayer in 2020? They were in the early Church.
  4. They were filled with awe. They saw answers to their prayers. I don’t think the emphasis here is on the miracles the early church saw. I think the emphasis is on the awe they had for God Himself. Yes they were no doubt in awe of the miracles, answered prayer, changed lives. But I wonder if we have lost our awe of God and replaced it with a friendship? Have we become so familiar with God we’ve ceased to bow before His holiness? When was the last time we have stood in awe of WHO God is, and not just because of what He does?
  5. They were together, like minded, and they cared for the physical needs of each other. Today’s Church is often involved in good causes outside the local church, while some of our own number are hurting. That’s not the example of the early Church. Yes, we are called to go to the uttermost parts of the earth, but not before we take care of those closest to home.
  6. They met together as a group of believers every day. Some people today find it hard to get to church for an hour a week, and woe to the preacher who preaches past that hour. We’ve eliminated Sunday evening services, Wednesday services, and offer online and alternative meeting times to make it “convenient” for people to go to church. People stay home and allow their kids to stay home if the service isn’t entertaining enough, or the music not rocking enough. Is that what we see here in the early Church?
  7. They were friends outside of the four walls of the local church. Here’s why that is important:
  8. They enjoyed the favor of all the people, not just church-goers. They took their love of God and love for each other into the community and demonstrated Christian relationships and joy. The result?:
  9. The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved! The example presented by those early believers drew lost people to God.

That early Church was the Church within the walls of their meeting places, and outside them. They were devoted to God and obedient to His will. They worked together, worshiped together, grew together, and people noticed.

Makes me wonder what people are noticing about the Church in 2020.