Tag Archives: Scripture

September 29; God Speaks

Matthew 1; Luke 2:21-40, 3:23-38

I’ve heard it said that, of course Joseph believed his fiancé was carrying God’s child. An angel appeared to him and told him about it. Who wouldn’t believe if God sent angels to us like that?

It’s true Joseph believed the baby was the Son of God after that dramatic encounter with the angel. But it occurred to me that Simeon recognized who Jesus was without an angel introducing them. Anna believed Jesus was the Messiah, and I don’t read anything about an angel visit her, either. Simeon and Anna believed the moment they met Jesus.

We have something more wonderful than mere angels relaying messages from God today. We who have accepted His grace, have God Himself living in us. We don’t need to hear from a third party, even one as glorious as an angel, to receive God’s message. He Himself wrote us a love letter, telling us everything we need to know for this life and eternity. We can read His heart any time of the day or night in the pages of Scripture.

Meeting Jesus through the pages of His Holy Word results in the same realization as we see in Simeon and Anna. Jesus is God. He is the Messiah. He is my Savior, and yours. Some people will reject the Truth. But they cannot deny the Truth forever.

God speaks through Scripture. Are you listening?

 

September 27; How?

Joel 3; Malachi 1-4

I don’t know about you, but reading Malachi makes me uncomfortable. Every time God says something, the people question Him. It almost seems like they are insisting God defend His position against them. Just the thought of demanding God explain Himself makes me feel uncomfortable.

But it must not have bothered Israel at the time. God told them He had loved them. “How?” they asked. God told them they were showing contempt for Him. “How?” they asked. And when God said they’d shown contempt by offering defiled food on the altar, the Israelites asked, “How?”

Oh, it doesn’t even end there. The Israelites questioned God when He told them to return to Him, and when He accused them of robbing Him. “How are we to return?” “How do we rob You?”

I might talk like that to a co-worker. It’s doubtful I’d talk like that to an employer. I’m pretty sure I’d never talk like that to my dad. But I can’t even imagine a time when I would be so arrogant to talk like that to a Holy God.

That’s not to say I don’t have questions once in a while. I noticed two key verses in Malachi that tell me how to handle my questions.

(3:7) “Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.

(4:4) Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.

If I want to know how I’ve offended God, how I’ve disobeyed, and how I’ve grieved Him; if I want to know what sin is I need look no further than Scripture. Every answer to every question is lovingly written there by God Himself.

So after reading Malachi today, I realize the only “How” I want to come out of my mouth when talking to my Lord is the one followed by, “…can I serve You?”

September 26; It’s Sin

Nehemiah 13; Joel 1-2

Sometimes when we read God’s Word we tend to think, “this account was written to people long ago,” or “this one is about things in the future,” and we neglect to realize God is able to speak to us concerning our lives in 2019 through every word He inspired men to write in Scripture.

I have to confess I was reading Joel this morning trying to put the prophet’s words into either the past category, or the future category. It was a bit frustrating. Now, I’m not saying Joel wasn’t speaking about historical events, or events that had not yet happened when the prophet allowed God to use his pen to write His words. But my prayer every day is that God would speak to me, too, through His Word about my walk with Him. And He always answers that prayer.

So I started to read it again, and in verse 2 God seemed to ask me, “Has anything like this happened to you?”

“Like what?” I thought. “Locusts?” God prompted me to think again.

Verse 4 stood out as a picture of devastation. One bad thing happened, then another, and another. Has anything like that ever happened to me? Have I felt at a loss with nowhere to turn, crushed by life’s hardships?

Yes. Who hasn’t at one time or another? “Then read on,” God seemed to say. “Wake up and weep, you sinner. Sin has invaded your life.”

“Now wait a minute,” I argued. “I’ve repented of sin. You promised to forgive me. I am wearing Jesus’ righteousness. What sin are you talking about?”

As I continued to read I saw that sin has invaded God’s creation. At prayer meeting last night, someone prayed that God would shatter the teeth of Satan, and here in verse 6 God reenforces that idea by saying the enemy, sin, has the teeth of a lion, the fangs of a lioness. It is sin that has destroyed what God created as good. It is sin that brings the heartache and loss. Sometimes we experience the consequences for our own sin, but sometimes we are hurt as a result of living in a fallen, sinful world. It’s my sin, your sin, the sins of the world.

God seems to be saying, “Wake up! Call sin sin. Identify the enemy. Don’t pretend it isn’t there.”

“So,” I think, “Social reform isn’t the answer? Tolerance isn’t going to bring peace?”

“Exactly,” He seemed to say. “Sin has taken the joy of mankind.”

“So, what is the answer, Lord? Where do we find that joy again?”

I read words like mourn, grieve, despair, wail. And I ask myself if I am truly broken over sin in the world, and in my own life. Am I truly grieving the state of hearts that are dried up, withered, ruined because of sin?

Then in verse 13 God says, “Come.” He asks us to fast and pray, go to church and cry out to God. To turn to Him to come and heal our land, which is really the lives of people in our families, and communities, and the world.

“Heal our parched and worthless lives God, when we turn to You according to Your Word,” I pray. “To you, O Lord, I call, for sin has devoured our hearts, sin has burned up all the good You created. We, Your creation, pant for you. You alone are the answer.”

It’s not about luck, or Karma, or positive thinking, or tolerance. It’s sin that is the problem, and the repenting of sin that is the answer. It is sin that causes all the bad, and only through the blood of Jesus can there be any hope of anything good.

We have got to stop playing around with sin. It is the enemy. It is the cause of all the bad that happens in this world. And God, through Jesus, has destroyed sin’s hold over us. We just need to turn to Him according to His Word.

So today, God has brought some personal sins to mind, and I have repented. I want my heart to be fed and nourished by the living water that is Jesus. And God has challenged me to stand up for what I know is true according to His Word. I don’t want to take lightly the very thing that is destroying the people I love and the world God created.

It’s not God that is causing bad things to happen. It’s sin. It’s not God that is to blame for hardship and loss. It’s sin. My sin. And yours. What are we going to do about that?

 

September 25; Gatekeepers

I Chronicles 9:1-34; Nehemiah 12:1-47

Do you have gatekeepers at your church? Some churches hire uniformed police to be a presence during worship services, a sad commentary on our society, but a sight that may be more common in the future.

But the gatekeepers we read about in I Chronicles weren’t that kind of protectors. They had the enormous responsibility of guarding the things of God. Someone was on duty every hour of every day, making sure the holy things were not compromised.

So who is guarding the things of God in your fellowship? I’m not talking about guarding the gold candlesticks or the stained glass windows. I’m talking about Truth, the Gospel, God’s Holy Word. Who is making sure Satan cannot gain entrance into your fellowship?

Who holds your pastors and teachers accountable for teaching according to Scripture? Who address sin in a scriptural fashion, holding your members accountable for their actions?

All of us should be gatekeepers. We need to be protecting the things of God as earnestly as the gatekeepers we read about in I Chronicles. We possess a priceless treasure – the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let’s protect it with our lives.

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.