Tag Archives: studying the Bible

(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.

October 22; Beneath The Surface

Luke 17:20-18:14; John 7:1-52

I was listening to Christian radio this morning, and heard a young artist tell the backstory about a song she recently wrote. She said she felt the greatest thing about our God is how His love unites people. She assured us that God wants us to feel loved, and powerful, and worthy.

What are your thoughts? And where is the Scripture to back up your belief? Is the greatest thing about God unity among people? Does God ever in His Word tell anyone He wants them to feel worthy? What this musician said sounds Christian. But when you look beneath the surface, is it Biblical?

Her words came to mind as I read what Jesus said concerning the Pharisee and the tax collector. “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Does that sound like Jesus wants us to feel powerful and worthy?

The tax collector had bowed before God, beat his breast and cried, “God, have mercy on me a sinner.” He didn’t say, “God forgive me because I am worthy of your forgiveness.”

Later, Jesus said, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.” Friend, I think that applies to more than condemning a person for tattoos and nose rings. I think it can apply to accepting or rejecting some seemingly innocent, uplifting, empowering sounding songs and teaching. They appear to be right – but are they?

Please don’t accept anything you hear – anything I say, or your pastor says, or songs on Christian radio – without looking beneath the surface. Make a right judgment according to Scripture, not the trend of the day.

Satan is really good at sounding like a Christian. So look beneath the surface.

 

 

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 15: Pass or Fail

Isaiah 37:14-38:22, 39:1-8; 2 Kings 20:1-18; 2 Chronicles 32:24-31

When I was in college I had the opportunity to “audit” a class or two. I was permitted to attend a class that wasn’t required for my major.  I could attend the lectures, do the work and take the tests, but my grade would be either pass or fail instead of the usual letter grade or percentage like in my other classes. It gave me the opportunity to learn a topic of interest without the pressure of making a grade for my GPA.

I think we are living life on a pass/fail basis. Not that we are simply auditing life. In fact, the result of our lives has much more significant outcomes than a GPA. Because in the end, we will either go to heaven or hell. Pass or fail.

During the course of our lives, we face times of testing. Sometimes we go through difficulties in life, and come out on the other side stronger in our faith, our relationship with the Lord more real than ever. We pass that difficult test, so to speak, and realize we really do have faith in God. Like Job, in all these things we do not sin. Actually, the tests involving hard times, illness, grief can be the easiest tests to pass because we can recognize the enemy, and face it head-on with God by our side.

But we’ve got to understand that hard times are not Satan’s only weapon against us. It’s not the only test he throws our way. Often that snake will revert back to his Garden of Eden tactics: pride, flattery, friendship.

Read what went down between Hezekiah and Merodach-Baladan the son of Babylonian king Baladan. This enemy sent men to Hezekiah with presents and good wishes. Isaiah says Hezekiah gladly received the enemy, gave them the grand tour of the palace and storehouses and sent them on their way. The enemy had tapped into Hezekiah’s pride, and the king couldn’t wait to show off.

Hezekiah had passed the war and illness tests. But he miserably failed the test of pride. Let’s remember that it’s Satan’s sole mission to trip you up. He’s throwing darts and trick questions your way, hoping you will fail to be true to God. And often, his methodology is flattery, success, and pride.

Paul, in his second letter to Timothy says:

Study to show yourself approved by God, a workman that needs not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babbling: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.

I think Paul and Isaiah would both tell us to arm ourselves with the Word, ground ourselves in the Truth of Scripture, put on the whole armor of God so that when, not if, Satan throws a pop-quiz at us, we will be ready.

Then look what else Paul tells Timothy: watch out for the flattery, the pride. Those things will lead to ungodliness, which is a fail.

You will be tested today. Will you pass, or fail?

 

May 27; Gold, Silver, Rubies, and Wisdom

Proverbs 2-4

Yesterday I realized that Solomon’s wisdom, as extraordinary as it was, has nothing on the wisdom that is ours in the pages of God’s Word. What a privilege is ours to have access to God’s wisdom every day!

In Proverbs 3:13-15 Solomon reminds us that, like gold, silver, and precious rubies, wisdom comes from digging. He continually encourages us to “get” wisdom, or “find” wisdom. These and similar phrases tell me that just reading a few verses every day cannot produce wisdom.

In order to receive what God has available to His children, we have to ingest his Word, read it then read it again, think on it, pray about it. Understanding something requires effort.

Has anyone really ever learned a foreign language by playing a recording while they sleep? Let’s just say, I doubt it. Because if that were true, schools would be equipped with bunkbeds and earphones instead of desks and computers.

Learning takes effort. Gaining wisdom takes effort. Mining gold, silver, and rubies takes effort. And what we have in the pages of God’s Word is so much more valuable than metal and stone.

Matthew 1-3; Where Is Who?

So some guys, probably from Arabia, who were into star-gazing, and who were at least somewhat familiar with Jewish history and the prophets, see a new star in the sky. Maybe they watched it for a few days to be sure it wasn’t a Russian spy satellite or a drone or something they could explain.

Well, maybe I’m wrong about the satellite/drone thing. But I can imagine them getting out their charts and excitedly trying to put two and two together to identify this celestial phenomenon. However, their charts could take them only so far. They had to check it out for themselves.

I wonder how that conversation went when one of them remembered reading something about a Jewish Messiah being born. “Didn’t our calculations predict he’d be born around this time? Could the star be God’s sign that it’s happened? If so, this is huge! Let’s go worship Him together.”

So the men set out for parts unknown, following that strange star, believing that the Jewish God was going to send a Savior.

Here’s what made me sad today. These Gentiles came to Jerusalem, the center of the Jewish religion, and with great anticipation asked, “Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews?” And no one knew!

“Where is who?”

It took the question of non-Jews for God’s people to look to Scripture for answers they should have already known.

I believe God is still putting stars in the sky to draw non-believers to Himself. God reveals Himself every day in hundreds of ways to anyone paying attention. Think about it. Evidence of God is everywhere!

So what happens when a non-believer whose eyes are beginning to open to the Truth comes to you and asks, “How do I find the Savior?” Do you know?

It seems the Jews in Jerusalem weren’t giving much thought to Scripture until the Magi came with questions. Shouldn’t they have been prepared? I think so.

And I think we should be, too. So did Paul:

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. (I Peter 3:15) (emphasis mine)

Dear one, we have got to be in God’s Word. We’ve got to be familiar with God’s plan of salvation. We’ve got to be able to tell anyone who asks how they can find what Jesus died to give them. We’ve got to be prepared.

So that when someone asks how they can find the Savior, our reply will be “I’m glad you asked. Let me introduce you to Him.”