Tag Archives: Bible reading

Behold Your God, Week Eight, Day Two

18 Jul

Day two is long but is one of the best days of the study. Persevere and work through it. It is worthwhile.

Three truths are shared in today’s study which are very important.

Truth 1 — Motivation is more important than method in our evangelism. We jump to method because we want to know how we should do evangelism. But our heart for God and people is more important. A desire to share Jesus with others will lead us to more sharing than a mastery of methods.

Truth 2 — Evangelism has a horizontal and a vertical dimension, and the vertical is most important. We share about Jesus because we love people. And we share about Jesus because we love God. When we begin to see evangelism as a part of fulfilling the greatest commandment to love God and neighbor, it brings a new dimension of meaning to our efforts.

Truth 3 — This truth relates to Bible reading . . . I appreciated the section on pages 150 and 151 where several verses are given and we are told to explain the what and why of each verse. I know this is a simple thing but it is so important. Often, the Bible explains reasons and motivations for all sorts of things and these reasons and motivations give us great insight into the heart of God and the purposes of God. For example, in Isaiah 45:22 we read “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth. For I am God, and there is no other.” The command is for people from the ends of the earth to turn and be saved. But why? Because God is the only true God. Nothing and no one else will save you. God tells us that He alone can save. It is a very elementary thing, but reading your Bible with a view toward seeing the what and the why will open your understanding of God and His ways like few other things. The key is to slow down enough to really think carefully about what you are reading.

Two Ways to Read the Bible

4 Jan

I recommend that every Christian who can should be a consistent Bible reader. But there are two ways to read which I believe are both essential to the greatest degree of spiritual growth and health.

First, every believer should read the Bible in large chunks. Three or so chapters a day takes you through the Bible in a year, so that is a good place to start. This kind of reading gives you the lay of the land and helps you see the big picture of God’s working. But along with this, I recommend secondly that every believer take time to read the Bible on a micro level, with pen in hand, ready to note and meditate over biblical truth. Here individual books of the Bible might be your aim. Maybe you could make it a goal to carefully read through the Psalms this year (you could go through the Psalms twice during the year if you did one a day). Or maybe 2017 will be the year you study the gospel of John. Or perhaps you will take a year to mull over Romans, or explore Ephesians. Maybe you want to spend the year reading everything in the Bible about the life of Peter or David. Or maybe you will focus on the women of the Bible. Perhaps you might fix your attention on all the prophecies made about Jesus in the Old Testament or maybe everything you can find in the Bible about prayer. You could trace the attributes of God through the Scriptures. The possibilities are almost endless.

The bottom line is that I encourage you to take time each day for macro-level reading and micro-level reading. You will find it very rewarding to give your attention to the Scriptures in this way in 2017.

Bible Reading Blog — May 1, 2016

1 May

TODAY’S READINGS — Job 1-3 & Luke 7:1-10

In Luke 7:1-10, there is a huge focus on the word “worthy.” The centurion’s servant is sick and near dying so the centurion sends some friends to Jesus to urge him to heal the servant. The friends make a big deal of what a great guy the centurion is, how worthy he is to receive Jesus’ work. But the centurion himself says, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. But say the word and my servant will be healed.” Jesus commends the centurion for his faith. I believe the centurion’s faith is seen both in his recognition of his own unworthiness and of Jesus’ power. He was truly “poor in spirit.” Though he was an important man in the eyes of men, he knew he was not worthy in the eyes of God. Acknowledging his own unworthiness, he also affirmed the worthiness of Jesus to heal his servant just by saying the word. He, a man familiar with authority, knew true authority when he saw it. He placed all His trust in Jesus as the only one who could heal his servant. With empty hands of faith, the centurion in effect said, “I am unworthy, but you are worthy, and that is all I need.” One of the signs we have entered into a real life of faith is when we stop trying to commend ourselves to God. When we stop leaning on our track record and look to all that Jesus has done a doorway to dependence is set up which can never be broken.

Bible Reading Blog — April 28, 2016

28 Apr

TODAY’S READINGS — Esther 1-2 & Luke 6:37-42

Judge not . . . condemn not . . . forgive . . . give. These commands, following the passage we read yesterday about love for enemies and turning the other cheek, turn up the heat on all forms of self-aggrandizement. This passage is nothing less than death to self. But here we have an interesting parable right in the middle of this passage. After all these words about grace Jesus says, “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.”

This little section in the middle of all these words about a life of humility seems to mark a contrast between the “blind guides” (the religious leaders) and Jesus. The bottom line is, if you are being led by people who are full of themselves and not leading in a way that aligns at all with the words of 6:27-42, then you are being misled and you will end up in a pit. Ultimately we are to be led by Jesus and our earthly leaders are to be led by Jesus, so that they are like their Master and we can follow Him as they do.

Bible Reading Blog — April 27, 2016

27 Apr

TODAY’S READINGS — Nehemiah 11-13 & Luke 6:27-36

The words of Luke 6:27-36 are among the most often excused and glossed-over words in Scripture. We always try to find a loophole to turning the other cheek or lending freely or living enemies. I believe there are two reasons for our hedging on these verses . . . we underestimate our sinfulness and we underestimate the transforming power of the gospel.

We offer excuses for not following the way of life unfolded in Luke 6 because we are fundamentally self-centered. We want to be served, we want what we want, we believe what we have is ours to do with what we want. So when we are confronted by the words of Jesus in Luke 6, our default position is to balk at them, sometimes even dressing up our resistance with words like “discernment” or “wisdom.” And indeed, it is clear that Jesus did not heal everyone, did not give to everyone, etc. But it is a matter of approach to life. And that approach to life which is open-handed rather than close-fisted can only happen through the transforming power of the gospel. The whole basis of this life of freedom and forgiveness is the fact that we have received mercy from God and should therefore freely give mercy. But what an unusual way to live. The way of love, really, but so often seen as the way of the doormat. In a culture of rights, in a culture where authority is both abused and resisted, this is indeed a counter-cultural way of living which actually could transform not only individuals, but communities.

Bible Reading Blog — April 25, 2016

25 Apr

TODAY’S READINGS — Nehemiah 4-7 & Luke 6:12-16

Sanballat and company, whose mockery and taunting was the soundtrack for those Jews who linked arms to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 4:1-3), would fit in very well on the comment sections of many websites and blogs today. Angered at the Jews for rebuilding the walls, Sanballat led a group who tried to discourage the work through belittling it, questioning the skill and the wisdom of the workers. Our culture is now filled with this kind of naysaying, where every attempt is made to belittle Christians and mock what we do.

It is instructive to notice how Nehemiah responds to Sanballat here . . .

Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn back their taunt on their own heads and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives. 5 Do not cover their guilt, and let not their sin be blotted out from your sight, for they have provoked you to anger in the presence of the builders.
6 So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.
Nehemiah prayed that God would take care of them because by dishonoring God’s work they had dishonored God. But having left it in God’s hands, Nehemiah and those with him got back to work.
You can’t outdebate a troll, but you can outwork them. Let them take their cheap shots and keep moving. Leave it in God’s hands and live as a disciple of Jesus. The only people who are never opposed are the one who aren’t doing or saying anything.

 

Bible Reading Blog — April 24, 2016

24 Apr

TODAY’S READINGS — Nehemiah 1-3 & Luke 6:1-11

Nehemiah is such a popular book for sermon series . . . it is about building, it is about restoring, it is about prayer, it is about leadership. Thousands of pastors have preached through this book because it seems to provide a story background for us to address all that is needed in the church today. It is a story of revival.

There is one aspect of today’s reading that struck me in a special way as I thought about it in relation to the church. Chapter 3, with its list of names and families and its description of repairing the wall, is a beautiful picture of the life of the church. Side by side, each one doing his or her part, each one given something of the task but not the whole, here we find a portrait of the kingdom in our own day. As each person serves, the body is strengthened. As each person gives of themselves to the work, something great is built. In the case of Nehemiah, it was the destroyed walls of Jerusalem rebuilt. In our case, it is a less measurable but no less real matter of lives changed from within, heart’s burdens lifted, love overflowing. Side by side, each one taking a part. What part of the wall has God assigned you? Flourish there with your brothers and sisters and watch the whole body grow so that Paul’s words in Ephesians become our daily experience . . .

“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

Bible Reading Blog — March 18, 2016

18 Mar

Today’s Readings — 1 Kings 5-8 & Mark 15:1-15

Never underestimate the power of stirring up a mob. This is what happened when Jesus was sent to Pilate. Barabbas was a notoriously bad character, but when the scribes saw that there was a choice between Jesus and Barabbas, they influenced the crowd to oppose Jesus and support Barabbas.

As I was reading this, my mind turned to our 2016 Presidential Election. So far in the campaign there has been a lot of this kind of activity going on. I’m not making a direct comparison of any candidate to Jesus or even to Barabbas. But what I am seeing is that candidate “A” is out there and he or she is in the public eye and candidate “B” and the supporters of candidate “B” come along and denigrate, bash and otherwise trash candidate “A” to such an extent that the general public feels it is almost criminal to vote for said candidate.

On the flip side, there is a positive spin that is focused much more on style than substance. Some candidates are basing their whole campaigns on celebrity and personality  or the historic nature of their candidacy. Policy specifics are either too vague or too filled with pandering to all the groups a candidate presumably must win to reach their goals. Many candidates this year are trading on anger, not unlike the anger in Mark 15. It is on both sides of the aisle. Voters are angry so the politicians stir up that anger for their own purposes.

The Jewish people of Jesus’ day were angry too. Under the domination of the Roman Empire, having experienced many humiliating defeats in the decades leading up to the time of Jesus, Judea and Galilee in Jesus’ day were ripe for revolution. So there were many incidents of violence and attempted rebellion. Angry mobs were certainly not limited to the experiences of Jesus in Mark 15. The book of Acts shows clearly this mob mentality was not limited to the things Jesus went through in His passion.

I am not saying that the presidential candidates are going to end up crucified but I am saying that the violence we have seen so far will only intensify as long as both parties and their supporters focus on being angry rather than thinking about who is best qualified to lead in ways that will be best for our country.

My word of advice is to beware of the mob mentality. When you hear people say ridiculous things about a candidate, you can count on the mob mentality being firmly in place. When candidates say outlandish things about each other, they are trying to stir up this mob mentality in others.

 

Bible Reading Blog — March 16, 2016

16 Mar

Today’s Readings — BREAK & Mark 14:66-72

On Sunday night, we have been studying the book of Hebrews in our church. Last Sunday night, we studied the warning passage in Hebrews 6:4-8. I am persuaded that this passage is talking about apostasy, forsaking belief in Jesus. I believe the passage in Hebrews points to those who have initial experience of God but turn away from it.

So what about Peter? In our passage he denies Jesus three times. Is this the same thing as what is going on in Hebrews 6? Has Peter, in his denial of Jesus, entered into the realm of Hebrews 6, to the extent that he cannot be restored to repentance?

Obviously, the fruit of what Peter did after this tragic event is proof that he ultimately did not forsake Jesus. In fear he disowned Jesus for a moment, but even his bitter tears in the immediate aftermath of this event (see v. 72) probably indicate that he was already pricked in conscience about what he had done. This was not apostasy. This was not an ultimate forsaking of Jesus. This was a sin, a real failure. But it was not a full turning away from Jesus like that of Hebrews 6. How do we know this? We know it by two means: the fruit of Peter’s life and the security of the believer because of the sovereignty of God.

 

Bible Reading Blog — March 4, 2016

4 Mar

Today’s Readings — 1 Samuel 11-14 & Mark 11:20-33

In Mark chapter 11 we read, 20 As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. 21 And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” 22 And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

Jesus cursed the fig tree, an acted parable to illustrate the faithlessness (and therefore fruitlessness) of Israel. Peter, remembering what Jesus had earlier done, is astounded. Jesus reveals the secrets of such power — faith and forgiveness. If you have faith in God, Jesus says, there is incredible power when you pray. The power is not in you or in your prayer but in God. If you are really leaning on God, Jesus says, God will meet you in that and bless you abundantly. But when praying, there is not only a vertical aspect but also a horizontal one. For Jesus says,”whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” There is a connection between a right relationship with God and a right relationship with people. Lack of forgiveness toward people is a blockage in our relationship with God. So we may have all kinds of faith but if we do not love others but hold bitterness against them, our prayers will be hindered.

Maybe powerlessness in prayer comes from failure to deal with the unforgiving spirit we harbor against others.

Loving God and loving people consistently go together in the teachings of Jesus. Spiritual power and relational harmony are interrelated.

%d bloggers like this: