Tag Archives: the Bible

Behold Your God — Week Ten Introduction

30 Jul

We are now heading on to the homestretch of our Behold Your God study this summer.

This week, we explore two particular dangers on the road to beholding God: idolatry and pragmatism. We will get into these two dangers as the week.

Have you ever heard anyone say, “I like to think of God as . . .” or “my God would never . . .?” If you’ve heard these kinds of phrases or used them yourself, you are in a danger zone. When it comes to who God really is, it is absolutely irrelevant what I think. Now for my own life, it is essential what I think of God. But my thoughts of God do not change who He is at all. He is who He is whether I believe in Him or not, whether I twist His reality to fit my conceptions of who He ought to be or not.

So the question really isn’t “what do I think about God?” the real question is, “what, if anything, does God say about Himself?” If God tells us who He is, then we really have a basis on which to believe in Him. If He doesn’t tell us who He is, we are left with the best thoughts of the highest minds, but they are all human just the same. So our understanding of God comes down to whether He has authentically revealed Himself and whether we can learn from that revelation.

God has revealed Himself to all people through the book of nature. The universe displays an order and design, a symmetry and a power that points to a great God. But understanding this is insufficient to save us. We cannot be saved just by believing God exists. But God has revealed Himself also through the Word of Scripture. God has revealed who He is by giving us His inspired Word. So we must strive to understand what He has revealed and walk in those truths. In Scripture, we can find the way to salvation and life with God. That way is Jesus, the living Word, who is the God-Man, who came to live and die and rise for the glory of God and the good of His people. God has spoken to us through His Son, but the truth about His Son is given to us in the Bible. Therefore, if we are to know Jesus well, we must know the Bible. Otherwise, we are in danger of creating a Jesus of our own conception rather than the One God has revealed. In so doing, we will be sitting ducks for the kind of idolatry and pragmatism explained in this week’s study.

Behold Your God — Week Three, Day Three

14 Jun

“Israel’s measure of God was the measure of their hope — big God equals big hope.” 

How do you have real hope? You must have a real view of the greatness and goodness of God. It must be a view that gets beyond a tired cliche. How can this happen?

Recently I was reading a discussion about a moral issue and the comments were going back and forth and while the participants were all claiming to be Christians they were coming to vastly different conclusions. It was apparent to me that everyone in that discussion had an idea about who God was, but none of them claimed any authority for their ideas outside of their own thinking. Finally, a person far into the discussion entered with a reasonable view of the moral issue using the Bible as the authority. In other words, the person was trying to see what God said about the issue in His Word. Two comments later that person was chided for bringing in a comment from the “Flat Earth Society” (internet comments are not known for their civility). No one engaged the person who started with the Bible in a discussion. Instead, there was just an insult designed to marginalize a view that has been widely accepted for centuries. In our culture, it is becoming more and more common that a person looking to what God has said in the Bible as a basis for living is viewed as naive, stupid, and dangerous.

But apart from knowing God based on what God has revealed about Himself in the Scriptures, what basis for hope do we really have? Politics? Money? Seventy years of fun and then death? Some might say Jesus is our hope, and that is certainly true. But we should be careful even at this point to make sure we don’t make a Jesus of our own. We need to stay close to the revealed Jesus we see in the Bible.

True hope comes from a true view of God. A true view of God comes through giving ourselves to understanding what God’s self-revelation (the Bible) tells us about Him. That is why we are doing this study this summer. We want to see God through the lens of Scripture and be shaped by that, not by conventional wisdom or our own notions or tradition. So every day, when you go to the Bible, Behold Your God. Ask yourself first and foremost, “What does this passage teach me about God?”

 

Behold Your God — Week Three, Day One

12 Jun

“The Bible is just an outdated book written by primitive people.” This line of thinking is common in our world today, and often stated even more rudely than I have written above. The truth is, if all the Bible claimed for itself or all I knew it to be was a collection of writings by ancient people, I would be inclined to regard it as an item of historical interest, but not one of constant study.

But the Bible is not just another historical book. It is the Word of God, inspired by God and profitable for spiritual growth and change. We need spiritual growth and change, and God’s Word is a key element in that change for us, as the Holy Spirit works through the Word to bring us life.

But how can we trust the Bible in a world that is so different than the one in which the Bible was written? Today’s study tells us that the answer to that question lies in the attribute of God we call immutability. God never changes. We must change if we are to have life, because we are sinful. Unless we turn to Christ and walk with Him we will never be what God intended us to be. But God, being perfect in every way, has no need of change. It could even be said that immutability is an essential aspect of His being God, for change inevitably involves the loss or gain of certain faculties or abilities, and God being perfect, would be giving up something of that perfection if there were shifts in His faculties or abilities.

The immutability of God is a key reason we can trust His Word today. Since God never changes, we know His thoughts, attitudes and actions toward people have not changed in the years since the Bible was written. Therefore, we can know that in the Bible we have a reliable revelation of God’s heart.

Behold Your God — Week Three Introduction

11 Jun

The other day, I heard Dan Barker of the Freedom from Religion Foundation in a conversation with Tucker Carlson discussing the constitutionality of an elementary school having off-hours Bible clubs for kids led by teachers. The debate was interesting, but Barker’s statements about the Bible really piqued my interest. Barker said he was against the Bible clubs because of constitutional reasons but really, he couldn’t see why anyone would want to study a book as awful as the Bible anyway, what with all the violence and slavery and the like within its pages. Of course, Barker is being somewhat disingenuous to stir the pot but his view has taken hold in our day far more than we might like to think. Others have followed the theory of the DaVinci Code novels, holding that the Bible has some good things to say, but these things were all shaped by the Catholic Church in the fourth century so that we really can’ t trust what the Bible says or even if we have the real Bible, since there are many books which have been found which were not included in the Bible.

What we believe about the Bible is critically important to our faith. If we believe it is the thoughts of religious people, or a concoction of the Church, or a book by people with primitive ideas, we will be inclined to approach it casually or even regard it with hostility. But if we accept what the Bible says about itself, that it is the Word of God inspired by God, then we will approach the Bible with much more respect and even expect to read valuable truth within its pages.

So we must first settle in our hearts the issue of believing the Bible is God’s Word. Having settled that issue, we then turn to another important issue: what should we be looking for when we read the Scriptures?

Most people are inclined to look for themselves in the Scriptures, or look for behaviors they can imitate. We are hoping for that word of guidance, that word that speaks to our situation. And some of this is good and right. But this week’s study will point us in a different direction. We are called first and foremost to look for God as we read the Bible. The Bible is the greatest gateway to knowing God . . . who He is, what He is like, what He is doing in the world. Through the Scriptures we can know God.

Since this is true, why would we not give serious time every day to reading and meditating over the Bible? Why would we not pray earnestly every time we come to the Bible, “Lord, open my eyes that I might see wonderful things in Your Word”? This week, we will be Beholding God in the Bible, something that just might change your whole life.

Behold Your God — Week Two, Day Four

8 Jun

Have you ever heard someone say, “My God is not like that!” or “My God would never do that!”? I always bristle when I hear these words, because it is an indicator that a person has made their own judgment the measure of who God is, rather than seeking to know who God is from considering what God has said about Himself.

Is there any reliable source of understanding about God in this world? To be sure, the creation speaks of God’s existence, power and care. But is there any more specific source? Surely conscience does play some part. People are inclined toward worship. There does seem to be something inside us that longs for the transcendent. But this is only a vague sense, a cloudy kind of reality. Is there any reliable source of understanding about God in this world?

Having learned what we have learned about God thus far in the Behold Your God study, we know God by His very nature is infinite. How could we know an infinite One unless that One revealed Himself to us? The Christian believes that the Bible is that trustworthy source of revelation God has given us of Himself. The Christian further believes that God Himself has come into the world in the person of Jesus Christ, so that God has revealed Himself through Him. So if we are going to know what God is like, we need to look at the written Word, the Bible, and the living Word, Jesus Christ.

The lifetime of the Christian is to be spent in knowing God. We know God through His Word and we commune with God through His Son. And when we come against some truth about God that collides with our sensibilities, we seek to understand it, we don’t write it off as something that can’t be true of God.

We must be careful, even in the midst of a life of religious activities like church attendance, prayer, Bible reading and service, that we do not make a god in our own image. Instead, we must submit ourselves to what God has told us about Himself. This submission to who God is will prove to be a gateway to real and lasting spiritual growth.

Spurgeon on the Sufficiency of Scripture

15 Mar

From the booklet, The Greatest Fight in the World . . .

We need nothing more than God has seen fit to reveal. Certain errant spirits are never   at home till they are abroad: they crave for a something which I think they will never find, either in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth, so long as they are in their present mind. They never rest, for they will have nothing to do with an infallible revelation; and hence they are doomed to wander throughout time and eternity, and find no abiding city. For the moment they glory as if they were satisfied with their last new toy; but in a few months it is sport to them to break in pieces all the notions which they formerly prepared with care, and paraded with delight. They go up a hill only to come down again. Indeed, they say that the pursuit of truth is better than truth itself. They like fishing better than the fish; which may very well be true, since their fish are very small, and very full of bones. These men are as great at destroying their own theories as certain paupers are at tearing up their clothes. They begin again anew, times without number: their house is always having its foundation digged out. They should be good at beginnings; for they have always been beginning since we have known them. They are as the rolling thing before the whirlwind, or “like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.” Although their cloud is not that cloud which betokened the divine presence, yet it is always moving before them, and their tents are scarcely pitched before it is time for the stakes to be pulled up again. These men are not even seeking certainty; their heaven lies in shunning all fixed truth, and following every will-o’-the-wisp of speculation: they are ever learning, but they never come to the knowledge of the truth. As for us, we cast anchor in the haven of the Word of God. Here is our peace, our strength, our life, our motive, our hope, our happiness. God’s Word is our ultimatum. Here we have it. Our understanding cries, “I have found it”; our conscience asserts that here is the truth; and our heart finds here a support to which all her affections can cling; and hence we rest content. If the revelation of God were not enough for our faith, what could we add to it? Who can answer this question? What would any man propose to add to the sacred Word? A moment’s thought would lead us to scout with derision the most attractive words of men, if it were proposed to add them to the Word of God. The fabric would not be of a piece. Would you add rags to a royal vestment? Would you pile the filth of the streets in a king’s treasury? Would you join the pebbles of the sea-shore to a pile of diamonds? Anything more than the Word of God sets before us, for us to believe and to preach as the life of men, seems utterly absurd to us; yet we confront a generation of men who are always wanting to discover a new motive power, and a new gospel for their churches. The Scriptures in their own sphere are like God in the universe—All-sufficient. In them is revealed all the light and power the mind of man can need in spiritual things. We hear of other motive power beyond that which lies in the Scriptures, but we believe such a force to be a pretentious nothing. A train is off the lines, or otherwise unable to proceed, and a break-down gang has arrived. Engines are brought to move the great impediment. At first there seems to be no stir: the engine power is not enough. Harken! A small boy has it. He cries, “Father, if they have not power enough, I will lend them my rocking-horse to help them.” We have had the offer of a considerable number of rocking-horses of late. They have not accomplished much that I can see, but they promised fair. I fear their effect has been for evil rather than good: they have moved the people to derision, and have driven them out of the places of worship which once they were glad to crowd. The new toys have been exhibited, and the people, after seeing them for a little, have moved on to other toy-shops. These fine new nothings have done no good, and they never will do any good while the world standeth. The Word of God is quite sufficient to interest and bless the souls of men throughout all time; but novelties soon fail. “Surely,” cries one, “we must add our own thoughts thereto.” My brother, think by all means; but the thoughts of God are better than yours. You may shed fine thoughts, as trees in autumn cast their leaves; but there is One who knows more about your thoughts than you do, and he thinks little of them. Is it not written, “The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity”? To liken our thoughts to the great thoughts of God, would be a gross absurdity. Would you bring your candle to show the sun? Your nothingness to replenish the eternal all? It is better to be silent before the Lord, than to dream of supplementing what he has spoken. The Word of the Lord is to the conceptions of men as a garden to a wilderness. Keep within the covers of the sacred book, and you are in the land which floweth with milk and honey; why seek to add to it the desert sands?

Reading the Bible in 2014

1 Jan

Every year around this time there are all sorts of articles with Bible reading plans for the new year. I think this is a good thing and certainly I don’t want to dissuade you from reading through the Bible this year. In fact, if you want to see an article with a lot of possible plans for reading, Justin Taylor posted a good article about reading plans on the Gospel Coalition. Here is the link . . .

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2013/12/26/how-to-read-the-whole-bible-in-2014/

If you are so inclined, please take advantage of one of these reading plans.

However, I want to share with you a few ideas for Bible reading for the new year which will be helpful whether you do a year-long reading plan or not.

Reading the Bible in 2014 . . .

1. Read for JOY. Aim in your Bible reading to enjoy your time with God in His Word. Stick with reading the Word until you break through to joy.

2. Read REGULARLY. Daily Scripture reading will feed your soul like nothing else. Take time to read every day and you will find your desire to read increase.

3. Read SLOWLY. Take your time to understand what the Bible is saying. Stick with it until you can understand what a passage is saying and what it means. If you read slowly and still don’t get it then you may find help through a Study Bible.

4. Read PRAYERFULLY. As you are reading, turn your reading to prayer. When you see something great about God, turn your heart to praise.

5. Read with PEN IN HAND. Note things that jump out to you as you read. You can do this in a notebook or in your Bible.

6. Don’t feel GUILTY about not reading through the Bible in a year. Obviously, if you’ve never read all the way through the Bible, you should. But there is no requirement to read through the Bible in a year.

7. PERSEVERE. Don’t give up if you miss a day or if you have a day where you don’t feel joy in reading or don’t feel like you comprehend as well.

Have a great year in 2014 getting to know God better through His Word!

New Series Starting Tonight

16 Oct

Tonight at church (www.westhickory.org) we are starting a new series called “Why We Believe the Bible.”

This six week series will cover questions of the uniqueness of the Bible, how the Bible came to be, the trustworthiness of the Bible and many other important topics.

In a day in which many are questioning whether the Bible is the Word of God, Christians must wrestle through these issues and be ready to lovingly explain how the Bible came to be and why we believe it is true.

I hope you’ll join us tonight at 6:30.

“I Just Wasn’t Being Fed”

30 Jan

Have you ever heard someone say this of their church experience? Sometimes, when a person is considering changing churches, they will say this. Most often it is a smoke screen for some other issue the person has with the church. The problem is not that they aren’t being fed, it is that they had an unresolved conflict or a hidden bitterness against someone that they had not dealt with properly.

When we say we aren’t being fed, we are putting the blame on the church for our leaving. It is always easier to look to someone or something else as the source of our problems.

The problem with saying we aren’t being fed came home to me the other day when I heard someone say, “Only babies need to be fed.” They were speaking of the need we have to feed ourselves through reading and meditating on the Scriptures. But their phrase got me thinking about this phrase as it relates to church. When we are in a church where the preaching and teaching is not adequate, we need to avoid phrases like, “I just wasn’t being fed.” Better to say, “There wasn’t enough food there” or “There was bad food there.” These phrases more adequately express the reality of the situation on the ground.

We need to think long and hard before we say things like this but these kinds of phrases are still better than saying we are not being fed. We need to be mature, not like babies.

The other thing we must remember, of course, is that feasting on the Word privately and through the ministry of preaching is not the end of the story, but the beginning. If the spiritual food we consume is not put to use in our lives, we just become fat and tired and lazy and self-assured and ultimately ineffective in the work of God. So this Word we take in must always be going out to others if we are to be spiritually healthy.

Three Questions About the Fear of the Lord

30 Jul

The fear of God is an often misunderstood and under-emphasized idea. Ed Welch defines the fear of God as “reverent submission to God that leads to obedience.” Below are three questions about the fear of God with biblical answers from a recent Sunday School lesson at our church. I encourage you to look up some of the verses just to get a feel for context, but I think these passages are very helpful when considering the issue of the fear of God. I am reminded that at the end of Paul’s indictment of humanity in Romans chapters 1-3, one of the things he says in summing up the state of sinful humanity is that “they have no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:18). So obviously, the fear of the Lord is very important if we are to be rightly related to God.

1.  Why should we fear God?

Ps. 2:11—It is at the heart of what it means to serve the Lord.
Ps. 27:1—The Lord is our salvation.
Ps. 76:7—No one can stand before God’s anger.
Ps. 76:12—He breaks the spirit of rulers.
Ps. 89:7—He is more awesome than all that surround Him.
Ps. 90:11—His wrath is equal to the fear He deserves.
Ps. 96:4—He is to be feared above all other gods (including people)
Ps. 111:10/Prov. 1:7—Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge
Ps. 115:11—He is a help and shield to those who fear Him.
Ps. 115:13—He will bless those who fear Him.
Ps. 118:4—His love endures forever.

We fear the Lord because He is intrinsically worthy of fear.  The summation of these verses is that God alone is worthy.  He alone can bear the weight of your soul’s need to worship.

2.  What does it look like to fear the Lord?  The fear the Bible speaks of works itself out in the lives of people.

Ps. 22:23—They give praise.
Ps. 66:16—They listen to truth.
Ps. 76:8—They are quiet.
Ps. 86:11—They are teachable and have an undivided heart.
Ps. 119:63—They follow His precepts.
Ps. 119:74—They hope in the Word.
Ps. 119:79—They understand His statutes.
Ps. 119:120—They stand in awe of God’s laws.
Ps. 128:1—They walk in His ways.
Prov. 1:29—Not demonstrated by those who hate knowledge (negatively)
Prov. 3:7—Not being wise in your own eyes (humility)
Prov. 8:13—Hatred of evil
Prov. 14:2—Their walk is upright.

3.  What are the results of the fear of God?
Ps. 23:4—Results in triumph over fear of evil
Ps. 25:14—The Lord confides in those who fear Him.
Ps. 27:3—Not fearing physical harm
Ps. 31:19—God’s goodness is poured out on those who fear Him.
Ps. 33:18—The Lord’s eyes are on those who fear Him.
Ps. 34:4—Deliverance from lesser fears
Ps. 34:9—Lacking nothing
Ps. 40:3—Living in the fear of the Lord will cause others to do likewise.
Ps. 60:4—Protection
Ps. 85:9—Salvation
Ps. 103:13—His Fatherly compassion is upon those who fear Him
Ps. 103:17—His love is everlasting to those who fear Him.
Ps. 111:15—He provides for those who fear Him.
Ps. 130:4—There is forgiveness to those who fear Him
Ps. 145:19—Desires are fulfilled for those who fear Him.
Ps. 147:11—The Lord delights in those who fear Him.
Prov. 10:27—Adds length of life
Prov. 15:33—Fear of the Lord teaches man wisdom.
Prov. 16:6—A man avoids evil
Prov. 22:4—Results in wealth and honor and life

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