Category Archives: Bible study

Judges 17-18; What You Believe

What do you believe about God? On what or whom do you base your theology? Is it church doctrine? Are your beliefs based on the writings of a Bible scholar you like? A dynamic speaker, or your own pastor? Is what you believe about God based on your own thoughts and desires?

We read about Micah, his mom, and some Danite thugs, and they all seem to call on the God of their Fathers. But their religion cannot be described as one based on the Word of God.

The key to this account is the fact there was no king in Israel at the time. Everyone did as they felt was best for themselves. (18:1) So it was not unheard of that someone like Micah might fashion a religion to his own liking, one that appears to acknowledge God, yet in reality denies Him.

I am burdened for those here in 2017 who have fallen for the same deception as Micah did; religions that acknowledge God, or a higher power, or a supreme being, yet place idols around their homes and in their hearts. I am burdened for people who use God’s Holy Word as a suggestion rather than the complete and utter Truth.

Dear one, I would encourage us to put away the commentaries, the self-help books, the opinions of men and women for a while. Turn off the TV and radio, quit reading blogs, (including mine) and open up the Bible. Read it. Pray about it. Meditate on it. Open your heart and mind to the Holy Spirit. Let God speak to us through His Word, as He longs to do.

I’m not saying we should never read study guides and enrich our beliefs with the opinions of others. I hope you’ll come back to reading my blog after you’ve spent time in the Word.

But I am convinced we shouldn’t be reading those things until we are first and foremost firmly grounded in the Bible. If our theology isn’t based on the Truth of Scripture, with no add-ons or take-aways, then we have acted as though there is no King, and have fashioned a religion to our liking.

And that, my friend, is not a religion, or a belief system God will honor.

 

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Judges 13-16; Samson and Strength

Samson’s story is very familiar with those of us privileged to be raised going to Sunday School. Well, at least the major points of his story. There is a very dark side to this Israeli hero we don’t talk about as children.

As I read these chapters today, I asked God to reveal the main thing we can learn from Samson’s life, because there are many lessons woven throughout these chapters. The word, “strength” kept coming to mind as I read. But that’s so obvious, I thought. Then as though God Himself spoke the words, I thought “isn’t that what you asked?”

Samson’s story is about strength. Shocking.

As I consider Samson’s strength I am convinced that his hair had nothing to do with it. His hair was an outward indication of his obedience to God. When he allowed Delilah to cut it, he blatantly turned his back on God. Then his strength left him, because then God left him.

My strength to face this day comes from the assurance God is with me.

The Lord IS my strength. (Ps 28:7)

(God) IS their strength in time of trouble. (Ps 37:39)

The Lord IS the strength of my life. (Ps 27:1)

What I take away from Samson’s story today is that I can trust God when I am weak, because He IS strong. No positive thoughts, or manta, or lucky beads can compare with the One who IS strength.

I want to walk with Him in obedience today, and know the safety and strength that is mine through Him.

 

Joshua 18-21; The Donut Hole

I’m the type of person who usually needs to see something in order to understand it. So reading these chapters concerning the division of the Promised Land among the tribes of Israel is like trying to read Chinese or something. It’s meaningless. The map in my study Bible didn’t help much. It had the tribal names in the right places, but it didn’t show the borders. It kind of all ran together for me.

Then I found a map on biblestudy.org that not only drew in the borders, they color-coded the different tribes! Now I get it.

But what is it I get? I’m not one to spend a lot of time studying the material components of Scripture. I don’t have a burning desire to visit that area of our world we call the Holy Land. But because God inspired the recording of the details concerning this property survey, I figure it must be important. So I pulled out my commentaries.

Didn’t get a lot of insight. But Matthew Henry did connect some dots. Like telling me Mount Carmel and Nazareth were in Zebulun’s territory. The tiny area allotted to Issachar is where Ahab’s palace was, where Sisera was beaten by Deborah, where Saul and Jonathan were killed. It was a happening place! Anna, the prophetess who hung out at the temple until she could hold baby Jesus, came from all the way up north in Asher.

I’ve spent all morning dot-connecting. I found it very interesting. But is the reason why these chapters are included in Scripture so that we can get to know a piece of dirt that will perish with the rest of the world some day? I put my commentaries aside, and asked God if there was something He wanted to say to me.

I stared at the map on my computer screen for a while and my eyes kept going to the southern most part of the Promised Land. It’s where Judah received their inheritance, and it’s one of the largest portions of land. But right in the middle, like a donut hole, is Simeon’s land. Simeon, who had disgraced himself, and who was cursed by his father Jacob because of his sin, was placed right in the middle of the territory given to his brother Joseph’s family.

The black sheep of the family was surrounded by the family Savior.

Now there’s a lesson!

I think this is a beautiful picture of how we are to handle it when a brother or sister in Christ sins. So often, we turn our backs on them. We shun them. We talk about them behind their backs. But God, painting a beautiful picture here, puts that sinner right in the middle, surrounds them with the strongest believers.

I notice that the map I have of this area during the time of King David, identifies that area simply as “Judah.” My research tells me that by that time, most of the tribe of Simeon were assimilated into Judah. I LOVE THAT!!!!

The New Testament tells us that when a brother sins, we are to confront him, talk to him, take one or two others with us to do everything we can to bring that person back into the fold. Yes, there may come a time to disconnect. But that should never be our first response.

So the next time you become aware of someone in your family or your church fellowship  who is falling away, remember you are the donut. Surround that person, embrace that person, love that person back to the Lord.

I hope your family will do the same for you.

 

 

Deuteronomy 21-24; God Makes Sense

As Moses teaches God’s Law to the young Jews ready to take the Promised Land, I am struck by the sense and sensibility of it all. (I just watched that movie on TCM this week)

Oh sure, we could dissect the verses concerning divorce, or agriculture, or fashion, parenting, or even using the latrine. But don’t all these chapters fall under the Greatest Commandment Jesus talked about in Matthew 22? Love God, love others? Don’t these verses in Deuteronomy fit under the umbrella of the Golden Rule?

I think our world is in the state it is in because we aren’t living with the good sense God gave us. Love Him. Worship Him only. Be kind. Have integrity. Be honest. Have compassion. Eliminate sin. Don’t think of yourself more highly than you think of others. It just makes sense.

God makes sense.

Deuteronomy 7&8; Obedience= Blessing (Not The Other Way Around)

Five times in these two chapters, God makes a direct link between obedience and blessing. Verse after verse describe the Promised Land with all its abundance. But God is not handing the land over to His people without some strings attached.

Clearly He says, all the blessings of Canaan are theirs, IF. Then three times He tells them what will happen if they disobey. First, in 9:14 He warns them they’ll forget Him, then in verses 19, and repeated in 20, He tells them disobedience will lead to destruction.

For myself, I know that when I am blessed by God, it encourages me to obey Him again and again. But I think the Bible is consistent in saying God does not bless disobedience. In fact, there are severe consequences for disobedience.

Sometimes I think people believe God chose Israel (and perhaps the Church) to bless them above all nations, when in reality God chose them (and the Church) to worship Him before all other nations and people, to demonstrate how much He blesses a people who obey Him, in order to draw unbelievers to Himself, so that they can believe, worship, and obey Him, be blessed, and continue to reveal Him to others, and so on, and so on, and so on.

God delights in blessing His children. But obedience comes before blessing, and disobedience comes before a fall.

Numbers 34-36; Don’t Do It!

Cities of Refuge interest me. They were cities in walking distance from anywhere in the Promised Land, assigned as safe havens for those accused of murder, if the death was a result of an accident. The dead person’s kinsmen’s avenger, determined to kill the killer, could not exact revenge while the guilty party was inside the walls of a City of Refuge.

But, should the accused step outside the city, the avenger of blood could take that ultimate “eye for an eye,” with no repercussions. I imagine the avenger camped outside the gate of the city, waiting, watching, hoping the accused will let his guard down and take just one step away from the city of refuge.

If you’ve been with me very long on this blogging journey of mine, you know that I am always looking for spiritual truths, and pictures of Jesus on the pages of this dear book we know as the Bible. It’s thrills me to see how God has woven Himself into every story, every verse. And He is certainly visible in the chapters I read today.

I am guilty. Like the accused murder I’ve just talked about, I have blown it. I deserve a death penalty. But I have found refuge in my Savior, Jesus. Not because I am not guilty, but because He forgave me. He paid my death sentence, shedding His blood on Calvary, dying and living again. I am safe in His Presence. He is my City of Refuge.

Because there is someone out there who wants me dead. Satan is camped outside the gate, waiting for me to step away.

When I think about the accused person hiding out in the City of Refuge, it occurs to me that person had to leave everything, and everyone behind in order to find safety. His home, family, career, savings account, lifestyle, friends, everything that was familiar to him, left behind. And I imagine, after time, the temptation would be there to go back just for a second, to see his old stomping grounds, to experience the fun of the past, to collect some keepsakes, to say “Hi” to the old gang.

And we, as a people saved by grace, might find the pull of our past lives tempting as well. The parties, the friendships, even unhealthy relationships, or the power or income or prestige that came with a compromised life, might draw us back.

Don’t Do It!

Satan would love nothing more than to pounce on us as soon as we let our guard down. Scripture tells us to guard our hearts for a reason. Paul tells us to put on the Armor of God, to study, to pray without ceasing. Remember Jesus said if we love anyone or anything more than Him, we aren’t worthy of Him (Matthew 10:37). God promises if we draw near to Him, He will come near to us.

I don’t want to take a step toward the gate that leads outside my City of Refuge, by entertaining thoughts about ungodly things, by watching things on TV that numb me to the ugliness of sin, by aligning myself to people who compromise the truth of Scripture in any way.

Jesus is my City of Refuge. May I be found living, loving, and serving under His umbrella.

And that’s my prayer for you, too.

Numbers 12; Without My Two Cents

Moses’ own siblings, Aaron and Miriam, were talking about Moses behind his back. They complained about his wife, and were jealous of his following. And, like most gossip, their complaints got back to Moses.

How did he react? The Bible tells us “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.” (12:3)

Sounds like Moses “turned the other cheek.” There is no record that he defended himself. Oh, say something against God and Moses would be in your face. Say something about Moses, and he’ll either ignore you, or go to God about it.

As it turned out, God handled it without Moses doing a thing.

It’s unrealistic to think, especially for those of you in positions of authority, that everyone is going to love and/or agree with you all the time. (Ask President Trump). But I’ve found that often, when I react to gossip, or try to defend myself, I can make matters worse.

That’s not to say that there aren’t times when God will prompt us to speak up against gossip or slander or threats of some kind. Then, I believe, He’ll give us the words to say to bring about a solution that brings glory to Himself. But unless I know He is nudging me toward action, I’d like to react like Matthew Henry says Moses reacted: He, as a deaf man, heard not.

I want to learn from Moses’ example. I want to learn when to just keep my mouth shut. I want to learn that if God thinks it’s necessary to defend me, He’s able to do that without my two cents.