Category Archives: Bible study

Psalm 1; The Pursuit of Happiness

The book of Psalms is the go-to for many people when they are sad or discouraged or feel far from God. And many find comfort in these precious chapters.

Honestly, I haven’t been one of those people. The Psalms have never been my favorite book of the Bible. Usually, as I get to this portion of God’s Word while reading through it each year, I plow through as many psalms a day as I can, just to say I’ve read them. Oh, I’m blessed by a verse here and there, challenged or convicted by others. But in general, I don’t let it speak to me like I do other places in the Bible.

My pastor has been going through the psalms with us on Wednesday evenings, and that has given me a new appreciation. So today I read Psalm 1, a psalm I memorized in my youth, and I’ve been sitting here chewing on it, praying about it, then reading what some others have to say about it. And… WOW!

We all want to be happy. I mean, come on. Doesn’t the US government even give us the right to pursue happiness? So why is there so much sadness? Why so many people medicating to mask unhappiness? Psalm 1 has the answer.

First of all the happy (or blessed) person doesn’t listen to the world’s idea of what happy looks like. It’s not found within us, or in having bigger and better things. It’s not found in relationships or self-satisfaction. People who suggest that the answers to life’s problems are situational or a matter of mind control are wicked counselors, sinners, and mockers. (vs 1)

The blessed man is the one whose life is grounded in Scripture, who loves God’s Word, who has made the Bible such a part of his life, it is with him day and night. He is like a tree whose roots are deep, nourished by living water, refreshed, and fruitful.

The psalm says the wicked man, the one who denies God or ignores Him, has no roots. He’s based his life on shallow ground that won’t stand up in the end. Like chaff, or dandelion seeds that blow apart in the wind, he has no standing with God. And he doesn’t even realize what an unhappy state he’s living in.

The dandelion looks at the sturdy oak and says, “I’m just like you.”

No, you’re not.

The blessed person, we who are happy in our relationship with God, grounded in His Word, know that this life is only a blink in light of eternity. The problems of this life are temporary, but the rewards of knowing God will last forever. We can afford to be happy in that truth, regardless of situations we face here in this lifetime. We are blessed!

Dear God, thank You for slowing me down as I study Your Word today. I pray that as I spend time in the psalms You inspired men to write, I will listen to what You would say to me here in 2018. God, I want to be grounded in Your Word, rooted in Scripture, bearing fruit as a result of my relationship with You. I’m looking forward to getting to know You better, loving You more, and serving You more effectively as I let these psalms penetrate my heart and soul.

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Job 25-28; Bildad’s Parting Shot, Job ends His Defense

Job’s final thoughts are lengthy but so rich in content. I didn’t get through all the chapters of his response because chapter 28 stopped me in my tracks. I wish I could say I saw this truth in my first read-through. Actually, it was Warren Wiersbe who pointed something out that opened my eyes and convicted me. (Be Patient, page 106)

Here’s the gist:

People (and I am talking about me) put so much time and effort into getting ahead, on careers, or family, or popularity, or sports, or having a manicured lawn, etc. I myself went to college after high school, got a teaching job, then went back to school at night to get a Masters Degree.

Many people put in overtime at work, take work home, hoping to be considered for that next promotion. We take out loans to buy the big houses and fancy cars, then take on a second job to pay for them.

So why aren’t we putting that much effort into knowing the Lord? Why don’t we put in half that effort to know Him?

I have to confess that during the years I was working and going to school, the journals I keep with my time in the Word reveal days and weeks when my Bible wasn’t even opened. Time with God was the first thing I sacrificed to accommodate my busy schedule.

Job talks about mining gold and precious stones, and I can only imagine the effort that required in his day. Wisdom, he says, cannot be bought with gold. No matter how hard you work for the gold, or how valuable you think that gold is. Some things can’t be bought.

How much effort are you putting in to your relationship with Jesus? How much time do you give Him every day, how often do you talk to Him? Being a follower of Jesus requires more than a prayer of repentance. To follow someone, you’ve got to move.

Let’s move toward God by shutting ourselves away every day to be alone with Him, to let Him speak to us through His precious Word. Let’s tell Him what’s on our hearts, and watch what He can do when we include him in our day. You might think you don’t have time. I would argue that you do.

 

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.

 

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.