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Category Archives: Bible Study

Reflections & Reminders

Before beginning a new year, I find it helpful to reflect on the past one. I add one more “Ebenezer” to my stones of remembrance.

In 1 Samuel 7, the nation of Israel has been oppressed by the Philistines. The prophet Samuel is trying to lead the nation of Israel through a process of repentance, recommitment, and renewal. He challenges them to recommit themselves to follow God with a whole heart (3-4). The people gather together for a time of national repentance (5-6). Seeing Israel united, the Philistines choose to attack (7) which causes Israel to become fearful and cry out to Samuel and to God (8). While Samuel is praying (9), the Philistines attack (10), and God defeats the enemy (10-11). To help the nation remember God’s deliverance, Samuel sets up a memorial stone (12).

1 Samuel 7:12 – Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.”

As I look back on 2017, I raise my own Ebenezer stone. Carol and I saw God lead and provide in countless ways over the year. He provided a husband for our youngest daughter, Caitlin. God provided the funds for us to go to New Zealand for the wedding. He provided a full-time job for Carol. God opened the door for me to become an adjunct professor at Regent University. He allowed me to continue my ministry in Russia and with Walk Thru the Bible. God led the church into a renovation project and provided the resources to pay for it. He directed the church through a number of significant ministries which allowed us to bless and impact our community. God led me into a season of disability and greater dependence on him. He provided a substitute in my absence. He surrounded us with a loving body who became the hands and feet of Jesus in our need. God allowed us to have significant time and conversations with friends and family members.

When I look back on 2017, I can say with confidence, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” That gives me greater hope and confidence that he will continue to do so in 2018.

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2018 in Bible Study, Personal growth

 

How does Jesus meet our needs?

I have made the statement on many occasions in my preaching and my prayers that God meets us right at our point of need. It is one of my foundational convictions and tends to creep into what I say on various occasions.

If you were to ask, “How does he do that? Give me an example.” I would point you to the gospel of John. Seven times in that gospel, Jesus makes the statement, “I am . . .” Through these statements, Jesus reveals his identity and purpose in coming to earth. In so doing, I believe that Jesus meets us at our point of need. He addresses seven basic needs of each and every person on planet earth.

Each one of us longs for satisfaction. In John 6:35, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” Hunger and thirst are two of the most basic needs of life. They reveal a desire for satisfaction and contentment. As the bread of life, Jesus satisfies the deepest desires of our hearts.

Many times throughout our lives, we need guidance and direction. In John 8:12, “Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” When the power goes out, we look for candles or flashlights to lead us to safety. Children want a light to lead them to mom & dad. As the light of the world, Jesus leads us out of the darkness and guides us to safety.

John 10:7–9 reveals another aspect of Jesus’ identity. “So Jesus again said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.’” A door keeps out the bad people—the thieves and robbers. It makes us feel secure. But it also opens to a place where we can rest and relax. As the door, Jesus brings us into a place of rest, safety, and provision.

In John 10:11–14, Jesus meets our need for belonging. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.” Jesus is more than a hired hand who takes care of people. As the good shepherd, Jesus knows our name and our needs. He builds a relationship with us. He treats us as part of his family.

John 11:25 addresses the question of whether there is hope beyond the grave. “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.’” As the resurrection and the life, Jesus assures us that heaven awaits for those who believe in Christ

We live in a world of multiculturalism, pluralism, and world religions. We are told that truth is what you determine for yourself. Every belief is of equal value. We are left confused and wondering. In John 14:6, Jesus addresses our need for certainty. “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” As the way, the truth, and the life, Jesus gives us a sense of certainty in an age of perplexity.

At times, we may feel like our lives and careers are going nowhere. We feel as if we are spinning our wheels. In John 15:5, Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” As the vine, Jesus produces fruit in us if we stay connected to him. Jesus will give our lives purpose and meaning.

During the holiday season, our eyes are drawn to scenes of the nativity; to the babe lying in a manger. This year, let your heart come closer. Draw near to the One who says “I Am the Bread of Life, the Light, the Door, the Good Shepherd, the Resurrection, the Way, and the Vine”.

If you are . . .

  • Hungry, yet longing for something to truly satisfy.
  • Lost and alone in the dark, searching for answers and guidance.
  • Feeling insecure and defenseless, or searching for security and protection that will be there when you need it.
  • Feel like you don’t belong, and are searching for a sense of family and relationship.
  • Long for the assurance that there is more to life than just this—that there is life beyond the grave.
  • Confused by so many different beliefs and options, and are searching for certainty in an age of perplexity.
  • Wondering if you matter and if your life will make a difference, longing for a sense of significance and a source of fruitfulness.

. . . then come to Jesus. He will sooth your fears and satisfy the deepest longings of your heart.

 

 
 

Racism, Supremacy, & Terrorism

The events of the past week—Charlottesville & Barcelona—should break our hearts and drive us to our knees. They should motivate us to repent of our pride and arrogance and beg God to pour out his Spirit and send revival.

Rather than turning to God, however, we spout rhetoric and criticize “the other side.” We use human logic, saying that black and white athletes should stand together. We denounce political leaders when they don’t denounce the ones we think they should. We spout slogans, call for hearings and debate, and ridicule those who don’t agree with our viewpoint.

Racism, Supremacy, and Terrorism are complex issues without easy answers. Or so we tell ourselves and those who will listen to us. Like any problem great or small, complex or simple, there is a two-fold solution—Identify the problem and Fix it.

The core issue at the heart of racism, supremacy, and terrorism is SIN. It goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). When Adam and Eve chose to do what they wanted rather than obey God, sin entered the world. The first casualty was their son, Abel, who was murdered by his brother, Cain, who thought he was superior to his brother (Genesis 4:1-16). By the time the book of Genesis closes and the book of Exodus opens, the Israelites have been oppressed and enslaved by the Egyptians for over 400 years (Exodus 1:8-14). Not only does the Egyptian Pharaoh enslave the Israelites, he also issues a decree to kill all the male children under the age of two years old, practicing genocide (Exodus 1:15-22). Racism, supremacy, and terrorism are running rampant.

Racism, supremacy, and terrorism are ultimately an assault on God’s creative activities. Rather than acknowledging that all races and genders are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27; 9:6), we allow pride to rear its head and shout, “I’m better than you are.” We echo the pigs who control the government in George Orwell’s novel, Animal Farm, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

Since sin lies at the heart of racism, supremacy, and terrorism, the only answer is the gospel. It is in Christ that there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female (Galatians 3:28). It is in Christ that men and women are joint heirs of the grace of God (1 Peter 3:7). Heaven will be populated by “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb!’” (Revelation 7:9-10).

True equality will not come through political debate, athletes standing together, protest marches, Facebook posts, or social engineering. True equality only comes when we acknowledge our sin, ask Jesus for forgiveness, and become part of the family of God. Far too often, we focus on the symptoms rather than addressing the root cause.

If you want to bring an end to racism, supremacy, and terrorism, denounce evil and call sin, sin. But don’t stop there. Take the next step and share the message that Jesus Christ can forgive sin and change hearts. Hope and healing is only found in Jesus Christ.

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2017 in Bible Study, News stories, Scripture, Theology

 

Don’t be a knucklehead

If I did something stupid while growing up, someone would comment, “Don’t be a knucklehead!” As a pastor for 31 years, there have been times when I was tempted to use that phrase to describe someone.

According to the Urban Dictionary, a “knucklehead” is someone of questionable intelligence. It doesn’t generally mean the person is stupid but rather that they are smart enough but still engage in stupid actions.

I came across a biblical example of a knucklehead in the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament portion of the Bible. In Isaiah 30:1-2 and 31:1, the prophet pronounces judgment on those who rely on the world rather than on God.

Isaiah 30:1–2 – “Ah, stubborn children,” declares the Lord, “who carry out a plan, but not mine, and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin; who set out to go down to Egypt, without asking for my direction, to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt!

Isaiah 31:1 – Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord!

According to Scripture, a knucklehead tries to solve their own problems rather than turn to God for wisdom. They try to clean up their life and break an addictive pattern of behavior in their own power rather than admit they can’t do it and seek help. A stubborn, obstinate person presses harder in the same direction instead of acknowledging their approach doesn’t work. A knucklehead shifts blame onto others rather than admit their responsibility. They focus on self-improvement instead of confessing their sin and asking God for forgiveness. They hold onto past hurts and nurse grudges rather than releasing the pain and forgiving the offender. They go through life and problems alone rather than seeking accountability and encouragement from a trusted friend. They try to make a bargain with worldly resources instead of submitting to God.

If any of these statements describe you, stop being a knucklehead. Turn to God, consult his plan, and find refuge in his strength. Perhaps I need to follow my own advice and stop my knuckleheaded ways.

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2017 in Bible Study, Character, Scripture

 

How’s your hearing?

When I experienced vertigo in 2009, the doctors ran a number of tests trying to determine the cause of my affliction. One test by an audiologist revealed that I have some hearing loss due to working in a steel fabrication shop for seven years and not wearing ear protection.

Some people lose their hearing due to disease. Some grow hard of hearing due to the process of aging. Others, like myself, experience hearing loss due to negligence.

What is true physically is also true spiritually. In Exodus 5-6, Pharaoh and the nation of Israel are both hard of hearing. Pharaoh’s problem stems from a hard heart while Israel’s problem is traced back to discouragement from a lifetime of affliction.

Exodus 5 begins with Moses and Aaron presenting their request to Pharaoh that the Israelites be allowed to leave Egypt to worship Yahweh in the wilderness. Pharaoh responds by saying, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.” Pharaoh refuses to acknowledge God’s existence and authority. He chooses not to listen to God’s commands.

After initially believing God was going to deliver them (Exodus 4:29-31), the people of Israel became discouraged when Pharaoh not only rejected their request but made life even more difficult (Exodus 5:4-9). When Moses tries to encourage them to remember God’s promises, “they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery” (Exodus 6:9).

Pharaoh was hard of hearing because of pride. Israel was hard of hearing because of discouragement. Pharaoh wouldn’t listen because he wanted to be in charge. Israel wouldn’t listen because they had given up. Pharaoh chose not to listen because he thought he was bigger than God. Israel chose not to listen because they thought that God didn’t care. Pharaoh refused to obey God’s voice. Israel refused to believe God’s voice.

How’s your hearing? Do you listen for God’s direction? Do you follow his instructions? Do you believe his promises? Do you obey his commands?

How’s your hearing?

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2017 in Bible Study, Exodus, Moses, Personal growth

 

The secret to revival

Why do those who want victory over sin struggle to say “No” to temptation? Why do those who want to walk with God seemingly spin their wheels and go in circles? Why is it that those with the greatest of intentions never move forward? Why is revival so elusive when it is desired so deeply?

The book of Ezra describes a revival that took place after the Jews returned from a 70 year exile in Babylon. Cyrus, the king of Persia issued a decree allowing the Jews to return home and rebuild the temple (1:1-4). Zerubbabel led the rebuilding of the temple (chapters 1-6) and Ezra rebuilt the people (chapters 7-10).

The secret to the successful revival lies in a simple three-word phrase, they “made a beginning” (3:8). Good intentions were not enough. Permission and encouragement was not enough. Passionate desires were not enough. Revival would never break out until they “made a beginning.”

Once they made a beginning, they laid the foundation for a new temple (3:8-14). Opposition rose up to test their resolve (chapter 4). They had to restart the work (5:2). They completed the temple and worship was restored (6:13-22). A beginning was needed to start and complete the building project.

Making a beginning was also needed for personal revival. Ezra “set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.” Ezra (1) made a beginning (set his heart) for (2) personal study, (3) personal obedience, and (4) teaching others to do the same.

The secret to a successful revival is taking the first step. Revival seldom breaks out until we make a beginning and set our hearts to study, obey, and share God’s word with others. Granted, we need to follow it with further steps of obedience and bathe the revival in prayer. But it never begins until we make a beginning.

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2017 in Bible Study, Personal growth, Scripture

 

Handle Scripture with Care

Book Review: The Most Misused Stories in the Bible: Surprising ways popular Bible stories are misunderstood, by Eric J. Bargerhuff

Have you ever heard someone say the story of David and Goliath is about facing your fears? Have you ever used the story of the woman caught in adultery to justify that Jesus teaches that no one is perfect? Has someone ever told you that the account of Judas betraying Jesus means that you can lose your salvation? Have you ever heard any of these ideas and wondered, “Is that what Scripture really teaches?”

Author and professor Eric J. Bargerhuff has written a book, The Most Misused Stories in the Bible,: Surprising ways popular Bible stories are misunderstood, in which he teaches how to sort through modern-day distortions of well-known Bible stories to discover their true meaning. While explaining 14 specific biblical stories including the ones mentioning above, what the author is really doing is teaching how to interpret the Scriptures using a literal-grammatical-historical hermeneutic. He is illustrating how to avoid 10 specific errors in interpreting the Bible.

  • Ignoring the context
  • Misunderstanding the main point
  • Reading modern-day biases into the text
  • Dismissing discovered truth that goes against what we already believe or think
  • Allowing tradition to cloud the facts
  • Reading into parables what is not really there
  • Ignoring what the Bible teaches elsewhere on any given topic
  • Giving new meaning to words and ideas that are not consistent with God’s Word
  • Missing the plain-sense meaning of a text or ignoring figurative language
  • Taking a man-centered approach instead of seeing God and his glory as the central focus of Scripture

The book is designed for those who desire to grow in their understanding of Scripture but don’t know how to do so. A short, but helpful volume for those who are young in their faith or unskilled in Bible study principles.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Bethany House through the Bethany House Blogger Review Program http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/bethanyhouse/bookreviewers. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2017 in Bible Study, Books