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Category Archives: Bible Study

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

 
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Don’t let your Bible get dusty

 
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Posted by on April 27, 2017 in Bible Study, Tim Challies

 

Profiles of Bible Women

31-women-of-the-bibleBook Review: 31 Women of the Bible: Who They Were and What We Can Learn from Them Today, by Holman Bible Staff (written by Len Woods)

Len Woods of Holman Bible Staff has written a handy volume profiling 31 women of the Bible. It is the companion volume to 31 Men of the Bible. 20 of the women are found in the pages of the Old Testament and the remaining 11 in the New Testament. Like its companion volume, each profile is 4 pages long. The first page is a famous painting or artwork of the character. The next two pages give a summary of the woman’s life or a snapshot of one scene from her life. The final page contains a “Takeaway” or key principle for application as well as a “Food for Thought” section which contains 3-4 questions for discussion.

The book is designed as a devotional aid or a tool for daily study. It is small enough to carry in a backpack or briefcase for reading on the go.

The book was written to remind readers of Scripture of three great truths: (1) Women have played an indispensable role in the great story of the Bible; (2) Bible people were flawed, flesh-and-blood folks—not unlike us; and (3) The most vivid and valuable lessons come not from a lecture but from a life.

It appears the book aims to whet people’s appetite for further study. Rather than being an exposition of a biblical text or an exhausting study of the character’s life, each account tells a story from the life of the individual. Some include one verse while others contain several Scripture references. The various accounts will challenge, encourage, warn, and help the reader.

Disclosure: I received this book free from B&H Publishing through the B&H/Lifeway Bloggers program http://www.bhbloggers.com/. 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 November 17, 2016 in Bible Study, Books