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Category Archives: Bible Study

Worshipping without Masks

Although First Central Bible Church has reopened, some people have not returned because they don’t want to wear a mask to church. Having twice worn a mask for eight hours during a recent flight from Boston to Los Angeles as well as on the return trip, I can understand and empathize with their reluctance.

Worship was never designed to be done while wearing a mask. Worship is best done when we are face to face with our Savior.

As the Bible opens, Adam and Eve were in perfect fellowship with their Creator. Genesis 2:25 says that Adam and Eve were “naked and unashamed.” While that certainly describes their physical relationship with each other, I think it aptly describes their relationship with God. It is especially true since Genesis 3:8 explains that they hid from God’s presence after they disobeyed his command and sin entered their lives.

The Bible closes with the statement in Revelation 22:4 that in heaven, our broken relationship with God will be restored. We will see his face, and his name will be on our foreheads.

While we may need to wear a mask to protect against COVID-19, we don’t have to wear a mask when we enter God’s presence. Like Moses, we can speak with God face to face (Exodus 33:11). Hebrews 4:16 tells us that because Jesus removed our sin and cleansed our hearts, we can come into God’s presence with confidence, knowing that we will receive the grace and help we need.

Hebrews 4:16 – Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Take off your mask and enter God’s presence to worship him today.

 

How timely and relevant is God’s Word

This morning, my Bible reading took me to the book of Titus. I was impressed how timely and relevant Titus 3:1-7 is to our present circumstances.

1Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Verse 3 speaks of the world in which we live right now with injustice, murder, riots, looting, political infighting, and posturing.

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.

Verses 4-7 explain the answer to our problem—salvation through the power of God. Through Jesus Christ we can have forgiveness, new life, and hope.

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Once we have been transformed by the sacrifice of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, then we can practice the instructions of verses 1-2.

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.

If we long for hope, if we desire to see change in our world, if we ache for righteousness and justice, we must share the transforming message of the gospel. It is only the power and the grace of God that can bring hope to a lost world. Rather than rail against politicians, rather than criticize looters, rather than wring our hands on the sidelines, Christ followers must speak up and boldly proclaim the hope-filled message that Jesus Christ can forgive our sins and change our world. It is only through Jesus that the world can be transformed, one heart at a time.

 
 

It’s just not the same!

I remember back in the day when worship was so much better. We could sing and praise as we felt led. Everyone was welcome at church. We could enjoy rich, close fellowship. We could share coffee and donuts and talk about our lives around the table. We expressed our compassion by putting an arm around someone’s shoulder as they poured out their heart. Our children loved going to Sunday School and learning Bible stories from their teachers. We still have the crafts and lesson papers they brought home. Those were the good old days, B.C. (Before Coronavirus).

Now, we have to wear a mask when we go to church and we are required to sit six feet away from the next person. We have to plan ahead and register our attendance and hope there is still room for us. We have to rely on Zoom conversations instead of being close and present. We cannot share food and conversation before or after the worship service. There are no children’s programs because of all the restrictions and guidelines. Worship was so much better when we could pass the offering plate instead of putting it in a box by the door.

It’s just not the same. Worship was so much better before all this happened!

The complaints we feel today and the longing for yesterday is not new to this generation. Almost 2,500 years ago, a group of people expressed a similar anguish and longing for the past. The Jewish people built the first temple and dedicated it under the leadership of King Solomon. 400+ years later, the nation was carried off into exile and the temple was destroyed by the Babylonians. After 70 years of exile, God allowed the Jews to return to their homeland. When the foundation was laid for the second temple, many of those who had worshipped in the first temple wept (Ezra 3:12).

It is very easy to fall into the comparison trap and give into the idolatry of nostalgia. On the one hand, we should grieve for what we have lost. On the other hand, we should give thanks that God is still in control. On the one hand, we should acknowledge that church and worship have to be done in a different manner than before. On the other hand, we can rejoice that God’s mercy is new every morning. On the one hand, we should mourn that life has changed and things are different. On the other hand, we can give thanks that we have a message of hope that we can share with the world. On the one hand, we can complain that we have to make one more change. On the other hand, we can rejoice that God is still in the business of changing hearts and lives.

Yes, the Coronavirus has changed how we do church and how we worship. But we still have much to praise God for.

We can weep or we can rejoice. Which will you do today?

 
 

Becoming a Seeker of God

The treasure of Oak Island. Indiana Jones. Buried pirate gold. Dirk Pitt. Benjamin Franklin Gates. The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. Real life treasure hunters, literary characters, movie heroes, urban legends—they all captivate our attention. We dream of being the one to discover the mother lode. However, the lure of buried treasure does not always result in it being unearthed.

In contrast, we have the promise of Scripture that if we seek God, we will find him. This promise was given to King Asa in 2 Chronicles 15:2, “The Lord is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.” Asa’s life and reign as king reflect both sides of this promise.

Asa, the great-great-grandson of King David, became the king of Judah in 900 B.C. and he reigned for 39 years. During the first half of his life, he sought God and was blessed by him. However, during the second half of his life, he began to slide. In the final three years of his life, he turned his back on God and deserted him.

As you can see in the chart below, the pattern of God’s promise played out in Asa’s life and kingdom.

 

If You Seek Him

If You Forsake Him

Obstacle Military: Zerah the Ethiopian (14:9) Military: Baasha, King of Israel (16:1) Health: Disease in his feet (16:12)
Relies on God (14:11) Ben-Hadad, King of Aram (16:2-3) Doctors (16:12)
Result Victory (14:12-15)

Blessing (15:1-2)

Constant war (16:9) Death (16:13)
Response to God Obedience (15:8-18) Anger (16:10) Rejection (16:12)

From Asa’s life, we can see five key principles that answer the question, “How can we seek God?”

Obey God’s instructions (15:8, 12). In 15:1-7, Asa was told to be strong and not to give up. He responded by restoring the altar of the Lord (15:8) and renewing the covenant (15:8). Asa reestablished the worship of the nation, and he reaffirmed the importance of the Law. What God commands, we should obey. What God promises, we should believe.

Remove the hindrances (15:8, 16). Asa removed the “detestable idols” of the land (15:8) and even deposed his grandmother from her position as queen mother because she had made a repulsive idol (15:16). What holds you back from following God?

Seek him with others (15:9-15). After Asa’s great victory over Zerah and God’s blessing, five of the tribes of Israel gathered together in Jerusalem. The people of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon make a sacrifice (15:11), renew the covenant (15:12), made an oath (15:14), and rejoiced (15:15) together. The Christian life was never meant to be lived alone.

Commit yourself wholeheartedly (15:12, 15). The people entered into the covenant with all their heart and soul (15:12) and Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lord all his life. Since the heart is considered the center of being and personality, it means a whole heart is one which is undivided and focused.

Count the cost and pay the price (15:11, 16). Together, the people slaughtered close to 8,000 livestock and sacrificed them to the Lord. In addition to the financial cost, Asa paid a personal price as he cut off his relationship with his grandmother (15;16). We must be willing to do what it takes to follow Christ.

God desires that we seek him with every fiber of our being. He wants us to want him. He is waiting for us to ask, so that he might share himself with us.

“For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that he may strongly support those whose heart is completely his” (2 Chronicles 16:9, NASB95). May your heart be fully committed to seeking God.

This is the synopsis of a message preached online to First Central Bible Church on April 26, 2020. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

How do you read the Bible?

Crossway.org conducted a survey of 6,000 people in 2018 to determine how they read and study the Bible. They published a very insightful infographic to explain the results. Click on the link, “Infographic: How Do You Read the Bible?” to read the results and see how you habits compare.

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2020 in Bible Study

 

What are you depending on?

Are you depending on a check from the government to help make ends meet? Are you relying on a loan from the Small Business Administration to keep your business afloat during the current crisis? Are you depending on medicine for health and healing? There is a current commercial by the Pfizer drug company that says, “Science will win.”

I was reminded of the phrase in Scripture that says, “not by might.” It appears two times in the Old Testament.

1 Samuel 2:9 – “He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cur off in darkness, for not by night shall a man prevail.”

Zechariah 2:9 – “Then he said to me, ‘This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.’”

There is nothing wrong with receiving money from the federal government. There is nothing wrong with turning to science and medicine to find a cure for the COVID-19 virus. But we need to remember that we must depend on God for our ultimate deliverance. It is not by might, nor by power, nor by science, nor by government bailouts, but by the power of the Spirit of the Lord that we will prevail.

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2020 in 1 Samuel, Bible Study, Culture, Scripture

 

When life is stuck on HOLD: Learning how to Wait on the Lord – video sermon

Here is the video from today’s topical sermon on waiting on the Lord. It was preached on First Central Bible Church‘s Facebook Live page. It begins with a five minute countdown followed by a hymn. I start speaking at about 9 minutes.

 

God brings comfort to those in distress – Isaiah 40:1-11

I am beginning a 4-week study on Zoom on Wednesday evenings on Isaiah 40. The chapter describes the comfort that God brings his people, especially in times of distress. Here’s the outline I sent to those who signed up for the study. Click on the link to download a pdf copy of the outline.

Words of Comfort: Deliverance is Coming

Isaiah 40:1-11

In Isaiah 40, God sends a message of comfort to those in distress

1-11     Deliverance is coming—God is coming to shepherd his people

12-26   God is majestic

12-20   There is no power stronger than God

21-26   God is in control of the heavens and earth

27-31   God watches over his people and strengthens those without hope

Take comfort in knowing that God forgives your sins (1-2)

While in exile in Babylon, Israel felt defeated, bitter, and disillusioned

God sent a message of comfort and hope

God’s compassionate forgiveness is an act of divine grace that brings comfort to his people

Prepare yourself to receive God’s presence (3-5)

Each Gospel writer saw John the Baptist as the one calling Israel back to God

God comes to us as we are, where we are, in the wilderness and desert of our lives

He wants us to get ready to receive him, because right now we aren’t ready

God’s glory will be revealed to the whole world

Life is short, but God is dependable (6-8)

Like grass and wild flowers, people are temporary

God never fails for his word endures forever

Knowing that God keeps his promises brings comfort to us during times of difficulty

Jesus is the shepherd who delivers his people (9-11)

God is pictured as a tender shepherd who carefully carries and leads the weak and helpless members of his flock

God’s arm is a mighty arm for winning the battle; it is also a loving arm for carrying his weary lambs

We are to shout the good news to everyone around us

Principles to Practice

Comfort others with the message of forgiveness

Remove any barrier that prevents someone from seeing God’s glory

Tell your friends that God can be trusted

Shout the good news about Jesus to those around you

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2020 in Bible Study, Isaiah

 

Are you content?

How long is this pandemic going to last?!?!?! I’m going stir crazy being cut off from contact with people. If this lasts much longer, I’m going to need treatment for severe cabin fever having to work from home. I’ve got four kids trying to do homeschooling and two adults trying to work … all on one computer. AAARRRRRGGGGGHHHHH!

Have you said those words? Have you heard those words? Are you struggling to be content in an uncertain world?

30 years ago, I wrote and published an article in Decision Magazine entitled, “Learning to be content.” It looks at the concept of contentment in the Scriptures and how to practice it today. Click on the link to open the article. May it bring hope and encouragement to your life. May you find contentment in the midst of life’s upheaval.

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2020 in Bible Study, Scripture

 

I’m glad I don’t have it all together

I used to struggle with people’s expectations. Take your pick—personality, performance, preaching—I don’t measure up to what “they” expect a “perfect pastor” should be and do. In regards to my personality, some want me to be someone different—more gregarious, more outgoing. I’ve been told to my face that I don’t have the right personality to be a pastor. One went so far as to tell me the church would never grow because of my personality.

In my lower moments, I wondered if God made a mistake. He either gave me the wrong personality when he created me, or he should never have called me into ministry. Why did he give me a task that he did not equip me for? Those were the whispers I listened to and told myself.

I was recently reading 1 Corinthians 2 for our monthly elders & wives Bible study. I was struck by the fact that the apostle Paul took great pride in his weakness. That way, the focus was on Jesus rather than himself.

1 Corinthians 2:1–5 – 1And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul explains that he gave up asking God to take away his thorn in the flesh because he learned to depend on God’s grace. He discovered that his weakness was actually a position of strength.

2 Corinthians 12:8–10 – Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Since I seem to fall woefully short on the perfect pastor scale, that must mean there is more room for God to demonstrate his power. My weak personality and preaching skills (according to some) are actually a position of strength. It means God has more room to work and that more glory will go to him. Rather than whine and complain, I need to give thanks that God wired me as he did. I need to spend more time praying that God will demonstrate his grace and power.

Thank you, Lord, for how you put me together. Thank you for the training and experiences you have brought me through. Thank you for my weaknesses and limitations. Thank you for putting in a position where I have to depend on you. Pour out your Spirit and demonstrate your power and glory. Amen!

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2020 in Bible Study, Personal growth, Scripture