The future, it’s full of promise, but often mixed with uncertainty. Should I marry this person? Does he or she really love me? Is this the right job? Could my spouse be cheating on me? The temptation to want to know what the future holds can be huge. But what does God say about knowing the future or seeking information about things God has not revealed?
And what about your heart? Do you have a wise heart? Are you teachable? Do you listen to godly counsel? Or do you first make up your own mind and then look for justification to believe and do what you desire? What does it means, “What the heart loves, the will chooses, and the mind justifies”? See today’s Proverbs reading.
Fortune Tellers, Palm Readers, and Other False Prophets
Chapter 13, verses 1-4 talk about the false prophets who predict things that come to pass. So many people assume that such a person must be from God, even though he or she says and does things that contradict biblical truth. Verse 3 says:
“… you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”
There are still people out there today, claiming they can predict the future or they can tell you if your husband is cheating or give you a message from a deceased family member. They may even claim to believe in God. James 2.19 says, “… Even the demons believe—and tremble!” And in Matthew 8 when Jesus met two demon possessed men, the demons cried out, “What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?”
You can believe in God and not be of God. We are told to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them” (Eph. 5.11).
What’s the condition of your heart toward God and His Word? Has the truth really penetrated and taken root? Are things that don’t matter for eternity preventing real spiritual growth? Is the seed bearing fruit?
The Parable of the Sower is perhaps the most important of Jesus’ parables. Jesus Himself said:
“Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?” (v. 13).
In it Jesus talks about four kinds of soils and relates them to the receptivity of our hearts to the gospel and God’s Word.
What kind of soil is your heart?
Is it the hard, often trod, wayside where it’s hard for truth to take root? Have you allowed the birds to come and snatch away the seeds because they never penetrated the soil?
Is it rocky ground? Do you let trouble and persecution keep the seed from growing and taking root? Are you more worried about what others might think?
Maybe the ground of your heart is crowded with thorns and thistles that use up the energy you need to become fruitful. Have you let the cares of this world (worry and anxiety) the deceitfulness of riches (always trying to get ahead) or the desires for other things (wanting what you want) to choke the Word so it bears little fruit?
Or are you good ground, someone who accepts the Word, believes it, trusts in it and allows it to bear much fruit? Praying that you are!
Chapter 16 covers the Day of Atonement. This was to be done annually because no matter how detailed the law for specific sins and sacrifices, there were continual sins of the heart and life, known and unknown, which were not covered. And it had to be done every year because the blood of bulls and goats didn’t do away with sin. It only covered it temporarily.
Only the blood of Christ can do away with our sin permanently and allow us to have fellowship with God. Jesus was temporarily separated from God the Father when He cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” (Matt. 27.46), so that we could be united with Him permanently. Continue reading →
Is the Bible enough to help us live life in our complex world? Is it enough when we’re faced with difficult issues like abuse, neglect, addiction, and sickness? What does it mean when we say God’s Word is inerrant and sufficient and what does it have to do with you and the problems you face?
Also read about how God spared His servants from a fiery furnace, how He caused a prideful man to live like a brute animal, how He removes power from kings and leaders and gives it to whomever He wills, and how a fool allows his emotions to rule him.
Daniel 3 & 4
2 Peter 1.1-21
This verse tells us as much as any single verse how God used the human writers to produce the Bible. The Holy Spirit moved or bore them along. The use of the same verb in Acts 27:15 illuminates our understanding of what is meant by “bearing” or “moving” the human writers. Just before the ship that was taking Paul to Rome was wrecked on the Island of Malta, it ran into a fierce storm. Though experienced men, the sailors could not guide it, so they finally had to let the wind take the ship wherever it blew. In the same manner as that ship was driven, directed, or carried about by the wind, God directed and moved the human writers He used to produce the books of the Bible.¹
So while God used men to pen the Scriptures, it was the Holy Spirit who moved or carried them along causing them to write exactly what He desired, without error.
So is the Bible enough to teach us how to live in our complex world or do we need to add something to it?
Let’s look at verses 3-4:
“as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (vv. 3-4).
God’s Word contains everything we need for “life and godliness.” It gives us all we need to live life in a fallen world, with sin-cursed bodies, and among other sinners.
The Doctrine of the Sufficiency of Scripture
The doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture is a fundamental tenet of the Christian faith. It means that not only is God’s Word inspired and inerrant, it is also sufficient for all the issues of life. We don’t need to add man’s wisdom to it.
When Paul told us in 2 Timothy that God’s Word is God-breathed, he went on to say it is “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3.16-17).
But today we’re told, perhaps not in so many words, but by inference, that the Bible is not enough. Rather than looking to God’s Word for help to solve problems, overcome the past, and deal with life dominating sins, believers are often referred to psychologists and counselors who use worldly philosophies and unbiblical therapies.
Rather than calling drunkards and the sexually immoral to repentance, they are told they have a disease or they can’t help the way God made them. Victims are told that what happened to them explains all their problems, instead of helping them understand their own sinful responses, the sovereignty of God, and the freedom that comes from walking in forgiveness and grace.
Do you believe Jesus is coming back soon? Does your life reflect that belief? How should you live in light of that truth?
The alternative is to live like the people in Jeremiah’s time who needed God’s rod of judgment, as we will see in our Old Testament reading. As we dig deeper into Psalm 119, we will see how knowing and contemplating God’s Word can help us steer clear of sin and grow in our understanding of God and His will.
2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 3 For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.
Jesus is coming back both for His church and to judge the whole earth. He is coming “like a thief in the night,” but as believers, who know His Word, we shouldn’t be caught off guard. Instead, we should live every day like we believe Jesus is coming back soon:
6 Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. 8 But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.
The remainder of the chapter spells out some ways we are to do that:
1. By respecting our pastors and elders and submitting to their authority (v. 12).
Hebrews 13.17 says, “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”
Incidentally, October is “Pastor’s Appreciation Month.” Is there some way you could show appreciation to your Pastor? A meal? A card? A word of encouragement?
2. By being faithful in our relationships to our brothers and sisters in Christ (v.14).
“Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.”
Sometimes we need to encourage one another. Other times we need to gently rebuke one another.
3. By not returning evil for evil, but by giving a blessing instead (v. 15). Romans 12:
17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “VengeanceisMine, I will repay,”[a] says the Lord.20 Therefore
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”[b]
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
4. By rejoicing in the blessings of God and being thankful (vvs. 16, 18).
Some time has passed and the Jews have failed to heed God’s warnings through Jeremiah, but now the invaders are approaching. Skirmishes are already being fought outside the city, and the people will soon be driven back into the city itself.
Now that things are desperate, the King sends a messenger to Jeremiah asking him to intercede for them. God answers by telling them that they are not just fighting the Babylonians, but they have made themselves enemies of God Himself!
Many of us go through times in our lives, too, where we reject God’s truth, then when we get into trouble we cry out, “Oh God, help me! If You get me out of this mess, I’ll never do it again!” Continue reading →
How did the Apostle Paul pray and do you pray like Paul prayed? Could his prayers become a model for your own?
Many today are more concerned about being politically correct or not offending someone with the truth just as they were in Jeremiah’s time (see our Old Testament reading). While we are to speak the truth in love, we are still to speak the truth. So let’s allow the words of our mouths, whether in prayer or in conversation, speak what is pleasing to God.
This chapter contains one of the four great prayers of the Apostle Paul:
9 For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God (vss. 9-10).
In Ephesians 1.17-19 he prayed:
that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understandingbeing enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power.
In Ephesians 3.16-19 he prayed:
16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
And in Philippians 1.9-11 he prayed:
9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment,10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
These and other prayers and passages of Scripture can be great models for our own prayers. There’s great power in praying God’s Word, because when we do, we’re praying His perfect will. God, through the prophet Isaiah, said:
10 “The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. 11 It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it (Is. 55.10-11).
How do you pray? Do you ever pray the Scripture back to God? Do you find yourself praying for spiritual growth or is your focus mostly on other things?
While it’s not wrong to pray for health, finances, or other material blessings, Paul’s primary concern was the spiritual well-being of those for whom he prayed. How might God be calling you to pray more like Paul?
“Though they say, ‘As the LORD lives,’ surely they swear falsely” (Jer. 5.2).
Sadly, there are many people who attend church, may even be involved in ministry, and who say all the right things. Their conversation is peppered with “praise the Lord” and other “Christian-ese,” but they swear falsely.
When they toss around God’s name merely to look spiritual, they are, actually, using the Lord’s name in vain. And “… are foolish for they do not know the way of the Lord …” (5.6). Jesus said it this way; Continue reading →
Verse 21, “… if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law.”
I touched on this a couple of days ago when I talked about how we are all legalists at heart. We are so prone to believe that if we are somehow just good enough, we can be right with God. So often when you ask people why they think they will go to heaven, they will say “because I’m a pretty good person. I’m not perfect, but I haven’t murdered anyone.”
But Romans tells us, “there is none righteous, no not one” (Rom.3.10). We cannot be right with God on our own. As Jesus told us in John 3, we must be born again by the Spirit of God. We must accept Christ’s sacrifice and payment for our sin.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2.8-9).
Just as we are saved by grace through faith in the Son and what He did for us, so we are kept by the power of God, not by any works which we do. Ephesians 2.10 tells us that the fruit of a changed life will produce good works, but they cannot make us righteous. Good works flow from our righteousness in Him and our love for Him, but they cannot produce it.
Chapter 41 was written to warn those in Israel, who persisted in idolatry, but also to encourage and comfort those who remained faithful to the One True God. Chapter 42 contains many prophesies about the Messiah. Jesus quoted from this chapter in Matthew 12 speaking about Himself (Matt. 12.17-21). Continue reading →
Verse 14, “The spirit of a man will sustain him in sickness, but who can bear a broken spirit?”
As human beings, we are able to withstand great physical and circumstantial difficulties. And as believers, who better understand how to respond to those difficulties, all the more so.
But when we lose hope (Prov. 13.12) or are undergoing spiritual pressure, even lesser problems can seem too much to bear.
Certainly spiritual pressure can be the enemy’s attempt to get us to quit when we are walking in obedience or stepping out in faith. That’s one reason why Scripture tells us to encourage one another (1 Thess. 5.11) and why we are not to forsake coming together with other believers, including church attendance and fellowship. Hebrews 10.23-25:
23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
But spiritual pressure can also come from God Himself as He deals with us regarding sin. Hebrews 12.5-11:
5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:
“My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; 6 For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.”
7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. 11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
While I don’t want to imply that all depression has a sinful cause, sin can result in increased spiritual pressure, depression, and anxiety.
Mike Wilkerson in his book Redemption says that we are all fellow sufferers and fellow sinners. Sometimes it’s us who sins and sometimes we suffer because of the sins of others. But even when the initial sin wasn’t ours, we often respond sinfully. Sometimes with fear and worry, sometimes with anger and bitterness, sometimes we turn to alcohol, drugs, food or some other false god instead of turning to God. Continue reading →
A fool has no heart for wisdom because wisdom is truth and knowledge applied in a godly way. Only the Spirit of God can provide that ability, but the good news is, for those who belong to Him, the wisdom we need is ours for the asking! Fools, however, may be a lot more prevalent in our world today than we think.
Verse 16, “Why is there in the hand of a fool the purchase price of wisdom, since he has no heart for it?”
People with the ability to “buy” wisdom have always surrounded themselves with advisers. The Pharaoh’s of Egypt had their wisemen, as did the Babylonian and other pagan kings. The Jewish kings also had their advisers. In modern times even criminals and kingpins have their lawyers and accountants.
In reality, it’s impossible to “buy” wisdom even if we have the “purchase price.” We may be able to buy information, but we need God’s Spirit and His wisdom to apply it in wise and godly ways.
But the good news is, when we have the Spirit of God because we belong to Him, the wisdom we need is ours for the asking (Jas. 1.5).
Fools, however, are not interested in wisdom, only their own opinions (Prov. 18.2). In fact, Proverbs 23.9 says they despise it. This is the attitude of many in our relative, “my truth is what I believe it is” culture.
The description of the temple is beautiful and amazing to me. Many believe that, even now, preparations are being made to rebuild it, which Scripture tells us will happen as part of the events of the last days. At that time the Jews will resume temple worship. Continue reading →
Is the Bible enough to help us live life in our complex world? What does it mean when we say God’s Word is inerrant and sufficient?
Daniel 3 & 4
2 Peter 1.1-21
Daniel 3 & 4:
God in the fire
These two chapters contain two of the most incredible stories of God’s power and sovereignty! First we see the “three Hebrew children,” as they are sometimes called, thrown into the fiery furnace because they refused to bow down to the golden image.
Doing so would have amounted to worshipping King Nebuchadnezzar. When they were not even scorched by the fire that had killed their executioners, Nebuchadnezzar was forced to acknowledge God’s intervention.
The kingdom departs
But even more awesome to me is the story in chapter 4. It is such a picture of God’s total and complete sovereign control of His universe and everything in it, including power and politics. God doesn’t just see into the future and reveal what He sees. God plans and purposes what He desires according to His will, His wisdom, and His good pleasure. He sometimes declares in advance what is to happen, but He is always working to bring about His desired result.
In chapter 4, God who knew Nebuchadnezzar’s heart warned him in a dream that all he had would soon be taken from him. A year later, forgetting that warning, he pridefully declared, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?”
“… that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?” Oh, really? (emphasis added)
Verse 31, “While the word was still in the king’s mouth, a voice fell from heaven. ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you!’” Continue reading →
These two chapters close out the book of Ezekiel. Chapter 47 describes a river flowing out of the temple. Symbolically the Temple is Christ and the river is the Gospel. The Living Water flows from Him and blesses everything it touches.
In the deepness of the water we see fullness of Scripture. Some things are “ankle deep”—easy to understand. Others are knee deep and require more study. Others are deeper still and we may not be able to understand them fully.
14 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; 15 and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.
Even so, though we won’t understand everything about God in this life, it’s all the more reason to worship Him as God!