God is a God of both wonder and grace. His wonder is demonstrated everywhere throughout the Word and as we view creation, including the way He spoke it into existence “ex nihilo,” from nothing.
His grace, too, is seen throughout the Bible. including through those He chose to be in the lineage of our Savior.
Happy New Year!
Whether you’ve been following me for a while or are new to the blog, I’m glad you’re here.
Every time we start out on this adventure, we’ll be changed, whether we have read the Bible many times or if this is our first serious attempt. Maybe you’re a new believer or have always wanted to read through the Bible. Or maybe you’re undecided about what to do in the area of Bible reading and devotional time for the coming year.
Here are a couple of posts if you’re in the undecided camp:
Welcome, to the “Bible in a Year” at Soul Survival where I blog through the Bible, adding practical commentary as we go along. To keep it interesting, we read some in the Old Testament, some in the New, a portion of a Psalm and a verse or two in Proverbs each day. And this year I’ll be adding a Scripture-based prayer to each post.
I also write on other Christian living topics like marriage, parenting, depression, anxiety, spiritual growth and how to handle tests and trials. Continue reading →
The river flowing out of the Millennial Temple represents the 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. Even so, God wants us to “wade in” so we can grow in our understanding of Him and His Word.
Also, read about “The 4 Attitudes to have in the Midst of Trials & Persecution” and “The Futility of Arguing with a Fool.” Continue reading →
I can’t imagine anything worse than believing you are alright with God and when you stand before Him, hear those words, “I never knew you.” Yet, in the “Parable of the Wheat and the Tares,” Jesus acknowledged that there are many sitting in churches who don’t belong to Him. How can we know?
In chapter 47, the Babylonians thought they were strong and secure and untouchable. They trusted in themselves, their false gods, and their sorceries. They had set themselves against God and would soon be judged.
Like the Babylonians many today are busy enjoying their ease and success and power. Many of them have set themselves against God. They belittle His people as weak and God as merely a crutch. They want to make their own rules. Their first commandment is “Thou shalt not be intolerant of anything I want to do!” Even when they claim to believe in Him, they pervert the Word of God, twisting it to make it say the opposite of what it does.
They wrongly interpret God’s patience and tolerance.
“They have lied about the LORD and said, ‘He won’t bother us! No disasters will come upon us. There will be no war or famine’” (Jer. 5.12 NLT).
Instead of seeing God’s patience and mercy as an opportunity to repent, they decide there will never be a day of accounting.
Wheat, Tares, and Hypocrites
Then in chapter 48, God speaks to those who call themselves His people. Though He continues to assure them that He will not utterly destroy them because of His mercy and grace, he promises to judge those who hypocritically claim to believe one thing while practicing another.
In the New Testament Jesus told “the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares.” He acknowledged there are many tares, unbelievers, growing alongside the wheat, believers. But he said:
“Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn’” (Matt. 13.30).
Many, even in our churches, are in danger of hearing the shocking truth when they stand before Him:
“‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’” (Matt. 7.23).
Paul said in our New Testament reading, “But let each one examine his own work …” (Gal. 6.4). And in his instructions for taking the Lord’s Supper: Continue reading →
Could you be guilty of parental legalism? Parental legalists often focus on behavior as opposed to the heart. If we make Christianity all about “the law,” we may fail to help our children understand their need for genuine heart change and a personal relationship with Christ.
Also read about:
How and how not to communicate with a person who is acting like a fool.
And the foolishness of idolatry, even the kind you could be practicing.
I’ve been talking about legalism for several days now. Remember the Judaizers or legalists had come in trying to impose their brand of religion on the Galatians. As human beings we love having a set of rules to follow instead of allowing God to make a change in our hearts or the hearts of others.
Lou Priolo in his book The Heart of Anger talks about how we do this with our children. We make our rules (be in bed at 8.30; you can’t watch that TV show; no dating until you are 16; don’t talk with food in your mouth) on the same par with God’s commands (love God with all your heart; love your neighbor as yourself; do not lie; do not steal, etc.).
It’s not that children shouldn’t obey the rules their parents lay down for them (one of God’s commands is “children obey your parents in the Lord …” Eph. 6.1-3), but we must help our children understand that those are temporary rules for the household and not God’s law. Otherwise we run the risk of either making little Pharisees of our children or causing them to view Christianity as a legalistic religion instead of a relationship with Christ. Without that personal relationship with God, many of our kids will turn away from the things of God once they’re out of our homes.
Instead we need to lovingly teach our children to obey us as God’s temporary authority in their lives, while teaching them the truths and freedoms and principles of a genuine relationship with God and helping them see their need for the Savior. He is the only One who can ultimately change their hearts.
As Paul is winding up the book of Romans, he tells us that, as believers, we are able to admonish one another when biblically necessary. That means risking what people may think, even their rejection, to speak the truth in love when there is an issue that is hurting others, hindering their walk with God, or hurting the cause of Christ.
In our fast changing world, many things that were once universally considered wrong are now called right. Speaking up when God’s standards are at stake is going to be more and more costly … but God’s grace will abound to those who remain faithful to God and His Word.
And notice to whom this passage was written and what we need to do before we go to someone.
Also, when it comes to our political leaders, how should a clear understanding of God’s sovereignty and His commands concerning authority, effect how we speak and respond now?
Verse 4, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”
The Scriptures, in particular the Old Testament (like the book of Job which we are going through), were written so that we might grow and learn by the examples of others, good and bad. God patiently instructs us in how we should change and shows us the results of unbiblical living. And as we grow and come to understand God’s love and grace, we find comfort in His faithfulness to those who remained devoted to Him.
Admonishing When Needed
Let’s look at one more verse in Romans 15:
“Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another” (v. 14).
Notice this verse is not written to pastors or counselors or spiritual leaders. It was written to the believers at Rome and by extension to us as believers. Paul says all of us are “able to admonish one another.” That word for admonish means, “exhort, admonish, and instruct.” Admonish means, “to rebuke or to advise or warn someone to do, or not do, something.”
So God expects us to be willing to get our hands dirty, to risk what people may think of us and even rejection, at times, to speak the truth in love to those who are sinning, as well as, those who need encouragement.
However, we must guard against a harsh or self-righteous attitude. We are to confront others lovingly, gently, tentatively, especially if we’re not sure of the circumstances, and humbly. That requires checking our own motives and a careful self-examination to make sure we take the logs out of our own eyes first (Matt. 7.3-5).
“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6.1).
As we continue to read through God’s Word, especially the book of Job, it’s tempting to grow tired or get confused by all that is happening. As we read of Job’s sufferings, his friends’ lack of mercy and grace, and God’s silence so far, we should ask ourselves some questions:
How will coming to understand this better help me be more patient in my sufferings and disappointments? How can I learn to trust God more? What can I learn from listening to Job’s “comforters“? What can I learn from Job about responding to unjust criticism?
Often when we fail to grow in our understanding of Scripture it’s because we fail to ask the right questions. Continue reading →
An unwillingness to accept and believe the truth can start an individual or a society on a dangerous downward spiral. But the rejection of God is not done in ignorance. Romans 1 tells us that creation alone provides each of us with enough knowledge to know there is a God. It’s not a lack of truth. Instead, men and women suppress the truth because they don’t want to hear it. They don’t want to respect God’s authority in their lives. The consequences are evident in our world today.
Many of those who reject the truth most vehemently are the most educated in our society. Our schools, colleges, universities, and professions are full of people who think they are wise with all their science, business acumen, and knowledge. But God says they’re fools!
Well, here we are finishing up the book of Nehemiah. Do you realize we have finished well over half of the Old Testament, 16 books in total and a good part of Psalms and Proverbs? We’ve finished the four gospels and the book of Acts, the historical books of the New Testament.
Now we are starting the Epistles of Paul in the New Testament, beginning with the book of Romans and tomorrow we’ll start the book of Esther in the Old Testament. It’s exciting to see the progress we’re making.
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and 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.”
Well, on to the word …
As we start the book of Romans, it might be helpful to consider a couple of things. Romans is primarily a book of doctrine, but don’t be put off by that. It doesn’t mean it’s a dry book with no relevance to our lives, quite the contrary! This epistle (letter) has some of the most important truths for us to understand in our Christian lives. In his Study Bible, John MacArthur says:
“The overarching theme of Romans is the righteousness that comes from God: the glorious truth that God justifies guilty, condemned sinners by grace alone through faith in Christ alone.”
That is the foundation of our faith. If you are a newcomer to reading through the Bible or you’re new here, you might find it confusing that at the end of Acts, Paul is in Rome and here in Romans he is expressing his desire to go to Rome. It’s important to remember that the books of the Bible are not always arranged in chronological order.
In the New Testament the first four books are the Gospels, the four accounts of Christ’s life and ministry. Acts is the historical overview of the first three decades of the Church, ending its account in about 60-62 A.D.
The rest of the New Testament, except for the book of Revelation is a series of letters written by various church leaders to churches and individuals meant to be circulated to others within the church. They’re not in chronological order, but are grouped by author. Romans through Philemon, and possibly Hebrews, were written by the Apostle Paul. Romans was written about 56 A.D. before his imprisonment and journey to Rome.
The Joy of Christian Fellowship
So here we are in chapter one and there’s so much in this chapter. I love verses 11-12 where Paul is expressing his desire to visit Rome:
“For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established—that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.”
What a picture of the joy of Christian fellowship and one anothering (Rom. 15.14; Gal. 6.2; Col. 3.16; 1 Thess. 4.18, 5.11; Heb. 10.24-25; Jas. 5.16; 1 Pet. 4.9).
Then verses 16-17:
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”
Are you tempted to be ashamed of the gospel? In the workplace? Or with your unsaved family? Are you afraid to share the truth because someone might make fun of you or think you’re simple-minded? Even after being beaten, stoned, ridiculed, and all the rest, Paul was “not ashamed of the Gospel”!
This passage explains how an unwillingness to accept and believe the truth can start an individual or a society on a downward spiral. But this rejection of God is not done in ignorance. Paul tells us that creation alone provides each of us with enough knowledge to know there is a God.
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.
It’s not a lack of truth. Instead, men and women suppress the truth because they don’t want to hear it. They don’t want to respect God’s authority in their lives. The result and its consequences are evident in our world today.
And sadly, many of those who reject the truth most vehemently are the most educated in our society. Our schools, colleges, universities, and professions are full of people who think they are wise with all their science, business acumen, and knowledge. But God says they’re fools!
21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools.
How scientists can study the intricacies of the human body and the wonders of the earth and deny the existence of God is beyond me. It takes more “faith” to believe a lie than to believe the truth! But they are putting their faith in the wrong things. You have to wonder what the Day of Judgment will be like for some of them, when their utter foolishness has been totally exposed and “every knee bows” to the God of the universe—too late for them to accept Him personally.
Because of their sin and rejection, three times it says, God “gave them over” or “gave them up” (Rom. 1.24, 26, 28). You can see in this passage how lives and societies spiral downward. The more they turn away from God, the more they turn toward sexual immorality and other sins, eventually reaching the point where it’s commonplace. At the bottom of the spiral we see these verses:
28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.
Debased minds, sexual immorality, maliciousness, murder, hatred toward God, pride, disobedient children … doesn’t that describe our world today?
And at the very bottom we see this phrase “but also approve of those who practice them.” That is what so many in the LGBTQ movement want, not just the freedom to do as they please, but universal approval. And if you disagree they want to be able to attack you, call you “intolerant,” charge you with discrimination, or worse.
As you read today’s passage in Nehemiah, imagine how he would respond if he visited our nation today? When he returned to Jerusalem and found people buying and selling on the Sabbath and ignoring other clear commandments of God, it says, “So I contended with them and cursed them, struck some of them and pulled out their hair, and made them swear by God …” (Neh. 13.25).
We can’t stop standing for the truth either. I’m not advocating that we act unloving. In fact, 2 Timothy 2 says: Continue reading →
Verse 25.1, “Moreover David and the captains of the army separated for the service some of the sons of Asaph, of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who should prophesy with harps, stringed instruments, and cymbals.”
The passage goes on to tell us there were 288 singers, plus musicians and support staff, 4,000 in all! What a music ministry that must have been! There were people singing and praising the Lord all the time!
And when I read the Psalms and other passages of Scripture, it appears to me there is lots of praise and lots of music in heaven. I believe God loves to receive our heartfelt praises often expressed through music and singing.
How do you view that time in the service where the truths of God are being proclaimed through music and song? Do you see it as just the prelude to the service, something to be enjoyed “if you make it on time”? Do you purposely arrive late to avoid it? Or do you see it as a time when you really focus on God and worship Him? Do you allow the words of the songs to penetrate your heart? Do you “think about” and “meditate on” the words you’re singing? Or have you allowed it to become “vain repetition“?
Let’s ask God to give us a “right spirit” where praise and worship are concerned.
Like the ancient Israelites, we are forgetful people, forgetful hearers of His Word, and forgetful of the wonderful things He has done. If all He ever did for us, was die for our sins so we don’t have to spend eternity separated from Him, it should be enough. But He does so much more.
Take time to thank Him today. Keep a list of answers to prayer, so you can “encourage yourself in the Lord” and have a thankful heart!
“It is honorable for a man to stop striving, since any fool can start a quarrel.”
We often think it proves something when we win an argument, and there certainly are truths worth standing up for, but even then, a believer is not to be argumentative (2 Tim. 2.23). It’s not about “winning.” This verse reminds us that it is often more honorable to lay it down, to let the other person have the last word, to be the better person!
And Proverbs 26.4 says, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will also be like him.”
So when two people are determined to win an argument at all costs, what you end up with is two fools talking to each other. Continue reading →
There is great danger in bad advice or trying to live life our own way.
A wise person seeks for wisdom all the time and keeps it “in his sight,” right in front of him to guide him. He doesn’t have to go looking for it when he needs it. He studies God’s principles for living and seeks to walk wisely at all times.
The fool, on the other hand, is looking for answers all over the place. Maybe Oprah has the answer or I’ll learn something from my horoscope or from some co-worker whose own life is a mess.
God’s commands and principles are not intended to limit our joy and blessings, but to protect us. And when we reject them, we often learn too late that going our own way or listening to the wisdom of fools leads to disaster and heartache.
In yesterday’s reading, Jeroboam had set up altars to false God’s to keep the people from going back to Jerusalem where they were supposed to worship. In chapter 13 God sent a prophet to Jeroboam to warn him his great sin was about to be judged.
Once it was obvious that the prophet was from God, Jeroboam invited him to “stay for dinner.” Perhaps he thought the prophet could get God to change His mind or maybe he wanted to kill him. Whatever the reason, God had already told the prophet that he was not to eat or drink there or even return home the same way he had come.
Once he left, another prophet caught up to him and claimed an angel had told him it was alright for him to eat and drink with him. Listening to his advice cost the Judean prophet his life!
God had already clearly spoken to him and he should have sought confirmation from God Himself as to any change in plans.
Like the Judean prophet, when God has clearly spoken to us, which He does primarily through His Word, we cannot allow some opposing message to sway us from God’s commandments and His truth.
This is also true when it comes to good Bible doctrine. We need the counsel of the Word and people who are solidly fixed in truth to help us understand God: His character, His principles, His commands, and His purposes for our lives.
In Galatians Paul said:
I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed (Gal. 1.6-9).
There are all kinds of opposing “gospels” out there and all kinds of people giving all kinds of advice. Learn to recognize the real thing. Read God’s Word, spend time with Him hearing His voice in the pages of Scripture and then “the voice of a stranger you will not follow” (Jn. 10.5).
I’ve said it before but, we all need to be theologians and good theology does not have to be difficult to understand. Theology is simply the study of God.
If you want to read more check out my posts on “Bite Sized Theology.” I started this series some time ago, but my schedule at that time kept me from continuing it. I’ll be picking it up again soon. Here’s a list of the earlier posts.
Verse 24, “Wisdom is in the sight of him who has understanding, but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth.”
A wise person seeks for wisdom all the time and keeps it “in his sight,” right in front of him to guide him. He doesn’t have to go looking for it when he needs it, like some lost set of keys.
The foolish person, on the other hand, is looking for it all over the place. Maybe Oprah has it or I’ll learn something from my horoscope or from some co-worker whose own life is a mess. There are even people who will try to sound spiritual. Remember, the old prophet claimed he was speaking for God and it cost the man of God his life! Again there are many “gospels” out there vying for our hearts and attention!
But if we are faithful to grow and walk in the wisdom that we have, God will give us more wisdom and understanding and we will recognize bad advice when we hear it. Hebrews 5 tells us:
12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
Today’s Other Readings:
When Friends Desert Us
Verse 20, “Reproach has broken my heart, and I am full of heaviness; I looked for someone to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.”
Too often even the best of people desert us when we need them most. When that happens we must remember that God will never forsake or abandon us (Heb. 13.5). He is the one we must look to in our times of trouble. Though He may use people, we are not to depend on them, but on God alone.
When We Harden Our Hearts
In verse 40 it talks about God having blinded the eyes and hardened the hearts of the Jewish nation as a whole. As we continue reading through the Old Testament, you can see the people continuously hardened their own hearts and turned away from God even as He continued to reveal Himself to them in miraculous ways. His judicial hardening (the final hardening of judgment) came after they had willfully hardened our own hearts.
Hebrews 3.7 says, “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says. ‘Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion'” and verses 12-13, “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”
We, too, must set our hearts to obey in all things. Those “little” willful “rebellions” are not little to God because they reveal our heart attitudes and set the stage for rebellion in other areas, and before we know it, we have hardened our hearts. Let’s be doers of the Word and not hearers only in all areas of our lives (Jas. 1.22).
We have completed almost half of the Bible. Have you noticed how frequently our Old Testament reading relates to the New Testament passage or to Psalms or Proverbs or vice versa? I’m continually amazed at people who doubt the validity of God’s Word. As we read more and more of His Word and get the big picture, we can see that it is one continuous story told by a variety of men over a period of several thousand years. Men who were guided and inspired by God in such a way that they wrote the actual words of God. No one but God could bring about such an amazing feat!
As the Apostle Peter said:
“And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1.19-21).
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“Bible in a Year” posts have been edited and updated from previous posts.