“Is this all there is?” June 27

 

Is this all there is? - We live in one of the most blessed and prosperous nations in the world. We have every kind of entertainment, all kinds of "toys," and yet, instead of finding satisfaction, we often find ourselves asking, "Is this all there is?"We live in one of the most blessed and prosperous nations in the world. We have every kind of entertainment, all kinds of “toys,” and yet, instead of finding satisfaction, we often find ourselves asking, “Is this all there is?”

 

Today’s Readings:
1 Chronicles 17 & 18
Psalm 78.17-25
Proverbs 19.25-26
Acts 8.1-25

 

Is this all there is?

 

Finding Satisfaction & Contentment in Him

Psalm 78.17-25:

 

In this portion of the psalm, the psalmist talks of the people’s dissatisfaction with God’s provision. It’s easy to point our fingers and shake our heads when we read passages like this, but how like us they were!

Proverbs 27.20 says, “Hell and Destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.”

We are living in one of the most blessed and prosperous nations in the world. Even those of us living relatively modest lives are abundantly blessed compared to many other nations, and yet, it is so easy to look around and want more, to look around and say “why does God seem to be blessing her and not me.” Or “if only I had such and such” life would be so much better.

We have every kind of entertainment, all kinds of “toys,” and yet, we are easily bored. “Is this all there is?” has been the theme of numerous books, movies and songs.

Psalm 90.14 in the American Standard Version says:

“Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.”

We need to pray regularly that our hearts will be satisfied in God, the only true source of satisfaction, and not look to the world for it!

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

His Hand Holds the Future

1 Chronicles 17 & 18:

 

The chronicler continues to recount the story of David’s reign. In today’s reading he emphasizes God’s promise to David that his son would sit on the throne after him. It had a near application in Solomon and a messianic application, as well.

Notice David’s response to all of this in chapter 17:  Continue reading

“Hope When the Pressure Seems Too Much” June 11

 

Hope When the Pressure Seems Too Much - When we lose hope even small problems can seem insurmountable. How do we find hope and learn to trust God in difficult circumstances?

Also, how should we respond when someone speaks to us in unbiblical ways or threatens us foolishly? What can we learn from Jesus’ responses to Pilate?

 

Today’s Readings:
2 Kings 9 & 10
Psalm 72.17-20
Proverbs 18.14-15
John 19.1-22

 

Hope When the Pressure Seems Too Much

 

Who Can Bear a Broken Spirit?

Proverbs 18.14-15:

 

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.

depressionSpiritual 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.

Sometimes that pressure comes from other people, either believers or unbelievers. When it does, it’s important that we respond in Christlike ways:

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, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” 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.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

We can meditate on and follow Jesus’ example:

22 “Who committed no sin,
Nor was deceit found in His mouth”;
23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously (1 Pet. 2.22-23).

Spiritual pressure can also come from God Himself as He deals with us regarding sin.  Continue reading

“Friends & Enemies: Kisses, Winks & Whispers” May 22

 

Friends & Enemies: Kisses, Winks & WhispersFriendships can be confusing. Sometimes those who appear to be our friends turn out to be our enemies, at least spiritually, and our critics can be truer friends.

But what about unfair criticism or people who simply attack us? How should we handle it when we believe criticism is unjustified or motives are evil? Can God truly use those situations for good?

 

Today’s Readings:

2 Samuel 15 & 16
Psalm 66.8-15
Proverbs 16.27-30
John 7.1-27

 

Friends & Enemies: Kisses, Winks & Whispers

 

2 Samuel 15 & 16:

The Sovereignty of God When People Whisper & Criticize

 

In these two chapters, we see David’s trust in the sovereignty of God in what must have been two very difficult situations.

First, the broken relationship between him and his son Absalom has lead to bitterness and now rebellion on Absalom’s part. He has been secretly plotting to overthrow his father by deceiving the people. He is now on his way to take Jerusalem.

David gets word and is fleeing the city along with his household and hundreds of his men. When Zadok the Priest joins him, David says:

“Then the king said to Zadok, ‘Carry the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the eyes of the LORD, He will bring me back and show me both it and His dwelling place. But if He says thus. “I have no delight in you,” here I am, let Him do to me as seems good to Him'” (15.26).

Then in chapter 16, Shimei, one of former King Saul’s descendants, follows David and his men cursing and throwing stones at him. Abishai, one of his generals, offers to take off Shimei’s head! David responds by saying:

“So let him curse, because the LORD has said to him, ‘Curse David.’ Who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’ And David said to Abishai and all his servants, ‘See how my son who came from my own body seeks my life. How much more now may this Benjamite? Let him alone, and let him curse; for so the LORD has ordered him. It may be that the LORD will look on my affliction, and that the LORD will repay me with good for his cursing this day.”

 

Responding to Our Critics

 

This is a great example of how we should respond to criticism in our lives. Whether or not the criticism is justified, God has allowed it for some purpose. If it’s unfair or ill-intended, we can trust God to deal with it.  Continue reading

“When Still Fighting the Same Struggle” May 5

 

When Still fighting the Same Struggle - Do you find yourself praying about the same struggles day after day and week after week ... sometimes year after year. Maybe you've, actually, stopped praying about it, because you're sure God is tired of hearing it. Or have you been tempted to think ... I give up! I've tried to stop or I've asked God to take this away. Maybe He just isn't listening!Do you find yourself praying about the same struggles day after day and week after week … sometimes year after year. Maybe you’ve, actually, stopped praying about it, because you’re sure God is tired of hearing it.

Or have you been tempted to think … I give up! I’ve tried to stop or I’ve asked God to take this away. Maybe He just isn’t listening!

 

Today’s Readings:
1 Samuel 12 & 13
Psalm 56.1-13
Proverbs 15.21-23
Luke 22.47-71

 

When Still Fighting the Same Struggle

 

Luke 22.47-71:

Redeemer of Our Failures

 

Have you ever felt you let God down by something you did or failed to do? You told Him, you would never do such and such again, but a day or two or three later … there you are again. You may feel like Peter when the rooster crowed and He realized Jesus was looking right at him (Lk. 22.34, 60-61)!

Do you find yourself praying about the same struggles day after day and week after week … sometimes year after year. Maybe you’ve stopped praying about it, because you’re sure God is tired of hearing it.

Or have you been tempted to think … I give up! I’ve tried or I’ve asked God to take this away. Maybe He just isn’t listening!  Continue reading

“Risky Faith” April 8

 

Risky Faith - Faith can be risky. It takes risky faith to turn the other cheek or forgive with no guarantee you won't be hurt again. It takes risky faith to obey God when it makes little sense to our natural way of thinking. It takes risky faith to stand up for the truth in a world of compromise.Faith can be risky. It takes risky faith to turn the other cheek or forgive with no guarantee you won’t be hurt again. It takes risky faith to obey God when it makes little sense to our natural way of thinking. It takes risky faith to stand up for the truth in a world of compromise.

 

Today’s Readings:
Joshua 5 & 6
Psalm 42.6-11
Proverbs 13.19-21
Luke 9.18-36

 

Risky Faith

 

Joshua 5 & 6:

A Hill of Foreskins

 

At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives for yourself, and circumcise the sons of Israel again the second time.” So Joshua made flint knives for himself, and circumcised the sons of Israel at the hill of the foreskins (5.2-3).

I imagine all the men reading this portion of Scripture cringed a little when they read about flint knives, circumcision, and “the hill of foreskins.” I can’t help thinking the men in Joshua’s time, probably, felt the same way.

 

Their Parents Disobedience

 

The fact that this second generation had not been circumcised was another symptom of their parents disobedience. But now, before they could go in and take the land God had given them, this covenant sign had to be performed. This must have been a memorable (after all, the hill was named after it) and solemn ceremony.

It was, also, a huge step of faith, since this mass circumcision made them vulnerable to attack. In Genesis 34 we read about an angry brother who convinced a whole village to get circumcised by promising to allow his sister to marry her rapist.  While they were weak and in pain, he killed them all in revenge.

 

Risky Faith

 

God watched over them, but humanly speaking, it was a risky decision. Risk is, often, a reality when you step out in faith.

When you forgive and turn the other cheek, you risk being struck again (Matt. 5.39). When you stand up for the truth, you risk being persecuted (Matt. 23:34-36). When you do what’s right, some people are not going to like it. The world does not like the light. Sometimes you’ll, even, be targeted for your faith.

Just ask Barronelle Stutzman. In case you aren’t familiar with her story, Barronelle is a 72-year old grandmother, a florist, and a follower of Christ. She has been targeted by the State of Washington and people on the left for declining to make flower arrangements for a same-sex wedding.

Since then her case has worked it’s way to the Washington Supreme Court where she lost in a 9-0 decision. Unless the U.S. Supreme Court reverses the decision, it could cost Barronelle her livelihood and all her assets.

It’s important to understand that Barronelle wasn’t trying to discriminate against the men. She had provided flowers for them on numerous occasions over a 9-year period, but when one of them asked her to provide flowers for their wedding, she declined because of her religious convictions. Instead, she recommended some other florists.

tree rootsSometimes, persecution, pain, and rejection come from our own families and those closest to us. That can hurt even more deeply. But we must be quick to forgive and keep our eyes on the Lord no matter who mistreats us. Otherwise that hurt can be the seed that grows up into a root of bitterness.

14 Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. 15 Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many (Heb. 12.14-15 , NLT).

But, as believers, we shouldn’t go looking for persecution. We need to be wise and prayerful. Rod Dreher, in his book The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation, says:  Continue reading

“Facing the Storms of Life” April 5

 

Facing the Storms of Life - Are you facing a storm in your life? Are wind and waves threatening to sink you boat? Are you worried about our nation, the economy or something else? Remember when you're facing the storms of life, He still rebukes the wind and waves.Are you facing a storm in your life? Are wind and waves threatening to sink you boat? Are you worried about our nation, the economy or something else? Remember when you’re facing the storms of life, He still rebukes the wind and waves.

 

Today’s Readings:
Deuteronomy 33 & 34
Psalm 40.13-17
Proverbs 13.13-14
Luke 8.1-25

 

Facing the Storms of Life

 

Luke 8.1-25:

Faithful Women

 

 

I was reminded again here in Luke 8 of just how many women were followers of Christ from the beginning (vv. 2-3). Not only did they follow, but many of them went with Him all the way to the cross.

 

Wind, Waves & Wonder

 

But let’s look at verses 22-25 again:

22 Now it happened, on a certain day, that He got into a boat with His disciples. And He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side of the lake.” And they launched out. 23 But as they sailed He fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water, and were in jeopardy. 24 And they came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water. And they ceased, and there was a calm. 25 But He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and marveled, saying to one another, “Who can this be? For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him!”

He went to sleep! And … He stayed asleep through the storm! He wasn’t wringing His hands wondering if they’d really get to the other side.

He hasn’t changed! He’s still in control of everything. He still rebukes the wind and the waves. He isn’t wringing His hands about the economy or who’s in office or who seems to be winning the cultural debate. He’s on the throne and those of us who stay in the boat with Him will get to the other side.  Continue reading

“A Fool for God” April 1

 

I'd rather be a fool (or called one) for God than foolishly live like the devil.Today is April Fool’s Day, a day to have fun and play practical jokes. I’ve carried out a few and been the recipient of even more … all in fun.

But being a true fool is no laughing matter. Biblically, a fool is a man who fails to heed God’s warnings or refuses to live according to God’s wise principles.

Ironically, some who don’t know the Lord believe the opposite. They call us foolish for forgiving those who have hurt us, keeping God’s moral laws, and refusing to lie, cheat, or steal. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be called a fool for God than foolishly living in ways that will be displeasing to God and bring about His discipline.

 

Today’s Readings:
Deuteronomy 25 & 26
Psalm 39.7-11
Proverbs 13.4-6
Luke 6.1-26

 

Well, we are one fourth of the way through the Bible. If you are reading with us regularly, I would love to know how you’re doing.

Whether you are up to date, whether you have fallen behind a time or two, or even if you are a newcomer or occasional visitor, let me know? I’d love to know about your progress. Remember, any time we read God’s Word, it has the power to change our lives.

As a reformed perfectionist there have been so many times in my life that I have not done something because I couldn’t do it perfectly or because I had not started at the beginning, or … (you fill in the blank).

Maybe you’ve found yourself saying, “I’m too far behind. I’ll start over again next year.” But next year is the same. The enemy will see to it. There are always reasons, excuses really, to give up or not start. As the Nike slogan says, “JUST DO IT!” So even if today is your first visit … jump in!

On to His Word …

 

A Fool for God

 

Proverbs 13.4-6:

Wise or Foolish

 

Proverbs is a study in contrasts. The fool or the one who is acting foolishly is contrasted with the wise man.

In verse 4 the character qualities compared are the foolish man’s laziness and the diligence of the wise man or woman. Verse 5 compares foolish liars and those who love truth.

open bible mineFew of us really want to be fools, but we will be foolish by default if we don’t seek to know and understand God’s truth.

Where does wisdom start? Psalm 111.10 says:

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.”

So wisdom starts with the “fear” of the Lord. This is not a cowering fear, but a reverential respect for the God of the universe and creator of all things.

One way we live out the fear of the Lord is found in the middle of that verse, “a good understanding have all those who do His commandments.”

Hebrews 5.14 says, “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.”

“Solid food,” the deeper things of God, the wisdom of God, belongs to those who have matured by “reason of use.” The NASB says “practice.” By practicing what we know to do, obeying the commandments as Psalm 111 said, we gain the ability to “discern good and evil”—that is to obtain wisdom.

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Deuteronomy 25 & Deuteronomy 26:

Law of the Kinsman Redeemer

 

Deuteronomy 25.5-10 covers the “Law of the Kinsman Redeemer.” The kinsman-redeemer was a male relative who would act on behalf of a widowed woman, usually by marrying her and providing an heir for the deceased.

If you have read the book of Ruth, you see this law lived out in the marriage of Boaz and Ruth. Their beautiful story is part of the lineage of Jesus Christ.

Also, if you remember reading about Judah and Tamar in Genesis 38, you will recall that Judah had promised his youngest son would marry twice widowed Tamar when he was old enough, so this was apparently a common practice even before the law was instituted.

According to Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary, this was done partly out of  Continue reading

“The Adultery Test & the Sovereignty of God” March 4

 

The Adultery Test & the Sovereignty of God - Is there any such thing in the Bible as an "adultery test"? And, if so, what would an Old Testament law about jealousy and possible adultery have to do with us? Read more about the adultery test in today's reading.

Is there any such thing in the Bible as an “adultery test”? And, if so, what would an Old Testament law about jealousy and possible adultery have to do with us? Read more about the adultery test in today’s reading.

 

Today’s Readings:
Numbers 5 & 6
Psalm 30.8-12
Proverbs 11.1-3
Mark 8.22-38

 

The Adultery Test & the Sovereignty of God

 

Numbers 5 & 6:

The Adultery or Jealousy Test

 

Numbers 5 contains a passage that is difficult to understand and, at first glance, seems highly slanted against women, but it’s important to study it in light of God’s sovereignty and in light of other Scripture.

Verses 11-31 describe a ceremony to be performed when a man suspected, but couldn’t prove, his wife had committed adultery. The husband was to bring his wife before the priest along with an offering. The priest would have her stand before the Lord, a important point in all of this. He would ask her under oath whether or not she had been with another man. She was to drink “bitter water” to which had been added dust from the floor of the tabernacle and scrapings from the oath to which she had sworn.

If she was guilty the water would make her extremely sick, but if not, it would have no effect. She would be declared clean, set free, and able to bear children.

 

Remember the Sovereignty of God

 

First, we must remember the purpose of these laws was to maintain purity in the camp. God had determined to dwell with the Israelites and He could not dwell with hidden sin.

Remember, also, that the Sovereign God of the universe oversaw the outcome. He was in control and He knew the guilt or innocence. The same law that condemned a guilty woman also vindicated an innocent one so she didn’t have to live under suspicion.

Matthew Henry in his commentary on the Bible said that even under the law, the Continue reading

“Mirror, Mirror” February 13

"Mirror, mirror ..." How many times a day do you look in the mirror? What do you think about more often: how you look to others or how you look to God? Do you spend more time looking at yourself, your life, your world or are you looking intently at God and His Word?“Mirror, mirror …” How many times a day do you look in the mirror? What do you think about more often: how you look to others or how you look to God? Do you spend more time looking at yourself, your life, your world or are you looking intently at God and His Word?

 

Today’s Readings:
Exodus 37 & Exodus 38
Psalm 22.9-15
Proverbs 8.12-21
Matthew 26.51-75

 

Mirror, Mirror

 

Exodus 37 & 38

Where is my gaze fixed?

 

Bezelel and the others God had blessed with the talent and ability to craft the furniture and implements for this magnificent temple continued with their work. God was using all this beauty to give His people a little glimpse of His beauty and creativity and glory.

But one little verse jumped out at me as I read this passage.

“He made the laver of bronze and its base of bronze, from the bronze mirrors of the serving women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting” (v. 38.8).

He made them from the mirrors of the serving women. Think about it. These were nomadic people living in a desert environment. But they were also women … women who experienced love and marriage and jealousy and a desire to look attractive to their husbands, or perhaps potential husbands.

We walk into our homes and there is a mirror in the entryway, a mirror in the bedroom, a mirror in the bathroom. We go to work or church and … more mirrors. Even in our cars, we flip down the mirror for a last minute look. But in the desert, if a woman had a brass hand mirror, I imagine that was really something … possibly a luxury … but they gave them up!

I have to ask myself, what would I be willing to give up for the glory of God? What is really more important to me, people seeing the beauty of Christ or how I look to others?

And I wonder, on what is my own gaze fixed? Is it more on myself or God and His Word? Am I focused on my life and wants or is my desire to use whatever I have to point others to Christ?

How about you?

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Psalm 22.9-15

Our God from the Womb

 

mother baby kozzi

Verse 9, “But You are He who took Me out of the womb; You made Me trust while on my mother’s breasts.”

This doesn’t mean that David was saved as a baby, but it is a beautiful picture of God’s sovereignty, His complete control, and how He is wooing us and blessing us with His goodness, even from birth.

James said, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights …” (Jas. 1.17).

 

Proverbs 8.12-21

Obedience Leads to Wisdom and Growth

 

As I have said over and over in the last couple of commentaries, God is not withholding His wisdom. It is here in His Word, but we must look for it. It’s not about being smart … or memorizing half the Bible … or sitting in Bible studies week after week and filling our heads with knowledge. It’s about faithfully seeking to know Him better through His Word and time spent with Him. And it’s about having a heart to please Him by choosing to obey what we know to do.

Hebrew 5.14 says, “… 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.”

It is by knowing and obeying that we grow in wisdom and maturity. On the other hand, James 1.22 says if we are hearers, readers, or sitters in Bible study without applying it, we deceive ourselves. We may think we’re mature. We may even be able to quote a lot of Scripture, even stand up and teach a Bible study ourselves, but we are spiritual lightweights!  Continue reading

“When Others Hurt You” January 25

 

The Sovereignty of God When Others Hurt YouHow do you respond when others hurt you? Do you trust in the sovereignty of God or do you become angry and bitter?

Jacob’s love for Rachel seems to be one of the great love stories in the Bible, but at the end of his life, he didn’t ask to be buried with Rachel. He made a very surprising request.

 

Today’s Readings:
Genesis 49 & 50
Psalm 14.1-7
Proverbs 4.20-24
Matthew 16.1-28

 

When Others Hurt You

 

Genesis 49 & Genesis 50:

The Death of Jacob

 

As we conclude our reading in Genesis, I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have. Genesis is one of my favorite books and chapter 50 contains one of my favorite verses, verse 20.

In chapter 49 Jacob is dying and he gathers his sons around him to speak to them for the last time. Commenting in depth on what follows in verses 2-27 would require more time and study than I can give here. But remember, God, who knows the end from the beginning, was speaking prophetically through Jacob. The things he spoke foretold future events, but also reflected each of his sons’ characters and their past.

But let’s take a minute and read back over his words to Judah in chapter 49:

8 “Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise;
Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
Your father’s children shall bow down before you.
9 Judah is a lion’s whelp;
From the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He bows down, he lies down as a lion;
And as a lion, who shall rouse him?
10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
Nor a lawgiver from between his feet,
Until Shiloh comes;
And to Him shall be the obedience of the people.
11 Binding his donkey to the vine,
And his donkey’s colt to the choice vine,
He washed his garments in wine,
And his clothes in the blood of grapes.
12 His eyes are darker than wine,
And his teeth whiter than milk.

Jesus was to come through the tribe, or descendants, of Judah and much of this speaks of Him. But as you think about Judah remember this is the man who in chapter 38 married a Canaanite woman, slept with his daughter-in-law Tamar because he had mistaken her for a prostitute, and then hypocritically condemned her to death.

But God was working and when he was confronted with the truth concerning Tamar, Judah said, “… She is more righteous than I …” (Gen. 38.26). He admitted his sin and repented.

In Egypt we get another glimpse of the change in Judah. When it looked like Benjamin was going to be arrested, Judah volunteered to take his place!

This should give us all hope that God can and does change people. It should also give us hope that He can use us in spite of the mistakes we have made, if we will repent and go His way.

 

When Others Hurt You

 

Genesis closes with the death of Jacob and a new set of worries for Joseph’s brothers. The old fears come back. They wondered if Joseph was just waiting for their father to die, so he could seek his revenge.

Verse 17 says that Joseph wept because they still didn’t get it. His response is one of the classic passages on the sovereignty of God:

“Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Gen. 50.19-20).

What has God allowed in your life? Has someone meant evil against you? Have you become angry or bitter because of it? Or Continue reading