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.
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 →
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.
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
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.
Few 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.
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.
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.
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.
“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?
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?
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 →
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 →
How do you respond to betrayal? Do you play that video tape over and over in your mind, allowing it to burn into your brain, turning to anger, then bitterness? Or do you surrender it to God? Do you view it through the sovereignty of God or simply through your feelings?
And what about wrong roads, have you ever asked yourself, how did I get here? This isn’t where I wanted my life to end up. Or have you ever gotten so focused on straining out gnats in your life (or someone else’s) that you swallowed a camel?
A great famine has brought Joseph’s brothers to Egypt to buy grain. He recognized them immediately, but they have no idea who he is. Remember he was only a youth when they sold him to slave traders. Now he looks like any other Egyptian official.
Joseph has been testing them, perhaps to see if they’ve changed, but he can stand it no longer:
¹Then Joseph could not restrain himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, “Make everyone go out from me!” So no one stood with him while Joseph made himself known to his brothers. 2 And he wept aloud, and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard it.
3 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph; does my father still live?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed in his presence (45.1-3).
What a reunion for Joseph and Benjamin! But I can’t imagine the shock the other ten brothers must have experienced.
14 Then he fell on his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on his neck. 15 Moreover he kissed all his brothers and wept over them, and after that his brothers talked with him (45.14-15).
The most amazing part of this story is what John MacArthur calls “a masterpiece of recognition of and submission to the sovereignty of God” (MacArthur Daily Bible).
4 And Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come near to me.” So they came near. Then he said: “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will beneither plowing nor harvesting. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.8 So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt (45.4-8).
Think about it. Fifteen years had passed since that day when his brothers betrayed him. There were ten of them—older and stronger. They had thrown him into a pit. Imagine the terror of overhearing them arguing about whether or not to kill him and what they would tell their father. Later we learned that he pleaded with them, but they wouldn’t hear it (Gen. 45.21). The text says:
“And they sat down to eat a meal. Then they lifted their eyes and looked, and there was a company of Ishmaelites, coming” (Gen. 37.25).
They sat down to have lunch while they debated his fate!
Then there was the long journey to Egypt. Did he hope they might change their minds and come after him? But no rescue. When he arrived in Egypt, was he put on an auction block?
At some point, Joseph must have made a decision to make the most of his circumstances and the Scripture says, “The Lord was with him” (Gen. 39.2). He served his master Potiphar well, rising to the job of chief steward, and was loyal even in the face of temptation. Then he was falsely accused and thrown into prison. Even there he was faithful and ended up being given a position of responsibility.
Even so, imagine the nights spent lying awake and wondering why? Why would his brothers do such a thing? Why would God allow it? When did he surrender it to God? We don’t know, but without a surrender he could not have responded as he did.
What do you do when someone has sinned against you? Do you play that video tape over and over in your mind, allowing it to burn into your brain, turning to anger, then bitterness? Or do you surrender it to God? Continue reading →
Have you ever wondered, in the midst of some difficulty, “Is this a test?” Does God, actually, test His people and, if so, are tests punishments or something else? What does God do when we fail those tests?
As we continue the Genesis story, Joseph will be faced with a test. How would he respond to the brothers who thought about killing him before they sold him into slavery? And his brothers will face some tests of their own, including the fear that God was punishing them for what they did to Joseph and how he might retaliate.
If you’ve been following along in Genesis, you know that Joseph had been thrown into prison after he was falsely accused of sexual assault, as if being sold into slavery was not enough. While there, God gave him the interpretation of two men’s dreams. Joseph asks the one that was released to remember him and his plight, but he, apparently, never did.
Two years later Pharaoh had two disturbing dreams (Gen. 41):
8 In the morning his mind was troubled, so he sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but no one could interpret them for him.
9 Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, “Today I am reminded of my shortcomings.10 Pharaoh was once angry with his servants, and he imprisoned me and the chief baker in the house of the captain of the guard.11 Each of us had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own.12 Now a young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for us, giving each man the interpretation of his dream.13 And things turned out exactly as he interpreted them to us: I was restored to my position, and the other man was impaled.”
14 So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh.
15 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.”
16 “I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”
God warned that seven years of abundance would be followed by seven years of famine. He, not only, revealed the interpretation to Joseph, but gave him so much wisdom that Pharaoh put him in charge of managing a program to prepare for the famine. His plan was so successful that people from surrounding areas came to buy grain, including Jacob’s brothers (Gen. 42).
You are spies!
6 Now Joseph was the governor of the land, the person who sold grain to all its people. So when Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground.7 As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. “Where do you come from?” he asked.
“From the land of Canaan,” they replied, “to buy food.”
8 Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him.9 Then he remembered his dreams about them and said to them, “You are spies! You have come to see where our land is unprotected.”
10 “No, my lord,” they answered. “Your servants have come to buy food.11 We are all the sons of one man. Your servants are honest men, not spies.”
12 “No!” he said to them. “You have come to see where our land is unprotected.”
13 But they replied, “Your servants were twelve brothers, the sons of one man, who lives in the land of Canaan. The youngest is now with our father, and one is no more.”
14 Joseph said to them, “It is just as I told you: You are spies!15 And this is how you will be tested …
I don’t know what was, actually, in Joseph’s heart when he first saw his brothers after so many years. The text says he remembered his dreams, but he, also, had to remember the hurt and the wrong they had done? He was faced with a test of sorts. How would he respond to the brothers who thought about killing him before they sold him into slavery.
His brothers would face the fear that God was punishing them for what they did to Joseph and, later, the fear of how Joseph might retaliate.
18 On the third day, Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God:19 If you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here in prison, while the rest of you go and take grain back for your starving households.20 But you must bring your youngest brother to me, so that your words may be verified and that you may not die.” This they proceeded to do.
21 They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come on us.”
22 Reuben replied, “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn’t listen! Now we must give an accounting for his blood.”23 They did not realize that Joseph could understand them, since he was using an interpreter.
24 He turned away from them and began to weep, but then came back and spoke to them again. He had Simeon taken from them and bound before their eyes.
Back to Egypt
Time passed. Simeon was sitting in jail, probably wondering if anyone was coming back for him.
Jacob had not been willing to deal with the situation. The thought of losing Benjamin was too great for him, but his hand had been forced by continued famine.
God & Famine
God often uses famine and lack to move us or test us. Sometimes, because we have become too content in our comfort zones, fearing failure or change. Other times, there are selfish desires, hidden idolatries, or sinful patterns that need to be exposed and dealt with. There are, also, times when we may not know the strength and ability we have in Christ until it is tested. Continue reading →
Have you ever been misjudged, falsely accused, or passed over by someone in leadership? Have you ever been hurt or mistreated? What do you think about at those times? How can you learn to trust God in a greater way?
Also, find out why God would call a group of women “cows of Bashan” and how we can be sure we don’t act like them.
Well, we are nearing the end of our journey on “the Bible bus” as J. Vernon McGee used to call it. I’d love to know how reading through the Bible has impacted you. Please take a few minutes and let me know. What has been your favorite book so far? What has changed in your life? How have you been able to apply what you are learning (the most important question of all)?
“Many seek the ruler’s favor, but justice for man comes from the LORD.”
Have you ever been misjudged, falsely accused, or passed over by someone in leadership? Have you ever been hurt or mistreated?
What do you think about at those times? As believers we need to meditate on God’s wonderful attributes and remember who is really in control.
First of all, we need to remember that He is good! If He allows us to go through some test or trial, it’s for our good (Rom. 8.28-29). It’s intended to help us grow in the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5.22-23) and come to trust Him more.
Second, God is Sovereign—He is completely in control. He is omnipotent—all powerful. He has the power and the ability to bring about whatever He chooses.
Job 42.2 says, “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.”
Think about that; God’s unstoppable plans, His perfect plans and purposes, will come to pass.
He is, also, omnipresent. He is present everywhere and at all times! He is omniscient. He knows everything. Nothing we think about, nothing we do, and nothing that happens to us is a secret to Him.
He is a God of love, a God of mercy, and perfectly holy. But He is also a God of justice.
So, since He knows everything, He has the power to do whatever He needs to do, He is completely sovereign, a God of justice, and He loves His children, He is well able to take care of You and make all things right in His time. Put your faith and trust in Him. He is our faithful, loving Father! Trust in His unstoppable, wonderful plans!
Amos was written primarily to the Northern tribes (Samaria) during a time of relative peace and prosperity. In chapter 4 Amos begins by addressing the women of Samaria calling them “cows of Bashan.” Wow, that’s pretty harsh!
The problem was that these women were living in luxury and encouraging their husbands to focus on material prosperity. Verse 1, “Who say to your husbands, ‘Bring wine, let us drink!’” And they had no regard for those less fortunate, “Who oppress the poor, who crush the needy …”
As wives and mothers and sisters, we have much more influence over our families than we think or like to admit. How are we influencing them? What is our focus? Could we be acting like the “cows of Bashan”? Are we saying we want our husbands to be godly leaders and our sons to grow up to be godly men … all the while putting our focus on material things, pushing them to get a better job, more education, and provide more “stuff”? Continue reading →
Almost everyone I talk to is disgusted and disheartened about the condition of our nation, the election, and the candidates. Social media is full of disparaging comments, photos, and videos asking the question, “Is this the best we could come up with?”
The temptation for many of us is to turn away from the whole process, but could this be the most important election in our lifetime?
My Old Testament reading today was from Jeremiah 9 & 10. As I was working on today’s daily post, I found myself looking once again at truths that speak to us and to this election. The daily post kept getting longer and longer so I’m sending it out late and separately.
Jeremiah is often called the weeping prophet. He was heartbroken over the spiritual and moral condition of his nation. In chapter 9 he said:
2 Oh, that I had in the wilderness A lodging place for travelers; That I might leave my people, And go from them! For they are all adulterers, An assembly of treacherous men.
3 “And like their bow they have bent their tongues forlies. They are not valiant for the truth on the earth. For they proceed from evil to evil, And they do not know Me,” says the Lord.
We don’t use bows and arrows today, but we have all seen them. We understand how the bow is loaded with the arrow and then pulled back and fired at the target. In fact, the bow’s sole purpose is to launch arrows.
This was a picture of people whose lives were characterized by lies. Just like the bow is known for shooting arrows, so these people were known for a life of deceit. Jeremiah goes on to say,
“They weary themselves to commit iniquity” (9.5).
In our nation, it seems like every day there are new allegations and demonstrations of ungodly behavior on the part of one or both of our candidates … everything from cover-ups and deleted emails to so called “locker room talk.”
And, at least in one party, it appears systemic. Even those connected to the candidate “weary themselves to commit iniquity.”
If you can believe the most recently leaked emails, (even the writers aren’t denying their truth, only attacking the source), the political elite have contempt and disgust for people of faith.
Like many of our politicians, the people of Jeremiah’s day thought they were so wise (9.12). Perhaps, like today, they thought the religion of their fathers was for the weak and the unenlightened. We shouldn’t be surprised. 1 Corinthians 1 says: Continue reading →
Philippians 1.6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.
What a great promise! We can be confident, not in ourselves that we’ll somehow make it to the end, but if we belong to Him, He will finish the work He has started in us. God Himself is the guarantor of His promises.
It would be nice if He just sprinkled some pixy dust over us and we were instantly changed. But that’s not the way God usually does His work in us.
And … We often wish He would do that in other people’s lives, too.
When we’ve been unequally yoked and a husband comes to know the Lord, we want them to immediately be where we are. When someone close to us surrenders his or her life to God, especially if it has been a difficult relationship, we can be unrealistic in our expectations.
There is immediate change in our lives and the lives of others. Our eternal destiny has been changed. 2 Cor. 5.17 says we are new creations; we were born again by the Spirit of God, but it takes time for those changes to work themselves out in our daily living.
That’s not an excuse. In fact, as God shows us areas where we need to change and grow we need to respond to those promptings.
Heb. 5.12-14 says:
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 (the NASB says PRACTICE) have their senses exercised (TRAINED) to discern both good and evil.
Some of us are still babies sucking on milk because we don’t do the things God has told us to do. AMEN … or OH MY.
Even then, God doesn’t stop doing His work in us, but it’s going to take longer and probably involve more pain and hardship.
What processes does He use to complete the work He started in us? I like to talk about five major ways.
God changes us as we learn to do 5 things:
1. Count it all joy (James 1.2-8).
2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t usually feel like being joyful when I’m in the midst of a trial. How can we count it all joy when we’re in a trial? Continue reading →