Bible Reading Blog

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The Simplicity of Faith

Tuesday, October 04, 2022

BIBLE READING: Hebrews 11.8

When God called, Abram was living with his kinsmen, had plenty of wealth and appears to have been a man of influence. We are given no indication he needed or even wanted to leave. But God wanted to do something with Abram, for Abram and through Abram. It was never about Abram and so God’s decision to offer these promises were not because of his good behavior. God made the first move with expectation of Abram taking the next step with him. And that’s what Abram did. 

God’s call and Abram’s response are the fundamental pattern for faith (Hebrews 11.8). We often focus on the magnitude of what God asked and miss the simplicity of faith. It didn't really matter what God was asking. What mattered was that Abram went because he believed God. There was nothing sacred, nothing he held back, no “yes, but…” banter with God to address the other things he had going on in his life. If I were in his place, there might be a sentence in the bible that says, ‘and Daniel asked “why”’ ... and I’m probably not alone. Human nature desires predictability and resolution. We take comfort in knowing what will happen next, even if it’s not great. But we need to consider that God has always called people of faith to simply and practically trust him. 

Faith is not an easy road. It challenges our securities, it pokes at our fears, and it questions our foundations. God is not doing this to toy with us but to draw us to him. He wants to fill those spaces and meet our every need. We need to listen when God is calling us. It may not be the same as in times past, but he certainly speaks to us today. God’s word gives us clear direction if we’re willing to listen. Sometimes it calls us to make big sacrifices to walk more closely with God. In fact, as we mature in faith, sometimes he drives us to let loose of things that make us feel competent and secure. In those moments, it becomes evident what our we trust. Other times he simply calls us to engage the opportunities in front of us. To let go of pride and serve my family and friends; to open my heart and serve those I don't feel deserve it. Faith challenges our natural wants to their very foundations. The question we must ask is, “Who will I let determine my activities today?” 

People of faith are defined by God’s control over every aspect of their lives: finances, relationships, location, service, etc. Sometimes we deny God control over certain areas of our lives, and it hinders our growth. We need to think seriously about in whom and what we trust, and we need to order our lives in faith. Only then will we experience the blessings of God because he is shown to be great in our lives.

God Waited Patiently

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

BIBLE READING: 1 Peter 3.20

“All flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind. Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. [God] blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground.” (Genesis 7.21-23a)

Try to fathom the horror people faced as the waters rose. Surely, they climbed higher and higher until there was nowhere else to go. The reality of their fate slowly engulfed them until they were consumed and destroyed. What a terrifying way to die.

We know the world was corrupt (Genesis 6.5), but our human limitations can make it difficult to comprehend why God had to do this. It is a challenging thought to be sure; but know with certainty God did not do this out of pleasure. It grieved him to his heart as he watched his creation degenerate from the goodness with which he had designed them to live. (Genesis 6.6-7). Although they lived, there was no life.

While the flood was a definitive moment, it was a long time coming. Peter wrote that “God’s patience waited in the days of Noah” (1 Peter 3.20). God could have acted sooner. He could have wiped out humanity the moment he knew their wickedness. But for the sake of Noah’s preservation, and in hope that others would repent, God waited.

But eventually the flood came, as promised, and it was a discriminating moment. Both the righteous and the wicked endured the flood, but only those prepared through obedience were saved. The flood made evident who was with God and who was in rebellion. Those eight persons who got on the ark had never seen a flood like this, much less rain fall from the sky. But they believed God and their obedience served as an “appeal to God for a good conscience” (1 Peter 3.21).  In other words, they understood God’s mercy in revealing this to them and acted to position themselves for salvation, according to God’s words.

Peter tells us this is what baptism is all about (1 Peter 3.21). It’s not a formality but an opportunity to engage God’s judgment with hope that he will save us through it. We know a day of judgment is coming (Matthew 24.36-42; 2 Peter 2.4-10; 3.5-7). We have not only been warned but have been told how to prepare. We can get in the water through obedience trusting him to save us or we can let the judgment come us. The events of Genesis 6 and the faith of Noah remain as a witness to the coming reality (2 Peter 3.5-7). The day of the Lord will come (2 Peter 3.10) and only those who have submitted to the mercy of God through obedience and baptism will be saved (2 Peter 3.21).

And so, God’s patience waits again today. We live in a world plummeting into wickedness and corruption, destined for wrath (2 Thessalonians 1.5-10; 2 Timothy 3.1-5). "the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly" (2 Peter 3.7). There will once again be a definitive moment in history where God discriminates between the righteous and the wicked. We know only a few will be saved; and in his goodness, God will wait for them, and then comes the judgment. Until then, we must take seriously that “God wishes that none would perish but all would come to repentance” (2 Peter 3.9). Like Noah our charge is to be a herald of righteousness (2 Peter 2.5) in a world that crooked, perverse and doomed for judgment. Let us secure our hope in obedience and share God’s mercy with others so they too might be saved.

Grounded For Years to Come

Monday, September 19, 2022

BIBLE READING: Hebrews 11.7

Imagine being the only person on the face of the earth that was right with God. What a struggle. How easy would it have been to let go of conviction and just go with the flow? “Surely, I can’t be the only right person in this world… Can I?” I know that thought would’ve run through my head. But maybe I just don’t have the faith of Noah. 

“By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household...” (Hebrews 11.7a). Many people of faith were called to actions that put them in direct opposition with others. But Noah’s calling was simply to accomplish this construction project. While it was a little bit strange, he probably could’ve gone about his business without disturbing others. So, how does this demonstrate faithfulness?  

First, God asked him to do something that seemed foolish to others. The entire world was doing something else. Noah’s conviction was radical and frankly weird to everyone else, but he saw through his temporary moments of rejection and mockery to the future that would be blessed by God. That is faith in a nutshell. Men will always fancy themselves smarter than God, but the foolishness of God is greater than the wisdom of men (1 Corinthians 1.20-29).

Second, God knew that Noah’s choices would send a clear message to those around him. “...By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” (Hebrews 11.7b). “Noah, [was] a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when [God] brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly” (2 Peter 2.5). His actions were never intended to be done in a corner. Instead, God wanted the world to see Noah’s obedience as a witness to his faith. "In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5.16). 

Finally, this project took a really long time to complete. Preparation and building probably took upwards of 100 years, and all the while Noah was trying to warn people of what was coming (2 Peter 2.5). What is most amazing is there was no evidence this would happen, except for the promise of God. Noah believed, feared and trusted in God as he constructed this boat. It’s important to see that Noah’s commendation comes right after Hebrews 11.6: “whoever would come to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who diligently seek him.” That is critical for understanding Noah’s actions. No one else believed that God existed and would reward them for diligently seeking him. But Noah did and it kept him grounded for years to come.  

We claim to believe in God and his promises, but do our actions reflect this truth? In a world of unfaithfulness, Noah obeyed all the Lord commanded him and he was saved. Obedience is always an outflow of trust. We obey traffic laws because we trust they will keep us safe. We obey the advice of a mentor because we trust they have our best interest in mind. When it comes to God, we have even more reason to trust him than Noah did. Let us not shrink back or falter in our trust and obedience. We can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13.6)

Something From Nothing

Tuesday, September 06, 2022

BIBLE READING: Hebrews 11.3
“By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”

As a kid, I had a giant box of LEGOs that I would scrounge around and make things from. Every day I would tear down the old and make something new, and the possibilities were endless. It was empowering to use my creative abilities to make something no one else had. But what if those pieces didn’t exist? It is safe to assume that none of my creations would have existed. How could they?

Many take this approach to Creation. For something to come from nothing is an absurdity that immediately puts believers in the category of “wacko.” The major criticism of faith is that it forces blind acceptance of untenable proposals. As regards Creation, the big question is “how”? Modern science rejects that something can come of nothing. Indeed, with our present abilities we cannot prove.

While I would not reject this scientific principle of our world, it ignores the presence and power of the intangible in our world. A thought can inspire people. A feeling can change a culture, lead to revolution or kickstart a social movement. An emotion can incite war and violence, reconciliation and peace. We cannot quantify these things and yet they certainly exist and have powerful creative ability. The very existence of these intangible things speaks powerfully to a force (if you will) greater than just what is seen.

As men have tried to explain the origins of the world apart from God, they have significant limitations. If nothing comes from nothing, there is the challenge of proving where the first pieces come from. As they attempt to recapture what happened in millennia past, they still can’t answer the question, “where did this stuff come from?”

By faith we believe these are the Divine witness in this world. While inexplicable in many ways by our limited minds, the unseen forces at work in our world declare the truth we believe by faith.

This can be challenging because these positions present as objective and undeniable. They represent the wisdom and ingenuity of humanity that has opened their minds to all the possibilities. But sadly, they have rejected the obvious realities: “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19.1); “what can be known about God is plain… his invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Romans 1.19-20). The many who reject a Creator in favor or observable processes will find themselves will stumped by the existence of morality and emotion. In fact, the deeper they dig for answers other than God, the more they will find themselves wanting.

Belief in God’s creative power – to make something from nothing – is the bedrock of faith. It reminds us that God is not constrained by matter or forces that already exist; in fact, they are subject to his words just as we are. And so, as Martin Luther once said, “God made the world out of nothing. It is only when we become nothing that God can make something out of us.”  

David's Sinful Census

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

BIBLE READING: 2 Samuel 24

David counted the people in a nationwide census. Joab objected but did it anyways… sort of (1 Chronicles 21.6). The whole thing was sinful to God, but he was the one who incited David to do it (2 Samuel 24.1) … or was it Satan (1 Chronicles 21.1)? When comparing these parallel texts, there appears to be an inconsistency. The tension we feel is legitimate. We know that God tempts no one to sin (James 1.13), and we know that God is not in cahoots with Satan (Matthew 12.25-26). How then can both be true? And why does God punish so many people for this sin (2 Samuel 24.15)?

What is going on here and how do we deal with it?

First, it is important to see that God had an agenda: His anger was kindled against Israel, and rightfully so (2 Samuel 24.1). They were ungrateful for the blessings of David’s government, and strangely drawn in to take part both Absalom and Sheba’s rebellion (2 Samuel 15.1-12; 20.1-2). The armies of Israel and Judah had constant strife between their commanders, and Joab proved to be a cold-blooded murderer on several occasions (2 Samuel 3.27, 18.14, 20.10). Their choices required discipline and judgment, which God would execute in this situation. We must understand those who died were not innocent. They had opportunity to change, and they didn’t.

Second, we must acknowledge God’s sovereignty in this world. Throughout history God frequently used wicked, God-less forces to carry out his judgment. In the recent past God used the Philistines to humble and turn his people back (see 1 Samuel 4-6). Later God would use both the Assyrians and Babylonians to punish Israel and Judah. Did God approve of these peoples? Obviously not, but because of his sovereign control he used them to carry out his will. That’s what we see here. Although Satan was at work in this event, it was the LORD’s judgment that allowed these events to transpire.

Third, we must see God’s delayed judgment as mercy. Only a fraction of Israel died, and the effects of God’s limited judgment turned many back to himself, including David (2 Samuel 24.17). Peter would apply this thought for all: “God is patient, not wishing any to perish but all to reach repentance” (see full context in 2 Peter 3.5-9). This humbling of judgment repositioned Israel to know and honor God, and he once again responded to them (2 Samuel 24.25).

This section pulls the curtain back on dynamics in God’s nature that don’t always make sense to us. But by faith we must determine to accept that our limitations cannot fully grasp the character of God. He is loving and just. He is merciful and righteous. He will not let the guilty go unpunished, but he will endure wickedness in hope of better things.

We have limitations, but in mercy God has revealed the serious cost of sin (Romans 3.23) and that includes every sin. As we give our lives a living sacrifice to God (Romans 12.1), let us remember the words of David as he prepared to make a pleasing sacrifice to God: “I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing” (2 Samuel 24.24).

“Therefore, let us be grateful… and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12.28-29)

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