Bible Reading Blog

Bible Reading Blog

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Bargaining with God

Monday, February 25, 2019

Bible Reading: Psalm 100

Have you ever made a bargain with God? Have you ever said, “If you’ll just do this one thing for me… I’ll serve you completely.” We often find ourselves uttering these words in desperate situations when we realize things are outside our control.

Several years ago, my dad had to be rushed to the emergency room. His gall bladder was infected, and because of some preexisting health conditions, the options for addressing it were limited. The doctors prepared for surgery but were not optimistic about the outcome. I remember vividly the emotion as I prayed fervently that if God would heal him, I would live differently. I would trust Him deeper, I would serve Him more, I would just do better…

In that moment I had no other choice but to cry out for God’s help, and He mercifully brought my dad through surgery with the best possible outcome. But His goodness and faithfulness had nothing to do with the bargain I made with him. I made a commitment… but you know what? I haven’t always kept it. I am fickle and inconsistent and any bargain I could have made with God was destined to fail (Romans 3.23). 

But God is not that way. The writer of Psalm 100 tells us that the LORD is “steadfast” and “faithful to all generations” (Psalm 100.5). The nature of God is that He does not behave conditionally. Certainly, the faithful and righteous person can affect God’s attitude (Exodus 32.11-14; James 5.16), but at the end of the day, God is sovereign and good. He will work in a way that will be best for us (Romans 8.28) and will glorify His perfect nature. Regardless of what we think God is or isn’t doing in our lives, we have no place to put conditions on our praise or thanksgiving to God.

“Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” (Psalm 100.3)

We must make a resolution in our lives that, whether good or bad, we know that the LORD, He is God. That it is He who made us, and He is a good God – faithful and steadfast. In some situations, praise may not seem like the appropriate response, but as Job reminds us, “the Lord gives, and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1.21), and “Should we receive good from God and should we not receive evil?” (Job 2.10)

This resolution is challenging to say the least, but the encouragements to praise Him in Psalm 100 are unconditional. If we believe that the Lord is God; that He exists and He rewards those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11.6), then we must be people who give thanks in every moment. Have you given thanks to God today?

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” (Psalm 100.4-5).

What Makes You Significant?

Monday, February 18, 2019

Bible Reading: Psalm 73

There are some things in life I may never understand… like how “Survivor” and “The Bachelor” can be some of the biggest shows on television. Don’t get me wrong I understand their draw… These shows are entertaining because they are “unscripted”, spontaneous, and relatable; but it appears to me that the real draw of reality television is that ordinary people can become so important that millions will watch them.

Think about it… shows like “The Biggest Loser”, “America’s Got Talent” and “Top Chef” give people – just like you and me – a chance to be celebrities. It is my belief that reality shows have become so popular because as viewers, we can relate to the characters, and somewhere in the back of our minds we think, “That could be me...”

Maybe becoming a celebrity isn’t at the top of your list… but at our core we all desire to feel significant. And much like the reality television craze, our “ideal” of what that looks like is motivated by what we see in the lives of those around us. This is nothing new: the psalmist Asaph struggled with this as he observed the people around him.

“… I was envious of the arrogant as I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no pains in their death, their body is fat and pampered. They are not in trouble as other men, nor are they plagued like mankind.” (Psalm 73.3-5, AMP)

Asaph wanted what these people had. He looked at their lives and thought, “That’s it.” But then he realized something: the things that made these people significant were all temporary. “They are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors!” (Psalm 73.19). As Asaph considered the result of their lifestyle (Psalm 73.17) he understood that significance doesn’t come from what you own, how you look, or even what other people think of you—it comes from knowing God and living in light of eternity. “…those who are far from you will perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.” (Psalm 73.27)

When was the last time you considered what makes you feel significant? Are you motivated by recognition from others? Do you want more than anything to be accomplished in your career? How important to you is the house you live in, the clothes you wear, or the relationships you keep? Do you want the life that others have, or are you content with knowing that God is faithful to those who are faithful to him? When it is all said and done, “our heart and our flesh will fail”, but God will not (Psalm 73.26).

As you ponder what truly makes you significant, consider Asaph’s conclusion to the matter: “…for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.” (Psalm 73.28)

What's in a Name?

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Bible Reading: Proverbs 22

Why is it that you don’t meet people named Jezebel? If I had to guess it is because most people know the story of Jezebel in the bible and what a wicked woman she was. Her name was tainted by her actions, and to this day, we associate the name Jezebel with wickedness. 

We learn from her life that our name means something—it matters what people think about when they hear your name. Yesterday in our bible reading the father encourages his son to consider the value of a good name: “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.” (Proverbs 22.1)

In our world having money will allow you to do a lot of things: to have influence over people, you can do a lot of good and encourage change. But the father says having a good name is better than that… why? What the father is really pointing to is influence and integrity, isn’t he? A good name is valuable because it demonstrates that we are people who do what we say we’re going to do ... and that is worth more than any amount of money.

Just ask the guys at Enron. Enron was the largest oil and gas conglomerate in the early 2000s. They were making money left and right and their stock was through the roof. Everybody was investing in Enron back then… but then they got caught committing corporate fraud, everything went south, and nobody wanted anything to do with them. After the collapse, the company tried to get itself back together and move on… but nobody wanted anything to do with “Enron”, and they eventually had to change their name.

You see, you can have all the money in the world, but if people think you’re a scoundrel it doesn’t matter what you have. If you are a Christian,  that should matter to you. I know you can’t control everything people think about you… but Christians ought to be people of integrity, so that if someone were to say something bad about you, nobody would believe it.

We should be people that are consistent, trustworthy, and wise in the way we live our lives because if we are not these kinds of people, it doesn’t just affect us. Having a good name matters because we are stewards of somebody else’s name: Jesus Christ. And so, we need to live in such a way that brings honor to his name. 

What do people think of when they hear your name? Let’s be mindful of this as we go back into our lives tomorrow to put God first and live in such a way that our name reflects honorably on his name.

The Lesser of Two Evils

Monday, February 11, 2019

Bible Reading: Proverbs 21

Proverbs 21.9 – “It is better to live in the corner of a housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.”
Proverbs 21.19 – “It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman.”

I thought it curious that twice in this chapter, the wise father warns his son about the effects of living with a quarrelsome woman. In fact, he says it would be better to live in a cramped space or a desolate place than have to endure a woman like that.

Let me just say up front: this is not a message directed at women to tell you to act right. I know better than to do that… and besides, I don’t think that’s what the father is implying. Speaking from wisdom (and probably some life experience), he is pointing to an everyday struggle that many people face.

Do you see what the father is trying to say? By her actions and speech, this woman is creating an environment that encourages the man to be discontent. The father clearly paints a “lesser of two evils” scenario that doesn’t benefit anyone.

What I see in these Proverbs, from a broader perspective, is a lesson about the power we have to affect others with our words and actions. Did you notice the emphasis put on how these negative interactions affect the relationship? Someone who is quarrelsome and fretful is exhausting to be around and doesn’t add value to others. Their negativity encourages others to look for a way out, even if it means choosing the lesser of two evils.

This is risky territory for me… so I’ll tread carefully. I certainly think there is a lesson here for wives about how they speak to, and treat, their husbands. Paul wrote, “…let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5.33b). But that goes both ways. The husband also has a responsibility to “love his wife as himself” (Ephesians 5.33a). There is a need for both parties to behave properly and considerately towards the other.

Do you consider the effect you have on those around you? Have you thought about what kind of environment you are creating in the home by your words and actions?

I know we don’t set out to be a quarrelsome or fretful person, but we can easily digress into that when we become discontent and reckless with our words. We must be thoughtful and intentional in how we speak to and treat others, especially in our marriage relationships.

It's Not About Me

Monday, February 04, 2019

Bible Reading: Proverbs 16

Proverbs 16.18 – “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” 

Have you ever felt like everything is about you? If you’re a human, the answer is probably yes. (Who is the first person you look for in a group photo?) 

This past Sunday, we discussed the struggle we sometimes face with pride and the effects it can have in our lives. Pride is something that, throughout my life, has been difficult for me to get under control. As I reflect on past seasons of my life, it seems like I was always talking about what I had done or who I knew and gave little concern to others. If I’m being perfectly honest, these were seasons in my life where my confidence was low, and what I really trying to do was build my own self-esteem. But as C.S. Lewis once said, “A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.”

The key to advancing past this mindset is to be honest about our shortcomings (Romans 3.23) and acknowledge that God’s way is right and true (Deuteronomy 32.4). James 4:6 tells us “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

There are many stories in the Bible that give examples of prideful individuals who let their own ego get in the way; but there are also stories of humble heroes who exercise the humility, grace, and wisdom from God. From David, who refused to kill King Saul (on two separate occasions) to the prophet Daniel, who strove to serve God and did not seek riches or glory (Daniel 5:17), the Bible shows us the type of attitude that God desires. On the other end of the spectrum, we see men like King Saul and Haman (whom we studied on Sunday) who are famous examples of pride leading to a fall.

The core lesson we can take from each of these stories is this: “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11, Matthew 23:12).

We must remember: It’s not about me. Instead of letting pride be our motivator, let’s follow the example of Christ: “Let nothing be done from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interest, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ...” (Philippians 2.3-5)

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