Bible Reading Blog

Bible Reading Blog

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Good Comes From God

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

BIBLE READING: Psalm 16

“I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”” (Psalm 16.2)

Children do not understand their utter dependence. From the time they come out of the womb, they quickly learn their parents are going to give them what they need. When they cry, they get fed. When they’re tired, they expect to be rocked, swaddled and put into their bed. Their paradigm is very selfish because that’s all they’ve ever known. 

We know they must learn how to do these things themselves, but they don’t realize that. They just assume their parents are watching out for their best interest.

As parents, that’s what we do. We provide for our children even when they are thoughtless of what we have done. Sometimes it’s frustrating because they can be incredibly selfish; but as long as they are in our house, we do our best to give them what they need because we love them. And those moments when, unprompted, they stop to say “thank you” or put their arms around your neck and say, “I love you” make it all worth it. I don’t know why acknowledging our efforts seems so unnatural to children, but I do know that it will only come through maturity. 

This relationship highlights the immaturity we sometimes have towards God.  As our Father, he gives and gives and gives! We have access to everything that is his (Luke 15.31b)! And yet, like children who thoughtlessly presume our parents will provide, we sometimes fail to acknowledge God’s daily provisions. 

Sometimes it’s not until our best efforts leave us unfulfilled that we see how desperately we need the Father’s presence and blessings (Luke 15.13-19). But like a true Father, he always leaves the door open for us to be with him (Luke 15.20). As we mature we realize that, “nothing on earth I desire compares to you… It is good for me to be near God” (Psalm 73.25, 28). We can acquire things that will bring us momentary pleasure, but it is not things that bring fulfillment (Ecclesiastes 5.11), but the presence of God in our lives.

The good we experience only comes from God. It is the effect of God’s grace to make life bearable (Ecclesiastes 2.24-25; 3.12; 5.18-20). As James would note, “every good thing comes from God” (James 1.17). And yet, how often have you overlooked this simple truth? 

The greatest joy we can offer our Father is to acknowledge his grace, and the greatest fulfillment we will find is to walk with him in obedience (Psalm 16.9-11; 17.3-5). Let’s not behave like children; let’s go onto maturity (Hebrews 6.1) and practice daily thankfulness and humility towards our Father who provides for and sustains us (Psalm 3.5; 1 Thessalonians 5.18). 

“I bless the LORD who gives me counsel… You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16.7, 11)

Responding to Criticism

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

BIBLE READING: Proverbs 12

“The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice. Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult.” (Proverbs 12.15-16, NIV)

If someone criticizes you, what is your first response? I would love to say that I always patiently accept it, consider the information and honestly evaluate myself. But a more natural response is, “How dare you! What right do you have?” I’ve often played the scoffer… anybody else? 

It can be hard to take criticism. We are processing information and juggling our emotions in that moment which can make it easy to have a knee-jerk reaction and respond poorly. And yet, the Proverbs teach it is the fool who allows natural emotions to dictate their response. 

By nature, we reject information that doesn’t fit into our paradigm. We see things through the context of our life experience and our value system. Our limited understanding of life is often loftier in our mind than we realize. Hence why the bible is replete with admonitions to be humble and gracious (see Proverbs 3.7; Romans 12.3; 1 Peter 5.8). 

Wisdom can come in many forms, and sometimes it comes from people that we don’t want to hear from. For us to make determinations about who has the right to give criticism demonstrates a proud heart (see Proverbs 15.12; Romans 12.16; Philippians 2.3).

Our natural responses will likely get us into trouble. So, we must discipline ourselves to listen and respond well. 

“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.” (Proverbs 12.1)

“By [presumption and contempt] comes nothing but strife, but with those who take advice is wisdom.” (Proverbs 13.10)

“A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.” (Proverbs 29.11)

We’ve all seen the effects of responding poorly to criticism. We often say things that aren’t thoughtful, make choices that are rash and cause unnecessary damage to relationships we value. We must train ourselves to make wise choices when criticized by storing up this wisdom and following the example of Jesus. 

“When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2.23, NIV). Jesus had nothing to be criticized for, and yet he patiently endured those who hurled it at him.

You may not like what someone has to say, or it may not be delivered well; but it does not change the objective nature of truth. If we are wise, we will train ourselves to receive criticism with grace and patience and use it as an opportunity to refine our faith. 

“…let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger…” (James 1.19)

In Need of Mercy

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

BIBLE READING: Job 9

“...how can man be right before God? If one wished to contend with him, one could not answer him once in a thousand times... Though I am in the right, I cannot answer him; I must appeal for mercy to my accuser.” (Job 9.2, 15)

Do we understand just how feeble we are? Job was a man of faith, who had possessions beyond what most of us can imagine; and yet it was all taken away from him in a moment. As a person of faith he acknowledged his things were gracious blessings from God (Job 1.21), but also recognized the significance they had in his life. “Have I any help in me, when resource is driven from me?” (Job 6.13)

Job’s grievance is not that God is unjust or corrupt but that He is good, and without His goodness life is unbearable. Even at our very best, time and chance happen to all (Ecclesiastes 9.11) and we are in desperate need of peace and security that only God, in His Sovereignty, can offer. But who are we to demand that from God?

He is stronger, wiser, greater and more perfect in every way than us (Job 9.4-12). If we believe God is the Eternal Creator, what right have we to impose on Him to change our circumstances or provide us relief from present distress? Of His own prerogative God offers mercy, which should give us pause as it did the psalmist: “What is man that you are mindful of him?” (Psalm 8.4)

This reality should position us in humility. I’m not talking about some contrived façade of self deprecation, but a true understanding that if the bottom falls out, we are helpless and hopeless without God. Even at our very best, what power do we have to fully control our lives? We often think we have control until something unexpected happens.

I believe God withholds his goodness at times to help His people learn these realities and desire more than just the benefits of His mercy and grace (see Deuteronomy 8.5). He wants to be our God; He wants us to be his people (Jeremiah 7.23). He wants us to trust and rely on Him (Proverbs 3.5-6). But we must be humble enough to let Him be the leader, in the good and the bad times. 

Is this season of uncertainty producing greater humility in your life? This is what God requires of us (Micah 6.8; Philippians 2.5-8). The gospel calls us to weep and mourn for our sins because they are an affront to God’s perfection (James 4.8-9). It calls us to cast our cares before the loving God (1 Peter 5.6-7). It expects us to turn away from what we think is right (Romans 12.3; 1 Peter 3.11).

We are powerless to control the future, but God is not (Isaiah 46.8-10). On this side of the cross, we thank God for His grace through Jesus to be able to stand boldly before His throne and offer our petitions (Hebrews 4.16). But let us never forget God’s act of mercy. Trusting in Him is our only hope. 

A Lifestyle of Worship

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

BIBLE READING: Job 1-2

 “Is anyone among you suffering?” Let them turn to the book of Job and find all the answers...

We often turn to Job when things are going badly, as a last-ditch effort to salvage our faith. But what a terrible disservice we do to ourselves if we only look at Job during tough times. Job was the epitome of a righteous, godly person and we can learn so much from his life. In fact, I believe Job offers us no consolation if we don’t learn from his lifestyle of worship.

“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped” (Job 1.20)

The book of Job opens with a brief but profound introduction to his life: “Job was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1.1).  How do you think this looked in his life? The following verses tell us he would continually offer sacrifices for others (Job 1.5). Job would later say, “I have made a covenant with my eyes not to look with lust on a woman” (Job 31.1). The pattern of Job’s life was evident, so that even God took notice (see Job 1.8; 2.3). Some might have considered him extreme, but it did not concern him. Job worshiped in suffering because his life was built around worship of God and not worship of the things God had given him.

“..The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1.21)

“Shall we receive good from God and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2.10)

We often talk about worship like it's something we go to and then come back to our normal lives. But this time of isolation has shown us that worship cannot simply be done in a place with sacraments and processes. Worship must be a lifestyle that is constantly positioning us to see God. The word “worship” literally translated means to bow down or position oneself before someone greater.

Job knew God was Sovereign over all because he ordered his life to understand this reality. Especially during these times of upheaval where everything is different, we need to be sure we are positioning ourselves properly before God. That means that every moment is a moment of self-examination. It’s a moment to honor and respect and fear before God. It’s a time for us to position ourselves in such a way that we trust God more deeply. 

That’s where true contentment comes from; realizing our own inability to control our situation but resting in the hope and trust that God is God.  

To speak and think and act like Job takes maturity. It takes vulnerability to release what we want to control so badly. It takes intentionality to not look at what we have and see it as the result of our actions. The truth is, anything we have now is a gift of God’s grace.

Job’s story accentuates the deepest feelings we will experience in the face of trials and struggles in this life. But in everything he experienced the Bible says, "he did not sin or blame God" (Job 1.22). I pray the same could be said about us. And if not, I pray this time of upheaval will strip away our foundations of trust that we too will fear God and turn away from evil.

Weren’t Things Better Before?

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

BIBLE READING: Psalm 13

“How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?” (Psalm 13.1)

The question that seems to keep coming up is, “When will things get back to normal?” We miss our sports, our social gatherings, our ability to get out of the house and see people. We’re getting stir crazy looking at the same 4 walls and having to entertain the kids, who should be at school right now. From our perspective, this is not how things ought to be! We’re ready to get back to how things were before.

This question reminds me of Israel after the Exodus. God delivered them out of Egypt and took them into the wilderness, away from the “comforts” they were used too. And what did they do? They complained: “Weren’t things better in Egypt?” (Exodus 16.3; Numbers 11.5-6). What a foolish thought... but why did they long for it? It was predictable.

Human nature desires predictability and resolution. We take comfort in knowing what will happen next, even if it’s not great. Like the psalmist and the Israelites, many of us are frustrated with the timeline of events. Now seems like a good time for things to go back to normal. As time drags on what happens is that frustration breeds discontent.

But we need to pause and consider how God used these “wilderness times” to refocus his people. He took away things they thought they needed to help them trust him and pursue things of greater value (see Deuteronomy 8.2-3)

The fact that we are looking back to our times of comfort and saying, “things were better before” misses the opportunity of the present. We have been forced to slow down and given time to reevaluate our lives. Many things have changed, our foundations have been shaken and our norms altered. But God and his promises have not changed.

I’m not suggesting that this virus is God’s master plan fix the world, but we must not dismiss that God might be trying to change us. He may be taking away our idols, destroying our faulty foundations and refocusing our attention on our homes, communities and relationships. Maybe he wants us to slow down and appreciate what we have instead of pursuing what we don’t.

We don’t know what God is up too. But we know he has not changed, and the scriptures reveal that God works in every circumstance to accomplish his will and glory (Romans 8.28). And so, rather than fixating on the past, let’s develop some perspective. Let go of your discontent and embrace the blessings in front of you. Perhaps this time of crisis is his reminder that this world is broken, but he has offered us something better. Let’s not squander this opportunity by trying to bring back the good old days.

“...one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3.13-14)

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