Bible Reading Blog

Bible Reading Blog

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Right, Reliable and Rewarding

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

BIBLE READING: Psalm 19.7-14

Bible study is hard. Even just bible reading for that matter can be a bit onerous at times. Knowing what to read, and where to read can sometimes feel intimidating. Moreover, is not always easy to understand what is being said. Sometimes we must give extended thought and extra effort to make sense of what it says. And when we do God’s word often calls us to make changes. This process can feel like a burden. And yet many times in the Psalms, we see writers rejoicing in God’s word Why? Because they understand…

  • God’s word is right (Psalm 19.8). The psalmist speaks of this quality as a state of being: God’s word IS right. We all sense righteousness but only God’s judgments are “righteous altogether” (Psalm 19.9). It does not merely suggest a way to live or principles for self-improvement like so many others. It is in fact perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (2 Timothy 3.16). However, this is more than a claim; history has revealed…
  • God’s word is reliable (Psalm 19.7). Every word of God PROVES true” (2 Samuel 22.31; [Psalm 12.6-7]; Proverbs 30.5). The language of scripture challenges the reader to consider and recognize the verity of God’s witness throughout history (Psalm 19.7b; Numbers 23.19). Time and again, the sureness and certainty of God’s teaching to us has been confirmed and fulfilled, culminating in God’s blessings through Jesus. As the psalmist says, the fear of the LORD is clean and will forever take a stand (Psalm 19.9a). It is both right and reliable meaning…  
  • God’s word is rewarding (Psalm 19.7-8). It revives the soul, makes wise the simple, rejoices the heart and enlightens the eyes (Psalm 19.7-8). As difficult as it may be at times, you will always reap benefits by spending time with God’s word. It can clarify a situation, change your perspective, encourage you in weakness and humble you in pretense. It will show you what is right and true and good with no partiality. The only desire of God’s word is to direct us in the way God created us to live.

What God offers through his word is of immense value in our post-modern society. We are not subject to the whims of powers and culture to decide what is right or true. We can know this from the Maker of all things, allowing us both confidence and peace despite circumstances. But we must subject ourselves to his exposure and direction.

“Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.” (Psalm 19.12-13)

To receive what God offers we must humbly admit our limitations through confession. We must submit to God’s mercy in our hearts, minds, and activities. Ultimately, we must act in trusting obedience to God’s word. Then we will experience the peace and confidence that God offers.

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19.14)

Blessed Are the Merciful

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

BIBLE READING: Psalm 145.14-20

God’s dominant desire is mercy (Matthew 9.13; James 2.13). He is near the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit (Psalm 34.18). He resists the proud and gives grace to the humble (Psalm 147.6; Proverbs 3.34; 1 Peter 5.5; James 4.6). This characteristic of God is a promise and a calling for us to be humble as we seek him. But the scriptures don’t call us to simply fabricate humility but rather to understand our helplessness and reject our foolish pride. What God offers is a way of life that we cannot muster on our own.

And yet we try sometimes… We try to have meaningful relationships, careers and lives chasing what we desire. We invest ourselves in things and people looking for peace and purpose. We want peace with our circumstances, our decisions and our failings. We want our lives to have purpose and meaning. But we all are met with disappointment doing our own thing. God offers those to us perfectly in Christ, but in our selfishness and limited understanding we sometimes get off track.

Like we said last week, we must not miss what God is offering. Every good thing comes from God (James 1.17). His goodness in the present is his prompting to see his grace throughout history, culminating in redemption through Christ. He is so merciful he allows good things to come to both the just and unjust, hoping all will see their need and turn to him (Matthew 5.45; 2 Peter 3.9). God is merciful for our good and his glory; but that mercy is limited by our response.

Recall the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18.23-35). A man owed a king so much he could never pay him back. The king order both he and his family to be sold to pay the debt. His life was practically over. He begged the king for mercy, and it was granted. Everything was forgiven. As the man went back about his life, however, he did not demonstrate the same mercy to others. He mercilessly demanded a fellow servant pay him back a meager debt. He choked him and had him thrown into prison. When the king heard of it, he was furious with the man and revoked his mercy, saying, “Should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 19.33-35).

We must understand the nature of God but also the calling of his mercy. We must fear him and reflect his mercy to others (Psalm 145.19). We must never presume upon his mercy and grace but rather submit and differ to his judgment. He will do what it right and it is his place to do so. As it is written, “never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12.19-21)

God has offered us peace, purpose and hope through his mercy, and we must do the same. “Blessed are the merciful for they will receive mercy” (Matthew 5.7)

Wrong Expectations

Tuesday, May 09, 2023

This blog is an excerpt from Sunday's sermon, "Seek What God Offers"

“A man’s heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16.9). This verse reminds us that although we have things we want, God knows what we need. Even the best made plans get altered along the way. Situations change, people change their minds, and we find ourselves somewhere other than where we intended to be.

This can be frustrating, especially for the believer. In fact, I have observed this is where many Christians wrestle with faith. It is easy to accept that God has done something of great value for us, but the outcome of circumstances can vary dramatically from what we are expecting. This can lead to doubting, depression, or despair. This can cause anxiety to stir up in our hearts and make us question the very foundations of our faith. But we must understand the problem is not God’s faithfulness, but our own expectations.

For faith to benefit our lives, we must alter our wants to align with what God offers. While God sometimes gives the desires of our hearts, we must not be confused into thinking that is his job. As we seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, we should experience a shift in our thinking that settles us in the reality of what God offers.

He offers security, not prosperity (1 Peter 1.3-7); peace, not resolution (Philippians 4.10-13; 1 Peter 5.6-10); fulfillment not temporary pleasure (2 Thessalonians 1.11). As Jesus would say, when we seek first the kingdom of God all the things we need will be added to us. But to realize this fulfillment we must not let our wants dictate how they are fulfilled.

As believers, our expectations are often rooted in the right things, but they fail to account for God’s eternal nature and forethought. For instance, we want wrong to be punished and bad people dealt with immediately. We know that God is both right and just, so we expect him to act now. But we neglect that God’s prevailing nature is mercy. We forget that he desires that none should perish but all to come to repentance. God’s slowness is not from ambivalence but hope for the guilty to repent (see 2 Peter 3.9). He will be right and just, but also patient and merciful until the time of judgment. As we mature, we must adjust our thinking to align with God’s nature and desires for others.

What are you expecting from God? Perhaps your walk of faith has not produced the life you thought it would, and that can create negative feelings. We must combat those with what God tells us about himself and what he offers us; because he knows what we need; and he knows what others need; and he will work all things together for good according to his purposes (Romans 8.28). As believers we must settle our hope in God who will one day make all things as they should be.

“…according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3.13)

Don't Look Back

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

BIBLE READING: Luke 9.57-62

“Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”” (Luke 9.62)

A farmer who looks behind only sees what they’ve already done. They see their success and failures. Maybe there are changes that need to be made, but the problem is they are not headed that direction anymore. They have pressing work right in front of them. They need to look at where they are going and take care of that. So, it is for the kingdom citizen. By investing ourselves in the past, we can become proud of successes or discouraged by failures and fail to see the opportunity in front of us.

According to Jesus, this is not appropriate for a kingdom citizen. We are called to “[forget] what lies behind and press forward to what lies ahead” (Philippians 3.13). This is not telling us to ignore life experience and wisdom we have gained but to grow. By God’s grace we are not who we used to be. God has and will continue to expose our sins and failures so we can make changes and move forward to better things. In fact, he expects it. He would not offer forgiveness so freely if it were not possible (1 John 1.8-10). Better things are ahead. To look back is to reject the grace God offers and to prove unfit for the kingdom.

What exactly does it mean for us to look back? It is fixating on situations you cannot control. It is focusing on irrelevant activities that feed your ego. It is wallowing in self-pity. It is defining your identity in Christ by your past successes. None of these are productive for the present or the future; and yet, these dilute the faith of many believers. Many are like the man who was willing to follow Jesus but wanted a little more time getting closure his way (Luke 9.61). The problem is closure our way is usually an effort to maintain control. These efforts will not only disappoint but will fail to cultivate deeper trust in Jesus. The fact is, we all have succeeded and failed in the past. But that is not what defines the believer. We look at ahead trusting Jesus, working at what is in front of us to get us closer to the kingdom.

Kingdom citizens must set their sight on Jesus’ calling, trusting the way he leads. If we begin thinking of where we came from, there will be opportunity to return. But if we seek better things – a home prepared by God – we will set our sights, our hearts and our efforts ahead (see Hebrews 11.13-16). Most importantly, kingdom citizens realize the grace and opportunity of Jesus’ calling in the present. They focus on the mercy and forgiveness shown to them and are thankful they are not who they used to be. You may feel weak and incapable, but God’s grace is sufficient so that you can have boldness and confidence to do the work God has called you to do. If you are a citizen of the kingdom, get your eyes ahead and don’t look back.

“…we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2.10)

It is Worth It

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

BIBLE READING: Matthew 13.44-46

Every year, millions of people immigrate to the United States looking for a better life. For some it may take years as they order their lives to find a way here. To do so, many sell everything they own because they are convinced that being here is better than anything they had before.

In some ways they are right. Having lived in the US my whole life, I didn’t understand this until I visited Ethiopia several years ago. Seeing 3rd world conditions first-hand is shocking, but what made it worse is the lack of opportunity. Even if someone wanted a better lifestyle, social constructs and government regulations often do not allow them the chance to pursue them freely. Ethiopians often look at Americans as though we have it all; one even commented to me that he imagines America is what heaven is like.

From this side of the world, we know the US is far from the perfection of heaven; but we do have many more comforts than the rest of the world. This often numbs us to the desire for something better because we are just comfortable enough where we are. Like the brethren in Laodicea, many would say, “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing…” but what does Jesus say to them? “[You do not realize] that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” (Revelation 3.17). The comforts of American living will fail everyone, but the riches of heaven will not. Do we believe that?

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13.44-46)

God’s word reveals the value of God’s kingdom, but many will not see it. There are too many things that demand their attention… how could something intangible be more valuable than my paycheck... my possessions... my securities?

Does that describe you, or are you buying what God has revealed to us about his kingdom? It is a place of peace, security and comfort. All things are provided for because God is there. If we believe in the value of his kingdom, shouldn’t we order our lives to get there? Shouldn’t we be willing to give up anything and everything? Perhaps our apathy is the result of ignorance. Perhaps it is our failure to grasp the great disparity between the now and the not yet. Either way, belief in the greatness of our king and his kingdom should be central to our everyday walk of faith. We must be seekers who deny temporary comforts (Matthew 16.24), abstain from the desires of the flesh (1 Peter 2.11) and give up anything (Luke 15.24-33) with the hope of experiencing God’s eternal kingdom. It is worth it.

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