Archive for the ‘Devotions / Bible Studies’ Category
January 17th, 2012 | 2 Comments | Posted in » Bible in a Year, Devotions / Bible Studies, Scripture Snapshots
Yes, I’m a bit behind in sharing Scripture snapshots from my daily Bible reading plans. Here’s some from yesterday’s readings. Cool how so many of these run together in a common theme.
13When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
14They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
17I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. 18For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.
2 Timothy 2:14-18
14Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. 15Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 16Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. 17Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some.
1Then Job replied:
2“I have heard many things like these;
miserable comforters are you all!
3Will your long-winded speeches never end?
What ails you that you keep on arguing?
5Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;
you have made my lot secure.
6The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
23A wise man’s heart guides his mouth,
and his lips promote instruction.
28A perverse man stirs up dissension,
and a gossip separates close friends.
29The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas.
30He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
31They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved — you and your household.” 32Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized.
January 3rd, 2012 | Comments Off | Posted in » Bible in a Year, Devotions / Bible Studies, Scripture Snapshots
Perhaps it’s a small vial of sand or dirt, to help remember a memorable place. Maybe a coin from another country, or a ticket stub from a movie you attended with a special someone. Maybe it’s something else?
We love these things. They’re treasures to us… Markers of memories. Inherently worthless… yet invaluable.
Scripture contains an example of just this kind of remembrance technique.
1When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, 2“Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, 3and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan from right where the priests stood and to carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.”
4So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, 5and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, 6to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’, 7tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”
8So the Israelites did as Joshua commanded them. They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, as the Lord had told Joshua; and they carried them over with them to their camp, where they put them down. 9Joshua set up the twelve stones that had been in the middle of the Jordan at the spot where the priests who carried the ark of the covenant had stood. And they are there to this day.
We human beings have an amazing ability to forget what God has done in our lives. I don’t understand it, but it’s true. God can blow us away with His goodness, faithfulness, and love for us one day, yet we find ourselves questioning His love and care for us the next.
We need constant reminders of what He has done.
The Israelites had twelve stones, placed in a specific location to remind them of what God had done.
I have a friend who has an entire container of marked stones. When God does something important in his family’s life, they pick a new stone, write a couple notes about the event on the stone with a sharpie, and place it in a container they keep on display.
I have a tattered page from a Baptist Hymnal that I picked up in the front yard of my mother-in-law’s home May of 2003 following a devastating tornado. I kid you not, the song was “From Every Stormy Wind that Blows”. God worked in amazing ways in the town of Battlefield that week, and that page let me know immediately that God was still there in the middle of the destruction.
I have three rubber bands, one red, one yellow, and one pink, placed on my wrist in July 2010 by a beautiful little girl in the Dominican Republic. They’re worth less than a penny, I’m sure, but I wouldn’t trade them for the world. God opened my eyes to our privileged existence on that trip, and gave me a heart for orphans.
My point, again?
We need these kinds of reminders of God’s goodness and work.
So what “stones” have you held onto?
January 1st, 2012 | Comments Off | Posted in » Bible in a Year, Devotions / Bible Studies, Scripture Snapshots
Today marks the beginning of a new year, and with it, a new Bible reading plan I’m embarking upon. I’ve shared about the plan here, so check it out if you want to get up to speed on what I’m doing. Suffice it to say that the reading plan presents an interesting combination of Scriptures given that I’m reading ten chapters a day from ten different books of the Bible.
Given that, I thought I’d share some verses that stuck out to me. I may not do this every day as I go through this reading plan, but I plan on doing it somewhat regularly. I think it will be very interesting to see what themes begin to emerge daily, and would imagine you’ll find this interesting too. So check back from time to time.
Before I continue, though, please be warned: combining snippets of Scripture from various places in the Bible can be a dangerous thing, as it’s not too hard to make the Bible appear to say something it doesn’t. I’m compiling these verses because I think it’s interesting to provide a snapshot of some of the Scripture I’m coming across daily, NOT to try to lead anyone into a certain way of thinking by reading these verses together. If you want to understand what God’s Word says (not to mention understand how God is using His Word to speak to you!), you simply cannot neglect context! If any of these verses jump out at you, look them up and read the surrounding Scriptures! If you have questions about what you’ve read, ask your pastor, or a trusted friend! Or even ask me… I’ll be happy to try to help you understand what God’s word is saying.
With that all said… here are today’s Scripture snapshots:
7The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
8Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
20For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities –- his eternal power and divine nature –- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. 21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools
19Such is the end of all who go after ill-gotten gain;
it takes away the lives of those who get it.
13Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—
I cannot bear your evil assemblies.
14Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts
my soul hates.
They have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
15When you spread out your hands in prayer,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even if you offer many prayers,
I will not listen.
Your hands are full of blood;
16wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds
out of my sight!
Stop doing wrong,
17learn to do right!
encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless,
plead the case of the widow.
18“Come now, let us reason together,”
says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.
19If you are willing and obedient,
you will eat the best from the land;
20but if you resist and rebel,
you will be devoured by the sword.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
20At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.”
22In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.
9Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
December 19th, 2011 | 1 Comment | Posted in » Bible in a Year, Devotions / Bible Studies, My Life / Family
The new year will be here before we know it. As of today, it’s just 12 days away. Hard to believe, isn’t it?
I don’t want to call it a “New Year’s Resolution”, per se, but one thing I always kick myself for about two weeks after the beginning of each new year is that I don’t have a concrete plan for studying Scripture like I should. I think to myself, “Sure wish I’d have started a Bible in a Year plan or something”, and then proceed to NOT do so and flounder in my devotional life.
Not so this year.
I’ve ran across a very interesting plan that I’m excited about: “Professor Horner’s Bible-Reading System”.
It’s different than most I’ve seen, and perhaps that’s what has me excited. Ten chapters a day… from ten different locations in Scripture.
Yeah, sounds like a shotgun approach to Scripture initially, I know.
But dig into the details.
The genius that I see in the system is precisely that it DOES have participants reading so many different parts of Scripture. You see, readers have the opportunity to digest the whole of the Bible quickly. You’re not just honed in on one particular passage… you’re in Genesis, Joshua, Isaiah, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Matthew, Acts, Romans, 1 Thessalonians… simultaneously. You’re constantly bombarded by the entirety of Scripture, resulting in the big picture of God’s revelation coming across.
As described in the link above and in the program literature, the plan allows Scripture to interpret Scripture. You’ll see prophetic verses or history from the Old Testament referenced by Jesus or the writers of the Epistles. You’ll read the Psalms and receive nourishment from them, as well as wisdom from Proverbs. And you’ll see the growth of the church in Acts. And as you proceed through the plan, you’re never reading the same group of verses… you start over with each of ten sections of Scripture at different points throughout the year.
The result of all this?
Theology revealed. Practical instruction. The story of God. Constant nourishment.
Can you tell I’m excited?
Anyway, if you’re interested in participating along with me, let me know. I’d love to see a group of other believers working through Scripture together.
December 18th, 2011 | Comments Off | Posted in » Christian Living, Devotions / Bible Studies
I’ve written previously that we were walking through the book of Galatians in Sunday School at my church (Missouri Valley Baptist). I’ve obviously missed getting into this Scripture here since my introduction. Better late than never.
Again, some background on the audience of Paul’s letter.
The church at Galatia is in turmoil. Big-time church conflict between Jewish believers and Gentile believers over adherence to the Law. The Jewish believers are pressuring Gentile believers to undergo circumcision. It’s a big deal for Gentile believers (after all, it’s not a pleasant procedure!), and they’re resisting. The rift is causing major issues.
So they receive Paul’s letter.
He introduces himself to the church once again, lest they have forgotten who he was (not likely):
1Paul, an apostle — sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead — 2and all the brothers with me,
To the churches in Galatia:
3Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
It’s quite an introduction, isn’t it? Would you introduce yourself that way?
Probably not. I know I wouldn’t.
But it sets up what is yet to come.
6I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — 7which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!
10Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.
There’s conflict in the church… Paul addresses it HEAD ON.
He’s ASTONISHED that people are deserting what they know and turning to a false gospel. He writes that those who are preaching a false gospel should be eternally condemened… they’re fit only for the fires of hell.
And Paul doesn’t care if his message of truth offends. “If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Loads of truth there for us to consider. False gospels. False teachers. Unhealthy doctrine. Messed up priorities.
Here’s the context of the church of Galatia.
People of Jewish decent, now followers of Christ, pressuring Gentile believers to enact every bit of the law. A false gospel. False teachers. Leading people astray.
It’s the ongoing conflict between law and grace. How should believers live their lives?
Sin is a BIG deal. We should avoid it at all costs.
But what saves us?
Faith. Not perfect obedience to the law. Not physical acts. Certainly not circumcision (as was being taught at the time).
Faith. Salvation is by grace alone through faith in Christ.
So how does this apply today?
Well, think about it. Legalism versus grace. Church conflicts. False gospels taught by false prophets.
Christians being lead astray.
I think Paul would write a similar opening to churches today.
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — which is really no gospel at all.
We’ve got to keep a watchful eye. We’ve got to be faithful to the gospel of Christ.
Simply put… it’s EASY to stray, losing focus on the truth we know. Even as a result of good things.
Caring for the poor. Creation care. Social justice. Being “seeker-sensitive”. Caring about our “witness”.
All of these are good.
But they’re not the entirety of the gospel.
The gospel is the good news of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. It’s a cause worthy of everything we can give.
When we let anything other than truth be our primary focus as believers, we’re treading dangerous ground.
Any other gospel is simply no gospel at all.
November 29th, 2011 | Comments Off | Posted in » Devotions / Bible Studies, My Life / Family
Every now and then we’re granted a dose of perspective.
Mine came this morning as I woke up. Half-asleep, without my glasses or contacts, as I opened my eyes I could see a single point of light peeking between the curtains, shining through the dark morning sky. A single blurry star.
I don’t know why I happened to focus on it this morning, but for some reason as I lay there in bed focusing on that blurry point of light, my mind wandered to the sheer size of the star from which that light was shining. I was amazed in my half-awake state that something perhaps a hundred thousand miles or more in diameter could appear to me as a point of light in the sky, infinitesimally small.
I couldn’t help but wonder how any of us can wake up and think only of our life and our problems. This universe that God has created is SO much bigger than we can imagine… certainly MUCH larger than my little world and my little problems.
And to think that God took such tremendous care and effort to plan every detail. Even the details of stars billions of miles away from us that we can only see as tiny points of light.
And the God that takes such care with the details of things we can barely see? He’s also that God that takes the same level of care and interest in every detail of our lives.
November 27th, 2011 | 1 Comment | Posted in » Devotions / Bible Studies
I’ve been teaching through the book of Galatians in our young adult Sunday School class at Missouri Valley recently. It’s a powerful book of Scripture addressing the freedom we have in Christ.
Here’s the background:
The churches in Galatia are in turmoil. Big-time.
There’s stress between Jewish believers and Gentile believers. The history between these two groups is not pretty. You think racism in the South was bad? This is nothing.
The Jewish people were God’s chosen group, and they knew it. They’ve lived as God’s people for over a thousand years. Trace their lineage back to Abraham. Were delivered from Egypt by Moses. Were given the commandments and the law. Were made into a mighty nation, and led by powerful kings. When they strayed, prophets were sent over and over by God to bring them back to Him.
The Gentiles? Well, they were the rejects… those outside of the Jewish lineage. Ostensibly rejected by God. And looked on as lower than dogs to the Jews. To associate with them was not only socially unacceptable, but made them unclean… unfit for worship of God.
Yet people from both groups are coming to faith in Christ. Becoming brothers and sisters, joint heirs of God’s Kingdom through a mutual faith.
You think your family has tension? Try uniting these two groups.
So here’s what’s happening in the church: Jewish believers, who have followed God’s commands for all of their lives, are stressed that these new Gentile believers have not. And you guessed it… circumcision becomes the issue of the day. The Jewish men were circumcized… the Gentiles were not.
And this was a BIG DEAL to the Jews.
Why, you ask?
Because circumcision was God’s sign of His covenant relationship with the Jews. This indicated that they were indeed God’s chosen people. For whatever reasons, the Jews believed it necessary for the Gentiles to undergo this procedure as well, submitting to the commands of the law given them over a thousand years previous.
If you’re a Gentile man, this is a BIG DEAL.
So there’s a major rift. And we think that OUR church feuds can get heated.
Enter Paul. He’s visited these churches. Preached the gospel to them. Lead many of them to Christ, helping birth these very churches.
He’s got to address this rift and heal the church.
The result? The book we know as Galatians. A POWERFUL treatise on justification by faith in Christ through the grace of God alone… salvation by grace, not works.
Lots of meat to sort through. Be sure to check back for subsequent posts as I walk through this book here at Toward the Goal. If you’ve got thoughts and comments, by all means, share.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.