A blog about everything about teaching the Bible. "And still I will show you a more excellent way..." (1 Corinthians 12:31).

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Family Devotional - Judges

This week‘s family devotional continues a series in which we take a family friendly look at each book of the Bible. If you’re using these Saturday devotionals with your family, please comment with your feedback, or feel free to email me privately. I want to mold these into a format that will be a blessing to Christian families. For the record, this series will use the books of the Bible as they are in order in the Christian Bible and will only look at the 66 canonical books.

Judges is a fascinating part of the Bible. Its 21 chapters summarize a period of a little more than 300 years during which God’s people had an ongoing leadership crisis. In fact, life during this period suffered through a number of crises. The Israelites went through weary cycles of faithfulness and unfaithfulness, met by God with blessings and discipline—often in the form of oppression from national enemies. When things got bad enough, the people would remember their God and cry out to him with penitent hearts seeking deliverance. God would always respond by sending a “judge” to lead the people out of their sufferings and into another period of faithfulness and blessing.

Judges were not kings, but their decisions in civil disputes were authoritative. They weren’t soldiers, but they led the people to battle. They did not reign over Israel, but were leaders of free people. Judges were generally prophets—spokesmen for God who represented his active power among them, and against their foes. The judges tried to discipline the nation to keep God’s law, and as long as one of them remained alive among the people, they usually would. When one of the judges died, it always seemed a generation would arise who did not recall what their parents had learned and turned again to idolatry and immorality. Then the cycle would begin again.

The Book of Judges has a lot of good stuff to offer. It tells the stories of great men like Samson who finally overcame his weaknesses to provide a mighty deliverance, but it cost him his life. It tells of one of the Bible’s greatest and certainly most unusual women, Deborah. She was a prophetess and judged the people, becoming like a mother to the nation in a way. I think one of the most valuable lessons from the book is the great likelihood of children and children’s children to forget the truth of God and fall away into sin if their parents prove unable to pass the mantle of leadership on to the next generation successfully—especially if new generations aren’t taught where they’ve come from, and what God requires of them.

Nurture your habit of reading the Bible together as a family this week. You can easily read it through together every year, and it’s worth the effort. There are many Bible reading plans online. You can pick up a One-Year Bible at a Christian bookstore, or order one online. I suggest the ESV.

If I had to pick just one passage to memorize from Judges it would be a rather longer one than usual, but still easily memorable. It’s the digest of the whole book. “Then the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them. Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they whored after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their fathers had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the LORD, and they did not do so. Whenever the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways. So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he said, ‘Because this people has transgressed my covenant that I commanded their fathers and have not obeyed my voice, I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations that Joshua left when he died, in order to test Israel by them, whether they will take care to walk in the way of the LORD as their fathers did, or not.’ So the LORD left those nations, not driving them out quickly, and he did not give them into the hand of Joshua.” (Judges 2:16-23 ESV).

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

It Is Well With My Soul

Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” are a great comfort and strength to my spirit. They help me express what is often buried deep inside. They offer comfort and assurance in times of need. They keep me on track by providing constant reminders of what I believe and why. Today one song is on my heart especially.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, let this blest assurance control, that Christ has regarded my helpless estate, and hath shed his own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought! My sin, not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, the clouds be rolled back as a scroll; the trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, even so, it is well with my soul.

The refrain follows each verse: “It is well with my soul, it is well, it is well with my soul.” Perhaps no other hymn more constantly expresses the deep feelings in my soul.

Is it well with your soul today? Does “peace like a river” describe your present state, or are sorrows rolling like “sea billows”? God loves us all, and has promised his faithful children he’ll never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). There is nothing in life—joy or grief—that God does not walk through alongside us. I’m reminded of what the apostle wrote, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11b-13 ESV). Indeed God has taught me to say—whatever my lot—it is well, it is well with my soul!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Is Truth Important?

These are days of confusion and doubt. This generation around us is weak in faith and timid in its convictions. Everyone seems to be clamoring for his or her rights, and everyone seems to think he has the right to his own personal view of truth. Others don’t seem to care about truth, echoing the faithless words of Pontius Pilate, “What is truth?” (John 18:38), they live only to have fun. Worst of all, God’s people are tempted to throw in the towel. How can we speak in a unified voice for the one, true, right and living way with such a hellish din thundering all around, and even among us? With such rampant ignorance, arrogance, and just plain disagreement, some seem to have decided truth isn’t as important as sincerity. Unfortunately, for all that is praiseworthy about sincerity, a man sincere in his error is still just sincerely wrong. Does it matter?

Just a quick search turned up the following: The church is the pillar and ground of truth (1Timothy 3:15). Saints should lay aside deceit in seeking truth (1Peter 2:1). God is love, but he is also truth (Numbers 23:19; 1Samuel 15:29). The gospel is the “word of truth” (2Corinthians 6:7; Ephesians 1:13). Consider what Paul had to say about the relationship between truth and salvation: “In order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2Thessalonians 2:12-14 ESV).

God doesn’t require us all to be right on every point, but there is a big difference between making an honest mistake while diligently seeking to know God’s truth (and being willing to accept correction when its offered) and just disregarding truth content to live in sin and error. The soul unconcerned with truth cannot be saved. Even though God has grace to forgive the mistaken saint, we’re still saved through the truth of the gospel, and every saved person must make it his aim to love, seek, and obey the truth. Truth is eternally important!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Family Devotional - Joshua

This week‘s family devotional continues a series in which we take a family friendly look at each book of the Bible. If you’re using these Saturday devotionals with your family, please comment with your feedback, or feel free to email me privately. I want to mold these into a format that will be a blessing to Christian families. For the record, this series will use the books of the Bible as they are in order in the Christian Bible and will only look at the 66 canonical books.

The Book of Joshua is about kept promises. God promised Abraham all the land of Canaan would someday belong to his descendants. Joshua was the leader God used to fulfill it. In Joshua 23:14-16, we read the promise was fulfilled. It wasn’t due to any greatness in Joshua or the Israelites that they were able to take the land from stronger, well-fortified nations; it was due to God’s power. God caused the walls of Jericho to fall when the Israelites had merely marched around it (Chapter 6). He made the sun to stand still for an entire day so Joshua and the army could win a decisive victory over the five kings of the Amorites (Chapter 10). God wasn’t arbitrarily robbing the Canaanites of their land so he could give it to Israel either. The Canaanites lost the right to the land for their sins (Genesis 15:16), and Israel gained it for the faithfulness of a generation that walked in the footsteps of Abraham’s faith (Joshua 24:31).

The Book of Joshua is significant to Christians for several good reasons. First, it is a testimony to God’s trustworthiness. God keeps his promises. He gave Abraham’s descendants the Promised Land just like he promised. Second, it is a testimony to God’s wrath. He destroyed the sinful Canaanites from the land—some through utter annihilation. The lesson remains applicable to our day and time. Those who will not accept the Lordship of Christ will not step foot into the Promised Land to come. Third, it lets us learn from the life of Moses’ successor, Joshua. He was a great leader of his family and the nation because of his unwavering faith in God. Every leader among us would be wise to do the same. Finally, though it is history, God was making history into a symbol of what he’s doing with mankind and the world over all time. Joshua, or Yeshua, is the Hebrew name which, in Greek, is rendered Jesus. It is no coincidence that a Jesus led the ancient people of God into their earthly Promised Land, and the Jesus will yet lead us into the eternal heavenly one (Hebrews 4).

Nurture your habit of reading the Bible together as a family this week. You can easily read it through together every year, and it’s worth the effort. There are many Bible reading plans online. You can pick up a One-Year Bible at a Christian bookstore, or order one online. I suggest the ESV.

If I had to pick just one passage to memorize from Joshua it would be 24:15-16, “And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (ESV).

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Autumn of Your Life

It’s that time of year again. The bright yellows, rust reds, oranges and browns, alongside the stubborn evergreens are a delight to the eyes. God is beyond genius! When autumn arrives there’s something delightful for all the senses, crunching leaves under your feet, cool wind against your skin, the comforting aroma of a baking pie. Yes indeed it’s a fine time to be alive, a little like living in a painting.

There’s something else about autumn I love, though it can be bittersweet. When the cool breeze begins to blow and leaves start to swirl around me my thoughts turn inward. Fall brings back memories. That’s good for me, even if it’s bad memories. We all need to be introspective from time to time. It’s never healthy to dwell in the past, but to know where you’ve come from and why you’re where you are has as much to do with getting where you’re going as anything does. I encourage you to go for a long walk sometime this fall, and pray a long prayer.

The seasons represent a life, death and rebirth cycle that relates in many ways to our spiritual experience. We sometimes talk about someone being in the autumn or even the winter of his life. We all know what it means. Is it surprising there should be so much beauty in the decline and ultimate death of so much verdant life? The green is mostly dying, but harvest has come! It’s time to enjoy the maturity all that greenness has been laboring to reach—the fruit of your labors! If you’re in the autumn of your life revel in the beauty of what you’ve learned and how you’ve grown through the all too brief spring and long hot summer of life, and bear fruit for the Lord! Winter is coming, but it isn’t here yet. There’s this happy, beautiful, mild, peaceful period to enjoy first. I praise God for the changing seasons and the opportunities they grant us to consider life—our own lives—in different ways.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Family Devotional - Deuteronomy

This week‘s family devotional continues a series in which we take a family friendly look at each book of the Bible. If you’re using these Saturday devotionals with your family, please comment with your feedback, or feel free to email me privately. I want to mold these into a format that will be a blessing to Christian families. For the record, this series will use the books of the Bible as they are in order in the Christian Bible and will only look at the 66 canonical books.

Whenever you try to remember what Deuteronomy is about, think of a little play on words: “Do-it-all-over-again.” In a way, it’s a second giving of the Law. That’s what the title means. The 40-year period of wandering in the wilderness was at an end, Moses’ death was at hand, the generation that lost faith along with the ten spies was dead, and the young generation about to enter in and take the Promised Land had not seen many of the wonders of the Exodus. Many of them had not seen the smoking, fiery presence of God on the mountain, or heard the thundering of his voice. Undoubtedly some had not heard the Law of God. The Book of Deuteronomy contains three sermons Moses preached to the people to prepare them to enter into and conquer the land promised to their forefathers.

There are a few really great points to remember about Deuteronomy. First, it’s the book Jesus quoted to deflect Satan’s temptations (Matthew 4:4 is Deuteronomy 8:3, Matthew 4:7 is 6:16, Matthew 4:10 is Deuteronomy 6:13). Jesus knew the book very well. We should too. Second, it’s a book that focuses both on the extreme importance of listening to God carefully and doing exactly what he says to the best of our abilities. Chapter 4:2 is one of the occasions in Scripture God warns us not to add or take away from his word. If you read on through chapter 4, pay special attention to verses 9, 16, and 19. There are many similar passages throughout the book. You may recognize Deuteronomy 4:24 from Hebrews 12:29. Finally, Deuteronomy has tons to say about the heart of it all. It shows us the relationship God wants with his people. God never meant for the Law to be a barrier between his people and him, but meant it as a blessing. Take note of Chapter 6:4-5. God calls the Israelites his “treasured possession” in 7:6, and reminds them he’s the God who loves his people in verse 9. Read Chapter 10:12 and keep reading as long as you have time. It will bless your walk with him.

Nurture your habit of reading the Bible together as a family this week. You can easily read it through together every year, and it’s worth the effort. There are many Bible reading plans online. You can pick up a One-Year Bible at a Christian bookstore, or order one online. I suggest the ESV.

If I had to pick just one passage to memorize from Deuteronomy it would be a hard decision, but I guess I’ll go with 6: 4-9, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”