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

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Be Thankful No Matter What!

I thought about a number of other things I could write about today, but kept coming back to thankfulness. It’s what’s on my heart this week. God is so good and I want to continue to express my praise for him for the many ways he’s made his goodwill known in my life. I sure hope you can relate.

God gave me a strong and healthy body which, to this point, has given me very little trouble. I don’t expect this body to be any less mortal than anyone else’s. I know health will fail eventually if the Lord delays his return. However, I’ve been blessed to this point and am thankful. I talked about my parents and extended family’s influence on me in childhood last week. God also answered a prayer I prayed one night as a young teenager that he’d help me find a good Christian wife. He really outdid himself answering that one! I have two brothers and a sister whose fellowship is a treasure to me both in the flesh and in the spirit. I have two first cousins more like brothers who are gospel preachers, and being able to share the struggles and joys of the ministry with them has been a blessing indeed. I could go on and on and on. Praise God!

All that said, I have to test myself. Am I faithful to God just because he’s blessed me? The devil accused Job of that (Job 1:9-11). Bad things happen to all of us sometimes, but the goodness of God is evident to those with open eyes even in the worst of times--particularly to those who’ve become his true children through faith in Jesus Christ! When Job lost almost everything he said, “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21). I want an attitude of gratitude that runs that deep! Trust in God that everything will be made right in the end (Romans 8:28) and commit yourself to being thankful no matter what!

So, like I said, I sure hope you can relate. God is good to all of us, some of us have just been blinded by Satan and cannot see it. Open your eyes this week to all the ways God has blessed you, and when Thursday comes and goes, assuming it does, keep those thankful eyes open to see the goodness of God no matter what.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I'm Thankful...

While we ought to be filled with thankfulness to overflowing all year long, this time of year serves as a special reminder. God has been so good to me--so much so I cannot begin to express the depth of my gratitude in words. However, this week and next week I hope to count my blessings in writing and express some of my appreciation to God for all he’s done for me.

I’m thankful for the family into which I was born. I am the firstborn son to a couple of Christians who taught me from the earliest days that nothing in life is more important than following Jesus. They disciplined me as they thought wise and gave me considerable instruction at home about faith, love and truth. I owe an incredible debt of gratitude to them, and to several members of my extended family who wielded a powerful influence on my soul, but my gratitude is mostly to God. It is his providence that gave me such a strong spiritual upbringing and I don’t know where I would be without it.

I’m thankful for the church in which I grew up. Thankfully, my family attended church every time the doors were open, and I was taught to believe that’s what good Christians do. I still believe that. I cannot count on all the fingers and toes I have the preachers, teachers, elders, and other members of that church who invested so much of themselves in my spiritual upbringing. I would love to mention them all by name, but God knows who they are and I know he will reward them on the last day. Thank God for the teaching, examples, and fellowship I enjoyed over the years of my association with that congregation.

I’m thankful for the church I’m part of now--in which I have my ministry to the Lord. I’m deeply blessed to serve under wise, loving elders. What a great body of deacons and fellow ministers work alongside me in this great work for the kingdom! How blessed I am to be associated with so many talented teachers, and I cannot begin to express the heartfelt thanks I have toward the many members who continually encourage me in my work! What a church! May God continue to bless it and all my brothers and sisters who together with me have found the refuge we seek within it’s warm, loving fellowship. May God bless you as much as he has me!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Family Devotional - Ruth

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.

If ever there were a story that shows how God can bring great good out of awful circumstances, Ruth’s story is it. She was a Moabite, which means she was a distant relative of Abraham’s people; a descendant of Lot’s firstborn daughter. Moabites were not among the seven heathen nations with which Israelites were forbidden to intermarry (Deuteronomy 7:1-5), so (over 1,000 years before the birth of Christ) when Elimelech, an Israelite from Bethlehem, moved with his wife, Naomi, and two sons to Moab to escape a famine and died there, his sons chose Moabite wives. Ruth was one of them. The other was named Orpah. When both of Elimelech’s sons also died in Moab, Naomi and her daughters-in-law were left in dire straits. Naomi had heard prosperity had returned to Israel, so she set her intentions on going home and urged her daughters-in-law to return to their parents’ houses and find new husbands. Orpah did. Ruth clung to Naomi as recorded in one of the most beautiful examples of selfless devotion in the whole Bible: “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” She kept her vow.

The book of Ruth is easy to read in one sitting, so I won’t go into too much detail here about how the story unfolds. Upon making their way back to the region of Bethlehem, Ruth and Naomi find a place to live and Ruth begins gleaning in the fields hoping to gather up enough of the excess grain for the two of them to live on. She winds up married to a great man, has a precious son and is blessed with the means and security for which she and her mother-in-law both prayed. More important, Ruth’s devotion to Naomi and her God (also our God) leads to a happy ending. We need never forget that all happy endings follow faithful living, even if there are unhappy times first.

Be sure not to miss the very interesting family tree that closes the book. “Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez fathered Hezron, Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David” (4:18-22). Perez was Judah’s son by Tamar who pretended to be a prostitute in order to conceive (Genesis 38; Matthew 1:3). The good man who married Ruth, Boaz? His mother was Rahab, the former harlot (Joshua 2; Matthew 1:5). Boaz and Ruth’s child was King David’s grandfather. These all are in Christ’s ancestry. Never write off a whole family for the sake of a black sheep or two, and for that matter, don’t write off the black sheep. They can be washed (1Corinthians 6:11).

Read the book of Ruth together and talk about it.

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 1:16--the passage where Ruth swears her loyalty to Naomi to the death. What a great example of unselfish love! “But Ruth said, ‘Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.’”

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Prevalence of Irreverence

What do you revere? Is there something you consider so holy you’ll countenance no disrespect or disdain toward it? A grandparent? A keepsake? A flag? The church? God? I trust the answer is yes with many of you who read this, and it should be yes! Perhaps there is much an honorable person ought to hold as too sacred to be treated as ordinary, but at the very least we all ought to honor our Maker as that holy. That includes being unwilling to let anyone or anything pretend to take the place of God!

Outright idol worship is less common in the world now than in previous ages. That’s good, because the first of the Ten Commandments forbids it. “And God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them...’” (Exodus 20:1-4 ESV). Nothing has changed regarding idolatry under the New Covenant. Idolatry is a grievous sin. "You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve" (Matthew 4:10 ESV). We all owe God a special kind of reverence due no other, and to offer any of it to another is the height of irreverence. It isn’t something to joke about.

Most of us understand there are subtle forms of idolatry. Paul wrote, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5 ESV). I was shocked and offended while listening to the radio yesterday. A Hardee’s commercial featured a man praising and thanking “the god of hamburgers” for his new creation which is evidently on their menu. Of course, the man’s tone was jovial--listeners aren’t supposed to take it seriously. I turned the radio off. It just isn’t something to joke about. The praise and thanksgiving for everything good is due the one true and living God, and doesn’t belong to another even in jest. There is a prevalence of irreverence in our day, but while it is a disappointment, it is no surprise (2Timothy 3:1-3, 13). Let’s guard ourselves from all forms of idolatry and remember some things are too holy to profane even in jest.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Nothing Else Matters

Galatians 5:6 reads, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love” (ESV). Circumcision or uncircumcision may or may not mean much to you, but it meant an awful lot to many of the people to whom Paul was writing. They thought race, class, lineage, and background had a great deal to do with whether or not you were acceptable to God. Truth is, Christ has done away with all such flesh-based criteria for being acceptable to God. It doesn’t matter to God whether you are descended from Jews or Gentiles. He doesn’t care what shade your skin is. When it comes to whether or not he’ll accept you as his child, he doesn’t even care if you’re male or female (Galatians 3:28). The only thing that counts at all is “faith working through love.”

“Faith working through love” is what God requires of you, both for your salvation through his generous grace, and as the principle by which you live each day of your life. Are you a shrewd, successful businessman? Do you possess strength for work, or some skill of note? Are you a gifted intellect; an inspiring teacher? Are you out for your country’s betterment? Are you a man of the church? Do you live for your family? Do you look out for number one? Are you rich or do you have very little? Are you middle-class? What kind of car do you drive? Are you part of a club? A socialite? Are you debt-free, or do you sing, “I owe, I owe, it’s off to work I go”? Is your skin dark, light, or something in between? Are you beautiful, ugly, overweight? Young? Old? Too young? Too old?

None of that counts for anything--it just doesn’t matter at all! The only thing that matters is whether or not today you are living by the principle of “faith working through love.”