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Why study the Bible?

readThere are many reasons to read and study the Bible but one of those reasons is so that you can live your life the way God wants you to, not just the way you think you should.

Good ideas are a dime a dozen but God’s word often directs us in ways that we, ourselves, would not think of.  Even more important, some of those things that we think of as good ideas are not just bad ideas, they are offensive to God and His holiness.  They are also ultimately harmful to us: There is a way that seems right to a man but the end is way to death. (prov 14:12) The Bible is filled with passages that show us the problems of doing what we think is a good idea.

Abraham and Sarah thought it was a good idea to bring about God’s promised son through Hagar.

Saul thought that holding onto some of the Amalekite animals for sacrifice to God was a good idea.

David thought it was a good idea to take a census of the people.

People during Jeremiah’s day thought it was a good idea to go to Egypt.

The leaders of Israel thought it was a good idea to crucify Jesus.

Ananias and Sapphira thought it was a good idea to lie to God.

The list can go on and on but each of these people could have avoided the problems, curses,  and consequences if they had simply combined a desire to serve God with a knowledge of His will.  Paul wrote of his people:  For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. (Rom 10:2)

God warned through Hosea that His people were destroy by a lack of knowledge; they did not know His word. He warned Timothy to study to show himself approved.

Often the zeal to do so is not the problem but the knowledge is. Of course, you could also argue that if one knew what God wanted of them, the zeal might diminish.  In other words, we believe we are serving God when all we are doing is serving God according to our desires, not according to His. We don’t know His will and so we are unable to do so and yet, if we did know, would we be willing to serve?

I think a desire to serve God that is based on the recognition of our having sinned against Him and His Grace by sending His son to save us is a good foundation to build on. One may never know everything, nor is knowledge itself the goal, but it is part of our growth. We learn about Jesus by the preached Gospel, we are baptized in His name, and then we are taught the things he wants us to do (Matt 28:19-20) That last part is important too.

Paul wrote to Timothy so that “one may know how to behave himself in the household of God which is the church of God” (I tim 3:15)

Do you know how to behave in the household of God? If you do not read your Bible quite often, you may be as surprised as Josiah (2 Kings 22:1-13) to find out that you don’t!

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The Best free bible software I know

Have you ever wanted to research for an scripture and didn’t know were to find it? You were sure that it was in there but couldn’t find it! If you are like me, you might thumb through the Bible  book that you are “sure” that the verse is in and even look to one side of the page because you know that it is on the left side or the right side!

A few years ago, I was introduced to a windows form software called E-Sword. I do not receive any points, money, or free upgrades for this recommendation but I do recommend that anyone wanting a good Bible software to go to E-sword.net and download a copy.

The software comes with one or two Bible versions already downloaded but you can download more free ones and you can add others  for a modest price. Reference books, commentaries and the like are also available.

I am able to find passages based on a word, or a phrase a lot more easily. It does help a lot, if you are preparing a lesson on Brotherly Love, to find passages that use the phrase. But what you might also find is things that will make you go :Hmmmm!

For example you might be surprised to notice that the word (Brotherly Love) does not show up in the Gospels. However, the root word of Philidelphia, “Phileo” shows up a lot more in the Gospels than the epistles. Whether or not that little bit of trivia makes a difference to you or not, you will notice things like that. Additionally, Philidelphia is used 5 times in the NT and with one exception, it appears in the same context (verse or paragraph) of the word Love (Agape).

There a lot of features to this software that will take you a long time to explore but searches and finding those verses online will be an easy (much easier) thing to do with E-sword.

Question: What Bible software to you use? Do you pay for it? Feel free to post the link and a statement about it.

 

Training for godliness-Need number 3

The third thing you will need to help you train for godliness is an education. Remember that while what Paul said in I tim 4:7 was in a context of physical training at a gymnasium, he was making a spiritual application.  If you want to train for a physical event such as a marathon, you soon realize that having the desire to run a marathon and the goal for running it (e.g. to finish or beat your last effort) must be followed up by learning what you need to know in order to  training for that race.

Let’s say you decided that your goal for being godly is to get to Heaven. (In other words, you would rather live than die!) Now what? How do you know if you are training correctly or not? How do you know if you are progressing toward godliness or moving further from it? You will need knowledge. God’s word tells Christians:

So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation– if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.   (1Pe 2:1-3 ESV)

Just as a newborn baby will feed on milk, so the Christian must feed on God’s word. Remember you when you obeyed the Gospel, becoming a Christian, how you wanted to know everything? The milk was good and helped you grow. Knowledge, in training for a marathon, says ‘put away milkshakes, sugars, and french fries” and, in a spiritual training, you put away ‘malice, deceit, hypocrisy.”

Yet at some point, milk needs to be left behind:

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness… solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.  (Heb 5:12-14 ESV)

Christians, who should have progressed on to meat in their training, have actually reverted back to a need for milk. Just like an athlete with good training habits who stops those habits will soon find that even a simple 1 mile run is hard, so Christians will find that godliness is hard if they revert back and do not progress.

The Knowledge we need is in God’s word. David spoke often of his delight in the law of the Lord. Below is one passage. Many more exist in Psalms, I would suggest you read Psalm 119 and see what David says about God’s law, precepts, commandments, and ways.

Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O LORD, and whom you teach out of your law, (Psa 94:12 ESV)

Knowledge also comes by example. We learn what to do, or what not to do, by seeing what others have done. The Bible is full of examples of those who serve as models to follow and examples to avoid. What was written before was truly written for our learning.  (Romans 15:4)

The knowledge you gain by studying God’s word is both of God’s law and of His character.  Truly, a person will be godly when they are like God but until such a time as we actually reach that perfection, we continue to exercise ourselves toward godliness learning from the knowledge He has given us about Himself.

as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, (2Pe 1:3 NKJV)

God gives the increase

What makes a seed grow? From my school days I know that there are a few things needed. Good soil, sunshine, water, and protection from predators (No, not the ones with clocking devices and ugly faces running through the forest chasing or being chased by Arnold Schwarzenegger…these predators are squirrels and cute things like them). But WHAT makes the seed grow? Does it matter?

Mar 4:26-29  And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground,  (27)  and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how.  (28)  For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head.  (29)  But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

In this parable, some truth is seen regarding the farmer. He doesn’t know how the seed grows, but when it is ready to be harvested, he doesn’t sit around wondering about it, he goes out and harvests. It is not a question that needs to be answered because it is a moot point. If you plant the seed in the appropriated soil, water it, let sun get to it, and protect it, it will grow. How? who cares?

It may be tempting to focus on the harvesting as if that is the big deal and….it is. In fact, the work done up to that point is important. Leave a step out and the crop can fail. However, without the seed, without that one small speck to plant into the ground, there will not be a harvest.

In many of the parables of Jesus, the seed is the word of God. Other things can impact how that word is received and if it will grow but until the seed is spread across the soil, you don’t know what will happen or if any thing will happen.One thing is for sure, we are not the cause of the growth. We might plant, we may water but God gives the increase.

1Co 3:5-7  Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one?  (6)  I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.  (7)  So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.

Keeping count on conversions is not the thing to do. We ought to keep count on how much seed is spread. Of course, it needs to be the right kind of seed. There are those who go out and spread the seed of their denomination but not of the Bible. They talk about Jesus but they don’t follow Jesus’ teachings. They say they preach the Gospel but they preach a message the scriptures didn’t authorize.  Some do it with deliberateness, others do it because that is how they were taught (They, themselves, forgetting (or never knowing) that the first rule of Bible study is to study the Bible not the church literature or commentaries)

Our job is to spread the message that Jesus proclaimed. In the Gospels, Jesus send out his disciples with a commission. (See Mt 28) and in Acts, we see those disciples fulfilling that mission. In the epistles, we see the Apostles informing the saved of more things they need to know to be Holy but the saving message had already been preached to them.

Go. Plant. Water. But never for a moment think that you gave the increase or caused the seed to grow. That is God’s job and He does it well.

 

 

 

Seek ye first…

As is the case with verses memorized when I was a child, I can’t seem to get rid of the “Ye”. But included or not, one of my most favorite verses is Matthew 6:33

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

We really like the promise of this verse; that all these things will be added to us. We love that God will take care of us and we love that he will provide for us the things we need. In the context, it is clear that he is discussing food and clothing and yet, we can easily expand it beyond food and clothing when we read “Are you not of much more value” than the birds and lilies.

We take great comfort and rest in the idea that God will just do what we need. We seem to forget something too. That all of those people in the world, you know, the ones who are NOT seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness…they also are getting food and clothing.

Mat 5:45    For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

So it isn’t like we are getting special treatment in the food and clothing area, is it?

No. What makes the difference and what makes us different is that we follow after God. Jesus said to “Seek”. This is a word that we do not use often today and which most people would equate with “look for” but I would like to suggest that it should be “diligently look for”. There is an effort and urgency in the word “seek” There are also two things we are supposed to seek.

1)His kingdom (or His rule). that is, the way he wants things done, a place where His laws stand and are followed.  2) His righteousness, that character or quality that is His of being right or just.

No matter how you slice it, you will soon discover that this means we look to follow God and we look to become like God. It doesn’t happen overnight but that is what we should put our efforts into. You will also note that “first” means before all other things.

Too many Christians are focused on the food, clothing and temporary things. They are focused on the education and the degrees they can get. Our highest calling is to serve God and further His kingdom. If we can do that and get a degree then ok, but God comes first. If we can do that and accumulate wealth, great, but God comes first.

If you do not know what to do, it is a good sign that you are not reading enough of the Scriptures because the Scriptures can equip a godly man/woman to be prepared for every good work. 2 Tim 3:15-16

Seek more, trust more. Read more, Do more.

Who is Jesus to you, really?

The question of “Who is Jesus?” is a question that is asked many times. Almost everyone has heard such a question. The question of course, can be asked in many different ways and I won’t take the time to list them here (but I just became inspired for sermon outline. LOL).

To the Christian, Jesus is the Lord of all. He is the Son of God, the Savior of the world, the Redeemer, the Lamb of God, the Sacrifice for our sins, the One who brings peace between God and man. He is the King and Ruler and all authority rests with Him. That last one is important.

Authority lies somewhere. You might have a problem at a business establishment and so you talk to the clerk and maybe the manager and if the problem is bad enough, you can talk to the owner or the CEO and even then, you can go further to the stock holders or the public opinion route. If the offense is bad enough you can talk to the courts and if the laws aren’t what they should be you can talk to your congressional representative, up to the president and Supreme court and then back again to the people to change the law if needed. All in a search for the person with the authority  to deal with the issue.

You can’t go higher than Jesus. The Father has given to Jesus all authority. (Mt 28:18-20) So to the Christian, the statement that Jesus is Lord and King, should mean allegiance to Him and what he wants of us.

I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” (Joh 8:24)

We accept that statement as Gospel truth. However, now the question is, Since we know who Jesus is, do we live like we believe it? Take for example, James’s statement:

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder! (Jas 2:19)

Mark records that they knew him as well.

And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God.” (Mar 1:23-24)

And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. (Mar 1:34)

Do your actions show your belief in Him? Knowing him, believing that God is one, and even calling him the Holy One of God was not enough to save the demons. (For those who have read my blog for a while, you will remember that James is breaking the word “believe” into components and uses it to indicate a simple “mental acceptance of a fact” and lacking actions that show that the fact has any importance to you.(read this or this one)

So again, I ask: Who is Jesus to you really? The answer can be found, not in your words but in your actions. Even reading the Bible might not be an indication because we are “to be doers and not hearers only” (James 1) but doing something like ‘visiting the widows and orphans” while certainly an action, might not be done in faith. Both are necessary.

Here is the challenge: 99% of us will read a post like this and think , Yes, I can, or need to, do better. Well, make a plan to do so. Pick ONE item today that if you start doing it will make a difference in your spiritual walk with the Lord. It might be more time reading of the Bible (and that is a great place to start so that you will know better what to do), more time praying, it might be taking the list of sick in the church bulletin and sending a card to them. A 101 other activities can be done to help and not all actions will make a difference in your life or in your life today. However, we, a Christians walk and talk and live in a certain way. Let’s do more of it.

Who is Jesus to you? Really?

You or God first?

“Thus says the LORD of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the LORD.” Then the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?
(Hag 1:2-4)

For many people, the time to serve the Lord is when things are better in their life. This is a very short sighted perspective. If your life got better so that your dream life became a reality, whatever that might be, we need to know that it is only temporary. Not temporary in the sense that the job you have or life you have will end in ten years with an economic downturn (though that can happen), but temporary in the sense that in 100 years, you will not be there to enjoy it. For some of us, that number is 50 years. When God cannot get his people to pay attention to his priorities, you can be sure, He is not going to pay attention to theirs.

It is always time to work to rebuild the house of the Lord. While the house in Haggai’s time was a temple where people would go to worship, we know from Jesus’ own words (John 4:21) that the worship of God is not confined to one location, it is something that his people do on an ongoing basis and they make up the temple of God.

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? (1Co 3:16)

(sidenote: 1 Cor 6:19 which says almost the same thing is a verse of the individual Christian, but the above first fits more as the congregation that Paul is writing to, a group of Christians)

The sad thing is, that just like a house that is not constantly being mending and tended to, it will begin to deteriorate and that, whether fast or slow, is a type of destruction we should not be part of:

If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. (1Co 3:17)

Sure, I think most people would tend to think of rampant active destruction, but we should also consider the destruction that comes about due to inactivity and neglect.

Look at your checkbook. It has been said that a person can be known by the items his money is spent on. For me, you would see a number of Sonic Happy Hour drinks (For those not in Texas, Sonic is a fast food establishment and “happy hour’ is 1/2 priced soda drinks from 2-4pm), you would find Netflix charges, Half priced book charges among the various bills for rent, gas, lights, regular weekly contributions to the congregation, etc. In other words, you might be able to deduce that I like specialty sodas and watching movies along with other things but you would also see a desire to help the congregation meet its task to spread the Gospel.

Look at your life for the last week. If you were to look back at the last 168 hours, and look for things that built the house of the Lord, what you find? 3 hours at worship services (4 if you went to midweek study) and then what? Prayer, reading, calling a sick brother, visitation, talking to someone about God? Talking about God’s laws to your kids when they get up or sit down or go to bed? Memorizing scripture?  What do you do to build up the house of God?

It is true you are one brick in that house, so be sure to build yourself up but it is often better to be built up with others, be in a group study, be in contact with other Christians.  It is also true that God builds us up. Humble yourself before the Lord and He will lift you up. Spend time in prayer and study of His  word, grow in the knowledge of Christ, let the Scriptures which are able to make you wise unto salvation and adequately equip you for His service live inside of you.

Put God first and HE will take care of you. Easy to say, hard to do…unless you live by faith.

 

what is right in your eyes

In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes. (Jdg 21:25)

This statement, found twice in the book of Judges is often used as a theme for that book. The verse says that two conditions existed for the nation of Israel at that time. 1) there was no king and 2) everyone did what they thought was right.

That there was no king was true, at least not in the earthly king manner. When the people finally asked Samuel to set a king over them (I Samuel 8), someone to be in charge, the response of God was first to calm Samuel down. He said “They haven’t rejected you…” It was not a slap in the face of Samuel at all. There was no cause for Samuel to feel slighted.

What God went on to say though is something that should have caused Israel to pause. “…they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.”  Rejected God? or just Rejected God’s reign? It didn’t matter. The effect was the same, they wanted to be like the other nations and so they were not satisfied to let God rule their lives from heaven.

We see that they did whatever was right in their eyes. I have not yet lived 50 years in this world, but I have noticed that my perceptions of what is right and wrong have changed from time to time. Of course, most of that change has come from my reading and studying God’s word, as I see an error in my life clearly, I eliminate it and continue to grow. But even among those who do not learn from God, standards they had when they were young change into adolescence,adulthood, when children come along and for a whole host of reasons.

It seems so clear to me that the world has rejected God as being King in their life. Jesus was given all authority in Heaven and on Earth (Mt 28:18ff) and yet, there are many who will not follow his authority, they want another one instead. True, in the world, there are lots of choices to make when it comes to standards you will follow, but among those who name the name of the Lord, there is and should be only ONE.

It saddens me when I see people who would rather listen to their pastor or some special preacher rather than understand the  item themselves.  It is no problem to talk to a minister and ask for some insight, or their insight into a particular issue. However, it is another thing when you won’t look at the text yourself and verify that the person is correct.  Children are taught stories that make things easy for them to understand. The whole story may not be completely revealed to them but as adults, we should learn for ourselves.

How many of you grew up hearing that Noah took 2 pair of every kind of animal into the Ark or that the wise men came to Jesus in the manger? By now, you should know that Noah took 2 pair of the unclean animals and 7 pair of the clean. (When I was a child, I was thinking but did not ask about that animal Noah sacrificed, perhaps I thought it was the unicorn and that is why we don’t have them anymore…it is clearer now). As for Jesus and the wise men, the text clearly says they came to the HOUSE where he was not the manger.

Are these great differences upon which we can base doctrine and salvation? Not at all, but those passages do exist.

There are those who think “I live a good Christian life” but do not even read the Bible, much less go to services. Then there are those who go to services but don’t read the Bible. They hear but I imagine it doesn’t last long.

There are those who hear and do what the word of God says. Those are the ones who say “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” They are the ones who are not hearers only but doers. They are the ones who say “not my will but thy will be done”. These are the ones who will be blessed in their doing.

Let’s not be like those in Judges who rejected God’s kingship and did what they thought was right, let’s listen to what He has said and do that.

Present yourself to God approved

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2Ti 2:15)

While the advice given to Timothy may, in the context, be directed to an evangelist and the work of ministers, much of what Paul says to Timothy can be applied to every Christian. Put another way, there is no character that Paul asks Timothy to develop or exemplify in his life that every Christian should not strive to do as well. We may not all be preachers but we are all servants of God and in our work we need to be “not ashamed” as we present ourselves to God.

To be diligent about something is to make an effort. The ESV says “Do your best”. When my mom told me to clean my room, she was not asking me to make a half hearted effort, she wanted some diligence (which, in my case was needed because it was a messy room). Sometimes, in school, you face a challenging course and you need to be ‘diligent’ in studying for that class to pass the test. Timothy is being told here to be diligent in his work and not be half heared about it.

Paul had told him in the first epistle that he was in Ephesus so that he could instruct certain men not to teach a different doctrine. In this epistle, Paul has told him to teach others who are faithful so that they could teach others. Paul is urging in this context two things. Be an example and be able to come to God without shame.

As your boss walks by your cubicle and finds you facebooking, twittering or surfing the net, rather than working on your job, you may have reason to be ashamed. However, if you are doing your job, you have no reason to be ashamed. As Timothy does his job, he can present himself to God as a servant that can be approved, not ashamed. To do this, he needs to be able to divide the word of truth correctly. 

In the context, there are those who are arguing over words and teachings that are upseting the faith of some. Timothy is to do the opposite. His use of the word of God, the sword of God (Eph 6:17), as a skilled soldier not one who is inept in its use. A scapel in the hands of a surgeon can do great things, in the hands of a plumber, not so much. (Kinda like those commercials: Would you want your doctor to do your job? don’t do his). Timothy needs to be able to wield the sword of God in an effective and beneficial way for those who will hear him.

We can all learn a lesson by these words to Timothy. We, individually, need to learn the word of God.  We understand this principle in other areas but I fear are lax in the spiritual areas. In driving a car, we know that everyone should know the basics, how to turn on the car, how to put gas in, etc but there is much more we should know. checking oil, tire pressure and the radiator water level. Even if we lack the ability to change a tire, knowing where the jack is, being sure we HAVE a spare, and a set of jumper cables is just plain smart. Then for those who are mechanics, they have a specialized knowledge on how the engine operation in a car and a police officer would have special knowledge to operate the car safely at high speeds. 

We may not wish to excel to the level of a PHd in regards to bible knowledge but we can all grow in what we know and should be able to give an answer for the hope that is in us (1 pet 3:15). Over time, of course.

Be diligent. Do the best you can. Grow so that God can use you. Read, study, learn, be hearers of the word and then we can be doers.

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