Bible/Scripture

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November 2

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2022

As I sat down at the table this morning to have my Encounter Time, I prayed, “Father, let Your Word come alive to me this morning. Let me find something this morning that I will be able to learn from and use today.”

The point of this devotion is not to say, “Here is what I learned today” and then write about it. The point is the prayer. Not my specific prayer, but the point of my prayer.

I think many people do read their Bible. I do think some even try to read it on a daily basis. But, for many, that is all it is. Just reading. Almost like “I can now say I read the Bible today.” We sit down to read God’s Word as though it is just another book. We read it like the latest novel.

Now, please understand, I’m not knocking even this type of reading the Bible. We are told His Word will never return void so anytime a person opens the Word to read, there is a chance it might penetrate the heart. In fact, I count on that, especially if I’m not in a listening mood (for a myriad of reasons).

But God’s Word and my reading of His Word is so much richer when I pray for open eyes and an open heart.  You see, when you or I spend time in God’s presence, when you or I have been with Jesus and grow spiritually, we will become more like Him.

Romans 8:28 is a favorite verse of many (take a moment to read it). It is one of those go-to verses people use. But that verse does not and should not stand alone. Verse 29 must come along with it, but how many know it? The purpose Paul says of things working together for our good is so that we might “be conformed to image of His Son.” Reading God’s Word shapes and conforms us to Jesus and that is what people will see when they look at us.

Pray for open eyes and an open heart. Then read. Meditate on those words. And anticipate being changed into His likeness.

October 6

Thursday, October 6th, 2022

I teach a class on Wednesday night I call “66.” You might see that it is a shortened version of Route 66, which is a survey of the 66 books of the Bible. Last night we finished up I & II Kings. 2 Kings ends with the exile of the Jews to Babylon. 136 years before, the northern tribes (10) called Israel, were taken captive by Assyria. The 2 southern tribes called Judah were now over.

As I closed I asked who was exiled to Babylon. The answer of course is Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego (among thousands of others). To further complicate matters, I & II Chronicles is next. Then Ezra and Nehemiah who returned from Babylon to rebuild Jerusalem. Ezra, the priest, concentrated on the spiritual; Nehemiah was the builder.

The point I made is while the Bible is a cohesive collection of books, totally inspired by God revealing His will and His character, it is not in order. Genesis through Nehemiah flow naturally. And they should, they are history books. But the rest of the books are not in chronological order. Otherwise, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon would be interspersed with I & II Samuel and I Kings. Talk about huge books! And you would also have to split up Psalms for when they were written. Isaiah would be broken up into little fragments throughout Kings and Chronicles. The same could be said about the other prophets- major and minor- as well. 

The Bible is God’s divinely inspired, written word. It is not a product of human ingenuity infused with divinity. It is not a self-help book with a few God-things or God-words added for good measure. It is a divine gift produced as men were moved by the Holy Spirit. Every word, sentence, chapter, book, and syllable was originally given by God’s divine inspiration. God’s Word, as we have it, is complete.

To sum it up: God’s Word is authoritative, sufficient, infallible and inerrant (without error) and is all we need to know how to live a life that honors God.

So…what is the Bible to you?

August 18

Thursday, August 18th, 2022

When I began my series on The Trail, I said on Day 1 that there might be times I interrupt with some other devotion. Today is one of those times. Jo and I are heading off to Ohio this morning with plans to visit her sister (diagnosed with Alzheimer’s now) tomorrow; spend time with Janna and her friend, Mike, on Friday evening; then watch Braden play JV football on Saturday morning before heading back home for me to preach on Sunday. (You can say a prayer for this old man’s strength on Sunday morning). 🙂

Anyway,  one of the things I said is that I was not going to stop what I normally did in my Encounter Time, which always includes reading Scripture. I am currently in Isaiah and Luke. My goal is to finished both the Old and New Testament before the end of the year.  We will see…

I was reading Isaiah 43 yesterday and debated on using it then or waiting until today when my ability to respond is limited. So…today it is.   Here is what I highlighted…and I hope it “speaks” to your heart as well:

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you. For I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior…Since you are precious in my sight, since you are honored and I love you, I will give other people in your place and other nations in exchange for your life. Do not fear, for I am with you.”

There is obviously more, some of which I left out. I encourage you to pick up your Bible and read that whole chapter. Sadly, what started out so great doesn’t end so well. But the truth still remains: God looks at us with love in His eyes. We are His and we are loved by Him. Nothing can or will change that.

May these words from Scripture speak truth to your heart this morning and last you through the day, the weekend and into eternity.

March 24

Thursday, March 24th, 2022

One of the big things in the “Christian landscape” the past couple of years has been what is called “deconstruction.” It has been seen in many ways and involving many different kinds of people. It has involved “celebrities” as well as what I will call the “normals.” It might involve a complete dismantling of one’s faith to the point where they might say, “I am no longer a Christian” (Josh Harris as an example). Or it might be someone saying, “I believe in the Universal Christ” i.e. Kevin Max mimicking Richard Rohr’s heresy.  It might involve someone choosing a bedroom lifestyle, or a move to agnosticism or atheism or universalism, or a denunciation of all things God, or maybe even a total abandonment of family, friends, career, etc.

Questions are not wrong. I’m convinced every person must eventually come to their own faith. Hear me well as I say that: growing up we will tend to adopt the faith of our parents, pastor, or someone we love. But somewhere along the line we must forge our own faith. So we question. We investigate. We observe. We discern.

The problem many of us get into is that we are often taught what to think, but not how to think. Everything is laid out for us in 4 Spiritual Laws or “10 Easy Steps to…” Meanwhile, thinking seriously and questioning honestly is not encouraged. So we have young people and adults who become parrots instead of harbingers. We can spout off the “party line” but only because we have been told “You must believe this or that.”

I never went through a crisis of faith where I questioned by biblical moorings. I never doubted the existence of God. (I’m not smart enough to understand it all anyway). I never doubted the veracity of the Virgin Birth and that God became flesh in Jesus, the God-Man. But I did question my “essential doctrinal beliefs” like baptism, who was saved and who wasn’t, etc.  I HAD to. The other way was killing my spirit.  If not  for the questioning, I would still be stuck in the legalism I was mired in.

Because of the mentality of what to think and not how to think, questions are not encouraged. But even sadder is we have no idea where to stand and what we stand on, especially when times get tough or our faith is challenged by life situations. So we start jumping ship. Little by little we start jettisoning the things which matter, the non-negotiables, for temporary safety. We deconstruct because we no longer believe. It’s no wonder since our foundation was not on solid footing.

I do think it is good to question and investigate. But I also think it is absolutely essential to weigh all things against the Scriptures and that which has eternal value.

Jesus once said, “Search the Scriptures for in them you have eternal life.” (John 5:39) Don’t just take something at face value. Seek. Find. God has promised to meet you there.

“Father, may my searching be always grounded and come back to You and Your Word. May my faith grow as I question and grow.”

January 6

Thursday, January 6th, 2022

As I read 2 Corinthians 11 this morning I highlighted a couple of verses.

“But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his trickery, your minds will be led astray from sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” (v.3)

Then I read these two verses:

“For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” (verses 13-14)

I drew a line connecting them. According to verse 4, the Corinthians were good at welcoming false teachers. They were not very discerning. The word we would use is they were “tolerant” of false teachers.

On one hand that is easy to see. Someone comes in and very subtly teaches something which sounds good but really isn’t. The undiscerning don’t catch it. They accept it as “gospel.” What makes it hard is more often than not it isn’t the big things which cause the slip-the deity of Jesus, the reliability of the Scriptures, that Jesus was fully God and fully man, etc. What I would call the “biggies.” It’s often the small things, say like a grab for power over time that cogs the wheel and gums up the engine. Or even legalism which sneaks in as “this is how a follower of Christ lives.”

I certainly am not dismissing having a discerning eye toward whacky things, like those pushed by Bethel and those of their ilk.  Ideas like calling themselves apostles, gold dust falling from the ceiling, and other non-biblical ideas. We need to be aware of cults like that, of those who sneak in putting our faith at risk. Given the infamy of today’s date, I’d even go so far as to say those who believe politics should be preached from the pulpit need to be examined more closely.

“Father, help me to keep my eyes and heart open to Your truth. Help me to be discerning to recognize what is not truth.”

LOVE GOD DEEPER…WORSHIP HIM MORE

November 24

Wednesday, November 24th, 2021

I used to love a good roller coaster. The feel of the air as it rushed past my face. The almost weightless feeling of topping the track and then dropping off at ungodly speeds was thrilling.

Two realities wrecked that for me, neither of which I could control. First, getting older. What my body once relished, it now rebelled. My joints would hurt from being jostled and my head complained because of the equilibrium being off. But worse was #2.

It was always an issue. Circles. I hate circles. Put me in or on anything which goes in circles and it is not a pretty sight. Like lose my lunch sight. I turn white. I sweat profusely. And BAM! So I stopped riding coasters. No…make that I stopped going to the amusement park. I even get sick on a Merry-go-round! Now…who gets sick on one of those? (hand raised). Anyway, the food was too expensive. And the people-the real reason I like to go to the park-got stranger and stranger.  95 degrees out and wearing long, baggy, black pants 10 sizes too big. Chains. Long sleeve black shirt. Piercings out the yazoo. Did I say weird?

Anyway, focus Bill. I used to love the thrill of the coaster. Start slow. Hit the high. Come in for the landing.

Psalm 19 reminds me of that:

Start slow. Verse 1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God…”

Hit the apex. Verses 7-10. Four of the most powerful and greatest verses in all of Scripture.

Come in for the landing. Verse 14 says, “May the word of my mouth…”

Take the time to read the whole chapter on your own please. Then read it again and again. See the start. Feel the apex. Stick the landing.

And you won’t get sick. I promise. And I will take that ride any day.

“Father, thank you for Your Word and the vivid reality of it. Help me to relish the thrill of Psalm 19.”

Note: All Scripture is from the NASB2020.

October 13

Wednesday, October 13th, 2021

One of the arguments made against God and against the Christian life and the reality of Jesus is the ineptness of God’s Word. It’s outdated. It’s useless. It’s irrelevant. It’s full of mistakes. It’s full of contradictions. Ad infinitum. Ad nauseum.

Many of those arguments are made by those who say they are Christ-followers. Perhaps a better word to use is “were” Christ-followers. Some are deconstructing.  It is a misnomer to call oneself a Christ-follower and deconstruct at the same time. So they will say, “I was a Christ-follower but now I am (fill in the blank), or as one has come out saying, “I believe in the Universal Christ.”  What in the world is that? But I digress.  One cannot be a Christ-follower and deconstruct. We are either for Him or against Him. Jesus Himself said a person must choose one way or the other.

God’s Word is true. God’s Word is relevant. God’s Word is inerrant. God’s Word has no mistakes. God’s Word can inspire a person to change and even to do what he/she didn’t think possible.

I like the words of Psalm 19:7-10. I’d like to encourage you to stop right now and read them. Highlight them in your Bible.

Trust His Word. It is, as the psalmist says, “A lamp to our feet and a light to our path.” (119:105). Jesus once said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” (Mk.13:31)

Stand on the promises of God.

“Father, Your Word is light and life to me. May I always show respect for Your Word and You as the Author.”

September 14

Tuesday, September 14th, 2021

Psalm 1:2 says, “But his delight is in the Law of the Lord, and on His Law me meditates day and night.”

Psalm 19:7-10 is absolutely the most beautiful passage about the Law of the Lord. Please take a moment to read that now.

Psalm 119:9 says, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your Word.”

Psalm 119:11 says, “I have treasured Your Word in my heart, So that I might not sin against You.”

I Peter 1:23 says, “For you have been born again, not of seed which is perishable, but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring Word of God.”

J.B.Phillips once wrote a paraphrase of the NT in order for his high school students to understand it better and have it come alive in their hearts. He called the Bible living documents.

For many Christ-followers the Bible seems to be last place they go. But as you can see by the Scriptures above, the Bible should be the first place we go. As Peter once told Jesus: “Where else would we go? You have the words of eternal life.” 

“Father, help me to run to the Word. Help me to go there first and be drenched in Your truth.”

All Scripture from the NASB2020.

 

August 26

Thursday, August 26th, 2021

How do you see yourself? Perhaps a better question is “How does God see you?”

In Psalm 26:1-2 David writes these words: “Vindicate me, Lord, for I have walked in my integrity…Examine me, Lord, and put me to the test; Refine my mind and my heart.” That second verse really makes me stop and think. It seems to put to bed why we are tested. Examine…test…REFINE.

But then I read Proverbs 25 and two separate verses stood out to me. But rather than be disjointed, I see them as co-collaborators. “Like clouds and wind with rain is a person who boasts of his gifts falsely.” (v.14)  Verse 27 then says, “It is not good to eat much honey, nor is it glory to search out one’s own glory.”

Those verses go to motives. They go to arrogance. They go to thinking highly of oneself. What a good way to stop that type of thinking? If you said, “Examine…test…refine” then give yourself a virtual high five. You see, I may be looking at this the wrong way, but the way to avoid seeking one’s own glory; the way to avoid boasting about what one has or can do; is to continually take an honest look in the mirror-the mirror of God’s Word. Allow yourself to be examined, tested, and refined.

I know I need that.

“Father, Examine me. Test me. Refine me. Keep me from elevating myself in my own eyes.”

July 21

Wednesday, July 21st, 2021

I have a system to my Bible reading. But first, let me say this: my morning Encounter Time (ET) with God is important to me. It helps me start my day out right and helps focus me. I won’t lie and say every morning reverberates in me and I leave having to wear a veil so people won’t be able to see the glory of God wear off my face. (Think Moses). I wish it was always that way but it’s not.

That being said, let’s get back to my original thought. (Have you ever noticed that sometimes rabbit trails are attractive?)  Part of my ET is reading the Psalms. I’m almost always in a continual reading of them. Psalms every day; Proverbs every other month.

One of the highlights of Psalms is Psalm 119-the longest chapter in the Bible. 176 verses long. What I like to do is read it slowly and broken up. Today I finished that chapter-almost 2 weeks in the making. 10 verses here; 20 there. I highlight different Scriptures each reading, those which speak to me that time through.

What is unique with that chapter is the centrality of God’s Word (GW). Of the 176 verses, only a handful have no reference to GW. Here is an exercise you can do as you read: Underline all the words used to describe GW, i.e. statutes, commandments, laws, Your word, etc. Do that and the handful of verses will come out.

But be careful! You may find some gems. Verses like verse 9; verse 97; and verse 105. So, so many. You may literally find your head doing the proverbial spin.

So there is your challenge. Read. Take your time. Underline. BE CHANGED.

“Father, ‘I love your word’ is a frequent saying in Psalm 119. May it roll off my tongue as well. Let Your Word come alive in me.”