The Paths to Life and Death

God’s Word bears the force of His authority.  To ignore it is death, but to study and obey it brings wisdom for blessing and life.

Today’s reading

Proverbs 7-8; First Corinthians 14:21-40

Selected Verses

Blessed is the one who listens to me,
watching daily at my gates,
waiting beside my doors.
For whoever finds me finds life
and obtains favor from the Lord,
but he who fails to find me injures himself;
all who hate me love death.  Proverbs 8:34-36

If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord.  If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized.  First Corinthians 14:37-38

Reflections

The warnings of Proverbs are as needed and relevant today as they were thousands of years ago when they were penned.  People of all ages are seduced by easily accessible online pornography.   They assume anonymity, but millions learned otherwise when they signed up for a web service to facilitate relationships intended to lead to adultery.  Fittingly, many of them were “busted” when the site was hacked and their identities were published openly for the world to see.  Once again, the Scriptures prove true that ignoring the wisdom that leads to righteousness will end in death, either literally or figuratively.

This biblical wisdom does not merely lead us away from sin, but it also leads to a path of life and blessing only known to those who trust God.  What can be more glorious and fulfilling than “favor from the Lord”?   How is this obtained?  By daily listening, watching, and waiting for His wisdom.  That is why we read the Bible every day.  We never outgrow our need for His wise guidance.

Paul tells the Corinthians that what he is writing to them is not mere personal opinion.  He writes them commands from the Lord.  If anyone disregards God’s commands they are to be disregarded.  Jesus promised to send His Spirit to reveal all the truth to His apostles and, certainly,  what Paul and the others wrote in our New Testament is the result of that promise (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:12-15).

Think about it

Beware of those who reject (or even question) the authority of God’s word.  Instead, diligently seek God’s wisdom in His word.  You have no idea how it will save you from the path to death, but it will. Besides that, it will take you to life.

Wisdom: Making Sense of Apparent Contradictions

What if Scripture seems to contradict itself? This calls for wisdom and careful study, but the result will be worth the effort. Let’s get the Bible right.

Today’s reading

Psalms 128-131; First Corinthians 7:25-40

Selected Verses

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
around your table.
Behold, thus shall the man be blessed
who fears the Lord.   Psalm 128:3-4

This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none,  and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods,  and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.  First Corinthians 7:29-31

Reflections

To understand the Bible properly, the reader needs to observe principles of interpretation, especially, the principles of reading passages in context and seeking to let the whole Bible comment on specific passages.

The psalmist paints a lovely picture of the family life of a godly man where the husband fears God and God blesses him in every aspect of his life.  His wife and children are an evidence of the goodness and blessing of God poured out on him.  Who would not love to have a family like this or be a member of such a family?

In the first letter to the Corinthians, we seem to get a different message.  Paul says that marriage brings concerns that occupy and distract people.  It would be ideal, he says, for single or betrothed people to remain as they are and to give themselves in “undivided devotion to the Lord.”   Rather than holding up traditional family life as the epitome of God’s blessing, Paul sees it as a potential obstacle to focused service for the Lord.

Think about it

So, which is it?  Is marriage a blessing or a distraction to the believer?  The answer is “it depends.”  Paul condemns the prohibition of marriage (1 Timothy 4:1-5).  He honors marriage and teaches that it is an analogy of the relationship of Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:22-33). But neither does the Apostle suggest that marriage is the only way to personal fulfillment and fruitfulness ( 2 Timothy 2:3-4). Marriage is for most but not everyone (Genesis 2:18-25; Matthew 19:10-12). The Scriptures advise the use of wisdom as we make decisions about marriage or other kinds of responsibilities that will impact our freedom to serve God.  Seek the whole picture of what the Bible teaches on any matter before jumping to conclusions. Let’s handle apparent contradictions in the Bible carefully. Truth matters.

Do We Need the Old Testament?

Do believers in Jesus Christ who is revealed in the New Testament need to study the Old Testament? Here is clear evidence that we do.

Today’s reading

Psalms 105-106; Romans 15:1-20

Selected Verses

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples!
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
tell of all his wondrous works!
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!   Psalm 105:1-3

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 16:3

Reflections

Psalm 105 gives us a good example of why we need the Old Testament if we are to fulfill our high calling to glorify God (Romans 11:36; 1 Corinthians 6:20; 10:31; Revelation 4:11).  The psalm includes both a call to praise (vs. 1-6) and the content for praise (vs. 7-45).   Like several other psalms, this one focuses on praising God for who He is and what He has done in history for the people of Israel.  It is easy to see God’s wisdom, faithfulness, power, and glory.   Well, at least, it’s easy to see when you read this psalm.

My experience personally and by observation of others is that it’s not easy to think of words with which to praise God.  It is easier to look at the problems of our lives and our world than to spend more than a few minutes giving praise to God.  We need the Old Testament, in general, and the Psalms, in particular, to instruct us and encourage us to praise the Lord.

Paul makes his case to the Christians in Rome that the Scriptures that they had from the former days had a crucial place in their lives.  It is hard to find a stronger passage in the New Testament urging the careful and continual study of the Old.  After all, the Old Testament was the Bible that Jesus knew and frequently quoted.  He relied on it when confronted by Satan and while dying on the cross (Matthew 4:1-11; 27:46; Psalm 22:1; Luke 23:46; Psalm 31:5).  It was the Bible from which He taught the disciples about Himself (Luke 24:27).  If Jesus and His disciples needed the Old Testament, don’t we also?

Think about it

The Old Testament (just like the New) plays a key role in the life of believers in Jesus Christ giving them instruction leading to endurance, encouragement, and hope.  Make it priority to know both Testaments.  It’s all God’s word and will instruct you, sustain you, encourage you, and give you hope to finish the race.

Denial? No! Hope? Yes!

Denial of reality is a common problem for us when life grows unbearable. The Bible never hides the truth about pain or the hope which we have in Christ.

Today’s Reading

Psalms 82-84; Romans 8:19-39

Selected Verses

For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.  Psalm 84:11

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?   Romans 8:32

Reflections

We, humans, are known for denying reality under certain circumstances.  As a little boy I could put on a tough face after a nasty fall on the playground with my buddies watching.  “I’m OK!” I could claim loudly while grimacing inwardly.  [That would not be the case if my mom was nearby to comfort.]

The God of the Bible never encourages our denial of reality. While the psalms are filled with laments, the Psalmist never loses hope.  He finds his complete fulfillment in God.  Nothing but God’s presence delights him.  There he sings for joy (Psalm 84:2).  One day in the courts of the Lord is better than a thousand anywhere else.  Being a doorkeeper for the Lord is better than being in prominence in the “tents of wickedness” (Psalm 84:10).

In the same way, Paul in his letter to the Romans doesn’t downplay the reality of pain and suffering in this world.  We groan as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.  To help us, we have hope that gives us patience.  We have the Holy Spirit to help us pray and to intercede for us.  God promises that all things work together for good and that He has predestined us to be conformed to the image of His Son.  We are called, justified, and glorified by God.

Think about it

We can be confident that all this is true because if God has given us His Son, and He has, He will certainly give us every other necessary thing with Him. God promises that those who are in Christ Jesus will never lack any good thing.

If you are in Christ, you know what the Psalmist and the Apostle Paul are saying.  Your heart longs to be with the Lord.  This world is not your final destination.  Nothing here totally satisfies you.  You are a citizen of heaven and you want to be home (Philippians 3:20-21).  But you are not home. Not yet.  Your way may be difficult, but the victory is sure.  You are more than a conqueror “through Him who loved us.”  Be filled with hope because our God is the God of hope (Romans 15:13).

The Authority of the Bible

The Christian church spread widely and rapidly in the First Century.  Do you know why?  It can happen again if we follow the Apostles’ example.

Today’s Reading

Psalms 13-16; Acts 18

Selected Verses

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.  Psalm 16:9-10

And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews is public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus. Acts 18:27-28

Reflections

In the First Century, the Apostles used the Scriptures of the Old Testament powerfully and effectively as they spread throughout the known world proclaiming that the promised Christ had come. Later the New Testament containing the Apostles’ teaching would be added, completing our Bible.

The Messiah, Christ, was promised to Israel and sent to them. He lived out His life and ministry culminating in His death by crucifixion, His resurrection, and His commissioning of His Apostles to go into the entire world and make disciples of all nations. That work which Jesus commissioned still goes on today throughout the earth.

The Psalms are filled with references which had immediate relevance to their time but would later be more completely fulfilled by Jesus in His earthly life. Here we have a prophecy which both Peter and Paul understood to point clearly to His resurrection (Acts 2:25-28; 13:35). To see Christ in the Psalms and other Old Testament scriptures motivated the Apostles and fueled their boldness as they preached to the Jews.

One of those Jewish converts to Jesus Christ was a gifted man named Apollos. He displayed great eloquence in his speech and diligence in his study of the Word of God, but he received needed help from the mentoring of Paul’s disciples, Aquila and Priscilla. Apollos went on to Achaia and had an effective ministry encouraging the believers and showing the Jews from the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

Think about it

Do you rely on the Scriptures as the basis for your faith and in your presenting Jesus to others? We need to beware of relying on arguments based on mere human reasoning and logic and neglecting to point people to the claims of Christ made in God’s Word. Let the Word of God be your authority for your life and your ministry. The Apostles modeled this and we will be wise to follow their example. We may yet see amazing growth in Christ’s Church.

Why We Must Stay with God’s Word

We must take God’s Word seriously.  David charged Solomon to do so.  Jesus showed the Jews His commitment to the truth of Scripture.

Today’s Reading

First Chronicles 20-22; John 10:22-42

Selected Verses

Only, may the Lord grant you discretion and understanding, that when he gives you charge over Israel you may keep the law of the Lord your God. Then you will prosper if you are careful to observe the statutes and the rules that the Lord commanded Moses for Israel. Be strong and courageous. Fear not; do not be dismayed.  1 Chronicles 22:12-13

Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’?  If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken—  do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?” John 10:34-36

Reflections

David advised his son, Solomon, who would succeed him as king.  He told him that the Lord would be the One giving him charge over Israel.  Solomon needed to understand that he was a vassal, a steward of the kingdom of God’s people, not his own autonomous boss.  Furthermore, David emphasized the need for discretion and understanding to keep and to observe carefully God’s law if Solomon were to prosper.  Solomon did not hold to the Law of God fully to the end of his life and the consequences were devastating.

The Jews continually questioned and criticized Jesus during His years of earthly ministry.  It only got worse, and, of course, concluded with the arrest, trial, and crucifixion.  In the incident mentioned in John 10, He used Scripture to defend His reference to God as His Father and His claim to be the Son of God.  In a parenthetical comment, He says, “Scripture cannot be broken.”   He frequently showed His trust in the veracity of the Bible.  Here the Lord makes a strong and clear claim about the nature of God’s Word–that it cannot be broken.  He knew the Word, used the Word, and applied the Word to real life situations and questions.

Think about it

Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35). Do you hold God’s Word in high esteem?   Are you convinced that Scripture cannot be broken?  Do not consider it wasted time that you invest in the careful reading, studying, and obeying of the Bible.  Stay with it.

 

Can We Trust the Bible?

In the era of “fake news” do you wonder if you can trust the Bible? Here is evidence for the book that claims to be the inerrant Word of the Eternal God.

Today’s reading

Numbers 28-29; Mark 9:1-29

Selected Verses

So Moses told the people of Israel everything just as the Lord had commanded Moses.  Numbers 29:40

And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. Mark 9:4

Reflections

In the era of fake news and alternative facts it is not surprising that many wonder where you can find truth that conforms to reality.  For millennia, Christians have claimed to believe in the Bible as the inerrant Word of God.  Today’s readings provide an important  reason for this confidence.

The Bible contains sixty-six books. It claims to be the revelation of the Eternal God to humankind.  As such, it is a revelation which was given in stages over thousands of years.  Scholars attribute Numbers to Moses who led the Israelites out of Egypt toward the Promised Land.  As God’s prophet to them he gave them precise truth which he received from God. As the selected verse above indicates, Moses told them all that God commanded him.

It is reasonable to ask what evidence of unity there is in this book that was received in separate stages over so many years.  Notice this. When we jump ahead two thousand years to the Gospel of Mark, what do we find?  Jesus meets with this same Moses and another prophet, Elijah.

The incident on the Mount of Transfiguration demonstrates the powerful connection between the Book of Numbers and the Gospel of Mark.  Furthermore,  we find verification of Jesus’ authenticity as the Son of God.  Moses and Elijah, God’s servants who represent the Law and the Prophets, appeared with Jesus and talked with Him. Israel had utterly failed to keep the law God through Moses had given them. But Jesus would fulfill that law perfectly. He would bring justification to all His chosen people from every tribe and tongue.  There never would have been perfect law keepers. Only Jesus Christ could fulfill the just demands of the law that God gave to Moses and Moses gave to Israel.

Think about it

The Transfiguration should reinforce our confidence in the trustworthiness of the Bible and its claims about Jesus Christ.  He is our eternal prophet, priest, and king.   May His kingdom come soon.  Meanwhile, trust the Bible not alternate facts and fake news.

Let’s Read the Bible in 2017

82e4cc3db5bed0533b92b4a47d4aedb8You are invited

Are you considering reading through the Bible in 2017?  Let me suggest a plan and invite you to join me here each day to share the reading journey.

Beginning tomorrow, I will post a reading assignment each morning (7:00 AM EST in the USA) which will take you through the Old and New Testaments simultaneously.  Keep on schedule by either reading from your own Bible using your preferred translation, or pull up this blog and click on the reading assignment.  You will instantly be taken to the daily assignment in the English Standard Translation from Bible Gateway.com.

What could be easier?

We, who are serious Christians or who are considering the Christian faith, should make Bible reading a regular part of our lives.  But if you have never read through the Bible, you will see that it is a massive undertaking.  It can be done and I have done it annually for many years.  I do not recommend attempting a faster reading.  I find it preferable to read daily at a steady pace taking time to reflect on a few of the verses.

The plan I am suggesting begins in Genesis in the Old Testament and Matthew in the New Testament. By the last day of the year we will finish with Malachi and Revelation.

Other Options

  1.  Through the Bible in two years.  If you prefer to read at a slower pace you could opt to read only one of the readings each day and complete the entire Bible in 2 years instead of one.
  2. Cover to Cover.  Maybe you would like to read the Bible straight through  in one year but only reading in one place each day. If so, please consider using the schedule provided in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 Days.  Click here for to order a copy in either kindle or print format.

Which ever option you choose, the important thing is to get started and keep going. Let’s meet here again tomorrow.

John Carroll

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references on this blogsite are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Plan to Read the Word

What’s your plan for 2017?

Truth is essential to the life of the Christian in particular and of the body of Christ in general.  Pastors need to preach it.  Members need to receive it.  We all need to obey it.  As a new year approaches, are you making plans to continue a careful daily reading of the Scriptures?  Make a plan and make it happen.

Today’s reading: 

1 Timothy 6:3-2 Timothy 4:8

My selection:

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:  preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.  For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,  and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.  2 Timothy 4:1-4

For more reflections on this passage, see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

 

Meeting God

Life’s circumstances reveal God’s  providence, but you will never know Him more deeply or see Him more clearly than when you meet Him in His Word.

Saturday, October 29, 2016  Stubborn Unbelief

Reading: Luke 16:1-18:17

My selection:

And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’  He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”  Luke 16:30-31

 

Sunday, October 30, 2016   Meeting God in His Word

Reading: Luke 18:18-20:8

My selection:

And Peter said, “See, we have left our homes and followed you.”  And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God,  who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”  Luke 18:28-30

See you again on Monday.

[For reflections on these passages, see the corresponding readings in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.