Category Archives: Bible Study

Worry less, be thankful more

IMG_0345

On my way to work this morning, I heard an interesting statistic; 92% of the things we worry about never materialize.  The statistic came from a radio program by Dr. David Jeremiah who is currently doing a study on the book of Philippians.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Jesus Christ.”  Philippians 4:6-7

According to Dr. Jeremiah, when we pray we must be prepared to want the answer we receive and not pray with the mindset that God will always give us what we want.  

 

Advertisements

Joshua 10: A very long day

asteroids-1017666_960_720By now the Israelites have demonstrated a pattern of military success.  Jericho and Ai were conquered.  They entered into a treaty with five Gibeonite cities.  Why was the Canaanite king Adoni Zadek so upset with the Gibeonite treaty (v2)? The security of his city was being threatened. Strategically the Israelites controlled a swath of land through the center of the Canaan, splitting the land in two .

Adoni Zadek seeks to quell his fury by attacking the Gibeonites.  He talks four other Canaanite kings into leaving their fortified cities and camp out in the open to fight against the Gibeonites (v7). Rather than let the Gibeonites pay for their earlier deception, Joshua honors the treaty and marches his troops all night over difficult terrain to engage the Canaanites in battle (v9).  The Israelites and the Gibeonites fight all five northern kings in open terrain rather than in secure fortified cities.

God is the warrior here.  He proclaims he has given the enemy into Joshua’s hands.  God throws the enemy into a panic when the battle begins and then sends great stones from heaven down upon the fleeing armies (10, 11).

The miracle of prayer – Joshua prays with great faith asking God to cause the sun and moon to stand still. It should be noted that the sun and moon were principle deities of the Canaanites and any disturbance in their orbits or times would cause fear and panic among them. God listens to Joshua’s prayer and fights for Israel.  The extended day enables the five northern kings to be completely defeated (v13, 14).

Lest we consider the account of the long day of Joshua to be a fable, one has to consider that the Inca’s, Aztec’s, Babylonian’s, Persian’s, Chinese and other ancient cultures make mention of singular long day event.  Did the earth stop spinning?  No. More likely the earth was tilted several degrees on it’s axis making one day longer than all the others.

The Israelite army marches south and six more towns (v28).  When Joshua and his army return home to Gilgal, they have effectively quelled any major threats from the surrounding countryside but they have yet to completely occupy all the land of Canaan (see Judges chapter 1).

After reading this account in Joshua chapter 10, one has to be puzzled as to why a loving God would instruct his people to kill all the Canaanites in their battles.  It’s certainly not because the Israelites were faultless or more spiritual than the Canaanites, they were far from perfect.  They did worship the living God.  When the Israelites turned their backs on Him they often paid of severe price, even.  This very land would be taken from them many centuries later.  On the other hand, the Canaanite pagan worship practices were very dark.  Their worship demeaned and degraded human life, which included child sacrifice and sexual exploitation of older children.

Today, Jesus Christ is the advocate of those who follow his teaching.  I am reminded of a saying I once heard, “God and you are always a majority” not matter what the odds are.

[For] If God is for us, who can be against us?  Romans 8:31

The Gap is not a Theory!

51wiLF+hvNL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Occasionally I read a book to satisfy my curiosity or learn something more about a particular subject that interests me.  This is one of those great and informative reads.  The Gap is not a Theory! by Jack W. Langford seeks to tackle the issue of a possible time gap found in the opening chapter in the book of Genesis.  For the longest time I have suspected that those who claim the universe is billions of years old and those who believe the earth as we know it is only thousands of years old could both be right.  There are scientific measurements supporting both claims.

In this book the author lays out the case the heavens and earth were created (Genesis 1:1) long before the six day creation account beginning in Genesis 1:3.  The earth at some point in its past “became” formless and void (Genesis 1:2) as the result of a judgment of some kind.  It is proposed this judgment had to do with the fall of Lucifer (Satan).  I found this to be a fascinating study supported by scripture.  At times the discussion of scripture translations from the original Hebrew became laborious to read but the result was rewarding nonetheless.  Langford includes other arguments both for and against the Genesis gap.  

I came away from this read with my faith strengthened and deepened.  It is reassuring to know that the Holy Scriptures are still relevant and in harmony the discoveries of modern science.

Joshua 9: the ruse

potion-1860939_960_720Chapter nine of Joshua features the people of Gibeon.  The Israelites have miraculously crossed the Jordan River on dry land and defeated Jericho and Ai.  Word of the mighty works of God (v9) spread to the surrounding Canaanite towns.  A call went out for the Canaanites to set aside their differences and unite militarily.  The Gibeonites ignored the call, fearing they would be the next ones to be wiped out (v24).  They came up with a ruse intending to secure a peace treaty with the Israelites.  

The Gibeonites offer convincing proof that they are from a far off land showing the Israelites their moldy bread, old wine, worn out clothes as proof.  “We have traveled far,” they said.  The Israelites fell for the ruse and swore an oath.  Unknowingly they made a peace treaty with their neighbors.

God was never consulted before they swore an oath to strangers?  When the ruse was exposed, the Gibeonites were not killed but subjected to a life of servitude carrying water and cutting wood in tabernacle service.

How many of us have resorted to a ruse as a means to avoid trouble.  Ruses often become yokes, which we are forced to bear indefinitely.  What is to be gained with a lie draped around one’s neck?

“The LORD is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth.”  Psalm 145:18 NLT

 

Call me Mara!

Change.  Sometimes its good like vacations, graduations and weddings.  Other times it can be negative, unwanted even devastating.  Death of someone close to you would have to be the worst-case scenario.

Loss, no matter when it occurs, changes us forever. As much as we’d like to, we can’t go back to the way things were. Instead we have to figure out how we are going to deal with the change and move forward.

I recently gave a message to some folks in an assisted living center.  The message titled, “Call me Mara, because the Lord has made my life very bitter,”  was based on the story of Naomi found in the Old Testament book of Ruth.  Its a good lesson in continuing to trust in God even though we may feel abandoned by Him.

In her younger years Naomi experienced the joy of married life and motherhood in a little town called Bethlehem. At this time judges governed the land, because Israel had no king. As the book of Ruth opens, famine had come to the land. Naomi’s husband, Elimelek decides to relocate his family to Moab. Moab was a foreign land, a pagan country where its people worshipped fertility idols. During their stay there Naomi and her family stayed true to God.

Without warning Naomi’s life begins to unravel. Ruth 1:3 says, “Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband died and she was left with two sons.” Her family made the best they could of the situation. Naomi’s sons took Moabite wives and gave them the Hebrew names, Orpah and Ruth. For Naomi, things turned from bad to worse. Picking up in verse 4, “After they had lived there ten years, both Mahlon and Kilion died [these were Naomi’s only sons]. Naomi was left with no grandchildren and no children to care for her in her old agecemetery-2650712_960_720

Ruth 1:6 says, “When Naomi heard the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them [back in Israel], she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home [to Bethlehem].”

It was a difficult journey, returning to Bethlehem. The three widows had to climb steep rocky paths carved into the mountains. Their journey took them around the Dead Sea and through the barren wilderness separating Moab from Israel. As they traveled, Naomi’s heart seemed to fill with despair, imaging herself to be worthless. What kind of life could she offer her daughter-in-laws when she returned home?

Ruth 1:11, “Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands?” [verse 13] “No, my daughters, it is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!” Naomi was keeping it real. Life for her at this moment was not sunshine, smiley faces or roses.

Naomi insisted her two daughter-in-laws return home to Moab. They were young enough to start new lives, to remarry and have children. Naomi steeled figuring she would journey on alone but her daughter-in-law Ruth would not leave her. Ruth was committed to remain. [Verse 16] “But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” So the two women journeyed on together, while Orpah returned home to Moab.

When Naomi and Ruth reached Bethlehem, it wasn’t the homecoming Naomi expected. The women of the town gathered around her. [Verse 19] “the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?” Naomi replied, “Don’t call me Naomi…Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.” (Mara means bitter)  “I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty.” It is certainly understandable that Naomi felt this way having lost so much.

wheat-1530321_960_720In those days the widows and the destitute were permitted to go into their neighbor’s fields during the harvest season and pick stalks of grain left behind by the harvesters. It’s a practice called “gleaning.” So Naomi sent Ruth out to glean in the fields so they would have something to eat.

In chapter 2, Ruth, “just so happens” to be gleaning in a field owned by a man named Boaz, who “just so happens” to be Naomi’s husband’s relative. The expression “it just so happens” is viewed by Jews as God working behind the scenes in the lives of his people.

Ruth returned home after a hard day’s work. Some Bible scholars say she returned home with more than a weeks worth of gleaning after just one day.  When Naomi learns of this she says in Ruth 2:20, “The Lord bless him!” … He has not stopped showing kindness.” She adds, “That man is our close relative; he is one of our family guardians.” The note in my Bible says the word “guardian” is a legal term for one who has the obligation to redeem a relative in serious difficulty. Naomi (and Ruth) indeed, were in serious difficulty.

Ruth continued to glean in the fields of Boaz for the rest of the harvest, which stretched from March through July. It is during this time Naomi finds a new purpose for the remaining years of her life. She believes she can play the role of matchmaker intent on joining Boaz (her family guardian), to her beautiful daughter-in-law, Ruth. She sits Ruth down and schools her on the Hebrew customs involved with properly presenting oneself to a guardian and convey a desire to be redeemed.

The plan called for Ruth to go to Boaz while he slept on the threshing floor, the place where he had just finished separating grain from chaff.   As instructed, Ruth lay at Boaz feet. When he awoke, her presence there startled him. One Bible commentator pointed out that it was common practice for prostitutes to show up on the thrashing floors where men worked.  In Ruth 3:9 “Who are you?” Boaz asks. “I am your servant Ruth,” she replies. Ruth continues, “Spread your garment over me, since you are my family guardian.” She is asking Boaz to redeem her as well as declaring her feelings towards him. In Verse 11 Boaz says, “I will do for you all you ask. All the people of my town know that you are a woman of noble character.”

couple-1850073_960_720

Boaz is a man of his word and in the end redeems not only Ruth but restores the life of Naomi as well. In this case, redemption meant buying back all the lands owned by Naomi’s deceased husband, which would have been handed down to her sons.  It also included Boaz agreeing to marry Ruth.  Boaz and Ruth have a child, which they name Obed.

Ruth 4:14 says, “The women [of the town] said to Naomi, “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a family guardian…He [the family guardian] will renew your life and sustain you in your old age.”

There are many lessons we can learn from the story of Naomi. I’ve chosen two in the interest of time.

First, we need to remind each other God is always with us. I think you would agree with me that life is indeed a journey. It’s full of ups and downs, peaks and valleys. Traveling through life can be difficult, and at times it may seem impossible to continue.   Like Naomi, it might seem like God has abandoned you, or His hand has turned against you.

Did you catch what Ruth 4:14 said? I’ll read it again, “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a family guardian…He [the family guardian] will renew your life and sustain you in your old age.”

You and I have a family guardian we can rely on. He is none other than Jesus Christ. Not only has He redeemed you, He is able to renew your life and sustain you in your old age.

Secondly, God has a plan for your life from the moment you were born to life’s very end. Yogi Berra, the great catcher for the NY Yankees once said, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” While we remain, there is always something we can do to help others.

My mother struggled to find meaning and purpose for her life after Dad passed away. She asked me many times why God took Dad and left her behind to journey on alone. After thinking a great deal about her question, one day I asked her could it be God still has things he wants you to do for him?

Because Mom remained with us she was able to witness to one of her dear friends as she lay in a hospital bed. Mom led her friend Jane to Christ. In her last days Mom was also a friend to many others in the nursing home where she stayed. She boldly witnessed to many caregivers and friends.

Could it be God still has things he wants you to do for him? Are there any caregivers, friends or family members you can minister to? If so, tell them God never leaves or forsakes the ones He loves.

May the peace of God fall on you this Lord’s Day.

Water and Light

IMG_0195Oh spring!

I love planting things in the spring and watching them grow over the summer.  This winter I became infatuated with the idea of growing lima beans; a vegetable plant I’ve never grown before.

Recently, my wife and I located a package of seeds at a garden store.  At the time it was way too early in the spring to plant them outdoors so we decided to replicate the experiment I did as a child at school.  Do you remember putting bean seeds in a glass of water with a paper towel stuffed in it to keep the seeds upright?

Handling the seeds, I was amazed at how hard and, well, dead-looking they were.  As you can see from the photo, we were successful at our experiment and one of them is now potted and awaits it’s final transplant in our garden.  (The other seed is going back in the glass of water.)

This fun project reminded me of how important life-giving water and light are to bring what appears to be a dead, dried up seed back to life.  We all need water and light to have abundant life.

Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again.  But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again.  It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”  John 4:13-14 NLT
He rescues them from the grave so they may enjoy the light of life. Job 33:30 NLT

 

 

Joshua 8: Seek God first

cross-2981216__340Once the issue of Achan’s thievery is dealt with, God turns from his fierce anger and promises victory over Ai. He instructs Joshua to take the whole army into battle, which included setting up an ambush.

When the victory over Ai is secured, Joshua sets up an altar to God. The word of God is read to the people of Israel and they rededicate themselves to God. Serving and obeying God became more importance than success on the battlefield.

Centuries later Jesus offered these words,

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.” Matthew 6:33 NLT