Category Archives: The Bible

You have to watch this!

http://inspirationbygod.net/3550/an-unbelievable-artist-in-the-ocean/

This is a video of a male Japanese puffer fish who makes a design to attract a mate.  This speaks loudly of God’s handiwork, without saying a word!

“Do you give the horse its strength?  Do you clothe its neck with a mane?  Do you make it leap like a locust?  Its proud neighing is terrifying!

Is it by your understanding that the hawk soars, and spreads its wings toward the south?  Is it at your command that the eagle soars, and builds its nest on high?”

Job 39:19-20, 26-27  42:2

“Lift up your eyes on high and see; who created these?  He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of His might, and because He is strong in power not one is missing…Have you not known?  Have you not heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.”  Isaiah 40:26,28

 


More on fighting the good fight of faith

Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was a valiant man of Kabzeel, a doer of great deeds.  He struck down two ariels (mightiest warriors) of Moab.  He also went down and struck down a lion in a pit on a day when snow had fallen.  And he struck down an Egyptian, a handsome man.  The Egyptian had a spear in his hand, but Benaiah went down to him with a staff and snatched the spear out of the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear.  These things did Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and won a name beside the three mighty men.   2 Samuel 23:20-23

Benaiah-600x600.jpg I stumbled on this quirky account the other day in my Bible reading.   It has caused my mind to go in many directions.  Here is this guy who probably wasn’t on the motivational speaker circuit.  Benaiah just did mighty things.  He struck down two of Moab’s mightiest warriors and a handsome Egyptian.  And he followed a lion into a pit on a snowy day and killed him.

In 1 Chronicles 11:23 the story about the Egyptian is told as well, adding the detail that he was 7 ½ feet tall.  So Benaiah killed a giant and was a lion chaser.  That’s a pretty good resume.  Because of his exploits, he got to be one of King David’s body guards.  We might not have giants and lions to contend with, but we have figurative ones that are just as daunting.  Benaiah didn’t run away from danger, he took it on and won.  I want to be that kind of person.

I’ve often thought that when David fought Goliath, he might have looked right over his nine foot tall head to see a mighty angel that was twenty feet tall, or even God almighty who is taller yet.  He didn’t see the size of the enemy, just the size of his God.  When the twelve spies went into the Promised Land, ten of them came back saying there were giants and called them to not take the land.   Caleb and Joshua didn’t have their eyes on the giants, but on their God who was bigger than the giants.  In fighting against the world, our flesh and the devil, we need the same view of our big God.  We need a mindset that sees the sufficiency of God rather than the size of our opposition.

Also, in a study done about grit by Angela Duckworth at Harvard, she found that the most prominent contributing factor in successful people wasn’t how smart, talented, or rich a person was.  The biggest factor was grit.  Grit is a dogged determination that never quits.  Grit is the bounce that enables us to get back up when we’re knocked down.  To fight a good fight we need faith, we need grit.

Finally, to fight the good fight,  we need obedience.  That’s how we can call it a ‘good’ fight, and not a dirty one, a crooked one, or one that took short cuts.

I want to be a lion chaser, one that kills giants, not a quitter, a coward or a cheater.  How about you?


God’s Gym

train

Train yourself for godliness, for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.  1 Timothy 4:7-8

I belong to a gym.  I haven’t always put time into working out, but have made it a habit the last few years.  There are times that I’ve driven away from working out thinking about how much time I’ve put into the gym that week compared to how much time I’ve put into studying the Bible and praying. Or thinking about how much time have I put into doing something for the Kingdom that has eternal value.  It doesn’t always match up, like my time working out far outweighs my time in the Word.

As a culture, and as a Christian culture, I would bet that most of us could say we put more time into bodily training.  There are times when I needed to put more time into bodily training, as I let things get unbalanced the other way and my health and weight suffered.  While getting in shape and trying to be healthy is a good goal, training for godliness is an even better goal.  It not only helps us in this life, but “also for the life to come.”  In other words, there will be some sort of reward or value gained by becoming godly.

I have a pretty good idea of what it would take to get in tip top physical shape, whether or not I ever actually get there.  But how to get in spiritual shape is another question.  How do we train ourselves for godliness?  Paul gives  some ideas as you continue to read in 1 Timothy 4.  “Toil and strive,” “Command and teach these things,” “Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching,”  “Do not neglect the gift you have,” “Practice these things, immerse yourself in them,” “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching,” and finally: “Persist in this.”

In other words, becoming godly doesn’t just happen.  In 2 Peter 1:3-4, Peter wrote that, His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness…by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature.  God has given us His power to live a godly life and He has given us His very great promises so that if we walk them out, our character becomes more like Jesus’ character.  

Peter continued in the verses following that to say: Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.  For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  2 Peter 1: 5-8.  

We don’t talk much about self restraint, godliness, and toiling, striving and immersing ourselves in godly character traits.  We need to.  It holds value for this life and the one to come.  If we are godly, we will be effective and fruitful.  When we train for godliness, it doesn’t look the same as training for a 5K.  Instead, we call on God’s divine power, we stand on His very great promises and we practice self control, persisting even through discouraging times, brotherly love and affection.  We don’t neglect our spiritual gifting and we take great pains to practice obedience and to teach it to others.  

Finally, developing good habits are a way to build good character.  For instance, Hebrews 10:24-25 reminds us not to neglect meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another.  Our habits are one of the most important things about who we are.  Build good habits into your daily and weekly routine that point to the list in 2 Peter 1, just like exercising and eating well points to good overall health.

It’s time to get to God’s gym.


My ‘I can’ statement

I canI can do all things through Him who strengthens me.  Philippians 4:13

In education we have learning targets and then put them into what we call ‘I can’ statements to guide the lesson.  Teachers are to clearly state it at the beginning of the lesson and the goal is for the students to know what it is they are learning so they can check for themselves whether they got it or not.  An example in math might be “I can multiply three digit numbers by two digit numbers.”  Then they need to demonstrate that they can indeed do that skill.

So our ‘I can’ statement for today is clearly stated: “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.”  There are three parts to this lesson.  The first is “I can do all things,” the second “through Him,” and finally “who gives me strength.”

I can do all things.  Not some things, all things.  It’s like 2 Corinthians 9:8, “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every work.”  If you read Philippians 4:10-20, you’ll see that Paul was saying that he could do all things in the context of him being content in any circumstance.  He knew what it was like to be well fed and what it was like to be hungry.  He had learned the secret of surviving both good and bad times.  What was his secret?

Through Christ.  Paul didn’t say “I can do all things because ‘I’m smart,’ or ‘I’m strong, ‘or ‘because we all have an indomitable human spirit.’  No, Paul learned the secret of relying on Jesus for his contentment,  his strength, energy and his reason for living.  In Colossians 1:29 Paul wrote that he struggled with all of Jesus’ energy which worked so strongly in him.  In Philippians 3:10 Paul declared that his sole purpose was to know Christ and in sharing in HIs sufferings Paul would know the power of His resurrection.  John 15:5 says, “Apart from Me you can nothing.”  Ask God to show you how to access His energy and His power, not to rely on your own, which eventually (or quickly) fails.

Apart from Jesus we can do nothing.  With Jesus we can do anything.

Who gives me strength.  I was quoting these verses from Psalm 18 to myself this morning as I drove to work: “I love you, O Lord, my strength,” vs. 1; “For by You I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall,” vs. 29; “God equips me with strength and makes my way blameless.  He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze,” vs. 34.  People who resist the truth are wearing me down.  I am taking extra vitamins because I am worn out.  I remind myself that it is God who is my strength and I cannot give up.  I cry out to Him to renew my strength daily.

I must claim these truths each day, as you must also.  Life isn’t a cakewalk.  But we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength.

 


Overwhelming with the opposite good

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  Philippians 4:8

Changing your mind from a dwelling place for any fleshly, negative and sinful  thought to an honorable one is a mind game.  Cognitive behavioral therapy centers on changing the way you think to change your actions.  The Bible certainly  advocates this, like Philippians 4:8 and others like Romans 8:5-6, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”

I read this classic sermon given by Scottish preacher Thomas Chalmers, “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.” (GLS Publishing)  His point is basically this: The best way of casting out an impure affection is to admit a pure one; and by the love of what is good, to expel the love of what is evil.   Chalmers continues, “ A new affection is more successful in replacing an old affection than simply trying to end it without supplanting it with something better.”  In other words, if you want to break a bad habit, find a good habit to replace it with, don’t just quit the bad habit.  

 

chalmers quoteThe phrase that sticks in my mind about getting away from  a bad habit or thought pattern is to overwhelm it with the opposite good.  So, if you want to think of things that are true, honorable, just, pure, etc. then immerse yourself in worship songs.  Or better yet, memorize Scripture.  Be radical about it.  One more quote from Chalmers: “What can not be thus destroyed, may be dispossessed–and one taste may be made to give way to another, and to lose its power entirely as the reigning affection of the mind.”  Expel the old love of your life that is fleshly and not pleasing to God with a new affection that is pleasing to God.   Overwhelm your mind with the new good thing that is set on the things of the Spirit.

A dear friend that was absorbed in many addictions became a Christian and joined a church that is radical about serving Jesus.  She expelled the old love of alcohol, some drugs,  and carousing by overwhelming her affections with a new love of fellowship with believers, studying the Bible and helping others.  This takes planning and perseverance, along with discipline and desperacy.

What negative thought or habit pattern do you need to overwhelm with the positive good today?


Don’t Worry, Be Happy

don't worry

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-8

My mom was the most creative worrier I’ve ever encountered.  She could dream up ways that things could fall apart and then spend way too much time fretting about them.  I would say that there is no placard that says “worry changes things,” but there are ones that say “prayer changes things.”  Today’s verses are not suggestions, they are commands.  In fact, when Jesus was with the disciples when they would fret, like when Jesus was asleep in the storm in Mark 4:40 He rebuked them with, “Why are you so afraid?  Have you still no faith?”

Worrying, anxiety and fear are really signs of our lack of faith.  The opposite reaction would be to trust God and to pray.  The trick is to do it.  I saw a skit once that painted such a good picture about the peace of God guarding our hearts and minds.  There was a person sitting at a desk and a bodyguard standing watch at the door.  Different people with the labels of “worry,” “anxiety,” and “fear.” knocked at the door one by one.  The person at the desk told the bodyguard: “you take it.”  One by one the peace of God bodyguard told the different visitors to go away.

That is a great visual.  When worry, fear, anxiety, and fretting comes knocking, tell them to go away, trusting in God’s peace to cover you, or to be your bodyguard.  Or better, your heart and mind guard.   This is accomplished by praying first.  Pray about everything.  According to dictionary.com, supplication means the act of asking or begging for something humbly and earnestly.  Nothing is too small or too big to bring to God.  When you bring something troubling to God, claim that promise of  peace.

And be thankful.  The Israelites that went from Egypt to the Promised Land really lacked thankfulness.  They grumbled, whined and challenged Moses’ authority at every turn.  Even though God gave them water from a rock and manna each morning, it says in Psalm 78:17-19, “Yet they sinned still more against Him, rebelling against the Most High in the desert.  They tested God in their heart by demanding the food they craved.”  And then in verse 21 God’s response to this: “When the Lord heard, He was full of wrath…because they did not believe in God and did not trust His saving power.”

When we are not thankful and grumble about what we have, we are not believing in God or trusting in His ability to help us.  When we are quick to pray when we encounter something bothersome, thanking God, His peace is a promise that God delivers on.  This peace surpasses understanding, which means that we can’t explain it or figure it out.  We can just enjoy it and praise God for it.

It really is astonishing that we can ask God for something and He will hear us, respond and give us peace.  Don’t ever take that for granted so much that you rely on yourself and begin to live a life that you manage.  This is in contrast to attempting to walk by faith and live a life that responds to the voice of God and attempts great things for Him and through Him.

If you want victory over worry and you want to have the steady enjoyment of God’s peace, then follow Paul’s prescription: Do not be anxious but pray about everything.  Simply stated: Don’t worry, be happy (and pray).

 


Do Nothing and Do Everything

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Philippians 2:3-4 

Do everything without grumbling or questioning.  Philippians 2:14

selfishness

Paul gives us two contrasting commands in Philippians 2.  They are linked with what it looks like to live a life worthy of the gospel, from Philippians 1:27.

1.  Do Nothing.  In verses 3-4 Paul tells us what a lifestyle of humility looks like, doing nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but counting others more significant than ourselves.  That means we shouldn’t think that we could do things so much better than someone else, or that we know so much more.  That would give us a mindset of conceit or arrogance.  Nor should we  do things out of competition with someone else, trying to make us look better than others.  Have you ever just showed off because you could?

News flash:  We don’t have to be the center of attention.  We can let others talk way more than what we do.  We can give up our agenda for someone else’s.  We can let others get the credit for things.  We don’t have to be first or to have the best seat.

Later on in chapter 2, Paul said he was hoping to send Timothy to them to see how they were doing.  In verses 20-21 Paul said, “I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.  For they all seek their interests, not those of Jesus Christ.”  That’s who we should be like–Timothy.  We should be genuinely concerned for the welfare of others, leaving margin in our lives so we have time and energy to actually do something.  We should be seeking the interests of Jesus Christ ahead of our own agendas and interests.

2. Do everything.  In Phil. 2:14 Paul instructs us to do everything without grumbling or questioning, or as the NIV puts it–without complaining.    It would be interesting to count how many times we complain in a day.  And when we don’t complain or grumble, then people will sit up and notice that we are different because Jesus lives in us.  You could add criticizing to the list.  Isn’t criticizing saying “I could do it so much better.”?

As you read past verse 14, you’ll find that Paul notes that when we live like that, we are shining as lights in a dark world, actually a crooked and twisted generation.  It may not be easy in ourselves to not grumble, question, complain or criticize, but the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-24 lists joy, goodness, and self control.  That means that as the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives, He keeps those negative tendencies in check.  God gives us a thankful heart that looks for the good in others.

Now that is radical!


Living a Life Worthy of the Gospel

live worthyOnly let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.  Philippians 1:27

What does living a life worthy of the gospel look like?  In 2 Corinthians 4:4 Paul writes that Satan has blinded the minds of unbelievers, “to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”  The glory of Jesus is our gospel, for in Him we find the good news that God sent Jesus to come to die for our sins.  In coming to Him, we find forgiveness, purpose and eternal life.

As recipients of this marvelous grace, our lives must look different.  Paul tells us to live a life worthy of the gospel, one that puts the spotlight on the glory of Jesus, not our own glory or agenda.  There are at least three ways to do this contained in Philippians 1:27-28:

  1. Standing firm in one spirit.  In Ephesians 6:10-18 we saw that  to stand firm and not be dashed about by the troubles of this life, we must be dressed in the armor of God.  But here Paul adds, “in one spirit.”  That means that we stand with others who are fellow believers, finding common ground in Jesus, and battling alongside of them during the tough times.  And rejoicing with them in the good times.
  2. Striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.  Our standing together isn’t just to cheer each other on during the tough times, it is to spread the gospel.  It is so easy to be self absorbed and preoccupied with the things of this world, rather than to be about our Father’s business.  We are to be kingdom minded, understanding that we are in service of the King.  We must not be so busy sitting in bleachers at kid’s games or vacationing, or just working to pay the bills that we miss the grander purpose that God has for our lives.  And if you’re not in church, you won’t be able to do this!
  3. Not frightened in anything by your opponents.  Jesus said it over and over that because the world hates Him, they will hate us.  He warned  of persecution for His name’s sake and of how things will get worse and worse (check out 2 Timothy 3:1-5).  In the middle of this opposition, His word is “do not fear.”  Don’t let the haters wear you down.  It is tempting to want to become a “bubble boy” and withdraw because of the threats to our well being.   But the call here is to not retreat, but to advance the gospel.

To live a life worthy of the gospel we are to stand together, strive together, and to sing songs of faith and courage to one another.  When we sing hymns and worship songs, we aren’t just singing to God, but we are affirming what we believe and will die for to each other.  We are singing to our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ, the church words like “I’ll never, no never, no never forsake” from the hymn “How Firm a Foundation.”

So stand, strive and sing to live a life worthy of the gospel.

 


Are you ever going to grow up?


He Will Finish.jpgI am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.  Philippians 1:6

According to Paul, the answer is yes.  And he is sure of it.  It’s a promise.  God started our whole faith journey, and He will continue to work to bring us to a good finish.  That doesn’t mean that we sit back and do nothing.  In Philippians 1:9-10 Paul prayed that their love would grow and that they would live out what is excellent so that they would be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.  It is our job to obey and to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” as Philippians 2:12.

There is this give and take between what we do to grow complete in our faith and between what God does.  God initiated it, according John 6:44: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.”  And it is God who will bring our faith to the end, according to Jude 24: “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy.”

God will bring our faith to its completion at the day of Jesus Christ, which is the day of His return to this earth to set up His millennial kingdom.  1 John 3:2 tells us, “we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is.”  If we don’t progress in our Christian growth through our obedience, Christian disciplines and the fulfillment of what part we play in God’s kingdom, we will answer for it on that day.

What we do with what God has given to us is up to us, and we will be held accountable for it and given rewards. But it is God who gets us to the finish line.  Listen to 1 Corinthians 1:7-9, “as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ,” and 1 Thessalonians 5:24, “He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.”

You are a work in progress.  You can rejoice when you see God working His love, patience, faith and encouragement through you, because that is a sign that you are indeed one of His.  John 15:5 echoes, “Apart from Me you can do nothing.”  You can’t produce genuine change and fruit apart from a real relationship with Jesus, based on faith.  When you see it, give God the glory because He did it in and through you–don’t beat your own chest.

If you see Jesus at work in and through you, rejoice that you are one of His and that you’re growing up.  And know that He will bring you across the finish line for that great day of Jesus’ returning!

 


It really is ‘Amazing Grace’

For it is by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  Ephesians 2:8-9

grace

It is has been said that grace is getting something good that you don’t deserve and mercy is not getting what you do deserve.  In Ephesians 1:8 it says that God lavished the riches of His grace on us.  He didn’t just give us a little bit of His riches, but He piled it on generously.  Grace is  how we come to God and grace is how we keep following God.  It’s all God.

We try to make it about us and our works somehow, whether it is coming to God, or serving Him once coming to Him.  In Genesis 4 there is the account of Cain and Abel, Adam and Eve’s sons.    Cain brought a fruit offering and it wasn’t accepted by God.  Abel brought some sheep as an offering to God.  Back in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve covered up with fig leaves, God made a covering for them of animal skins.  This begins the theme of blood needing to be shed to cover our sins.  Hebrews 9:22 states it, “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin.”

I think Cain and Abel knew that.  But Cain brought his own offering, not what God wanted or would accept.  He’s like Frank Sinatra singing, “I did it my way,” the people that try to be good in their own way, whether it is through occasional church attendance, getting baptized or confirmed, or giving money to charities.  But our “goodness” isn’t acceptable to God, because even at our best we’re still flawed.  If you’re like Cain, then you get mad if you don’t feel accepted by God, or because He doesn’t accept your terms.  Turn it around.

Jesus died as our sin covering, once and for all.  He paid the price for our sins that we can’t pay for on our own, or earn by our good works.  When we try to do things our way to placate our conscience, God isn’t pleased.  Religion is coming to God our way.  People say they don’t want religion, and neither does God.  He wants a personal relationship with us because that’s why He made us.  Sin messed it up, Jesus fixed it.

We need this Jesus fix not just when we become a Christian, but throughout our Christian lives.  It is grace that is at work that changes us from being a rebel, bent on serving ourselves and finding our own ways to get through life.  Titus 2:11-12 tells us that God’s grace trains us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions and to live godly lives.  It is God’s grace that changes me, which is way better than my own striving and pathetic attempts to be good or acceptable to God.

Take a bath in God’s grace.  Let Him change you and speak to you about having a resting relationship with Him because of Jesus.  It really is amazing grace.