March 1, 2015 Bible Study — Accepting the Kingdom of Heaven Like a Child

For today, One Year Bible Online links here.


Proverbs 10:20-21

    I find it interesting that the proverb writer suggests that one is either godly or a fool. He, further, tells us that the godly speak words which encourage others, suggesting that if you do not do likewise you are a fool on the path to your own destruction.


Psalm 44:9-26

    The psalmist reminds us that God’s plan will result in our suffering even if we are faithful. Sometimes we will face difficulty and trouble in this life, but let us never forget that God’s love will never fail. Sometimes God will bring trials and difficulty into our lives because of His love for us. However, that does not mean that we cannot, or should not, call out to God for rescue when we are in such situations.


Mark 10:13-31

    I really want to write about Jesus’ statement, “I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” The problem is that I am not sure what to say. When Jesus says that, what does He mean? Part of it is about the faith that children have, not just their faith in God but in many things. This faith is not questioned. It just is.
    Of course we must never forget that most annoying of children’s questions, “Why?” So, even though we are to receive the Kingdom of God like a child that does not mean that we can’t ask questions. It does mean that we accept it even when we don’t understand.
    However, the thought I had was about children and their belief in Santa Claus. Children do not ask how Santa Claus can possibly visit every child on earth on one night. At least, not until they start to lose their child like belief in him. And now I come upon the problem I always run into when I start down this road, how do I express this thought without suggesting that Christian faith calls for suspending our reason? There is a definite paradox here. We are to accept the Kingdom of Heaven with a child’s unquestioning faith. Yet we are to apply our reason, given to us by God, to that faith.


Leviticus 24-25:46

    The concept of the Sabbath and Jubilee year are interesting concepts. As we read through the Old Testament, we discover that their celebration is more noted as an exception than as a rule. I wonder to what degree this failure was a result of the other failures of the Israelites to keep God’s Law and to what degree those other failures were a result of their failure to celebrate the Sabbath and Jubilee years. I think that in many ways it worked both ways.

February 28, 2015 Bible Study — Anyone Who Is Not Against Us, Is For Us

For today, One Year Bible Online links here.


Proverbs 10:19

    You will not stop people from sinning by talking about sin. Those who are wise shut their mouths and move on.


Psalm 44:1-8

    It is not by our own might that we will obtain victories that matter. If we want to have victory in those battles which are truly important we will rely on God. It is God who gives us victory.


Mark 9:30-10:12

    The disciples argued about which of them was the greatest. Jesus’ answer to them was basically, “If you are arguing about being the greatest, you aren’t.” The only way to be great in the Kingdom of Heaven is to put others ahead of yourself. Greatness in Heaven comes from serving others, but if you strive to be better than others, you are failing.
    I have never heard the next bit discussed in terms of Jesus’ teaching on greatness, but I think it is related. When John told Jesus that they had stopped someone from using His name to cast out demons, Jesus told them not to do that. I believe that John, speaking for the other disciples as well, was saying, “Well, at least we are greater than this other guy who didn’t even have Your permission to use Your name.” Jesus’ answer was twofold. First, everyone has His permission to use His name to do good. We do not need some special initiation to become followers of Jesus and to receive the power of the Holy Spirit. This is a presage to Paul being chosen as an Apostle later (this whole thing requires more “unpacking” than I have time for today).
    The second point is the one most often covered when this passage is discussed. Those who strive to do good in the name of Jesus are all on the same side. In many ways what Jesus said here is reflected by what Paul said in the first chapter of Philippians. “Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice.” We should not denigrate those preaching the Gospel, the message about Christ, even if we believe they are doing so out of selfish motives.


Leviticus 22:17-23:44

    When we make offerings to God they are to be from the best of what we have. If we give to charity things that we have no more use for, that is not to our credit. On the other hand if we give to God from the first of what we receive, God will reward us and provide for our needs. I always have trouble finding the words for this, because I either make too little of giving, it comes out as if we buy our way into heaven, or it comes out as “prosperity gospel” (which isn’t really gospel at all).
    The government takes its taxes before we spend for any of our other needs. Shouldn’t the same be true for God?

February 27, 2015 Bible Study — I Do Believe, Help Me Overcome My Unbelief

For today, One Year Bible Online links here.


Proverbs 10:18

    This proverb points out a connection we often over look. Those who use lies to conceal hatred are the same people who spread slander. Neither of those actions is wise but combined, and they usually are, they bring results that only a fool would seek.


Psalm 43:1-5

    This psalm is a repeat on the same theme as yesterday. The first step to overcoming depression is to put your hope in God and praise Him.

Why am I discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again—
my Savior and my God!

Yes, when I am discouraged or sad, I praise God all the louder and put my hope in Him. Before long my sadness has gone and encouragement has come my way.


Mark 9:1-29

    In this passage a father brought his son to Jesus’ disciples for healing and they were unable to heal the boy. When Jesus returned and spoke with the father the father made a statement of faith which resonates with me greatly. The father asked Jesus to help him and his son if He could. Jesus replied to this by saying that anything is possible for one who believes. At which point the father cries out, in what I imagine is deep desperation (because that is how I would have felt at that point), “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief.”
    I have such great sympathy for the father at that moment, because what he said there sums up my own faith. I want to believe in the power of God, I do believe in the power of God, but I struggle truly having faith in the power of God. I have seen what God has done in the past, and it is marvelous, so I know that He is more than capable of performing miracles in my life. But all too often instead of having faith that God will miraculously intervene, I let my fears keep me from asking Him for a miracle. So, that father’s statement is my statement, “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief.”


Leviticus 20:22-22:16

    There are two verses out of this which are very important for us. The first is a challenge to us. In chapter 20, verse 26 it says, “You must be holy because I, the Lord, am holy.” I find that challenging because I know that I am not able to be holy enough to measure up to God’s holiness. Then in chapter 21, verse 8 referring to the priests it tell us how we can measure up, “You must consider them holy because I, the Lord, am holy, and I make you holy.” We cannot be holy on our own, but if we put our trust and faith in God, He will make us holy. He will transform us.

February 26, 2015 Bible Study –What Is the Purpose of Miracles?

For today, One Year Bible Online links here.


Proverbs 10:17

    Those who ignore discipline and refuse correction are not only going astray themselves, they lead others down the path to destruction with them. On the other hand, those who exercise discipline provide an example that others will follow to life as well.


Psalm 42:1-11

    This psalm is a deep heartfelt cry to God. The psalmist is suffering great discouragement.People around him are challenging his faith in God. Yet despite this he continues to put his trust in God. He recognizes that part of the source of his discouragement and depression is that he allowed his faith in God to lapse.
    When we begin to wander why God has forgotten us, we need to realize, as the psalmist did, that God did not forget us, we forgot God. The first step to escaping depression is to return to praising God. We may remember the joy we took in joining others in praising God, but do we consider that perhaps the reason we feel depressed is because we no longer do so? We say that we believe in God. Let us demonstrate the truth of that by joining with others in praising Him.


Mark 8:11-38

    I had never noticed before that in this passage Jesus had gotten into an argument with the local Pharisees. It was in the context of that argument that they asked Him for a miraculous sign. They did not ask for the miracle to meet a particular need. They wanted Him to perform a miracle in order to convince them to have faith. Jesus did not perform miracles in order to convince people to have faith. Rather He performed miracles in response to people’s faith.


Leviticus 19-20:21

    The first thing that struck me when I read this passage was verse five where it talked about giving a peace offering. As I read it I read it as, “When you make a sacrifice to show your love of God, do it right and don’t dilly-dally about it.” Decide what you are going to do, plan it out, and get it done.
    The other thing I noticed is that there is a common theme that runs through most of these commands. I will list a few, then I will tell you what I see as the theme:

  • Do not steal.
  • Do not deceive.
  • Do not defraud.
  • Do not twist justice by favoring the poor..or the rich and powerful

There are a few more in there that are pretty important, but that list gives you a taste for the theme. The theme to me seems to be what Jesus called the second most important command, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” There are a few commands in this passage about practical agriculture, but the bulk either fall into clarifications of that one command or of the one which Jesus said was the most important, “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, and mind.”

February 25, 2015 Bible Study — Will We Ever Learn?

For today, One Year Bible Online links here.


Proverbs 10:15-16

    I don’t think there is any way to say it any clearer than the proverb writer. Righteous living is rewarded with life. Wicked actions are rewarded with more sin and ultimately with death.


Psalm 41:1-13

    Those who are kind to the poor will be rewarded. God will rescue them when they are in trouble. If we use what God has blessed us with to aid those who are struggling in life we will live safe and secure. Let us turn to God and confess our sins when troubles strike. Even if everyone else betrays our trust, God will judge us fairly.


Mark 7:24-8:10

    Once more Jesus asked His disciples to feed a large crowd and once more they asked how they can feed this many people. It had not been that long since they witnessed Jesus feed the five thousand. In the meantime they had witnessed Jesus perform many other miracles. If the disciples, who were with Jesus every day, struggled to understand the power He commanded (and which He had delegated to them), is it any wonder that we have trouble believing that He can work such miracles through us?
    On the other hand, we do have the writings telling us of these things. There is something to be said for being able to read about what Jesus did. Unfortunately, we don’t seem to do any better. We can read about all of the miraculous things which Jesus did, and we can read about how He promised that His followers would be able to do even more. Yet we still find it difficult to believe that God will perform such miracles through us.


Leviticus 16:29-18:30

    The beginning of this passage says that “On the tenth day of the appointed month in early autumn, you must deny yourselves.” The translation notes say that could be translated as “you must fast.” This is a reminder to me that I do not fast enough, nor do I deny myself in other ways enough. There is spiritual and physical benefits from fasting and other forms of self-denial. From time to time I have attempted to learn the spiritual discipline of fasting. It is one of two ways in which I am still struggling with my spiritual life. I do not pray as much as I should, and I do not fast (occasionally I will fast for half a day, but that is not really fasting). I will continue to strive to learn to do this, but I have never been very good at self-denial of any sort.

February 24, 2015 Bible Study — Vile Things Come From Within

For today, One Year Bible Online links here.


Proverbs 10:13-14

    The wise treasure knowledge and seek it when and where they can find it. Those who spend their time talking in an effort to convince others of the knowledge and wisdom are fools. They are too busy talking to actually learn anything.


Psalm 40:11-17

    The psalmist acknowledges that his troubles are the result of his sins:

For troubles surround me—
too many to count!
My sins pile up so high
I can’t see my way out.

Even so, he calls on the Lord for rescue. God will rescue us if we turn from our sins and cry out to Him. Those who search for God will be filled with joy and gladness. If we acknowledge that we are too poor and needy to save ourselves from our sins (and we are, no matter how rich and powerful we may be in this world), God will keep us in His thoughts.


Mark 7:1-23

    When Jesus rejects the traditions of the teachers of religious law it would be easy to take this as an outright rejection of tradition. However, Jesus that the problem with the traditions is that they have come to be given higher priority than the Laws of God they purport to protect. Instead of providing boundaries against doing wrong, traditions had become loopholes that allowed people to find ways around God’s commands.
    The traditions of Jesus’ day had become focused on keeping people from becoming defiled by things outside of themselves. Jesus explained that we become defiled by the things that come out of us, our words, our thoughts, and our actions. It is not what we eat, or drink, or touch which makes us vile. It is not even the people we hang out with. Smoking cigarettes or marijuana does not make you a disgusting person. No, it is evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. Those are the things which make you, or me, a disgusting person. Those things all come from within us. We have the ability to change them…or at least, the ability to be willing to allow the Holy Spirit to change them.
    Ultimately, it is not things outside of ourselves which make us vile, disgusting people. We are vile, disgusting people because we bring vile, disgusting things out from within us. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to come into our lives and replace those things within us with Himself.


Leviticus 15-16:28

    I am always struck by the understanding about how disease is spread by exposure to bodily fluids which this passage demonstrates. By mentioning many different instances of where people secrete bodily fluids and the importance of avoiding contact with others while those secretions are ongoing and the importance of cleaning up thoroughly after they have ceased the passage gives us a starting point for modern hygiene.

February 23, 2015 Bible Study — Share What You Have, God Will Provide

For today, One Year Bible Online links here.


Proverbs 10:11-12

    The godly use their words to provide healing and help others make their lives better. The wicked use their words to conceal their intentions and to distract people from their violent actions. How do you and I use our words?
    The second part of this proverb gives us a good tool to analyze our actions. If you find yourself arguing and quarreling all of the time, it is a safe bet that you are not acting in love. Rather, you are allowing hate to control your life. Those who are acting in love let offenses pass. As I wrote this I realized it tells us a lot about some people in society today. Those who are easily offended by what others do and say are allowing hatred to rule their lives.


Psalm 40:1-10

    This is another one of those psalms which I see as expressing my thoughts about God so well. First it tells what I have experienced:

He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
and steadied me as I walked along.

Then a little later it sums up so well what I hope will happen:
Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
They will put their trust in the Lord.

Oh, how I hope that is true. I have friends who are in my prayers for whom my dearest wish is that they put their trust in the Lord. Finally, the psalmist writes what I strive to make true:
I have not kept the good news of your justice hidden in my heart;
I have talked about your faithfulness and saving power.

I will make it my goal to do so even more than I have in the past.


Mark 6:30-56

    I do not think that I ever noticed before that Jesus lead the disciples off to a secluded place right after the Twelve returned from their ministry tour. This suggests that the preaching of the Twelve had increased the interest in what Jesus had to say. Reading this today it made me reconsider my thoughts about mega-churches. I have never been a fan of such congregations. I feel that we should be part of a group where we can recognize that someone is a newcomer. However, it is clear that Jesus attracted huge crowds, which tells me that there is a place for such things.
    When the disciples asked Jesus to send the crowd away so that they could go get something to eat (did they perhaps say this because they themselves wanted to eat and did not have enough to share with everyone?), He told them to feed the crowd themselves. The disciples response was that they could not afford to do so. Not only did they not have enough money to do so, but they would have to work for months to earn enough money to do so. The lesson of this story is that where there is a need, we should share what we have and count on God to provide.
    It is worth noting that Jesus did not do this in a quiet way. First, He had the whole crowd sit down in groups. Then in front of the entire crowd He took the five loaves and two fish, blessed them, then broke them and distributed them to the disciples to give to the crowd. Everyone saw what He was doing, and how little food He started with.
    The passage tells us that the disciples were amazed when Jesus walked on water and stilled the winds because they did not understand the significance of the feeding of the five thousand. I think that we struggle with the significance of the feeding of the five thousand today. Certainly, part of the significance is in the title of today’s blog: “Share what you have, God will provide.” There is more to it than the way we normally interpret that. God will provide in ways which defy our understanding of the laws of nature.


Leviticus 14:1-57

    I am still struggling with these passages in Leviticus. I really believe that there are things here that make them worth reading over and over, but I am having trouble seeing it right now. The one thing I saw in this was that we should express our gratefulness to God when we are healed from illness. Not just in a minor, personal way, but publicly and in an expressive manner.

February 22, 2015 Bible Study

For today, One Year Bible Online links here.


Proverbs 10:10

    I could not help but think of what is going on in the world today. Those who look for “root causes” rather than confront those who do wrong encourage more people to do wrong. It is those who rebuke wrong doers for their wrong behavior who encourage people to act appropriately.


Psalm 39:1-13

    Every time I read this psalm I start thinking it means one thing, then it goes in a different direction and in the end I am unsure what the psalmist’s point was. That being said, I am going to write about what the first couple of verses mean to me.
    The first thing this psalm reminds me of is the importance of not sinning in what we say. I am convinced that this is an important thing for us to do and it is something I struggle with. As a matter of fact, I often struggle with it to the point where I do as the psalmist did and resolve to keep quiet. I strive to say nothing so as to not give offense, but when I do that those around me who see the world differently start to assume I share their view. Since they believe I share their view, they say more and more things which I find offensive or insulting. Until finally I can stand it no more and my rebuttal bursts forth.
    The key I realize, both from reading this psalm and from experience, is to choose my words carefully. I must let those around me know that I see the world differently, but I must not try to over power them by the force of my arguments. I must recognize that if I am right in the view that I hold (and I am quite convinced that I am, otherwise, I would hold a different one) it will take the actions of the Holy Spirit to convince them. I will not bring anyone to the truth by overwhelming them by the force of my argument. And if I am wrong (as unlikely as I believe that to be), the more forcefully I make my case, the more embarrassing it will be when I discover my error.


Mark 6:1-29

    When Jesus returned to Nazareth, at first, He was well received. However, it was not long before the people began to dismiss His teachings because they had known Him since He was a child and knew His family. How often are we like that? We are happy to hear of a local made good. Until such a time that they start to tell us that we are not doing things the way we ought and that we need to change. Then, all of a sudden, we tend to ask who are they to tell us that we are wrong? Aren’t they from the same background as we are? Where do they get the authority to challenge us?
    Shortly after this Jesus sent out the Twelve to preach repentance of sin and turning to God. On this occasion, He told them to take no supplies with them. They were to live off of the donations of those they met in the villages and towns. However, in each town and village they visited they were to stay with one person or family for the length of their stay in that town. They were to form relationships.


Leviticus 13:1-59

    The passage describes diagnosing various contagious skin diseases. In a society with little or no medical technology the only way to control the spread of disease is quarantine. Later in the passage it addresses the issue of mold in clothing. In a nomadic society where people’s are often packed and unpacked it is important to stop the spread of mold quickly or a person could easily lose all that they own. In addition, we know today that there are molds which are health hazards.

February 21, 2015 Bible Study — Don’t Be Afraid. Just Have Faith

For today, One Year Bible Online links here.


Proverbs 10:8-9

    The wise are happy to listen to what others have to say, in the hope that they might learn something. Fools are too busy telling everyone what they already know to learn anything new. The result is that the fools will fall flat on their faith, tripping over obstacles that others had tried to warn them of.
    Those who are clear and honest about their goals can walk safely, but those who dodge and weave in an attempt to conceal their intentions will be exposed for the liars they are.


Psalm 38:1-22

    Let us confess our sins and acknowledge to ways in which our suffering is a result of those sins. It is only when we do so, and truly regret our sins, that we will be prepared to receive God’s healing. That healing may not come at once, but let us remain silent before God until He sends us that healing. Let us not complain when we suffer because of our own sins.


Mark 5:21-43

    In today’s passage we have two people who are desperate for Jesus’ healing power. We have a father who asked Jesus to heal his daughter and a woman who believed that just touching Jesus’ robe would bring her healing. The woman discovered that there is more to receiving healing from Jesus than just touching His robe and going on your way. Even though she just wanted to touch His robe and move on, healed, Jesus demonstrated that He truly cared about those He healed. Even if we do not ask for it, Jesus will take the time to acknowledge each and every person whose life He touches.
    Jairus was willing to face the ridicule of those around him to see his daughter healed. When the crowd laughed at Jesus, Jairus did not waiver. Even after it was reported to him that his daughter was dead, he continued to have faith that Jesus could heal her. Those who brought the news of her death told Jairus to stop bothering Jesus, there was nothing He could do now. Jesus told Jairus not to be afraid, to just have faith. That message is for us as well. In the face of death, we need not fear, we just need to have faith.


Leviticus 11-12:8

    This passage contains instructions regarding what food the Israelites were allowed to eat and how to treat a woman after childbirth. It was not a revelation to me that the food rules were common sense instructions on how to avoid sickness. With a little thought it becomes clear that the instructions on what animals to eat, or not eat, and on handling the dead bodies of such animals, are health related. There may be exceptions, but there are many animals that fit the description of those they were not allowed to eat that present health risks if eaten.
    The thing that caught my attention was that, by declaring a woman “unclean” for a period of time after childbirth, this passage gives a new mother time to rest and recover from childbirth AND time to bond with her new baby. In addition, by giving extra time for the birth of a daughter, the passage encourages a mother to spend more time with a daughter than with a son. This is significant in a society which often held women and girls as of less value than men and boys.

February 20, 2015 Bible Study — Planting the Seeds

For today, One Year Bible Online links here.


Proverbs 10:6-7

    The godly will be blessed by everyone except for the wicked who will say one thing (something good), but do another(something evil and violent). People will have fond memories of the godly, but will only remember the wicked in order to curse them once more.


Psalm 37:30-40

    The psalmist reminds us that the godly teach right from wrong. The thing about this is that in order to teach right from wrong you need to know right from wrong and in order to know right from wrong you need to believe that there is a right and wrong. I will put my hope in the Lord and He will show me right from wrong. Then, perhaps one day, I will be able to teach that to someone else.


Mark 4:26-5:20

    Yesterday I talked about the seeds in the parable of the sower. There I talked about how we do not know what tools God may use to break up the hard ground of someone’s heart. Today’s passage talks about how a farmer scatters seed and the seed grows without any further intervention from the farmer. The farmer does not need to understand how the seed sprouts and turns into a plant. It will do it whether he understands or not. In the same way, we do not need to understand how the Holy Spirit will use the “seed” of the Gospel message we shared with someone to change their hearts. Let us scatter the seed of the Gospel message to all around us, praying for the Spirit to nourish that seed and cause it to grow.


Leviticus 9:7-10:20

    On the very day when Aaron was ordained priest, and his sons along with him, two of his sons were killed for their failure to closely keep God’s commands. It is hard to imagine how difficult that must have been for Aaron. I struggle with finding meaning in this passage, but there is one thing that does come through clear. When the Bible talks about fearing God, it is not being figurative. We should fear God such that we are hesitant to do anything which we think might displease Him.