June 1, 2015 Bible Study — Thomas The Doubter

For today, One Year Bible Online links here.


Proverbs 16:14-15

    The writer points out the danger of angering those who rule, and the advantages to be gained by currying their favor. This is presented as neither a good thing nor a bad thing. The writer just tells us that it is something that is.


Psalm 119:153-176

    The more faithfully we follow God’s decrees the more we can rely on Him to rescue us from the trouble which comes our way. This is definitely true, but another way of looking at it is this: the more faithfully we follow God’s decrees the more we have set things up for trouble to pass us by. I was struggling this morning with what to write today, as the psalmist repeats several of the themes which he has already covered in this rather long psalm. Then I realized that he had expanded on a theme he had only touched on in passing earlier.
    We start following God’s commands because of our fear of the Lord. As time goes by, we continue to follow His decrees to ever greater degree as we realize the benefits we receive from doing so. Finally, we begin to seek ever more knowledge of God’s instructions and to adhere more closely to them because of the joy we get from doing so and the love we have for them. The more we follow God’s instructions, the more we come to love His instruction.


John 20:1-31

    I have always empathized with Thomas in this passage. The few accounts we have of Thomas in the Gospels all sound like things I might do, especially here. I, too, sought proof of the Resurrection, my skeptical nature made me question it (although I must add that my sinful nature encouraged me to demand a high level of proof). I, also, admire Thomas’ unwillingness to accept the miracle of the Resurrection on someone else’s word.
    For me there are two important reasons for John to include the account of Thomas’ doubt. The first is to show us that not all of the disciples just credulously accepted the accounts others made of their encounters with the resurrected Jesus and got caught up in the idea. At least one of them was skeptical of Jesus’ resurrection in the face of the enthusiasm about it from the others. The second is to show us that we should be skeptical of accounts of miraculous events. We should be careful not to get fooled by charlatans who pull off what appear to be miracles in order to mislead the gullible.


2 Samuel 18-19:10

    In this story we see David’s men refuse to allow him to follow the disastrous course of action which Hushai had advised Absalom to follow. David wanted to lead his men to battle against Absalom’s army, but they insisted that he remain within the city. Their reasoning was that no matter how many of them were killed, as long as David was alive so was their cause. More importantly, no matter how successful they were on the battlefield, if David was killed in battle, their cause was lost. Their logic was born out by the fact that the battle itself was indecisive, but David’s men were victorious because Absalom became caught up in a tree and was slain by Joab.

May 31, 2015 Bible Study — The Fourth Cup of Passover Wine

For today, One Year Bible Online links here.


Proverbs 16:12-13

    It is important to remember that these proverbs are advice TO a ruler rather than advice ABOUT a ruler. In addition, they are applicable to anyone in a leadership position. Successful rulers, and leaders, detest wrongdoing because the only path to lasting success for a leader of people is by basing that position of leadership on justice. If a leader does not value honesty over flattery they will not know what they need to make good decisions.


Psalm 119:129-152

    God’s laws and commands are such that it does not require an advanced degree to understand them. God has given His instructions so that even those with limited capacity can understand them. Once we have understood one part of God’s law, it will provide us the insight to understand more. We should not feel anger towards those who fail to keep God’s commands, rather let us feel grief for the unnecessary pain they put themselves through.
    God’s words and promises have been tested. They will see us through difficult times. I learned the hard way that when I think I see a better way than what God’s word tells me, I am mistaken. I will listen for what His word instructs me to do. I will pray that His Spirit move within me to do as His word commands. I will pray to God early in the morning and late at night that He might show me His will for me and that His Spirit might lead me to follow that will.


John 19:23-42

    Each of the Gospels begins their account of Jesus’ crucifixion with a reference to Psalm 22. Here John refers to the soldiers dividing Jesus’ clothes and throwing dice for His robe. John then continues referring to Psalm 22 when he notes that Jesus declared His thirst just before dying (this is also a reference to Psalm 69).
    John then mentions that they gave Jesus a small amount of sour wine just before He died. I never really thought about it before, but it seems like John is telling us something significant by mentioning that. Several sources tell me that there are four cups of wine drunk in the traditional Passover meal (something I had never been aware of before this). Some of those sources claim that only three of the four cups were drunk at the Last Supper and that this was the fourth cup. I have never paid attention to the number of cups of wine drunk at the Last Supper and think that none of the Gospel writers really did either. However, there is a certain logic to the idea that this represents that fourth, and final, cup of the Passover. Jesus’ crucifixion represents a new “Passover”. Jesus is replacing the sacrificial lamb of the first Passover with Himself. I am not going to write more on this idea because I want to think about it some more, but I encourage each of you to consider the implications of Jesus’ drinking the fourth cup of the Passover just before He dies.


2 Samuel 17:1-29

    Immediately upon taking full control of Jerusalem, Ahithophel advised Absalom to give him control of a small group of men in order to set out after David at once. Absalom decided to consult with Hushai before following Ahithophel’s advice. It is worth noting that Ahithophel had joined Absalom as soon as he began his rebellion. Hushai only joined Absalom after he took Jerusalem (and did so in order to foil the advice given by Ahithophel, although Absalom had no way of knowing this). Hushai’s advice played on Absalom’s fear and his pride, but in a very subtle way.
    There are two ways in which Hushai couches his advice. First, he plays up how mighty David and his men are as warriors, and David’s cunning as a military leader. By doing so, Hushai appeals to Absalom’s insecurity. Second, Hushai suggests that it would be best if Absalom leads the troops which defeat his father, playing on Absalom’s desire to be seen as a glorious military leader.

May 30, 2015 Bible Study — What Is the Truth?

For today, One Year Bible Online links here.


Proverbs 16:10-11

    I always struggle with passages, such as this one, which imply a divine right of kings. However, I realized today that when we take this one in the context of what it says, and the other passages regarding government authorities being given their authority by God, I can make sense of this one. This seems especially apparent from comparing the NLT to the NIV, “The lips of a king speak as an oracle,…”(NIV) “he must never judge unfairly.”(NLT) The king, the God appointed ruler, is obligated , has a duty, to always judge fairly. God has placed people in positions of government authority in order to judge fairly. God will hold them accountable for those times when they judge unfairly.
    To some degree, the same thing is true of our interactions with those around us in our day to day lives. God will hold us accountable if we do not deal with others in an honest and fair manner. If we are fair and honest in all of our dealings God will reward us.


Psalm 119:113-128

    The psalmist continues with his praise of God’s word. He points out that if we choose to follow God’s commands we must fully commit to doing so. We cannot do so halfheartedly with half of our heart seeking after some other course. If we do not fully commit ourselves to following God’s instructions we will not reap the benefits. I struggle with this, not because I do not believe it to be true, but because I am weak and easily distracted. I want to continually meditate on God’s decrees, but, all too often, I go “ooh, shiny.”
    So, I make verses 124 and 125 my prayer once more:

I am your servant; deal with me in unfailing love,
and teach me your decrees.
Give discernment to me, your servant;
then I will understand your laws.

I pray also that His Spirit will enter into me, fill me to overflowing, so that the desire to sin will be driven from my mind and my body. I know that I have it not within me to keep God’s commands…but I also know that the Holy Spirit can transform me so that I can and do.


John 18:25-19:22

    When the Jewish leaders brought Jesus before Pilate they did not answer Pilate’s question regarding what the charges were. Instead they told Pilate that they would not have brought Jesus before him if Jesus was not a criminal. Rather than dismiss the case right there, Pilate had Jesus brought before him and questioned Him. When Pilate pressured Jesus for an answer as to whether or not He was a king, Pilate was trying to get Jesus to say something, anything, that he could use to justify putting Jesus to death. Jesus knew this but would not lie. He told Pilate that His kingdom was not of this world and thus His followers would not fight to promote it.
    Jesus then has the exchange with Pilate that still is going on today. Jesus testified to the truth and those who love the truth recognize His teaching as true. When Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” he was saying that he did not believe there was such a thing, or that truth was what people believed it was. We face that same debate today where people reject the idea that there is such a thing as absolute truth.


2 Samuel 15:23-16:23

    As David fled from Jerusalem he demonstrated that he understood the lesson to be learned from the Philistine capture of the Ark. Having the Ark with him would not change whether God was on his side or not. There was no value in risking damage to the Ark by taking it to battle. God would be with those He supported whether the Ark was with them or not. And He would not offer support to those who had lost His favor, whether they had the Ark with them or not. We cannot manipulate God.

May 29, 2015 Bible Study — Be Careful Of Leaders Who Promise More Than They Can Deliver

For today, One Year Bible Online links here.


Proverbs 16:8-9

    I agree with the proverb writer. I would rather faithfully serve God and be poor, than gain great wealth through dishonesty and deceit.


Psalm 119:97-112

    If we understand the truth in today’s psalm, and in the rest of Psalm 119, we too will love God’s instructions. Reading, meditating on, and following God’s laws will make us wiser than our enemies and give us insights not possessed by our teachers. The former will happen because we will have no enemies who study and follow God’s laws if we do the same. The latter is one of the wonders of God’s law. His Spirit will give fresh insights to each individual who studies His law. Let us share the insights He has given us with each other that we might all grow in our knowledge of Him.
    The great thing about studying and following God’s word is that it reveals the dangers of doing wrong before we are even tempted. Our enemies may set traps for us, but if we have studied God’s words and instructions carefully, we will walk right around them without ever being in danger. If we are careful in not allowing our enemies to lead us away from God’s word their traps will close on them rather than ourselves.


John 18:1-24

    When the Temple guards and Roman soldiers came to arrest Jesus, it appears that they were expecting armed resistance. When Jesus told them that He was the one they were looking for, they fell back. I believe that they did so in order to prepare for the attack they believed was coming. When Peter attempted to begin the attack which the soldiers expected, Jesus stopped him. Jesus was willing to accept the suffering which was coming. We, also, should accept the suffering which will come our way for our faith.
    When the high priest asked Jesus detailed questions about His teachings, Jesus replied by telling him to ask those who had heard Him preach. Jesus did not teach in secret. The important thing here is that Jesus refused to get caught up in making His case in soundbites. It was not, and is not, possible to sum up the whole of Jesus’ teachings in a debate over the course of an evening. If you find yourself in a debate with someone where they keep bringing up some other aspect of what the Bible teaches, end it at once and suggest they come to Church and listen to the sermons for a year or two. Someone who goes from one “problem” to another is not looking for understanding. They are looking for an excuse to find fault.


2 Samuel 14-15:22

    David continues to mishandle his son Absalom, allowing Absalom to feel neglected and unloved, and then, allowing Absalom to stir up dissatisfaction with David’s rule. This story, also, gives us an example of how a person who wants to gain political power will use behaviors and activity which make them seem sympathetic to the plight of individuals without needing to actually do anything. Absalom told everyone that he would have ruled in their favor, if he but had the power. No one considered whether what he was telling them was consistent with what he was telling someone else. They were convinced that Absalom would serve their if he were king. There is a warning here to be careful of those who promise everyone everything they desire.

May 28, 2015 Bible Study — Lack Of Discipline Leads To Tragedy

For today, One Year Bible Online links here.


Proverbs 16:6-7

    People who fear the Lord avoid sin. However, the proverb writer tells us that the way to avoid sin is to fear the Lord. So, it is not just a matter of those who fear the Lord avoiding sin. Those who wish to avoid sin must learn to fear the Lord. The second proverb is similar. All too many people seek to live a life pleasing to God by being at peace with those around them. That is getting it backwards. The path to being at peace with those around you is living a life which pleases God. We cannot please God by seeking peace with those around us when that means compromising on what God asks of us. However, if we do what pleases God we will be at peace with those around us.


Psalm 119:81-96

    Even when we become exhausted waiting for God to rescue us from our distress let us remember, and keep, His commands. I will not abandon God’s instructions no matter what pressure my enemies bring to bear against me. I know that His word will sustain me with joy. God’s faithfulness will extend to each generation and His commands remain right and true, no matter what men may say to the contrary. Times may change, but God’s will does not.


John 17:1-26

    I read this passage multiple times. Each time I did so it meant more to me than the last. I was hoping for something to hit me which gave me a theme. Unfortunately, that did not happen. The things that stuck out to me as I read this over and over were the following:

  1. Jesus did not pray just for those who believed in Him then, He prayed for all of those who would ever believe in Him
  2. Jesus prayed that those who believed in Him would have unity, as He and the Father had unity.
  3. Jesus prayed that God would keep those who believed in Him safe from the evil one.

There were other things I saw, but those stuck out to me. It is interesting because number one struck me on the first read through (and again each subsequent read through), number two on the second read through, and number three the third time through. None of these were new to me when I read this passage today. They were just the thoughts which stood out.


2 Samuel 13:1-39

    This story is the beginning of what goes wrong when a father fails to discipline his sons. First, he failed to discipline Amnon for raping his step-sister. David’s failure to discipline Amnon led Absalom to plot his own vengeance. Absalom getting away with killing his brother led to his rebellion, as we will read about tomorrow. Of course the starting point for discipline should have been before Amnon raped Tamar. Then that tragedy could have been avoided as well as the tragedies which followed.

May 27, 2015 Bible Study

For today, One Year Bible Online links here.


Proverbs 16:4-5

    Everything and everyone will serve God’s purposes. Even the wicked will serve God’s purpose. When they come to their day of disaster they will serve as an example to others.


Psalm 119:65-80

    I believe in God’s commands. It is through them that He teaches us good judgment. Since God is good and He does only good, if we follow His instructions we will do only good. When we falter and fail in our attempts to keep God’s law the arrogant will smear us and claim that the fault lies with God’s instruction. And here in verse 73 is my prayer for the day:

ou made me; you created me.
Now give me the sense to follow your commands.

It is only through the intervention of the Holy Spirit that I will be able to be wise enough to keep God’s commands.


John 16:1-33

    Jesus warned His disciples that they would be expelled from the synagogues for their faith in Him. When we read this we see it as something which happened in the past, something which happened when Christians were thrown out of fellowship with Jews. There is truth in that, but I believe that there is more to it than that. Those who faithfully follow Jesus will be expelled from Churches as well. You can see it happening to a degree today. It is rarely an explicit, active expulsion, but those who are faithful followers of Christ are made to feel unwelcome in many of our Churches today. Fortunately, Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit so that we might continue to follow Him in the face of those who distort and misuse His teaching.


2 Samuel 12:1-31

    David’s reaction to the illness and death of his first child with Bathsheba gives us a lesson for dealing with those same thing. When the child became sick, David fasted and prayed, pleading with God for the child’s life. He refused all efforts to convince him to eat and rejected every attempt to comfort him. However, as soon as he became aware that the child had died, he cleaned himself up, worshiped and praised the Lord, then got something to eat.
    David’s explanation should guide our behavior. As long as the child was alive, there was a chance that God would heal the child and allow him to live. Once the child had died, there was no longer any reason to fast, mourn, and pray about him. Let us spend our time and effort on those who yet live, where our prayers and concern might still change things. (The wording did not come out quite as I had hoped. I apologize to anyone who might find what I have written insensitive.)

May 26, 2015 Bible Study — Lessons From a Grapevine

For today, One Year Bible Online links here.


Proverbs 16:1-3

    We can make whatever plans we like, but if we want them to succeed we will seek out what God wills for us. God provides the answer which works, let us make our plans according to His will.


Psalm 119:49-64

    The theme continues today, God’s word is something we should treasure. Are we willing to follow God’s instructions, even when people hold us in contempt for doing so? The fact of the matter is that the people of this world will hold us in contempt for obeying God’s commands. They will tell us that it is wrong to do so. Yet, if we reflect on who God is, we will follow the decfees He has laid out for us.
    Evil people will try to drag us into sin, one way or another. I will anchor myself in God’s instructions and I pray that you will do the same. Today’s passage ends with a prayer we should all make our own, “Teach me Your decrees.”


John 15:1-27

    There are a lot of grapevines around my property, but none of them produce much in the way of grapes because they are not cultivated. If I were to prune them and manage them they would be much more productive. Of course, they would no longer be able to spread wherever the sun and nature take them. The same is true of ourselves. If we wish to be fruitful servants of God we must be pruned and disciplined by Him. Sometimes such pruning is painful, but it is the only way for us to be fruitful. Eventually, I am going to pull out and get rid of those unproductive grape vines around my house. In the same way, God will eventually cut us off and allow us to die if we are not productive for Him.


2 Samuel 9-11:27

    In light of the controversy over Josh Duggar, it is worth noting the story of King David and Bathsheba. David committed an horrendous sin in this story. He used his power to have sex with a married woman. Then he arranged for the death of a loyal follower in an attempt to avoid the consequences of his actions. Despite this, we are told elsewhere that David was a man after God’s own heart. That is not said because of what he did here. Rather, it is said despite what David did in this story.
    When considering situations like that of Josh Duggar let us remember that we are all sinners in need of God’s forgiveness. The answer to such sins is not to stone the person who committed them (whether literally or figuratively). Rather it is to echo what Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery, “Go, and sin no more.”

May 25, 2015 Bible Study — God Will Give Us an Advocate

For today, One Year Bible Online links here.


Proverbs 15:33

    It is from fear of the Lord that we learn wisdom. I have heard pastors preach that this does not mean “hide under the table” fear. I disagree with them. The first step to wisdom, the first step to faithful obedience to God, is learning to fear God in a way that makes us want to hide from Him. Only after we have learned to fear God can we understand how great His love for us is.
    The second part of this proverb tells us that we do not honour people who tell us that they deserve to be honoured. Those we see as deserving of honour are those who do what they do because it needs to be done and think it is nothing particularly noteworthy (or, at least, who appear to think it is nothing particularly noteworthy).


Psalm 119:33-48

    The theme continues. As I read this passage today, I wonder how I lost track of the theme in this psalm the previous times I went through it. Reading this today, I feel a desire to reword almost every verse as part of what I write. However, I do not see the point to that when you can read them for yourself. I will however highlight a few, not because they stand out, but in order to show how they apply to me (and they all apply to me).
    I will join the psalmist in asking God to teach me His decrees. I strive to practice what I understand of God’s will because that is the path to happiness. I wish to desire God’s word more than I desire money. It is only through the help of the Holy Spirit that I will be able to abandon my sins, which are shameful, and follow God’s regulations, which are a better way to live. Then in verse 43 I am reminded of my greatest fear. I fear coming down with Alzheimer’s, or some other form of dementia. The greatest thing I fear about that is that I will forget the Scripture I have learned throughout my life and be unable to read it to be reminded of it again. Oh Lord, if it is your will that I suffer dementia, and forget everything else I have learned, let me still know your Word.


John 14:15-31

    Here Jesus tells us how God calms our fear of Him so that we do not feel the need to hide from Him. Once we have learned to truly fear Him, He sends His Spirit to us in order to show us His love. It is when we strive to do as Jesus instructs us that God, in all three of His aspects, will come to live with us and in us. When we recognize God’s love for us we will love Jesus. Out of our love for Jesus we will strive to obey His instructions. And here Jesus says the thing which relieves the fear I spoke of in my meditation on the psalm. Even if I forget everything I have ever learned, the Holy Spirit will teach me what I need to know and remind me of what Jesus has told me.


2 Samuel 7-8:18

    Looking at today’s passage, we see God telling David that He had never asked anyone for a place of worship other than the tent which He already had. David wanted to build a Temple to honour God. God responded that it was not something for David to do. This struck me as something to which we should take note. It took me a bit to understand the message. The message is that sometimes we have an idea about something we can do for God, but God is not ready for us to do that (or for anyone to do that). It is not that our idea violates God’s will. It is just that the time is not right. When we undertake a project to serve God where it just seems like things never quite pan out, this is not necessarily a sign that the project is bad. It might mean that it is not yet God’s time for that project.

May 24, 2015 Bible Study — No One Comes To The Father, Except Through Jesus

For today, One Year Bible Online links here.


Proverbs 15:31-32

    Those who listen to criticism and allow it to guide improvements in their behavior will be welcomed among the wise. Those who ignore attempts to correct their behavior harm only themselves. I have seen this in action. People who were once viewed as a problem and whose opinion was not valued listened to correction. They are now valued and their opinion sought in the decision making process. Other people who were similarly viewed are still viewed as a problem and steps are under way to remove them from the organization.


Psalm 119:17-32

    The theme is continued in stanzas three and four, both discuss the value of God’s word, His laws, His instructions. Verse 18 reminds me that every day as I read the scripture and write this blog I need to ask God to open my eyes and show me the truths that are there. I know that when I write something which changes my life, or which touches someone who reads it, I have done so only because of the influence of the Holy Spirit. Those who are arrogant and refuse to follow God’s commands will suffer for it. I will not try to overcome their scorn for me. Instead I will ask God to remove it and show them His thoughts about me.
    I hope that you will read the whole of today’s passage because there is more about the value of God’s instructions than I will write about today. I will conclude with my thoughts on the final verse. I strive to more faithfully follow what I understand to be God’s will for me because as I do so He reveals ever more to me. I have discovered that I do not gain greater understanding of God’s will for my life, no matter how hard I try, until I do the things He has already shown me that He desires me to do.


John 13:31-14:14

    One of the “truths” we are asked to accept by our society is that there are many ways to God. There is some truth to that statement. The Scripture tells us again and again that those who seek God will find Him. So, those who are truly seeking God will find Him, no matter what path they choose when they begin their search. They do not have to go through the Church in order to approach God.
    However, whatever path a person takes in their search for God, they must eventually come to Jesus if they want to get to God. All of those many paths eventually lead to Jesus, or they will lead us away from God. Ultimately, the true expression of God can only be seen after we have come to Jesus. The way we must follow goes through Him. Throughout the Gospel of John Jesus makes comments which tell us that we must listen to His teaching if we want to approach God. Here He says that outright.


2 Samuel 4-6:23

    I was going to write something about David’s reaction to the men who killed Ishbosheth, Saul’s last remaining son and David’s rival for the throne of Israel. However, as I read the passage I realized that I really wanted to write about Micah’s reaction to David’s dancing in the street. And really what I want to write about is what she reacted to, David’s dancing in the street. She thought that David made a fool of himself by the way he acted while the Ark was being brought into Jerusalem.
    There are really two elements to this. First, we should allow ourselves to be caught up in worshiping God. There are times when we should allow ourselves to do whatever the Holy Spirit guides us to do without giving thought to what others think of us. I have heard others say that when talking about this passage. The second part I have rarely heard mentioned. Micah was not wrong because she did not join David dancing in the street. She was wrong because she looked down on him for doing so. Let us never make the mistake of thinking poorly of others because they get caught up in worshiping God. Let us never think that they should be ashamed for doing so. Let us emulate David in this story and not Micah.

May 23, 2015 Bible Study — Hide God’s Word In Your Heart

For today, One Year Bible Online links here.


Proverbs 15:29-30

    When the wicked look for God, He will be far from them. On the other hand, God hears the prayers of the righteous, even when they are for the wicked. This reminds me that I need to pray especially for the wicked, they are the ones who need it the most.


Psalm 119:1-16

    This psalm (Psalm 119) is a long psalm. The first couple times I blogged on it I did not realize that there was a theme that runs through this whole psalm. Even then I lost track of the theme by the time I got to the end (I cover Psalm 119 over a period of several days). I am going to try to keep track of the theme this year.
    And what is that theme? The importance, value, and results of listening to, and following, God’s commands. In the first stanza the psalmist tells us that following God’s instruction will bring us joy. Following his further advice, I will not compromise with evil, I will only walk on the paths to which God directs me. I will call on the Lord to direct my actions so that they reflect God’s decrees.
    In the second stanza the psalmist tells us that the key to staying pure is obeying God’s word. He goes on to remind us of the value of memorizing Scripture and repeating it to ourselves and others. I am convicted that I should commit more Scripture to memory when I read this stanza of this psalm.


John 13:1-30

    Peter did not want to allow Jesus to wash his feet because he felt that it was he who should be subservient to Jesus. When Jesus told him that he would not belong to Jesus unless he allowed Him to wash him, Peter wanted Jesus to wash all of him. But that was not what was needed.
    Mennonites have traditionally practiced footwashing because it reflects a core understanding about Scripture for them. Jesus calls us as Christians to serve others, but the reciprocal nature of feetwashing reminds us that we should also allow others to serve us. It is not for us to demand that others serve us. However, when others desire to serve us we should allow them to do so.


2 Samuel 2:12-3:39

    This passage shows us the how Joab, David’s nephew, managed to protect his position as commander of David’s (and thus Israel’s) armies. In previous accounts we saw how David always sought God’s direction before acting. Here we see that Joab acted with the same sort of political expediency which led to Saul’s downfall.