Category Archives: Bible Study

This will be where I place my various blogs on Bible related topics other than my daily Bible study

Plow Up the Hard Ground Of Your Hearts

Every week I receive the bulletin for the upcoming Sunday worship service in my email. It contains the announcements and the Scripture reading which our pastor is going to base his sermon on. In August, I decided to read the scripture passage and write a blog entry containing my thoughts on the passage as a way to prepare for Sunday morning worship. I do not know how long I will continue doing this, but I have enjoyed doing so up until now. I feel like a hypocrite as I write this because I believe that it is important to make it to church each Sunday (with there being allowances for special occasions…this applies to what I believe that I should do, not necessarily what others should do). Yet, all too often I do not make it to church on Sunday morning for reasons that just are not good enough.

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This weeks scripture passage is Jeremiah 4:1-4; 5:23-31.

    Every time I read Jeremiah 4:3 I am reminded of Jesus’ parable of the Sower. When I read this I think about plowing up the hard ground so that the seeds of God’s word can take root and produce crops. However, in the very next phrase Jeremiah tells us not to waste good seeds among thorns. Jesus, in His parable, compared the thorns to the cares of the world which choke out the plants which produce the crops of God’s will. Having said all of this, I want to point out that that is not exactly Jeremiah’s point. Jeremiah’s point in this passage is that while we need to change our hearts, it is not that easy to do. We could change our hearts, but we won’t. Our hearts will only get changed, will only get plowed up, when we allow the Holy Spirit to do so. Because as the prophet tells us, we have stubborn and rebellious hearts. We resist doing God’s will, even as we know and acknowledge that we should.

Finding Common Ground With Idolatry

Every week I receive the bulletin for the upcoming Sunday worship service in my email. It contains the announcements and the Scripture reading which our pastor is going to base his sermon on. A few weeks ago, I decided to read the scripture passage and write a blog entry containing my thoughts on the passage as a way to prepare for Sunday morning worship. I do not know how long I will continue doing this, but it seems to be an exercise that has some value.

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This weeks scripture passage is Jeremiah 2:20-37.

    I am having trouble this morning putting together a cohesive set of thoughts about this passage. The first phrase which struck me as relevant to our society today was “Israel is like a thief who feels shame only when he gets caught.” It sounds like so many in our society today. All too often when people apologize for doing wrong in our society their apology sounds like they are only sorry for getting caught. The other thought that came to me was that the comments Jeremiah made about those worshiping other gods seems to apply to syncretists (those who take pieces from various different religions and put them together). These are the people who claim to be Christian, but who say that all religions teach the same things. Jeremiah is condemning those who are constantly seeking to find common ground between Christianity and other religions. I want to note that this is different from those who look for themes in other religions which resemble things taught in Christianity as a jumping off point for preaching the Gospel.

Are We Still Eager To Please God?

Every week I receive the bulletin for the upcoming Sunday worship service in my email. It contains the announcements and the Scripture reading which our pastor is going to base his sermon on. A few weeks ago, I decided to read the scripture passage and write a blog entry containing my thoughts on the passage as a way to prepare for Sunday morning worship. I do not know how long I will continue doing this, but it seems to be an exercise that has some value.

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This weeks scripture passage is Jeremiah 2:1-19

    God’s message to His people through Jeremiah discusses how eager they were to please Him in the early days of their knowing Him. Do you remember how eager you were to please God when came to know Him through Jesus? Are you still as eager as you were then? Or are we like the Israelites of old? Have we started worshiping worthless idols? Are we more interested in watching football on Sunday than in fellowship with our fellow believers? For that matter, are we more concerned with someone disrespecting the flag than with us disrespecting God?

Leadership Means Serving Others

Every week I receive the bulletin for the upcoming Sunday worship service in my email. It contains the announcements and the Scripture reading which our pastor is going to base his sermon on. A few weeks ago, I decided to read the scripture passage and write a blog entry containing my thoughts on the passage as a way to prepare for Sunday morning worship. I do not know how long I will continue doing this, but it seems to be an exercise that has some value.

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    This Sunday our speaker is from Cru, which used to be Campus Crusade for Christ. They changed their name because the word “Crusade” was offensive to some people

Of course, that makes you wonder why they changed their name to something which is short for the word which people found offensive. I can just imagine the dialog
“We need to change our name from Campus Crusade for Christ because people found the word Crusade offensive.”
“Well, what should we change it to?”
“I was thinking ‘Cru’ would work. It is short and easy to say.”
“Yeah, but what do we say when people ask us what it means?”
“Oh, that’s easy. It is short for Crusade!”
Is it just me, or did someone not think that one through? Personally, I think they should have changed the name to Campus Jihad for Christ.

Any way, the scripture passage for this Sunday’s service is Mark 10:32-45. In this passage, James and John seek to get Jesus to promise them special honors in God’s kingdom. From Jesus’ reply we learn the important characteristics of true leadership. According to this passage if we want to be leaders among the followers of Christ the first requirement is a willingness to suffer. However, that is not a characteristic just of the leaders, but for all followers of Christ. Jesus tells us that a leader in the Church is a servant. If we want to be a leader in God’s eyes we need to seek to meet the needs of others. While this definition of leadership is foreign to most of our secular acquaintances, it is a model which will serve us well, no matter what organization we wish to lead, or for which we are seeking a leader. Those who lead by Serving the needs of their “subordinates” will bring the most value to an organization, whether that organization is a congregation, a non-profit organization, or a business.

Get Up and Prepare for Action

Every week I receive the bulletin for the upcoming Sunday worship service in my email. It contains the announcements and the Scripture reading which our pastor is going to base his sermon on. A couple of weeks ago, I decided to read the scripture passage and write a blog entry containing my thoughts on the passage as a way to prepare for Sunday morning worship. I want to apologize to anyone who has started to follow these for forgetting to publish the one I did last week until Wednesday. I do not know how long I will continue doing this, but it seems to be an exercise that has some value.

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    This passage is part of God’s call to Jeremiah. The first part of this warns Jeremiah that the message God will give him will not be popular with his audience. That is an important thing for us to remember, the message which God gives us will rarely, if ever, be popular with our audience. If people are cheering you when you speak, you are probably a false prophet…even when you are speaking to the people of God. Let me be clear, I am not talking about people saying that your message was a good message after they have had time to think about it. I am saying that it is a very rare occurrence that people will cheer immediately after hearing God’s message for them.
    My real focus on this passage is the second part. There God calls on Jeremiah to get up and prepare for action. That is God’s message for us as well. God is calling on us to get up and prepare to do His will. I actually really like the phrase where God tells Jeremiah not to be afraid of people or He will make him look like a fool. All too often, we don’t speak God’s word because we are afraid doing so will make us look foolish. Well, this passage reminds us that if we claim to be Christians and do not speak God’s message, we are guaranteed to look foolish. On the other hand, if we do stand up and speak the message which God has given to us, He will support and defend us. The whole land may fight against us, but they will fail for God will take care of us.

The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats

Every week I receive the bulletin for the upcoming Sunday worship service in my email. It contains the announcements and the Scripture reading which our pastor is going to base his sermon on. A couple of weeks ago, I decided to read the scripture passage and write a blog entry containing my thoughts on the passage as a way to prepare for Sunday morning worship. I do not know how long I will continue doing this, but it seems to be an exercise that has some value.

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    This week’s passage is Matthew 25:31-46, the parable of the sheep and the goats. This is perhaps my favorite parable and I am looking forward to hearing what Mark (the pastor at Butter Valley Community Church) has to say about it. Keith Green did a song about it, titled “The Sheep and The Goats”. At the end of the song, Keith pointed out that the only difference in the parable between the sheep and the goats was what they did and what they did not do.
    After reading this passage we need to ask ourselves these questions: the last time we saw someone who was hungry, did we feed them? How about the person who was thirsty? Do we invite strangers in? Do we clothe the naked? Do we care for the sick? Do we visit those in prison? I think the point I want to make is that this parable is not about how our tax dollars are spent. It is not even about the money we give to charity. No, this is about how we treat people. Do we take the time and effort to identify and meet the needs of those we see in our daily lives?

Working To Improve Ourselves and To Glorify God

Every week I receive the bulletin for the upcoming Sunday worship service in my email. It contains the announcements and the Scripture reading which our pastor is going to base his sermon on. Last week I decided to read the scripture passage and write a blog entry containing my thoughts on the passage as a way to prepare for Sunday morning worship. I am doing so again this week. I do not know if I will continue doing this or not, but it seems to be an exercise that has some value.

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    The message in this passage is that we should strive to use the resources which God has given us, whether they be material resources or natural talents, to further God’s kingdom. If you have material resources seek to increase those material resources while using those material resources to advance God’s kingdom. If God has given you athletic talent work to improve and increase that talent while using it to glorify God. If God has given you other talents, work to improve those talents while using them to glorify God. This parable always scares me because I identify most with the third servant. However, despite the clear message in the parable I struggle because my failure to make the most of my talents is not a fear of losing them, or a fear of having everything I gain by working on them taken from me. No, my problem is that I have struggled my entire life with finding the way to apply those talents in the best way. Sometimes I have been inspired to something where I could use my talents to bring glory to God, but then I fail to do so because I cannot see how to get from where I am in my life to that place where I can use my talents.

Parables of The Lord’s Return

Every week I receive the bulletin for the upcoming Sunday worship service in my email. It contains the announcements and the Scripture reading which our pastor is going to base his sermon on. One Sunday while listening to the sermon, it occurred to me that I saw a something in the passage which was not part of Mark’s (our pastor) sermon. It then occurred to me that I should write a blog entry on the passage for upcoming service as a way to prepare for Sunday morning worship. Finally, this week I decided to give it a try.

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    These two parables are often treated separately. Yet, they are part of the same lesson from Jesus. Both of them warn us to be ready when Jesus returns. And both of them warn us that His return will be unexpected. The first one tells us that if He finds us doing the tasks to which He has set us we will be rewarded. However, in the first one there is also a warning against abusing others, thinking we will not be held accountable. This parable is directed primarily to those whom God has called to positions of authority. If we fulfill the task for which we have been given authority, we will be greatly rewarded. On the other hand, if we abuse the authority we have been given, we will be severely punished. This applies to authority in the Church, at our job, in politics, and in any groups of which we may be a part.
    The second parable is a reminder that it is not enough not to do wrong. Even if we do not abuse our authority (perhaps because we do not have any), still we need to be prepared at all times for when we will be called to account. It is not enough to accept Christ as our Savior and then go to “sleep”. We cannot say to ourselves that we will do more later. We must seek the tasks which God has set for us and eagerly be about accomplishing them.

Two Women and 12 Years (Luke 8:40-53)

daffodils     This is one of the most poignant biblical accounts for me. Perhaps even more effective since it is told from Luke’s perspective, who was a doctor, because there’s a couple of medical issues here. Luke gave *detailed* accounts. (I like that in a Gospel writer). Like many Bible stories, this one challenges me. We learn about another of Jesus’ miracles here, but even more so, we (or at least I) learn about the power of faith.

     The account opens with Jesus’ coming back to Galilee, from the region of the Gerasenes. This is after the account of Jesus curing the demon-possessed man. The account tells us that the man was not possessed by one evil spirit, but by many, a Legion (Luke 8:30). (To me, demon-possession is like mice-infestation. As anyone who has dealt with the inconvenience of having mice in their house can tell you, a house does not simply have *one* solitary mousey living in it. When a mouse finds a place to live where it’s warm and can find nourishment, a whole horde comes with it and can create a bloody and potentially destructive nuisance, if proper action is not taken. So, too, a similar event takes place with demon-possession. But I digress.)

     When Jesus returns to Galilee, he is met by a crowd, from which emerges a synagogue leader, Jairus, whose 12-year old daughter is ill and dying. Jesus accompanies Jairus to his home. On the way, a woman who has been suffering from hemorrhaging for 12 years with no relief from doctors, touches Jesus’ cloak in the throngs of people and is immediately cured! Jesus stops when He felt the power flow out from Him (I love that!) and asks, “Who touched me?” The newly-healed woman could’ve run away at this point, but she falls to her knees and explains what happened. Jesus tells her that her faith has healed her and to “go in peace”.

     Right after that, someone from Jairus’ household shows up and tells Jairus that his daughter has died and there’s no need to trouble Jesus any longer. Jesus tells Jairus to have faith and they continue on to Jairus’ home. When they arrive at the house, the mourners laugh and mock Jesus when He says the young girl is not dead but merely asleep.

     There’s an enormous amount of juxtaposition here! Just a short time earlier we saw a woman who had been suffering for TWELVE YEARS with a horrible affliction who believed all she had to do was touch a piece of Jesus’ garment and she would be healed! Now we have a roomful of people laughing at Jesus’ claim about Jairus’ daughter.

     I must digress again: Do keep in mind the mourners in this scene were probably not comprised of the young girl’s neighbors and relatives. More than likely these were paid professionals in Hebrew law “who care for the deceased and prepare for the burial”

     I struggle with this portion of the story because I’m pretty sure the mourners KNEW who Jesus was, and WHY He claimed the girl was not dead. This leads me to two conclusions. Either a) they did not believe in Jesus’ power to raise the girl from the dead or b) they laughed out loud and mocked Jesus in front of the family because they stood to lose money were their services not needed. (I am reminded here of the Legion of demons driven into a herd of pigs in Luke 8:32-37, and how the herdsmen witnessed what had happened, which led to the people to beg Jesus to leave and not come back. Those herdsmen lost a mighty big paycheck that day; Jesus was “bad for business”.)

     Nevertheless, I’d like to think the mourners laughed at Jesus because their faith was lacking and not because they were so callous as to be out a paycheck.

     However, it is not only the mourners who are to blame for their lack of faith. Over and over again in the New Testament we see the Twelve, (there’s that number again!) the ones closest to Jesus, failing in their trust in Him. Mark 4:35-41, Luke 9:12-13, John 20:25-28, are just a few examples.

     I love the account of Luke 8:40-53 for so many reasons: We see Jesus perform a miracle while He is on His way to perform a miracle. I love that both of the healed in this story are women. (Okay, one of them is a child, but in Biblical times, Jairus’ daughter is of marriageable age.) The fact that the bleeding woman was afflicted as long as Jairus’ daughter was alive is also particularly poignant. Most of all, I love that Jesus did not discriminate and only heal the important people, i.e., powerful men. The fact that the bleeding woman and Jairus’ daughter are both insignificant members of society Did Not Matter to Jesus! He healed them all: men, women, children, Hebrew, Gentile, lepers, the paralysed, the lowest of Society’s low. Jesus brings His love to, and ultimately saves, every one of us.

     Then there’s the faith and bravery of the bleeding woman! I admire her so much. She knew it was “wrong” by Society’s standards to even look at a man, let alone ask Jesus for healing BUT! so strong was her faith in this Teacher that she knew all she had to do was merely touch Him and she would be cured. Her faith and wisdom are to be commended! Whenever I am desperately praying for the Lord’s healing/guidance/what-have-you, I often fall back on the bleeding woman’s “mustard seed faith”. I want to believe that all I need for Jesus’ healing (be it physical, mental, emotional or spiritual) is to touch the hem of His garment.

“Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.” –Mark 9:24

Advent Season–Trusting God

Joseph in the Christmas Pageant
Joseph in the Christmas Pageant

     Today is the fourth Sunday of Advent, two days before Christmas. Generally, when we read the Christmas story, we use the Gospel of Luke. There is nothing wrong with that it is a very good account of the Christmas story. But the Gospel of Matthew tells us something important too. Matthew tells us that while they were betrothed, Joseph discovered that Mary was pregnant. For those of my readers unfamiliar with it, being betrothed is something like being engaged, but with a lot more commitment and a lot more final. Generally, the bride still lived with her parents and the groom with his parents (although, since the groom was generally older than the bride, perhaps in his own house). However, ending a betrothal required a divorce just as ending a marriage does (although in that day getting a divorce was remarkably easy for a man).
     So, Joseph discovers that Mary is pregnant. We are not told how he finds it out. She may have told him. Someone from her family may have told him. Perhaps there was gossip going around. He knows that he is not the father so he reaches the only logical conclusion. Mary must have been unfaithful to him. She must have had another lover. Joseph was betrayed. But, we are told, Joseph was a good man. Perhaps Mary had her heart set on someone else. Perhaps she wanted to marry the father of her child. There could be many reasons why she had betrayed him. Joseph would have been within his rights to demand that she be shamed in front of the whole community, even stoned for her unfaithfulness. Instead, he decided to divorce her quietly. That way if there was someone she would rather marry, she would be free to do so. He would not bring any additional harm to her reputation, or her life. If he married her anyway, everyone would “know” that he was the father, that he was unable to act appropriately. Either that or he was so desperate for a wife that he would take as a wife a woman who would betray him.
     Having made his decision, he received a vision. An angel appeared to him and told him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife. The child within her was from the Holy Spirit. Now, I don’t know about you, but I would have found that hard to believe. I would have wondered how I would know it was really an angel. But the passage in Matthew tells us that Joseph believed the angel, that he had faith in what the angel told him. Except that it doesn’t say that. How do I know that Joseph believed? Because the passage tells us that when he woke up, “he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded and took Mary as his wife.” That’s right, we know that Joseph believed because “he did.” He trusted God and acted on that trust. Joseph was willing to take the risks involved in following what the angel had told him to do. He was willing to risk the damage to his reputation. He was willing to be viewed as a fool, or desperate. Are we willing to take the risk of trusting God?