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A Temporary Human Experience

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Today’s Bible Reading: Job 37-39:30; 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:10; Psalm 44:9-26; Proverbs 22:13

Old Testament

After Elihu is finished speaking (finally!) God speaks to Job in Job 38. God has been watching and listening to all that was going on over the previous 36 chapters. Now He is going to set somethings straight.

Job had asked God to explain why he was suffering. But God does not answer that question. Instead He asks Job a bunch of questions of His own – none of which Job can answer. Only God can answer them. These questions were not meant to make Job feel foolish or to chastise Job for his thoughts. God is not like that. His goal is not to belittle us but to build us up.

God asked Job all these rhetorical questions to remind Job of how awesome and powerful He is. By speaking to Job God revealed His presence to Job. So Job could now feel a sense of comfort in knowing that 1) God had not abandoned him as he had thought and 2) God was so powerful that He could overcome any of Job’s troubles.

I think Job was relieved to hear from God. His callous friends made him feel like he was alone. But after hearing from God Job knew that was not the case. He knew God was with him and had been throughout the whole ordeal.

Not only did Job not know the answers to how the earth and the things on it worked, he did not have mastery over any of it either (job 39:10). God is trying to point out that although we humans think we are wise and have the answers to some of life’s problems we really don’t know much at all. But God does.

This simple fact should humble us. But instead we claim knowledge without adequate evidence (e.g. evolution) or dismiss such questions as irrelevant. While these questions may not affect our daily lives, they are not irrelevant. Pondering them puts us in our rightful place and God in His rightful place. Only then can we have an honest relationship with God. We can’t have a relationship with Him if we think less of Him than we should or think more of us than we should.


New Testament

The ultimate goal of anyone’s ministry should be to glorify God (2 Corinthians 4:15) as was Paul’s. Our glory is not the goal. The goal is God’s glory. Bringing glory to ourselves cannot save anyone. Only by bringing glory to God can other people be saved.

And that is exactly why Paul went through much suffering to deliver the Gospel to others (2 Corinthians 4:16). The trials he went through as well as the results that he saw (people being saved) renewed his spirit. Paul realized that the troubles we go through on this earth are nothing compared to what is to come. The troubles will pass – if nothing else when we die – but eternal life lasts forever (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).

Our current bodies are tents – temporary dwelling places – just like the tents the Israelites lived in in the desert or the tent of the Tabernacle. Just as these were eventually replaced, someday we will have a permanent home – new bodies that last forever (2 Corinthians 5:1). These bodies won’t break down and will never die. I am looking forward to that!

Notice that we are spirits (2 Corinthians 5:1-2). We are not human beings in search of a spiritual experience. We are spirit beings enduring a temporary human experience.

As we go through these difficult lives it can be hard to take comfort in an eternity that seems so far away. That is why God gives each believer the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a guarantee that God will complete His promise (2 Corinthians 5:5). Notice that God is preparing us for eternity through these trials and hardships. Nothing that happens to us on this earth is wasted, unless we don’t learn from it.

The basis of the Christian life is living for something we know is true but cannot see (2 Corinthians 5:7). The world laughs at this notion calling it blind faith. But everyone does this all the time. We look forward to special events in our lives and doing so helps us make it through the mundane and difficulties we face everyday. A simple example: we trudge through the work week looking forward to the weekend. Everyone executes this “blind faith” 52 times a year.

Christians will not face judgement as to whether we will go to heaven or hell. That has already been decided for us when we accepted Jesus’ payment for our sins. But we will have to answer for how we lived after accepting Jesus (2 Corinthians 15:10). God will judge our deeds and our motives. Paul already discussed this in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15. How we lived after being adopted into God’s family will determine the eternal rewards we will receive.


Proverbs

I found Proverbs 22:13 very interesting. Sometimes what might seem like a legitimate justification for not doing something is actually laziness. This verse has made me determined to evaluate my reasons in the future for passing on opportunities. Maybe I’m actually just being lazy.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post

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Fixated

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Today’s Bible Reading: Job 34-36:33; 2 Corinthians 4:1-12; Psalm 44:1-8; Proverbs 22:10-12

Old Testament

Elihu continues his long speech in Job 34 in which he misquotes Job (Job 34:3-4). Sin always starts with misunderstanding. Just like Satan convinced Eve of something that wasn’t true, Satan convinces us of similar thinking. Elihu thought he knew what Job said. But Job never said any of these things.

The majority of the world believes that God sends people to heaven or hell based on how they lived. Elihu demonstrates this erroneous understanding when he says that God “treats people as they deserve” (Job 34:11). But this is not true. We are all sinful creatures who deserve to be separated from God in hell. But God, out of His love for us, has offered us what we don’t deserve – eternity in heaven with Him. This is not based on our behavior but in spite of it. Heaven is a free gift from God that is ours for the taking. All we have to do is simply accept it.

Elihu is like so many who talk about God as if they are some expert (Job 34:16, 36:4) but really don’t know anything. Such people are dangerous and should not be listened to. Those who don’t know their Bibles are susceptible to their bad theology and inaccurate assessments. If you want to know God then read His word, pray to Him, and hang out with others who do the same.

One thing Elihu says that is right is that God is mighty but He does not despise anyone (Job 36:5). God is so awesome, so powerful, and so secure in who He is that there is no need for Him to hate. Hate is not part of His character because it cannot be. Hate is reserved for creatures, like humans, who are fixated on self. Hate of others is simply a way of loving oneself. God is fixated on us and therefore hates no one. He doesn’t hate gays. He doesn’t hate women. He hates no one.


New Testament

Paul tells us why some people do not believe the new message he wrote about in yesterday’s passages – Satan has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe (2 Corinthians 4:4). Notice that it is the mind that Satan blinds. Our lives are a constant battle over what we believe. God tells us one thing. Satan tells us another. Its up to us to decide what, and more importantly who, we will believe.

Make no mistake – Satan is the ruler of this current world (2 Corinthians 4:4). God has given Satan the opportunity to reign on this earth to test people. Following the ways of the world as opposed to following the ways of God is simply to follow Satan.

Many people take offense to the Gospel message because they think Christians are just arrogant people who want to point out other people’s sin and impose their beliefs on everyone else. But that is just another lie of Satan that people in hell will regret believing. Christians do not tell others about Jesus for their own sake. We tell others so that they too will have an opportunity to embrace God’s truth and escape hell (2 Corinthians 4:5).

Human beings are like clay jars in the ancient world: common, fragile, and so ubiquitous as to have no real intrinsic value. Yet God chose to place the treasure that is His amazing glory into us (2 Corinthians 4:7a). He could have chosen to use only the fine china reserved for special occasions. But instead He chose the everyday dishes. Think about this. It is absolutely stunning that God, who is above everything we can imagine, would do such a thing.

The reason God did this to demonstrate His own power (2 Corinthians 4:7b). We have no power on our own. It all comes from God.

Before Paul met Jesus on the Damascus road he lived a life of ease. After deciding to live for Christ, his life became very difficult (2 Corinthians 4:8-11). But that was no matter to Paul. He was happy to go through it all so that others could learn about Jesus, believe in Him, and have eternal life in heaven (2 Corinthians 4:12).

God the Son gave up His rights in heaven and came to earth in a simple flesh-and-bone container and lived as we lived (Philippians 2:5-8) . Similarly, we should not chase after the pleasures and seductions the world offers. Just like Jesus died so we could have life; just like Paul suffered so the Corinthians (and others) could know Jesus… we should be willing to sacrifice comfort and endure difficulty for the sake of others.


Psalms

God gives the victory. It may seem like we, in our own strength, conquer our enemies. But that power really comes from Him (Psalm 44:5-7).

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post

Slowing Down Our Lives

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Today’s Bible Reading: Job 31-33:33; 2 Corinthians 3:1-18; Psalm 43:1-5; Proverbs 22:8-9

Old Testament

In Job 31 Job describes his life in terms of the things he has not done, one of which was to look lustfully at women who were not his wife (Job 1:1). Lust is one of those sins that our world dismisses because it seemingly hurts no one. But lust is a form of both stealing and greed. A woman’s nakedness is a gift to her husband (and vice-versa). It is wrong for a man who is not her husband to steal it as it does not belong to him. What God has given a man should be enough for him (Job 1:2). When we lust we are saying that what God has given us is not adequate.

One measure of a person’s character is how well they treat those who are subordinate to them, as opposed to how they treat their peers. Job treated his servants well (Job 31:13). In Job’s day it would have been acceptable for a man to mistreat his servants. God calls us to not act like the world but to live in a way that exposes the ways of the world for what they are – sin. God’s way was radical back then. And compared to our modern way of thinking, it is still radical.

Job believed his servants were human beings and were therefore worthy of dignity (Job 31:15). Even as recently as Civil War America slaves were not considered a person. But 4,000 years ago God made it clear that we are all His creation and are all equal before Him no matter what our status in life is.

Just because the world condones a certain behavior doesn’t mean we should engage in it (Job 31:21). The law may be on our side but that is not the measure of proper conduct. The government tells us what is allowed. God tells us what is right. Before doing, saying, or thinking anything we should evaluate it against God’s design for us. This would mean slowing down our lives – something very difficult to do. In fact the fast pace of life is one reason why sin is increasing in our world. The faster life goes the less time we take to consider our actions and the more likely we will give in to sin (usually without even realizing it).

In Job 32 a young man named Elihu speaks up. Age is not a factor when it comes to wisdom (Job 31:9). Wisdom is achieved through experience. Some young people have been through a lot and have as a result gained much wisdom. Some old people have also been through a lot but have not learned from their experiences so they lack wisdom.

While its true that young people can be wise, we see that this does not apply to Elihu. He is long-winded (he’s going to talk for 5 chapters!)  but actually doesn’t say much at all. What he does say is often wrong (Job 33:9) or obvious (Job 33:12b). Elihu was a little too overconfident in himself and his wisdom. This is a common trait of younger people.


New Testament

Paul’s confidence came not from himself but from his trust in God. Likewise, his qualifications came from God too (2 Corinthians 3:4-5). So often we think we cannot serve God because we are not ready. By waiting to be ready we are putting our sufficiency in ourselves instead of on God where it should be. So it is true we are not ready. But we will never be ready.

The first contract God made with man (aka Old Testament or Old Covenant) led to death (2 Corinthians 3:7). The laws handed down by God to Moses told us what to do and not to do but these laws could not grant life. They could only condemn. Like the people it governed, this contract was destined to die, which it did when God ushered in a new, more amazing, contract (aka New Testament) through Jesus.

The Old Testament separated us from God. But the New Testament bring us into God’s presence. When someone turns to God their hearts are liberated – they are set free from the law and are filled with the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:16-17).

This gives us the freedom to boldly approach God because such people are now cleansed from their sins. This also begins the process of God changing us to be more like Him, which is God’s real goal for us (2 Corinthians 3:18).


Psalms

In Psalm 43 David starts out focused on his problems (Psalm 43:1-2). But he soon realizes that he needs to get his focus off what other people have done to him and onto God (Psalm 43:3). He had a choice. He could be held hostage to the past or he could move forward to be with God. It understandable, but not acceptable, to be discouraged by the raw deal we sometimes get in life. We can move past discouragement by resting in God (Psalm 43:5).

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post

Worth Chasing After?

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Today’s Bible Reading: Job 28-30:31; 2 Corinthians 2:12-17; Psalm 42:1-11; Proverbs 22:7

Old Testament

Job 28 is a very interesting chapter in which Job comments on human intelligence and ingenuity. When it comes to creating wealth there is nothing we won’t do. We will work as hard as we possibly can (“explore the farthest regions”… “sink a mine shaft into the earth”… “cut tunnels into rocks”). But when it comes to wisdom we have no clue (Job 28:12).

Just like the earthly treasures Job describes, wisdom is hard to find. It takes work. But since it is intangible we don’t value it as much. But the fact is wisdom is more valuable than gold, silver, or any gem (Job 28:15-17). We’d rather spend our lives toiling for temporary riches than obtaining the truth that can save our souls.

Not only that but we don’t even know where to find true wisdom (Job 28:20). Knowledge is not wisdom. Knowledge is knowing things. Wisdom is knowing the right things. That is why wisdom can only be found through God (Job 28:23). Wisdom is having a right relationship with God (Job 28:28).

Job does not know the events of Job 1 so he does not understand why these terrible things have happened to him. He believes that God has abandoned him and he longs for days when he was close to God (Job 29:1-5). There is nothing better than having a friendship with God. Jesus said that He calls those of us who are his followers “friend”. Everything on this earth will pass away. All of it is for naught except for our relationship with God through Jesus.

Despite the close relationship that Job once had with God (actually he still had it, he just didn’t realize it), Job has to now endure the mocking of people who are unbelievers and who have made no effort to understand God in their lives (Job 30:1-31).

Life is not fair. That is a permeating theme of the book of Job. One day we can be on top of the world. The next day we can be without anything. There are no guarantees. Nor does any of it matter. All that life has to offer is temporary. The fame. The riches. The security. The only thing that will endure is our existence – we are eternal creatures as the Bible tells us. We will live forever. But once our bodies die we lose all we gained on this earth. Is any of it really worth chasing after?

This is a very relevant lesson for me in my life right now. Over the past few years I have chased after several things at the expense of my relationship with God. These things became idols to me. They were more important to me than Jesus. But in 2013, slowly but surely, God has been stripping away these things. I still am holding on to one or two of them, although my grip is loosening. The others I sometimes think about – but certainly less so now than I used to.

God’s goal in all of this is the same as was His goal for Job – to test my faith and to point out to me what is really important in life. Sadly, I’m a slow learner.


New Testament

When we are looking to serve God we need to look for opportunities (aka “open doors”). It is God who opens doors for us (2 Corinthians 2:12). Too often we turn down an opportunity because it is too scary or not convenient. But God knows what He is doing. We need to trust Him by walking through the doors that He opens.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ – the message that people can be saved from hell by faith in Christ and by no other means – is viewed either one of two ways. Those who reject this message view it as repugnant and closed minded. They think God is a God of hate and judgement. But to those people who believe this message it is the most pleasant of messages because it promises the gift of eternal life in heaven (2 Corinthians 2:15-16).


Psalms

Like Job, David felt abandoned by God and he penned a poem about having these feelings in Psalm 42. David felt distant from God, yet thirsted for Him (Psalm 42:1-2). David remembered that this was not how it always was (Psalm 42:4). Just like human relationships we will sometimes feel closer to God and sometimes farther. The difference is that when it comes to our relationship with God, He is unmoving. It is us who move away. We may feel alone and discouraged, but God is right there, pouring His love into us (Psalm 42:6,8). There is no reason to feel alone or discouraged (Psalm 42:11).

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post

Just An Invention

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Today’s Bible Reading: Job 23-27:23; 2 Corinthians 1:12-2:11; Psalm 41:1-13; Proverbs 22:5-6

Old Testament

Going through difficult times can be made even more difficult by the fact that we cannot find God. Such was the case with Job. He searched for God (Job 23:3,8). But had a hard time finding Him in the midst of his pain. Yet Job knows that God exists and is watching over him (Job 23:10). Even when we can’t see God in our lives or hear Him speak to us, He is there.

Many ancient mythologies claimed that the earth was held up on the backs of animals. But the Bible accurately debunks these theories (Job 26:7) demonstrating that it was not copied or influenced by other ancient beliefs. As I’ve written a few times before – if the writers of the Bible were making this stuff up and wanted to be believed by their contemporaries they would not have put outrageous claims like this one in their writings.

Thus far in the book of Job, Job has stated that he knows God. But he also knows that he does not, and cannot, know all there is to know about Him (Job 26:14). Our finite human minds cannot comprehend all that God is. We can know about Him, of course. And we can know some things about His character – many of which He tells us in the Bible. But there is far more to Him that we simply cannot understand. And that is a good thing. Because a god who can be completely understood by his creation is no god at all. Such a god is just an invention of the human mind.


New Testament

Evidentially the Corinthians were upset with Paul for not coming to visit them a second time (2 Corinthians 1:15-17). But apparently Paul’s first visit there had not gone so well and he didn’t see any point in going back. Paul was being lead by the Holy Spirit. He did what God told Him to do. God will direct us (assuming we are listening to Him and obey Him) as He sees fit. The Corinthians did not understand this. Often times we won’t understand why other Christians make the choices they make. But if they are making those choices based on what they are hearing from God, there is no reason for us feel slighted as the Corinthians did.

Notice that Jesus does not waver between “Yes” and “No”. He is not indecisive. He always does what He says (2 Corinthians 1: 19). We may not always get the answer from God that we want but we can be assured that He always knows what He is doing and that His decisions are in our best interests.

When someone sins against us our ultimate goal should be to forgive that person. While that may be hard at first, there comes a time when forgiveness is necessary for the forgiver as well as the forgiven. Withholding forgiveness can create great discouragement (2 Corinthians 1:7). Along with forgiveness we should comfort and reaffirm our love for the person. Notice that our love should be “reaffirmed” – we should never lose our love for those who have hurt us. Its okay to be hurt. Its not okay to lose our love.

Withholding forgiveness is a trap that Satan tries to get us to fall into (2 Corinthians 2:11). An unforgiving heart creates separation between two people which, in the case of believers, is exactly what Satan wants.


Psalms

Speaking of hurt… David addresses this in Psalm 41. Notice that David does not deny that he is hurting. His enemies, including his best friend, had turned against him (Psalm 41:5-9). But David’s focus is not on them. His focus is on God. Despite his circumstances David praises God and recognizes Him as his protector and rescuer.


Proverbs

People are more trainable when we are younger. If parents set their kids on the right course, and help them not to stray from it, that child will grow up to be more stable and successful (Proverbs 22:6). This goes against what our culture tells us. It does not take a village to raise a child. It takes a godly mother and father.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post

Emotions

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Today’s Bible Reading: Job 20-22:30; 2 Corinthians 1:1-11; Psalm 40:11-17; Proverbs 22:2-4

One thing I often run into when discussing my faith with other people is their claim that my beliefs insult them. This is the same claim that Zophar makes in Job 20:3. The fact of the matter is that if someone is insulted or offended it is because they choose to be insulted or offended. I have no control over anyone’s emotions. I can’t make anyone mad or sad. I can’t make anyone happy. Nor can anyone make me those things.

Sadly we live in a society where people don’t take ownership of their emotions. With children it is understandable. But we have a large majority of adults in our country who continue to live like they are children and who refuse to take responsibility for themselves. Even more sad, we have a government that sides with these immature people.  Our legislature and judicial system (with the encouragement of the President) are passing and upholding laws making it illegal to speak, or even think, something that offends another person. A society that approaches life this way cannot endure.

In Zophar’s first speech he spoke of “tradition” and supposed knowledge and he does the same thing today (Job 20:4). Notice that Zophar never proves his claims. He just speaks as if what he is saying is true. When I was an atheist I approached spiritual arguments the same way. I had no proof of what I was saying. I just said what sounded good to me. I blindly claimed evolution was true, assuming there was evidence for it. I pointed to all the evil on the earth as proof God did not exist, when, in fact, one has nothing to do with the other.

In response to Zophar’s claim that the wicked always experience trouble and have their life shortened – a claim he made without supporting evidence – Job points out that this is not true (Job 21:7-18). Many people who do not believe in God prosper, some prosper very much. Just look at all the entertainers in our society who make millions of dollars a year. Yet the vast majority of them do not believe in God, many openly challenging the idea that God exists and ridiculing those who believe in Him.

The truth is that wealth or poverty is not indicative of someone’s relationship with God (Job 21:22-26). We would think that God would bless those who love Him and would not bless those who don’t. But that is not how life works. My pastor just taught on the book of Job a few weeks ago and summed it up this way: “Life isn’t fair”. And God never said it would be.


In 2 Corinthians 1:3 Paul references God as our comforter. The Greek word used here is paraklesis. In other parts of the New Testament the Holy Spirit is called our paraklesis (John 14:16, 15:26) as is Jesus (1 John 2:1; Hebrews 2:18, Luke 2:25). Here is another instance where the Bible tells us that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are one in the same.

God comforts us so we can comfort others, just as He did with Paul (2 Corinthians 1:4-7). When God comforts us we become closer to Him. When we become closer to Him we learn more about Him and are more able to teach others about Him. These people can then find comfort in Him as well.

One thing all of us can do is pray. No matter where we are or what is going on in our life we can pray for other people. Prayer is a help to others and brings glory to God (2 Corinthians 1:11).


Its important to keep the right perspective in life, as David did. In Psalm 40:17 David recognizes that he is poor and needy. And because of this, he asked God to keep thinking about him. When we cease to recognize how needy we are we forget about God. We think we don’t need Him, just like a young child or teenager may think they don’t need their parents. But they do. And so do we.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post

Choose Friends Carefully

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Today’s Bible Reading: Job 16-19:29; 1 Corinthians 16:1-24; Psalm 40:1-10; Proverbs 22:1

When we are in agony because of the circumstances of life we need comfort; we don’t need people telling us what a horrible life we have lead. Yet that is exactly what Job’s “friends” do. Instead of encouraging Job, they add to his grief (Job 16:5).

Its easy to let our emotions get the better of us as they do Job in Job 16:9-12. God did not hate Job. No matter what we are going through God is with us and continues to love us. Trials are opportunities to grow closer to God and to develop our character (James 1:2-4).

The emotional distress Job was under plays out in Job 16:19 as he appeals to a God who just a few verses before he thought hated him. But since Job’s own friends provided no relief, Job turns to God (Job 16:20). When we have no other options in life, we still have God.

Could you imagine laying on your deathbed, surrounded by people who do nothing but tell you what a terrible person you’ve been? (Job 17:1-2).

Victory over trials comes through endurance (Job 17:9) which is what we read in James 1:2-4. The “righteous” (those who know God) understand this. Through such trials we become stronger so that when the trial is over we are better for having gone through it.

Bildad reiterates his belief in Job 18 – that there is a direct cause and effect relationship at work in Job’s life. Since Job was suffering, he must have done something wrong. But that is not how the world works, as we’ve already learned this year. Not every bad thing is explainable. Nor is every bad thing really bad. God intends everything for good. When going through a difficult time we can ask ourselves, “How can I get out of this?” or (better) we can ask ourselves “What can I get out of this?”.

Bildad claims that God is revealing Job’s sin through this ordeal (Job 18:21). When, in fact, God was revealing Job’s faithfulness. Trials are tests. They test our faith in God.

Choose friends carefully. That is a big lesson to me from Job. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar were not really Job’s friends. Job may not have realized this until these events. But he certainly did now (Job 19:1-5, 13, 19). There is a country song called “Find Out Who Your Friends Are” by Tracy Lawrence that speaks to this. When we go through tough times, we find out exactly who we can count on and who we can’t.

Its interesting that Job knew that he had a redeemer – someone to rescue him from his trouble (Job 19:25). Not only that, Job knew that this redeemer was not just a spirit but was flesh and blood who would “stand upon the earth”. That person was Jesus. Other Old Testament verses confirm this including Isaiah 49:26.

Today’s reading in Job wraps up with a sober warning. Job’s friends believed in a mechanical God who dished out right for right and wrong for wrong. They did not see God as the loving God that He is who does everything for our benefit. They had no personal relationship with Him and therefore were likely going to be condemned before Him after death (Job 19:29). This is what “religion” does to people. It depersonalizes God. It puts the emphasis on us and what we do rather than on God and who He is, which is where it should be.

In the final chapter of 1 Corinthians Paul addresses a few topics, including giving (1 Corinthians 16:1-2), which was a topic the Corinthians had asked him about. Notice that giving should be regular (“on the first day of each week”). When we do something regularly it becomes habitual and natural. We should also decide what we are going to give before we give it (“set aside”). This should be done prayerfully. Finally, the amount we give should be a portion of what we earned. So when we earn more money, we should give more. When we get a raise at work, the amount of money we give to God should increase proportionately.

Some of the Corinthians questioned Paul’s authority over them so he admonishes them in advance of Timothy’s arrival (1 Corinthians 16:10). Timothy was a young protege of Paul as we will learn later this year and could easily have been dismissed by the Corinthians due to his age.

David recounts five wonderful things God did for him in the first 3 verses of Psalm 40. God turned to David. He heard David’s cry. He lifted David up. He set David’s feet on solid ground. And He gave him a song of praise to sing. No wonder David goes on to say that those who trust in God will have much joy (Psalm 40:4).

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post

A Game Of Telephone

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Today’s Bible Reading: Job 12-15:35; 1 Corinthians 15:29-58; Psalm 39:1-13; Proverbs 21:30-31

Job was a godly man who had to endure not only the emotional and physical pain he was going through, but also the mocking of his so-called friends (Job 12:4). Those of us who follow Christ are often mocked by people in our lives including our own family. That is how it goes. Even Jesus’ own family and friends from Nazareth did not believe in Him.

Its always frustrating when people who don’t read their Bible or have any relationship with God explain God to me (Job 13:7-8). Always consider the qualifications of the source when you receive such information. The best source of information about God is the Bible, prayer, and through fellow believers.

Despite his circumstances, Job continues to trust God (Job 13:15). Job knew the truth about himself (Job 13:18) and also about God because he had an understanding of Him before this crisis began. Job learned truth in the calm so he could cling to it in the storm. This is always the best way to go. When the storm comes we can use it to become better people rather than letting it get the best of us. God sends us into storms for this exact reason.

After dismissing the reasoning of his friends, Job goes to God in prayer, which is always the best course of action (Job 13:20-28). Notice that Job knows that he is not perfect (Job 13:26) yet he doesn’t understand why all this is happening to him (Job 13:23). So many non-believers point to the fact that bad things happen to good people as justification for their non-belief. But that is just how life goes.

Whether good things happen to bad people or bad things happen to good people has nothing to do with God’s existence. There are plenty of good people in the Bible who had bad things happen to them. Job is one. Abel was another. Life happens. And not everything that happens proves or disproves God.

People who lived during the Old Testament did not have a clear understanding of life after death. It was not until Jesus was resurrected that this truth became known. So Job’s observation in Job 14:10-12 presents an accurate picture of people’s understanding back then. Job’s statements are not a mistruth in the Bible. While Job believed something that turned out to be wrong, the Bible truthfully portrays Job’s understanding of this issue. Hence, the Bible’s truthfulness is not blemished by these verses.

Eliphaz dismisses Job’s comments because they contradict human tradition. (Job 15:10,18). His understanding was handed down from generation to generation from one more ignorant than the one before, like a game of telephone. Truth is independent of tradition.  Nor is it decided by a majority vote. Truth comes from God and no place else.

Paul continues his discussion of life after death, including a confusing verse in 1 Corinthians 15:29. Exactly what Paul means by “baptized for those who are dead” is unknown. It seems that he is referring to a pagan practice and references it simply to show the Corinthians that even pagans believed in life after death (something the Corinthians were doubting). The Mormon practice of baptism for the dead is based on this verse but it is not affirmed by Scripture.

Paul lived life in such a way that spoke of his complete conviction that he would live after he died (1 Corinthians 15:30-32). So many of us live on earth as if this life is all there is. We seek the highest standard of living for ourselves rather than giving it all up like Paul did for the sake of other people’s eternal lives.

As we learned in Job today, we cannot get our truth about God from those who don’t know him. Paul essentially tells the Corinthians the same thing in 1 Corinthians 15:33. They had received bad information about life after death from people who didn’t know what they were talking about.

One of the most encouraging passages in all of Scripture is 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, 53 in which Paul teaches us that we will receive new bodies in the next life. These bodies will be glorious, strong, and can never die. I am looking forward to that! Keep in mind that even those who go to hell will have bodies that cannot die. This will not be a blessing to them but a curse as they will desperately want to die.

Not everyone who is ever born will die. At some point God will, in an instant, take living believers from this earth in an event known as the Rapture (1 Corinthians 15:51-53). The Rapture is the next major event on God’s timetable and it could happen at any moment.

Because of the truth of life after death, everything we do should be for the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58). There is no reason to live selfishly. Our lives should be lived serving Him.

David gives us great advice in Psalm 38. When we go through a trial we should learn to keep our mouth shut (Psalm 38:1) because the internal turmoil we are going through can cause us to say things we will regret. In these situations we can say sinful things that will be a bad witness to the non-believers who may be around us. Instead we should do what David did – he spoke to God directly (Psalm 38:4-13).

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post

Thinking Like This

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Today’s Bible Reading: Job 8-11:20; 1 Corinthians 15:1-28; Psalm 38:1-22; Proverbs 21:28-29

Job and his friends continue to debate Job’s desperate situation as Bildad speaks in Job 8. Bildad says some really insensitive things including telling Job that he was a windbag (Job 8:1) and his children were sinners who got what they deserved. While its true they were sinners (aren’t we all?), and Job knew about their questionable behavior (Job 1:5), this is not the right thing to say to someone who has just lost his children. One way to know if someone’s advice to us is from God is to evaluate its compassion and empathy. If these are missing from the advice, then so is God.

Bildad’s basic theory is that Job’s pain is proof that he has not lived with integrity. Just like those who preach a prosperity gospel, Bildad believed that anyone who walks with God will be wealthy (Job 8:6, 7). While God may bless some of us with wealth, He is under no obligation to do so. Many believers have troubles on this earth. But they will be rewarded in heaven.

Job rightly recognizes that God is mighty and that no man can question God’s righteousness. As a result he longs for a mediator (Job 9:33) through whom Job could speak to God. In fact, we now have this mediator in Jesus (1 John 2:1).

Often when life takes a bad turn we wonder why we see other people, who seem to deserve pain more than we do, prospering. Job wondered the same thing (Job 9:3).

Each and every person was intentionally designed and constructed by God (Job 10:8-12) no matter what pro-abortionists claim. Everyone’s life, including theirs, began long before we were ever conceived.

The physical pain Job was going through was affecting his ability to think clearly as we see in this chapter. He claims God’s only motive was to wait for him to sin and then hold it against him (Job 10:13-14). So many people think of God this way – as someone who is just waiting for us to screw up so He can punish us. But we know that is not true. Thinking like that keeps many from coming to God in the first place.

Job’s third friend speaks up in Job 11 and he, Zophar, is more unfeeling than the previous two, claiming Job deserves even more punishment than he was getting (Job 11:6). Zophar even gives Job a lesson on God’s character (Job 11:7-10). Its interesting that Zophar claimed that Job could not know God but in making this claim he was stating that he (Zophar) was able to know God.

There are many people in this world you claim to know God – either the biblical God or one of the other false gods. But they don’t know what they are talking about. The only way to know God is through His word and through prayer, neither of which seemed to be a high priority for any of Job’s friends.

Despite the problems in the church in Corinth, they were still doing pretty good (1 Corinthians 15:1). They were believing the message Paul had delivered to them – the message that saves (1 Corinthians 15:2).

Its interesting that many people today (including myself when I was an atheist) claim that the Bible was made up by the men who wrote it. That is not the case and one of the proofs is 1 Corinthians 15:6.

In this verse Paul states that Jesus, after He was resurrected, was seen by many people in and around Jerusalem. Most of those people were still alive at the time Paul wrote this letter. So, Paul’s claims were easily verifiable. Paul is basically telling anyone who doubts him to ask around – there were plenty of witnesses who could corroborate what Paul was writing.

If someone is going to make up a story, they don’t reference living and easily accessed witnesses. Mohammad wrote the Koran in isolation. There were no witnesses to his alleged encounter with Allah. But Jesus, who is the one and only God, did all His miracles in public. He died in public. And He appeared in public after rising from the dead. Nothing Jesus did was a secret. And the fact that it was all public makes it impossible to refute.

David was a man after God’s own heart. He was not perfect. He still sinned. And that is the basis for Psalm 38. David, although having a strong relationship with God, was burdened by his sin. Every Christian will still sin. But when we do we should not take it lightly. Sin is serious. It harms our fellowship with God. To restore that fellowship we need to confess (Psalm 38:18).

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post

That Is How Life Works

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Today’s Bible Reading: Job 4-7:21; 1 Corinthians 14:18-40; Psalm 37:30-40; Proverbs 21:27

Old Testamaent

After Job ranted about his situation in Job 3 yesterday, Eliphaz, one of his three friends, responds. Although Eliphaz’s conclusion (which we’ll see shortly) was incorrect, he does make a good point in Job 3:3-5.

Job was a godly man who had encouraged many people in the past who were going through difficult times. But now when he was going through a difficult time he lost heart. I think it is always easier to encourage others than it is to encourage ourselves. That is why we need to fill our life with godly people who will take the time to encourage us when we need it.

Eliphaz had concluded that Job was suffering because he was guilty of some sin. He based this on his “experience” (Job 3:7). You and I know, from Job 1 and 2, that this was not the case. Be wary of people who claim expertise when it comes to spiritual matters, especially those who are quick to jump to conclusions.

As we’ll see as we read the rest of Job, not once do Job’s friends ever talk to God. They only talk to Job. And they only say what they think they know. We should never take advice from ungodly friends or relatives. They don’t know what they are talking about. Their viewpoint is worldly. To Job’s credit, he rightly dismisses his friend’s advice.

Eliphaz’s “experience” told him that trouble does not come from out of nowhere (Job 5:6). But we know this is not true. We will have trouble in life simply because that is how life works. Although we certainly can bring trouble upon ourselves with our decisions and behavior, that is not always where trouble stems from.

In his plea to get Job to see his sin, Eliphaz says something else that is true. It is a joy to be corrected by God (Job 5:17). God corrects those He loves (Proverbs 3:11-12) because He wants us to sin less and become more like Him.

Job rejects Eliphaz’s advice as being unsalted and therefore tasteless and not appealing (Job 6:6). Eliphaz presence in Job’s time of need was like the promise of a refreshing brook to a traveler during the hot weather. But the brook was dried up and disappointing, as was Eliphaz’s comments (Job 6:15-18).

People don’t need to be reminded of their sin when they are down. Eliphaz’s approach seems very legalistic – If you do A you get B. But that is not exactly how things work with God. Job knew this. His friends did not.


New Testament

Paul continues to discuss speaking in tongues in 1 Corinthians 14 today. He starts off by saying that although he can speak in tongues, and is thankful for that ability, it is more important to speak words that help others (1 Corinthians 14:18). As we read yesterday, speaking in tongues is for communicating with God, not with other people.

The purpose of Christians meeting together is to edify each other (1 Corinthians 14:26b, 31). We don’t gather for to be entertained by the worship music or to hear a funny anecdote from the pastor. We gather so that when our gathering is over and we go home, we are more learned than we were before.


Psalms

Psalm 37 concludes today. Yesterday the psalm began with a warning against fretting about those who do not walk with God seemingly having a rewarding life while the godly suffer. But we have no reason to worry or be afraid. God will never let those who follow His law slip away (Psalm 37:31) nor will He let us be ambushed by the wicked (Psalm 37:33).

Instead of looking at the apparent successes of unbelievers, we should keep our eyes on God (Psalm 37:34). They will be destroyed (Psalm 37:38). But we will be rescued (Psalm 37:39-40).

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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