(64 quiet-times as at 13/09/17)
Knowing it but not knowing Him - Luke 4.9-12
The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, that you will not strike your foot against a stone. Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
There are many people out in the world today who don't know God and often hate God but like to make it their mission to try and tell everyone what the Bible says or means! Honestly, it's ridiculous. Why do people who don't believe in God try and tell everyone else there's no God! If there's no God then don't worry about what people think. The real reason that people try and tell others that there is no God is because there is a God and inside their souls in the deep places, these people know there's a God. It's not other people they're ultimately trying to convince, it's themselves!
The devil is the inspirer of all these lies about God. But he even tried it with Jesus. In Luke 4 we see a prime example of where someone knows the Bible but then misuses it and applies it in the wrong way deliberately to fit their own selfish aims. The devil knows the Bible and those who hate God in society sometimes know about the Bible but don't know God. So the key to rightly using the Bible is missing. In WW2 there was a German code called Enigma. Without the machine to decode the encrypted code, you couldn't understand what it was saying. When people who don't know God try to tell others about the Bible, it's like people reading the Enigma code without having the Enigma machine to decode it. But our challenge is when people come at us with all kinds of lies about the Bible, do we know the Bible and God well enough to know what is the truth and how to reply? Time to ask God for help and get into the Bible.
Listen, Let, Learn - Colossians 3.16
Colossians 3.16 - "Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts."
It is a great thing to read the Bible. Many of our problems, questions, issues, doubts would be pushed back if we read the Bible every day. But reading isn't always enough. Sometimes we need to go deeper than just reading. The Bible isn't simply like any old book that we can skim read and move on. If we really want to hear from God it means we need to study, to write notes, to think about, to talk about the Bible. It's good to be part of a church or groups where what God says is central. God speaks to us through the Word but he and other ways because God is inside us by the Holy Spirit.
Look again at what Colossians says... It talks about 'letting' the message of Christ 'dwell' among you 'richly'. So we need to allow God's truths to get on the inside of us. We need to 'dwell' in what God says, not just visit like a tourist. Dwell means stay, make our home, be comfortable. Then we need to allow God's message to speak to us 'richly'. Imagine there is a big feast or big BBQ but you only decide to have a piece of salad. That's often what we do with the Bible. But if we hang out with the Bible, we can have a rich feast that fills us up and encourages us to share it with others - just like Jesus shared the bread with the hungry. What this is really all about is living with the Bible and letting the Bible live in you - it's a lifestyle not just a taster session. Once you know how rich and life-giving the Bible is, a taster isn't enough. As a friend of mine says, you need to get involved!
Meet The Author - 2 Peter 1.20-21
"Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God."
There is a series on BBC Radio 4 called 'Meet The Author'. This series does 15 minute interviews with authors of various books. A promotional video done by the BBC informed us that if we want to understand a book, we need to get to know the author. You could also say the opposite is true: in order to understand an author, you need to read the book!
If this is true of humans and their books, how much more is it true of God and his Word - The Bible. The Bible reveals who God truly is and we also understand the Bible when we know God. It is strange that many people try to tell us who God is (even those that hate God). But they can't truly understand God any more than we can understand someone else's wife more than the husband. You get to know the Bible when you know God personally and if you want to know God more, he can be found in the Bible. The Bible reveals God and knowing God reveals the Bible.
So if we want to know the book, we need to get to know the author - God (through the Holy Spirit). Yes, different people wrote down the Bible but it was God who inspired it. The Bible tells us this and all kinds of evidence does too. So do you know God? Do you want to? Just ask him today to come into your life and change you to live for him. If you already know God, you can get to know him better. Read the Bible and just ask God to show himself to you more by the power of the Holy Spirit!
The whole Bible - Hebrews 4.12
"For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires."
One of the things that has happened since Genesis is that the devil has attacked God's word and who God is. He started by asking Adam & Eve, "did God really..." He questioned what God had said and made them doubt who God was. This is happening more and more today. People are listening to what man says more than what God says. And the result has been a huge mess and people who want to silence God completely.
But we have the truth in God's Word and it is powerful, sharp, cutting through what people do and say - no wonder people want to silence what God says. And the Bible truth is what we need and what the world around us needs. But in order to tell people about God, it helps that we know God. The very best way to know God is to find him in the Bible. Yes, you will find God in other Christians, in the gifts that God gives and can hear from God directly. But the Bible will always be the truth.
The Bible is a complete book. Every book talks about Jesus (even if you don't realise it). The books of the Bible work together and without parts of it, we miss a bit of who God is and what he says. It's like having a puzzle with missing pieces. Sometimes people only talk from the New Testament (second half of the Bible). But we also need the Old Testament. Without it, something is missing. So when you read the Bible, read the whole Bible. Start with Genesis and finish with Revelation. And don't listen to what people who hate God say... Instead know that the Bible is true. God wrote it and he's much bigger and greater than anyone!
Use your tablet (or smartphone) - Habakkuk 2.2-3
"Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay."
Reading this verse is a bit of a laugh out loud moment. In Habakkuk, we find God speaking to the prophet. God told Habakkuk to write down what God had shown him. How was he going to do this? On a tablet... Yet more evidence that the Bible is ahead of the time it was written...
OK so that's not really serious. The Bible was talking about one of those stone tablets they would have used at that time. But the point is a good one that the Bible is always up to date and relevant. There's never a time that the Bible isn't needed or contemporary and don't let anyone else tell you it isn't relevant! Every day in every situation in every country, for every age group the Bible has something to say about our life and how God wants us to be. We can trust God. When God speaks, he will do what he says. The Bible (like God) is completely reliable. Don't let the people who lie about God tell you any different.
The other thing God told Habakkuk is also important - write down what God says to you. Myfishbites started because God called me to record the youth work I did for free. Every time God speaks something, I try to write it down. God speaks through the Bible and sometimes he speaks to us directly. It's good to write it down so we don't forget what he says and so we can see how faithful God is to us. You can write it down in a diary or on your computer. You can even write it down on your tablet - stone or otherwise...
The Bible divides - Hosea 14.9
Let those who are wise understand these things. Let those with discernment listen carefully. The paths of the Lord are true and right, and righteous people live by walking in them. But in those paths sinners stumble and fall. (New Living Translation)
One of the things that the Bible does is confront people with God's truth. Many times people don't like the truth and don't want to hear it. In various countries, people have tried to ban the Bible. Even in Western countries, some groups want the Bible banned because it offends them or they believe it says so-called 'hateful' things. This is completely the wrong way round of course - the Bible actually guides us on how to live life to the very best. But people who want to live life in their way, with their rules and their thinking - find the Bible goes against what they want to do and believe. So people try to ban it or try to say it's a horrible book. But it isn't. The Bible simply displays God's goodness and his right way of living. But people react against this because they are confronted with the real truth. They don't like it. You have to ask why people get so upset about the Bible. These same people don't want to ban other 'holy books' from other religions - it is the Bible that is targeted time after time.
Hosea knew this well. He said that the paths and the ways of God are right and true. People who love God walk in these right ways. But those who oppose God or hate God stumble and fall. There are two reactions to the ways of God (demonstrated clearly in the Bible). People who are Godly will want to be changed by God to walk in his paths. But it will also cause other people to stumble, to fall and to react abusively and violently. And we're seeing this happen today. The Bible forces people to make a decision - just as Jesus does. Will you follow him or not? Is he the truth or not? Your decision will affect your life now and for eternity. So choose life, choose blessing, choose God and the Bible today.
Love your neighbour - Leviticus 19.17-18
“Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbour frankly so that you will not share in their guilt.
‘“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.
In the Old Testament times, when God led the people of Israel through the desert and into the Promised Land, he gave them loads of rules. Today we don't understand all of these rules and we definitely don't have to do them all as Christians. (Orthodox Jews still follow hundreds of rules). Many of these Old Testament rules were for Jewish ceremonies, others were to keep them safe and healthy, others have truths that we should still put into our lives today. The good thing for us today is that Jesus told us that all the commands of the Old Testament can be summarised as, "Love God and love your neighbour as yourself.' Phew! Be grateful for what Jesus did and the fact that if you're a Christian, Jesus lives on the inside of you, changing you from the inside-out. In the Old Testament, the people just had rules!
But sometimes we still need these Old Testament principles - they are still the word of God. We often apply them differently because Jesus bridged the gap between us and God. In Leviticus 19.18, we see that God told his people to love their neighbour as themselves - treat others how you'd want to be treated. But we also see that this was done with the verse before which told the people to rebuke their neighbour so they didn't share in their guilt. Basically what this means is that loving your neighbour (especially family) also can include confronting them when they are wrong. We do this in a loving way but to not speak up when wrong things happen means that we aren't loving people as God wants us to. A good parent speaks up if their child does something wrong or is about to hurt themselves - this is love. We should be sensitive but also speak up in love because we care for others. Letting people do whatever they want at any cost is not loving - you don't allow a child to run into a road saying 'don't tell them off, it will offend them'. This doesn't mean jumping into other people's business thinking that you know best (God is in charge of judging, not us!) But love speaks up and speaks out.
God-breathed and God-inspired - 2 Timothy 3.16
2 Timothy 3.16 - All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (right living).
There are many people out there who don't believe that the Bible is the Word of God. Many people, even some Christians, argue things like, "it's just a helpful guide for us" or "it's not really perfect and completely true because it was different men who wrote it". There's even an article on a Christian website headed, 'Why the Bible is not the word of God.' Then some people say it's completely true. So how do we deal with all these things?
If you want to know what someone is feeling or thinking, the best person to ask is that person! The same is true of the Bible. If we want to know what the Bible is saying, the Bible is the best place to find out. If we want to know God's heart, then we go to God. So the best way to understand what the Bible is and what it's saying is by looking in the Bible and getting God's viewpoint on things! We need to be careful when we go to other people to understand what the Bible is saying because none of us have the whole picture, sometimes people are wrong and there are others with their own agendas. There are even some people who hate God who have said they will refuse to agree with the Bible no matter what and even if it's proved true! So why would we even listen to what they say?! It'd be like someone who hates you and doesn't know you try to tell someone else what you were like or were thinking - they couldn't.
So when we think of the truth of the Bible, we should first read the Bible and think about anything in the context of the whole Bible. In 1 Peter 2, Peter tells his friends that prophecy in the Scripture (the Word of God) wasn't just something made up by people but came from God by the Holy Spirit. We can easily say that this applies not just to prophecy but to the whole Word of God because 2 Timothy 3.16 tells us that all Scripture is God-breathed. The word used for breathed means 'in-breathing' and refers to 'divine inspiration.' So, just as in the beginning God breathed life into man, so God breathed the word of God into man who wrote it down, inspired by God. So we know for sure that the Bible is inspired by God and we know that God does not lie and is complete truth. We know that Jesus (the living word of God) lived a perfect, sinless life. So we can be sure that the written word of God (which is God's word that he knows we need, not everything about God!) is also perfect and true.
On a donkey, on a colt... Zechariah 9.9 and Matthew 21.7
"Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey."
One of the things about the web is that there are lots of people saying all kinds of things. Wherever you go, there are comments at the end of web articles. If you ever read through the comments you'll find all kinds of opinions. If you read regular websites, blogs and even news sites, you'll also find people who say all kinds of things. When you read through this, you have to ask yourself what kind of person is writing this, how much do they really know and why are they writing what they are writing. On one of these websites, someone who was very hostile towards God said that the Bible was full of general promises that could mean anything. But of course this is a complete lie. The Bible has many exact things that were spoken about in the Old Testament and exactly happened in the New Testament (and since the Bible was written). In the case of this writer, you could not trust what he said about the Bible!
One of the things about the Bible is that you are reading words from God. When you read something from God, you can be sure of who wrote it, what they are like and why. God is the God of the universe and has always been around, even from before time began! (Get your head around that one!) He is completely trustworthy, completely true, completely perfect and he knows everything. He knows what's best for all of us and wants what is best for all of us. He wants to take what is bad and make it good. You can also trust that what is written is completely accurate, unlike many things you read or see in papers, online or on TV!
In Zechariah 9.9, we read a prophecy. A prophecy is a prediction that comes from God but is spoken by a man or woman about the future. In Zechariah 9.9, the prophet Zechariah is given something by God to say about the future. It is about Jesus (the 'king') riding on a donkey. Unlike the comments of the writer who spoke against the Bible on a web page, this prophecy happened exactly as spoken - as we see in Matthew 21.7. We also see how specific the Bible is. In Zechariah it talks about a donkey and a colt. In Matthew 21.7, we read that "(The disciples) brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on." The Bible can be trusted and is completely trustworthy!
Truth - John 17.17 - "Your Word Is Truth"
In 1845, two ships set out from England to find a route through the Arctic around a place called King William Island, northern Canada, looking for a way through the ice called the Northwest Passage. The leader of the expedition was Sir John Franklin. Sadly for the crew, this was a cold winter and all of those on-board the two ships died. The whereabouts and fate of the expedition only came to light when the British government sent search parties to find out what had happened. One of those searching was the incredible Scottish explorer, John Rae who had learned to live as the native people, the Inuits. He spoke to some Inuit men who showed him that the men on the expedition had died. Many searches over the years have failed to find either of the two ships. But in 2014, one of the ships was discovered. Those researching the location of the ship used the testimony of the Inuits to help locate the wreckage of the ship, called the HMS Erebus. The Inuit don't have history books like us. They pass down their history and the location of places and other information by word of mouth. And it was the reliability of their word of mouth that helped find HMS Erebus.
There are many people in the world today who don't want to accept the reliability of the Bible or who actually work to try and show it's not reliable. Most of these people do so because they are against God. Usually their ideas are dismissed because their evidence, lack of evidence or the way they use the evidence is shown to be wrong. And through all of this, the Bible is constantly proved right. In August 2015, archaeologists (people who dig up the ground to find history) found the 'gate of Gath' (1 Samuel 21.12) which is the city where Goliath is from. These were found in a dig in the Judean foothills between Jerusalem and Ashkelon in Israel. It proves the Bible is right, yet again!
Did you know that the Bible is absolutely trustworthy and that what was written is accurate. What we read in the Bible is true. Jonathan Marrow, an expert on these things says this, "the New Testament is by far the best-attested work of Greek or Latin literature in the ancient world." What he means is that the New Testament (just as an example) has lots of copies of original documents, from very early after the events took place and there are no essential differences between any of these original documents. Nothing else from the ancient world has anything like the reliability of the New Testament. It's amazing that when the historians accepted the testimony of Inuit people from 160 years ago, they found it to be true and the found the wreck of a ship. We have the Gospel of Mark probably written within 25-40 years of the events happening. When we follow this, we will find the Bible to be true and we can meet God through Jesus!
Put your hope in God's Word - Psalm 119.114 & Psalm 130.5
"You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word."
"I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope."
What do you put your trust in? People put their trust in all kinds of crazy things. Some people read things in the paper that claim to tell you what's going to happen in your life relating to the month when you were born. These things are written by regular people who have no clue about anything compared to God. Most of what they say is so general that anyone could say it and it could be talking about anyone. Whereas the Bible has hundreds of things in that have actually happened!!
When you sit in a chair, you have faith that the chair will work. When you get in a car, you trust it will work. When you look up in the morning, you have faith that the sun will be there (somewhere, you probably won't see it in the UK...) We all put our trust in lots of things without thinking but very often we don't put our trust in the Bible, which is the words of God, are totally trustworthy (because God is) and actually contain the power within the words to do what God says!! It's a bit mad when you think about it.
But we need to have the right attitude - and the one that we read about in the Bible. In Psalm 119 and 130 (and elsewhere in the Bible), the writers and the characters in the Bible put their trust in God's Word. We should do the same. Put your hope in God's Word (the Bible) - making sure you don't misuse the Bible (God won't answer those kinds of prayers!).But God will never fail you and can never deny what he says!
Word becoming flesh - John 1.14
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1 tells us about Jesus. Jesus was the Word of God that became flesh. So what does this mean? It means that Jesus was the living human body of God's Word. The Greek word used for 'Word' is 'logos' which is a divine word or communication. It also refers to "expressing the thoughts of the Father through the Spirit."
Jesus was a living, breathing, speaking, doing, active 'Word of God' with legs. He was a walking and talking Bible! Jesus was the Word of God already but when he came into the world he became a human Word of God! He was full of God's kindness and full of truth - just like the Bible is.
OK, you say, that's great but how does it relate to me? Think about it this way: Jesus was the exact representation of Father God (see Hebrews 1.3). He is our perfect model of the way we should be and the things we should do. So here's a challenge - what would it look like for us to become the Word made flesh? What would it look like for us to be so full of God's truth and the ways of Jesus that people look at us and say 'wow, they're like a living Bible, they're like a modern-day Jesus'. No I'm not talking about just reading off verses or wearing a white robe and growing a beard! Nor is this saying we become like Jesus! No - I'm talking about a lifestyle that attracts people to Jesus! A lifestyle that people see in us and see Jesus!
Reservations - 1 Peter 1.3-5
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."
I was once away for a few weeks across England and Scotland doing various things like helping people move house, climbing mountains and more! On the way back home, I stopped off to visit my Grandad in Birmingham. Getting the train from Penrith, I decided to upgrade my ticket to a reservation in first class. It was one of the best things I did because I was quite tired out from being 'on the road' for a while. So I kicked back in my comfy first class seat with some nice food from the friendly Virgin train hostess and just relaxed. It was awesome!
Something even better than a first class seat is waiting for all those who believe in Jesus! Yes I know that's hard to believe... (joke!) If we have faith in Jesus then heaven waits for us - somewhere so incredible that according to one person who died and went to heaven then returned, it has sounds, colours and happiness that is beyond anything we can feel or think. The Bible tells us that what we do for God on earth is counted as a reward in heaven and we won't lose this reward. God has got a reservation for you in heaven and it's something amazing beyond anything you can even imagine!
Hezekiah - God first, the rest follows - 2 Chronicles 31.20-21
"This is what Hezekiah did throughout Judah, doing what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God. In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered."
When I was working as a teaching assistant in a school, I used to find it interesting to go into the staff room. Sat there chatting to people, you'd hear lots of the conversations. Some people (not all) would say some pretty nasty things about students. Others would be talking about their night out drinking and clubbing at the weekend. Some would be explaining about what they were going to do when they retired. Others were on about possible jobs and promotions. Many would talk about their families or about students they were helping. These are the kinds of things that people think and talk about.
No doubt King Hezekiah (who was a King of Judah, part of the nation of Israel, during the Old Testament times) had times of thinking about some of these same kinds of things. But the Bible's "report card" on Hezekiah says that he did what was 'good and right and faithful before the Lord... He sought God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered.'
What this means is that King Hezekiah mostly obeyed God. He did things that were good, things that were right and he stayed true to God. Hezekiah did listen to other people's advice (see 2 Chronicles 32.2) but he put God first. He also worked hard and with all his heart. And so he did well. God says to you and to me, "Put me first. Do what you can. Stick at doing what I call you to do. And as you put me first, other things will just work out. As you do what you can do, I'll do what you can't do!"
Hezekiah - After all I've done - 2 Chronicles 32.1
"After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah. He laid siege to the fortified cities, thinking to conquer them for himself."
I once went through quite a tough time when I really felt satan attacking me. What happened was that I got really worried about my eyes (they were tired!) But then I started getting all these thoughts in my head that there was something really wrong with my eyes. The Bible says that we can resist the devil and he will flee from us. So after fighting the enemy in prayer, God came through and helped me. I went for an eye test and the optician said my retina was 'perfect' although I'm slightly short-sighted (currently). I was often praying during this time and had times of thinking, 'after all I've done for God and this has happened...!' (Actually, when we feel the enemy attack us, it's often a sign we are doing the right thing for God!)
But Hezekiah did the right thing. After all he had done for God, after doing some amazing things to build up the towns, bring the law back, help build the temple, help the Levites and priests do their duties etc. he had another King come and attack him! Unbelievable! But instead of having a bad attitude (like I did sometimes!), Hezekiah sought God, sought advice of his advisers, stood strong and then acted wisely and saw God bring a great victory for him.
If like me, you occasionally feel a bit sorry for yourself, take time to look at the Bible and see how faithful God is. Say sorry to God for having the wrong attitude. Get some people to pray for you, encourage you. Encourage yourself by having fun and maybe getting some sleep! Then take some action. For me it was going to the opticians. But do something to step forward and be determined not to let the enemy beat you - just like Hezekiah!
Freedom not slavery, laughter not evil - Galatians 4.21-26
"Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise. These things are being taken figuratively: the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: this is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother."
This is quite a difficult section of the Bible to fully understand. Paul was writing a letter to a church in a place called Galatia (modern day Turkey). They had forgotten that we are made right with God through Jesus (alone) and not the things we do. We cannot 'earn' our way to God. In fact we learn (Romans 8.2 and 1 Corinthians 15.56) that the 'law' brings death. So they needed reminding by Paul that their life and freedom was in and through Jesus. As a way of illustrating this, he looked back to Genesis 16 and the story of how Abraham had tried to fulfil God's promise of making him the father of many nations by sleeping with his servant Hagar and not with his wife Sarah. (It was Sarah who suggested this crazily - the lesson is we wait for God to fulfil his promises and don't ever try to make things happen ourselves!) Paul said to the Galatians - live in freedom, be an Isaac not an Ishmael.
But there is another principle we can learn. Abraham wrongly slept with his servant and not his wife and gave birth to Ishmael. In Genesis 16.12 the prophecy about Ishmael was, "He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility towards all his brothers." Not great huh?! And this prophecy came true just as the Bible said. Now compare this to the child of promise, Isaac. The name Isaac means 'he laughs'. Sarah even said, "‘God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me." (Genesis 21.6).
THE LESSON: when we do things (not God), we end up with 'war' and 'division'. When we do things God's way, it's always amazing and even brings laughter. So here's a test for what's going on in your life or decisions you're thinking of. Will they bring 'war' and 'division' in a bad way? If so it's not from God. He will bring laughter. The great thing about God is that even in the bad stuff, he can change things to bring laughter. But it's even better to go with God's way FIRST!
God's Word is the guide - Psalm 119.133
"Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me." The Amplified Bible translation says, "Establish my steps and direct them by [means of] Your word; let not any iniquity have dominion over me."
I once read an article in an online Christian magazine (it was an article about marriage). Someone wrote this in the comments section: "Be very, *very* careful of getting 'words from the Lord' in an area as fraught as this; it is far too easy to get things wrong, because of the weight of emotions tied up in something as sensitive (and important) as this."
God does speak to us today. He does this in a number of ways. For example I became a Christian after my brother was killed. I didn't really know the Bible but I heard God speak to me (I can't quite explain it but it was like a 'knowing' in my heart) and God called me to pray this, "Lord, bless and protect my family." I have prayed this hundreds of times and God keeps on answering this prayer. I then found this was taken from a great prayer from Number 6.24-26 which says, "“‘The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face towards you and give you peace.’” So the prayer (the word) that God gave me lined up with the Bible (and the principles of the Bible).
It is so important to know that when God speaks he never does anything against the Bible, against his character or his nature. Many people have supposedly had 'words' that go against the Bible and this is wrong. It's deception (believing something wrong as if it's right). So one of my new prayers is now Psalm 119.133. "God, please direct my footsteps according to your Word (and your word alone). Let no sin rule over me." Why not pray this great prayer every day too?
Word = Life (John 6.63)
"The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you – they are full of the Spirit and life."
Did you know that the words that Jesus speaks are life. They don't just bring life; they are life. From Deuteronomy 8.3 we know that man doesn't live by just eating (bread) but on 'eating' every word that comes from God. We all need food to live but the Word of God is beyond even our natural food. How do people fast (go without food) for 40 days as Jesus did and many people have since? Part of how they do this is through filling themselves up with the Word because the Word of God brings life. We see this word 'life' repeated over and over in relation to the Bible.
We live in a dark world at times. There are wars, murder, the rise of extremists of many types. We look around and could actually get a bit depressed as there seems to be so much crime, death, stealing and killing. But there is a solution. Jesus told us this in John 10.10 when he said that he came to bring life.
In John 6.63, Jesus told the disciples around him that the 'flesh' part of us brings only death (our human bodies will die one day). But the Spirit of God gives life. Jesus then told them that the words he spoke are full of the Spirit and life. So if you need filling up and live life, see life - you need to get filled up with the Word - filled up with Jesus. When we look at this word 'life' in both John 10.10 and John 6.63 we find out it means, "life, both of physical (present) and of spiritual (particularly future) existence." God's Word brings life to you both NOW and in the future! The Bible is not some old dead book!! It contains God's power. If you've seen 'Book of Eli' you'll know the 'bad' guy wanted the Bible as he knew its power. We should know and use the Bible in our lives and around us and see God bring his life!
The Word Impacts - Judges 3.20-22, 26, 28
Ehud then approached him while he was sitting alone in the upper room of his palace and said, ‘I have a message from God for you.’ As the king rose from his seat, Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king’s belly. Even the handle sank in after the blade, and his bowels discharged. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it.. (the servants) saw their lord fallen to the floor, dead.. Ehud got away. He passed by the stone images and escaped to Seirah... ‘Follow me,’ he ordered, ‘for the Lord has given Moab, your enemy, into your hands.’ So they followed him down and took possession of the fords of the Jordan that led to Moab; they allowed no one to cross over.
When we read through some of the Old Testament we can be shocked by some of the things that people did or were asked to do. Whatever you think, the truth is that all the Bible is useful and everything in the Bible is an example for us to learn from. In this story, the people of Israel had been taken over by the King of Moab because of their disobedience. Note that God isn't harsh but when we do wrong there are consequences. But when the people cried out to God, he sent them a deliverer - Ehud. Ehud went to the King of Moab and tricked him into letting him speak to him alone. While they were alone, Ehud took a hidden sword and stabbed it into the evil King and killed him. Ehud then escaped and led the people to do what was right. Never underestimate what you can achieve through doing the right Godly things!
In Hebrews, the Bible is described as a sword. So what can we learn? Well, Ehud had his sword with him. He was armed for battle. His sword was hidden but it got through security. The lesson is that God's Word reaches into places and peoples that the enemy cannot stop! We should also be armed with the Bible - carrying it with us in our hearts, on our phone or in our Bibles. Then Ehud used his sword and so should we with the Bible - speaking it, knowing it and living it out. Then Ehud didn't just poke the sword into the evil King - he stuck it right into his body. The Bible is living and powerful and so we shouldn't hold back using it but being fully committed to believing it and using it to bring good, deliverance, healing, life, change, right living, hope, peace, joy, truth! When Ehud used the sword the people were set free and when we use the Bible, we will see our life and the lives of others set free!
Reading all the Bible - John 3.13-18
"No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven – the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son."
Sometimes it's easy to get to know a Bible verse but we can forget the other verses that are around it. Some of the cults (like Jehovah Witnesses) even edit the Bible to make it say what they want to say. We may not go that far but we also need to be careful not to randomly pick verses out of the Bible. One of these verses we slightly get a bit wrong is John 3.16 which only makes sense when we read the verses around it and think back to the Old Testament book of Numbers...
Back in Numbers 21, the people of Israel were moaning about eating manna that God amazingly provided every day - we'd likely be the same especially in the West where we have so much choice! God sent snakes among the people because he was angry, When Moses spoke to God on behalf of the people, God told Moses to make a pole like a snake and when people looked at it, they'd be healed from the snake bite. Back in John 3, we find that this is the same way that God showed his love for the world. Jesus was 'lifted up' on a cross to pay the price for our sin. Now everyone who 'looks to' Jesus (believe in him) and his sacrifice will be saved (set free from the death and sin). This is how God showed his love for the world and he's still showing it today. Be someone who thanks God, lifts up God and points others to God.
The 'Covenant' is central - Joshua 4.10-11
"Now the priests who carried the ark remained standing in the middle of the Jordan until everything the Lord had commanded Joshua was done by the people, just as Moses had directed Joshua. The people hurried over, and as soon as all of them had crossed, the ark of the Lord and the priests came to the other side while the people watched."
In Joshua 4, Joshua had taken over the leadership of the people of Israel from Moses. One of the first things the people had to do was to cross the River Jordan. God showed his was with Joshua by making a way across the river and doing a miracle that was just as incredible as when the people crossed the Red Sea escaping from Egypt. Again, God held back the waters of the river so that the people could cross. It was supernatural, despite some historians trying to find ways it could have happened. We know this because the Bible tells us the ground was completely dry (Joshua 4.22-23). Dry river beds don't happen naturally overnight!
So what do we mean when we say 'the covenant is central'? Well in Exodus 25.16 and 21, God said "Then put in the ark the tablets of the covenant law, which I will give you... Place the cover on top of the ark and put in the ark the tablets of the covenant law that I will give you." So Moses put the 10 Commandments in the Ark (also in there was his rod and a pot of manna - Jesus being the 'bread of life'). So the 'Law' (we'd call this the Bible today) was in the Ark of the Covenant. And where did the guys carrying the Ark go? Joshua 4.10 tells us they stood 'in the middle of the Jordan'. So as the people walked across the Jordan, the Bible went first and then the Bible was central and the Bible was at their back too. So the lesson is that we must obey God's commands and make the Bible central in our life. As we do this, God will go ahead of us and cover us behind (Isaiah 52.11-12 for more!)
The Word over words - Matthew 3.16-17 - Matthew 4.4
(This quiet-time comes courtesy of Joseph Prince from his TV broadcast, 18/3/14).
As soon as Jesus was baptised, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’ Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting for forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.’ Jesus answered, ‘It is written: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.
In some Christian churches and meetings, there is a real focus on 'hearing a word' from God. Now God does speak in many ways to us today. But the main way is through the Bible, God's Word. We should be careful not to substitute 'words' for The Word. Only God's Word is completely true whereas when people say things, they may be wrong completely or wrong in many ways. By following people's words they think are from God we can be helped and encouraged. But often people get themselves in real problems. You will never do anything against God's will or ways if you obey the Bible. Anything that goes against the Bible or Bible principles is never from God - never!!
Joseph Prince points out that when Jesus was tempted by the devil, he defended himself by using the Word of God (from the Old Testament). But Jesus had just had 'a word from heaven' when God spoke saying, 'this is my son who I love and am well pleased with.' Jesus didn't defend himself with this word eg he didn't say to the devil, "I'm God's son who he loves." Instead, Jesus chose to speak the Word of God from the Bible. So let's not reject having words from God but never ever put them ahead of God's definitely true Word - the Bible.
Wills - Psalm 40.8
"I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart."
What kinds of things make you tick? Maybe you want to be popular. I guess we all want people to like us! Or maybe you want to be a musician, an actor, a celebrity, play sports for a team or even internationally, or make a movie. Or maybe your ambitions aren't quite like that: maybe you want to be married, or have children, or have a nice house, a big family. There are all kinds of things that are good but we should never put these things in first place in our life. If God has gifted you in something, he may well call you to do that thing. Tim Tebow is an American footballer who provides an inspiration to many with both his footballing abilities and his faith. God gives us (right) desires for a reason - that's how he made us and often the things he made us to like and do well at, are the things he wants us to do. Other times, people are called by God to give up something good that they may be brilliant at, to do other things. But in all this, we have to be sure of the reason we do these things is because we want to do God's will.
Sometimes we can make "God's will" into something over spiritual! For example, God tells us to love God and to love other people. As followers of Jesus we are told in Matthew 28 to go into all the world and preach the Good news about Jesus, baptising people in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As Jesus followers, we are like Jesus - we can pray for the sick, help people, give, serve, be kind, love our enemies and go the extra mile for no reward, even when no-one is looking (God is!) In Psalm 40, it was also looking forward to Jesus. His heart and the heart of David who wrote the Psalm was to do God's will. I can honestly say that with all my failings that I desire to do God's will more than anything. And for this we need to know God's heart, which comes through his Word being in our heart. So if you want to know God's will, get into the Word and let God's Word, life, love and actions spill out from you to other people!
The Bible and Jesus - Matthew 24.35
"Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away."
In a feature with a local newspaper, a local vicar told the paper that in his church they didn't believe in the Bible but instead they followed what Jesus did. So did he have a point in what he said? No, not really. Time after time, Jesus spoke from the Old Testament (especially Deuteronomy). This shows that Jesus followed what God had written through his people in the Old Testament. So if a church does what Jesus did, then the church should follow the Bible! In John 1.1, we find that Jesus is 'The Word' of God so to follow Jesus is to follow the Bible and to follow the Bible is the same as following Jesus.
For example, when he was tempted by the devil, he quoted from Deuteronomy 8.3 (recorded in Matthew 4.4) saying, "Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." Here we see that Jesus was very clear that we live a life that is based on what God says through his Word, the Bible. So again, followers of Jesus are those who follow the Bible. The two things (Jesus and the Bible) cannot be separated! In John 17.17 we hear the prayer of Jesus asking God, "Sanctify (the disciples) by the truth; your word is truth." So there is more evidence that Jesus confirms that the Bible is God's Word and that it is truth!
Finally, we come to our verse for this quiet-time. Jesus tells his disciples that heaven and earth will one day disappear and be gone - they won't go on forever. But God's Word is different - the word of God will never pass away; it is forever; eternal. The word used for 'Word' is the Greek word 'logos' which refers to God's written Word. So we cannot follow Jesus without following the Bible!
Read the Bible right! 2 Timothy 2.15
From The Amplified Version of the Bible - "Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth."
In January 2014, someone took a photo of a Morrisons supermarket (grocery store) in Tavistock, Devon. The photo (which you can find here) was funny because the ''Morrisons' sign at the front of the store and which was backlit to light up the sign, normally spells "M O R R I S O N S". However, three of the lights had gone out on the lettering (the letters, "R I S") meaning that if you only read the lit up letters it read, "M O R O N S" !!
So what happened here? Well, because three of the letters weren't lit up, the word completely changed it's meaning! And this is what Paul was on about in the Bible when he wrote to Timothy. You see, if you just take individual Bible verses and read them, they don't always make sense or they end up having the wrong meaning. You always need to read a Bible verse thinking about the verses around it and in the rest of the Bible. Otherwise you miss out on what the Bible is really saying. Paul encouraged his mate Timothy to "rightly handle... the Word of Truth". And we all need to do the same thing. Not doing so means you can end up believing wrong things about the Bible. The last thing any of us want to do is end up sounding like "M O R O N S" ;)
Who Is God? Exodus 34.5-7
Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.’
There's a huge amount of people out there today who really want to distort the picture of who God is. They actively disrespect God, write books about how 'terrible' God is (not!) and basically tell lies about him. Just to warn you - not everyone who claims to have knowledge is right! So who is God? Well, Moses had a great revelation of God in Exodus 34 and here's what we learn about the character of God...
He is compassionate (that means he cares); He is gracious (that means kind); He is slow to anger (unlike humans!); He is bursting full and over in love; He is totally faithful and reliable; He's so awesome and full of love he loves thousands and millions simultaneously. God also forgives wickedness, sin and rebellion. No other religion even dares say anything like that! But God takes what's bad and makes it good if we let him. So when people say God is good, they are right. God is good. But here's the flip - God is also holy. Because God is good and right, this means that he has to take action where there is injustice, evil and where people don't care and reject God - then he will not leave the guilty unpunished. A good parent disciplines and trains their children. God is the same. Imagine a President who said he was good but refused to punish people who murdered others. He wouldn't really be good. God is good but this also means that he always does what is right and brings justice where there is wrong.
Guarding the Word - Exodus 25.20-22
"The cherubim are to have their wings spread upwards, overshadowing the cover with them. The cherubim are to face each other, looking towards the cover. Place the cover on top of the ark and put in the ark the tablets of the covenant law that I will give you. There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the covenant law, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites."
The situation in Exodus 25 was that God was giving Moses the Law - the commandments that would govern all of the life and conduct for the people of Israel. God did this because he cared for the people and wanted to look out for them - it wasn't because he wanted to control them! God was talking to Moses about building a place where God could 'live' on earth and the Ark was to be the place that stored the Ten Commandments (the 'Testimony') that God would give to Moses.
OK, so we know from the Bible that Jesus fulfilled all of these laws so now we're not under 'law' but under 'grace'. This means God has put his Holy Spirit in us if we believe in God. The Holy Spirit directs us to Jesus and helps us become like him. So we're changed from the 'inside-out' and not 'outside-in' like in the Old Testament. But we can learn so much from the Old Testament Law. Here we find God telling Moses to build the ark with two angels with their wings looking upwards (in worship), made of gold (valuable) and covering the lid of the ark (protection). Inside the ark would go the Testimony. And this is the main point: the ark held God's law inside it and the people guarded it and treasured it. This is how we should respond to the Bible. The Bible isn't just some book we read, it's something that we need to put 'inside' us. We do this by reading it, thinking about the Bible, studying it, talking about it, listening to Bible teachers and treasuring it in our hearts. The Bible is life for your whole body (Proverbs 4). So put the Bible inside you and 'look after it' (believe it, value it, know it, learn it). You will learn God's heart and meet with God through the Bible.
Knowing and holding the Word - Haggai 2.10-12
Haggai was a prophet. He spoke God's words to the people of Israel. In the first chapter we read that "...the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel..." The Lord spoke directly to his prophet, Haggai and Haggai spoke the word to the authorities. When God speaks to us, it's because he wants us to pass on those words, to speak his words to those around us. This is one way that God speaks - he speaks directly to us as he did to Haggai. But Haggai then spoke God's words to Zerubbabel and the others. So we also know that God speaks to people through others - he spoke to Zerubbabel via Haggai. God does the same today. This is one way God speaks to us - through others. But as we learn from Haggai, we need to listen to those who know God and who hear from God. We don't listen to those who don't know, hear and obey God!
In Chapter 2, Haggai was talking to the priests and asking them questions about what the people could do, according to the Law (the things God had spoken to Moses). The source of what they believed and the source of their action was the Word of God. Even Haggai was a prophet who heard from God, he went to the Word. The priests were able to answer his question. Why? Because they knew the Law and they would have carried the Law with them. A modern equivalent is that God now calls all of those who believe in his 'priests' (1 Peter 2.9-10). So we should know God's Word (like the priests in the day of Haggai) and we should carry it with us. We carry God's Word in our hearts but we should also carry God's Word with us physically when we need to - by having a Bible (paper version) and / or having an app on our phone, tablet, computer. In this way, when we need to know what God says about something, we can go to the Bible that we have learned and the Bible that we have with us.
These are the main ways God speaks to us - the Bible; prophetic words and the wise advice of Godly people like parents, youth workers, older people and even Christian friends.
Psalm 119.105 - No light, no path
(Living Light) - "Your words are a flashlight to light the path ahead of me, and keep me from stumbling"
One evening, four of us were walking on Dartmoor. We scrambled around rocks and did quite a long walk. It was a clear evening, but being Dartmoor, the mist rolled in and the sun't light disappeared in the clag. As it got darker, the ones who'd been leading the route got a bit confused as to where they were. But fortunately I'd brought a map, compass and importantly a headtorch. No-one else had brought a light! Because of the light we were able to read the map and use the compass to relocate and find our way back to the car. If we hadn't brought a light, it would have been hard to find the path in the dark, especially with the mist around us.
Here is the spiritual point: God tells us that his Word (the Bible) is like a flashlight / a headtorch to light the path ahead of us. We need light at night - whether it's the moon and our eyes getting our night vision (takes around 15-20 mins). Or whether it's by the torch that we've brought, is charged and has the bulb working! In the same way we need to know the Bible. So first of all we need to know (and at times, bring) our Bible. Secondly we need to let the Bible 'charge' us (that means not just knowing but believing and rightly understanding the Bible, making it real in our life). Thirdly we need to make sure the 'bulb' is working (that means speaking out and even praying the Bible - this is the way we 'shine' it out). When we put these three things together, the Bible lights up our path and keeps us from tripping over. Pray and ask God today to help you know and use his Word like a flashlight. You need it in a dark, dark world!
Knowing the Bible - Ephesians 5.18-20
There is a small daily Bible note called 'Living Light'. It's a kind of translation of the Bible. Today's reading comes from that (July 20):
"Be filled... with the Holy Spirit, and controlled by him. Talk with each other much about the Lord, quoting psalms and hymns and singing sacred songs, making music in your hearts to the Lord. Always give thanks for everything to our God and Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
What I love about this is that this translation focuses on us always talking about God with each other. But more than this, we're encouraged to 'quote psalms and hymns and singing sacred songs, making music in your heart to the Lord.' The question we need to ask each other is this: do we know the psalms enough to quote them? Do we know our Bibles well enough to quote them to each other? If not, it's time to 'get your head into' the Word of God and start to see if you can learn small amounts of the Bible off by heart. This helps get the Bible inside you.
If this is hard, why not try learning worship songs off by heart and then trying to find where the song comes from. For example, most of the recorded (and prophetic) songs from the International House of Prayer in Kansas City comes directly from the Bible. If you find some songs you like and learn them, then go to a site like Biblegateway.com and do a 'keyword search' under the lyrics of the songs and see where they are in the Bible. For example, Cory Asbury (who was at IHOPKC) wrote a song called 'So good to me'. You'll see the first few lines come almost directly from Psalm 40. There are many, many hundreds of other great songs like this from all generations and artists. So the lesson is: know the Bible and learn great worship songs to sing and praise God with!!
Your Epitaph - Job 23.10-12
But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I shall come forth as gold. My feet have closely followed his steps; I have kept to his way without turning aside. I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.
An epitaph is a short piece of writing that someone has on their gravestone or tomb after they die. The person can say what they want written before, or it can be left up to friends and family. Often the message describes their life, what they want to be remembered for or says something they want others to think about. If it's not too creepy to think about, what would you want written on your grave after you die? What would you want said about you? "He was a good laugh" or "She was the best friend you could have" ..? These would be great things to have someone say about you, but there's so much more.
Job is someone who went through some of the worst stuff ever. He had terrible things happen like his children killed, his servants killed, his sheep and camels all stolen. But he stayed amazingly strong to God through it all. Eventually, God gave him double of everything that he had lost! His confession (which God didn't correct to say was wrong!) was that he closely followed God's steps; kept to God's way without turning aside and had not departed from God's commands. If I could say that I had followed God, kept his ways and not departed from his Word, it would be the most amazing testimony and epitaph. I can honestly say that this couldn't be bettered as an epitaph and that I want to live in this way, following God closely and doing all that he says. It's the greatest life and testimony anyone could have. So, what would you like your epitaph to say? How does that challenge you in the way you want to live your life?
Are you walking in truth - John 14.5-8
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
How is your Christian life going? How is your church life? There are many reasons why we can have ups and downs in our Christian life but today we're looking at the words of Jesus here in John 14.6. Jesus told his disciples that he is the way the truth and the life. So let's break it down: if you want the way, it's found in Jesus; if you want truth, it's found in Jesus; if you want life, it's found in Jesus. Let's ask a few questions about your Christian life or your church / Christian Union etc:
If you have found that you're losing your way, one question you may need to ask is whether Jesus is central. Why? Because Jesus is the way and he has promised to lead us in this way. So if you're finding the way is unclear, just invite Jesus right back into the centre of your life as this could well be a reason you're struggling. Secondly, if you are part of a church or that doesn't believe the Bible (or a church that doesn't teach the Bible with the passion of God's Spirit); or you are not reading the Bible regularly and spending time with Jesus personally, then you are not really walking in the truth. The Bible is the truth - so no Bible, no truth. No truth, no Jesus! A church I know went almost a school term without really teaching the Bible and this is so dodgy as Jesus cannot be in that as he is the truth. To stay in the truth, stay in the Word. Jesus is the living Word and will help you and guide you. Finally, if you are finding that there is no real life or energy or buzz that comes from God in your life or your church etc, you need to ask whether Jesus is really at the centre. If Jesus is at the centre, there will be life as he is life! It's easy to make a change. Ask Jesus to be at the centre of all you do, read the Bible and obey God, saying sorry if you have sidelined Jesus. Your life will be transformed. And if you're part of a 'church' that doesn't believe or teach the Bible is God's true Word, get out of there and into a proper church that does!
Your word is like honey - 1 Samuel 14.26-30
Verse 27 - "... So (Jonathan) dipped the end of the rod in his hand into a honeycomb and put it to his mouth, and his [weary] eyes brightened."
What was going on in 1 Samuel 14? Well, unfortunately, Saul the King had made a bad call (he made an even worse one in 1 Samuel 15). He made a decision that no man should eat until he had taken vengeance on his enemies, the Philistines, or they would be cursed and have to die. Note - be very careful what you say and decide when you are angry. Wait until you have calmed down and seen the situation before you act. Saul, however, was prone to these kinds of outbursts and despite the fact that his people were going into battle, he told them not to eat. Having been in battle, the men understandably felt exhausted and faint! Note - don't make crazy seemingly 'spiritual' decisions at the expense of common sense! As Jonathan later said, "For now the slaughter of the Philistines has not been great."
So back to 1 Samuel 14 and our point. Unfortunately, despite making this crazy decision, Saul didn't make sure that all his men knew what he'd said. We know this because the Bible tells us his son Jonathan didn't hear what Saul had said and when he saw some honey, he dipped his rod into a honeycomb and ate some honey. (The people would later rescue Jonathan from the hand of Saul).
Psalm 119.103 says, "How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" God's Word is incredible. Apparently, in Israel, young Jewish boys would eat some honey off the Book of the Law. They would then associate honey with the reading of God's Word. Psalm 119 makes it clear that God's Words are sweeter to the taste than actual honey. We should so honour the Word of God that, like Jesus, we can declare that we don't just live on bread alone, but on every Word that God speaks. This is where our real life is, this is where the sweetest taste is. Like Jonathan, we need to taste and see that the Lord is good (cue the Brian and Jenn Johnson worship song 'O taste and see'... Or 'Jesus, Holy and Anointed One' by John Barnett...)
Added 28/01/13. Thanks to LM for this idea
Only God is the true God - Isaiah 41.21-24
There are many different kinds of religions and beliefs in the world today. Many of these claim to have the truth. But Christians believe that Jesus is the only truth and the only way to be made right with God. One way to think about this more is to look at the Bible. The Bible is the only 'holy book' of any world religion that has the audacity to have prophecies in it. A prophecy is a prediction about the future. Not only does the Bible have these prophecies, every one that could have happened so far has come true, completely and accurately! It's amazing. Some of these prophecies were made hundreds of years before they happened!
Isaiah was one of these prophets. Let's read what God said through him in the Bible book of Isaiah 41.21-24, “Present your case, ” says the Lord. “Set forth your arguments,” says Jacob’s King. “Tell us, you idols, what is going to happen. Tell us what the former things were, so that we may consider them and know their final outcome. Or declare to us the things to come, tell us what the future holds, so we may know that you are gods. Do something, whether good or bad, so that we will be dismayed and filled with fear. But you are less than nothing and your works are utterly worthless; whoever chooses you is detestable.
God also spoke similar things in Isaiah 43.18-21.
What God was saying was this: let these other religions and people present their arguments. Let these religions tell us what's going to happen in the future. Give us some predictions to prove that you are who you say you are. Or tell us about things that happened in the past and explain them. But of course, you can't. You can't even do anything - good or bad. So we know that it's ultimately worthless.
You see, only the God of the Bible can do anything, has done anything and knows about the future. Only the Bible has prophecies in it that have happened. Only the Bible says things about the future that will also happen. That is why as Christians we believe and testify that only the God of the Bible is the true God!
Is God's Word really accurate? 2 Peter 1.20-21
"Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit."
Here are a couple of amazing examples of prophecy exactly fulfilled. These are things that no-one could have possibly fixed or done. Only God knew what would happen and spoke it by the Holy Spirit through the prophets in the Old Testament. First example:
John 16.23-24: When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.”
This fulfilled Psalm 22:18 exactly: They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.
The Bible is so accurate, it predicted the four lots of clothes that it was customary for men to wear in the day of Jesus. There were 4 soldiers, who took one piece of clothing each. But Jesus' garment was made of one seamless bit of cloth and so David (inspired by the Holy Spirit as 2 Peter 1.20-21 tells us), prophesied the garment would cause people to cast lots for it. This is what the Roman troops did as recorded in John 16.
Second example: Isaiah 53.9 says this, "He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth." When you read the Hebrew from this verse, the word 'wicked' is plural (more than one), whereas 'rich' is singular (one thing). So let's read what happened in Matthew
Matthew 27.38 and 57-60: Two rebels were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left... As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock.
The Bible perfectly fulfils prophecy and shows the truth of God, his Word and his character.
Remembering God's Word - Deuteronomy 11.18-20
We've partly looked at Deuteronomy 11.18 in another quiet-time, but this time let's think more about how we can remember God's Word.
"Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the door-frames of your houses and on your gates..."
When I took all my exams, I made notes from my original notes in lectures, then summarised them, then summarised the summary to a few points / drawings etc. These helped 'trigger' the information to come back into my head! In Deuteronomy, the Bible encouraged the Israelites to remember God's commands by doing many things. These may well help you remember God's Word too. First idea was to fix God's Word in their hearts. This happens by remembering it, speaking it and seeing God's Word work in life. Second, the idea was to tie God's commands onto hands (like bracelets or bands) and even fix them on the forehead... OK, so it's a bit hard to see something fixed on your head and you may get a few funny looks... But it could work as a game helping others and you to learn Bible verses...! God also suggested the parents / youth workers teaching them to the younger generation (note to youth workers: you have to know God's Word in order to teach it). Also, God suggested talking about his commands, making them part of everyday chat. We talk about all kinds of things in life, but let's start talking about the Bible as well! We can chat about the Bible wherever we are! God also suggested putting up little notes around the house and in the garden too. Maybe you want to do the same, or be more creative using your laptop, phone or something else to help you remember. I know one family off to the country of Belarus. They put up phrases round the house in Russian to help them learn Russian before they went. It works. So do something today to remember, talk about and learn God's Word. You need to put it inside you, so God's Word can work in your life!
The temporary and the lasting - 2 Corinthians 4.18
"Since we consider and look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are visible are temporal (brief and fleeting), but the things that are invisible are deathless and everlasting."
The Bible tells us that we don't look to things that we see, but to things that we don't see - because the things we see visibly are just temporary, but the things that we don't see are everlasting. Here in 2 Corinthians, Paul is talking about being with Jesus in heaven and about the everlasting permanent glory that this will bring us, despite our troubles here on earth. But often, the Bible needs to be considered on more than one level. For example, there are many examples of prophecies in the Old Testament that meant something both to the people in that day, as well as pointing to something in the future..
In this quiet-time we're going to look at the Bible and both quantum and meta-physics. Many people believe our world is made up of lots of 'dimensions'. Many people believe we live in 4 dimensions (this includes length, width, breadth and time). Quantum physics believes we live in 10 or 11 dimensions (including gravity, light etc). So quantum physics sees a universe is more than we can see or think. Our universe is an amazing place. More amazing is earth which couldn't exist or sustain life if any one of hundreds of things were different (eg if we were even a tiny bit closer to the sun). It's called the 'anthropic principle'). Interestingly, God took 1 day (fourth day) to create all the heavens and spent 3 days working on the earth (this lets us know that earth is unique and no life will be found anywhere else!)
In other verses such as Hebrews 1.12 quoting the Old Testament (and Isaiah 34.4), about the earth being rolled up like a robe (or a scroll) at the end of time. So back to physics... Some of the discoveries have found that what we see and touch is actually less 'real' than the other dimensions around us that we cannot see and touch. One scientist describes our known world that we see as a holographic universe where everything is a holograph (like the professor after he dies in iRobot). For example we know from the Bible that there are angels and demons, yet we usually don't see them. But they are real. We know that there is a heaven, but we can't see it - even in the so-called 'known universe'. So where is it? Well, the Bible gives us what many Christian experts believe is scientific help here by telling us that what we don't see is more real than what we do see. Physics points to an earth created by a creator due to this 'anthropic principle' (though few physicists would accept this - except one who was awarded the Templeton Prize in 2009 stating that the universe pointed to a creator behind it because there was a greater reality of what we don't see behind what we see). But we know this is true from the Bible. Despite what some people say, the Bible is a scientific book!
The treasures and riches of God's Word - Colossians 2.2-5
Colossians 2.2-5 tells us this, "My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is."
Paul was writing to the Colossian church (and mentioned the Laodicean church) to encourage and in some cases correct them, helping them to get back in sync with what Paul had taught them, which was from God - now available to us through the Bible. His goal was that the churches would be encouraged in heart and united in love. He wanted them to have full-understanding so that they would really know Jesus as it was in Jesus that they would find hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. He didn't want the churches to be deceived so wanted them to seek after Jesus. Things haven't changed for us. There's loads of false teaching out there, lots of people pushing all kinds of weird and wonderful theories and arguments, even wrong ones about God. The way we stay true and in touch is to seek after Jesus and read the Word of God. Paul lets us know this is the only way to finding true knowledge and wisdom. Other books and people may help us. But only in Jesus and the Bible can we get complete understanding. It's also an exciting promise that in Christ we can find hidden treasures. As we seek after God and read the Bible, we will actually find amazing hidden treasures, lessons and secret wisdom that we'd never know otherwise! It's amazing! Jeremiah 33.3 confirms this with God saying, "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and un searchable things you do not know." So seek Jesus and find all this amazing treasure. And the best part is this is treasure that lasts, unlike gold, silver and diamonds!!
Keeping on in The Word means freedom - John 8.31-32
In John 1, we read that 'The Word was God... The Word became flesh...' We know that one of the phrases used to describe The Bible is 'The Word'. But here we have the truth that The Word actually became flesh and lived here on earth among man. The Word was Jesus and Jesus on earth was the representation of The Word. He was the living Word, the Word in action. So when we read The Bible, we are actually getting to know Jesus. And by getting to know Jesus we are ultimately getting to know God - John 14.6 records Jesus as telling us he is the way, the truth and the life - the way to the Father. How do we get to understand the Bible? By the Holy Spirit who lives in us (see John 14).
In John 8.31-32, Jesus told people that they would truly be his disciples if they lived in / remained faithful to his teachings. (The Amplified translates is as Jesus saying, "hold fast to My teachings and live in accordance with them"). Then the truth would be in them and the truth would set them free. The same is true today for you and me. The way to truth and freedom is in Jesus and through the Word, revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. It sounds complicated but it's really not.
Theology (the study of God and the Bible) should actually be really simple. Those people who make things complicated deliberately aren't worth listening to! Instead, the Bible is pretty clear. Jesus says to each of us - read my Word, live my Word and stay connected to me (Jesus) through My Word. That sorts out loads of problems you would have otherwise and sets you free from bad things and bad decisions. It also gives you life. But you have to read and obey what God says in the Bible!
The power and foolishness of the Cross - 1 Cor 1.18
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1.18)
In the 2012 movie, Marvel's "Avengers" we find a crew of super heroes, including Iron Man, The Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow and others - come together to fight the evil of Loki under the direction of Samuel L Jackson. The team come together using their superhuman and general fighting powers to stand against the enemy. Each of the Marvel team have different powers. The source of what they do is their strength and their strength together. They use various weapons and strengths to win the battle. It's all about power and strength.
Jesus is the Son of God. He is God. He came to earth from heaven, leaving his Father and leaving perfection to come into the world as a baby born in a stable; a baby on the run; a baby that Herod tried to kill. His life was one where he humbled himself and came to serve not to be served. He took on the form of a frail human body, yet was God at the same time. Then he defeated the devil for eternity. How did he do it? Through battle, his super powers and armies of angels? No. He could have called on angel armies, but he chose instead to do God's will and submit to God. He willingly let himself be falsely accused, tortured, beaten and then crucified on a cross, naked, ashamed, exposed and rejected - even by God his Father at the very end because Jesus became sin for us and God cannot look on sin. It broke Jesus' heart and he died, alone. The Cross looked hopeless and it looked weak. But before Jesus died he cried out, 'It Is Finished!' He meant that his job was done and that Satan had been defeated and made an example of. After Jesus died, there was an earthquake and then the curtain in the temple that had divided man and God was torn from the top to the bottom (showing that it was God who did this not man).
The Cross seemed weak and foolish. But its power has rescued billions from the power of the evil one. Jesus wasn't weak; he wasn't a hippy. He was God made flesh and now he sits on the throne of heaven looking out for you and me, his family. He is a King, a warrior with a flaming sword. One day he will return. The Cross seems foolish to the world, but Jesus is our example.
17 April 2012
Why read the Bible - Hebrews 4.12 (Amplified)
For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing, and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart.
Why read the Bible? Well, just some of the reasons are right here, right now... First of all, the Word of God has been spoken by God. That means we can trust it and that it's true. We often trust what people say who we trust. Well, we know we can totally trust God, so we can totally trust the Bible! Second, the Word is alive. Many people worship false religions with gods who have long since died. People around us do things like 'touch wood I'll be OK' (and then touch wood) Huh?! The wood is dead, people! But Jesus is alive and so is the Word. Third, it is full of power making it active, effective and energizing. I once heard a famous speaker called RT Kendall. When I left the Bible studies, I knew I'd met with God because I was buzzing, full of life - that's what the Word of God does!
Fourth, it's sharper than any 2 edged sword. Words can often hurt and be cutting (like when someone slags off someone else). But God's Word doesn't cut like that. Instead, it helps you know what's "in or out", what's right or wrong. How does it do this? Well, it divides what is from your soul (mind) and what is from your spirit (God). We need to follow the spirit inside of us, because as a Christian, this is where God lives and speaks. The Bible tells us what God's will is for our lives. Sometimes it's specific (don't hate your enemy) and sometimes it's more general (don't use your freedom in God to sin). But the Bible always has the right answer or principle, because God knows everything. Finally, it exposes, sifts, analyses and judges the thoughts and purposes of our hearts. We need the Bible to help us, guide us, encourage us, equip us, transform us, change us, convict us, lead us. And it will. So read God's Word - daily!
Only God can reveal the Bible - Luke 24.8, 31, 45
It's amazing that Universities and top boffins often talk about the Bible. They have a knowledge of the Bible but they don't understand God, faith or the Bible. Why? Because in order to understand God, you need to be changed by God. God is Spirit (Holy Spirit), see John 4.24. When Jesus left earth and went back to heaven, he told his followers that he'd send the Holy Spirit. What would the Holy Spirit do? In John 16.13, Jesus said about the Holy Spirit, "But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth..." So only the Holy Spirit can bring revelation about truth - about God.
In Luke 24, we see three examples of how we need Jesus / the Holy Spirit to help us understand. In the life of Jesus, his disciples often didn't get it (we're not much different many times!) They had Jesus around, but weren't filled with Jesus by the Holy Spirit as Jesus hadn't yet fulfilled his mission and been raised back to life and to heaven. But when the resurrected Jesus (after he'd come back to life) saw disciples in Luke 24, he was able to open their eyes to the truth.
The first people to see Jesus after he'd been raised to life were the women who'd prepared spices for his body and went to the tomb. They got there but Jesus was gone. Two angels appeared and told them that Jesus had risen, just as he'd said. In verse 8, we see the women then 'remembered his words'. So they began to understand what had happened, remembering the words of Jesus. The angels didn't bring the revelation, they just pointed to the words of Jesus. In verse 30 and 31 we reach the conclusion of two disciples walking down a road when Jesus appears. They didn't recognise him at first, but then we read in verse 31, "Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him..." Jesus revealed who he really was to the disciples and then they understood! Finally, Jesus appeared to his eleven disciples all together. In verse 45 the Bible tells us that Jesus "...opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures." It was Jesus alone who opened the minds of the disciples every time.
If we believe in Jesus today, we have his Holy Spirit inside us. It is the Holy Spirit who brings to mind what Jesus says and who he is. Without Jesus in your life, you'll never truly understand the Bible. With Jesus, your heart should burn within you about who he is and what he's done (Luke 24.32).
Quiet-time on God revealing the Bible added 16/1/11
Bread of Life - John 6 | TOP
Let's look at John 6. On four occasions, Jesus talked about being the bread of life:
John 6:33 - For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."
John 6:35 - Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.
John 6:48 - I am the bread of life.
John 6:51- I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."
What is bread? It is a type of food. It is what's called a staple food - stored throughout the year and part of a traditional diet. It's created with flour and water, with yeast to make it rise. Bread is made in different ways in different places, but it creates nutrients that give the human body carbohydrates for energy, fibre for our diet and protein to help the body repair itself. In the same way, but in a spiritual sense, the Bible tells us that Jesus is the bread of God who gives us life, who satisfies our hunger and gives life forever.
Jesus is known as the bread of life but he's also known as the Word of God. John 1 tells us that he is the Word of God (the Greek word is 'logos' meaning the whole counsel and understanding of God). The Bible also tells us in Hebrews 1.3 that, "The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word." So when we read the Bible, we meet with Jesus and get to understand God. We're all different, we all have different things to do for God. But it is the same one who gives us life - Jesus, through the Holy Spirit and his Word.
Quiet-time created 3/5/10
Now you see it, now you don't - Exodus 33.11 and 33.20 | TOP
"The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent." It is amazing to think that the Lord would speak to Moses face to face! In Exodus 33, we find the Lord speaking to Moses. God had been leading the people of Israel out of Egypt by a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. This was the way God represented his presence to the people. The people of Israel would set up camp and then get on with the usual daily stuff. But Moses set up a tent outside the main camp so he could meet with God and listen to what God had to say. When God was speaking to Moses, the cloud would come down and stay at the entrance. The people would not go near that tent because God's power was so great and he would only speak with Moses. It is then we learn how God would speak to Moses 'face to face'.
Yet, as we read on in Exodus 33.20, we find that God tells Moses that no-one can see God's face saying, "you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live." So what is going on? How can God speak to Moses 'face to face' but Moses not be able to see God's face?! Does the Bible have an error? No - although the same word is used for the word 'face' in the Hebrew throughout Exodus 33!
There are 3 explanations as to what is going on here. Firstly, we have to understand the phrase 'face to face'. This does not necessarily mean actually face to face physically, it could just be a way of saying that God and Moses spoke to each other. Additionally, God was represented as a cloud, not necessarily in his actual form which we cannot see as God the Father cannot look at sin, which is why we need Jesus so God 'sees' us as believers 'through' Jesus. (As humans, we are sinful beings. Only in heaven when God changes our form to be holy will we be able to see God. This also explains why God looked away from Jesus on the Cross - as Jesus took our sin, God was unable to look on Jesus who literally 'became sin' so we could be free from sin through Jesus! Complex but true). We know from the Bible that God doesn't look like a cloud or a pillar of fire!! Instead, God is a powerful being, as we find in Isaiah, Ezekiel and Revelation!
Secondly, some people think that Moses may have spoken with Jesus (before he came to earth to live as a human and yet God, in the New Testament). This happened a number of times in the Old Testament. Whereas when God said Moses could not look at his face and passed by Moses, it was God the Father. The third possible answer is found in verse 18, when Moses asks God, "Now show me your glory." God replies to Moses that he will cause all his goodness to pass in front of Moses. Then God goes on to say that Moses cannot see his face. God is so holy that we cannot look at his face, but he agreed to show Moses some of his 'glory' or 'goodness'. So God, passing by Moses in his true form, does not allow Moses to see his face, but only his goodness. It's complex isn't it?! And these are just some possible answers. Some things will never be clear until we get to heaven - but won't it be fun finding out from God and all the other Bible characters exactly what was going on!
Understanding - Nehemiah 8.1, 7-8 | TOP
"All the people assembled as one man in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the scribe to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded for Israel... The Levites—Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah—instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there. They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read." In this story of the rebuilding of Jerusalem, we find that with the wall completed up to half its height, the people gathered together and they renewed their covenant with God. This covenant was an agreement to serve God alone. (When God makes a 'covenant' he is bound by it and always does what he says. For example, in Genesis God made an everlasting covenant with Abraham giving him the land of Israel). Here in Nehemiah 8, Ezra the Scribe was commanded to bring the Law before the assembly. The Law is what is often referred to as the 'Torah' today (the first 5 books of the Old Testament - Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy).
Today's quiet-time is a lesson for all of us who love God's Word and to talk about it / teach it to others. You see, many churches read the Bible and this is fantastic. Except you can know the Bible and yet not know God. Other times, people hear the Bible reading but don't understand how it relates to them. In Nehemiah, we find that the Levite priests, 'instructed the people... so that the people could understand what was being read.' Now this partly happened as the Law had been forgotten so needed explaining. But the lesson for us is that when we read the Bible or teach on the Bible, we need to explain what God is saying because not everyone gets it. Preaching is the art of communicating something so clearly that people understand it. When we read, listen to or teach the Bible, let's be like the Levites and do it so that people can understand what the Bible (God) is saying.
Fresh Manna - Exodus 16.13-19 | TOP
That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, "What is it?" For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, "It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat. This is what the LORD has commanded: 'Each one is to gather as much as he needs. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.' " The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer, he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little. Each one gathered as much as he needed. Then Moses said to them, "No one is to keep any of it until morning."
How often do you do a quiet-time? Is it daily? It should be. We need to hear from God each day and know what he's saying to us. The Bible will encourage, uplift, change, challenge, discipline, correct and help us in our daily life. In the Old Testament, the people of Israel needed food on their way to the Promised Land and God provided them with manna. We know from Exodus 16 that this was fresh daily and people gathered as much as they needed. The next day, there was fresh manna on the ground. For the Israelites it was food that God provided, but we can apply this spiritually to God's Word. In John 3.34 Jesus said, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work." Our lives are the same - we need God's fresh manna every day. We have our part to play by reading the Bible and books, as well as listening to what others have to say on TV, radio, CD, web, mp3 etc. We have loads of resources available to us. What we need to do is to take responsibility and seek God daily. He longs to speak to us, longs to give us fresh manna. The Bible says in Lamentations 3.22-23, "Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." God longs to give us fresh manna but we have to play our part in looking, seeking, listening, praying and then applying what he says.
Three in one and one in three - Genesis 1.1 | TOP
"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." The Bible is so unlike any other 'religious writings'. It under-states everything that happens. It doesn't go to great lengths to present Bible characters as incredible heroes without flaws. And it often tells us amazing stuff, writing profound things (like the creation of the whole world, and universe) in simple statements - "God created the heavens and the earth." (As you do!) But more than this, today we're looking at who God is and why this even matters. Well, in another quiet-time, we look at the fact that God is one God and yet in 3 parts! It's often called 'The Trinity' or 'The Godhead'. In the Bible, we read about God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit. All are 'God' and yet all are distinct! It's a real stumbling block to many people who can't get their head around it. And how could we? If we understood God, he wouldn't be God! God is much bigger, greater and more powerful than we can get our heads around. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew. In the original translation of this verse, the Hebrew calls God 'elohiym' (also sometimes written as 'elohim'). The Hebrew name for God is 'El' - so what does 'Elohim' mean? Well, it is the plural for 'El'. So, just as we'd say 'house' or 'houses', the word used in Hebrew in Genesis 1.1 and other places is 'Elohim'. But in Hebrew, elohim does not mean 'gods'. It points to a strange and deep mystery - that God is both 'one God' and yet 'three-in-one'. As one of my rhymes states, "God is the Father and Jesus is the Son. Together with the Holy Spirit, three-in-one." This kind of word is unique to the Hebrew language and no other languages have a God who is described in this way. This points to Yahweh, the one true God and yet to the profound nature of God being Father, Son and Holy Spirit and with a clearly defined order too. As you read through the Bible and look at the original translations, it opens up whole new worlds as God reveals much more about how deep, how wide and how far God and his Word goes.
How To Read Your Bible - Proverbs 2.1-5 | TOP
"My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God."
Have you ever wondered how to read the Bible and get the most out of it? You see it's great to read the Bible, but even better to know how to allow God to speak to you as fully as possible, to hear his voice and see the Bible come alive to to you. Proverbs 2 gives us some step by step instructions to help! First of all, we need to accept God's words as coming direct from God. No human wrote the Bible, they merely put God's words onto paper. We need to take the words in the Bible and store them up inside us. This is an active process of learning the Bible off by heart. Then we need to, "Make your ear attentive to skillful and godly Wisdom and inclining and directing your heart and mind to understanding [applying all your powers to the quest for it]" (Amplified Bible). So we have to decide to give the Bible our time (don't have music on in the background and don't rush it). We have to focus our energies onto the Bible and be committed to understand what God is saying. Next, we need to ask God to help us understand the Word - we have to ask him by speaking to him and praying / listening to what he says. We must treat the Bible as being more valuable than silver, searching through it like we're after hidden treasure. Too many times we simply pick up the Bible, read it and put it down. But that will have little impact. We are encouraged to seek out what God is saying, to try really hard. Then, we will get understanding, hear more from God, be changed by the Bible and find the knowledge of God. It's a price worth paying. Derek Prince once said we love God as much as we love his Word. So how are you doing?
The Bible protects your life - Psalm 121.7-8 | TOP
"The LORD will keep you from all harm - he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore." Here's a true story about how God's Word can save your life. Story from WGRZ News (news article no longer live).
WGRZ News reports that 22-year-old Army Private First Class Brendan Schweigart of Andover, N.Y. had his Bible tucked in a pocket beneath his bullet proof shield when he was shot with a high powered rifle while on a mission in Iraq. It saved his life by shielding the bullet from his heart. According to the report, Schweigart told his mother, Kim Scott, that he always carried a Bible into battle. The Bible he was carrying was one he got at boot camp. "He believes in God. And you know he went to church," said Schweigart's mother, Kim Scott. Reporter Jessica Weinstein, asked Scott if the bullet was still in the Bible, and the soldier's mother replied: "It's in the pages. It went through the pages of the Bible." Schweigart, who received a Purple Heart, has been released from the hospital and is back on light duty.
See - the Word of God really is your protection!!
No Bible, no truth - 2 Timothy 3.16 | TOP
If you are around any Christian conferences or teaching, you will find that lots of sessions don't have any Bible teaching in. That's fine as there are loads of things to learn. But if there's no or not much Bible in your life or church, beware!! The Bible isn't some book that God demands we read religiously - punishing us if we don't. But the Bible is truth and the main way God speaks to us. So if we don't give it our time and energy, we will miss out on what God wants to say to us, do in us and through us. 2 Timothy 3.16 in the Amplified says this, "Every Scripture is God-breathed (given by His inspiration) and profitable for instruction, for reproof and conviction of sin, for correction of error and discipline in obedience, [and] for training in righteousness (in holy living, in conformity to God's will in thought, purpose, and action).."
So, if we don't read and take in the Bible, we miss out on so much: Words that are God-breathed; we aren't instructed properly; aren't convicted of sin as we should be; aren't corrected or disciplined in obeying God; we're not trained in right living, holiness, obeying God's will in our hearts, minds and action. That's a long and pretty important list. So make sure the Bible is central in your life and read it asking the Holy Spirit to speak to you, expecting this to happen. And go to a church where the Bible is central. If it's not, ask some leaders why not. If it carries on, get to some church where they dynamically and practically teach the Word of God relevantly and in the power of the Holy Spirit!! You'll see the difference in your life and others, believe.
Into all truth - John 16.12-13 | TOP
Jesus was talking to his disciples about leaving them and sending the promised Holy Spirit. He said, "I have still many things to say to you, but you are not able to bear them or to take them upon you or to grasp them now. But when He, the Spirit of Truth (the Truth-giving Spirit) comes, He will guide you into all the Truth (the whole, full Truth). For He will not speak His own message [on His own authority]; but He will tell whatever He hears [from the Father; He will give the message that has been given to Him], and He will announce and declare to you the things that are to come [that will happen in the future]."
Jesus was not able to tell the disciples everything, despite having many things to say to them. He knew that they were not able to bear everything or understand it. But when the Spirit was sent, the Spirit would guide them into all the truth. The Bible is God's written word to us. This is the main way that God speaks to us, as the Holy Spirit reveals God's Word to us. The Spirit of God brings glory to God and points us to Jesus. Jesus made it clear that he only did what he saw his Father in heaven doing. In John 16, we learn that the Spirit of Truth doesn't speak on his own authority, but also only speaks whatever he hears from God. In the same way, everything we do should line up with God's Word and we should only do what God does and says. There are times where God will speak to us directly, as the Bible is not the complete counsel / wisdom of God, but what he knows we need. God will speak and bring revelation, visions and words of knowledge. This is clear from John 16 as Jesus was not able to tell the disicples everything. Clearly despite having the Old Testament and being with Jesus, the Spirit would make new things known to the disciples. He does the same to us today. So let's be open, let's know the Bible and have our ears ready to hear and hearts to obey.
It is not good for man to be alone - Genesis 2.18 | TOP
Man was in the Garden of Eden, a perfect and amazing place. He was placed there by God - in verses 8 and 9 of Genesis 2, we read, "Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food.." Man has been given a task and a purpose as well, work to be done to fulfil him - "The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." (verse 9). God also gives man a creative and challenging activity to do. In verses 19-20, we read, "Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field." This must have been fun and required creativity & mental challenge! (It reminds me of the Simpsons 'Garden of Eden' clip which is worth a watch!) Man was in unbroken relationship with God, his Creator and the world around him was bustling with animal and plant life, amazing colour, sweet smell and incredible new sounds. But something was missing. In verse 18, the Bible says: The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." Right in this place of perfection, there was something missing. In the place of total connected-ness to the Lord Almighty, it was the Lord that recognised that something more was needed. And man himself was also looking for something extra. In The Message version, verse 23 records man saying, "Finally!" The principle we can learn is that God knows what we need. He knows we need others and for many, he realises the need is for that one special person. In the Garden, it was God who initiated the action, God who thought man should not be alone and God who created / brought woman to man. But man was seeking. The truth is that God knows exactly who we are, the right people for our lives. He will bring those people into our lives. He places lonely people in families, he knows our every need and heart's desire. Our role, like man, is to be faithful, grateful and seek God first and foremost. And maybe you sometimes feel guilty about spending time with your wife/husband, boyfriend/girlfriend or friends, as if somehow you're not putting God first. Don't be, it's not true. The act of spending time and loving people is worship to God - it was God in the Garden who said it was not good for people to be alone :)
The Power of the Word of God - Genesis 3.1-6 | TOP
In Genesis 2.16, God said, 'You may eat the fruit from any tree in the garden (of Eden), except the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. If you eat that fruit, you will die.' This is a very plain and simple statement, which came directly from the mouth (The Word) of God. Jesus told us that the burden God gives us is light and not heavy (Matthew 11.30). The Word of God is the same. In reality, it's not that difficult to understand, and God gives us his help to obey it.
But Eve and Adam decided to go against the Word of God and that's where their problems started. Incredibly, when Eve was tempted by the devil, she even told him what God had said, 'You must not eat the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden, or even touch it, or you will die.' (Genesis 3.3). Their problem was not that they didn't know the word of God clearly, but that they decided not to obey it. The temptation was too great, they were too weak. In fact, where was Adam when this was happening? (That's another story!) But the problem was they actively decided to disobey the Word of God, and this ultimately led to their destruction and death.
So the flipside is true. If we obey the Word of God, we can expect to have life in all its fullness as Jesus promised (John 10.10). The Word of God is like a ring of steel around your life. If you know it, speak it, read it and live it, the Word of God will protect you, keep you from falling away from God. (In Isaiah 55.11, the Bible says, "so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it" - the power to make it happen contained within the Word of God itself). Don't forget this. And don't forget that the tree was at the centre of the garden of Eden. We need to keep God, his Word, at the centre of our lives.
So-called 'knowledge' - 1 Timothy 6.20-21 | TOP
You may have heard the stories - somebody goes to a theology course at Uni all fired up for God and comes back doubting some of the basic stuff about the Bible that they once accepted as truth through their faith. What went wrong? It's what the man Paul the Apostle called, 'false knowledge' when he warned his mate Timothy to stay away from this kind of stuff.
So what it this? False knowledge is the kind of stuff you see on documentaries on TV when people set out to 'disprove' the claims of Christians. This kind of thing is when people say 'what you Christians say doesn't have any evidence.' It's when these professor types sit down round a table and discuss stuff so deeply that they begin to doubt whether anything has any truth. These are the people that get paid loads of money to sit around, write a few books about nothing while everyone tells them how great they are.
Jesus has a radical message. He doesn't ask us to discuss whether he was right or wrong to say what he did. He may not even ask us to go round finding evidence for what he says in the Bible. What he says is - read the Word, get into the Word, pray, put Jesus first and get out there and make a difference in this messed up world. Paul warns Timothy, 'By saying they have that 'knowledge' some have missed the true faith. Some people talk so much, seek knowledge so much that they miss Jesus. Make sure you're not one of them.
'Jesus, I'm sorry if I've doubted your Word or tried to interpret the Bible according to what I think. I'm sorry and turn away from this. Put me back on track so I can put my faith into action and do amazing things for you so you can use me to change the world for Jesus.'
The truth of The Bible - Jesus Says So! - John 14.26 | TOP
Some people question the accuracy of the Bible. They say how can the Bible be true? Men wrote it and surely they could have got things wrong. Well, possibly, but no. How do we know? Because Jesus said so.
What do we know about Jesus. Well, he said in John 14.6 to his disciples that he was 'the way, the light and the truth.' So, Jesus is truth and truth is actually a person - Jesus!
Let's take a look again at the reading, John 14.26. Jesus is continuing to talk to his disciples to reassure them. He says that when he goes away back to heaven, God will send another helper to the disciples (and all those who believe in him), the Holy Spirit. Jesus specifically says that the 'Helper' (notice it's not 'a' helper or 'this' helper, it's 'THE' helper) will teach you everything and cause you to remember all that I told you.
So Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will teach us everything and cause us to remember everything that Jesus told. So when the Gospel writers put the story and times of Jesus to paper, they were not writing as themselves but under the direct inspiration and power of the Spirit, who caused them to remember everything. So the Bible that we read is the truth.
The Old Testament? Well, Jesus knew it, referred to it, was prophesied about in it, said everything prophesied in it would come true down to the last little dot, and 2 Timothy 3.15-17 lets us know all the Bible is for us.
A heart fired up by the Word of God? | TOP
Read Luke 24.13-35. It tells the story of 2 followers on the road to Emmaus. Jesus has died and risen from the dead and he suddenly appears next to them and walks along with them, talking and teaching them about everything that had been written about himself in the Bible!
They were so busy talking, they didn't recognise it was Jesus until they got inside their house and Jesus broke the bread. When they realised it was Jesus he disappeared!
Read verse 32. It says this, 'It felt like a fire burning in us when Jesus talked to us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us.' When you ask Jesus to speak to you and you take time to listen (reading your Bible, talking to another Christian or praying), sometimes you will feel that 'fire' burning in your hearts. There's nothing like it. Spend time with God today and ask him about it.
The Bible | TOP
'All Scripture is given by God and is useful for teaching, for showing people what is wrong in their lives, for correcting faults and for teaching how to live right. Using the Scriptures, the person who serves God will be capable, having all that is needed to do every good work.' (2 Timothy 3.16-17)
How well you know your Bible can make or break your Christian life - it's that important. Jesus calls the Bible the 'bread of life'! Jesus knew the Old Testament like no-one else. He taught it so amazingly that people said, 'Wow! This bloke knows his stuff not like those religious teachers.'
If Jesus knew the Bible, how much more do you need to know it? Deuteronomy 11.18 says this: 'Memorise God's laws and think about them - teach them to your children.' Hebrews 4.12 says the Word of God (the Bible) is sharper than a double-edged sword. Today it's time to get serious about the Bible and your life and to start using that sword!
Is the Bible true? Part 1 | TOP
Few people have read the Bible and many of your mates will say that the Bible is full of mistakes and is no longer relevant to today. But the Bible writers claimed (over 3000 times in the Bible) they were writing the Word of God, which was completely true and could be totally trusted!
Hundreds of Bible prophecies have been fulfilled completely. For example, Daniel the prophet predicted in about 538 BC (that means 'Before Christ', Daniel 9.24-27) that Christ would come as Israel's promised Saviour 483 years after the Persian emperor would give the Jews authority to rebuild Jerusalem, which was then in ruins. This was happened hundreds of years later. More than 300 prophecies were fulfilled by Jesus!
Nostradamus and his 'work' mean nothing compared to the Bible (you don't hear that 95% of his predictions have been totally wrong!) Only the Bible is completely reliable and true - every time!
Is the Bible true? Part 2 | TOP
Ever heard people say that the Bible is not scientific? They say - you can't believe the Bible because what is says goes against what the scientists say. Well now you can show them they are wrong - take a look at some of these scientific things the Bible said long before man 'proved' them to be true...
- Roundness of the earth (Isaiah 40.22)
- The relationship between rivers and seas (Ecclesiastes 1.7)
- The huge number of stars (Jeremiah 33.22)
- The importance of blood in our life (Leviticus 17.11)
What's great about the Bible is the way these things are put in simple terms so we can all understand what they mean! And that every word the Bible says is true - unlike a lot of what we hear from scientists and 'experts'!
The truth is out there - read 2 Corinthians 11.23-30 | TOP
The Bible is the best selling book ever - many people have got a copy in their house. But the Bible is more than that - the Bible is the truth and it has come through the sacrifice of many people, even in England. In 1999 around 185,000 Christians were killed because of their faith. If you're prepared to suffer or even die for something, it must be pretty important.
In 2 Corinthians we hear some of the things that happened to Paul because he went round telling people about the gospel of Jesus. He was:
- lashed 39 times with a whip by the Jews on 5 different occasions
- beaten with rods 3 times
- almost stoned to death
- in ships that were wrecked 3 times, once he was in the sea all day & night
- in many dangerous situations with dangerous people
- tired, hungry, thirsty, homeless, cold with no clothes
What is God saying to you through this? Ask him.
Are you a follower? - Read Mark 1.16-20 | TOP
If some bloke stopped by your school today and said, 'Right mate, come along with me. You've been working for your education but now I want you to come and work for me' and wandered off down the corridor, what would you do? Would you run to the head and say, 'excuse me sir there appears to be a lunatic on the school property - who should I call the police or the men in white coats?' or what?
Peter and his fellow fish-loving brother just followed Jesus, no questions asked. If Jesus asked you to go to Albania tomorrow, would you go? If he asked you to speak to your mate about being a Christian would you? What Jesus is asking you today is - 'are you my follower?'
Psalm 119.105, 'Your word is like a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.' (YB) Read Psalm 119.97-105 | TOP
Psalm 119.105, 'Your word is like a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.' (YB) Read Psalm 119.97-105 ... In 1 Kings 3.9, King Solomon asked God for wisdom. He could have asked God for a long life, riches or the death of his enemies but he didn't. He asked that God would help him obey God & for wisdom. What would you have asked God for?
No matter what you think will make you happy and rewarded, if it's not God then you will be wrong! Write down your 4 favourite things on paper. Now get rid of one of them - cross that one off. Do this 2 more times. What's left on your paper is probably the most important thing to you. If it's not God then it's time to change, not because the things important to you are wrong, but because everything only falls in place when God is first (Matthew 6.33, Psalm 37.4).
The Psalmist (the one who wrote the Psalm) was clear. He loved God's teaching, thought about them all day long & was totally guided by them. Through obeying God, he was wise and had understanding. What about you?
How can I hear from God? - Read 1 Kings 19.11-18 | TOP
God wants to speak to you - so how can you hear from God and know it..?
a. We can pray. James 1.5 says we should ask God for wisdom. Verse 6 says we should believe it and not doubt. If you talk to God he'll speak to you.
b. We should listen for God's voice. 1 Samuel 3.10, Samuel said to the Lord, 'Speak Lord. I'm your servant and I'm listening.' (YB) In 1 Kings, we see that God moved past Elijah as a quiet and gentle wind. Sometimes, very often, this is how God speaks - quietly and gently. So listen!
c. Talk to other Christians - especially ones you trust and those who are wise and spiritual people. They've often been there before and can advise. Remember, it's God who has the truth so don't let people stop your dreams.
d. Reading the Bible. The Bible is the Word of God and has everything in it needed for daily living. It's all there if you look. 2 Tim 3.16 says the Bible is useful for teaching, correcting and for daily living. So use it!
e. Circumstances. Have things opened up for you? Has an opportunity come up that you weren't expecting? Put all these things together and trust God.
Does hell really exist? - Read Matthew 25.31-46 | TOP
Yes! People disagree about what hell is but no true Christian can deny hell exists. 'When someone questions the fact and reality of Hell, they're questioning the authority of the Bible and Jesus Christ.'
It is a place. In Mark 9:43-48, Jesus tells people to cut off their hand rather than sin and to 'go to hell, where the fire never goes out.' There is no question in the mind of Jesus.
Second, it's forever. In Matthew 25:46 (NIV), Jesus says, "And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." The Greek word for 'eternal' is the same. Since Christians will have everlasting life (John 10:28), those who don't believe will have everlasting punishment.
In Revelation 20:15, John says that anyone whose name is not in the 'book of life' is "thrown into the lake of fire". Don't let it be you, your friends or family. Pray like mad and get out there and tell people about Jesus!
Read Matthew 8.24-29 | TOP
You know, reading through these notes means nothing unless you let the Word of God speak to you individually. Sure, God may use me to speak to you but you must ask God to speak to YOU. Do that today, and every day.
Many people know the song, 'The wise man built his house upon the rock.' If you don't, you're not missing out BUT the words are straight from the Bible so we need to listen to what God is saying to us.
Wise up! Listen to Jesus & obey what he says! It's so important. If you're life is based around money, friends, career, music, sport, being popular, playing the guitar - whatever, then one day you're gonna sink. If Jesus is at the centre of your life then you are going to be able to stand strong and firm. It doesn't promise to be easy. It does promise you God's help in everything and the guarantee of living forever having a 'mad one' with God in heaven!