Learning and Living the God-centered life

One Biblical Doctrine at a time…
Bible Devotion

Devotion in Luke 7:36-50

This section of Scripture is very precious and teaches much about activity in the kingdom, love for the King and forgiveness from the King. Notice in these verses that the Pharisee did invite the Lord Jesus to his home. There is outward sign of politeness of which many Pharisees would never consider in regard to Christ. It is immediately that we see a sinful woman who enters the home. Do you see the two people in this story that really represent the two kinds of people in this world who need the gospel. The first person is lost because they are the ones who break all the rules.(those in the world) The second person is lost because they are trying to follow all the rules. (those in the church) Both types of people are really trying to be their own savior.

Observation #1
People can do all the right things, can say all the right things and still have no love for Christ. Jesus would say to the Pharisees in Matthew 15:8 "you honor Me with your lips but your heart is still from Me." We tend to look at the action or what is on the outside but God always looks on the inside. Whenever we have action for God that is motivated by our duty and not by desire then we dishonor Him.

Observation #2
The actions taken by the sinful woman in this story all stem from her love for Jesus. You can preach and teach men that they must fear God because He will punish their disobedience, you can tell them what they ought to do because of what He has done for them, and you can exhort them to keep God's word if they want to be saved. But unless there is a love for Christ that comes from a transformed heart, their hands and feet will remain idle. And if they do by chance get involved in kingdom work it will come from legalism and NOT love. Read More...

Devotion in John 6

When having devotion and study times get into the habit of having a Bible Atlas close at hand so you can be familiar with locations, regions and traveling distances.

This morning I had my devotion in John 6. In John 6 we first have the account of Jesus feeding the 5000. After that He sends the disciples in a boat to Capernaum. Then He joins them and has a confrontation with the crowd. Look at John 6:26 - Jesus answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.
Do you see what Jesus spots in the attitude of the crowd? They want the gifts but not the Giver. They desire the blessings (food) but not the Blessor. This group wants all that Jesus can provide for them health, wealth and prosperity but they don't want Him.

Now look at the text and see how Jesus relates the manna that was given to the people of Israel in the wilderness to Himself. And He says in John 6:33 “For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” Side note: Do you see how Jesus is explaining to the people that the manna that came down from heaven was a foreshadowing or a pointer to Him? Again do you see how the NT is able to interpret the OT Scriptures for us so that we can see Christ? Read More...

Devotion in Malachi

Our Bible reading this morning was the book of Malachi.

Read prayerfully and carefully the following text from Malachi 2:7-9:
7 For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.
8 But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the LORD of hosts,
9 and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you do not keep my ways but show partiality in your instruction.”

Steven Lawson offers this assessment of many pastors in today’s churches:
In their zeal to lead popular and successful ministries, many are becoming less concerned with pointing to the biblical text. Their use of the Bible is much like the singing of the national anthem before a ball game—something merely heard at the beginning, but never referenced again, a necessary preliminary that becomes an awkward intrusion into the real event. In their attempt to be contemporary and relevant, many pastors talk about the Scriptures, but, sadly, they rarely speak from them. Instead, they rush headlong to the next personal illustration, humorous anecdote, sociological quote, or cultural reference, rarely to return to the biblical text. How can pastors expect dying souls to become spiritually healthy if they never give them the prescribed remedy? How can pastors expect sinners to be converted and Christians to be sanctified if they fail to expound God’s Word …?

Lawson then adds these words from Merrill Unger:
To an alarming extent the glory is departing from the pulpit … The basic reason for this gloomy condition is obvious. That which imparts the glory has been taken away from the center of so much of our modern preaching and placed on the periphery. The Word of God has been denied the throne and given a subordinate place.

Ellsworth, R. (2007). Opening up Malachi (47–48). Leominster: Day One Publications.

Devotion in Psalm 119

Courtesy of the ESV online study Bible

On Wednesday our Bible reading was in Psalm 119. The words in the image above appear over 150 times in this particular Psalm. It seems whenever I read this Psalm I am drawn to verses 33-40. (ESV)

[33] Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes;
and I will keep it to the end.
[34] Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
and observe it with my whole heart.
[35] Lead me in the path of your commandments,
for I delight in it.
[36] Incline my heart to your testimonies,
and not to selfish gain!
[37] Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;
and give me life in your ways.
[38] Confirm to your servant your promise,
that you may be feared.
[39] Turn away the reproach that I dread,
for your rules are good.
[40] Behold, I long for your precepts;
in your righteousness give me life!

What is the focus?
The statutes of God
The law of God
The commandments of God
The testimonies of God
The ways of God
The promises of God
The precepts of God

A practical way to start the day

Many times I am asked about the "how to's" of the Christian life. When I started teaching on the major doctrines of the Bible in September 2006 my motto became "what we believe is how we behave." Therefore we need to have a strong foundation in basic Biblical doctrine so that our lives will reflect and display the glory of God! One of the most practical theologians, pastors and teachers that I have ever seen or heard is Dr. John Piper. I recently read an article on how he begins each new day in Christ.

Just remember the acronym APTAT

I acknowledge that apart from Christ I can do nothing of eternal value (John 15:5). I acknowledge with Paul in Romans 7:18, "In me, that is, in my flesh, dwells no good thing." I acknowledge that the old "I" which loved to deny this fact was crucified with Christ.

"P" -
I pray
I pray with Paul in 1 Thessalonians 3:12 that Christ would make me abound in love. I pray that grace might reign in my life through righteousness (Romans 5:21). I pray that God would produce in me the obedience he demands (Hebrews 13:21; 2 Thessalonians 1:11).

"T" -
I trust. This is the key because Galatians 3:5 says, "Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?" In other words, the ongoing work of the Spirit to enable us to love as we ought happens only as we trust the promises of God (Galatians 5:6). So by faith I lay hold on a promise like Isaiah 41:10: "Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand." I trust that as I act, it will not be I but the power of Christ in me and me only clinging to him in faith. Read More...

It's a matter of the heart

May I continue to remind that the way you have a devotion time can vary greatly during the course of a year. Sometimes the Lord draws you to a word, phrase, sentence, chapter or even a book that brings about a substantial quiet time. It has been most typical for me to have devotions that come from my Bible reading but not always. I have told this story before but it made a great impression on me from a former professor Dr. Larry Dixon. He told us as a class that his devotion time for the entire year had been in John Chapter 9. I also like the advice given by George Mueller in regard to having devotions, he said "don't get up from the table until your heart is happy in Christ."

In our reading this morning I was drawn to 1 Chronicles 29:18 "O LORD, God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep this desire in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you." This is David's great prayer of praise and supplication that will mark the end of his reign as king of Israel. As I was having my devotion time just thinking about the wording in this verse it hit me as to why so many today don't read the Bible or have consistent Bible devotions. The fruit is our devotion time with God but the root is our heart toward God. If the heart is hard then our ears become dull of hearing. The Lord Jesus said in Matthew 15:8 ‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. Read More...

Devotion time in God's word

Preach the gospel to yourself every day

In my devotion time this morning I reflected again on Romans 6:16-17. The way Paul writes in Romans 6:15-23 doesn't give us any wiggle room. He say plainly that every person is either a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness. There is no middle ground, it's like being pregnant you either are or you aren't. I once heard it's like shooting a shotgun you either shoot it or you don't. No one can sorta shoot a shot gun. And therefore a person can't sorta be a Christian.

The verses drove me back to the life that I had while still in Adam. As I thought more deeply on these two verses I remembered my slavery to money, greed, power, influence, social standing and status. These things not only controlled me but they were at the very center of my passions in life. Yesterday in church Rob Kelly gave a definition of an idol. He said an idol is anything that captures our hearts, praise and devotions that rightfully belong to God. In other words, these are the things that we are enslaved to instead of being enslaved to Christ.

So that led me to the next thought during my quiet time which was what happened to the old Bert. And the great thing about Romans 6 is that we can understand what happened to us in regeneration and also how that should play out in our daily lives. In Romans 6:16 there is a reference to the past. It says I was a slave to sin but at a certain point and time something happened in my life. The thing that happened is called regeneration in that my mind, heart and will were converted. Even though I wasn't fully aware of what happened here is what the Bible said took place in the life of Bert. I was transferred from the kingdom of darkness, where I was a slave to sin and under condemnation, judgement which was taking me straight to hell. But then God by His mercy and grace transferred in the kingdom of His beloved Son (Colossians 1:13). Read More...

Devotion time in Proverbs 21:1

In our Bible reading plan this morning the assignment is Proverbs 20-21. After reading I took some time to reflect on the implications of Proverbs 21:1. I suggest that as you come to have devotion time or study time with chapters, sentences, verses or words that you get several Bible translations. It often times will help to secure the meaning because the different translations are attempting to put into English the original language whether it be Hebrew of Greek. Proverbs 21:1 deals directly with the attribute ofrGod’s sovereignty.

Proverbs 21:1 (NIV) - The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD;
he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.

Proverbs 21:1 (NASB) - The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD;
He turns it wherever He wishes.

Proverbs 21:1 (NLT) - The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the Lord;
he guides it wherever he pleases.

Proverbs 21:1 (ESV) - The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord;
he turns it wherever he will.

So let’s start connecting the dots in the Bible regarding the "sovereignty of God"

Look at Ephesians 1:11 "...who works all things according to the counsel of his will" The phrase "all things" is literal and means everything.

What are the "all things" that God is sovereign over according to the Bible?

The fall of a sparrow - Matthew 10:29 - Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. Read More...

Devotion time in 1 Chronicles 17

We are in week #35 of our Bible reading plan. As you read become familiar with chapter titles that are given in the study Bible and also cross references. One of my first Bibles when I started to study contained no headings and no notes. Part of my training was to read chapters and paragraphs in order to title them as to the main thought. If you will notice today in 1 Chronicles 17 the title of this chapter is God's covenant with David. When you have devotions or are involved in Bible study learn to ask good questions. For example as you read 1 Chronicles 17 here are some questions that need to be answered:
1. Why is this titled covenant with David when the word covenant does not appear?
2. What is a covenant?
3. What other covenants can we find in the Bible?
4. Are there more than one type of covenant?
5. Does this point us to Christ and if so how?

Covenants in general
A covenant is a divinely sanctioned commitment

Divinely sanctioned doesn't mean divinely approved but it means that the covenant has sanctions in it which normally includes blessings and curses
Turn to Deuteronomy 27-28 along with Leviticus 26.
Notice in these sections of Scripture you have both blessings and curses.
This is an example in the Bible of a covenant or an oath and it has these sanctions attached that if you obey there will be blessing but if you disobey there will be a curse
A key for us to understand is that every covenant in the Bible does not operate under the same principle.
Though all covenants have blessings and curses not all covenant relationships are conditioned on the human partner. Read More...

What did Jesus mean when He said...

In my devotion time this morning I was thinking about the wealth and affluence in southeast Charlotte. Even though these are hard times economically for many people if you compare southeast Charlotte to the rest of the world there is no doubt that we are rich. And even those who would not think they are rich compared to the ultra wealthy are very rich compared to those in third world countries.

Do you remember the encounter that Jesus had with the rich young ruler? After the conversation is over Jesus turns to His disciples and says in Matthew 19:23 “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. If you were to ask Jesus to define the word "hard" in that sentence He does so with His very next statement. Matthew 19:24 “Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” This verse is not talking about the eye of a needle being some archway that a camel would have to kneel down in order to go under. It is not talking about the word camel as a rope that one tries to push through a needle. Jesus is making a very important point and He is using a word picture to do so. Can a real camel, yes the animal with a hump on his back to through the eye of a sewing needle? The answer to that question is no, that would be impossible. And that is exactly what the disciples understood because in their follow up question they asked the following in context with what had just happened with the rich young ruler "then who can be saved?" Read More...

Devotion time in Daniel 4

In our study of Bible doctrine and more specifically the doctrine of God we will cover the sovereignty of God. Our Friday Bible reading is Daniel 1-6 but I am drawn this morning to Daniel 4. This may be the clearest teaching in the Bible regarding the sovereignty of God. Let's look at the verses and then come to a definition of sovereignty.

Daniel 4:28-35 (NIV)
28 All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 he said, "Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?"
31 The words were still on his lips when a voice came from heaven, "This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. 32 You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes."

33 Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like cattle. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.

34 At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.
His dominion is an eternal dominion;
his kingdom endures from generation to generation.

35 All the peoples of the earth
are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
with the powers of heaven
and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
or say to him: "What have you done?"

The definition of sovereignty: God plans and carries out His perfect will as He alone knows is best, overall that is in heaven and earth, and He does so without failure or defeat. Read More...

Devotion time in Psalm 95

I was discipled in my early years of Bible training by a man who taught me the importance of daily devotions. The first thing he instructed was what he called the key to Bible devotion and study. The principle he said I needed to learn was how to prepare the heart! So, listed below is a summary or paraphrase of what he constantly exhorted me to do before devotions and times of study.

The preparation of the heart is a non-negotiable and without it Bible study will nothing more than an academic exercise. If there is no illumination and understanding of the text correctly then there will be no correct application either. Therefore it is critical that we learn to prepare the heart before we start to read, study and have our quiet times. As one scholar once said "it doesn't do much good to tune the fiddle when the concert is over".

1. Confession of known sin or sin that is being tolerated in one's life (1 John 1:9)
2. Prayer of desperation from the heart of one who earnestly desires to hear from, meet with and obey God (Psalm 34:8)

I - Incline your heart (Psalm 119:36)
"Incline my heart to Your testimonies
And not to dishonest gain"

O - Open my eyes (Psalm 119:18)
"Open my eyes, that I may behold
Wonderful things from Your law"

U – Unite my heart (Psalm 86:11)
"Teach me Your way, O LORD;
I will walk in Your truth;
Unite my heart to fear Your name"

I am sharing this with you today because of my devotion time in Psalm 95. When you look at the overall structure of Psalm 95 there are two main parts.
1. A celebration of God's kingship (1-7)
2. A warning to Israel about the rebellion of their ancestors (8-11) Read More...

Devotion time in Ezekiel 19-24

After reading in Ezekiel this morning I broke it down in the following way:
1. The cause of sin
2. The consequence of sin

Cause of Sin
The cause goes back to original sin that took place in the garden of Eden (Romans 5:12). Man has a heart that is hard, evil, wicked and rebellious against God. As a matter of fact man really wants to be his own god. He wants to plan, be strategic, control in order to be the captain of his own ship and the master of his own fate. Therefore man not only is conceived in sin, but continues to sin in falling short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Man depends on himself, relies on himself and trusts in himself to the point that he idolizes all that his hands can create. And when you think that these in Ezekiel are the people of God then we quickly realize this represents everyone in all the world. If God's people can't keep the law then what does that say about the rest of the people on planet earth? Each person that was ever born through ordinary generations from the day of Adam has a heart that is evil and desperately wicked. Just look at Genesis 6:5 "Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."

Consequence of Sin
We have a poor understanding today in the church of how God views sin. As we are going through the attributes of God we learn that God is holy, God is just and God is wrathful against sin. In this section of Ezekiel we are seeing the judgment of God that is being delivered against His own people. There will be death by famine, death by the sword and death by disease. Here is where it helps to go back to the definition of the kingdom and put this into a greater context. The kingdom of God is where you have;

God's people in God's land under God's obedient vassal king. When you read through this section of the Old Testament most all the vassal kings are evil and rebellious. This means that the people are going to reflect the thoughts and actions of the leadership. The land of God must be a place of holiness and righteousness. But instead it has become a place where God's people worship their own various idols. And when you go back and read carefully Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 27 and 28, God carefully lays out what will happen if the people obey and what will happen should they disobey. Because in Exodus 24:7-8 the people have put themselves under a covenant of works or covenant of the law. Now in Ezekiel we are reading the consequence that results from the breaking of God's law as it pertains to His people. When you read of the death and destruction that takes place it becomes very hard to read as the video player in your mind turns itself on. But there is an extremely valuable lesson in all this for us today. And that is when we see the horrific consequence of sin on planet earth, that is but a small pointer for us as to how God views sin on a worldwide scale. We read of two women eating their own children and we can hardly bear to think that actually occurred. That becomes a tangible picture for us like a grain of sand compared to the Rockie mountains as to our sin before the eyes of a holy God. Read More...

Devotion time in God's word

I think Psalm 46 speaks very loudly to us in an environment that stays busy, hectic and very distracted. In Psalm 46:10 we read "Be still and know that I am God." This may be short and simple but there is much good theology in these words.

1. Be still - when is the last time you were consistently still over a period of days, weeks or yes even months? We must learn to be still not just to pretend or act still. It's like a muscle in the arm when you work it then it becomes stronger. It seems almost a paradox to say we need to practice becoming still but we do. How are you practicing to be still?

2. Know - just that word can tell so much about a person's theology. It says nowhere in this verse for you to "DO" anything. Of course doing is part of the Christian life, no self respecting orthodox evangelical would argue against that fact. But it doesn't start with doing it all starts with knowing. As I have said on many occasions, it is not what Jesus would do but rather what Jesus has already done that is the key. The Lord Jesus Christ links the word know with eternal life in John 17:3, "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent."(NIV)

3. I am God - we need to remember that in a world that has many, many different types of gods. The god of self-esteem, the god of success, the god of lifestyle, the god of I, me and my just to name just a few. But let's not get confused, God said to Moses tell them that I AM the great I AM. Once I heard a Bible teacher say that God told Moses I AM and now you fill in the blank. I AM...your savior, I AM...your shield and protection, I AM your wisdom and strength, I AM the Alpha and the Omega and so on.

There could be much more to think about and to write but that is a basic kind of devotion that I like to have first thing in the morning. And normally what I do is try and bring the devotion in during the day in conversations with people. Also I try to continue thinking about the main points like being still, knowing God and knowing that He is the great I AM.

The benefit of journaling

If you do not journal during Bible devotion time I would highly recommend that you do so. There is something about reading, thinking and writing notes that locks Scripture into the brain.
This has been something I have done consistently over the past 10 years, and have lots of notebooks filled with Scripture study and devotions. In regarding to journaling the verse that comes to mind is Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. As you journal with Scripture in front of you it becomes a very effective way to renew the mind. Obviously the transformation here is done by the Holy Spirit but we have a responsibility to be wise in the tools we use to take in the Scripture for our daily living.

Devotion in Luke 12

On Saturday our reading was in Luke 11-12. Look at the following section of Scripture;

Luke 12:15 Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”
Luke 12:16 And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive.
Luke 12:17 “And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’
Luke 12:18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.
Luke 12:19 ‘And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”’
Luke 12:20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’
Luke 12:21 “So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

Read carefully, read slowly and read from a God-centered perspective. Check out the statements of this rich man;

* what shall I do
* I have n place to story my crops
* This is what I will do
* I will tear down my barns and build larger ones
* and there I will store all my grain and my goods
* And I will say to my soul,
* Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease

Sitting under an excellent Bible teacher one night he asked the class does anyone here know of the unholy trinity? He said the unholy trinity in the church today is; "I, ME or MY." Our focus should be on Thou, Thee and Thy but unfortunately we live in a culture that recognizes and applauds the I, me and my. Notice that Jesus later in Luke Chapter 12 gives us something else to consider in this context when He says "“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." And we can also connect this to what Jesus taught when He said "from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." In this parable above you can tell much about this man's heart by listening to what is coming out of his mouth. I was in another class where the question was asked; "So how can we have a heart for Jesus?" The teacher paused and said "make Him your treasure!"

Jesus taught in a way and lived in a way that focused on the "Thou, Thee and Thy" and not the I, me or my. Could it be that we are much like the rich man in this parable in that our use of personal pronouns on a continuous basis reflects that which we most treasure in our hearts?

Bible reading in Ezekiel

The book of Ezekiel offers much debate among evangelicals because it contains so much figurative language. Hopefully as we study through the years I can give you some basic guidelines that will be helpful coming to this type of genre in the Bible.

In the first 6 chapters it seems that you have the following flow of events;

* The glory of God that is seen by Ezekiel in a vision
* The call of Ezekiel into prophetic ministry
* The capture of Jerusalem that is symbolized
* Jerusalem will be destroyed
* God's judgment against idolatry

This is where it is important to understand the covenants. When Moses brings the people to Mount Sinai God give them not only the 10 commandments on tablets of stone but another 613 commands. These commands are divided into three basic groups, civil, ceremonial and moral. Remember in our study that the definition of a covenant is a divinely sanctioned commitment. Divinely sanctioned doesn't mean divinely approved but it means that the covenant has sanctions in it which normally includes blessings and curses. A key for us to understand is that every covenant in the Bible does not operate under the same principle. Though all covenants have blessings and curses not all covenant relationships are conditioned on the human partner.

There are two types of covenants in the Bible

* One is a covenant of grace in which God Himself takes the sanctions
* And covenants of law or works in which the sanctions are taken against the human partner

The simple way to tell the difference is to ask the question; who is taking the oath by which the covenant is taking place. The oath is recognized by the language my I be under a curse if I don't do everything stated in this covenant.

Should God take the covenant on Himself then it will be a covenant of grace
Should man take the covenant on himself then it will be a covenant of works Read More...

Proverbs 4; the heart, the word and life

Our reading this morning is in Proverbs 4. Look carefully at Proverbs 4:23 and understand the context, here are 4 different translations;

New American Standard Bible (NASB)
23 Watch over your heart with all diligence,
For from it flow the springs of life.

New International Version (NIV)
23 Above all else, guard your heart,
for it is the wellspring of life.

Amplified Bible (AMP)
23 Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life.

21st Century King James Version (KJ21)
23 Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the outflowings of life.

And the emphasis in the NIV is important when it says "above all else" guard your heart. So in the context of the writer of Psalms how are we supposed to guard our hearts?

Now look at Proverbs 4:13 in the same 4 translations;

New American Standard Bible (NASB)
13 Take hold of instruction; do not let go
Guard her, for she is your life.

New American Standard Bible (NASB)
13 Hold on to instruction, do not let it go;
guard it well, for it is your life.

Amplified Bible (AMP)
13 Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.

21st Century King James Version (KJ21)
13 Hold fast to instruction, let her not go; keep her, for she is thy life.

The wisdom we as Christians need is Christ Himself and the way we are to learn, understand about Him is the very word of God. Isn't that also what we learn from the apostle Paul in Colossians 2? All wisdom and knowledge are in Christ;
Col. 2:2 that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself,
Col. 2:3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Look at the connection in this Proverb between one's heart, the word and their life!
And Moses talking to the nation of Israel about the commandments of God or His word in Deut. 32:47 “For it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life..."

It is everywhere in the Bible! God is always bringing us back to His word which when properly seen reveals Christ (wisdom in the Proverbs) and that is done through the illumination to our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

When Jesus says "close your mouth"

Now turn to Mark 8:27-38. Look again and notice what the Lord Jesus says next in Mark 8:30 "He warned them to tell no one about Him." In essence Jesus tells His own disciples to keep their mouths shut. And we ask why? Before we look at the answer I want to show you an important Greek word in verse 30. By the way, this is the strongest Greek word that one can use for a rebuke or an admonishment. So we have Jesus rebuking His disciples and saying they should tell no one. This story is about to get very interesting.

So why does Jesus admonish His disciples and tell them to keep their mouths shut. In verse 21 we read "From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day." Jesus is telling them right now in very clear language, I am the Messiah who has come to inaugurate the "kingdom of God" in the form of a suffering Servant that Isaiah prophesied about in Isaiah 53. I am the fulfillment of the promises in the Old Testament. Therefore as the suffering Servant I must go to Jerusalem and be crucified, dead and buried but on the third day I will rise from the dead.

Isn't this the message of the gospel? If you had one section of Scripture that you could point someone to that best defines or describes the gospel where would you take them? I would suggest 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures."

Now back to our story;
Peter who just a few verses ago gave the correct answer now after hearing Jesus talk about His death, burial and resurrection, takes the living God to the side and REBUKES Him. Can you believe that? Peter in Mark 8:32 uses the same Greek word that Jesus used in Mark 8:30 and Peter admonishes God. Here is the problem with Peter and the disciples, and it is a problem that Jesus knows because He knows their hearts. Peter is saying to Jesus you deserve to have the crown without the cross.
Please don't miss this because this is the exact same strategy that Satan tried to use against Jesus in the wilderness. Satan tempts Jesus with you can have the kingdom right now and there is no need for you to suffer on the cross. Therefore we can understand how when Jesus looks at Peter, He now says "Get from behind Me Satan."
Because Peter is presenting the same strategy and thinking to Jesus that Satan did in the wilderness. This is deadly because it becomes a man-centered theology and not a God-centered theology.

The book of Job

If you are reading with us through the 52 week Bible plan then you know we recently completed the book of Job. Here is a helpful post from Ray Ortlund concerning this book in the Bible that has as its major theme suffering.

I used to think the book of Job is in the Bible because it presents a rare and extreme case of human suffering. “Look at this worst case scenario. If you can see the truth here, then surely in your comparatively small problems . . . .”

Now I think the book of Job is in the Bible because the story is so common. Many are thinking, “What on earth has happened to me? I can’t see what I’ve done that explains this devastation. Where is God in this?”

Enter Job’s three friends. They were cautious at first. But with their tidy notions threatened by his untidy realities, the moralism started pouring out of them: “Come on, Job, get real with us. You must have some dirty secret that explains all this. Admit it, and this misery will start going away.” Their finger-pointing oversimplifications intensified Job’s sufferings, and this too is a common experience.

I don’t think the book of Job is about suffering as a theoretical problem — why do the righteous suffer? I think it’s about suffering as a practical problem — when (not if) the righteous suffer, what does God expect of them? And what he expects is trust. When the righteous cannot connect the realities of their experience with the truths of God, then God is calling them to trust him that there is more to it than they can see. As with Job, there is a battle being fought in the heavenlies.

Trust in God, not explanations from God, is the pathway through suffering.

The beginning of wisdom...

When I am doing a devotion and meditating on a verse or a word, normally I will look these up in other translations. This morning I was looking at Proverbs 7:1a. Which of course means the first half of the verse. Here we are in the book of Proverbs which is a collection of Hebrew idioms from King Solomon, that focus on wisdom and knowledge. Notice in the very first Proverb we learn priority number 1 when coming into our study of God. In our initial lesson on the doctrine of God I brought out two terms that we need to learn;

Transcendence means that God is far "above" the creation in the sense that He is greater than the creation and is independent of it.

Immanence means His nearness, kind, caring, protection and being close to us

So in studying the doctrine of God we always start with the transcendence of God first and then move to the immanence of God next. One of the verses I would use to support this is Proverbs 7:1a. Therefore would it make sense that the church in all that it says and does have an emphasis or a priority on this also? I fear we have made Jesus such a friend, buddy and homeboy (t-shirts) that there is little if any fear, which could be translated as worshipful reverence. Imagine for a minute as a priest and for the first time walking into the temple and then having the privilege of walking into the holy of holies. It wasn't to be done in a casual or a flippant type of way but with great fear and awe.

Well let's go back to the verse, the starting point of knowing this God of the Bible is a healthy fear which means we must study in depth these transcendent attributes.

7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
Fools despise wisdom and instruction.

7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools [a] despise wisdom and discipline.

Amplified Bible (AMP)
7 The reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord is the beginning and the principal and choice part of knowledge [its starting point and its essence]; but fools despise skillful and godly Wisdom, instruction, and discipline.(A)

7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

7 Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

In this particular case I like what the Amplified brought as to a good understanding of what it means to fear the LORD.

Devotion in Psalm 63

When you get time read and meditate on the first 5 verses from Psalm 63. Now the questions for our consideration;
  • Is the church today producing this kind of Christian?
  • Are these the youth that are coming from youth ministries all across the country? I
  • Is this the crazed radical for Jesus or should this be the normal Christian life?
  • Have we so minimized God's word that to emphasize these verses as typical would make most people really uncomfortable?
  • When you read these verses do any other Bible verses come to mind?

How about for starters the following;
Psalm 42:1 As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God.
John 6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.
Philippians 3:7-8 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,

If we were to look into the calendars and check books of those right in our midst at Carmel what might we find? Would the calendar and the money point to a seeking, thirst and yearning for Christ? For most Americans you can summarize what they treasure by observing how they invest time, money and energy. And do you remember what Jesus said in Matt. 6:21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Unfortunately today in many cases the affections and attractions of the people are in their jobs, homes, lifestyles, children, social activities or recreation. Christ no longer is the center piece but an add on after everything else gets tended to and done.

How do we fix this problem? Answer - we can't but God can. But how? By encouraging those in our sphere of influence to cry out, appeal, beg, shout, pray that God would extend a measure of faith so that we might seek, thirst and yearn for Him and His word above all else. I desperately want to be a Psalm 63:1-5 type of Christian. There are so many distractions, temptations and influences that pull away from what God wants for me and move me toward what I want for myself.

Final thoughts regarding Job

This morning we come to the end of Job. After 42 chapters all that has happened to Job, the wrestling and questioning, along with the bad theological advice from his three friend, what does Job conclude? Read carefully verse 2 and then think of an adjective that best describes God from this verse. Job 42:2 "I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted." The best adjective to describe God from this verse seems to be sovereignty.

The sovereignty of God means;

* Ruling
* Reigning
* Ownership

It brings together the attributes as these are the things that make Him sovereign. God is good, wise, holy and these things come to bear as He rules, leads and governs.

Definition: God plans and carries out His perfect will as He alone knows is best, over all that is in heaven and earth, and He does so without failure or defeat.

Sovereignty is a statement about God’s CONTROL over all things in His PLAN and His EXECUTING that plan.
How wide? - over all heaven and earth
How successful is God in this plan? - without failure or defeat

So the natural question for us to ask especially from our reading of Job 42:2 would be, what is God's ultimate purpose? The answer to this question is located all through the Bible. But let me take you to one book of the Bible where that answer is found three times within 14 verses. Turn to Ephesians 1:1-14. In these verses is found the purpose of God for us on planet earth that no man can thwart. I will highlight the answer in the following verses. Read More...

The Bible is God-centered

This is from Doug Wolter

As I look at the Psalms, I’m amazed at how little we do and how much He does.  For example:

Psalm 23:1-3
The LORD is my shepherd; 
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me besides still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Psalm 40:1-3
I waited patiently for the LORD;
he inclined to me and [he] heard my cry
He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog,
[he] set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.

Psalm 55:22
Cast your burden on the LORD,
he will sustain you;
he will never permit the righteous to be moved.

Psalm 91:14-16
Because he holds fast to me in loveI will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
he calls to meI will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and [I will] honor him.
With long life 
I will satisfy him
[I will] show him my salvation.

In summary, all I need to do is come poor and needy because He comes to me rich in mercy. Hallelujah!

Back to our regularly scheduled program

The February Retreat 2010 is still on the bubble. If you are familiar with “March Madness” college basketball then you know the term “on the bubble.” This means that a team is close to making the tournament but not yet determined so they are on the bubble.

So while we are on the bubble so to speak I am going to get back to our regularly scheduled programming. If tomorrow the window of weather allows us to get to Asheville then I will reinstate RETREAT 2010.

The following is a devotion from Psalm 57.
Psalm 57:2 (Amplified Bible) I will cry to God Most High, Who performs on my behalf and rewards me [Who brings to pass His purposes for me and surely completes them]!
This was part of our reading for yesterday. Here is the same verse in the NIV I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills {his purpose} for me. So as we think and meditate on this verse let's ask the question "what is the purpose of God for my life?" I heard a wise pastor once say "the quality of questions one asks will be proportionate to the quality of one's life." If you can answer this purpose question, then would you not agree this should be the highest priority of your life? Psalm 57:2 tells us that God is accomplishing and fulfilling His very purposes through my life and your life. What is that purpose? Read More...

The heavens declare the glory of God

This morning I was up early to let out the dogs. Immediately when I saw the sky I rushed back in the house to get my camera. For several minutes after the picture I just stared at the majesty, and beauty of the sky in all its incredible radiance. During those precious moments at no time was I thinking about my self esteem, self importance, or self image. There was only a focus on what I was beholding before my eyes which was the magnificence of the sky. And when I came in it hit me and this is why I am writing this blog. The sky in this picture is merely a pointer or you could say a foreshadowing of the glory of God. We read in Psalm 19:1 “The heavens are telling of the glory of God...” As I was thinking about those minutes it was if God was saying if you think this is grand, spectacular, awesome, beautiful and glorious just wait until that day when all my glory will be fully revealed. When we are captivated by God’s greatness and glory He become big and we become small. And as John the Baptist declares in John 3:30 and this is a great reminder for all of us in our study of the doctrine of God “He must increase and I must decrease.”

The greatest commandment...

The Bible reading for today is Mark 11-12. If you are reading from the NASB translation you see that the text is written in ALL CAPS that means it comes from the Old Testament. In Mark 12 the Lord Jesus is asked by one of the scribes "Which commandment is the most important of all." Jesus has no problem with the question and He certainly has no problem with the answer. The answer Jesus gives comes straight from Deuteronomy 6:5 which says “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And here will be my first point that I consider critical to your devotion time. Find the verse in the Old Testament and read it in the greater context of the paragraph in order to get a better understanding of the meaning. In this case I would suggest you read Deuteronomy 6:1-9. I am appealing for you to read it and see if you agree with my interpretation. Again, I exhort you to be like the Bereans (Acts 17:11) who took the Scriptures and compared them against everything that Paul taught.

First of all can you imagine the depth of teaching that Jesus had and that he could offer to His disciples. But as one of my Bible teachers once said to me "the gospel is simplicity through great complexity." So the Lord Jesus has no problem going right to the bottom line and giving this scribe the most important commandment of them all. And according to Jesus Himself it is “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." Notice that has everything to do with a person's vertical relationship with God. Please don't move past that point too quickly because that is exactly why we are getting so saturated in the "doctrine of God."

If someone were to approach me from outside our class at Carmel, and ask me "why are you teaching on the doctrine of God." My answer would come in a three-fold statement. Part 1 would sound like the following; so that we as the people of God might love the LORD our God with all our heart and soul and with all our might." Part 2 of the answer would incorporate the second most important command. We are learning the doctrine of God because as we know Him more and love Him more in our vertical relationship this will transcend into us loving our neighbors as ourselves. Part 3 of the answer will be the ultimate purpose of the entire Bible which is once you have a community of people with the proper vertical relationship, that works itself out in the proper horizontal relationships, what manifests is the "glory of God" in the life of those people.

Are you Biblically desperate?

Good morning, hope everyone is off to a good start in this new year. Over the past 18 months you have heard me continue to exhort you back to God's word so that God's word can get back into you. Hopefully you have been around me long enough to know the difference between a "duty" mentality when it comes to Bible reading, study, and devotions and a "delight" mentality. If someone asks me how I have approached the Bible over my years in ministry, my answer is with a constant and continuous prayer of desperation. Almost every morning when my eyes open and before my feet hit the floor, I am asking God to make me desperate for His word that day. Here are some verses that support that kind of prayer and attitude when it comes to our Bible study time.
Psalm 42:1 As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So my soul pants for You, O God.

Psalm 1:1 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
Psalm 1:2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

Jeremiah 33:3 ‘Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’

Here is what I have learned over the years from the church fathers that have gone before us. At this point I am specifically thinking of George Mueller just to name one that I know just a litte. Turn the verses into prayer before you start to read the Bible that morning. In other words find any number of verses like those I have listed above and pray to God the Father these very things. Read More...