Learning and Living the God-centered life

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Bible Devotion

Devotion time in 1 Samuel

Devotion time is so precious in that God may focus you on the whole chapter, a paragraph, a sentence or maybe even one word! In my reading this week in 1 Samuel I was drawn to a phrase that appears throughout the entire Old Testament. It reads in a number of different ways but carries the same meaning. The phrase is "I brought them up from Egypt or I brought Israel up from Egypt." (1 Samuel 8:8, 1 Samuel 10:18) Why is this so important to the nation of Israel and why is God repeating it so often? In order to understand this we need to travel back in our Bibles to Genesis 12 where God gives Abram the following promise. It reads as follows;

Gen. 12:1 ¶ Now the LORD said to Abram,
“Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father’s house,
To the land which I will show you;
Gen. 12:2 And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing;
Gen. 12:3 And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

And then we see this promise made to Abraham being ratified by God in Genesis 15. When you read Genesis 15 notice the following; the promise God makes, the response that Abraham has, and then how Abraham knows God is going to do what He says. Allow me to draw you attention to two things; Genesis 15:17 as to how God sealed His promise. Second, Genesis 15:13 God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. It is critical for us to understand that when God brings His people out of Egypt, which He tells to Abraham even before it happened, this is the sign that God is faithful to His covenant with Abraham.

At some point we will discuss in full the meaning of this covenant with Abraham and what it has to do with us as Gentiles. But for this devotion just keep in mind that whenever and wherever you find the phrase "brought them out of Egypt" I want you to think back to Genesis 12 and 15 and God's covenant with Abraham. This is not a covenant that God was obligated to make with Abraham. But as we will see later in our study of the attributes of God, once God says and commits then He is bound by the very essence of His character to do it. We serve a God that always does what He says! Even though we may be faithless at times He is always faithful. So as you read through the Old Testament historical narratives that cover from Genesis-Esther. You should continue to marvel at the fact that even though the people are rebellious, and often turn their backs on God that He remains faithful to not only bring them out from Egypt but into the land of Canaan. And why? just travel back again to the covenant with Abraham and be encouraged, for what God promises He always delivers!

Devotion in Genesis

Our Bible reading this week includes Genesis 44-47. This incorporates the story of Joseph but there is much for us to learn about God and us. In this section of Scripture we see one of the clearest teachings in the Bible when it comes to the harmony of God's divine sovereignty over all things and man's responsibility from his freedom of the will.

So here is how one can understand this from the story of Joseph and what happens to him via his brothers.

These are what are known as “Compatibilist” Texts
This means two things that need to be brought together in convergence.

One is the sovereign control of God, He is ordaining, He is determining, He is causing to bring about certain things but that sovereign ordination of God doesn’t cancel out human free action and responsibility.

Instead that sovereign action of God is compatible with and doesn’t happen separate from responsible human action.

So these two things are compatible – Divine Sovereignty and Free Human Responsibility

Genesis 45:4-8
You remember the story, there was seven years of plenty and seven years of famine.
So when the brothers went down to Egypt to buy food the one that they appeared before was in fact there brother Joseph.
The brothers sold Joseph as a slave hoping that he would have a painful death.
They had no idea that he was promoted, God had given him those dreams, and now he was second in command in all of Egypt.

Then in Genesis 45 Joseph decides to reveal his true identity to his brothers.
“Then Joseph said to his brothers, . . . ‘I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.

Question – is this true?
Did his brothers sell him into Egypt?

Yes indeed they did, they plotted it and carried it out and did exactly what they wanted to do. Read More...

Thankful on Thanksgiving

When the word thanksgiving comes to mind I am reminded of Psalm 100. Since today is Thanksgiving I turned to Psalm 100 for a time of reading and devotion. Hebrew poetry contains much parallelism and though I don’t know the technical terms I sometimes recognize it when I see it.

Psa. 100:1 Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth.
Psa. 100:2 Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before Him with joyful singing.

Psa. 100:3 Know that the LORD Himself is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Psa. 100:4 Enter His gates with thanksgiving
And His courts with praise.
Give thanks to Him, bless His name.

Psa. 100:5 For the LORD is good;
His lovingkindness is everlasting
And His faithfulness to all generations.

Do you see how verse 1, 2 and 4 are about joy and gladness?
And verses 3 and 5 talk about what we need to know.

Or could we say that our response of joy should be in direct relation to our knowledge of God. What do we need to know about the God of our salvation? And I would contend that we need to know of His grace. Should you ask the question how can gain knowledge about this kind of grace, the answer is just read God’s word. The Bible is a story about the grace of God as He redeems mankind from the sin that has separated him from God. By His grace we are able to become more and more knowledge of Him which results in great joy and thanksgiving to Him!

Are you joyful and thankful? If you are it is because of the grace of God that has intersected your life in such a way that you are His sheep and He is your Shepherd!

Devotion in Judges 17-21

Good morning, it's great to be back in Charlotte and had a wonderful anniversary week. Pat informed me last night that he told the group on Sunday that since I couldn't remember the day of my anniversary that I just took the week. Let me just go on the record and say this, every day with my Nancy B. is like an anniversary! I can see Pat rolling his eyes right now.

The book of Judges is hard to read after the great victory that Joshua had in bringing God's people into the land. Again I am reminded that in the days of the Judges and today we are only one generation away from apostasy. The two verses that have caught my attention over the years and still grab me in the reading of Judges are Judges 17:6 and Judges 21:25.

Judg. 17:6 In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.
Judg. 21:25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

I am going to connect these two verses to what I see happening to a large degree in the American Evangelical Church. This to me is the very definition of the post modern generation especially as it regards their view of Scripture. In a nutshell post-modernism doesn't believe in absolutes but is defined by relativism. When a true post-modern reads the Bible they say things like "this is what it means to me, or this is what I feel this means or this is how the Bible is speaking to me." What? Don't hear this wrong my post-modern friends, but who cares what it means to you? The real question that should be before us is what does the Bible mean! The cardinal rule for proper Bible study is as follows: The interpretation of any Scripture is equal to what the author meant at the time he wrote it. Therefore it becomes our job through prayer and the Holy Spirit to use good Bible study methods in order to arrive at the author's intended meaning.

When the post modern church says that it is OK for someone to decide what the Scriptures mean to them then the consequence will be straight from Judges 21:25 everyone did what was right in his own eyes. Read More...

George Mueller

Here is a short bio of George Mueller that I pulled off the DesiringGod website.

Pastor George Mueller was born in Germany in 1805, spent most of his life in Bristol , England , preached nine times in Minneapolis in 1880, traveled to 42 countries between the ages of 70 and 87, and died at the age of 92, the most famous orphanage founder in the world. He built 5 orphan houses, cared for 10,024 orphans in his lifetime, pastored the same church for 66 years, never incurred debt, never asked anyone for money, didn't take a salary for 68 years, and never went hungry. He lost three children in infancy, his first wife Mary after 39 years, his second wife Susannah after 23 years, and his daughter Lydia when she was 58. In response to the new teaching that Christ snatches the church out of the world before the Tribulation, Mueller reportedly said, “If you can show me a trumpet after the last and a resurrection before the first, then I can believe this new doctrine.” He was a Baptist who admitted people to his church as members who had only been sprinkled as infants. He served the Lord's Supper weekly. He rejected life insurance and retirement accounts, preached for Charles Spurgeon, inspired Hudson Taylor, and did follow up for D. L. Moody.

Since we have been teaching on the importance of God’s word from day one in our class, I thought it might be helpful to share the following audio. Here is a short audio of what George Mueller learned and shared about prayer and devotion time in God’s word.

To listen click on this LINK.

Devotion in Genesis

This week our reading in Genesis covers chapters 16-19. What I am immediately drawn to notice is the plan devised by Sarai and Abram to help God out. Remember God had come to Abram in Genesis 12 with those 5 “I Will’s” recorded for us in Genesis 12:1-3. And in one of those the LORD said to Abram I will make you a great nation. In Genesis 13:16 the LORD says again to Abram “I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered.” Keep in mind that Sarai is barren and they have no children. So God approaches Abram at age 75 with this news and by age 85 there are still no little ones on the scene. However instead of continuing to wait on the LORD, pray and trust in His promise, Abram and Sarai decide to go to work. So we see Sarai give Abram her handmaid Hagar and from that relationship a child is produced. However this child is not of the promise that God spoke of back in Genesis 12 or 13 but rather this is a child of the flesh or you could say of works. (Side note: Can you see the consequences of that disobedience that remains until this day in the middle east?)

Stop right here in Chapter 16 and just think about how this relates to our own Christian walk and even our church methodologies. Instead of us full depending, relying and trusting in God’s word we are determined to do something and make it happen in our flesh. And we move into a 21st Century American mindset that goes something like this: “if it’s to be then it’s up to me.” So instead of a church filled with people waiting and trusting the very word of God we train up Ishmael’s as we plan and accomplish from our human perspectives. Wasn’t that part of the point when Bill Hybels ,at Willow Creek, said in his statement about their methods for the last 30 years, “we made a mistake.” Whenever we devise our plans, and our strategies, and our methods instead of trusting the word of God the story can only have one ending which will be “we made a mistake.”

Do you remember the story of Nehemiah? He is told by Hannani who comes all the way to Susa from Judah to give Nehemiah the following news. The remnant who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach and the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned with fire. And notice what Nehemiah DOES NOT do when he hears the news. He doesn’t call a committee together to brainstorm the issue, he doesn’t find the latest book on how to rebuild a wall that is destroyed, and he doesn’t even call a friend for advice. The first response for this man is to weep, mourn, fast and pray in order to call out to this great God! And even the first words of his prayer we read “I beseech You, O LORD God of heaven.” When is the last time over some huge decision Read More...

Devotion in Psalm 9

After the reading this morning I went back and just prayed and thought about Psalm 9 verse 1 "I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders. As you are reading through the Old Testament notice how many times God reminds the Israelites that He brought them out of Egypt. In some way, shape or form that expression is used hundreds of times in the Old Testament. So what is the purpose of reminding the people about this event? In order that the people will live before Him by giving thanks for who He is and what He has done! Why? Because God must be seen as Giver and the people must understand their role as receiver. They didn't deserve to be rescued, nor did they do anything that merited their rescue but God did it so that His name might be known as great.

What if one day I came over to your home and you had a 7 year old child that was playing outside. Unfortunately he wanders away from you and heads right into the street. I happen to notice and start into a full run then tackle your son away from a speeding car that would have hit and run over him. Do you suppose you might remember that event for some period of time and thank me? Read More...

Devotion time in Genesis 12

This morning our Bible reading was in Genesis 12-15. After reading I came back for a time of devotion and thought about Genesis 12:2 "...And I will bless you, And make your name great;..." Now look with me back at Genesis 11 and the account of the people at the Tower of Babel. We read the following in Genesis 11:4 "They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

Doesn't this give us some great insight into the heart of man? He is constantly wanting to accomplish and achieve so that his name can be recognized as great. But now contrast Genesis 11:4 with Genesis 12:2 in which God says to Abram, "I will make your name great." God is saying the only One that is capable of making your name great is Me!!! And the very reason Abram's name will be great is because when they see Abram they will see the great God that he worships and serves.

How easy is it for us to want our names to be great? It can range from me at home when I clean out the dishwasher and expect Nancy to have a ticker tape parade. Well, not literally but you see my point. We can crave for it in our daily tasks as we look for recognition and honor that points directly to ourselves. However as Jesus said in John 15:5 "apart from Me you can do nothing." There is only one way for our name to be great and that is in all that we think, say and do it needs to reflect the very greatness of our God. For we are the ambassadors and representatives of the greatest name that anyone can ever know or call on and His name is Jesus!


Devotion time in Romans 5

In Romans 5:1 the apostle Paul writes, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
Paul is getting ready to tell us about the benefit package that comes as a result of our justification. But that is not the point of this particular email. My hope and prayer is that when you come across a word like justification there will be three things that you think about from a practical
1. Do I have a Biblical understanding of this word?
2. Could I use an illustration in order to explain it to an 8 year old?
3. Am I able to support with Scripture?

First justification is an instantaneous act of God in which He thinks of our sins as forgiven and Christ's righteousness as belonging to us. In doing so God declares us to be righteous in His sight.

Second, an illustration you could use might involve that of a basic ticket or a violation of the law in some way. I was on my boat in the Charleston Harbor one day when the DMV boat pulled up beside mine and made an inspection. The officer got my name and checked through his computer to find that I had a fishing license, but it wasn't in my wallet. Therefore he wrote me a ticket. At that point I was not right in the eyes of the law. The fine was $35 and I had no cash on me at the time. However my fishing buddy Mike pulled out his wallet and paid for my ticket on the spot. The officer at that point and time declared me innocent or right in the eyes of the law because the ticket was now paid in full. I went from guilty to innocent as soon as my debt was fulfilled. In the very same way my sin caused me to be guilty in the eyes of a holy and righteous God. The only way for me to be declared "NOT GUILTY" was the payment of my debt by someone else. In this case the only One who could make the payment for my sins and then credit me with His righteousness is Christ Himself.

Third, there are lots of good verses to support the doctrine of justification by faith. The very one we are looking at right now Romans 5:1 or how about Romans 1:17 which is the verse that God used in Martin Luther's life for his conversion.

And last, the word justified appears in the passive voice which means the subject of the sentence is the one who receives the action done. I have used this illustration a number of times, the boy hits the ball. In this case the subject "boy" is providing the action as he hits the ball. But in the next sentence "the ball hits the boy." In this case the subject "boy" is the one who receives the action by being hit.

In Romans 5:1 we have the verb being justified in the passive voice and then we see how that is accomplished "by faith." Upon further study we see that the very faith that I need in order to be declared right in God's sight is a gift. Therefore I in no way, shape or form can take any credit for my justification for this is all of God. The only thing I can do is bow before this sovereign God and offer my thanksgiving!


Devotion in Joshua

As you come to Joshua Chapter 6 read slowly, carefully and prayerfully. I got so excited this morning that I stopped at verse 2 and called Pat. If you think that I have sent you a good number of emails over the last year then you need to check Pat's cell phone bill. Since he has gotten to know me via our class he has revised his cell phone plan at least 3 times :). Anyway check out Joshua 6:2 The LORD said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and the valiant warriors. Here is my paraphrase for this verse "So now I want you to go an possess that which is already yours!"

SS community for every person who is in Christ this is the message from the LORD Himself to us. At the cross of Christ pays in full the penalty of sin and has defeated the power of sin, death and the devil. So relate this truth back to Joshua 6:2 - go and occupy that which you already possess!

We need to shout this with a mega phone from the top of the Bank of America building "All Christians, All Christians, Here this now, Here this now. BE THE CHRISTIAN THAT YOU SAY YOU HAVE BECOME! Or we could say it this way "Occupy, live in, and enjoy the land in Christ which you have already been given!" So if your mind now flows to the next logical question it might be "how" am I to do that? Here is the answer, hear God's word, rest in God's word and keep God's word! Just like Joshua does in Chapter 6. Isn't it amazing that we always in some way, shape or form come back to the importance of our obedience to His word. Can you imagine a fighting warrior, who is the Rambo of the Old Testament hearing these instructions from God as to how they are going to capture Jericho. I want you to march around the city and then blow the trumpets. You might have expected Joshua to say "do what LORD?" Which begs the question, how are we responding daily to the revealed word of God in our lives?

Keep reading, studying and praying, don't leave your Bibles until you get glory bumps,

Devotion time

Yesterday in SS we read together Romans 1-2 and I made some brief comments on the text as we read. The point from yesterday is how important it is for us to read the Bible.
I actually know a friend of mine who pastors in Kinston, NC. There are times when for his message he reads the Bible to his congregation. He will read large sections of Scripture for 30-40 minutes so the people will just be soaked and saturated under the word of God. So as I prayed, studied and thought about Sunday I sensed the need to just read a larger section of Scripture. As a matter of fact I am thinking about having one Sunday of the month committed to reading large sections and then again making brief comments as we read. This, I believe, helps us to put rubber to the road so to speak when it comes to the practical reading through the Bible.

This morning I am reading through Genesis 4-7 and also thinking about what I read in Romans 3-4. It is so amazing to me how it all dove tails into one incredible story. I have heard the Bible summed up in the following: Creation, Fall, Redemption and Restoration.

Check out these verses which give us great Biblical insight into our condition before God as result of the fall in Genesis 3. And what happened in the fall? It was the first time recorded in the Bible that God's word was broken. God gave a specific and clear command to Adam and he disobeyed. In 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.

And then in Rom. 3:10-12 we read:

Finally in Romans 3:23 my favorite definition in regard to sin: "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." At a later time we will go back and look at Romans 3:23 in relation to Romans 1:21-23 and how man exchanges the very glory of God for the glory of man.

Think of the implication of these verses for you and me as it relates to the prospect of our eternal future. We show up on that day and here is the record of our lives read in the public courtroom in the heavenly realms:
"Thoughts of the heart evil on a continuous basis"
"Unrighteous in thoughts, words and actions"
"Never seeking for God"
"No good done at all"
"Falling short of God's glory"

If Romans 3:21-26 doesn't come into the picture for us then the verdict will be judgment, condemnation and hell. Because our sin however much or however little has resulted in an infinite offense before the infinite holiness and righteousness of God Himself. And it will take an eternity in hell to pay for that violation against God. This is not just bad news but the worst news that anyone could ever possibly hear on that day. As Jesus Himself reads the sentence before God's public courtroom and declares a person to an eternal damnation.

So what hope is there for you or for me? An unrighteous man or woman to be able to stand in the very presence of a righteous God and spend eternity with Him. This is only possible by way of the cross of Jesus Christ. I hope and pray that in your reading of Genesis and the account of the fall and in Romans 1-3 you can clearly see that your sinful condition is terminal. As we will read later in Ephesian 2 you are dead in your trespasses and sins which means a miracle must take place to raise you from the dead. Read More...

Devotion in Genesis

In my devotion in Genesis 1 and 2, I was drawn to the command that God gave to Adam in Gen. 2:16 The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; Gen. 2:17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”
I started to think, what about this command was unclear or hard to understand. The fact is the command was very clear. Then I remember some study I have done in the doctrine of perspicuity. I know that isn't a word that we use often but the early church did and it basically means the clarity of Scripture.

Kevin Vanhoozer writes:
"The idea that the Bible is clear does not obviate the need for interpretation but, on the contrary, makes the work of interpretation even more important. The clarity of Scripture means that understanding is possible, not that it is easy. Redeeming the text does not mean reconciling all interpretive conflicts. The clarity of Scripture is neither an absolute value nor an abstract property, but a specific function relative to its particular aim: to witness to Christ. The clarity of Scripture, in other words, does not mean that we will know everything there is to know about the text, but that we will know enough to be able, and responsible, to respond to its subject matter. The clarity of Scripture is not a matter of its obviousness so much as its efficacy; the Bible is clear enough to render its communicative action effective."

Again the command God gave to Adam was very clear and Adam understood it. However as we will see in Genesis Chapter 3 a key strategy that Satan had then, and one that he has today is to attack the "meaning" of God's word as to make it unclear.

Often in my times of devotion (I learned this from George Mueller), to take what I am learning from God’s word and turn it into a prayer. Therefore my time is both reading, learning, devoting and prayer all wrapped up together.

Father in heaven thank you for making your word clear to me. May I have eyes to see, ears to hear and a mind to understand the very things that you have given me in the Bible. Extend to me by your grace, the faith I need to be obedient so that I may know you much richly and more fully and that I may make you known.


Doctrine and Devotions

Last Sunday I suggested that as you read through the Bible that you note in the margin when you come across Bible doctrine that we have studied or are studying. The word doctrine simply means what the whole Bible has to say about any particular subject or topic. In our class curriculum we are going to learn what the Bible has to say about the word of God, God Himself, Christ, Spirit, mankind and salvation. All that being said this week my devotions took me to Psalm 139. Nancy B. and I went through this together and thought it might be helpful for me to share with you. In this note what I will do is list the verses then give the doctrine along with a definition of that doctrine. Then a further look at the verses. My goal is that you become readers, thinkers and the type of Bible students that pray over God's word asking for illumination from the Holy Spirit. In doing so the revelation of His word attaches to you and transforms you from one degree of glory to the next (2 Corinthians 3:18). If that doesn't get you excited at some level then call 911 as you may not have a pulse.

First of all I recommend that you with prepared hearts read Psalm 139.
1 O Lord, you have examined my heart
and know everything about me.
2 You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
3 You see me when I travel
and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.
4 You know what I am going to say
even before I say it, Lord.
5 You go before me and follow me.
You place your hand of blessing on my head.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too great for me to understand!

In the first 6 verses you can see the sovereignty of God and the omniscience of God. Do you remember the definition of sovereignty from our retreat in May?
"God plans and carries out His perfect will as He alone knows is best, and He does so without failure or defeat." Read More...

Psalm 119 a devotion on display

There have been a number of visitors in our class during the summer months. So I thought it might be helpful to include a short podcast that gives a brief description of our class and then a devotion in Psalm 119. Hopefully this year these type of podcasts can become a regular part of our growing deeper in God’s word.

As I discussed yesterday at our leadership planning session many of our audio and videos will be in a LINK format. For example as in this podcast for today which I am calling Psalm 119 “devotion on display. Just click on this LINK.

Hope you enjoy!

Devotion time in 2 Chronicles 14

In my morning devotion I read the prayer of King Asa in 2 Chronicles 14. As I read my thoughts turned to our class and the upcoming year. Let me give some context in order to explain. In this particular section of Scripture we read that King Asa had approximately 500,000 courageous warriors but came up against an army of 1,000,000. I want you to read the prayer of King Asa to this situation in his life that seemed impossible.

2 Chronicles 14:11-13
11 Then Asa cried out to the Lord his God, “O Lord, no one but you can help the powerless against the mighty! Help us, O Lord our God, for we trust in you alone. It is in your name that we have come against this vast horde. O Lord, you are our God; do not let mere men prevail against you!”
12 So the Lord defeated the Ethiopians[a] in the presence of Asa and the army of Judah, and the enemy fled. 13 Asa and his army pursued them as far as Gerar, and so many Ethiopians fell that they were unable to rally. They were destroyed by the Lord and his army, and the army of Judah carried off a vast amount of plunder.

So what is the lesson for us as a community this year? What is the lesson for us individually as we live our lives out before the Lord?

God often puts us in situations that seem impossible. He places us exactly in life where there is no way that our human effort can bring a victory. Are some of you reading this in one of those life situations right now? So let's take God's word and learn from what He has written in order that we may live it in a way that glorifies Him!

Observation #1
King Asa recognizes that he is helpless and powerless against an army twice his size. Can we admit before the Lord that we are powerless to solve this particular life situation? Are we able to swallow our pride and totally fall before Him in a state of helplessness?

Observation #2
King Asa displays genuine faith in that he is depending and relying only on the Lord. He didn't order the latest book on how defeat a larger enemy, he didn't place a call to other kings in the area that could befriend him, he trusted in the Lord.

Observation #3
King Asa doesn't pray that this larger army has come against his own army, but he prays that they have come against the Lord Himself. It shows me that King Asa is absolutely God-centered in his thinking and praying. And he concludes by saying "do not let mere men prevail against you."

How many of us handle our day to day lives with this kind of prayer?
#1 - Lord there is no way that I can do it!
#2 - Lord help me, help me, help me to trust you, to rely on you and to depend only on you!
#3 - Lord would you show yourself powerful and your name as great in this particular situation.

And how does the Lord respond to this prayer of King Asa?
It specifically tells us that the Lord defeated the Ethiopians!

It reminds me of what we need to hear often "the eyes of the Lord look to and fro throughout the earth to strongly support those whose hearts are completely His." (2 Chronicles 16:9)

What are the Ethiopians in your life?
How are you praying?


The truth of Scripture

In my devotion time this week I read the following section of Scripture. Before you read it would you take some time to prepare your heart before the Lord. And now your assignment, interpret this passage from the standpoint of "what did the author intend for us to understand when he wrote it."

Revelation 20:11-15
Rev. 20:11 ¶ Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them.
Rev. 20:12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.
Rev. 20:13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.
Rev. 20:14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.
Rev. 20:15 And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

One day all people will stand before the Lord Jesus Christ to receive either a judgment of hell or a reward of heaven. When it comes to the gospel of Christ there will be no fence sitters.
For those of you in our "Learning and Living the God-centered LIfe" community I want you to hear me clearly "correct Bible doctrine saves no one." The only one capable of saving you is Jesus Christ Himself. I am asking you this question "Do you know about Jesus or do you know Jesus?" John 17:3 - This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom "You have sent."

Here is the best Bible doctrine I can teach you. Cast yourself upon the mercy and grace of Christ at the cross. Pray, seek and be desperate as you call on Christ as the only One who can save you from sin, death and hell. Confess whole heartedly your sins, agree with God that they have been and are offensive to a holy God. And then receive Christ as Lord and Savior! Now read John 1:12 - But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name. Read More...

Being Saved...

In my morning devotion I meditated on Luke 9:23 And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.
Awhile later I picked up this audio clip by Dr. John MacArthur who taught on this very passage.

This audio clip begins with Dr. MacArthur reading a quote from Dr. Robert Schuller “once a person believes he is an unworthy sinner, it is doubtful if he can honestly receive the saving grace God offers in Christ.”

So the question that is important to ask is what does the gospel look like in the life of a Christian. I think Luke 9:23 is clear especially when we see the word “follow” from Jesus in the present tense and imperative, which is the mood of command.

Here is a short segment of the audio from Dr. MacArthur that I think will help give us a good picture as to what it means when it comes to genuine salvation.

Click here to play

Devotion time in Job Chapter 42

This morning I was having part of my devotion time in Job Chapter 42. Now after 41 chapters of his pain and suffering, the chiding of his own wife, the bad theology given to him by his friends, Job comes to this conclusion. Check out and let it hit you with its full intensity this revelation that Job speaks to God, "I know that You can do all things and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted."

Just take a minute to think about that statement, again in the context of Job's life that we see here in the book of Job.
1. All his wealth has been taken away
2. All his children have been killed
3. His health has been destroyed to the point that Job wants to die
4. His friends have counseled him with bad theology

Job replies in the following way: Behold I am insignificant; what can I reply to You? I lay my hand on my mouth.
And then we read - "Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, things to wonderful for me to know..." Therefore I retract and repent in dust and ashes."

Now Job sees with spiritual eyes that this God of the universe is sovereign over all things. And He can do whatever He pleases in the counsel of His will. No man has the right to ask God to give an account of anything but it is God who will ask every man to give an account of their life.

Application for me this morning:
Submit, yield and humble myself under the sovereign hand of my God who is just, righteous, wise and merciful and can do whatever He wants and nothing on heaven or earth can stop it. There are things in my life, the church and the world that I simply can't grasp nor understand. It is not for me to fuss with God, complain or challenge, but rather to shut my mouth and repent. He is God and I am to know that the beginning of all wisdom is a fear of the LORD.

humbled by His grace,

Power of the Parables

My devotion in the past week had me in Mark 4. As you may remember we spent much time in the early stages of our class talking about the importance of the heart. And one of the main section that I taught on was the "Parable of the Sower" that is located in Mark 4. This is called the parable of all parables and the Lord Jesus told His disciples, if you don't understand this parable you will not understand any of the parables. The main point of the parable of the sower was "the success of the seed is in direct proportion to the condition of the soil." And we can learn that the elements within the parable had to be explained by Jesus to His disciples.

So when you read Mark 4:21-23 how are you going to handle or interpret this parable? May I suggest that first you read it and try to come up with a main point. It can sometimes help to just try and retell the parable out loud to someone else to see if you understand the basic story. Let's do so for this parable in the following way (go back to the first century with me). A woman who is a widow comes home at night after a full day of work to a one room home, with possibly just one window and not much else. Since oil is expensive and she is quite poor there is only one lamp for her to light as she comes into the home that night. As she enters and finds the lamp she must decide where to place it.

Check out the choices:
1. How about under a basket? Well that doesn't make sense because if the light stays under the basket she will not be able to negotiate around the home.
2. How about under the bed? Well that presents the same problem as with the basket and limiting the light that she needs in her home
3. How about on a lamp stand? Well that makes the most sense because as the light is on the lampstand it will allow her to most effectively see and walk in her home


Devotion time

The purpose of our community is very simple and basic. To spread a passion for Christ in such a way that His word becomes the food and daily nourishment for learning and living the God-centered life. A life in which we are transformed by the power of the Spirit by seeing the face of God in the Lord Jesus Christ!

In my devotion this morning I spent some time in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. This may be the most concise description of the gospel in the entire Bible. However I would like you to consider with me for a few minutes verses 1 and 2.
1Cor. 15:1 ¶ Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand,
1Cor. 15:2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.

I have highlighted the verbs in red.

Here are some general observations:
  • Notice what Paul is preaching - THE GOSPEL, and what the saints in Corinth are receiving - THE GOSPEL
  • Each of the verbs in the above two verses are in the indicative mood, which simply means the mood of reality. This is a fact or the way things really are.
  • Notice in 1 Corinthians 15:2 the word "SAVED", this verb is in the present tense which means habitual or continual and is in the passive voice, which means that which happens to you.
  • Finally observe the biggest little word in the Bible, which is the word "IF". If you hold fast to the gospel, unless you believed in vain.

At our Ridgecrest retreat on Friday night the teaching was on "holding fast to the gospel." And way is that so important? Because it is the very litmus test for a person to have the assurance they have truly been justified by faith.

So SS community may I ask you this question? Are you holding fast to the gospel? Are you continuing to be saved? Remember salvation has a three-fold meaning:
1. Past tense - justified
2. Present tense - sanctified
3. Future tense - glorified

The present tense sanctification (being saved) is the very evidence that you at some point in time were saved (justification). And what should the sanctification process look like in my life as a "born again" Christian? You and I need to be preaching the gospel to ourselves and we need to hold fast to this word of truth.

Oh, by the way, I almost forgot:
In the context stated above what might Paul mean in the phrase “to believe in vain”?

holding fast to the truth of the gospel (daily) with you,


God's protection of His word

This is a blog article I recently read from pastor-teacher Ken Silva at Apprising Ministries:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:17-18)

We live in a time of a growing Christian agnosticism within evangelicalism currently being advanced by leaders within the postliberal Emergence against Sola Scriptura. It seems good right now to think a bit about God’s protection, as well as about His Word, in the Bible, as it applies to the remnant the Great Shepherd is calling out as this apostasy rapidly accelerates throughout the visible church. We go now to verse 17 above as Jesus says — “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill” (KJV) We know here that Jesus is teaching that He is the fulfillment of all the Scriptures concerning Himself.

But in our time marked by relativism and skepticism masquerading as so-called postmodernism, and those outside the Church are even worse, there is another question we need to address: Did Jesus teach that the texts of God’s Word would be preserved? Yes, He did; and right in the next verse of our text. Verse 18 — “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (KJV). Now, at last check—as near as I can tell—this would not appear to have happened yet. So the Master is telling us that until everything in Scripture comes to pass mankind is accountable for everything that is written in God’s Word.

As a matter of fact we’ve all heard someone say something along the lines of: “It doesn’t make one iota of difference to me.” Matthew 5:18 is where this type of statement originates. Jesus has just said to us — “I tell you the truth, until Heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” Not the smallest letter is the word iota in the original Greek. Dr. Louis Barbieri’s comment is helpful here:

Jesus’ fulfillment [of New Testament Scripture] - would extend to the smallest Hebrew letter, the ‘jot’ (lit. yod), and even to the smallest stroke of a Hebrew letter, the ‘tittle’ (The Bible Knowledge Commentary, NT, 30).

The reference to the “jot” and the “tittle,” as you saw above is from the way verse 18 reads in the King James Version of the Bible. Dr. Barbieri further points out that in our English language “a jot would further correspond to the dot above the letter ‘i’ (and would look like an apostrophe),…” (ibid.). As far as the “tittle,” Dr. Barbieri tells us that the “small angled line that completes the ‘R’ is like a ‘tittle’ ’’ (ibid.). The point should now become clear. Our faithful Shepherd wants us to know that we can be eternally sure we will have every Word that comes from the mouth of God. And not only that but we can also be sure He will watch over His Word so intently that not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

Why learning then living?

I had some devotion time this morning in Romans. In thinking about the structure and flow of Romans it reminded me about the ways of God. The practical application of Romans really begins after the “therefore” in Romans 12:1. And as most scholars agree the “therefore” is looking back to the first eleven chapters in the book. So obviously since Paul writes under the inspiration of the Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16) we are studying the mind of God. As we study the mind of God we then start to understand the ways of God. And even though we can only know in part, that part is still valuable in our overall Christian development.

In other words, according to the Bible the learning precedes the living when it comes to doctrine. Some in the evangelical churches today are saying that doctrine divides, so we don’t teach it. But the Lord Jesus Himself said “if you know the truth, the truth will set you free.” It is the truth of Bible doctrine that allows a person to be free in the Christian life. For example there are Christians who think that God is holding them daily to a certain level of performance. And if they don’t jump the bar so to speak they will not meet with God’s approval. This translates into the love of God being either given or with held based on what I do for Him. If a person lives this way they are not free in Christ but are in bondage to the law of performance. So if we continue to be ignorant of doctrines like justification and regeneration, and have no solid Biblical theology for what Christ has done for us and how He now lives in us, then we are going to be miserable. Because God is not withholding His love from us due to how we perform. Since we have been reconciled in Christ, God is 100% on our side all the time no matter what happens in our life! Therefore being in Christ, we have a new heart (born again) and we are a new person, and no longer have any of our sins upon us, because they have been absorbed by Christ at the cross.

These are basics but they must be learned and embraced in order that we can live in the fullness of these Biblical truths. Now please don’t misunderstand my initial point or take it to an extreme. Obviously we are applying truth along the way even before we learn all these doctrines in detail. But again the principle applies and you will see this especially with the epistles of Paul, there is truth that must be learned in order that the truth can be properly lived.

Devotion Time

One of the key focus areas during the teaching this year will be in the area of Bible devotions. I will post devotion times in order to encourage and challenge you to stay consistent. A devotion normally provides me with a theme or main thought that I can chew on during the day. This is one of the reasons I am so excited about Carmel’s commitment as a church in spading through the gospel of John and now Acts. Because as you read there will be certain sections of Scripture that you want to go back to in order to have your devotion time.

May I appeal to you in starting devotion time with concentrated prayer, asking God to open your eyes in order that you might behold wonderful things from His law? (Psalm 119:18)

I spent some time this week thinking through the implications of the following text in the gospel of Luke 7. In my study Bible it is titled "Parable of Two Debtors."

Luke 7:40 And Jesus answered him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." And he replied, "Say it, Teacher."
Luke 7:41 "A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.
Luke 7:42 "When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?"
Luke 7:43 Simon answered and said, "I suppose the one whom he forgave more." And He said to him, "You have judged correctly."
Luke 7:44 Turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.
Luke 7:45 "You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet.
Luke 7:46 "You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume.
Luke 7:47 "For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little."
Luke 7:48 Then He said to her, "Your sins have been forgiven."
Luke 7:49 Those who were reclining at the table with Him began to say to themselves, "Who is this man who even forgives sins?"
Luke 7:50 And He said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

What would you say the main point of the parable is in Luke 7:41-42?
Here is my shot at it - "love for Christ is directly proportional to our recognition of debt that has been forgiven us." Now keep that in your mind and drop your eyes down to Luke 7:47 and see if the dots connect.

Why does this woman love so much and why does this Pharisee love so little?
The woman recognizes her debt (sinful condition) and it is so great that only a great Savior could pay for it in full. She can't demand it, nor does she deserve it, and her love is proportional to the greatness of her sin debt that only Christ can forgive.
On the other hand the Pharisee, who is self-righteous, as he attempts to keep the law doesn't think there is much if any sin that needs to be forgiven. And therefore the love he is able to express for Christ is little because he sees little that needs to be forgiven.

Oh brothers and sisters in Christ if we could see the utter sinfulness of sin and how it impacts the very glory of God! The reason for a small love for Christ is a direct result of our small understanding of what has been forgiven us! This means that we need a healthy grasp of the cross so our love for Christ will continue to grow. As we come to the recognition of our sin and what has been forgiven, then we will love much, knowing that Christ has forgiven much!

May I encourage you to praise Him today for the very sins that were as scarlet are now as white as snow, by faith in Christ. (Isaiah 1:18)


A God-centered life

How would the people who are close to you and those in your sphere of influence speak about you on the day of your funeral? In this 21st Century American culture of affluence and diversity there could be any number of answers that those described above might give about you. Some might conclude that you were devoted to the family, community, career or even a favorite cause. Those speaking could say you were a zealous member of your church and then bring out the list of all activities, service projects, Bible studies and various committee meetings. But would it be said or could it be said that you loved God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.

Jesus said in the gospels “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” If we think about that statement and apply it to life it could sound as follows: “out of the abundance of my heart I am constantly thinking, speaking and doing.” My question is do you think about God correctly and live in such a way that He is demonstrated as great? The God-centered life that we are studying in this class has two basic but critical components. We are learning to discern what the Bible means and then applying the meaning to our daily living. This curriculum starts with a very simple approach, let’s get back to the reading, devotion and study of God’s word. It is quite a radical approach to an environment and society dedicated to the unholy trinity of I, me and my. We have seminars for self-esteem and self-development. And even in the book stores we see a huge section of material called self-help. When we come to the Bible it doesn’t take long to understand that the subject that God is most interested in, is God Himself. It is grasping this important Biblical principle that can be the most important shift in our Bible reading and devotion time. God has created us in such a way that our souls have an itch that can only be scratched with His glory. Therefore God via His mercy and kindness gives to us the best thing that we could ever have and that is God!

May I encourage you to pray in this regard on a daily basis? Pray that the God who created you would give you a desperate passion for His word! As you read, devote and study God will transform you by His Spirit as His word is revealed unto you. Do you remember the lava jar in class from yesterday? The process is often slow and happens from one degree of glory to the next (2 Corinthians 3:18). But as we are being challenged to live the God-centered life this year please know it is about “direction of life” and not “perfection in life.” There will be times of failure, sin, and falling down but the Bible tells us that God is faithful to complete the work that He starts (Philippians 1:9). Read More...

Snow Day and Isaiah 1:18

What a glorious sight when I woke up early this morning and looked outside. I am reminded of the following verse in Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, and let us reason together,”Says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet,They will be as white as snow;
When you see the snow today and look upon its whiteness may it remind you brothers and sisters in Christ that you sins, past-present-future, look to your heavenly Father as if they are white as snow. Why is that? Because at the cross Christ absorbed the full wrath of God that you and I deserved and paid via His death the full price for our sins. Today in Charlotte as the snow falls remember that that all your sin, which Christ died for, is now as white as the snow in your front yard! Did I hear someone singing “Amazing Grace?”

Here are some photo reminders-- hope you enjoy!