Always Learning?

Paul once wrote to Timothy about those who were always learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 3:7). Jesus said it this way, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (John 5:39-40). They were searching and studying and learning, but never arrived at truth. Why? Because they were unwilling to come to Jesus.

There are places that the road of truth will take us, and we at times will find ourselves very uncomfortable with the conclusions we have to make. On that pathway, the light of truth will expose us and show us the actions we must take in order to be consistent with the truth. So the choice is there, accept, believe and obey the truth before us, or another option is to keep learning. We can fill our brains with all kinds of Bible facts, and never get one bit closer to Jesus.

Another example comes from the book of Mark. The people in Jesus’ hometown were asking some great questions, which if they had the right heart they would have come to believe in Jesus. Read the following passage.

Mark 6:1-6
He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching.

If they would have really thought about these questions in sincerity they would have come to the right conclusion about Jesus. Nicodemus, a ruler among the Pharisees, knew that Jesus could not do these mighty works unless He came from God (John 3). Others like the woman with the blood issue (Mark 5) and the Roman centurion (Matthew 8) also came to the right conclusions about Jesus. They all had limited information, but it was enough to produce a strong conviction about the identity and authority of Jesus.

So, what about us? Are we filling ourselves full of Bible facts, but failing to reach the obvious conclusions or take the steps necessary to be pleasing with Him? What are we doing with all of the Bible information and teaching that passes through our eyes and ears?

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
(James 1:22)

 

people really did ask some great questions about Jesus.

God Laid It On My Heart

Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” Whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.
(Isaiah 30:21)

There are times when someone will preface what he or she is about to say or do with, “God laid it on my heart.” If I really feel passionate about saying something or going a certain direction, I might feel like God is leading me and is behind these words or actions. It may be that God approves of what you and I are about to say and do, but how will you confirm that?

Let’s take some time to ponder the concept of God laying things on our heart. Here are some thoughts from Scripture:

Within Scripture I know for sure what God has laid upon my heart. We know that Jesus promised the apostles before He left this earth that He would send the Holy Spirit to guide them into all truth (John 14:26; 15:26-27; 16:5-15). Having that truth, the apostles then wrote it down, and we have in the pages of the God-breathed Scripture the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:9-16; 2 Timothy 3:15-17). As Paul said, when we read we learn the revealed mind of God (Ephesians 3:4).

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;
(Hebrews 1:1-2)

Not everything going on inside of me is from God. We are in a spiritual war between the Spirit and the flesh (Galatians 5:17), so not all leadings and impulses I have within are from God. Paul tells us that we have to bring all thoughts into the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), so that tells you not every thought we have is a prompting of the Holy Spirit. There are those Paul said who had a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge (Romans 10:2).

Several different opinions, interpretations and directions arise from people claiming that God laid something on their heart. A problem arises when you and I choose our words and pathway based upon what we believe God is laying on our heart. The problem is that so many are saying that but are going in completely different directions spiritually. Remember that God is not the author of confusion, but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33). We can know for sure that God is not laying contradictory things on different hearts. Let’s be careful of crediting God with something that He may have had no part in (Jeremiah 23:32).

We are to test all things by the standard of God’s word, and that includes any promptings or thoughts I may have within. “Test all things; hold fast to what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). The Bereans were praised by God because they tested what Paul said by comparing it with Scripture (Acts 17:11). “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). In the same way the hearts of men are misread and misinterpreted, the word of God is also misread and misinterpreted. Knowing that, Peter warns us to be very careful not to twist the Scriptures to fit with our own desires and interpretations (2 Peter 3:14-18).

My conscience is there to help me as a guide, but it must be trained and conditioned by the word of God. Go back to the verse from Isaiah at the beginning of the article. This passage says that people will hear a word behind them telling them which way to go, to the right or to the left. I’ve often hear this passage quoted to go along with the concept that God lays things on your heart. Yes, God is speaking today and yes, He is telling us which way to go, but how does He do that? The voice of God is clearly speaking today in His word, and the apostle John wrote that if we follow His commandments, our hearts can be assured that we are one with God.

My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.
(1 John 3:18-22)

So, if I end up by the providence of God in a situation where He wants me to be, what do I say? Do I let my heart lead me? Have I prayed for wisdom to speak the truth from God’s word that this person needs to hear? Have I diligently studied God’s word so that I can be approved of God when I step up to speak for Him (2 Timothy 2:15)?

If I feel prompted to go a certain direction in life, have I tested that with the word of God to make sure this is the way God wants me to go? Have I sat down with wise, godly Christians to seek their counsel as to which way I should go (Titus 2:1-5; Proverbs 1:5; 24:6)? Yes, God may be leading you that direction, but He is calling you to check His word first, pray about it, and seek godly counsel. If that impulse or thought you have is not in line with God’s word, then you know it wasn’t from God.

 

God’s Word Can Make You Wiser

O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever mine. I have more insight than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, because I have observed Your precepts.
(Psalms 119:97-100)

What power did the word of God have upon David? According to these verses, God’s word:

  • Made David wiser than his enemies.
  • Gave him more insight than all his teachers.
  • He was able to understand more than the aged.

I do not believe David was being arrogant and cocky when he said this. You can say these words out of a prideful heart thinking you are the cat’s meow of Christianity. And if we have that attitude, God will have to teach us some very difficult lessons in humility (Phil. 3:15)!

What I believe David is saying is that because of God’s word he was able to deal effectively with his enemies. We all have enemies, whether or not we follow God’s word. But when we listen carefully to the instruction of Scripture, we have an understanding and perspective that is foreign to the people of the world. It will truly stand out and shine.

God’s word did not make David the “smartest man on campus.” He was not more intelligent than his teachers. David wasn’t the man with his hand always up because he knew all the answers. This didn’t mean that David was condescending to his teachers and argued constantly with them because he knew better. You can look to Jesus at 12 years old as an example (see Luke 2). The teachers of the Word in the temple were just amazed at his understanding and answers. That is the power of the Word in a person’s heart. There is such growth and insight that comes from it.

Finally, the word of God made an old man out of David real quick. The Bible and its wisdom will make a young man or woman sound like they are decades older. Why? That’s the power of the Holy Spirit producing His wisdom within you through the word. How often do you see that young man or young woman at church who simply blows you away with their understanding? They may be 10, but they sound like they’re 40!

God’s word is just awesome and powerful, isn’t it?

Trust the Line

Last Friday, Shane Blackmer wrote about our need to “Hold the Line.” Today I want to write just about about the “line” itself.

My son, Joseph, and a friend, Noah, were working last week to put gutters on our garage. This garage is older, it wasn’t built properly, and clearly has some foundation issues; because of this the roof sags.

When Joseph and Noah snapped a chalk line across the fascia board, an optical illusion occurred. If you looked straight at the garage, the line looked like a frown, it looked much higher in the middle and lower on the ends. But the line wasn’t the problem. If you went over to the edge of the roof and looked down the fascia board you could clearly see that the line was straight as an arrow.

The line wasn’t the problem, it was the building.

I believe there is a lesson in that! We may have built our lives on the wrong foundation, or we may not have taken the care to upkeep ourselves spiritually. As a result, lives become crooked and sag, just like that garage. In fact we may become so crooked that we begin to think the line (God’s word and standard of authority) is the problem.

Trust the line. There is nothing wrong with the line. God’s word is straight; we are the ones who need correcting.

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways (Psalms 119:15, ESV).

“Fix your eyes” on the line. Use the line to help point out what needs to be corrected in your life. His commandments are true (Psalm 119:142,151), sure (Psalm 119:86) and they are right (Psalm 119:128,172).

The Word of the Lord Endures Forever

Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because “All flesh is as grace, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grace. The grace withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you (1 Peter 1:22-25).

Look at the above passage and see what God’s word says about itself. It is incorruptible. The word has power to transform someone so that because of the word a person is “born again.” God’s word “lives.” The word abides forever. Everything else on earth perishes, but God’s word endures forever. This word includes the gospel which saves men’s souls.

This is only one of many places in the Bible where such claims are made. The Psalmist wrote, “Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven” (Psalms 119:89). Jesus Himself claimed, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:35).

The apostle Peter, as he knew his time was short on earth, promised to the brethren that they would always have access to these words which came from God. Read 2 Peter 1:12-21. Atheists, skeptics, and even some claiming to follow Jesus will claim that things have been lost over the years. They claim we cannot have any assurance that the Bible we have now is what they were given then.

A claim is not true just because someone makes it. A claim must be tested. So, test the claims of the Scripture. The truth never suffers from investigation.

The Word of the Lord Endures Forever

We just finished a meeting last week with Dr. H.E. Payne, Jr. (most know him as Buddy Payne). He is the President of Florida College. Among his other lectures on microscopic and macroscopic evidence for intelligent design, Dr. Payne also presented two lessons on “Can We Trust Our English Versions of the Bible?” I encourage you to listen to these two lectures. The overwhelming answer at the end of part 2 is “YES!!”

Can We Trust Our English Versions of the Bible? Part 1

Can We Trust Our English Versions of the Bible? Part 2

God’s Word: Its Value and Power, part 5

We wrap up our look into Psalm 19:7-11 this week, “God’s Word: Its Value and Power, part 5.” Friday’s theme for our blog is “the church family.” Let’s consider this passage in light of that theme today.

On Monday, we saw that the word of God has many aspects to it (law, decisions, witness, etc.), and all are valuable and profitable to us. Tuesday we looked at how David loved and cherished God’s words. Wednesday’s focus was on what the word of God is (perfect, sure, right, etc.). On Thursday we considered what the word of God does (restores the soul, rejoices the heart, enlightens the eyes, etc.).

Today we should simply consider the question: What is my response to God’s word?

GOD’S WORD: ITS VALUE AND POWER, PART 5

Fifth observation – Our response to His word.

Verse 11 says, “In keeping them there is great reward.” All of these wonderful benefits come when I commit to living out what God asked me to do. The value and reward is realized not in merely reading and reciting God’s word, but in keeping it.

Take a look at the rest of Psalm 19:

Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer (Psalms 19:11-14).

David’s heart is exposed here as he fully opens his heart to the Lord and His word. He is vulnerable, transparent and accountable to God, asking God to expose his sins. David wants the Lord and His word, not his sins to rule over him. He wants to be blameless and innocent before God. His prayer is that his words and even his deepest thoughts will be acceptable in God’s sight. That is the heart of David. This is why he was called a man after God’s own heart.

Finally, to be the men today God called us to be, we must have that very same mindset toward the Word. Keep it in our homes. Follow it at work. Seek to influence and encourage our church family that they also do the same.

“In keeping them there is great reward.”

God’s Word: Its Value and Power, part 4

We continue our look into Psalm 19:7-11 this week, “God’s Word: Its Value and Power, part 4.” Thursday’s theme for our blog is living as lights in a dark world. Let’s consider this passage in light of that theme today.

The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward (Psalms 19:7-11).

God’s Word: Its Value and Power, part 4

Fourth observation – What the word of God does…

  • Converting (restoring) the soul – God’s law turns the wayward soul back to Him. The Lord is our shepherd, and “He restores” our soul (Psalm 23:3). Because the Law of the Lord is perfect, only it has that power to transform the sinner to a saint.
  • Making wise the simple (naive, gullible) – Being naive and gullible is not a good place to stay (Proverbs 1:22; 7:7; 9:4-6). God wants His people to grow up and learn to discern good from evil (Ephesians 4:14-15). He wants us to be able to sort out the true from the false. That happens when we “exercise our senses” in using God’s word (Hebrews 5:11-14).
  • Rejoicing the heart – God’s statutes (precepts) lead to true joy. There is a “passing pleasure” in sin (Hebrews 11:25), but it fades quickly into darkness, pain, slavery and consequences. Doing “right” produces real happiness, freedom and fulfillment.
  • Enlightening the eyes – The word of God turns the light on for us. Our hearts were darkened, and so was our understanding. God’s commands shine the light both in our hearts and on our pathway in life. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).
  • By them Your servant is warned – If I am about to drive off a cliff, I really want someone to let me know BEFORE it happens! The same goes for the Scriptures; it helps put guardrails on the road. God loves us enough to put lots of big yellow caution signs and “Wrong Way” signs in His word. Being warned of danger is a blessing.
  • In keeping them there is great reward – Both in this life and in eternity (Luke 18:29-30), God pours out His blessings on His people when they follow His word (Proverbs 3:16-18). There are rewards in the things we avoid because we follow God’s will. We also have rewards in what comes exclusively to His people because we walk in His word (Galatians 6:7-9).

“The unfolding (entrance) of Your words brings light; it gives understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130).

God’s Word: Its Value and Power, part 3

We continue our look into Psalm 19:7-11 this week, “God’s Word: Its Value and Power, part 3.” Wednesday’s theme for our blog is training the children in our lives. Let’s consider this passage in light of that theme today.

The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward (Psalms 19:7-11).

GOD’S WORD: ITS VALUE AND POWER, PART 3

Third observation – What the word of God is…

  • Perfect. This word also means blameless, complete, entire, and without defect. God’s law is just like that. There’s not a blemish on it…its perfect.
  • Sure. God’s testimony is established and firm. There are no uncertainties in God’s witness and promises revealed in Scripture. You can count on it. If God tells an old man with no kids that his descendants will be like the stars and sand, trust it. It happened to Abraham just like God promised.
  • Right. God is not fickle; He does not just abritarily come up with things. His statutes (precepts) are not made up on a whim. They are right.
  • Pure. There is no corruption in God’s commands. When humans make up laws, we often have politics and money behind our agendas, but not God. His commandments are pure.
  • Clean, enduring forever. Not defiled. This word clean is used repeatedly throughout the Old Testament in reference to being ceremonially clean versus being unclean. The “fear of the Lord,” which in this context is tied to the word of God, is clean. God’s words are “pure words” (Psalm 12:6). Through God’s word we can discern the difference between what is clean and what is unclean. By God’s word we are cleansed (John 17:17; 1 Peter 1:22). David says this “fear of the Lord,” endures forever. God’s word is not going anywhere (1 Peter 1:23-25).
  • True and righteous altogether. God’s judgments (verdicts, sentences, decisions) are true and righteous altogether. This is so important in our faith. Begin with the understanding when studying the word that God is right. His decisions are right. “Let God be true and every man a liar” (Romans 3:4). It is freedom, not slavery, to let God sit on His divine throne. When I stop trying to run the universe in my mind and settle myself into trusting God first, then I will begin to understand His word.
  • Sweeter than honey. Honey is incredibly sweet, but God’s word is sweeter. Question: When do we value it as sweet? Only when we agree with it? Only when it makes sense? John and Ezekiel both ate the scroll God gave them. It tasted sweet, but went down bitter. Sometimes God’s word has difficult and hard things, but His word is still the sweetest thing known to man. Is God’s word sweet to us?
  • More precious than gold. The value of God’s word exceeds the value of anything we consider precious on this earth. Its value is not given by men. Gold’s value goes up and down based on the market, but God’s word never changes in value. The Bible was made by God so it is inherently valuable. No church, scholar, ruler or any human being can give or take away its value.

Fathers, as we use this understanding to teach our kids, let us first model it in our lives. God’s word is right, and sure and true. It is awesome! May our children see that the Bible is sweet and valuable to us. When we reason with them, we begin with the understanding that God is right, and we trust His decisions.

Finally, I believe it would be helpful to look at the above list on what God’s word is and connect it to Philippians 4:8. Paul tells us to meditate on things that are true, right and pure, and that is exactly what David said God’s word is. Meditate (dwell, think) on these things!

God’s Word: Its Value and Power, part 2

We continue our look into Psalm 19:7-11 this week, “God’s Word: Its Value and Power, part 2.”

The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward (Psalms 19:7-11).

God’s Word: Its Value and Power, part 2

Second observation – David is writing a love song to the word of God. He does that more than once, the most prominent example is Psalm 119, a very long love song to God’s word! David was in love with the word of God; he cherished it and saw its value. He saw God’s word as sweeter than the sweetest things (honey) and more precious than the most valuable things (gold). In God’s word, he saw the blessings of God’s warnings. He didn’t view God’s warnings as oppressive and authoritarian, but as God loving him enough to keep him safe and on the right pathway.

What I find amazing is David had far less of God’s Word than we do today. We have 66 books, we have the complete set. David had at least the first 5 books, the books of Moses. He had some of the Psalms, but they weren’t all written yet. I believe he had Joshua, Judges, Ruth, and Job, also. But even then, that’s not 10 complete books.

Just think about it. David is writing a love song to God’s law and his statutes and commands. Many of those are contained in books like Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers. Can you imagine writing a love song to Leviticus or Numbers? Most folks fall asleep reading them. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard someone say Leviticus was their favorite book. When someone commits to reading through the Bible, they often stall somewhere in Leviticus or Numbers.  What many find difficult, boring and maybe even unnecessary, David found beautiful and full of praise because it came from God.

Today is Tuesday, and our theme for Tuesdays on the MDB is honoring the women in our lives. Take a moment to consider how being deeply in love with the word of God, all of the word of God, will help you as a husband. How will that benefit our wives when our first love as husbands is God and His word?

O, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day (Psalm 119:97).

God’s Word: Its Value and Power, part 1

This week, we are going to meditate upon Psalm 19:7-11 and make 5 observations from it, one for each day. Today is “God’s Word: Its Value and Power, Part 1.” Read the following passage slowly and carefully.

The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward (Psalms 19:7-11).

God’s Word: Its Value and Power, part 1

First observation – God’s word is called by several names here: law, testimony, statutes or precepts, commandment, judgments, etc. It is very helpful to think about how each of these words gives you a different aspect of God’s word.

  • God’s testimony – The word of God contains God’s witness to man, and it is sure.
  • His commandments – The word of God contains what God expects of us, and it is pure.
  • God’s judgments – The word of God contains His decisions (verdicts, sentences), and they are true and righteous altogether.

Scripture contains various types of writing styles and forms of literature (law, history, poetry, prophecy, apocalyptic writing). All of it is breathed by God, and all of it has a purpose in God revealing His mind to man (2 Timothy 3:15-17). Every bit of it is valuable to us and beneficial to growing our relationship with Him.

There are four separate accounts of the life of Jesus, coming from different backgrounds, styles and perspectives. Each account focuses on various themes and aspects of Jesus’ life and ministry. God must have seen the value in four instead of one.

Even the book of Revelation is to be read, understood and obeyed (Revelation 1:3).

It all matters…every word of God. Every book of the Bible has value and purpose. All the writing styles in Scripture are God-given and have a reason and a benefit for us. Cherish today the wisdom of God in how He wrote the Bible for us. There is no other book like it!

“The sum of your word is truth” (Psalm 119:160).

“Every word of God proves true” (Proverbs 30:5).