Category Archives: Bible Study

The Lord is the Great God

For the Lord is the great God,

the great King above all gods.

In his hand are the depths of the earth,

and the mountain peaks belong to him.

The sea is his, for he made it,

and his hands formed the dry land.

Psalm 95:3-5

Look around this beautiful earth that we live on and remember who created it and sustains it. There is no God like our God! None can compare and none even make the claims of our God.

Psalm 95:3-5 expresses the completeness of God’s power and creation in the way typical of ancient Hebrew poetry.

The first two lines, a couplet, are the background and explanation for the following two couplets. Because the “Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods.”, everything is made by him and belongs to him.

The next two couplets explain the breadth of God’s power and possessions. Just as in English we say “From A to Z” to explain something that is comprehensive, so these verses beautifully describe God. The verses are repeating the fact that God created everything but using different examples.

Both the “depths of the earth” and “mountain peaks belong to him.” So too “the sea is his” and “his hands formed the dry land”.

What does this mean for your everyday life? The God who is above all things and created all things has the power to intervene in your life. Whatever problem you are facing, God can create a solution for you.

Knowing that you are loved and forgiven by the Ruler of all brings freedom, peace and joy. So no matter the trials of your life, keep praising God and his power to rescue you.

The Lord Reigns Forever

The Lord reigneth; He is clothed with majesty. The Lord is clothed with strength, wherewith He hath girded Himself. The world also is established, that it cannot be moved. Thy throne is established of old; Thou art from everlasting.

Psalm 93:1-2

The Lord rules and reigns over the earth he created. He is strong and cannot be moved, forever and ever. You know you can trust a God like this. He is in control and you can lean on his strength and his steadfastness. God is on his throne and he’s not going anywhere!

Today’s Praise from Psalm 147

Today’s Praise (and a lesson on prayer with praise)

Keeping our attention on praise, let’s look at a few verses in Psalm 147. The jubilant writer of Psalm 147 gives many reasons to praise the Lord. Learn how to praise God in your prayer life from these verses.

Psalm Structure

The order and beauty of these verses can help you formulate your own praise prayer. The high level structure gives a view of all God did for Jerusalem then and continues to do for you today.

Praise God for peace, provision and protection.
Praise God for his powerful Word.
Praise God for his control over all creation.

As you praise God for his sovereignty over all things, take comfort in knowing he can handle anything and everything for you.

Repeat, Repeat

The initial command to praise the Lord is essentially said twice in the first two sentences. It is repeated in two different ways for emphasis as is common throughout the Old Testament. This feature, parallelism, is especially prominent in Wisdom literature, Psalms and Proverbs. Look for it. When you see it, pay careful attention as the author intended.

Here is the parallelism:

1. Extol the Lord
2. Jerusalem
1. Praise your God
2. Zion

The God of Two Spheres

The praises are grouped into two categories I call micro and macro.

Micro- Specifically for his people God:
1) strengthens
2)blesses

Macro- God’s power in all creation becomes the focus of praise. He controls all of creation with his commands including the:

1) Snow and frost
2) Hail and icy winds
3) Breezes and waters

Turn Your Prayer Into Praise

While  written to Jerusalem at the time of the return from Babylon, these verses were are a template for your prayer life today. Do you want to start praying and praising God more easily and effectively? Start with the words or patterns of the psalmist.

Like the psalmist, praise God for who he is and what he has done for you. Recall  God’s relationship to the earth and all that is in it. Remember his control of nature.

Make your precious prayer time causes you to focus on God and who he is. Meditating on these truths will bring you the “peace that passes all understanding”. Taking your eyes off of your circumstances and putting them  onto your Almighty God will lead to praise.

Start today. You will be blessed.

Repay Evil With What??!!

Be not overcome with evil but repay evil with good. Romans 12:21

This is a hard saying. Usually, with every fiber of our being, we want to fight evil with evil. We get wronged, we want to wrong in return. The problem is, we WILL find ourselves overcome by evil by retaliating in this way.

The Bible promises that we will have enemies. Enemies hurt us or try to. How do we overcome those with evil intentions?

Learn the truths of the Bible, found in both the Old and New Testament. Fight evil with good. Allow God to lead you in how to act against an adversary. A practical way to overcome evil with good- Pray for your enemies, as Jesus reminds says. In this way, evil will be overcome.

Stay tuned for more in this series.

Enemies

Enemies may be personal or political. You may have members of your family you view as enemies. Whole groups of people may seem like your enemy. There are enemies you’ve been dealing with for years and ones who have entered your life recently.

How should a follower of Jesus Christ deal with enemies? Stay tuned to find out. Come with me as I explore what the Bible says on this ancient topic.

Exodus Bible Study 1:1-7

Exodus 1:1-7

“These are the names of the sons of Israel who went to Egypt with Jacob, each with his family: Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah; Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin; Dan and Naphtali; Gad and Asher. The descendants of Jacob numbered seventy in all; Joseph was already in Egypt. Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died, but the Israelites were exceedingly fruitful; they multiplied greatly, increased in numbers and became so numerous that the land was filled with them.” (Exodus 1:1–7, NIV)

Introduction

This is the beginning of the exciting story of God’s rescue of his people from Egypt. The beginning is a reminder of the first part of the history of God’s people as told in Genesis. So what can we learn from these few verses? A lot!

Importance of Genealogies or Lists of Descendants

  1. To establish historicity- God knew there would be those who would doubt the Bible and what is written in it. This is written as a historical account, not a fairy tale.
  2. As a reminder of God’s faithfulness to his people that started in Genesis- the seventy that started in Genesis became many as God told Abraham
  3. A smooth continuation of Genesis- Moses, the author of both books, wants to be sure you remember the background that leads to Exodus. These verses are a bridge between Genesis and Exodus. They remind us what happened in the last chapters of Genesis.
  4. A foreshadowing of how God will lead the descendants into the promised land and divide it up among the descendants of Jacob as he promised.
  5. Gives the desperate slaves who felt forgotten by God a sense of their place in history and worth and dignity through their history as people blessed by God.

God Provides Abundance

We learn that Joseph, the man responsible for bringing his relatives into Egypt died, along with all of his generation. But after his death came an abundance of life through his offspring and those of his brothers.

God Keeps His Promises

There is a transition from the old to the new, the passing of the promise to a new generation. Joseph and his generation died. But God doesn’t let his promises die with them. But the new generation will have new challenges to face. Were they ready? Only the older generation could have prepared them for what was to come. How are you preparing the next generation?

Devotional

Key word- Abundantly

Look at all the terms used to describe the abundance of the descendants of Abraham in the land:

  1. exceedingly fruitful
  2. multiplied greatly
  3. increased in numbers
  4. became so numerous
  5. land was filled with them

When God makes a promise he goes all in!! Their is no mistaking the hand of God!

God wants to remind us that he is the one with the power to create and multiply. He is a God of blessing.

“God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”” (Genesis 1:28, NIV)

See also: “And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:20–21, NIV)

Blessings from God are abundance and growth. God kept his word to Abraham to grow his descendants as stars in the sky.(Genesis 15:5) But this blessing will cause what seems like problems for this numerous people. Come back for our next lesson.

Jesus is our abundance. The place of his birth was named for fruitfulness. Bethlehem Ephrathah is our Savior’s birthplace. Ephrathah means abundance or fruitfulness. Jesus is our source of abundant life.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10, NIV)

Key verse to memorize

But the children of Israel were fruitful and increased abundantly, multiplied and grew exceedingly mighty; and the land was filled with them. Exodus 1:7

Prayer

Lord, help me to remember your faithfulness to your promises. Thank you for being a God of abundance who cares for your people. No matter the bondage I find myself in, remind me to put my faith and hope in you.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Exceeding Expectations: The Choice of the Father in the Prodigal Son Story

Exceeding Expectations: The Choice of the Father in the Prodigal Son Story

“Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ “ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ”” (Luke 15:11–32, NIV)

The Prodigal Son left home with his share of his inheritance from his father. He wastes his money, the land he fled to is hit with famine and he is desperate. His need blinds him so much that he forgets who he is- a Hebrew, loved and kept by the God of Abraham. He is part of a people consecrated to God. As such, he is to avoid pigs. God commands this of his people. But his sins of greed and selfishness have hidden his true identity from him. He is no longer a beloved child of God and a member of a set-apart people but a penniless, hungry stranger in a strange land.

In the midst of his despair, God in his mercy makes the son “come to himself” (or “come to his senses) and remember who he belongs to and where he should be. It is a work of God when one is bought into a right mind. Jesus did this miracle for the man possessed by legions of demons. (Mark 5:15) Humbled but with a growing remembrance of who he is, he sets out for the home he never should have left. What did he expect to find when he returned? The text said he thought that his father would receive him and treat him as a servant. But there were other options.

4 possible responses of the father:

  1. Turn the son away. “You left, so stay gone.” Interesting that the son didn’t even consider this. He must have known the compassion and kindness of his father. Such knowledge makes the demand of his inheritance early even worse. This must have been in his mind as he came to himself. What a wretch he was to be so cruel to a loving father! We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) You deserve God’s anger. (Ephesians 2:3) God could turn his back on you because of your sin. Why doesn’t he?
  2. Allow the son to come back but to work and live like a servant to repay what he took from the father and wasted. The son would get the opportunity to work for his forgiveness. We often feel we need to work for forgiveness. The problem is we can not do enough work to make up for how bad our sin is in light of how holy God is. Our only hope is to throw ourselves at his mercy and rely on him, not ourselves.
  3. Allow the son to come back and live without repayment but not as a full member of the household. The son would be partially restored but not back in full fellowship. He would be more than a servant but less than a son. The Prodigal Son recognized what a privilege it was to be called “son”. He did not feel he deserved that. He didn’t live up to the name “son”. He wrongfully took money from his father and violated the teachings his father gave him by dwelling with pigs.
  4. Eagerly and joyfully welcome the son back as a full member of the household plus repay his foolish deeds with fresh clothes, a feast and a party in his honor. Such unexpected behavior echoes the sacrifices Israelites were commanded to give for their sin in Exodus. Temple sacrifices were like a joyous barbecue. The animals were roasted and eaten in fellowship with the community to celebrate God’s mercy and love of his sinful people who returned to him in humility. The restored Israelites could go back to their homes feeling free from sin and cleansed, joyful and grateful to their God.

Out of these options, the father in Jesus’ story chose only one.

As Jesus told this story the first time, which option do you think the original audience expected to hear? What would you think the outcome would be if you were there? If you heard a story like this today, how would you expect the father to react?

Why did Jesus include the story about the other son at the end? Jesus knew what was in the mind and hearts of the original listeners. He knew the words and attitudes of the son who stayed home reflected what his followers were thinking. He needed to address those heart attitudes to make his point clear. God is most pleased and abundantly merciful to those who humble themselves before him, no matter the sin.

God provides for you. He gives you so much every day. Have you ever wasted what God gave you, like time, talent or treasure? Have you ever been ungrateful for God’s provision and forgotten that he was your source? Have you left God and gone so far away from him that you found yourself deep in sin, unclean before your holy God? If so, you probably feel unworthy and unable to go back to your former beloved status.

But if in humility you go to your Heavenly Father, you will find him waiting for you with open arms of mercy and love. He celebrates your return. (Luke 15:7) It means more to him than you could imagine. Rejoice, knowing that you are loved by a Heavenly Father of abundance. He delights to do above and beyond what you can imagine. (Ephesians 3:20)

He sent his Son Jesus to earth that we would have life with abundance. (John 10:10) His love for you is so great that nothing can overcome it. (Romans 8:35-3) He will supply all of your needs according to his riches in glory. (Philippians 4:19) And he knows that your greatest needs are for grace, love and forgiveness. He is faithful and just to forgive your sins and cleanse you from unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Any sin puts you on a path away from God like the Prodigal Son. Go to God in prayer today. Find forgiveness for sin and be restored to full relationship with your Heavenly Father.

Light vs. Darkness- Find Your Victory in Christ

Feeling overwhelmed by all the darkness in the world you see on the news? Or are you battling darkness close to home, in your family, workplace or neighborhood?

You can resist darkness and thrive. How? First, remember the truth that Jesus overcame the powers of darkness. No matter how things look, darkness is defeated through Jesus. The worse thing the evil of darkness can do to you is to kill you and that will just send you into the arms of Jesus. The devil can not win! Here are additional tips to keep you from feeling overwhelmed by the powers of darkness.

  1. Keep your light shining bright by fueling it with God’s Word. Regular prayer seeking God’s guidance along with Bible reading will nourish you and keep your Holy Spirit flame burning brightly so that all may see it. (Psalm 119:130)
  2. Praying and sharing with other Christians is like pouring spiritual lighter fluid on the flame of Jesus within you. As Paul laid hands on Timothy to stir up his gifts, so we need others to cause our light to shine brightly enough to overcome any darkness. (2 Timothy 1:6)
  3. Keep your life free from the power of sin by realizing that you have the righteousness of Christ and confess sin to God immediately. Your light can not shine brightly if you allow sinful behavior, thoughts or attitudes to continue unchecked in your life. (1 John 1:9)

There are times when darkness can feel threatening and overwhelming. Rest in the truth of God’s Word-darkness can’t overtake those who follow Jesus. Walk closely with Jesus and his people to shine brightly in darkness.

This week, look up and meditate on Psalm 119:130, 2 Timothy 1:6 and 1 John 1:9.

God Protects You From Evil

Evil spirits can’t rest in the presence of Christ.

Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”

“Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!”

Mark 1: 23-25

This story describes a guy sitting in the synagogue, looking like any other devout religious man of the time. (You must recognize that those being controlled by any type of evil spirit can look just as normal as you do. They may even appear to worship God.)

But this man is different and Jesus knows it. Jesus is not surprised by evil. You shouldn’t be either. Jesus comes in and the impure, evil spirit made it’s presence known publicly. The evil spirit recognizes Jesus. It knows that Jesus has the power to destroy it and the man he possesses. Jesus doesn’t answer his questions but commands him to come out.

Why didn’t the impure spirit keep quiet? Why did it make itself known? Because evil is restless in the presence of Jesus. It has to go. When Jesus is inside of you, some will reject you. They can not be around you. Their spirit can not rest when your spirit is around. Jesus is too powerful. Greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)

Jesus protects you. So when someone who is not walking with God gets taken out of your life, don’t fight God about it. It will be for your good.

Escape the Bondage of Your Past

As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up and there were the Egyptians coming after them! The Israelites were terrified and cried out to the Lord for help. (Exodus 14:10)

God bought you out of bondage. He set you free from everything in your past that enslaved you. Sometimes, after experiencing this freedom for a while, you feel your past creeping up on you. You thought you defeated the old enemy of a certain attitude, behavior or belief, but there he is right behind you. What do you do? Do you look for help? If you do, who do you look to?

The Israelites had been freed from slavery in Egypt after God inflicted their captors with a series of plagues. The Israelites watched as the mighty hand of God spared them but not the Egyptians. Full of joy, courage and boldness, the Israelites confidently marched away from the land of captivity toward the land of plenty promised by God. But what happened? God caused the Egyptians to go after the Israelites so that his power and glory would be seen. The boldness of the fleeing people of Israel turned into terror as the Egyptians came close to overtaking them. They had a few choices at this point.


They could:

  1. Stop, admit defeat and go back to Egypt with their captors
  2. Perish in the Red Sea to avoid going back to a life of slavery
  3. Cry out to God and see what he would do

They chose the latter. They cried out to God for him to continue his deliverance. They cried out to God trusting that he would not let them go back into bondage. They cried out to God knowing he had not bought them so far only to leave them.

When you feel a formerly defeated enemy coming upon you, intending to overtake you and bring you back into bondage, look in faith to God for his rescue plan. He will never leave you or forsake you. He didn’t bring you this far to leave you. You may not be all you want to be but you are more than used to be. Purpose in your heart that you will not give up any ground to the enemy because your God is an awesome Creator God.

So say like the psalmist, “I lift up my eyes to the hills.

From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1-2

And remember that Jesus came and permanently defeated the enemy for all who believe in and follow him.

Related readings to meditate this week- Exodus Chapter 14, Psalm 121, Colossians 1:13, Titus 2:14, Luke 13:16

Spring Cleaning- A New You Spring Bible Challenge Day 5

Three promises from God’s Word about renewal to encourage you

Are you ready for a change? Spring is a good time to take stock of what you have, decide what you need to get rid of and replace or repair broken things that are no longer useful. It is good to do this not only for your home but for your heart. God wants to give you a fresh perspective and a new beginning no matter where you are right now. God offers you the chance to break free from the troubling things from of your past. He is the source of long-lasting, authentic,  renewal and restoration through Jesus Christ.

Because of his great love for you, God wants you to move forward and grow into the new thing he has for you. Without understanding God’s plan to do a new thing, it is hard to have hope. You may feel stuck in your old ways, old mindsets and old attitudes. You may ask yourself if you will ever change. God’s promises in the Bible give you hope. You can break free and do a new thing through the power of the Holy Spirit!

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, any time is time for a spiritual spring cleaning. Are there attitudes and behaviors you need to ask God to remove from your life? He wants to help you through the work of the Holy Spirit. He left the Holy Spirit here for to teach and guide you in the way you should go- forward!

Throughout the Bible, we see the arc of the theme of God’s plan of renewal. From the Old Testament to Revelation, learn that God is a God of new things and he wants to make you new too.

Let’s look at 3 verses about God as a newness-maker.

“I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 11:19, NIV)

God will give you a new heart of flesh, a heart focused only on him. What does this mean? Sometimes, human hearts grow cold. You grow cold towards God and man. You neglect to thank and praise God for all he does for you. Your affections turn towards other desires instead of wanting to spend time with God. God knows your human condition just as he knew the condition of the Israelites in the time of Ezekiel. If you are willing, he offers to soften your heart and turn it back towards him.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV)

You are a new creation. Do you believe that? That is who God says you are through his word. But what about those stubborn habits you can’t break, the bad attitudes you want to get rid of? You must persevere and believe that God will follow through on his promise and bring everything to completion that he promises. Resist the lies of the devil as he tells you that you aren’t really new, you will never change and any changes you made will go away.

Through prayer and meditating on God’s Word that you are a new creation, you can change. Remember who you used to be and thank God for how far he bought you so far. Thank him in advance for how he will continue to conform you to the image of Christ.

“He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”” (Revelation 21:5, NIV)

At the end of the age, God promises complete newness of all things for every believer. Jesus is coming back and instead of being new creations in an old fallen earth, you will enjoy being a new creation in a new heaven and earth. How exciting! You have a new world to look forward to that is perfect. You will spend all of eternity in this new, splendid place thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross! Thank you Jesus!

Application

It’s never too late to start anew. God makes a fresh spring season each year and he can give you a new heart too. Spend time this spring committing to refresh your connection to Jesus through his word.

Celebrate as you meditate on these verses about God making a new you!

  1. Copy today’s verses either on paper or type them into your phone or computer.
  2. Read and re-read them at least 3 times.
  3. Choose one to memorize:

Isaiah 58:12, Isaiah 40:31, Lamentations 3:22-23, Isaiah 42:10

Look for Rainbows Spring Bible Challenge Day 4

Rainbows serve as a kind of bookends for the entire Bible. In Genesis, God establishes himself as a covenant-keeping God, loving and faithful. In Revelation, we see the fullness of God’s glory accompanied by a rainbow. In between these two, we see the glory of God accompanied by a rainbow as Ezekiel sees the glory of God.

Let’s look at these examples of rainbows in the Bible.

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Genesis 9:12-13

God wanted Noah to know that he would never again destroy all life on earth. The rainbow was to be a reminder of the special trust relationship between God and his people.

We read of the prophet Ezekiel seeing God with a radiance around him like a rainbow.

Ezekiel 1:28 (NIV): Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him.

This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. It happened when Ezekiel was appointed and commissioned as a prophet. God was promising to give Ezekiel the words he needed.

And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance. Revelation 4:3

At the end of the age, God will create a new heaven and earth for his people. You know you can believe that he will.

Mike Shreve, in his excellent article about rainbows, reports an inspiring fact about them. His father, a pilot, reports that a rainbow seen from above is often a complete circle not a semicircle. This makes me think of the completeness of God’s promises. He will never leave anything undone. He brings everything to completion.

It also confirms a truth seen in the Revelation verse above. The rainbow is said to be “around”, just as we know it looks from above.

Our God is a covenant-keeping God. He is loyal, faithful and loving and will not stop being that way. He keeps his word and he can not lie. He is also the same today as yesterday. This promise of love and kindness is for you. When you see a rainbow, let it remind you of God’s faithfulness. He will bring his purposes to all people.

Whenever you can, stop and take the time to meditate on a rainbow. Let the rainbow of fill you with praise and reverence for the God of glory who created it.

Prepare Your Heart- Spring Challenge Day 2

Spring Challenge Day 2

Spring is a time to plant seeds and watch them blossom. But before you plant seeds, you must prepare the ground.

In the same way, ask God to prepare your heart to receive his word before you begin to read your Bible.

Forgiveness and Reconciliation

First, Ask him to search your heart (Psalm 139:23) for any ways you may have sinned and ask him to forgive you. He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9) If you have any problem between yourself and another, get that worked out. (Matthew 5:23).

After getting your heart ready by asking God and others for their forgiveness, there check for another problem to overcome.

Distractions

A significant problem with fallow ground is that after being neglected, thorns and rocks accumulate in the field. These must be removed before the land can become useful and fruitful. So too in a life in which God’s Word was neglected, many distractions have come in and taken up your focus. God’s Word will only grow on your good soil if you get rid of rocks and thorns in your life.

Remove any unnecessary distractions to make more time for God and his Word. “Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”” (Mark 4:8)

Planting the Word

Once you have prepared your heart, it is time for planting. This spring, commit to plant God’s Word in your heart and watch it bring forth the fruit of peace, joy and righteousness. God’s word planted deep in your heart will prevent you from sinning against God. “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11) Hide God’s Word in your heart by meditating on it. Write it, speak it and think about it often. Replace worries and negative thoughts about yourself and others with God’s words of comfort.

Verses to read on your own:

Psalm 139:23, Mark 4:8, Psalm 119:11, Matthew 5:23

Copy verses either on paper or type them into your phone or computer. Choose one to memorize. Read and re-read it at least 3 times.

Come back for your next challenge tomorrow!

A Spring Heart- Break Up Your Fallow Ground- Spring Challenge Day 1

Spring Series 1

Challenge verse day 1:

Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you. Hosea 10:12

You may remember the words of the first song from the Broadway musical Godspell. They proclaimed, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord!” echoing the words of John the Baptist in Mark 1:3 (“The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”)

John was quoting from Isaiah the Prophet who said ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’.

Today’s reading, the first one for the Spring Challenge, is designed to encourage you to prepare your heart to filled by God with goodness and understanding over the course of this challenge.

Fallow ground was the term given to ground that had been prepared for use but then left unattended. As a result, the ground became hard and unsuitable for use. Your heart can become like fallow ground, unfruitful and unsuitable for growth in righteousness.

It can become hardened toward others and God when it is not regularly watered with the Living Water of Jesus and his word. If your spiritual life in Christ is not properly attended to, you may notice you are more irritated and less forgiving of friends and family. You are not diligent to read God’s Word regularly or seek out fellowship with God’s people. You don’t regularly speak of Jesus and all that he means to you.

Your heart is getting hard. It is as fallow ground that needs to be softened and broken up. But how? How do you sow righteousness? Through Jesus, our righteousness. The solution lies in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for our sins. If you believe in Jesus Christ, who he is and what he did for you on the cross, you have his righteousness.

Acknowledge and submit to the righteousness you have in Christ. Go to God and ask forgiveness of your sins. Commit to walking in a new direction with the help of the Holy Spirit. Humble yourself and admit before God that you need help. Seek the Lord and he will “come and rain righteousness upon you”.

Verses to read on your own:

Copy both verses either on paper or type them into your phone or computer. Read and re-read them at least 3 times. Choose one to memorize:

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

(2 Corinthians 5:21)

This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, (Romans 3:22)

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

Remembered By God- Mothers in the Bible

Mothers were not a focus of special attention in Bible times. Women in general, including mothers, worked hard behind the scenes with little to no recognition. Yet, Mothers are written about in the grand arc of the Bible story, from beginning to end. God chose to use mothers, a marginalized group, to build his Kingdom.  This reveals God’s amazing and surprising love for his people.

It is important to note that by choosing to recognize mothers in his Word, God was going against the prevailing culture. In both the Old and New Testament, there was no celebration of “Mother’s Day”.  Mothers, and women in general, were thought of as lesser people and had few rights and many responsibilities. But the God of the universe, the creator of all life, chose to highlight the importance of this group no one else thought much about, women who were mothers. Here are some thoughts on three mothers in the Bible:

  1. God chose for people to populate the world he created through a mother. In the very beginning of the Bible we learn that “Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.” (Genesis 3:20). Of course, God could have chosen any other way to populate the earth but he did so through a mother and ordained the family as the unit of the continuation of life. These events of creation foreshadow the time of Jesus, when we no longer rely on biological families alone but are called to bring all nations into the eternal family of God. We are part of a new covenant when we are born-again spiritually.
  2. In the new covenant, God chose to use a mother to bring salvation to the world through Jesus. Mary was called to give birth to Jesus, our Savior. Jesus could have come down directly from Heaven, risen up from the ground or emerged from a whirlwind. But no. God chose to send his precious Son here to earth through a mother to be born into a family. Though Jesus was with his earthly mother for only a short time before his ascension, he is coming back.
  3. Revelation, the final book in the Bible, gives signs of the world to come when Jesus returns. In Revelation chapter 12, John describes the signs God showed him of a mother. A woman gives birth and fights for her life and the life of her child against a powerful adversary. This imagery in John’s revelation echoes that of Israel often portrayed by the Prophets. Isaiah, for example, wrote of righteous Israel as a mother giving birth to the faithful remnant. (Isaiah 66:7-10) We know the mother, her child and all her descendants were faithful to Jesus and his Word.  This mother will be the source of the faithful remnant.

From beginning to end, the Bible shows us God’s knowledge of and respect for a little-considered group in ancient times, mothers. He chose to preserve in his word, the Bible, examples of these women for future generations to read. The Creator, the God of the Universe, had very different views from the prevailing society. He gave honor and attention when others refused to. So for mothers and other women who feel forgotten or ignored by society on a daily basis, remember there is One who knows you and cares for you. He is Jesus and he is all that matters.

Jesus, the True Vine

Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” John 15:1

Jesus is the only true source from which good fruit can come.

Jesus knew the religious Jews of his time looked to many sources to give them the fruits of a godly life. From Moses to Solomon, from Abraham to the Scriptures themselves, Jesus emphasized that he was more important than all of these. Jesus told them that he is the fulfillment of all that came before him. He is the only true source of an abundant, fruitful, godly life.

So whether you are reading a Proverb or studying the story of Abraham, remember the supremacy of Jesus and his place as your true source. Stay connected to the true vine, Jesus, and you will bear fruit. That’s a promise.

This week, read about how Jesus is greater than any other: Hebrews 3:3, Matthew 12:42, John 8:58, Luke 24:27, John 5:39

Are you making connection with Jesus a priority in your life? If you do, you will be richly rewarded.

Related Verses:

Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. Hebrews 3:3

The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here. Matthew 12:42

“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” John 8:58

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. Luke 24:27

You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me. John 5:39

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. Isaiah 9:2

Stay Alive, Stay on the Vine

Jesus says that he is the vine and you, as a believer in him, are a branch coming off the vine. Just as life-giving sap continuously flows from the vine to the branches, so eternal, abundant life flows from Jesus to you.

You will bear fruit if you do only one thing. That one thing is to stay with Jesus. The Greek word for remain, meno, (μένω), means “to stay in the same state or place”.

Jesus doesn’t want you to leave him or to go back to your former life without him. He wants you to dwell with him forever. (Psalm 23:6)

Jesus is alive and wants to be your source of everlasting life. Why? So you will be fruitful in building his Kingdom and reaching others for him. He will keep you supplied with wisdom, joy and peace.

Pray, meditate on his word and speak of Jesus often. Acknowledge that he is the source of true life. Then enjoy the security of knowing that you will always continue to grow and be fruitful.

The Law In Your Mouth

“This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” Joshua 1:8

This verse starts by telling us to keep God’s Word in our mouths. The way to do that is to “meditate” on it day and night. What does keeping God’s Word in your mouth have to do with meditating?

First, remember that God reveals to us how we are to worship him and live our lives before him. Law (“torah” in Hebrew) refers to these teachings or instructions of God.

The Hebrew root word for meditate here literally means a low groan or utterance. It is sometimes translated “meditate”.

Meditation as taught in the Bible is not merely thinking about God’s teaching. In other verses in the Bible, the same Hebrew word for meditate is translated proclaim, utter or speak. God’s Word should be so thoroughly in your heart that it freely and continually comes out of your mouth. As you speak God’s Word, it instructs you and others around you. In this way, you will be careful to obey God’s commands and find success.

This is what we learn about the cherished and successful virtuous woman in Proverbs 31. She speaks with wisdom and the teaching (torah) of God’s faithfulness and kindness is on her lips.

Deuteronomy 6:7 presents this idea. God tells the Israelites to speak of the commandments God gave them at all times.

The apostle Paul tells us in Colossians 3:16 that we are to “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom…”

Speaking God’s Word to one another should be part of who we are as ambassadors of Christ and as we build up the body of Christ.

Act- As you meditate on God’s Word, allow the fruit of your mind to come out of your mouth. Try memorizing God’s Word by speaking it. Freely and generously share with others who God is and what he has done for you. Start at home by sharing with those closest to you.

You Are Lovingly Created

Created

What does it mean to be lovingly designed instead of being a random collection of molecules? This is a very important question and the answer determines how you view yourself.

You were created by God. There are three characteristics you have because you were specifically and specially created by God. You are 1) known, 2) loved and 3) kept by God.

1) God knows you intimately, better than anyone. He knew you before you were born. You can be assured that God will always guide you to what is best for you because he knows you.

2) You are loved by the everlasting love of God. Nothing can separate you from it. Rest and enjoy the lavishness of God‘s love for you.

3) God will never leave you or neglect you. He will preserve you and continue to conform you to the image of Christ. He will not leave a job undone. Whatever you need, he will be there.

Spent some time this week meditating on what it means to be lovingly created by a designer, the creator of the universe, God himself.

To read this week: Mon-Genesis 1:27, Tues-Jeremiah 1:5, Wed-Jeremiah 1:5, Th-Joshua 1:9, Fri-Romans 8:35-39, Fri-Philippians 1:6

Have a wonderful week!

Show Me Your Ways

Show me your ways, Lord,

teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Psalm 25:4-5

The world is filled with what seems like unlimited choices. You have many decisions to make. From everyday family issues to major life changes, how do you know which way to go? It is tempting to look elsewhere for answers in a world filled with “experts”, many of whom disagree with one another. You search for clarity but are left with confusion. But by humbling yourself before God, you acknowledge that his ways are higher than your ways. You make the choice to lean not on your own understanding but instead to let God make your path. Jesus promises an “advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth.” Put your hope in this promise of Jesus, your Savior. Submit yourself to the leading of the Holy Spirit and trust him to show you the path to walk in. Ask God to help you obey all that he shows you to do. God wants to share his ways with you. Take time to seek his guidance today.

This week’s related verses- Isaiah 26:3, Proverbs 3:5-6, Isaiah 55:9, John 14:16-17, Psalm 143:10