Bible Study

Jan 2018
What's In A Name?

My wife worked for a correspondence school program and she handled the file for two kids whose names were Oranjello and Lemonjello. The parents must have confused the baby name book with their most recent grocery store shopping list!

When is the last time you met someone named Benedict? Not very likely you have although the name Benedict has a lovely meaning, “Blessed.” For a couple centuries, that name has been soiled by the reputation of one of America’s most infamous traitors, Benedict Arnold. His personality has modified the appreciation of a name; it has influenced the name. Names are important, but for God, His name is revelatory. Where the actions of a Benedict influence a name, with God it is the opposite. His name describes how He acts. We cannot understand God without His name.

God is a spirit; He does not have a body or form. You can recognize someone by their face and mannerisms. You can see children or grandchildren and recognize the traits they possess from their parents. You can also recognize one another through the quality of one’s voice. We have these visual and audible retainers through which we hang our understanding of people. God does not have form though. So on what do we hang our understanding of God? The only thing we can—His names.

Abram is in the Ur of Chaldees without any apparent concept of God, yet he is visited by God, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee” (Genesis 12:1). In order to fully appreciate God’s identity, we must strip away any of the world’s influence. The world has their own concept of God. They have descriptions and even epic myths about God. However, none of those will lead to a life of faith. Those fables actually destroy the fabric of faith in God because they are woven with the frailty of human weakness.

However, when we decide to honor and worship God on His terms, according to His revealed identity, then we will benefit. “I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2). Later in Abram’s life, he fights to rescue Lot and ends up reclaiming massive riches. The king of Sodom says to Abram, “Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself” (Genesis 14:21), but Abram would not do this. A few verses earlier, Abram was reminded by Melchizedek of God’s name, “The Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth” (Genesis 14:19). Abram recognized he didn’t need anything from the world which was a valuable lesson considering his escapade in Egypt during a famine a couple chapters earlier. He clings to the name of God and pledges His allegiance to depend upon Him alone.

Someone has said, “Our concern is more about going to heaven than loving the King.” Is this true in your life? If this is the case, then it’s no wonder people feel they can live however they choose because their ticket is punched for heaven. But if we are living because of our love for the King, this changes our motivation and improves our behavior.

Jan 2018
God Is at Work

It’s very easy as we go through this human existence called “life” to sometimes get our eyes focused on the here and now instead of seeing the big picture of what God is doing in our lives. Our reading today in Romans 8 should cause us to realize and appreciate what God is up to.

I want to look specifically at verses 29-30 which states:

“For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified. 

In these verses, we see the “big picture” of what God has done and is doing in and through His children. We can’t help but notice a list of five action words; verbs that no doubt volumes could be written about but we’ll just briefly touch on what each of these mean.

  • “Foreknew” — In God’s infinite knowledge He knew who would be saved and become a child of God.
  • “Predestined” — God predetermined a course of action for those who would be saved; that is, that they would be conformed to the image of His Son.
  • “Called” — This word indicates the call and wooing of God in our lives for salvation.
  • “Justified” — Once we have responded to this call, God declares us justified and gives us the privilege of having a right standing with Him.
  • “Glorified” — Because we have been justified, we have the opportunity to share in His glory.

What a powerful list of words indicating what God is doing behind the scenes in our lives. We are not here by accident nor did God create the world and let fate take over from there. Instead, He is actively involved in the affairs of men, and particularly those of His children. Knowing and appreciating the truth of these two verses allows u to claim the familiar promise in verse 28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose”.

Jan 2018
When Love Hurts

“I hate you!”

You’ve seen it before in the movie or maybe even in real life. A child recoils in anger as a result of consequences of his actions. I remember reading the advice to never administer discipline with the bare hand because a child will disassociate the hand from the person and it will only be viewed as an implement of pain.

Job’s friend, Eliphaz, “encourages” Job with this nugget of wisdom: “Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: Therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty” (Job 5:17). Isn’t it interesting, how we often separate God’s chastening from His character? Eliphaz’s statement was tactless, yet it is full of truth for the writer of Hebrews echoes this perspective, “My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Hebrews 12:5-6).

First, we must remember when experiencing the chastening of the Lord to never divorce the tool of correction from the nature of God. When we isolate the painful instructor of rebuke from the moral anchor of God’s character, we villainize the encounter and in effect respond, “I hate you!” When the reprimand of earthly cares strikes pain in our hearts, God becomes the enemy. No. You must keep the chastening connected to His essence. In His holiness, He guides us into the paths of righteousness which lead to life. In His love, He delights in His best for our lives. In His justice, He is compelled to respond to our transgression with pain as much as He is compelled to respond to our worship with the pleasures at His right hand.

Not only remember the Lord’s nature, but also remember the Lord’s restraint in chastening. Reflect on the following sentiments:

He hath not dealt with us after our sins; Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. (Psalm 103:10)

And after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass, seeing that thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve. (Ezra 9:13)

It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Jeremiah actually provides the voice of reason when he says, “Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?” To receive chastening, correction, or even conviction is to remember you are alive. Chastening is a reality check. You’ve been extended the opportunity to try again. “Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord” (Lamentations 3:39-40).

Can you be happy when you experience God’s correction? It still sounds almost absurd, but “whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth.” If He didn’t care He wouldn’t correct and think where we would be without His unfailing compassion.

Jan 2018
God Is Still On The Throne

Depression is on the rise in our society. The Centers for Disease Control reports antidepressant use in the United States increased nearly 400 percent over the last two decades.

When faced with troubling emotions, most of us turn to modern medicine. In olden times, there was no Prozac! What are we to do? Take it to God! It seems our faith in God has diminished. We have difficulty believing in a God who is omnipotent; One who can cure all. We must remember that God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Ps. 46:1).

Our society looks upon those with depression as weaker vessels. Yet, if we look through the annals of history we find many a great person who was afflicted with this dreaded illness. Abraham Lincoln and his wife Mary were both sufferers of what amounts to clinical depression. One greater comes to mind—King David. You say the David of the Bible?

Listen to David as he cries out to God in Psalm 6. He uses words like weary, sore vexed, weak, groaning, grief, and weeping to describe his feelings. He cried so much that his bed and couch are soaked with tears. This is a chronic issue as David describes these feelings other places in the Bible (Ps. 39 & 40:2). Certainly, these symptoms meet the modern-day criteria for a diagnosis of depression.

God has given mankind wisdom to develop medicine for this disease, but David did not have antidepressants. It is what he did, that is so crucial to receive healing from God. If medication be our lot, let us do so looking to God with an earnest expectation of healing in His time.

David would be the first to admit that we think too highly of ourselves. When David was compassed about by life’s hardships, his first step was to seek the Lord (Psalm 6:1). He turned his attention toward the Great Physician. Forget about the musings of mankind, they are filled with false hope. Without God, the healing process is doomed. It is like a mathematical problem; leave something out and it cannot be solved. Two plus two equals four, but man without God is zero.

Secondly, David asks the Lord to search him and reveal any  sin in his life (Psalm 7). David is laying it all before the Lord. If we humble ourselves and honestly ask Him, then be prepared. God will reveal and provide help to the sincere.

Although we are incapable of fully describing God’s majesty, due to the finite limits of our mind, David makes a great attempt in this third step in Psalm 8. In spite of his afflictions, he praises God! We, likewise, must praise Him if we want the victory we desperately seek. Will we be heard singing, “O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth” (Psalm 8:1, 9)? Peace can only be obtained by seeking, asking and praising God Almighty.

Jan 2018
Content, But Never Satisfied

“Nevertheless the children of Israel expelled not the Geshurites…but [they] dwell among the Israelites until this day” (Joshua 13:13).

Doesn’t that phrase bother you?

God has given the Israelites the Promised Land. It’s ripe for the taking. All they need to do is claim the fullness of God’s blessings and proceed in His power! As long as Joshua helped them, they would evict the enemy. Once Joshua’s age became prohibitive and he could no longer expand the people’s access to all God had given them, the people settled to abide the enemy.

My personal motto is: “Content, but never satisfied.” Humor me for a moment. Although the two words “content” and “satisfied” are often synonymous, there is a nuance of difference. “Content” is an adjective which describes one who is at ease with his current possession. If one is content, he is no longer seeking for something beyond the borders of his blessings. “Satisfied” is a verb and literally means “do enough.” In Paul’s terminology, I wish to learn “in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Philippians 4:11). Yet is my work ever done? have I ever done enough to evict the enemies from my God-given blessings? Have I finished my course for the cause of Christ? No, not until I breathe my final breath on this earth will I be satisfied or have done enough.

Caleb approaches Joshua and requests, “Give me this mountain…for thou heardest in that day how the Anakims were there, and that the cities were great and fenced: if so be the Lord will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the Lord said” (Joshua 14:12). Caleb was one, at the age of 85, who remembered God’s promise to him through Moses and he claimed his rightful inheritance within the parameters of God’s blessing. To go beyond the borders of the Promised Land would have been discontent. To settle with the enemy feasting on your blessings is the sin of complacency. “To be content but never satisfied,” should have been the Israelites motto.

So I wish to be content with what God has given me but explore and expand within His blessing to know fully the scope of what it is I possess. Rise up like Caleb and take in the full horizon of God’s blessing in your life.

“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).