Bible Study

Oct 2017
Wonderful Words of Life

Give a man bread, and he will eat for a day.
Point a man to Christs, and he will never hunger.

It’s not quite as elegant as the Chinese proverb about a man and a fish, but it is biblical. Jesus, having been moved with compassion, fed the multitude with five loaves of bread and two small fish. The people spoke of making him, King. Why not make him king?

They were fixated on his works. People have not changed much through the centuries. We covet God’s blessings on our lives, yet, when the blessings seemed to have dried up, He is not our top interest. “Will ye also go away” (John 6:67)? When in the middle of difficulty, we covet His work of deliverance. When it does not happen according to our timetable, we turn away disappointed and disenchanted. Remember, it’s never been about the works of God. Oh, they are spectacular. The works of God are a mighty signature of His power! However, Adam and Eve were surrounded by the brilliance and wonder of God’s newborn works, but how much they would have traded all the works if they could cling to His words all over again. His simple words to them were the difference of life and death, fellowship and disfellowship. Their dullness to truly hear the words of God spelled death to the human race. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12).

As glorious as His works are, it is the words of God which are most valuable. Peter acknowledged, “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Jesus pictured the assimilation of his words as eating his flesh and drinking his blood. Drastic measures for the desperate times of man’s condition. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

Some are waiting for the next great act of God as if He were some Houdini who works up something amazing in their life. God is waiting for the next great act in men and women—the act of hearing “these sayings of mine, and doeth them” (Matthew 7:24).

Sing them over again to me,
Wonderful words of life,
Let me more of their beauty see,
Wonderful words of life;
Words of life and beauty
Teach me faith and duty.
Beautiful words, wonderful words,
Wonderful words of life;
Beautiful words, wonderful words,
Wonderful words of life.

Christ, the blessed One, gives to all
Wonderful words of life;
Sinner, list to the loving call,
Wonderful words of life;
All so freely given,
Wooing us to heaven.
Beautiful words, wonderful words,
Wonderful words of life;
Beautiful words, wonderful words,
Wonderful words of life.

Sweetly echo the Gospel call,
Wonderful words of life;
Offer pardon and peace to all,
Wonderful words of life;
Jesus, only Savior,
Sanctify us forever.
Beautiful words, wonderful words,
Wonderful words of life;
Beautiful words, wonderful words,
Wonderful words of life.

Oct 2017
A Kernel of Truth

My mom was a philosopher. I didn’t realize it while I was growing up, but she would quote ancient Greek philosophers during my rearing. I never knew she was such an avid pupil of Epictetus and Zeno, but when she must have been when she told me, “You have two hears and one mouth; hear more, speak less.”

Honestly, my mom probably never heard of Epictetus or Zeno, but then the value of hearing did not originate with them. In Mark 4, Jesus emphasizes the action of hearing which eventually leads to the “Great Decision” in Mark 8. The word for “hear” is used forty-eight times in Mark and fourteen of those times it is in Mark 4. As you zoom into the context you notice Jesus is teaching and this is the first time we get to scoot in close to hear the Master in Mark’s account.

Present-day believers teach their children John 3:16 just like Hebrew believers for centuries taught their children Deuteronomy 6:4-6 which they called the Shema (shuhmah). The word “shema” means “hear.” Hearing in the Jewish mind had nothing to do with sound waves entering your ear canal, vibrating the tiniest of bones, sloshing through the cochlear fluid, and transmitting neural impulses to the brain. In Hebrew, the word for “obey” does not exist. They only had the word for “hear” or “shema.”

Listening to God was the equivalent of two actions: respect as you focus and response in your faithfulness. The afflicted man cries out in the psalms, “Hear me, O God!” He expects God to focus on his plea and according to His faithfulness act. The Old Testament prophets chastised the people for having ears, but not hearing. Jesus said, “If any man have ears to hear, let him hear” (Mark 4:23). Those who reverence God’s Word and do it will be fruitful.

Some people will hear, but it doesn’t go to seed because Satan’s influence is too active. Others hear, but the difficulties or distractions make their “hearing” ineffective. Those who hear well were fruitful. What is the key to hearing well? If you examine the four characteristics in Jesus’ parable you will find most are too common, too careless, or too cluttered. Some people let anything and everything walks through their life and the soil of their heart is packed down and firm. Others let life happen “naturally” and as free spirits, they refuse to remove the rocks and obstacles to hearing in their life. Others have so many cares and concerns in their life, they hear is suffocated quickly.

What makes the fourth characteristic so unique? Preparation. The fourth soil condition is cultivated. It doesn’t happen naturally, but because of their expectation to receive something from God, they labored to restrict the traffic and remove the hearing obstacles in their life. Their heart is still and fertile for the seed of God’s Word. If you are to be fruitful in your hearing, then you must prepare the soil to receive the kernel of truth.

Oct 2017
Don't Miss It

The disciples hurry along, trying to clear the way so Jesus can make it to Jairus’ house. I can see one of the disciples out in front saying, “Excuse me, we need this cart moved out of the way, Jesus is coming through.” Another disciple escorts an elderly man out of the way of the pressing crowd. They have seen Him heal Peter’s mother-in-law, a leper, the paralytic man who was let down through the ceiling, and many others. This case was different. This situation was urgent. Jairus’ daughter was near death. They knew Jesus could heal her, but He had to get there in time!

Every doctor eventually shook their head and said, “I’m sorry. Nothing more can be done for you.” She was considered unclean nearly every day of her life. Untouchable and restricted from worship in the Temple and in the synagogue, her life was a terrorizing nightmare. She had spent everything she had to find a cure, but there was none to be had. Then she heard of a man who was in town who had extraordinary abilities. She desperately cut through the crowds she had carefully avoided for so many years in order to get to Jesus. With reckless abandon, she stretches her hand through the press of people. If only she could touch the hem of his garment, it would change her life.

These parallel events in this story portray our goal-driven nature. Both were goal driven and for good reason. However, in their drive to get Jesus to Jairus’ house the disciples would have overlooked the desperate woman. The disciples were so focused on a destination, they were missing the opportunities to make a difference. How many people have you run roughshod over because you were goal-driven? Sometimes we are so focused on goals we miss the needs around us.

If you are so busy, you don’t have time to stop and notice the people around you, then you are too busy. We need to be goal-driven, but it must be toward the right goal. The only person in the story who was not hurried was Jesus. He waits until the woman steps forward to acknowledge the miracle of healing. We are in a hurry because we are constrained by time, but time does not concern God. This is a good reminder to not push toward destinations without considering desperate people around you.

Remember, God’s work is not meeting a deadline, rather it is making a difference where you are in your journey.

Oct 2017
How to Pray Effectively

The cart was so full you undoubtedly have everything you need. After you check out, load the car, unload the car, and put everything away, you suddenly realize you forgot something. What can you do to help you not forget? Whether it is the grocery store or the home improvement store, the best way to ensure you do not forget anything is to take a list.

How important is it to pray according to the Lord’s model prayer? Maybe you say, “I pray on my own just fine.” Just like forgetting the milk at the grocery store, sometimes we overlook essential requests in our prayer life which is why Christ provided the instruction on prayer.

Please understand, mindless chanting is not prayer. So saying the Lord’s Prayer from memory may not actualize the spiritual awareness of your needs. Prayer is a conversation with God. It should not be feared for we are His children (Romans 8:15ff). However, we are also His subjects and He the Sovereign dignitary, so in respect of His auspicious audience should we not humbly enter, boldly prepared to present our requests?

Luke records the Lord’s model prayer and in the same chapter, he unveils the need for such a prayer. First, Jesus affirms the Father’s delight in giving good gifts. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17). It is His joy to dote upon His children, but the request is necessary. “Ye have not, because ye ask not” (James 4:2).

Second, Luke illustrates our need to be aware of God’s kingdom work. Without the prayer, “Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth,” our minds are clouded with earthly wisdom and we will fail to see God’s program at work (Luke 11:2)! If the people had asked for such heavenly insight, would they have accused Christ of casting out devils by the power of Satan? Obviously, we need the divine perspective which is wisdom from above. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5).

Lastly, Luke illustrates our need for forgiveness and guidance. The Pharisees and the lawyers could not see their brokenness for their self-congratulating righteousness. We are told to come to the throne of grace boldly, but we still come acknowledging our brokenness. Our bold entrance is to request in the time of need mercy without reservation for it is mercy which broken people desperately need.

Do we need to model our prayers after the Lord’s Prayer? No, as long as you don’t mind leaving some blessing or provision behind while you are in the audience of the King of kings.

Oct 2017
A Spiritual Reboot

When your phone or any other piece of technology is on the fritz, what do you do? You refresh the gadget by powering it off and turning it back on. You put it to sleep and wake it back up, hoping it will go through the proper start-up sequence.

Matthew 11 is a chapter full of confusion. Everyone is spiritually on the fritz! John the Baptist sends messengers to Jesus because he is confused. “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another” (Matthew 11:3)? The people are confused because they are not sure how to respond to Christ’s message. John and Jesus at times seem to be pointing to the same thing, the Kingdom of God, yet their messages seemed different. The cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum were confused and refused to accept Jesus’ message. As a result, they would suffer a tragic fate.

Jesus pictures the confusion beautifully by describing a scene in the marketplace. Maybe around the corner of one building, you would find children performing a play. At times the children are frolicking with joy, and at other times they are mourning the tragedy. However, the entertainment freezes and the children are perplexed because their audience does not respond emotionally. It is here where Jesus tenderly diagnosis the listener’s problem—they are broken people.

When John preached, people should have sensed the need for repentance. On the stage of God’s story, the drama cues the mournful response to man’s sinfulness. However, the world injects into their system the drugs of entertainment and frivolity. They pursue entertainment more out of fear of repentance than a love for amusement. They are repulsed by the emotion. “Life is about happiness,” the world says. However, one finds the path to eternal joy through the door of mourning.

When Jesus preached, he preached the gospel. It was the good news to the poor. “The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Matthew 11:5). With such a message, the crowds should have been filled with joy! But they weren’t. Since they shortcircuited happiness in their lives by pursuing other things, they could never process the message of joy which only comes by repentance.

The fact is we are all broken and confused people, but Jesus always has the answer. He calls to the His listeners, “Come unto me” (Matthew 11:28). This is Jesus’ favorite invitation. In order to repair what is broken about us, we must be refreshed. When Jesus promises rest, He is not promising a peaceful slumber. Oswald Chambers describes rest as the “perfection of vital activity.” So few come to Jesus only because it requires the shutdown of pride. We must genuinely mourn our condition and brokenness. “Blessed are they that mourn,” Jesus said, “for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

Will you allow Christ to refresh your soul? By coming to Jesus, you have begun the start-up sequence in your life which will lead you to heavenly joy.

Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. — Romans 15:13

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