Archive for the ‘Bible Study’ Category

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Forgive Us as We Forgive…

October 7, 2012

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…

What does this line mean?

We must have a humble heart to both seek forgiveness and forgive. Out of all the petitions listed in this prayer, Jesus focuses on this one in particular. Jesus, immediately after His instruction about how to pray, explains to His disciples in verses 14-15 the following: “For, if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” We are commanded in Scripture to be like God, to be conformed to the image of His Son, to forgive because He forgives, to be holy because He is holy. (Lev. 19:1) We live in a sinful world and we come in contact with sinners everyday. We are sinned against everyday: people steal from us, gossip about us, children disobey their parents, parents mistreat their children. How we deal with those sins against us, reveal a lot about our character and our relationship with Jesus. When you forgive others you are bearing witness that you have experienced for yourself the mercy of God. You are fulfilling the greatest commandment, loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind, AND loving your neighbor as yourself. A modified golden rule: Do unto others, what you would have God do unto you.

We are not to take forgiveness for granted. God is interested in forgiving sin, so much so that he sent His only Son to pay the debt that man had and that we have toward God. For “All have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Through Adam, sin entered into the world and placed us in the position of indebtedness to God. Adam mortgaged our lives for the temporary satisfaction of seeking knowledge and fulfillment outside of God’s commands. For centuries that mortgage accrued interest, and the debt increased. But God in His grace gave Christ as the “propitiation” payment, the satisfaction of that sin debt. “Jesus paid it all” as the song says, and in trusting in that work, God forgives our sins and places that sin, away from us, as far away as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:12) We should remember this daily, and be obedient to ask that God continue to forgive us, and remind us to likewise continue to forgive others. If we fail to pray for forgiveness, we fail to acknowledge what God has done for us.

What does this line not mean?

In order to be saved, you must forgive the debts/trespasses of others. This may appear to contradict what is stated above, but this is a key point. You are saved through the blood of Christ, In Christ alone. There is one mediator between God and men, Jesus Christ, He is the way, the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father apart from Him. If one confesses with their mouth and believes in their heart that Jesus is Lord, they will be saved. (Romans 10:9) Forgiveness is part of salvation, as is sanctification, regeneration, redemption etc. However, the forgiveness that we act out toward others, is a by-product of the forgiveness we have experienced. Just as we love others, because God first loved us. (I John 4:19) What this petition is saying is that we are to model for others the forgiveness we ourselves have experienced. If we fail to forgive others, if we are proud and hold onto resentment, then there is very little evidence that the Holy Spirit is in us. For “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness” surely then, it is kind and loving to forgive. “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Gal 5:25) Our forgiveness of others is an evidence for, not the entirety of our salvation.

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Give us this Day…

October 5, 2012

Our Bread for the day

If we truly pray the first three petitions, and commit ourselves to live wholly for God, the natural and logical next request is for time to see God’s kingdom come and His will be done. So we ask for the day. We do not ask for day(s) or weeks or years, but we ask for one more day, that God would grant us the time to serve, to pray, to worship Him. Later in this chapter of Matthew Jesus instructs his disciples not to worry about tomorrow, “for tomorrow will take care of itself.” (6:34)

After we ask for the day, it is logical that we ask for sustenance to give (us) energy to fulfill such a life. Samuel Johnson once said in caring for the stomach that “Those who ignore the needs of their stomach are soon in no condition to care about anything else.” God has created us to be dependent on food. It points to our weakness, our ‘createdness’; God himself is dependent on nothing and no one. So when we pray this line we are acknowledging that we are in need, that rather than assuming that we can take care of ourselves, we are willing to humble ourselves to ask for something as simple as a piece of bread.

What does this line mean?

In the testimony of Christ in Luke 11, Jesus instructs His disciples on how to pray and tells them a parable of a man arriving late at night at a friend’s house, weary from a long journey. The man knocks on the door and asks for some bread, but the friend is in bed and unwilling to assist. Jesus says to His disciples, “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. “For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened. “Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? “Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” God knows our needs before we ask (Matt 6:8), and has sworn to “supply all our needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:19) The key word here is need. We are commanded to as for those things which are necessary to live. We need bread daily, we require sustenance daily to live, and so we are commanded to ask, knowing that our Father in Heaven will supply our NEEDS.

What this line does not mean.

This line is not our divine credit card. God cares about us. His desire is that none should perish but that all should be saved, and he came for the purpose that we have life and that this life be abundant. However. He is interested in supplying our needs and equipping us for every good work, not in enabling our greed. Need and want are two different things. All of us have been children at one time, and those of us who have children are well acquainted with the phrase, “you may want that, but you don’t need it.” What we need to serve God and what we want to satisfy our own selfish desires are almost always two completely different things. The purpose of this prayer and of this line in particular is to focus us on finding our satisfaction in Him, rather than anything else. If we enjoy today, we acknowledge that He gave it to us, and if we enjoy a meal we acknowledge that He gave it to us.

This line does not say, sell us this day, our daily bread. Some people believe that God’s provision is for sale, little do they realize that He gives according to His grace. Some believe that, I don’t have to ask for it, if I behave the right way then I will get it as a reward. The Pharisees were far to proud to ask for something as simple as bread, they would have long grandiose prayers, and lived strict lives in hopes that God would take notice and repay. How thankful we should be that God does not operate this way, the price has been paid through Christ, and so we simply ask, “Father, Give…” and He gives according to His promise.

What if we already have a lot of bread? Well then we should still pray daily for God’s continued provision, in this economy we can all see examples of when abundance is here one day and gone the next. Is it wrong to want nice things? No. Is it wrong to want things that are above and beyond what you need? No. But when we seek these things instead of His Kingdom, and pray for these things over and above what we need to serve Him, we are missing the point of this prayer. Remember we are called to ask for bread not Bentleys.

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Pray in this way…

October 2, 2012

Our Father, who art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name…

Why God’s name should be ‘Hallowed’?

The Lords Prayer is a string of requests.  We have not because we ask not, but Jesus gives us the requests to ask. We are to request that God’s kingdom will come and that His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven; we are to ask for our daily provision, we are to ask that our sins be forgiven, and for protection from Evil.  But before we begin praying for ourselves we are to request of God that His Name, be Hallowed, that His name be made Holy, set apart, sanctified.

God’s name should be set apart for two reasons.

1.         Because of Who he is.  This is the God Proclaimed throughout all of Scripture as Holy, Holy, Holy.  The Seraphim surrounding His Throne sing this out in Isaiah 6, The Creatures in Revelation 5 proclaim this reality “to Him who sits on the throne… be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.  When People have encounters with God whether Moses in Exodus 3, Isaiah in Isaiah 6, Job in Job 48, Saul on the Damascus Road, John in Revelation; the almost universal response is to acknowledge God’s uniqueness and Holiness by falling on ones face and proclaiming your own sin.  Indeed it is predicted that at His Name Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord and that God is Lord over all.  So How do we approach this Awesome God in Prayer?

2.         Because of What He did.   The response to being confronted with God’s holiness is universal, shock and awe.  Yet now we draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we receive mercy. (Hebrews 4:16) How can we do this?  We are able to approach God, because we are made Holy through the sinless life, sacrificial death and saving resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ.  We have been crucified with Him, we no longer live, but Christ lives within us.  Though full of imperfections we are made perfect in His sacrifice.  Christ bore our sins; and made our lives, though red with the crimson stain of sin, as white as snow.

For this reason we pray that His name be set apart and made holy.  The world calls out to a myriad of idols and self help gurus, but we cry to the Holy God, who saw us, saved us and will secure us from want and sin, throughout all of eternity.

 

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Why should we pray?

September 20, 2012

Over the next several posts we are going to be examining prayer, specifically the Lord’s Prayer as found in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:9-13.

First we will address the reason why we should pray.  Beyond the fact that we are commanded to pray, what should motivate us to engage in prayer:

For our Divine Relationship:

We are created for relationships.  This is evident in every one of our lives.  The fact that you are here listening to me is a key sign that you desire to be in a relationship with other people.  The church is nothing if it is not a community of believers seeking a relationship with God through His son Jesus.  By far the most important relationship you have is the one with your heavenly Father, God.   Just like any relationship you have, your relationship with Him is aided on communication.  He communicates to you through His word, through His Spirit, through his Preachers.  You communicate to Him through worship, worship in song, worship in His Church, and worship through Prayer.

Think of the relationships you have in your life.  How are they affected by communication, especially with the ones you love?  If I told you that I loved my wife, but I also confessed to you that despite the benefits of talking to her and communicating with her, she and I haven’t spoken in day, weeks, perhaps even months.  Despite my insistence that she and I were in love, and that we were in a relationship, how healthy could that relationship be if she and I never communicated?  Consider you relationship with God.  In his word we are told to Pray.  Jeremiah records God’s promise to him in Jeremiah 33:2-3 ” Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish, the Lord is his name, ‘Call unto Me and I will answer you, I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.'”  We know that when we call on the Lord our God He hears us, “I Love the Lord,” The Psalmist says, “because he hears my voice, and my supplications (cries for mercy), because he has inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live.” (Ps. 116:1-2)

Among First marriages in America Statistics show that some 45-50% of marriages end in Divorce, (www.divrocestatistics.org ) Research done on the causes for divorce reveal, that “Lack of communication is one of the leading causes of divorce. A marriage is on the rocks when the lines of communication fail. You can’t have an effective relationship if either one of you won’t discuss your feelings, can’t talk about your mutual or personal issues, will keep your resentments simmering under wraps, and expect your partner to guess what the whole problem is about.” (http://www.buzzle.com/articles/common-causes-and-reasons-for-divorce.html)

How can you expect your relationship with the Father to flourish if you don’t communicate through prayer?  Are you Strong enough to go through this life on your own?

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The Comforted Heart Still Trembles…

August 30, 2012

 

“At this also my heart trembles
and leaps out of its place.
Keep listening to the thunder of his voice
and the rumbling that comes from his mouth.
(Job 37:1-2 ESV)

Job chapter 37 has some powerful insights about God and His meticulous control over all of creation.  It comes at the end of Elihu’s speech to Job and his friends, right before God’s appearance.  Elihu often gets a bad rap, mostly because he is portrayed as unfeeling toward Job’s plight and arrogant toward the elders gathered around Job.  Despite these flaws, he does proclaim some glorious truths about God which deserve our attention and are worthy of our meditation.

Let’s look at some brief background to the book of Job.  There are six main characters in the book of Job; there is God, Job, Job’s three “friends” Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, and then 2/3 of the way through the book a young man named Elihu arrives on the scene.  He is young and arrogant and many commentaries on Job simply exclude Elihu’s 5 chapters, for the feeling that whatever benefit they have is mitigated by their source.  I am thankful that his chapters are here, and I am grateful that god used a flawed arrogant young man to profess timeless truths about His character, that we can examine today.

My hope is that you will be encouraged by this passage and know that it is God who is in control.  He commands His creation to instruct, to control and does it all for his purposes.  And where there is fear seen in this passage, there is a great hope here that extends to us today.

I. God commands creation to instruct… vss 1-5

  1. Gods voice is likened here to Thunder, imagine when you here this sound which causes your knees to buckle and your heart to skip a beat, that this is what the voice of God who created the universe is like.  Throughout scripture we see this description Ps. 29:3-4 “the glory of G thund”, Ps. 77:18 “voice of thunder” Rev 14:2 “voice from Heaven, voice of great thunder”
  2. Lightening to see and thunder to hear, creations display informs our senses, it is an audio/visual display our eyes see and our ears hear.
  3. Our lack of understanding does not denote a lack of His control

II.God commands creation to control… vss 6-10

  1. “He says”, “he sends” the seasons and winter and rain
  2. He seals the hand of men; this is very instructive to us.  All that man can control, all that seeks to control and work toward can cease when winter comes, and he is sealed up in his home (ice storm analogy) this happens for a reason and should not be wasted time. “So that all men may know His work.  When we are sealed up, forced to rest and stay in we should reflect on Him who sent the snow.  Even the animal’s activities are curtailed.  So too the mighty waters, the most powerful rivers that in the height of spring will rush and flow free carving the landscape are frozen still by the breath of God as His creation freezes in its place.  Matthew Henry has said that “this is an instance of Gods power  that if it were not so common it would be next to a miracle”

III. God commands creation for His purpose… vss 11-24

  1. God guides the un-guidable, we see the moisture in the clouds and the wind scatter them, we see the whirlwind and it appears to be utter chaos, with no order in it at all, and yet it whirls about “being turned by His guidance”
  2. These activities do whatever He commands over the face of the whole earth, the phrase here in focus in the “whole globe of the earth” all of creation he commands, not one molecule of particle exists or whirls about apart from His knowledge and divine providence.
  3. These all occur for His purposes, and this is the focus point the power point that I would want to emphasize that these occur for correction, possibly judgment, for the “land “which is to say for provision, and for mercy, for it is by the mercy of God that he created a world that fresh water is Provided by the rain, and crops are nurtured in their season.

Conclusion: This is a fine passage but it is limited I feel, for Elihu in his Old Testament understanding fails to communicate the comfort and peace that a God in control should inspire.  He says in verse 24 “Therefore fear Him” This to me seems incomplete, but praise God that what is incomplete in the old testament is made whole in the New, turn with me to Matt. 10:29-31 and hear the words of our Lord in addressing the fears of His disciples, He points to nature and Gods sovereignty over creation to inspire confidence and vanquish fear.

Here we see a God who commands his creation, in that even the minutest of creatures has his eye, how much more should we then fear not for God has set us apart from creation and chosen us before the foundation of the world.

*The same God who sends the storm which thunders like his voice, quiets the same with a rebuke, the same God who sent his son to die 2000 years ago, commanded creation three days later, the by His word the body rose, the ground quaked and the stone rolled away.  This is the hope that we have, and we see displayed in nature and made evident in our hearts and through this we should fear not for it is this God who commands the whole of creation who has the hairs on our heads numbered,  Fear not for He commands creation to instruct and control and does so for His purpose, fear not brothers and marvel at His Grace “for are we not of more value than these”.

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Casting upon a Caring God…

August 27, 2012

1 Peter is one of my favorite books in the Bible, so rich and so full of powerful applicable theology.

One of the most powerful verses or sets of verses in the book come as Peter is concluding his letter to the elect exiles in Pontus, Galatia, Capadoccia and Bythinia, Chapter 5:6-7.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your cares upon Him because He cares for you.”

Believers must humble themselves under God’s might hand, regardless of how that hand is made manifest.  They might experience that hand in judgment through persecution, or deliverance through protection.  Regardless of how His hand is experienced, the believers response is one of humility.  They accomplish this act of humility by casting their anxieties on God.  Peter has provided the reader with the “what” (humility), and the “how” (casting), but now he moves in short order to provide the “why.”  Believers approach God and rely on Him because He cares for them.  This simple profound truth animates the entire text of 1 Peter, indeed it is seen through out the scriptures.  This type of care is seen in the gospel of John 10:13; where Jesus tells of the hired hand that abandons the sheep because he does not care for them.  In contrast, the shepherd would leave the flock to pursue even one lost sheep.  This caring and concern is in view in this passage.

God cares for His people from beginning to end, throughout all circumstances.  We do not rely on an unsympathetic God, or one who is distant or emotionally uninvolved.  No, Peter systematically displays the myriad of ways in which God cares for His people.   Listing them below grants us the ability to grasp the scope of Peter’s depiction of God’s manifold care for His people:

-1:3 God has caused us to be born again to a new hope.

-1:4 God has given us an inheritance

-1:5 God guards us

-1:9 God grants us the salvation of our souls

-1:18 God ransoms us from futile ways

-2:5 God Builds us up

-2:8-9 God calls us out of darkness and into marvelous light

-2:10 God makes us His people and gives us mercy

-2:21 Christ suffered for us, providing us an example

-4:11, 13 God allows us to take part in the glory of Christ

-5:4 God will give us an unfading crown of glory

-5:7 God cares for us

-5:10 God will restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish us.

In the face of this litany, Peter asks his readers to cast their anxieties on God; this is an ultimate act of humility.  We are to be humble because God cares for us.  We are to display our humility by casting our anxieties on Him.  These truths form the essence of 1 Peter.

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Concluding thoughts on Theodicy in Job…

August 1, 2012

The book of Job “anticipates the Christian witness.”[1]  The reality of suffering and the pain of death is reflected in both Job and the New testament.  But Job lacks a certain measure of fulfillment and completion because it lacks the eschatological reality of Christ.  In Christ, “the greatest evils, the betrayal and crucifixion of the Son of God, become, and are now, the greatest good for all mankind.”[2] Job experiences evil according to the foreknowledge of God, as does Christ.  But Job in his lament, lacks the power to overcome the evil; he simply begs for relief and redress.  “Jesus own life was marked by suffering with loud cries and tears.”[3]  Jesus serves as the ultimate extension and realization of the Redeemed Instrumental Theodicy.  Christ experienced evil, suffering and death all according to God’s foreknowledge, delivered into the hands of evil men, and he simply proclaims that “it is finished.”  The futility of evil was finished and suffering ceased to be final and became instrumental.

Job reflects back to all its readers the familiar pattern recognizable to anyone who has experienced suffering and God’s grace.  We face an unseen Adversary who seeks our harm.  Evil exists and manifests itself in suffering.  When we experience suffering we cannot help but be inspired to question why.  God in His grace provides a revelation of Himself which both answers our questions and exceeds our capacity to understand.  That revelation necessitates a response.  It is God’s will that those who have received His light, will darken his counsel with words of knowledge and respond in repentance.  What awaits all who respond in repentance is a restoration, exceeding their previous state of being.  This is the hope of the gospel, that beyond the cross and the grave lies a new birth into a new life where sin and evil are no more; a picture of evil redeemed and instrumental in the hands of a loving God, to and for His Glory.

Here are links to the entire Series on Theodicy in the Book of Job

Darkened Counsel

Introduction: An Evil Job Well Done…

The Free Will Theodicy: A Will to Live…

The Augustinian Theodicy: Privation in Job…

The Redeemed Instrumental Theodicy: God’s Instrumental Use of Evil…


[1] Long, 108.

[2] Anderson, 69

[3] Long, 108.