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Matthew 19-20: Handle the Word Accurately

Matthew, Scriptural Authority, The Bible

Wordle for Matthew chapters nineteen and twenty in the English Standard Version (Matthew 19-20, ESV)Today’s reading is Matthew 19:1-20:34.

“They said to him, ‘Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?’ He said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so’ ” (Matthew 19:7-8).

This reminds me how easy it is to twist what is written to get what I want to out of it. Notice the Pharisees asked, “Why did Moses command…” and Jesus responded, “…Moses allowed…” Do you see the difference? Moses did not command Jewish husbands to give their wives certificates of divorce and send them away. Rather, Moses commanded that if they were going to put their wives away they needed to give a certificate of divorce. He also gave some other restrictions about this divorce. That is not God commanding divorce. Rather, it is allowing it and governing it when it did happen.

How easy it is to shore up our own positions and ideas by using various colors and shades of words to subtly shift meanings. How easily we can make ourselves look good by shading our words with various meanings. How easily we can justify what we want to do by twisting the intent and meaning of God’s Word.

This just reminds me that today I need to be careful to understand God’s Word and use it accurately. I must not twist it to produce a command that isn’t there or find permission that isn’t granted or condemn something that is authorized. I need to be completely, utterly, and 100% honest with the text and just let that govern my teaching.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

PS. What struck you in today’s reading? Click the following link to add your input: Post a comment.

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Acts 19-20: The #1 Reason You Should Read Your Bible Today

Acts, Bible study, Christian Living, grace, Growth, The Bible, Word of God

Acts 19-20 (ESV) by Wordle*

Today’s reading is Acts 19:1-20:38.

“And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32).

I have to be in God’s word today. Why? Not because it is my Christian homework assignment. Not because I have to read 5 chapters or 30 minutes per day to go to heaven. Not because my mother told me to. I need to be in God’s word today because I need to be built up. I want the inheritance. I want to be sanctified. I want to know Jesus. The Bible is where I meet Him.

When Bible reading becomes a checklist homework assignment, it doesn’t help me at all. While it remains my lifeline to God, I grow. That is why what we do here at giveattentiontoreading.com is so important. This time in the word, the discussion, the help, the encouragement is all about getting into the word of God’s grace. It is about getting closer to Him and letting Him fill us with His grace and strength.

That’s why I always end these posts by saying,

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

PS. What struck you in today’s reading? Add your input by clicking here.

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Hebrews 13-James 1: The Word is Able to Save Me

forgiveness, grace, Healing, holiness, James, morality, Obedience, Overcoming Satan, overcoming sin, Powerlessness, relying on God, salvation, Word of God

Today’s reading is Hebrews 13:1-25; James 1:1-27.

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:19-21).

I have a tendency to equate “save” with “forgive.” While being forgiven is part of being saved, the two are not completely synonymous. Being saved means being made whole, being healed, being fixed. That is what I want. I don’t simply want to be forgiven. I want to be made well. I want the sickness of my sins removed. I want the control of sin removed. I want my defects discarded. I want to be fixed. I want to be saved.

Sadly, I have learned I do not have that power. I cannot save myself. No amount of my good works will do it. No amount of my decision making will do it. I’ve tried that path but I have already let myself become sin’s slave. What am I to do? James says the word of God is able to save me.

Today, if I want to be saved, I need to be in God’s word. I need to be quick to hear it. That is, not only letting its words enter my ears but also allowing them to impact my life. I need to be slow to speak, that is, slow to say the way I think things should be and slow to speak against what I hear. I need to be slow to anger. I may not like everything God’s word says. If I give myself to anger against it, I will not attain the righteousness of God.

I don’t read the word today because God has given me homework. I read it because the word is able to save me and I want saving.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

PS. What struck you in today’s reading?

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II Corinthians 10-11: Don’t Wage God’s War with Politics

Christian Living, Evangelism, II Corinthians, Politics, preaching, Working for God

spiritual warfare by Belgian Sun FlowerToday’s reading is 2 Corinthians 10:1-11:33.

Lately, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 has been very pointed to me: 

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

We all know this means we don’t take up arms against non-Christians or Christian with whom we disagree. Rather, we take the gospel of Jesus to them. We persuade with the grace and gospel of Jesus, not the force of weapons. Yet, today, it seems that many Christians are neglecting part of this passage. They think that there is one fleshly warfare that is part of our lives. Those who have followed some of my other writings know exactly where I’m going with this. 

It seems today that the new battlefield is no longer the spiritual realm, fighting against the rulers, the authorities, the cosmic powers over this present darkness, the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12), but the political realm fighting against policy we don’t like. It is as if Christians are beginning to think the way to spread God’s gospel is to legislate it through our nation’s policies. 

Jesus said His kingdom is not of this world. If it were, His citizens would stand up and fight (John 18:36). Yet some Christians seem to be intent on denying what Jesus said as if the United States of America is God’s kingdom in this world. It is not. It never has been. It never will be no matter what our laws say. 

God has not asked us to take up political arms to spread His will. He’s asked us to take His gospel to our neighbor, loving them enough to talk to them about His grace and salvation in His name through His Son. If we do that, then it won’t matter what our national policies and laws are, we’ll have helped another person surrender to God and live by His will. Who cares what the nation’s laws are if we can convince individuals to live by God’s will? On the other hand, who cares what the nation’s laws are if we don’t convince people to live by God’s will? Have we accomplished any good if we get abortion and homosexuality outlawed but our neighbors are still practicing them?

Let’s not wage the war according to the flesh today. Instead, let’s ask for opportunities to share God’s gospel with someone. 

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

P.S. What struck you in today’s reading?

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Luke 23-24: Christianity is Not about Eating, But About Christ’s Teaching

Bible study, Luke, Teaching, The Bible

Today’s reading is Luke 23:1-24:53.

I just can’t help but be drawn to one of the issues about which I think people today make way too big of a deal. In the earnest desire to make eating a major aspect of Christian work, folks have looked for any straw they can grasp to make eating together more important.

Don’t misunderstand, I do believe Christians should spend time together in social settings (cf. Acts 2:46). However, this story about Jesus meeting the men on the road to Emmaus is not about the Lord’s Supper and it is not intended to make eating together the central act of Christianity.

It is true that when Jesus broke the bread and blessed it, their eyes were opened, and they saw Jesus for who He really was. However, that is not trying to make the breaking of bread some significant act. That was merely the moment at which Jesus finally revealed Himself to these two disciples. This was not a re-enactment of the Lord’s Supper for these men. They were not of the 12 who had participated in that feast. In fact, when they realized they had seen Jesus, they went back to find the 11 (Luke 24:33). They had no baseline to remember the moment when Christ broke the bread and instituted the Supper, so this would not be a reminder to them of that. It is just the moment when Jesus finally opened their eyes.

Further, this is not saying that in eating together Christians meet Jesus. How can we forget what Paul said in Romans 14:17, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” With verses like this, why do we try to elevate eating to the status of some amazing spiritual act?

Having said all this, did you notice the response of the two on the road to Emmaus? “They said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?’” (Luke 24:32). 

There is the key. There response was not, “Oh, look how important eating is.” There response was rather, “Why didn’t we get it while He was explaining the Scriptures?” They saw what was important. They understood that their hearts burned while they heard the truth of God expounded from God’s word. 

We really need to grasp that today. Sure, Christians should spend time together. We should eat together. It is absolutely true that the Lord’s Supper is an important part of our submission. However, we need to know that this passage is not elevating eating as the highest act of Christian work. It is actually elevating hearing, knowing, and teaching the Scriptures accurately. That is were we need to spend our time.

***Question: How have the Scriptures helped you serve God better?

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

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1 Corinthians 2-3: How Can I Know God?

God, I Corinthians, The Bible

I love to tell people about the time my wife and I rode a plane with Deborah Harry (lead singer of the 70′s and 80′s band Blondie). Or the time my wife rode a fair ride with Mark Slaughter (lead singer of the 80′s and 90′s band Slaughter). I also like to tell people about my friend Dan Degarmo who went to high school with Brad Paisley. I can’t wait to tell people I shook hands with Ken Starr. And one of my prized possessions is a photo with John Maxwell.

We naturally like to tell people about our connections with famous people. It is almost like a bit of their importance and fame rubs off on us just because we can establish some connection. But, of course, I don’t actually know any of these people. 

However, I can have a relationship with the most important being in existence. Of course, you know where I’m going with this. I can have a relationship with God. I can go beyond just having ridden with him on a plane or a fair ride. I can go beyond just having my picture taken with him. I can actually get to know Him. I Corinthians 2:10-13 explains how.

“For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.” (I Corinthians 2:10-13, ESV).

There is only one way to get to know God. We get to know God by getting into the word He has revealed by the Spirit. That is why what we are doing at Give Attention to Reading is so important. Only through reading, studying and meditating upon God’s word can we come face to face with God while we are still in this life. We can’t know God by watching Oprah or Dr. Phil. We can’t know God by tearing up over “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” We can’t know God by merely talking with our friends about Him. We can only get to know God when we get into the word that the Spirit has revealed about Him. 

Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning, God…” and the rest of the Bible proceeds to tell us His story. Yes, our story is in there too. But this is His story and if we want to know Him we have to…

…keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

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Mark 11-12: 3 Lessons About Hard Bible Questions

Mark, Questions, The Bible

In Mark 12:18-23, the Sadducees who did not even believe in the resurrection asked Jesus a question. It had been a stumper that history tells us they had used to boggle the Pharisees who did believe in a resurrection. The question was not sincere. They didn’t really want to know the answer. They only wanted to cause Jesus problems. They were unprepared for His wisdom. Just like the Sadducees, I have heard and had hard Bible questions. I hope the questions I hear and have had are more sincere than the Sadducees were, but hard questions are…well, hard. I gain three lessons from this story about hard Bible questions.

1. We can think of some pretty tough questions.

Let’s face it, the Bible is not a primer. It is not “Cat in the Hat” or “See Dick and Jane.” It is deep and every time we read it we get deeper. It doesn’t spoon feed all the answers to us. Rather, it makes us dig. Therefore, we can come up with all kinds of tough questions that are difficult to answer. Sometimes, the answers may not seem readily available. 

I don’t know how many times I have studied with someone who had a hard question from the Bible that they couldn’t answer easily, so they began to question whether the Bible was accurate. Some even lost their faith. I would like to share a different perspective. We hold in our hands a book that purports to have the answers to our real problems. It claims to be from the infinite God. It tells us the meaning of life. It talks about spiritual living. It offers salvation. Do we honestly think such a book could exist without engendering some pretty tough questions. The reality is, if we couldn’t possibly come up with any tough questions about it or because of it, then we should question if it is really from God.

We can think of some pretty tough questions. That doesn’t mean the Bible is wrong.

2. There are even some questions we cannot answer.

Jesus answered the Sadducees direct question. That is, whose wife would that woman be. What intrigues me is from where He got the answer. As far as I know, there is no place in the Old Testament that said what Jesus said in Mark 12:25. Rather, Jesus, as God in the flesh, was providing new information here. In other words, the Sadducees and Pharisees could have studied their scriptures backwards and forwards and never learned what Jesus taught them here.

The fact is, the Bible has not been written to provide the answers to every question we can possibly imagine. It is written to teach, reprove, correct and train us in righteousness. It is written to equip us for every good work (II Timothy 3:16-17). This means we may even come up with some questions for which we simply cannot find an answer. 

Once again, that doesn’t mean the Bible is not from God. It doesn’t mean the Bible is not true. Again, think about this from reality. Can we really expect the infinite God who knows all things to provide us with a book that contains infinity within? Don’t let the questions you can’t answer come between you and God. 

Mark Twain is reported to have said that it isn’t the parts of the Bible he doesn’t understand that bothered him but the parts that he did understand. In similar fashion, we must not dispense with the answers God did give just because there are some answers He didn’t.

3. The tough questions do not change the straightforward scriptures.

Jesus knew the Saducees were not interested in the answer to their actual question. They merely wanted to deny the resurrection. Jesus gave them the answer to their question but then hit their real problem head on. They didn’t believe in the resurrection. They didn’t believe in a spiritual realm with angels and the departed spirits of man. Jesus gave a scriptural answer to their main objection.

He commented on Exodus 3:6 in which God proclaimed He was presently the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Since God is a God of the living and not of the dead, then those men must have in some sense been alive even though their physical bodies had died long before. 

Here is the point. The Sadducees could develop any kind of difficult question they wanted about the resurrection. It wouldn’t change the fact that there is a resurrection.  We can come up with all kinds of questions. We can set up scenarios and situations that are hard to answer. However, those questions do not deny the simple and straightforward truths God has revealed in the Bible. 

 

As we keep reading, we will have all kinds of questions. However, we must not let them get us down or turn us from God’s truths.

So, as always, we must keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

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