Have you ever seen the videos of people walking down a street when suddenly they fall in a construction hole? They were too busy watching their phone screen that they did not look where they were going. Because they were not watching, they stumbled and fell into something that was well marked as being dangerous. Maybe you have experienced something like this yourself.
Sometimes in life we can be like this. In our walk of faith, we don’t pay attention like we should. Something other than the path draws our attention and we stumble. In those videos, the person usually walks right into a construction zone that is marked with bright orange cones and construction tape. It is not a secret that what they are walking into is dangerous. However, they refuse to look at their path and keep walking regardless.
Proverbs 4:25-27 tells us to look ahead and to keep our eyes fixed on the path ahead. When we allow our eyes and our thoughts to be distracted by other things, we are more likely to fall into the pit. We need to instead put our eyes away from such distraction and turn to the LORD. We need to keep our eyes on Him and His Word so that when temptation comes our way, we can see it and turn from it. Just as Proverbs reiterates, we need to listen to instruction. Instead of ignoring the warning signs, we need to avert our path away from them. We need to follow the directions that guide us away from the hole. We need to keep our eyes on the path.
Have you ever tried to help a child put together a toy train track? There are so many pieces and in the end they are supposed to make a complete track. Some of the pieces make sense and, well, others are like that onion ring you find in an order of fries. No instruction booklet is included, so you are on your own. You attempt to put the train track together yourself based off of what you think it looks right. If you are like me, the end result is a train track with very strange turns and a dead end. It is not the complete figure eight as pictured on the box. If only the factory had sent some sort of instructions, then perhaps you wouldn’t be in this fix.
In Proverbs 1, we learn from that, “the beginning of knowledge is the fear of the LORD”. It tells us that only fools despise the wisdom and instruction that they receive. The Bible offers us so much instruction on how to live our lives. Proverbs tells us to walk in the way of wisdom and here we are told that to be knowledgeable we must look to God. He is the foundation of knowledge and only through Him and the heeding of His word can we hope to access true wisdom.
It is encouraging to know that, unlike the factory and the toy train, God gave us an instruction booklet. He didn’t expect us to just figure it out, but God gave us His word so that we may have wisdom and know Him. Sometimes, though, when we are going through hard times, it can be difficult to remember to go to Him and His word for guidance. Like with the train, the instruction booklet may not have been included, but I could have Googled it. Sometimes we get so caught up in the moment that we forget to look for wisdom and instruction.
Do you do your homework? This may seem like an odd question to be asking but that’s exactly what the people in Acts 17 were commended for doing. When Paul and Silas went to a place called Berea they were teaching the word of God to people in the synagogues. The people had never seen the scriptures in the light that Paul and Silas were teaching it to them, they had never recognized the truths that were being shared. So rather than just believe what they heard they went ahead and studied it in the scriptures for themselves to see if what Paul and Silas were saying was true. Essentially they were ‘doing their homework’. They found that what was being taught was true and so came to salvation. We refer to them as the Bereans. The term may sound familiar to you as many church youth groups have held the name Berean in their names. This is a reference to that noble group that studied the scriptures for themselves to see if what they were being taught was true.
In our society today there do not seem to be enough people who display Berean like qualities of ‘doing their homework’. Why were the Bereans noble – because they searched for the truth and they found it! Truth is important to us, but today the truth seems more, and more difficult to unearth. There are many newscasters, commentators, teachers, and yes preachers too who would all benefit from doing a little more homework before presenting information to the public. This would prevent a whole host of misinformation from circulating about. Many people would be better able to discern the truth if they did their homework. If you know the truth of a matter then you will less likely fall for anything false. We should all strive to be like the Bereans and desire to know the truth for ourselves, through diligent research especially when it comes to the word of God!
-Pastor Merry Peterson
Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Samuel 15-16 and Acts 17
When you read the Bible, what do you read it for? Is it merely a collection of stories? Great history? Interesting information? Or are these stories more than that? Do they give us something that will open us up to the Creator of the universe? Will it speak to our thought and memories and give us understanding? We can and should live our lives and order our memories not only historically but theologically, not simply recollecting what happened or what we did but searching out what God was doing. This keeps us from over honoring ourselves in success or despairing in our struggles. Part of the key to enjoying peace is to be continually praising the Lord for what he has done and is doing for us because the stories we read and tell of our lives are not so much about us but about Him. Are you reading to find the principles in the story? Or reading it like a homework assignment?
Today’s devotion is taken from John 6 and Judges 5-6. Some of the greatest stories and life lessons ever written about are in these chapters. Did you read the story of the feeding of the 5000 and see Jesus bring his disciples into responsibility when he asks them, “Where shall we find bread for these people to eat?”. What does that say to you? Or how about when Jesus walks across the lake! Can you imagine the disciples’ fear, amazement and awe? Who is this Jesus? Matthew even records that Peter walks out to see him. What faith! What courage! And then to sink and have Jesus say, “You of little faith. Why did you doubt?” Or how about in the Old Testament when Gideon lays out a fleece and gets an answer and asks again? Did he not like the first answer? Did he doubt? Was he afraid?
So many questions arise from these stories. So many principles to glean from them. Are you wrestling with them? Do you search for God in them? Do you see what God wants you to know? Don’t rush reading these stories but find God in them and use that to understand him more. Happy reading and may you draw closer to God as you work through all that God has to say to you.
Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here –Joshua 5-6 and John 6
This year our Bible reading plan has included one Old Testament reading and one New Testament, Psalms or Proverbs reading every day. I’ve enjoyed the daily variety and I think rather than feeling disjointed, like I had feared, it actually helps me see the Bible more as a whole. There have been several times when one reading would refer to something in the other, if not from that same day then something recently read.
On Sunday our devotion was on Psalm 69, one of the most quoted and referenced Psalms in the New Testament. It portrays a zealous suffering servant of God who is surrounded by the enemy. And just 2 days later we read John 2 which included Jesus entering the temple and being shocked to see the disrespect and greed of the moneychangers and those wanting to make a quick buck selling animals for sacrifice rather than revering the house of the Lord and the holy God they should have been focused on. Jesus forcefully clears the temple, and John records, “His disciples remembered that it is written: ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’ ” (John 2:17 NIV – quoting Psalm 69:9). Those disciples knew and loved the same book we just read! They saw connections and how Jesus fulfilled and carried out the Scriptures they were devoted to and knew well. That’s just one example of the many times it’s been exciting to see overlap and referencing reminding me of how precious this book is and how it all works together to show us God: His character, story, plan, majesty, and His Son and ultimately, what will our response be? As Joshua said (just yesterday), “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15 NIV)
As we see it all work together, woven together as one, it’s sometimes hard to decide which passage to write about. It’s exciting that God gave us SO much in His Word, we couldn’t possibly discuss it all thoroughly in one year of devotions. But every day we can increase our knowledge and understanding just a little, find a new thought or reference we hadn’t seen before, learning to love it and the God it reveals and putting His word to use to become more and more what He wants us to be and do.
And, today we read of the Samaritan woman by Jacob’s well in the land given to Joseph. This well is not specifically mentioned elsewhere in Scripture – but we did just read a lot about the land of Jacob’s sons’ families and we read of the tribes of Joseph’s sons (Ephraim and Manassah) receiving their inheritance and burying the bones of Joseph in his land. The Samaritan woman knew these stories and these families – and now she was going to meet the Messiah, the Christ, she has been waiting for!
That was a much longer introduction than I expected. No wonder we don’t have time to look closely at every passage every day. But, today I want to try something different. Instead of having you read any more of me than you already have, I want to give you some questions to consider for both the Old Testament and New Testament scripture – two excellent passages God wants us to consider. You could pick some of your favorite questions to think about today and even discuss with your family and circle of influence. Enjoy digging into God’s Word and considering what God wants you to see!
Judges 2 tells of the cycle of obedience and disobedience that Israel will fall into after the death of Joshua. Can you see in your own life, family, church, community, nation any similar cycles?
Have there been times when you have slipped away further from God? Any ideas what prompted that? What turned things around again?
How would you describe the difference between a life of obedience to God and one of disobedience? The results? (Use personal experience anytime you can)
Have there been times you have benefitted from having a strong Godly leader (like Joshua or one of the judges)? How so? What did they provide? What dangers do we need to avoid in regards to having (or losing) a strong leader?
How/when can you help others who are in a time of disobedience and trouble?
What do we learn about Jesus in this passage? (especially verse 6, 9, 10, 13, 18, 26, 29, 34, 42, 53).
What did the Samaritan woman already know before meeting Jesus? What did she learn that day?
How would you describe Jesus as the Living Water? Would you say you have experienced him as living water, or will experience it, or have just heard about it? What does Jesus want to offer to the Samaritan Woman? To You?
What was the result of the Samaritan woman’s talk with Jesus?
Jesus said his “food” was “to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” (vs 34) and then he asked the disciples to see the harvest work around them. What fills you up or have you been feeling a little starved lately? What can you do today to help you feel full and satisfied? What harvest work around you does Jesus want you to see and act on?
Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Judges 1-2 and John 4
I can relate to Mary at the wedding in Cana. The proud momma wanting to show off her son. Here she is, celebrating at a beautiful wedding, eagerly pushing her talented son forward to perform and save the day, as she knows he can. He seems reluctant. The timing isn’t right. He isn’t ready to draw attention to himself yet. But she pushes ahead and doesn’t accept no for an answer. She is eager to show him off and watch him work. And, it just might be kind of advantageous for her when the neighbors find out what her son can do. It would be interesting to know if Mary had received a prompting from God that this was the time for Jesus’ miracles to begin, or if she was acting on her own.
I admire the servants. Even without knowing of the miracles Jesus would yet perform, they are quick to listen and obey, fully. They filled those jars with water – to the brim. And, then, not knowing how it would turn out – they followed his directions and brought some of this mystery liquid to the master of the banquet. I can imagine they were relieved to find the master was impressed. They sure had a story to tell their friends and family! I want to serve wholeheartedly like these servants, following Jesus’ every word even when work and risks are involved and the outcome is uncertain.
I have often felt the hesitation Jesus seems to show in this passage at the very beginning of his ministry. Perhaps unsure of the timing or his role? Should he listen to his mother or his gut instinct that said this wasn’t the time. Just like me and every other human, Jesus was not in control of his circumstances. Jesus had free will and made decisions and other people’s decisions would impact him greatly as well. Sometimes people cooperated with him and his plans and ideas and timing and other times they resisted and went their own direction – sometimes taking him on a path he did not choose for himself. But because of his strong connection to His Father developed through study of the Scriptures (knowing God’s words and thoughts and character and how he has acted in the past) and much time spent with God in prayer he carried out so beautifully the Father’s will, not necessarily his own, every step of the way.
Too often my own hesitation causes me to overthink and I end up not doing anything. I need to take more time in His Word and in prayer so I can more clearly see what opportunities God is putting in my path and make the most of them.
The end results of Jesus’ first miracle were the wedding guests continued their celebration and Jesus’ momma went home happy. But, more importantly, the disciples saw his glory – John did not say his deity – but his glory, his magnificence, his connection with his Father.
Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Joshua 21-22 and John 2
How many times does it take for a false statement to be repeated before it becomes true? Can you make a myth true if a lot of people believe it long enough?
What would happen if we read the Bible with no prior bias. What if we could vacuum out of our brain all knowledge and impact of the Apostles’ Creed which would be written hundreds of years after Jesus walked on earth? What if we could read John for what John wanted to say, instead of what the emperor and church leaders over 200 years later decided they wanted it to say?
John, the beloved disciple. He loved Jesus and Jesus loved him. Perhaps he knew Jesus better than anyone. He was there very near the start of Jesus’ ministry – the fisherman who with his brother James left their fishing nets to follow and learn more about Jesus. He heard Jesus’ teachings and was with him when he calmed the storm and healed the sick. His feet had been washed by his master, Jesus. That horrific day at the foot of the cross, Jesus entrusted to John the care of Mary, his mother. John ran to the empty tomb and saw with his own eyes the resurrected Jesus and spent 40 more days listening to and learning from his risen Lord and Savior. And, then Jesus was taken into heaven in the clouds and John and the others were told Jesus would return in the same way – but until then they were to be his witnesses. John had a job to do, to tell the world of Jesus. And so, before his death he carefully writes it down for all the future generations – and we have the New Testament book called the Gospel (good news) of John.
John specifically states near the end of his gospel what his purpose in writing has been. He says Jesus did much much more than could be recorded, “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Chosen King), the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31 NIV – parenthetical definition of “Christ” added). Obviously, it becomes very important for John to clearly represent Jesus if life and salvation come from believing in Jesus. We wouldn’t want to get that wrong, would we? And, we can expect that since this is John’s purpose statement nothing we read in the book of John will contradict what his mission is – to show us who the Christ, the SON of GOD is. Remember, we already cleaned out of our brain any future manipulation, twisting or reversal of this term that will develop centuries later. John, and the other New Testament writers (and Old Testament for that matter) never used the term “God the Son”. If it didn’t come from the Bible, where did it come from? It seems we should be concentrating on who and what John meant by the Christ, the Son of God, rather than trying to use this book to explain God the Son.
John would have been very familiar with Old Testament scripture which exalts and reveres the word of God – the words, plans, thoughts, intent, desire, ideas, as well as the actual spoken word of the Almighty God. The terms word of God and God’s word have also been used to refer to His written word, the Scriptures, in part or whole. Can we worship God, without knowing or trying to understand (to the best of our human ability) what His words, His thoughts, His desires are? It’s almost like voting for a president without having a clue what he stands for, what he has said in speeches, written in papers, what he thinks, believes and intends to do. It sounds dangerous to try to separate a candidate or a God from His words. We should view them as one – God and what He says/plans/intends/thinks/desires are the same.
It is also helpful to know that in Greek all words are assigned a male or female pronoun (similar to Spanish and many other languages in which every noun is known either as a she or a he) and the word “word”, in Greek “logos”, is assigned a male pronoun. It is interesting to note that 8 Bible translations written before the first King James version of 1611 did not use the Greek male pronouns (he and his) when referring to the word in John 1, but used “it” the gender neutral English pronoun given for all the other Greek nouns that were not people (he or she) but objects or ideas (its). Also, in the Greek language they did not use capitalization, so when John wrote “word” he did not write “Word”.
John also would have known of the use of personification in Scripture. For example, in Proverbs wisdom is often personified as a female who is calling in the streets or building her house. In a whole chapter devoted to ‘Lady Wisdom’ we read, “The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old; I was appointed from eternity, from the beginning, before the world began. When there were no oceans, I was given birth…then I was the craftsman at his side…” (Proverbs 8:22-24a, 30a). It is goes on. And, yet, no one has convinced too many people that God has two parts and one of them is a lady named Wisdom who existed before the world began and who created the world with Him. This theory would be called foolishness because of course we all know Solomon was using personification speaking of wisdom which comes from God.
So, now let’s read John with a brain cleared of all preconceived human ideas. We just want God’s inspired word. While we read, let’s try to think like John, the one who was at Jesus’ side for 3 years, knowing that logos – the word – of God does not have to be a person any more than the wisdom of God is a person. And, yet both the wisdom and the word of God can not be separated from God – they are God’s, or, you could even say, they are God.
So reading John 1, with simply removing capitalization and eliminating male pronouns (which was done in most or all other uses of the word logos) we now have something like this: In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. The word was with God in the beginning. Through it all things were made; without it nothing was made that has been made. In it was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (John 1:1-5 NIV but removing capitalization for “word” and replacing neuter pronouns for masculine).
Remember creation – God spoke His word and it came to be. This makes sense. God and His word. They are powerful. They are inseparable. They get the job done. They light up the world. “Let there be light.” That was God and His word! But, some will not understand – made me think of some biology professors who certainly don’t understand the power of God and His word.
Next, we see in verse 6 that God sent a man. “There came a man who was sent from God: his name was John.” (John 1:6 NIV) Yet, no one argues that John the Baptist pre-existed his birth. To be sent from God or come from God does not require pre-existence or to be part of God.
In verse 14 we have the plan of God, His design, His purpose, His word becoming flesh. Here we indeed have another man, in the flesh. This time it’s not John the Baptist. This time it is Jesus, the Christ, the Anointed One, the Chosen King, the One and Only Begotten (comes from), in flesh, Son of God. There would have been LOTS of ways John could have said that Jesus was God, if that is what he wanted to say. But, he didn’t say it because he knew Jesus as the SON of God, just as he said.
Not only did John not say it – but no other place in Scripture says God became a man. It is not in Scripture, but it is very common in mythology (which we are warned several times in the Bible to avoid). How did this idea get into so many Christmas songs, hymns, worship songs, and sermons if it did not come straight from the Bible? Could it be the false teachers that God’s word warns would sneak into the church to twist the apostles’ words and the God they served? This is something we don’t want to be wrong about. We need to be sure we are correctly handling the word of truth – God’s word – and not just what others hundreds of years later would teach about it.
We all like to be right (some of us more than others) so when we are approached with a “new” idea that would mean we have been wrong before it is easy to immediately discard it. But, this one is pretty important and could in fact mean life or death. If you have read this far, congratulations. I encourage you to do more seeking and searching. I recently listened to a podcast of a woman who was shocked to learn her grown son no longer considered himself a trinitarian. In the podcast she does an excellent job describing her thoughts and feelings as well as her search in the Scriptures for truth and what she found. If you would like to hear what this journey looked like for her, you can listen to her story here – Hildy Chandler (She tells her story to Mark Cain in 3 parts, I thought the second was the best but I linked the first hoping you can make time for all three valuable parts.) I love her heart for truth and her devotion to the Scripture.
I know I am not the best one to explain John 1, or probably any other passage in Scripture. But, as we continue with our reading of the Gospel of John, I pray we will all see more and more clearly the Jesus that John walked with on earth. The Jesus that died on the cross and that God rose from the dead. The Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Chosen King, the Son of God, the Jesus who showed us His father. God bless our journey reading and loving God, His word, and His Son.
Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here –Joshua 19-20 and John 1
Fairy tales don’t have settings. Sure, technically the setting would include in the forest or at the castle or under the sea but we don’t REALLY know where the stories took place. City? Country? Even continent? We aren’t told. Believe it or not, Cinderella’s castle wasn’t actually in Orlando. Fairy tales don’t have detailed settings; because, fairy tales aren’t real.
But, the Israelites occupying the Promised Land, as well as SO MANY other events of the Bible, those are stories with a setting, a lot of very specific and detailed settings to be exact. For the last couple of days, and for the next few days, our Joshua Bible reading has and will include a good bit of geography from ancient Israel. Some of these places actually still exist in the exact same location, today! And others have been lost through the years. Just for fun I looked up the “Stone of Bohan son of Reuben” which is just one of several landmarks listed as part of the northern boundary of Judah’s inheritance (Joshua 15:6). Sure enough, no one knows where that stone is today or what significance it held, but it meant something to the people of their day. The writer of Joshua didn’t give GPS coordinates, but he gave all the information needed for the tribes to find and settle their land, and he left enough clues for us to retrace and map out who got what.
This was their new home. The land promised to them by God. The home they had been anticipating for hundreds of years, and fighting for the last 4-5 years. It was better than a fairy tale or dream – this was a real true event. Real people in a real land receiving their real inheritance from a very real God.
I enjoy Bill Schlegel’s Satellite Bible Atlas which offers a historical geography of the Bible. Every major Bible event is mapped out, with dates and commentary. And, this post would have been available sooner today, but I was having too much fun watching videos Schlegel created which include further photos and videos of the REAL land of Israel. They really help the Bible lands come to life. I encourage you to see for yourself at Satellite Bible Atlas and accompanying videos. As an associate professor in Israel for 25 years Schlegel knows the area very well.
One day I plan to visit the Holy Land, either before or after Jesus returns. Until then, it’s exciting to take some video field trips and learn more about the land God gave His children. Real people in real places. God’s promises are true.
The lessons for us today just keep coming in the book of Joshua! In the last few days we’ve learned from Joshua: arm yourself daily with God’s word for strength and courage and success; God’s will, way and day leads to victory; and stop blaming God when we ought to be dealing with the sin amongst us which will then help us to overcome defeat.
Today we learn valuable intel on how to distinguish friend from foe, how to guard oneself from being deceived, and the all important how to get more hours added to your day. The answer to all three – Ask God. Don’t try to do it on your own. Trust His way and His understanding and His power, not your own.
The Canaanite neighbors have heard how Joshua and the Israelites have destroyed Jericho and Ai (on the second attempt). Some are ready to fight. Others find it easier to deceive. The sly Gibeonites, who live just over the next hill, came to Joshua. Pretending to have just made a long journey from a far off country, with worn-out clothes and old food, they convince the Israelite leaders to make a peace treaty with them. Three days later the Israelites learn they have been tricked. They have just signed a treaty protecting the lives of those who should have been their next targets.
What went wrong? They had been so careful. They had even tasted the Gibeonites’ stale bread! All their senses and intuition and prior knowledge told them this was safe and trustworthy and reliable and in their best interest. Scripture tells us, “The men of Israel sampled their provisions, but did not inquire of the Lord.” (Joshua 9:14 NIV).
I believe it is even harder today to distinguish friend from foe. Satan would love to have the world believe that what and who is actually an enemy of God is harmless, trustworthy or far-off. When actually this danger is at our doorstep, dressed in a disguise. And, since it looks good and convincing and seems to make sense Christians take the bait and sign the peace treaty and align themselves with the enemy. Because they did not inquire of the Lord.
Deception abounds on so many fronts. Who is God? Who is Jesus? What happens when you die? What is the value of a life? Who really has your best interest in mind? Who can be trusted? Who is on God’s side? And who is not?
God knows. And He wants to reveal the answers to you. Ask Him – not your own heart. Seek His wisdom – not man’s. Read His word. Spend time in prayer. Listen – to the Lord. Don’t sign the treaty without His okay.
Our reading in Psalms includes many great verses that would have been great refrigerator verses for the Israelites at that time – if only they had refrigerators.
“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock, and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” Psalm 62:1
“My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” Psalm 62:7-8
Remember the king that was greeted with palm leaves and shouts of hosanna yesterday? Today, we see him bombarded with questions meant to entangle him. The religious elite were threatened by Jesus—by his growing popularity, his radical views of religion, and his claim to be the Messiah. The teachers of the law and Pharisees tried to make Jesus stumble.
Keeping a close watch on him, they (the teachers of the law and chief priests) sent spies, who pretended to be sincere. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said, so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor (Luke 20:20).
The religious elite were trying to make Jesus stumble through an intense line of questioning, just like the lawyers do to criminals on TV. Of all the questions thrown in Jesus’ direction, I find this question most interesting:
Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not? (Luke 20:22)
It’s a lose-lose question. If he sided with Caesar, he would be in trouble with the Jews; if he sided against Caesar, he would be in trouble with the Romans. Instead of pleading the fifth or requesting to see his lawyer, he answered with the perfect solution. Since it’s Caesar’s image on the denarius, that is to be given back to Caesar. However, whatever is God’s should be given back to God.
His answer is so profound yet simple that it literally silences the crowd—better than any answer given by a fancy attorney on TV. Jesus spent the first thirty years of his life preparing for interactions like this one. He was so in tune with God’s spirit that the perfect words just seemed to flow out of his mouth effortlessly. In the same way, we should prepare ourselves to answer tough questions and defend our faith—this includes praying for wisdom and understanding, studying truth, and committing scripture to memory. As a reminder of just that, I painted the following verse on the cover of my Bible:
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have (1 Peter 3:15).
Paul likens scripture to a sword, but we must wield it well in order to enact its power. Every time I open my Bible, I want to grow more confident in my faith so that I can rise to the defense of it and share it with others.