Scripture Reading Challenge (#20)

Some people just have a hard time believing.  No matter what God has done before, they still lack faith.  The Israelites had recently witnessed ten plagues the Lord placed on the Egyptians but still murmured and complained that God and Moses led them into the wilderness to die.  God will perform another miracle before their eyes in our passage.  The parting of the Red Sea.

Read Exodus 13:17-14:31

The Lord led the people out of Egypt to the Red Sea with a visible presence.  Exodus 13:21 explains, “And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night.”  That would be an awesome sight!  The beauty of this passage is that God will lead and protect His people.  The Lord leads His people by going before us and showing us the direction we must go.  As Psalm 23:2-3 reads, He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.  He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”  

However, there are times we lose sight of the Shepherd but still can trust, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.  Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over” (Ps. 23:4-5).   For Israel, God moved from before their face to behind them.  Why?  He moved from the front to back to keep the enemy from jumping on them from behind.  We need to be more thankful of those times, that even when we can’t see God in front of us, to know that He is fighting our battles that are sneaking up on us.

Scripture Reading Challenge (#18)

One of my favorite stories is the Chronicles of Narnia.  In The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, the children are talking about the Christ-like figure, Aslan the Lion.  The conversation goes, “Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh,” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr. Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

God is certainly good, but he is not safe, at least for sin and wickedness to be around. The Lord is going to demonstrate in our reading His power and intolerance of sin and the evil in the hearts of men and women.   God will send ten plagues upon Egypt.  We will learn about the first nine in our passage today.

Read Exodus 6:28-11:10

What does it mean that God would harden Pharoah’s heart (Exodus 7:3)?  There are a variety of explanations based on how one understands God’s sovereignty and man’s free will.  However, it may be sufficient at this point in God’s story to note that this is ultimately above our pay grade, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).  Still, I would like to point out God’s dealings with people’s hearts in Romans 1:18-32.  A passage we have already visited.  You will notice that in the Romans passage, three times God says “God gave them over” (Rom. 1:24, 26, 28).  I believe this is similar to God hardening Pharoah’s heart.  Pharoah made a choice to live without Israel’s God and when confronted with another choice, kept going against God.  God gave Pharoah over to his desire to not listen, and he reaped the consequences of Godlessness.  In other words, Pharoah chooses where he wants to make to his bed, and God said, “Okay, if that’s what you want.”

The plagues demonstrate another aspect of God.  God is holy and loving.  They are not separate concepts.  Instead they are two sides of the same coin.  God’s holiness may seem harsh, but it is in His holiness that He is the only real source of Love.  As love, there is the aspect of the Lord appearing tough on those things that cast themselves against what God loves.  Through the plagues, we see judgment fall on those who are against God, but mercy on those who follow God.  Whether God’s action is seen as judgment or compassion is based on what side of redemption you are standing on.  From the side of the unredeemed, God’s actions produce conviction, fear, and at times bitterness.  However, from the viewpoint of the redeemed, all that came before was accompanied by God’s providential grace.  Providence is the grace that God sends before us to bring us to Him.  Thank God for His grace that goes before us to prepare the way.

Scripture Reading Challenge (#12)

All of us can testify to the fact that there are good days and not so good days.  Joseph, for awhile, had such an experience of life’s merry-go-round that would break the strongest of souls.  Still, through it all he was faithful.  God blessed Joseph’s faithfulness more than he could imagine.  His blessings were so bountiful that he name his first child Manasseh, which would remind him that God had caused him to forget his previous troubles.  His second child was called Ephraim to help him remember him that God had made him fruitful in a troubled land.

Read Genesis 39:1-41:57

There is one major theme that sticks out to me in these three chapters of Genesis, God is with Joseph, and everyone around him knows.  We see this in several places (39:2-3, 21-23; 41:38-39).  Scripture teaches us elsewhere, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13:5).  Most people know the last part of the verse in Hebrews.  However, I choose to include the whole verse.  Why?  It is one thing to say we have faith and it is another thing to live faithfully.  We may say that we believe in God and His Word, but we don’t live like.

The writer of Hebrews gives a little commentary on Joseph’s faith and how it impacted the way he lived.  Hebrews 11:22 reads, “By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.”  Joseph prophesied that the nation of Israel would eventually leave captivity in Egypt (some 400 years later).  He wanted them to take his bones back to the promised land.  He believed God would make it happen and he lived like it was a future reality.  We do not need to fear the future because God is already there.  We are to live faithfully to God in the present.

Scripture Reading Challenge (#8)

One of the hardest experiences is to receive something extraordinary and then either misplace it or have it taken away.  We see this type of thing happening to Abraham.  However, we will also see just how strong his faith had become.  As the Hebrew writer penned, “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure” (Heb. 11:17-19).

Read Genesis 21:1-22:19

We have already noted in the Scripture reading challenge that God keeps His promises.  God promised Abraham that they would have a child and eventually a great nation would be attributed to them.  At the age of 100, Abraham and Sarah gave birth to their son.  God had kept his promise.  It may have taken 35 years in our time, but God keeps his promises.  God took thousands of years between the fall of man and the death, burial, and resurrection to fulfill the plan of salvation.  It’s also been around 2,000 years since Christ’s resurrection and of expectations for his return.  However, God spoke to Isaiah, For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaha 55:8-9).  

These higher thoughts and ways of the Lord are demonstrated in the following chapter.  God asked Abraham to now sacrifice his only son that he had long waited for, and he did it!  He took Isaac on a trip to Mount Moriah, which some consider being Mount Calvary where Jesus was crucified.  Isaac knew something was different since they didn’t have a sacrifice.  Abraham, calmly said, God would provide a sacrifice.  He was aware that either God would provide an alternative or that he would raise Isaac back to life because through Isaac they would have a great nation.   Abraham knew by this time, God keeps His promises.  God did provide an alternative sacrifice that day and thousands of years after.  We should pay the penalty for our sin, but Christ is our substitute.  He took our place.  He paid our price.  Thank you, Jesus!

Seven Sign in John: 6 – A Blind Man Healed

The sixth miracle seems similar to the previous healing miracle we saw in chapter 5 where Jesus healed a paralyzed man for 38 years.  The movements of Jesus are the same: Jesus healed, disappears, and then reappears.

John 9:1-7

And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.

Jesus focuses on this man who was blind from birth.    From here, the conversation ensues about the cause.  The disciples’ inquiry Jesus as to whether the man’s blindness is a direct effect of sinning.  However, Jesus doesn’t focus on the cause but rather the purpose. He will continue to describe the purpose through the next two verses.  What we see here is that God permits suffering and difficulties to arise in our life so that the work of God can be clearly seen.  We look at the events in the world and say, why does God permit such things? Why doesn’t God do something?  Yet, only through God’s work, which comes through Christ’s and His Church, can we see things made right.

 The work of God

What are works of God?  Jesus’ answer to this question was “I am the light of the world.”  Of course, we keep asking good questions, “why light?”  Light is essential to physical life as it is essential for many of the same reasons spiritually. Light dispels darkness.  Light enables life to reproduce – photosynthesis.  Light helps to warm.  Light helps us to see and therefore, it guides us as well.

 How does Christ give us light, especially since Jesus uses spittle and dirt to bring the healing?  It just seems amazing that Jesus’ supernatural power was seen through spit, mud and obedience.  Jesus used spit three times in Scripture, one for a deaf man (Mark 7:33) and two for blindness (this passage and Mark 8:23).   Still, what does is this supposed to point us toward?  That is John’s intention in writing, right? I think first this is going back to the creation of man when God formed us out of the dust of the Earth.  God created in the beginning and still has power over his creation.  Secondly, I show that Christ blesses the use of his creation to promote his work.  Namely the church.  We are the clay in God’s hands and we pray that you would use us to deliver Jesus’ light to this dark world.

 Through our witness let us show people God’s love.   Matthew 5:14 says, “ye are the light of the world, A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.”  We should seek to let our life dispel the darkness of times.  To let God’s power be on display in our life.  Our cry is Ephesians 5:14, “Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.”

Seven Signs in John: 3 – The Man of Bethesda

Thirty-eight years is a long time to deal with one disease.  But that’s exactly what this individual had been doing.  He and countless others would gather themselves together beside the pool of Bethesda waiting for a miracle.  At this place, an angel would supposedly trouble the waters, causing a ripple.  We do not know who the angel is or whether they are a heavenly or demonic spirit. But, apparently, the first person into the water would be healed.

John 5:1-14

After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath. 10 The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed. 11 He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. 12 Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk? 13 And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place. 14 Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.

What we see is that the man’s attempt to be made whole shows the man’s limits.  He can’t be healed unless someone helps us.  The same goes for us with our sin.  We are unable to be set free from sin unless someone else does so on our behalf.  That’s exactly what Jesus did for this person and us.

Healing without seeking.

Seemingly, for this miracle, Jesus targeted this man.  The man beside the water was laying there hoping for a miracle but was not actively seeking.  That’s when this man finds grace in the eyes of Jesus.  The Lord asks him, “Do you want to be made whole?  The man doesn’t say yes. Rather, he complains about how no one helps him into the water, and every year someone else beats him to the miraculous healing.  He did not even know that Jesus standing in front of him, could heal him in a word.

This man received grace when he wasn’t looking for it.  Jesus tells the man to get up, pick up his bed, and walk.  And, you know what?  It happened, immediately!  The man is still complaining when it seems like Jesus interrupted him and delivers the miracle he had been needing.  The man was not seeking his healing but received it anyway.  We may not have been looking for a Savior, but Jesus became ours when we weren’t looking.  As Paul wrote, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).

Meeting the miracle worker.

Jesus had slipped off in the crowd, who had no doubt taken notice of this man’s healing.  Later, Jesus finds this man and warns him that something worse than what he had experienced the previous 38 years would happen if he were to continue sinning.  Is Jesus concerned with your disability or disease?  Yes, he is, but he is without a doubt, more concerned with your holiness before God.  God just doesn’t perform random miracles of healing. When he does a miracle it is an act of grace to encourage our faith in God and our fight with sin.

 Miracles do happen, but not for just any reason.  They are for God’s glory and our holiness.  We must praise God whether he brings us healing or allows us to suffer.  He sees the end from the beginning, and he knows what He is doing. He is in control of our condition and guides us through it to places where we can praise Him loudest.  God also brings miracles to us not to make us feel good but so that we may also have greater victory over sin.  Why? It is because there is something far worse than our present conditions.

Seven Miracles in John: 2- The Nobleman’s Son

Jesus just had a wonderful ministry in Samaria and other places outside of his hometown. Nicodemus, women at the well.  Now he is returning home. Jesus knows the people’s hearts.  They will welcome him, but not with honor, not in the right way, but with improper motives.  This is the scenario that leads up to Jesus’ second miracle in John.

John 4:46-54

So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum. 47 When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death. 48 Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe. 49 The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die. 50 Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way. 51 And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth. 52 Then enquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. 53 So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house. 54 This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judaea into Galilee.

A person in need of help.

We Have no idea who this man was (vs. 46).  The Greek word used, “basilikos” just means the subject of the king.  He could have been a royal advisor, accountant, worker, or someone of importance in King Herod Antipas government.  We do not know who he was, but we are aware of the one he would seek for help.  This man found Jesus because he had heard of the other miracles Jesus had performed.  He knew that his son would die unless Jesus healed him.  It was the only way, and he came to Jesus with faith for this healing.

However, Jesus did not seem like He was going to help this man’s son.  What was going on in this situation?  Jesus was aware of the traps his hometown had fallen into concerning His fame.  They were proud of their relation to someone special.  We do this as well.  A sense of pride can be found among believers in an individual church, movement, song style, methodology, preacher, or singer.  Jesus’ followers had fallen into the trap of feeling entitled.  They felt that Jesus owed them miracles.  Falling headfirst, they only wanted Jesus because of the miracles He could perform.

Jesus, the giver of good gifts.

This man pressed on that he needed Jesus to heal his son or else he would die.  What Jesus did next was perform a miracle even though the man was not seeking Christ for salvation.  Jesus gave a good gift even when he is disappointed with the majority of people’s motive.  Grace that healed, regardless of the distance, immediately.  The man’s son was healed, and the man went home trusting that the healing had taken place while he was with Jesus.

While the man may have been seeking only a miracle, no doubt, his faith on Jesus increased.  Scripture goes on to say that after arriving home and finding his son alive and well, the man and his whole house believed in Jesus.  Romans 2:4 says, “despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?”  The everyday gifts from God that sustain life and the supernatural works of God are given to us from the Lord to strengthen our faith and draw us closer to him.

Proverbs 3:5 reads, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.”  Don’t be afraid to cry out to God.   Call on God first and seek Him early.  Not a last resort but as the only one.  The Lord is full of goodness and mercy.  His grace is sufficient for salvation and for every need that we have on a daily basis.