Mark R Lindsey

Archive for the ‘Bible Study’ Category

Strange Fire: Our attempts to serve God can be steps away from his clear plan.

In Bible Study, debt, Matthew on August 31, 2019 at 8:40 am

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Beware of your reasoning to “put God first”; your mind can trick you.

Matthew 15:1-6 – Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God.

 

By your act of sacrifice to God, you could disobey God. Is that the sacrifice God wants?  Certainly not.

It is first most important to honor God himself. This means understanding He has a plan — that is the one you were made to take. (That’s what “Obedience”: doing what you were perfectly fitted to do —by creation, life, experience, abilities.) Honoring God means agreeing He is worthy of obeying in every way he has a plan. 

If I invent a way to honor God that prevents me from actually follow his clear plan, I’m really not honoring God. God puts his clear plan for me in the Bible, the Word of God.  Jesus calls this practice of inventing my own holiness  “making void the word of God”.  The Pharisees decided to donate money “to God,” and then claim that they couldn’t help their needy father or mother because of their donation.   So they had invented a way to “be holy” that replaced God’s actual way. It wasn’t holy at all.

What could it looks like to “make void the word of God?” Maybe:

  • Ask for donors to support me when I could be working. (Eph. 4:28)
  • Putting in extra hours helping at the church building when I should be seeking to understand my wife. (1 Pet. 3:7)
  • Attend seminary or college instead of working to pay my debts. (Rom. 13:8; Eph 4:28)
  • Doing International missions in a dangerous place, while lacking compassion in the lost people of that area. (1 Cor. 13:1-5)
  • Stop gathering together in a Small Group of Christians so I have energy to cheerfully endure the school & work week (Heb. 3:13, Heb. 10:25).
  • Write another article for my blog instead of listening to what God says to me in His word (Psalm 119:147; Psalm 143:8).

Pray to ask God to show you where you are deceived by your attempts at holiness that override God’s instructions to you. If God reveals errors, thank him for helping you, and commit to fight the sin. Ask other of Jesus’s disciples to help you fight and warn you against the deceitfulness of sin (Heb. 3:13).

 

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“God, prove yourself.”

In Bible Study, Trust on March 5, 2019 at 11:30 am

Deuteronomy 6:16

You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah.

We have a heavenly Father who, under dire circumstances, may test us. He may even given us a task and then prevent its completion. Is that even fair?

He tested Abraham by commanding the awful killing of his son; then interfered in the obedient action, and rescued them both. And he seemed to test the disciples Mary and Mary when they found the empty tomb. These two obeyed, trusting the message of the angel, but Jesus stopped them on the way and rewarded them by showing himself. 

Test of Moses

From Genesis 22:1-12-

  • TEST: God tested Abraham and said to him, … “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering …”
  • OBEDIENCE: Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 
  • REWARD: But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” … He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”

Test of Mary and Mary

From Matthew 28:1-10 — Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. … But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.”

  • TEST: Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” 
  • OBEDIENCE: So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.
  • REWARD: And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

The essence of these tests are the same: God has given a command to act, so will you trust Him and obey?

But if God may test us, can we test God? The Israelites were in the desert when they decided to try; this is recorded in Exodus 17:2-7. They had run out of water, and they tested God — trying to disprove God. The key question in Exodus 17:7: “Is the Lord [Yahweh] among us or not?”

In that case at Massah, God graciously provided water, and went further: God stood before them on the rock (Exodus 17:6). He proved his presence by providing and (in some way) by standing in their midst.

So the Jews camping were greatly blessed, but we’re told never to repeat this test of God: Deuteronomy 6:16 — “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah.”

When God tested Abraham, God was asking whether Abraham trusted God. 

When God tested the two Marys, God was asking whether they trusted Him.

But when the camping Jews at Masah tested God, they were doubting God. They were demonstrating that they didn’t trust him.

How do you come to trust God? 

He gives us evidence, and His words. Examine the Bible and see if it’s worthy of your trust. Does it correspond with the reality you live in? Would a trustworthy document survive the test of time?

Examine the world, and recognize the God who made it. Is that God, who provides for all these animals and flowers, trustworthy?

Examine your life in the parts you keep from God. Are your decisions trustworthy? Does your heart convince you that your judgment is better than the wisdom of God who wants to be your Father?

What Collateral Should you Ask from God?

In Bible Study on February 26, 2019 at 11:00 am

How is God’s credit line with you? Do you trust his word, or, do you need some collateral?

If you buy a house with a mortgage, the house is given in security. The bank doesn’t have to trust you: if you fail to pay, they’ll just take the house.

Faith is confidence in God — but not because he puts down security. “Faith [deals] with Christ and heaven in the dark, upon plain trust and credit, without seeing any surety of dawn,” Samuel Rutherford, a Scottish pastor of the 1600s.

God has given us many reasons to be confident in Him and his promises. But he doesn’t promise to give us guarantees: we have to trust the Word he’s already given, and the evidence he’s already given.

Can you trust when God takes the old assurances away?

At times, it appears God is taking the assurances away. The blessings from him that you depended on in the past can disappear. Psalms 46 talks about confidence in God, even when the earth is crumbling beneath us —

God is our refuge and strength,

a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,

though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam,

though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

Faith — Trusting God — is the confidence in, and assurance of, things we cannot see — but that we know to be true because God has told us (Hebrews 11:1). Faith is not faith if it demands guarantees from God, so he can establish his line of credit. Psalm 46 shows us that even when God removes the comforts, he is still trustworthy.

God’s Promises Unleash My Obedience (Judges 1-2)

In Bible Study, Life Without a King on August 12, 2018 at 5:24 pm

The first section of the book of Judges — Judges 1:1 – 2:5 — makes me ask myself: Am I like these people at all? After all, the nation of Israel, attempting to conquer the land of Canaan. I have no land to claim — but I do have promises, and God’s enablement.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10, ESV)

God’s Actions, Israel’s Work

The job given to Israel was difficult. But God would do it, and God would enable them to do it! A few years before Judges 1, God spoke to Joshua:

Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:6-7,9 ESV)

God would be with them. God would drive out the people. They would drive out the people. How could it be both — that God would drive them out, and the Israelites would drive them out?

Promises to Israel

In Judges 1-2, we see a people who had received great promises, and were commanded and enabled to live and obey in those promises:

  • God promised to be with them & to make them his people (Exodus 6:7, Leviticus 26:12)
  • God promised to give them a land, and to drive out the inhabitants ahead of them (Deuteronomy 6:10-12, 7:20)
  • God had given them his Word, & made them a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6, 24:12)
  • God had given them amazing memories of deliverance (Deuteronomy 8:1-2)
  • God had warned what would happen if they disown him (Deuteronomy 28:15)

Partial Obedience & God’s Assessment

Following God’s command, Judah leads. Caleb’s family shows courage and takes full possession. But Judah fails to obediently conquer, eventually reasoning that the iron chariots were too strong for God’s people.

Judges 2:1–3: [1] Now the angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, “I brought you up from Egypt and brought you into the land that I swore to give to your fathers. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, [2] and you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall break down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed my voice. What is this you have done? [3] So now I say, I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you.”  (ESV)

The Background: God’s Reminders

  1. He brought them from Egypt. (Verse 1)
  2. He had made a pledge to their ancestors to give this people the land. (Verse 1)
  3. He had said, in the past, that: (Verse 1-2) ?
    — He will never break his covenant with the people of Israel,
    — And the people of Israel must not make any covenant with the inhabitants of the land
    — And the people of Israel must break down the altars for worship of false Gods.

God’s Assessment.

  1. The people of Israel have been disobedient.
  1. He will not drive the Canaanites out before the Israelites.
  2. The Canaanites will become thorns in their sides.
  3. The gods of the Canaanites will be a snare, a trap, to the Israelites.

God’s original command: God is referring to his words in Exodus 23:28-33.

As soon as the angel of the LORD spoke these words to all the people of Israel, the people lifted up their voices and wept. And they called the name of that place Bochim. And they sacrificed there to the LORD. (Judges 2:4,5 ESV)

What did the Israelites want? The Israelites wanted the land of the Canaanites — without having to actually fight for it. We know this because, until this promise, God had promised to drive out the Canaanites. And we know they had not driven out the Canaanites — they had enslaved them, forming agreements with them, and leaving Canaanite worship intact.

“It’s a good things wants don’t hurt.”

A good friend of mine says, “It’s a good things wants don’t hurt.” I can have all the wants in the world, but they’re meaningless — neither helpful nor hurtful — if I don’t do what’s necessary to get them, or if I want things I shouldn’t have. Wants can be merely thought-stuff.

But in a dangerous way, wants can hurt. If the wants I have are out of order or contradictory, I can desire the impossible or harmful things more than the best things.

Israel’s Mixed Motives for Comfort and Wealth

Comfort & Avoiding Conflict. While some tribes take possession, the many other tribes seem to avoid conflict — leaving the Canaanites rather than driving them out and killing those who fight. We see an empowered people who wanted comfort more than they wanted God’s nearness and his land.

Seeking Wealth. Some tribes enslave the remaining Canaanites — but still don’t drive them out.

Love of Comfort led them to stop fighting, to make alliances rather than drive out the people. Love of Wealth led them to enslave the Canaanites.

In a sense, God gave the Israelites what they wanted. They had stopped obeying, and started living with the Canaanites. God said, “OK, if you want them for neighbors, then you’ve got them.”

The same God enables my obedience

Christians are not the nation of Israel, but God makes promises to us, including these:

Jonathan Edwards wrote:

In efficacious grace we are not merely passive, nor yet does God do some, and we do the rest. But God does all and we do all. God produces all, and we act all. For that is what he produces, viz. our own acts. God is the only proper author and fountain; we only are the proper actors. We are, in different respects, wholly passive and wholly active.

Salvation in Jesus is a free gift, and I contribute nothing to it. Nothing I do makes me more acceptable to God (Ephesians 2:8-9), because, by trusting God’s gift and Jesus’s accomplishment, he has already made God happy with me (Romans 5:1). And nothing I can do can make me unacceptable to God (Romans 8:1).

And God works, and equips and enables me to be obedient.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13, ESV)

God has promised me no physical land on earth, but God has promised me a salvation I can work out, with his enablement. He’s made good things for me to do, and gives me power to live them out.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10, ESV)

What could stop me from obeying in God’s power?

The Israelites of Judges 1-2 had promises, God’s power, and a job to do — but they failed to do it. Would we ever be tempted to shrink back, and fail to obey?

  • We might not want the persecution promised to everyone who wants to live a godly life. (2 Timothy 3:12)
  • We might fall in love with this present world, like Demas. (2 Timothy 4:10)
  • We might not want to be hated. (1 John 3:12-13)
  • We might enjoy the fun things the world has to offer (Romans 13:13, 1 Peter 4:3)
  • We might be distracted by busyness and stress. (Luke 21:34)
  • In short — Yes, it’s easy to imagine not wanting to be hated, persecuted, called names. But God has promised to my holiness, and he expects my obedience to arrive at that holiness.

  • Mark Lindsey is an Elder at North Wake Church, Wake Forest, North Carolina, and a Computer Scientist at ECG. This material was originally developed for the “Life Without a King” LifeChange Fellowship class at North Wake Church.
  • Psalm 57: Weaponizing Words

    In Bible Study on May 12, 2018 at 10:47 am

    On Psalm 57, entitled:

    “To the choirmaster: according to Do Not Destroy. A Miktam of David, when he fled from Saul, in the cave.”

    • David is in an excruciatingly difficult place.

    1 Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
    for in you my soul takes refuge;
    in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
    till the storms of destruction pass by.

    • God is merciful.
    • David remembers God is merciful.
    • It’s good to call out to God to show his mercy.
    • There are “storms of destruction” around David; he is in real jeopardy.
    • David was in a cave physically, but considered himself under God’s wings.

    2 I cry out to God Most High,
    to God who fulfills his purpose for me.

    • God has a purpose for David.
    • David was crying out — as if God could hear, and respond.
    • God has a purpose for David — even in the storms of destruction.

    3 He will send from heaven and save me;
    he will put to shame him who tramples on me. Selah
    God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!

    • God is in Heaven.
    • David trusted God to save him with intervention from Heaven.
    • David has certainty as a Prophet — God has revealed something special to David.
    • The saving from heaven to be sent is:
      • His steadfast love
      • His faithfulness
    • So we know steadfast love and faithfulness are useful for
      • God’s purpose
      • Saving
      • Protection from the storm of destruction

    4 My soul is in the midst of lions;
    I lie down amid fiery beasts—
    the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows,
    whose tongues are sharp swords.

    • David was able to rest, to “lie down”
    • David’s rest is among “lions” and “fiery beasts”.
    • The “fiery beasts” and “lions” are descriptions of people — “children of man”
    • The weapon of these beasts? Teeth and tongues
    • How are teeth and tongues weapons? The words they say are destructive

    5 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
    Let your glory be over all the earth!

    • David’s cry in the “storm of destruction” as he’s under attack is for God’s greatness to be seen and recognized

    But does it apply to me?

    Do you have a relationship with God like King David had? You can! He promises to make the same covenant (promises and commitments) that he makes with David — with anyone who admits they need God, and trusts him:

    Isaiah 55:1-3 (ESV)

    “Come, everyone who thirsts,

    come to the waters;

    and he who has no money,

    come, buy and eat!

    Come, buy wine and milk

    without money and without price.

    Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,

    and your labor for that which does not satisfy?

    Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,

    and delight yourselves in rich food.

    Incline your ear, and come to me;

    hear, that your soul may live;

    and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,

    my steadfast, sure love for David.