Bible Readers

With Pastor Dave Roussel

The Mercy Of God And Healing

September 21 – Today’s Readings – Philippians 1-2 and Palms 81

What a beautiful Epistle. When this book was written, Paul was a prisoner and the Church at Philippi was facing serious persecution. Paul wrote to them with tenderness – “It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:7-8)

You can feel the passion in his words as he speaks of the “fellowship in the Gospel” that they share?

In Chapter 2 it becomes quite evident the members of this Church have been supporting Paul financially while he is in prison and have sent Epaphroditus to care for Paul’s needs and help him in any way possible. It so happens that while Epaphroditus is staying with Paul, he almost dies of sickness “but God had mercy on him”. Isn’t this an extremely “sane” way to look at the topic of divine healing and divine health? God has mercy – plain and simple. It’s a sovereignty issue. If God says its time for Epaphroditus to go home to be with Jesus, we worship – but if God heals miraculously or grants divine health, we worship then too. Either way – we worship because God is Sovereign and God cares deeply for us – every step we take. He is walking with us and shepherding us. Is it God’s will that people be sick? No – this is faulty thinking. Sickness is all around us in this world – it is part of the fall of Adam and the result of sin entering the world – but there is no sickness in Heaven just as there is no sin in Heaven – there is no evil thing in Heaven – there is no suffering in Heaven and GOD’S WILL is PERFECTLY EVIDENT in Heaven. If you ever have question whether something is in God’s ultimate will for a Christian, ask yourself if this “thing” exists in heaven.

Was it God’s will that Paul suffer? – Not explicitly, but God did allow and use even Paul’s suffering to further the Gospel. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

When negative “stuff” happens to us, God is very present and caring – He will use these things to further the Gospel and grow our character. The ultimate “will of God” however is contrary to all suffering and death.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) We live in a sin-sick world and though “bad” things happen to everyone, we must keep a focus on the ultimate will of God. In suffering, or prison, or hunger, God walks with us. He walked with Paul in his suffering. He gave Paul grace in his suffering – He gave the grace of healing to Epaphroditus and healed him – and He’ll do the same for you!

Question:

1. Please express other thoughts you may have concerning “Divine Healing” “Divine Health” and “When Bad Things Happen to Christians”.

The Vine Of God

September 20 – Today’s Readings – Obadiah and Psalms 80

Psalms 80:8-11 reads; “You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it, and it took root and filled the land. The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches. It sent out its boughs to the Sea, its shoots as far as the River.”

I know that these verses refer directly to ancient Israel, but don’t you think it is also a great picture of God’s Church – The Vine of God? Jesus said; “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15:1-8)

The vine of God is suppose to be an extremely fruitful thing. What kind of “fruit” do you think God has in mind when He speaks of His vine? Is it the fruit of the Spirit – Love, Joy, Peace – etc.? Is it the fruit of helping someone meet Jesus? Is it the fruit of a life well spent, living for the Lord? Is it the fruit of good relationships? Is it the fruit of your body – your children and their children after them – serving God and furthering God’s Kingdom? All of these are very “valid” kinds of fruit, but one thing is sure – we need to “remain in the vine”.

This is God’s only plan – He does not have a plan B – this is it. Jesus is the Vine of God and you and I are branches bearing fruit quite naturally – unless we detach ourselves. Is it a hard thing to remain in the vine? Not at all – we simply stay “right with God” – we follow the leading of the Spirit – and when we stumble, we run to Him. Why is this so hard for us to understand? God LOVES US – no matter what. We need to have faith in this fact and we will stick to Him no matter what – in good times and bad – for better and for worse – for richer for poorer – etc. Fruit is born from faith and hope in God’s covenant within us. This is the Vine of God.

Questions:

1. The Bible describes Joseph, son of Israel, as a “fruitful bow”. What is the reason for this?
2. How is the Church supposed to be “fruitful” for God?

Neither A Prophet Nor The Son Of A Prophet

September 19 – Today’s Readings – Amos 7-9 and Psalms 79

“Amos answered Amaziah, ‘I was neither a prophet nor a prophet’s son, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees. But the LORD took me from tending the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ Now then, hear the word of the LORD. You say, ‘Do not prophesy against Israel, and stop preaching against the house of Isaac.’ ‘Therefore this is what the LORD says: ‘Your wife will become a prostitute in the city, and your sons and daughters will fall by the sword. Your land will be measured and divided up, and you yourself will die in a pagan country. And Israel will certainly go into exile, away from their native land.” (Amos 7:14-17)

Wow – I guess the first lesson to be learned from this reading is – DON’T MESS WITH A TRUE PROPHET OF THE LORD! This guy, Amaziah, thought he was dealing with a “regular Joe”. In this case however, the regular Joe was working at the instruction of God Almighty, and Amaziah should have watched what he was saying, doing or even thinking! This account is almost as “dangerous” as when the gang of teens (not protected by the young offenders act) insulted Elisha’s bald head – remember the bears? (2 Kings 2:23-25) Wouldn’t it be nice if we could deal with some of our violent street gangs in the same way? (Don’t get me started)

“This is what he showed me: The Lord was standing by a wall that had been built true to plumb, with a plumb line in his hand. And the LORD asked me, ‘What do you see, Amos?’ ‘A plumb line,’ I replied. Then the Lord said, ‘Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.” (Amos 7:7-9)

Have you ever thought of the Lord Jesus as a “plumb line”? If you are unfamiliar with the term – a “plumb” was something a builder used to build a structure accurately upright – it was basically a piece of sculpted lead hung from a rope or string – a builder would hang the plumb and line the structure up to it.

Our society is desperately lacking this concept of an absolute “plumb line” of truth. The people of today have incredible problems in judging right from wrong. Everything seems to be judged by situational ethics – “whatever feels good – whatever seems good in the moment – if it feels good, do it – how can something be so wrong if it feels so right – what is right for me is not necessarily right for you…”

God sees things very differently. He calls some behaviour “right” and some “wrong”. Remember the people of Nineveh? God said; (Jonah 4:11) “But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?” These people were exactly like the people of our great nation – they had no clue because they had not received the Lord. What did God do? He sent Jonah. What did God do in Amos’ day? He sent Amos. What does God do today? Guess!

Questions:

1. Give another example of God showing His people a “plumb line” of truth.
2. What plumb line do you have in your life to keep you “upright”?

An Insult To Women In Leadership

September 18 – Today’s Readings – Amos 4-6 and Psalms 78

“You lie on beds inlaid with ivory and lounge on your couches. You dine on choice lambs and fattened calves. You strum away on your harps like David and improvise on musical instruments. You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions, but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph. (Amos 6:4-6)
“Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria, you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy and say to your husbands, “Bring us some drinks!” (Amos 4:1)
“Therefore this is what I will do to you, Israel, and because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel.” (Amos 4:12)
“You cows” – This is how God addresses the women who have turned away from Him and have refused His love. It is interesting – (and hilarious) how God will shoot out an insult to someone just to get his or her attention. Not that the Lord was trying to be “funny” when he said it but it strikes me as humorous because I can’t imagine a much more cutting insult to a woman of distinction. It’s sort of like a messenger boy walking into a high-classed country club – going right into the first-class dining room – taking the microphone and loudly telling the Prime Minister’s wife that she is a cow! Yet this is exactly what Amos was told to do. No wonder these prophets kept getting thrown into jail! The most important lesson to be learned here is that God is not afraid to call us names. If the title fits, He is not afraid to use it. Childish? – Not if it’s coming from God! “Seek me and live” – “Seek good, not evil, that you may live” – “Hate evil, love good” These are the words of the Lord to “the Cows of Bashan”.

It really is a simple matter – choosing good and not evil – choosing God and following His heart. Let’s keep the fire burning – let’s stir up the coals and add some wood – let’s keep our hearts burning with passion for God and the things of God. Does this take an effort on our parts? I think so. Any happily married couple will tell you that love is an investment of time, effort, good deeds and fellowship. Any real “green thumb” knows that the secret of a great garden lies in the combination of weeding and properly tending that garden. There is no room to “take a day off” from being a Christian.

Do you think that God only used harsh words when dealing with Israel in the Old Testament? Have a peek at the words of James, the Pastor of the Church at Jerusalem – “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” – “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double- minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:4 & 8-10) When God wants to get our attention, He certainly knows how to do it! This is sometimes part of His “discipline” in our lives.

Question:

1. If God can call us names – is it appropriate for us to call each other names? Please explain.

Should Criminals Go Free

September 17 – Today’s Readings – Amos 1-3 and Psalms 77

These first three chapters of Amos remind me of a very important facet of God’s character  – one that is so often ignored by our modern day Churches. God is The Completely Just and Holy Judge of the whole earth.

Imagine now – for a moment – a judge who ignores all the laws of the land and lets criminals go free. Imagine a murderer standing before this judge and using as his defense – “but sir – I’m not really a murderer – I only killed one person – I’ve never done this before and I never plan to do it again! – I’m basically a good person!” The judge agrees with this defense and says – “Yes, you really seem to be a good fellow to me – go with my blessing.”

Now it just so happens that this man planned the murder and executed his plan in “cold blood”. The victim of this murder was your mother and you are sitting in the courtroom that day. Shall not a judge execute righteous judgment? Shall not a judge do what is fair and good? Shall not a judge uphold the law? Shall not a judge minister justice?

There is a simple standard of right and wrong in this world. Whether you are a Christian or a non-Christian, most of us agree that planned, calculated, cold-blooded murder is wrong. It’s supposed to be a no-brainer! The same is true for all sin – whether we agree with God’s holy law or not. If the policeman stops me and informs me that I was going 150 in an 80 construction zone – and I will have to pay $500 – it will do me no good to protest loudly that I don’t “recognize” this law as being valid! It is the law whether I like it or not. There is a theme that reoccurs throughout Scripture – God is the Judge – and we will all stand before him in judgment. What are His laws? Simple – they are written on your conscience. We all know deep within what is right and wrong and we will all be held accountable for keeping these moral laws of God. If perhaps you have irreparably damaged your conscience and can no longer discern right from wrong, then reading the Bible will remedy that situation very quickly.

The Law of Jesus is simple too – “One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’ – ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31)

We come to the foot of the cross and receive the ultimate gift of salvation that Christ paid for with His life. We then become God’s children – Holy before Him because of the sacrifice of Christ. Let this covenant never be a small thing in your eyes – our salvation came at an enormous price – HE took the “sentencing” for the sins of the world – He stands before God as our “lawyer” reminding the Father that all sin has been justly dealt with through Him.

Questions:

1. Tell me how it makes you feel when you are treated in an “unjust” manner.
2. What about when you are completely misunderstood and “yelled at”?
3. How does it feel when you have done something wrong and suffer the penalty?
4. How is it that though we are “sinners saved by grace” – we are also sinless children of God?

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