Category Archives: The Bible

Do Angels Fight for Us?

We can only guess about battles in the spiritual realm, but angels fight for us

Do Angels Fight for Us?The book of Daniel contains six stories and four prophetic visions. In Daniel’s final, and longest, vision, we get a glimpse— perhaps metaphorically—of what happens in the spiritual realm and how angels fight for us.

Starting with chapter 10, Daniel receives a vision about a great war. This troubles him. It saps him of his strength. Afterward, he stands up trembling.

Daniel mourns for three weeks about what this vision might mean. During this time he fasts and shoves aside personal hygiene. Daniel is in distress, trying to figure out the meaning of this terrifying vision. Why is God not answering? Why is he delaying?

At last, an angel appears—three weeks late. The angel explains. God heard Daniel’s prayers on day one. He dispatched his messenger immediately. But the angel had to battle an evil force that tried to keep him from carrying out his mission. At last, the mighty angel Michael came to help this messenger battle the evil that opposed him. Together these angels fight the fallen angel. Finally, with victory assured, this messenger, this angel, is no longer detained. He proceeded to Daniel to complete his mission and explain the vision.

Angels Fight for Us in the Spiritual Realm

This account of good angels battling bad angels in the spiritual realm may be hard for us to grasp. But the idea that angels fight for us should also encourage us. God has angels working on our behalf, either directly, to come to our aid, or indirectly, to battle supernatural forces of evil. God has angels working on our behalf. Click To Tweet

Our reality is more than what we can observe, more than our physical world offers. There’s a spiritual dimension, too. While we may not know what happens in this other reality, we are assured God works on our behalf in ways we can’t understand.

[Read through the Old Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Daniel 10-12, and today’s post is on Daniel 10:12-13.]

The Sabbath Day

The Sabbath DaySunday should not be a day of restriction but a day of freedom and celebration

In the book of Exodus, God and Moses have a face-to-face meeting. That is significant. How cool would it be to have a direct conversation with the Almighty? Certainly, we’d remember what he told us and be careful to follow it completely.

One of the things God tells Moses is to only work for six days and then take a break. Many people today view this as an outdated command. They think God is trying to restrict what they do, limit their freedom, and force them to be bored for twenty-four hours.

That isn’t God’s intent at all. In fact, God wants to give them—and us—a break from our routine. Remember, these people are coming out of enslavement. They never had a day off. Every day was the same: work, work, work. From sunup to sundown and probably even more. One day would blur in to the other, doing the same old same old thing day after day.

The Gift of the Sabbath

By telling them to rest on the seventh day, God was giving them a mini vacation from their labors. And what better thing to do on that day of rest then to focus on God and thank him for this amazing gift of a break.

If this idea of resting on the seventh day seems a bit familiar, go back to the creation account. God takes six days to form the reality in which we live and then he takes a break from his labors to consider the results. He did something amazing and then takes time to rest from his work and marvel at what he has done (Genesis 2:2–3). In this he gives us an example to follow, and later, through Moses, insists we do so.

In case we miss this idea of the seventh day being a gift from God, Jesus reminds us. He says, “The Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). In this he confirms we aren’t beholden to the Sabbath, held captive by it, or restricted in any way. Instead, the Sabbath is for us to enjoy. The Sabbath is a gift from God to us and that should change everything. Click To Tweet

This means we must shove aside legalistic ideas of what we may and may not do on Sunday, which we adopted to be our Sabbath. Instead we must embrace our seventh day for the freedom it gives us. How we do so is left for us to determine.

Viewing the Sabbath as a gift from God to us should change everything.

[Read through the Old Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Exodus 34-36, and today’s post is on Exodus 34:21.]

What If God Sent a Pillar of Fire to Guide You?

For Forty Years the Israelites Had a Pillar of Cloud and a Pillar of Fire to Show Them Where to Go

What If God Sent a Pillar of Fire to Guide You?After spending four-hundred years in Egypt, the repressed children of God finally get a chance to leave. This comes under the leadership of Moses. We know of Moses’s meetings with Pharaoh to negotiate the Israelites’ release, of ten plagues, and the people’s escape through the Dead Sea—as if walking on dry land. Their Egyptian captors, in hot pursuit, don’t fare so well.

Now God’s people are free!

What should they do? Where should they go? They know their destination resides in the Promised Land, the area Jacob left four centuries before when he sought food in Egypt. But instead of heading there on their own, they seek God’s direction.

Pillar of Fire

God sends them a pillar of smoke to guide them by day and a pillar of fire to guide them by night. When the pillars move, the people follow. When the pillars stay put, so do they. They do this for forty years.

I must give them credit. They were content to follow God’s direction for four decades, when they could have reached their destination, the Promised Land, in less than a week. For all the times his people messed up when they were in the desert, I admire them for being patient and willing to follow God’s leading, even though it didn’t make sense and was taking way too long. Wouldn’t it be great if God showed us where to go? Click To Tweet

Wouldn’t it be great if God showed us where to go today? If only he would give us a cloud to follow during the day and a fire to blaze our path at night. Then it would be easy to follow him, right?

Yet, God does lead us today. In the Bible he promises to give us his Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit fire (Luke 3:16 and Matthew 3:11). And when the Holy Spirit arrives, what is the visual sign? Fire. Yep, tongues of fire (Acts 2:3).

Yes, God still leads us today. He gives his Holy Spirit fire to blaze our path. All we need to do is listen—and obey.

[Read through the Old Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Exodus 13-15, and today’s post is on Exodus 13:21-22.]

When God Tells Us to Do Something, Does He Mean Forever?

God instructs Jacob to go to Egypt, but he doesn’t intend for him to stay

Just like Cain and Abel, along with Ishmael and Isaac, Joseph and his brothers have problems, too. There are two reasons why Joseph’s brothers don’t like him. First, he’s Dad’s favorite. Second, he doesn’t know when to keep his mouth shut.

As a result, Joseph’s brothers sell him off as a slave, and he gets hauled off to Egypt. Yet, God orchestrates their reunion: Joseph has risen to a position of power in Egypt. He has stockpiled food for the future. Meanwhile, his family back home is starving. His brothers go to Egypt to buy food, and eventually Joseph reveals himself to them. He invites them to Egypt, where they have plenty to eat and a great place to live.When God Tells Us to Do Something, Does He Mean Forever?

As Jacob wrestles over what to do, to go or to stay, God tells him not to be afraid and to go to Egypt. God also promises to bring Jacob back home.

Jacob gathers his family and they had out. When they arrive in Egypt, the family is reunited. Jacob again sees Joseph, his beloved son who he thought was dead.

Four Hundred Years Later

Jacob directs his family to the land of Goshen, a great place for them to live and raise their flocks. They go there and settle down. Life is good. They stay four-hundred years. I don’t think this is what God had in mind when he sent them to Egypt. I think this was a short-term command, to go to Egypt for as long as the famine lasted and then return home. Why else would he have promised Jacob he would bring him home again?

Instead, Jacob and his descendants stay. They don’t return home. Their numbers grow, and they’re eventually enslaved. Life’s not so good for them anymore.

Of course, God knew this would happen. Though it may not have been his intent for them to spend four centuries in Egypt, he uses this to make them into a great nation. Sometimes when God tells us to do something, it’s a short-term command, not a permanent instruction. Click To Tweet

Sometimes when God tells us to do something, like go to Egypt, it’s a short-term command, not a permanent instruction. Thankfully, even if we misunderstand what God tells us to do, he can still turn our situation around and make events work out for our own good.

[Read through the Old Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Genesis 46-48, and today’s post is on Genesis 46:3-4.]

Ishmael and Isaac: Two Half-Brothers Who Don’t Get Along

There are many ways to solve family problems, but kicking out your son isn’t one of them.

Ishmael and Isaac: Two Half-Brothers Who Don’t Get AlongLast week we looked at the story of Cain and Abel. We examined the first case of sibling rivalry. Things escalated out of control with one brother ending up dead and the other sentenced to wander, forever carrying the stigma of the world’s first murderer.

As we march through the book of Genesis, many centuries pass. Now we consider father Abraham and his two sons Ishmael and Isaac. Born of different mothers, these two half-brothers don’t get along either. As a solution, Ishmael and his mom are sent away. Problem solved. Sort of.

Separating the sparring brothers doesn’t resolve their differences, it merely uses distance to keep them from fighting. This isn’t a solution to fix a problem but merely a tactic to ignore it. This is one more instance when the Bible instructs us in parenting by showing us what not to do. Beyond this it’s also a case study that teaches us what to avoid when pursuing problem resolution.

As is the case when families split, Ishmael and his mom head off to start a new life. Even though the Bible doesn’t label it as a divorce, that’s what it is. Being a single mom is never easy, but in ancient culture, with its male-dominated society, it would be nearly impossible. But that’s the future for Ishmael and his mom. As is the case when families split, Ishmael and his mom head off to start a new life. Click To Tweet

Isaac, however, gets to stay. He remains with his mom and his dad. Life is good for him. Abraham discards his first son to focus on his second son. Family 2.0.

The Future of Ishmael and Isaac

Though the Bible account focuses on Isaac, we do hear of Ishmael one more time. About seventy-five years later, Abraham dies. Ishmael returns. He and Isaac bury their father. Ishmael and Isaac both pay their respects. They both mourn their father’s passing.

Does this mean Ishmael and Isaac reconciled? Possibly. I hope so. But I’m not sure. No one knows. But unlike Cain and Abel, one brother did not kill the other. Instead, they eventually figure out how to come together.

This is something to think about.

Though using distance to separate us from our problems may seem like the best solution, it’s merely a way out. Instead we must seek to restore damaged relationships. It may take time, a long time, but it’s worth the effort.

[Read through the Old Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Genesis 25-27, and today’s post is on Genesis 25:9.]

What Can We Learn from Cain and Abel?

The First Brothers in the Bible, Cain And Abel, Also Provide the First Account of Sibling Rivalry.

The first two people mentioned in the Bible are Adam and Eve. The next two people are their sons, Cain and Abel. It would seem these four people should get along. They can’t. The result of the conflict is tragic. Cain kills Abel. Here’s their story:

What Can We Learn from Cain and Abel?Cain and Abel worship God by giving him some of the output from their work. God accepts Abel’s gift but doesn’t accept Cain’s. The Bible doesn’t explain why. Though many people speculate on the reasons, we just don’t know. There is, however, an implication that perhaps Cain sinned, either in his offering or in some other area of his life.

Whatever the reason for God rejecting Cain’s gift, Cain becomes angry. The Bible is unclear about the focus of Cain’s anger. Was he angry at God, or jealous of his brother’s spiritual success? Both are reasonable assumptions. However, regardless of the source, Cain takes action against his brother Abel.

Cain lures Abel out to a field. There Cain kills Abel, in a pre-meditated act of murder. Only four chapters into the Bible and we already have our first homicide. Cain must answer to God for what he did to his brother. Click To Tweet

The Story of Cain and Abel Teaches Us Five Things.

  1. Worshiping God is serious business: The Bible tells us to worship God in spirit and truth (John 4:24). We can go through the motions, and we can pretend. But God isn’t fooled. He wants us to give him our very best. This isn’t because he needs something from us but because he deserves it.
  2. We must control our anger: When Paul says to be angry and sin not (Ephesians 4:26), he implies anger is okay as long as we don’t allow it to cause us to sin. Cain’s anger caused him to sin.
  3. Leave punishment in God’s hands: Whether out of anger or retaliation, Cain executes judgment on his brother. Cain kills Abel. This, however, doesn’t solve the problem. It just causes a new one.
  4. There are consequences to sin: Now Cain must answer to God for what he did. Even though God is merciful in judging Cain’s sin, it’s still more than Cain can bear (Genesis 4:13).
  5. Seek a Better Way: What if, instead of Cain getting mad and killing his brother, he sought to worship God in a better way? He could have asked God what he did wrong and what he should do differently. Or he could have asked his brother for help.

Had Cain taken the high road instead of lashing out in anger, we could have had a much different outcome: two brothers getting along and helping one another worship God.

[Read through the Old Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Genesis 4-5, and today’s post is on Genesis 4:3-8.]

We Must Teach Sound Doctrine

When we talk to others about God it’s critical we teach sound doctrine

Paul writes a letter of instruction to his protégé Titus. In it he devotes a lengthy section instructing Titus about how to teach others. Paul opens this passage with the simple direction that Titus must teach whatever’s appropriate for sound doctrine (Titus 2:1).

I like this phrase, “sound doctrine.” The concept of having a healthy foundation for our faith should guide the things we tell others when we talk about God.

We Must Teach Sound DoctrineSound Doctrine: This idea of having a worthy creed implies that there is a basis for it. The Bible is certainly our primary source for our doctrine. We find further guidance in this by the direction of the Holy Spirit and in considering what others have to say about the Bible. If we say something contrary to what we find in the Word of God or how the Holy Spirit directs us, this isn’t a doctrine that’s sound.

Unsound Doctrine: If we consider sound doctrine, the opposite might be unsound doctrine. What does this entail? Unsound doctrine includes things that aren’t in the Bible, notions we make up or sound good. Our unexamined customs, practices, and traditions could fall under the category of unsound doctrine. We should avoid it.

Sound Heresy: Another opposite of sound doctrine might be sound heresy. What is sound heresy? It’s things that sound good, but aren’t. Sometimes this is people misquoting Scripture. For example, “The Good Lord helps them who helps themselves,” isn’t in the Bible, but many people think it is. It is, in fact, sound heresy, because people believe it even when they shouldn’t.

Another example of sound heresy comes from preachers who say things with such passion and so frequently, that we accept their words as truth even if those things aren’t supported by the Bible. We feel good about these ideas, but they aren’t relevant; they’re just sound heresy. We must seek to hold onto a sound doctrine. Click To Tweet

Instead we must seek to hold onto a sound doctrine, rejecting shallow doctrine as well as sound heresy. We should be like the people in Berea who check to see if Paul’s words are supported by what Scripture says (Acts 17:11).

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Titus 2, and today’s post is on Titus 2:1.]

We Need To Pray For Those In Power Over Us

The Bible reminds us to pray for those in authority, which includes our politicians

In Paul’s first letter to his protégé Timothy, he adds an important command. We can likewise apply Paul’s wise instruction as something for us to follow today. He tells us we are to pray for those in authority. This includes our elected officials, from the highest position to the local ones.Pray for those in authority, even politicians you don’t like.

Though I remember to pray for family and friends on a regular basis, I usually neglect to pray for people in positions of authority. And to be painfully blunt, even when I remember to do this, there are some politicians I simply don’t want to pray for. I should push past that and pray for them anyway, but often I don’t.

When we consider how to pray for our elected officials, Paul breaks it down. He says to make petitions, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving. This is a curious string of words.

Thanksgiving is something I understand. It’s just that I’m not always so thankful for those in elected positions. Too often I don’t respect them or even like them. This makes it hard for me to be thankful, even though I should.

Intersession and petition are about the same thing. Intersession is intervening in prayer on behalf of another. Contrast this to petition, which carries the idea of a solemn entreaty.

Prayer seems to encompass all three—thanksgiving, intersession, and petitions—yet the text lists prayer separately. Of course, with prayer we expressly realize that we direct our thanksgiving, intersession, and petitions to God. Despite the actions, ideals, and character of those in authority, God is the ultimate authority. Click To Tweet

This focus on God serves to remind us that regardless of the actions, beliefs, and character of those in authority that God is the ultimate authority. He’s in charge. And as the one who’s ultimately in charge, we need to pray to him about all the authorities who are under him.

May we do just that. Let’s start today. Join me in prayer.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is 1 Timothy 2, and today’s post is on 1 Timothy 2:1-2.]

Discover the Will of God

Discerning the will of God isn’t hard; the Bible is clear what we are to do

As Paul wraps up his first letter to the Thessalonian church, he slips in three quick instructions. These concise commands seem like soundbites. And once he delivers them, he concludes that doing these things is the will of God for all those who follow Jesus.

What?Rejoice, pray, and give thanks in all things

We all want to know what the will of God is and often struggle to figure it out. Yet the Bible tells us the answer most clearly:

Rejoice Always: To rejoice means to be delighted or to feel joyful. An old definition of rejoice means “to fill with joy.” That understanding is more helpful in getting at the intention of this instruction. To fill with joy gives us a nice word picture of what it means to rejoice always.

We all know people whose lives are marked with joy. We also know grouches who live in a continual state of complaining. Those people exist outside the will of God, at least that’s what Paul says in the Bible. Instead, God’s will for us, all of us who follow Jesus, is to rejoice always.

Pray Continually: Next Paul tells us to pray continually. I wonder if he means for us to be in nonstop prayer throughout the day or if the word continually is hyperbole to make his point and get our attention.

Some days it seems that God is an afterthought. I hardly pray, if at all, let alone continually. But for other days, though not nearly as many as I would like, God is at the forefront of my mind in most all that I do. I’m aware of his presence, and we go through the day together, in a state of near constant communication. This could be what Paul means when he says to pray continually. And it is God’s will for us to do so. That’s what the Bible says. The third aspect of doing God’s will is to show thankfulness in all situations. Click To Tweet

Give Thanks In All Circumstances: The third aspect of doing God’s will is to show thankfulness in all situations. Sometimes this is challenging. Yet even when the worst happens, there’s usually something to be thankful for. It takes practice to develop the skill to see things in every context that we can appreciate. However, since it’s God’s will for us to give thanks in every circumstance, we must develop this skill. As the prior instruction tells us, this is something we can pray about.

It’s God’s desire for those of us who follow Jesus to rejoice, pray, and give thanks in all things. We need to remember this the next time we worry about discerning God’s will for our life.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is 1 Thessalonians 5, and today’s post is on 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.]

What Kind of Person Are You?

Paul affirms Tychicus as a dear friend, faithful minister, and servant of God

Tychicus is a character in the Bible who most people don’t know. His name occurs only five times, once in Acts and four times in Paul’s letters. The letter to the Colossian church is one example. Each time Tychicus’s name is mentioned, it’s in passing, and we know little about him, except that Paul often uses him to carry messages to the various churches.Strive to be a dear friend, faithful minister, and servant of God.

We learn the most about Tychicus’s character in Paul’s letter to the church in Colossi. Once again Paul plans to send him to this church, carrying news about Paul. After he tells them this, he also gives us three characteristics of Tychicus:

A Dear Brother: First Paul affirms Tychicus as a dear brother. Think of him as a much loved, valued friend. We all want to have friends like that. But the place for us to start is to be a friend like that. May we be a dear, loved, and valued friend to others.

A Faithful Minister: In addition to Tychicus’s loyalty, Paul confirms he’s also a faithful minister. First, focus on the word faithful. Tychicus is trustworthy, dependable, and consistent in his work. Paul knows he can count on him.

Next, look at the word minister. Today we think of a minister as someone who preaches sermons and leads a church. But given what we know of Tychicus’s activities, his work as a minister carries the connotation of a helper, representative, and liaison. That means he works behind the scenes, not upfront where people would see him or offer praise. Tychicus seems both competent and content in this role that other people today may deem as unworthy. May we be a faithful minister like Tychicus.May we aspire to serve God as we help others in his name. Click To Tweet

A Fellow Servant of God: The final trait Paul mentions is Tychicus is a servant of God, just like Paul. Though we may equate the word servant to slave, that could be an overreach. A true servant has a desire to serve others. This means serving God, with the practical application of serving Paul and the church. Being a servant requires humility. Not many people possess this characteristic, but Paul values Tychicus as God’s servant. May we likewise aspire to serve God as we help others in his name.

These three traits reveal so much about Tychicus. Though he’s not a celebrated leader or a prolific writer, he’s a godly person, a worthy example for us to follow.

May we be more like Tychicus, someone who’s a dear friend, faithful minister, and servant of God.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Colossians 4, and today’s post is on Colossians 4:7.]