Bible Reading Week #15

  • The end of Joshua – Our Bible reading in Joshua focused mainly on the children of Israel’s conquest of Canaan. After conquering 31 kings west of the Jordan River (Joshua 12:9-24), the nation could finally begin to divide the land up among the tribes (Joshua 13:1-33). In chapter 14, one of the original 12 spies (Caleb), asked for the inheritance promised to him by God 45 years earlier. At 85 years old, Caleb requested the hill country of Hebron. He wanted to be able to drive out any giants that remained.

The last two chapters of the book consist of Joshua’s farewell address to the nation. After calling the leaders of Israel, he reminds them of the grace of God that had been shown to them (Joshua 23:1-4).  He then urges all the people to serve the Lord and keep His commands (Joshua 23:6; 24:15). He warns them that if they failed to do so, God would in turn remove them from the good land He had just given them (Joshua 23:15-16). The people responded by promising to faithfully serve the Lord (Joshua 24:16-28). Joshua then wrote their covenant in the “book of the law of God” and constructed a great stone as a memorial of the events of the day.

Joshua would die at 110 years of age. He was buried in Timnath-serah in Ephraim (Joshua 24:29-31). The book also concludes by mentioning the burying of Joseph’s bones that were brought from Egypt and the death of the second high priest, Eleazar (Joshua 24:32-33).

  • The book of Judges – This book records some of the darkest moments in the history of Israel. The generation that Joshua lead into Canaan is commonly called, “The greatest generation of Israel.” Unfortunately, the next few generations would not even come close to that level of faithfulness. Instead, they would start serving the same false gods as the heathen nations around them (Judges 2:11-15).

The book begins with God promising not to help Israel drive out the rest of the Canaanites. Since Israel refused to obey Him and drive out the remaining nations immediately, God refused to help them any longer. Instead, He would allow those remaining nations to be a “thorn” in their side (Judges 2:1-5).

The period of Judges lasted for about 300 years. During that time, Israel found themselves in a repeated cycle of disobedience to God and suffering. They would RELAPSE in their faithfulness to God (Judges 3:7). The Lord would get RETRIBUTION and allow them to suffer at the hands of heathen nations (Judges 3:8). The children of Israel would then cry to God and REPENT (Judges 3:9). God would then RAISE up a judge (warrior or deliverer) who would save them (Judges 3:10). The land would then be at a period of REST, until the same cycle would repeat itself once again (Judges 3:11).

There were fifteen judges of Israel.

  • Othniel (Judges 3:7-11)
  • Ehud (Judges 3:12-30)
  • Shamgar (Judges 3:31)
  • Deborah (Judges 4-5)
  • Gideon (Judges 6-8)
  • Abimelech (Judges 9)
  • Tola (Judges 10:1-2)
  • Jair (Judges 10:3-4)
  • Jephthah (Judges 10:5-12:7)
  • Ibzan (Judges 12:8-10)
  • Elon (Judges 12:11-12)
  • Abdon (Judges 12:13-15)
  • Samson (Judges 13-16)
  • Eli (1 Samuel 4:18)
  • Samuel (1 Samuel 7:15)

The book of Judges teaches us that life is always better when we listen to and obey God. A life without doing so leads to suffering and chaos (Judges 21:25).

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Are You Heaven Bound?

Introduction:

  1. Read 1 Peter 1:3-5. How confident are you about receiving what Peter talks about in these verses?
  2. Paul was very confident about the path he was on, 2 Timothy 1:12; 4:6-8. He knew where he was going after this life!
  3. God wants us all to have that same level of confidence. See 1 John 5:13. God wants us to know if we are truly bound for heaven!
  4. How can we know which spiritual path we are really on?

The Lesson:

  1. Faulty Standards
    1. Personal feelings.
      1. Before Paul became a disciple, he was so zealous about his Jewish faith that he persecuted Christians, Acts 26:9-11. He really thought that he was pleasing God in his actions.
      2. But he was wrong! His personal feelings about how he stood before God was not in line with the truth.
    2. Listening to preachers.
      1. I personally wish more people liked preachers, but some people like preachers way too much. Some people trust preachers way too much.
      2. Some people fail to understand that at the end of the day preachers are men (and they can be wrong). They can be wrong in the things they say and teach.
    3. Just being “good people.”
      1. If we could go to heaven based on our own goodness, then why in the world did Jesus have to come here to suffer and die on a cross? No matter how good of a person you may think you are, you are still a sinner and you can’t save yourself, Romans 3:23.
      2. If being a “good person” could have ever saved anyone, you would think that it would have saved Cornelius, Acts 10:1-2. And yet, notice what he still had to do, Acts 11:13-14.
    4. All of these things are the wrong standard for receiving the assurance that God wants us to have. Instead of using these faulty standards to determine what spiritual path we may be on, we need to use the right standard. That is the Bible.
      1. The Bible comes from God, 2 Timothy 3:16. It is the only point of contact that we have between heaven to earth. If we are really going to know God and how to please God and how to find the true path to heaven, then we are going to have to open up the Bible and  consider carefully what it has to say.
      2. How can we know we are heaven bound?
    5. By examining whether or not we are keeping God’s commandments.
      1. See 1 John 2:3-5, 28-29; 3:9-10, 24; 5:2-3. Notice how God has commandments that He expects us to keep.
        1. Which commandments is John referring to? Let me first tell you what commandments He is not referring to.
          1. He is not referring to the commandments and the traditions of men. Jesus never approves when we put the commandments or traditions of men on the same level as the commandments of God, Matthew 7:13-14, 21-23; 15:7-9.
          2. He is not referring to the commandments found in the Old Testament law of Moses. Unfortunately, so many people fail to understand that this law was only given to the children of Israel, and then it was only valid up until the time of the cross, John 1:17;          Romans 6:14; 7:6-7; Colossians 2:14; 2 Corinthians 3:7-11; Hebrews 8:7-13.
        2. Instead, He is referring to the commandments found in the New Testament (New Covenant) law of Christ. See Matthew 28:18-20; John 12:48; 14:15, 21; 15:14.
      2. What has the Lord commanded us?
        1. We must be taught about Him and ourselves, John 6:44-45; Romans 3:23.
        2. We must believe in Him, John 6:68 8:24;14:6; 20:30-31. The very reason why we have the account of Jesus in the gospels is so we have enough evidence to believe in His identity.
        3. We must repent of sin, Luke 13:3; Acts 2:37-38; 17:30-31. We must turn away from sin – to give up sin and do our best to live lives that are holy before God.
        4. We must be baptized for the remission of our sins, Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; Acts 8:34-39; 22:16; 1 Peter 3:20-21; Romans 6:3-4.
          1. While many people deny the need for baptism today, the Bible is very clear on the issue. Notice how both Jesus and His apostles taught that if we are going to be saved then we must be baptized.
          2. How will we respond to what the Lord has said about this? If we really want to go to heaven, then we won’t argue and quibble over it. Instead, we will just obey! See Luke 6:46.
        5. We must be faithful to the Lord after baptism. The Bible doesn’t teach the false doctrine of “once saved, always saved.” Instead, it teaches that we must be committed and loyal to the Lord after we decide to begin walking with Him, John 8:31-32; 1 Corinthians 9:27; Galatians 5:4; Hebrews 3:12-14.
          1. Consider the example we have of the early Christians, Acts 2:41-47. Notice how committed they were to the Lord as members of His church. They devoted themselves to studying the doctrine of the apostles, fellowship, prayer, and breaking bread together (a reference to the Lord’s Supper – see 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; Acts 20:7).
          2. These disciples were committed to growing and being faithful to Christ, 2 Peter 3:18.
        6. Someone says, “I want to be baptized, but I don’t feel I have yet reached a level of sinless perfection.” This type of thinking misses the whole point of baptism.
          1. Baptism is not for people who haven’t sinned (babies and toddlers). Instead, it is for people who have violated the will of God and need to be cleansed by the blood of Jesus.
          2. In fact, even after you are baptized, you need to understand that you are going to fall short of the glory of God from time to time. When you do, God commands you to confess your sin and repent, 1 John 1:8-10.
        7. There are many other commandments the Lord has given us. The point is when we simply do what the Lord says we can live with confidence in regard to our salvation.
  • By making sure that we love one another.
    1. Specifically, you need to make sure that we love those who are fellow members of God’s family, 1 John 3:13-16, 23; 4:11, 19-21.
    2. Why is this important?
      1. Because God is love, 1 John 4:8-10.
      2. Because it is not reasonable to suggest that you love God whom you haven’t seen, when you don’t love your brother who you see all the time, 1 John 4:19-21.
      3. Because our love for one another is one of the main ways in which we demonstrate to the world that we are truly His disciples, John 13:34-35.
    3. The Bible tells us how we are to exercise the kind of love God wants us to have.
      1. We need to treat others like we want to be treated, Matthew 7:12.
      2. We need to be humble, selfless, and willing to serve one another, Philippians 2:3-5.
      3. We should be patient towards one another and help each other grow in Christ. We should never be jealous of one another or towards any success another has in their life. We should not be quick to assume the worst in one another’s words and actions. We should be kind and willing to spend time with one another, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.
      4. When we know a brother is in sin, we shouldn’t let him continue down that destructive path. Instead, we should be willing to confront him and help him get on the right track, Galatians 6:1.
      5. We should be willing to share what we have with one another, 1 John 3:18.
      6. If we ever have a problem with a brother, we need to be willing to go to him and work that problem out face to face, Matthew 18:15-17.
    4. How we treat one another has a lot to do with whether or not we will go to heaven.

Conclusion:

  1. Keeping God’s commandments and loving one another are the keys to knowing whether or not we are heaven bound.
  2. Are you heaven bound? If not, then you need to do something about that right now!

Additional Bible Reading

Good Morning, Dear Brethren,

After doing my Bible reading for the week, I am reminded of how rich and important the book of Numbers is to understanding the difficulties the children of Israel faced as they made their way to the land of Canaan. In chapters 13 and 14, we see why God sentenced every Israelite (20 years and up) to wandering in the wilderness for 40 years and never reaching the Promised Land. An entire generation (with the exception of Caleb and Joshua), would die in the wilderness because they lacked faith and trust in God.

After reading Numbers 11-14 and 23 already this week, it occurred to me that many of the chapters in between contain critical information that we don’t need to overlook. When putting this schedule together, I tried to make it very doable and convenient for us all. Reading one chapter a day five days a week should not be very hard to do.

That being said, before you read Numbers 23 on Friday, I want to ask you to please read some additional chapters this week. This will take an additional few minutes to do each day, but I promise you, you won’t regret it. These additional chapters are critical to the story of Israel’s journey to Canaan. The additional chapters are as follows: Continue reading

Contrasting Two Great Events

On Monday, “The Great American Eclipse” swept across the country. Throughout fourteen states (from Oregon to South Carolina) people could witness a total solar eclipse. This was the first time this type of eclipse could be seen across the contiguous United States since 1918.

While it was a really cool experience, it is interesting to consider the contrasts between it and the return of Jesus – the greatest event yet to come in human history.

  • Unlike with the eclipse, when Jesus returns, it will be sudden and unexpected. While we already have an idea of when the next total solar eclipse can be seen in the U.S (2024), it doesn’t work that way with the return of Christ. Before the Lord returns, we won’t get a couple of years, weeks, days, or even minutes heads up. Scientists won’t be able to concoct an accurate way to predict it. It won’t be something that we will be able to go to bed knowing is going to happen the next day. Instead it will be sudden and unexpected like a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2)! Only God know precisely when it will occur (Matthew 24:36)!
  • Unlike with the eclipse, when Jesus returns, everyone will not be excited. As the total solar eclipse swept across the U.S for the first time in 99 years, everyone seemed every excited. People were literally traveling from all over the world to experience it. People flooded their social media pages with videos and pictures of how happy they were to experience what may be a once in a lifetime experience. Unfortunately, it won’t be that way when the Lord returns. In fact, when this grand event finally occurs, most will be frightened and full of regret because they will not have properly prepared for it (1 Thessalonians 5:3).
  • Unlike with the eclipse, when Jesus returns, life on this earth will not carry on. People won’t go back to work or school the next day. Instead the earth will be destroyed with fire, the dead will be raised, the Judgment Day will take place, and eternity for every person will begin in either heaven or hell (2 Peter 3:9-10; John 5:28-29; Matthew 25:31-46).
  • Unlike with the eclipse, when Jesus returns, the entire world will be impacted at once. It won’t be something that you have to travel to another part of the country to experience. It will occur right where you are!

While there is nothing wrong with hoping and even preparing to see the next total solar eclipse, don’t make the mistake of failing to prepare for the grandest event yet to come – the return of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Please understand that a failure to be prepared for His coming at any moment has eternal consequences (Matthew 25:46).

To be prepared for the return of Jesus, you don’t need a special pair of sunglasses, or a telescope. What you need, is to be dressed in righteousness and faithful to the Lord (Luke 12:35-40; 1 Thessalonians 5:4-11). Only then can you be eagerly looking forward to the greatest event yet to come!

– Shawn Jeffries

Are you smarter than salmon?

Three years ago, my family and I were able to visit the wonderful state of Washington for the first time. Among the many amazing things to see there, are the famous Pike Place Market, the Space Needle, Mount Saint Helens, and the Ballard Locks. The Ballard Locks was especially interesting. These locks sit at the west end of Salmon Bay, Seattle. Their purpose is to prevent the mixing of sea water with the fresh water of the lakes. They also serve as an elevator for boats travelling from the fresh water to the salt water (and vice versa).

Integrated in the locks is a fish ladder. This fish ladder helps with the migration of anadromous fish, notably salmon. The salmon hatch in lakes, rivers or streams; they then migrate to the sea, and then towards the end of their lives they return to the fresh water (where they were born) to spawn. Simply put, the fish ladder allows a way of passage for adult salmon to move from salt water to fresh water so they can continue their life cycle. If it wasn’t for the fish ladder, these salmon would eventually die off because they wouldn’t be able to go back home to reproduce.

At the Ballard Locks there is actually a place where you can view these fish as they pass through the ladder (the months of July and August are said to be the prime months to witness this). After spending much of their life in the sea, amazingly they are able to find their way to the ladder, pass through it, and return to where they were born. These salmon are so intelligent that they are able to remember their true home and even find their way back there before attempting to reproduce.

What about us? Are we as smart as salmon? Like salmon,  do we understand where we come from and where we are going? These are things that God expects us know.

1.   God expects us to know where we come from. He expects us to know that we are His creation. In fact, we are His greatest creation. Unlike salmon or any other animal, God created us in His image (Genesis 1:26-27).

Part of being made in the image of God means that we have eternity within us. It means that we have an eternal soul that will live on in eternity somewhere once it departs from this earthly body (Ecclesiastes 12:7; 2 Corinthians 5:1-10).

It also means that we have free-moral agency. Unlike animals we have the ability to choose right from wrong. We can either choose to serve God and enjoy His blessings or choose to rebel against God and experience terrible consequences (Joshua 24:14-15). The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was placed in the Garden of Eden so that the very first man and woman (Adam and Eve) could exercise this marvelous ability (Genesis 2:15-17).

All of this means that God made us special. He made us unique and superior to anything else. Do we appreciate this? If so, then we need to acknowledge it by living our lives everyday serving our Creator and bringing Him glory (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). God being our Creator means He has the inherent right to tell us what to do and we have an obligation to obey the instructions He has given.

2.  God also expects us to know where we are going after this life. Do you know this? The Bible says you can!

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God (1 John 5:13).

Notice how the Apostle John knew where he was going after this life. We can as well! When we obey the gospel we can KNOW that we are right with God and on the path to be with Him for eternity. Unlike salmon we are going to live on after this life. Unlike salmon we are pursuing something more than an earthly home (John 14:1-6).

While it was fascinating to see salmon travel through the fish ladder back to where they were born, unfortunately only a few ever make it that far. Of the hundreds and hundreds that spent their adult lives at sea, only a relatively small number make it back home. Most are eaten by predators or fall for the bait of fishermen. But hopefully we can learn from those who do make it back. Hopefully we can be at least as smart as they are and always remember who we are and where we are going.

– Shawn Jeffries

The Quest for Eternal Life

Qin Shi Huang was the First Emperor of a unified China. He ruled from 246 to 210 BC. As emperor, Huang unified China for the first time.  He promoted both incredible and intellectual growth within China, and created magnificent and enormous construction projects (one being the first section of what would become the Great Wall of China).

Huang is also well known in history for going on a quest for eternal life on this earth. As he reached middle age, he grew more and more afraid of death. He actually became obsessed with finding a way to live forever. He had his doctors concoct a number of potions for him to drink (many of which contained mercury). His “immortality treatments” would actually lead to his death about a year later.

It is important to understand that the quest for eternal life is not wrong. In fact, had the emperor searched the scriptures he would have known how to obtain it. He would have known that while it is impossible for any person to live on this earth forever (Hebrews 9:27), if one submits to the will of Jesus, they can experience eternal life in heaven.

  • “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
  • “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.” (John 6:27)
  • “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:27-28)
  • Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)
  • “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3)
  • “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:46)

Emperor Huang’s main mistake was not in seeking for eternal life. It was in trying to obtain it apart from submitting to Jesus. Let us learn from his mistake! Let us understand that Jesus is the true source of eternal life. He is the ONLY way to heaven (John 14:6). He is the Son of God. He is the Christ. He is the One who by being raised on the third day conquered death once and for all (Revelation 1:17-18)!

The question is: Are you willing to live for the One who is able to give you eternal life?

– Shawn Jeffries

The Answers to Life’s Greatest Questions

Where do you go to find the answers to the greatest questions of life? Unfortunately, many go looking for answers in the wrong places.

When it comes to the question of our origin, many listen to the atheist. This person says you came from nothing and will return to nothing.

When it comes to trying to find the purpose and meaning of life, many turn to philosophers. These men offer a wide range of answers, but ultimately none of them satisfy. They all vary from one philosopher to the next.

When it comes to trying to figure out where we are going after this life, many put their trust in the words of the atheists, agnostics, or even those who promote reincarnation. The atheist says there is nothing after this life. This life is all you have and afterwards you cease to exist. The agnostic is unsure and says there is no way to know for sure if there is more to come after this life. The people who believe in reincarnation insist that once you die you will come back to the earth in a different body.

People who look to find answers to life’s greatest questions in these places are wasting their time. None of these places can provide the truthful answers. The only source that can provide truthful answers is the Bible! The Bible is only book in the world to be produced by God Himself (2 Timothy 3:16).

  • The Bible tells us of our origin. It tells us that we didn’t just get here by chance. Instead we were made by the all-powerful Creator of the universe (Genesis 2:7). We were made more special and superior than anything else (Genesis 1:27). Since God made us, He has authority over us and we are accountable to Him.
  • The Bible tells us of our purpose. It tells us why God made and put us on this earth. We were not put here to do whatever we please. Instead, we were made to please and serve God (Ecclesiastes 12:13). We were made to bring God glory and be in fellowship with Him (1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 10:31). We were made to love God and love others (Matthew 22:37-39). According to the Bible, our lives have true purpose and meaning!
  • The Bible tells us where we are going. It tells us of our destiny after this life. Unlike what the atheist says, this life is not all there is (John 11:25-26). Instead, there is much more to come! Since we were created in the image of God, we have an eternal soul. Where we go after this life depends on if we do God’s will. After this life, we will either live in eternity in the glories of heaven or the horrors of hell (Matthew 7:21-23; 25:31-46). We can have absolute confidence because Jesus was raised from the dead (1 Peter 1:3-5). In fact, it is this reality that should motivate us to serve God with all our hearts!

These are the answers that the Bible provides to the great questions of life. When we accept what the Bible says, we find deep satisfaction within and our entire perspective of life is impacted. Our lives are now given meaning and purpose. We now have motivation to keep doing good and press forward, even when life starts to get rough.

Will you believe and put your trust in God’s answers to life’s greatest questions?

– Shawn Jeffries