Blog

Bitter Water Made Sweet

Daily Reading

22 Then Moses led Israel on from the Red Sea, and they went out to the Wilderness of

Shur. They journeyed for three days in the wilderness without finding water. 23 They came to Marah, but they could not drink the water at Marah because it was bitter—that is why it was named Marah. 24 The people grumbled to Moses, “What are we going to drink?” 25 So he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree. When he threw it into the water, the water became drinkable.

The Lord made a statute and ordinance for them at Marah, and he tested them there. 26 He said, “If you will carefully obey the Lord your God, do what is right in his sight, pay attention to his commands, and keep all his statutes, I will not inflict any illnesses on you that I inflicted on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you.”

27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy date palms, and they camped there by the water.

sky sand blue desert
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Daily Reflection

Obedience during trials is the key to God’s blessing.

Sun-baked skin ached. The tongues of the Israelites cleaved to the roof of their mouths. Three days passed but there was no refilling of their wineskins. Where was this Moses – the “man of God” – leading them? At least the taskmasters in Egypt gave them water when they labored in the heat of the day. But this Moses, and his unseen God, marched them without refreshment. Murmurs rippled.

Then on the horizon… could it be? Was it a mirage? Excitement overtook some as they ran for the seeming lifespring but with one large gulp, it was bitter. One Hebrew shouts in disgust, “Marah!” The low murmur morphs into a borderline mutiny. What was God up to?!?

Much like the Israelites,  you will experience the sour taste of disappointment. When following God, your taste buds will revolt and want to reject the source of your spiritual refreshing. However, it is how you handle these periods of testing that will determine your level of blessing.

We, like Moses, must seek God’s direction during the seasons of bitter testing. After praying, God directed Moses to cast a tree in the salty waters. This tree sapped the salinity away. The pool, that if consumed would produce death, now provided life! The Lord issued a statute and ordinance that day that if His people would obey they would experience His abundant blessing.

You may not be in a physical desert, but if your soul is dry, there is fresh water for you. Moses sweetened the waters of Marah by hurling a tree in its midst. You too can freshen the saltiness of life with a tree. In your trials, focus on the cross of Christ, for from it flows living water. Knowing that God loved us enough to endure the embarrassment and the torture of Golgotha should refresh your weary soul.

In your trial, pray to God for grace and guidance. For obedience is the key to experiencing God’s abundant blessing. Do not fall into rebellion, but rather submit to the trial with joy. God has not forsaken you. Look to the cross, and you will witness His love again.

closed eyed man holding his face using both of his hands
Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

Suggested Prayer

Lord, like Moses at Marah, allow me to pray for guidance and surrender to your will. Give me the grace to not lose sight of the tree that gives me life. In Jesus name, Amen.


In the Word Together is a daily devotional blog series based on the Narrative Lectionary that aims in aiding parents in family devotions. Unless stated, all posts are written by Kevin W. Bounds.  Necessary attributions are as follows:

Christian Standard Bible – Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible® and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.

Narrative Lectionary –The Narrative Lectionary (http://www.narrativelectionary.org) is an open-source project created by Profs. Rolf Jacobson and Craig Koester, Luther Seminary, Saint Paul, Minn.

Daily Readings for the Narrative Lectionary – Copyright © 2018 Clergy Stuff

Sweet Songs of Redemption

Daily Reading

Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord. They said:

I will sing to the Lord,
for he is highly exalted;
he has thrown the horse
and its rider into the sea.
The Lord is my strength and my song;[a]
he has become my salvation.
This is my God, and I will praise him,
my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
The Lord is a warrior;
the Lord is his name.

He threw Pharaoh’s chariots
and his army into the sea;
the elite of his officers
were drowned in the Red Sea.
The floods covered them;
they sank to the depths like a stone.
Lord, your right hand is glorious in power.
Lord, your right hand shattered the enemy.
You overthrew your adversaries
by your great majesty.
You unleashed your burning wrath;
it consumed them like stubble.
The water heaped up at the blast from your nostrils;
the currents stood firm like a dam.
The watery depths congealed in the heart of the sea.
The enemy said:
“I will pursue, I will overtake,
I will divide the spoil.
My desire will be gratified at their expense.
I will draw my sword;
my hand will destroy[b] them.”
10 But you blew with your breath,
and the sea covered them.
They sank like lead
in the mighty waters.

11 Lord, who is like you among the gods?
Who is like you, glorious in holiness,
revered with praises, performing wonders?
12 You stretched out your right hand,
and the earth swallowed them.
13 With your faithful love,
you will lead the people
you have redeemed;
you will guide them to your holy dwelling
with your strength.

14 When the peoples hear, they will shudder;
anguish will seize the inhabitants of Philistia.
15 Then the chiefs of Edom will be terrified;
trembling will seize the leaders of Moab;
all the inhabitants of Canaan will panic;
16 terror and dread will fall on them.
They will be as still[c] as a stone
because of your powerful arm
until your people pass by, Lord,
until the people whom you purchased[d] pass by.

17 You will bring them in and plant them
on the mountain of your possession;
Lord, you have prepared the place
for your dwelling;
Lord,[e] your hands have established the sanctuary.
18 The Lord will reign forever and ever!

19 When Pharaoh’s horses with his chariots and horsemen went into the sea, the Lord brought the water of the sea back over them. But the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground. 20 Then the prophetess Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women came out following her with tambourines and dancing. 21 Miriam sang to them:

Sing to the Lord,
for he is highly exalted;
he has thrown the horse
and its rider into the sea.

Daily Reflection

An eerie silence rests on the crowded shore framed only by the sound of the unsettled waters. Astonishment filled the atmosphere; not a word was spoken.  As the Israelites gaze across the frothy Red Sea, a chariot wheel surfaces tumbling in the surf. Then one by one, lifeless Egyptian bodies wash ashore. Their Egyptian captors were gone. Yahweh had delivered them like Moses foretold.

Silence gives way to the singing. Moses leads the redeemed throng in a mass chorus of praise. This is a sweet song of redemption. God blazed a path through the impassable Red Sea. Dry sandals began to step in rhythm. They were tasting the freedom Yahweh promised!

The Song of Moses recorded in the Exodus 15:1-21 inspired the Israelites for generations. It was their anthem of deliverance; a song of redemption. It’s not only their song but ours too. This anthem will be sung by the redeemed in heaven (see Revelation 15:3).

Songs have the power to inspire worship, instruct us in righteousness, and reminds us of our redemption. We are commanded in Scripture to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (see Colossians 3:16). You may be facing a mountain of opposition, but God is on your side. As a child of God, it will only take a moment to think of a time when God parted your Red Sea situation. Remember? Why not praise him in advance?

What is your song of redemption? Amazing GraceHow Great Thou Art? What a Beautiful Name?  It may even be an original tune God has given you. Sing it loud. He is worthy of our praise and adoration. You will come out of your situation with dry sandals for sure! Will sing for His glory today?

Suggested Prayer

Lord, thank you for your redemption. Although I face situations that seem impossible, help me sing your praise. In Christ’s name, Amen.


In the Word Together is a daily devotional blog series based on the Narrative Lectionary. Unless stated, all posts are written by Kevin W. Bounds.  Necessary attributions are as follows: Used by Permission

 

 

Christian Standard Bible – Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible® and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.

Narrative Lectionary -The Narrative Lectionary (http://www.narrativelectionary.org) is an open-source project created by Profs. Rolf Jacobson and Craig Koester, Luther Seminary, Saint Paul, Minn.

Daily Readings for the Narrative Lectionary – Copyright © 2018 Clergy Stuff

 

Broken SYATP18

On September 26, at the break of dawn,  students will gather at flagpoles across the nation to cry out to God. This student-led movement began in 1990 with ten students, and it has grown to millions. God is still moving among the youth of this nation. He has not forsaken His people. Their ministry style may differ from the generations before them, but their message is one of hope. The Good News of Jesus Christ still has the power to change lives today.

Tomorrow, I am privileged to share at Citizens Christian Academy’s SYATP gathering at 7:00 am. Will you gather with us? If not with your physical presence, be encouraged that prayer works anywhere!

 

 

 

Defending the Inerrancy of Scripture with Skeptics

How would I defend the doctrine of biblical inerrancy to either a skeptic or a non-evangelical Christian? Although the aim of my discussion with either party would be the same, the approaches would need to be different. However, there would be some overlap in my method of debating either persuasion.

For example, you should practice active listening because it is twice as important to listen as it is to speak. Often, when we are in a defensive posture during a conversation, we will not truly listen to the other side’s argument. We should listen not to be convinced of the claims, but to realize where their objections originate. For the skeptic, listen to find out if they are atheist, agnostic, or a person with religious leanings.  On the other hand, listen to the non-evangelical Christian, to determine their objections to the doctrine of inerrancy? What passage(s) are problematic to them? Actively listening to your counterpart with respect will only improve your ability to convince the other person. What good is it to “win” the argument and lose the opportunity to win a person to Christ? Even people with whom we disagree are created in the image of God, considered valuable by the cross of Christ, and are worthy of our listening ear.

Secondly, beyond my undivided attention, I would present to both parties a clear definition of what I mean by the term inerrancy. Millard Erickson defines inerrancy as, “the Bible: when correctly interpreted in light of the level to which culture and the means of communication had developed at the time it was written, and in view of the purposes for which it was given, is fully truthful in all that it affirms.”[1] By listening to make sure I understand their objections and defining my position, I lay the foundation for a potentially fruitful conversation.

How would my conversation with a skeptic differ? No matter if the skeptic is an atheist, agnostic, or a person with religious leanings, the conversation needs to begin on common ground. General revelation is this common ground. As Scripture declares, a person that denies the existence of God has suppressed the truth (Rom 1:18) revealed through nature and the constitution of man as a moral being.

Therefore, after making a case for the existence of God, one can progress to arguing this God has revealed Himself to humanity through not only the Incarnation of Christ but the written word as well. One can look to the uniqueness of the Holy Bible. Its composition from over forty authors from all walks of life, written in approximately 1,500 years, its accurate prophetic utterances, and the unifying theme of Christ’s redemption is present throughout its pages. This argument fails to mention the longevity of the Bible, despite severe opposition. Therefore, when speaking with a skeptic who clings to logic and reason, it is paramount that the Bible’s claims of being the very word of God are neither illogical or unreasonable. However, it still must be received by faith, but not a blind faith.

As far as the skeptic, is adherence to biblical inerrancy necessary for Christian belief? This question is a slippery fish. The Bible is clear faith in Christ alone is what brings salvation to sinners (Jn 1:12; Jn 3:16; Rom 5:1). However, how would a person hear and receive the gospel message, if the means of the message (a.k.a. the Bible) is not fully reliable? Of course, the Spirit of God is what quickens our hearts through the hearing of the message, but would not the Spirit also convince of inerrancy too? Regardless, faith is given by the Spirit, which draws sinners to the Father (Jn 6:44,63).

Therefore, in theory, the doctrine of biblical inerrancy is not necessary for Christian belief. A person convinced of the Gospel’s simple message of faith may not be fully persuaded that record of Scripture was accurately preserved. Nevertheless, that fishy question is quite slick, because how would you know the message of salvation was preserved? How could one be assured of their right standing with God? What kind of God could not preserve an accurate revelation of Himself? As one can witness, the denial of biblical inerrancy does devolve into endless questions and doubts. This notion brings us to the next point of discussion concerning the non-evangelical Christian and their objections to biblical inerrancy.

First, for clarity’s sake, the non-evangelical Christian is one that acknowledges Jesus Christ and accepts the claims of the Gospel but admits the Bible does indeed contain errors. Thus, God has not pristinely preserved His special revelation to humanity. Much of the previously stated argument applies to this situation as well. Evidently, a non-evangelical Christian would affirm the authoritative nature of the Bible (or at least to some degree), but how could the God-breathed Scriptures be divorced from inerrancy? Again, the fish flops!

For this individual, I would argue that one’s position on the doctrine of inerrancy greatly affects what one believes (doctrine). What if the inspired biblical writers “fudged” on the details included (regardless if intentional or not)? What would that say about the nature of the inspiring Spirit? How could we trust God? Although, in theory, I have proposed one could be a Christian without adhering to the inerrancy of Scripture, how could you define what is Christian? For all that we know about Christ is taught through Scripture. It is possible this individual would appeal to the traditions of the Church, but historically the Church they appeal to has affirmed the doctrine they are attempting to refute! I still smell something fishy. It’s clear the denial of the Scripture’s truthfulness is frustrating to faith or doctrine.

Furthermore, how does this repudiation of an inerrant Bible affect their lifestyle practice? How could a person define what a Christian lifestyle is? Historically, the Bible has been the standard by which Christians have measured there walk with God. The Apostle James gave the analogy of the Word being a mirror (Jam 1:23). If the Bible’s message contains errors, I assume the image depicted in its reflection would be distorted; much like one’s reflection in a carnival mirror. A brief look at the history of any Christian denomination or sect, which rejects the inerrancy of the Word, reveals they ultimately begin to apostatize. Therefore, the belief that Scripture is, not only authoritative but inerrant is pivotal to the practice of fruitful Christianity.

How does this issue touch ministry practices? It will disturb ministry efforts as well. As already stated, the person is a non-evangelical. This title designates that the proclamation of the Gospel is not at the forefront of their effort.  How could this be if they believe the Word of God to be an accurate depiction of God’s commands? What one believes determines what one does. When the trustworthiness of Scripture is in question, all begins to crumble because the foundation has shifted.

In conclusion, the doctrine of inerrancy is vital to the Church and Christian life. Although one may believe the Good News and be a Christian, while denying the inerrancy of the Bible, complications are bound to follow. During the writing of this post, I referred to the questions being as slippery as a fish, but I do not think a flopping fish is the issue at all. Instead of struggling to handle slippery questions, we need to realize the slithering serpent that is at the root of the debate, who from the beginning, posed the poisonous question, “Did God really say…?”

[1] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013), 201-202.

 

A Full Heart on Friday

It’s Friday evening. I am tired and sweaty. It’s been a long week, but my heart is refreshed. So, I decided to let my joy spill over into your lives. Saying “God is great” seems inadequate. Yet, I can think of no other way to express my feelings at the moment. I am overwhelmed by the grace afforded to us.

img_0811To understand my joy, I must take you to the first time I entered the gym at Citizens Christian Academy. In 1999,  I went there with some friends to watch a basketball game. I was a grungy teenage skater that was running from God. I donned a care-free exterior, but I struggled with low self-esteem, anger, and depression.

img_0810

However, today I walked into the same gym at 7:30 a.m. and shared the hope of Christ with the FCA Huddle. I am humbled God has allowed me to speak into the lives of the Middle and High School students. I would have never imagined this life. God is great! 

A few hours later, the same gymnasium transformed into a sanctuary. Over 100 elementary students, filled the room with songs of praise to the Savior of the world. I witnessed these kids raise their hands in worship to the King of kings and the Lord of lords. God is great!

img_0802

In the afternoon, I had a blast playing Bible Battle Royale with my Middle Schoolers in my classroom.  Then I was amazed by how much my High School class learned about the doctrine of the Trinity. God is great!

God’s grace transformed a depressed teenage boy into a vessel to carry His message. I couldn’t earn this and I don’t deserve this grace, but He has lavished it on me. You never know where God’s grace will take you! If you’re running from Him, why not surrender and find out? God is great! 

 

 

 

 

I Say, Let Freedom Ring!

I Say, Let Freedom Ring! However, what is the source of our freedom?

Happy 4th of July! I am thankful to live in the “land of the free and home the brave!” By God’s grace, I live in a land stained with the blood of patriots, which paved the way for me to possess the freedom to write this post. Thank you, Lord!

I love living in America. However, we have drifted away from you. In America, we are blinded by our unchecked individualism. We are known for our pull-ourselves-up-by-the-bootstrap mentality. We can do anything we put our minds too. The problem is our thoughts are corrupt. Like the men in Nimrod’s day, we long to erect a tower to make a name for ourselves. However, you call us to humility, if we are to enter the everlasting kingdom, which is coming. Have mercy on us, Lord.

We boast of our freedom as we dance in the shackles of sin. The clanging chains of hypocrisy can be heard around the globe. We claim to be a Christian nation, but we slaughter our unborn. We claim to be the example for others to follow and neglect the orphans and widows. Have mercy on us, Lord.

Once we stood united, but now we are polarized demonizing anyone that has a different perspective. What is wrong with us? Is it the economy? Undoubtedly, more money in our purses will make us a better nation, right? No! Then it must be education. Let’s overhaul the system streamlining it to as close to perfection. Only to have our new intellectual society, redefine our conundrum, but provide no answer.

What is wrong with us? Hear me clearly, fellow Americans. Many of you will reject my counsel, but I must share this burden with you. We are sinful. No, I am not speaking of mere mistakes. I declare we are sinners. We are a rebellious and stiff-necked people that have turned from the One that granted us freedom. We must return.  Have mercy on us, Lord.

Where is the Tower of Babel? It cannot be found. All monuments erected in vainglory will fall. This is our fate if we continue on this path.  Only what is done for Christ has eternal value. Am I calling a nation to repentance? Am I calling for the masses to call on the Lord? Yes, but it begins with you (and me.)

For far too long, we have smeared lipstick on a pig. We have tried to be respectable. Nevertheless, a pig delights in the mud and relishes the slop because it’s in its nature. Swine will act like a swine because it has the heart of a pig.  Our problem in America is not the economy or education, but our spiritual depravity.

We inherited this depravity long before the year 1776. It began in a garden of perfection. Humanity rebelled against the command of God, ate from a forbidden tree, and fell from their rightful place of dominion. We were made in the image of God, but the fall marred this image. We are innately corrupt. We cannot change ourselves. We are in bondage. Death reigns over us, because of our sin.

What is the answer? Simply put, Jesus. Jesus – God wrapped in human flesh – came to Earth to live without sin, so that his life could be substituted for ours. He took our sins by nailing them to cross. Jesus paid our debt. He purchased your freedom; true freedom.

How do you receive this freedom? Jesus told Nicodemus, “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3 (CSB)  To be born again, you must realize your sinfulness. The Apostle Paul writes, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23 (CSB)  If you do not think you’re a sinner then review your life in light of the Ten Commandments (see Exodus 20:3-17). We are all sinful. However, there is a solution.

The Bible states, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 (CSB)  You deserve God’s wrath for your crimes against Him. But He has extended grace through Christ instead! Will you receive this gift of grace?

In Romans 10:9-10, Paul gives us instructions on how to receive Christ or be born again. He writes, “9 If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation. Romans 10:9-10 (CSB)   Don’t harden your heart to His call. Again, will you accept his invitation? Will you place our faith in Christ’s substitution?  Real freedom comes through faith in Christ!

Look around you. If you want to change the culture, you must first change your heart. America is great, but God’s kingdom is greater. No politician can make America great again. Or at least, in the way that matters most.

Have mercy on us, Lord. Tear down our idols so we can be rebuilt anew. I am grateful for the sacrifice of patriots past and the political freedom I have as an American. However, let us never forget the origins of genuine freedom, YOU. I say, let freedom ring!