Category Archives: practical lessons
A soft answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
There will be times when others are angry at us. We can’t avoid this but we can choose how we respond to their anger. We can either give a soft answer, which will turn their wrath away, or we can respond with a harsh word, which will increase their anger. Two of the judges of Israel, Gideon and Jephthah, encountered the wrath of others in nearly identical circumstances but responded differently.
Gideon was a farmer. When he first appears in the Biblical account he is beating out wheat in a winepress to keep it hidden from the Midianite invaders of the land. The angel of the LORD appeared to him and told him he had been chosen to destroy the Midianites. He reluctantly accepted the assignment and after a successful war against the Midianites he encountered opposition from one of the other tribes of Israel, Ephraim. Read the rest of this entry
1 Kings 22:1-40 describes the battle in which King Ahab of Israel lost his life. He asked Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, to join him in taking Ramoth-gilead back from the Syrians. Jehoshaphat agreed to help but insisted that they ask God’s guidance first.
Ahab called 400 prophets and asked whether he should go to war. The prophets were not true prophets but cared more about pleasing Ahab than delivering God’s message. They all assured him of victory. Jehoshaphat apparently realized they weren’t prophets of God and asked Ahab if there was another prophet they could ask. Ahab said there was another prophet, named Micaiah, but he hated him because he prophesied evil for Ahab. Jehoshaphat insisted on hearing him so Ahab ordered that he be brought in. Sure enough he predicted that Ahab would be killed in the coming battle. Read the rest of this entry
God performed miracles when he brought the Israelites into the promised land. He stopped the flow of the Jordan River so they could enter the land.
So when the people set out from their tents to pass over the Jordan with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, and as soon as those bearing the ark had come as far as the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water (now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest),the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, and those flowing down toward the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. And the people passed over opposite Jericho. Now the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firmly on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, and all Israel was passing over on dry ground until all the nation finished passing over the Jordan.
He made the walls of Jericho fall down.
So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city.
He even caused the sun to stand still. Read the rest of this entry
God commanded that the animals sacrificed to him be free of any defects. Sometimes the Israelites failed to do this. Here is what the prophet Malachi said about their failure.
A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name.
But you say, “How have we despised your name?” By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, “How have we polluted you?” By saying that the LORD’s table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil?
He gave them a standard by which they could measure the acceptability of their offerings.
Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the LORD of hosts.
I have spent a lot of time on internet forums debating atheists and trying to convince them that God exists and the Bible is true. I usually tried to show them that the existence of God is the only logical explanation for the existence of the universe and I pointed out scientific evidence that shows that the theory of evolution can’t be true. However I have come to believe that I was going about this in the wrong way. This conclusion is based on hearing two former atheists tell how they became Christians.
The first is someone I know personally. He had a long conversation with a pastor which ended with the pastor explaining to him how to be saved. He said he was an atheist and didn’t believe in God, and that ended the conversation.
Over the next few days thoughts about God kept entering his mind and he came to the conclusion that there really was a God. Since the pastor had told him how to become a Christian he knew what he needed to do and so was saved. Read the rest of this entry
After David had overcome his enemies and become king of Israel, he decided to bring the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem.
David consulted with the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, with every leader. And David said to all the assembly of Israel, “If it seems good to you and from the LORD our God, let us send abroad to our brothers who remain in all the lands of Israel, as well as to the priests and Levites in the cities that have pasturelands, that they may be gathered to us. Then let us bring again the ark of our God to us, for we did not seek it in the days of Saul.” All the assembly agreed to do so, for the thing was right in the eyes of all the people.
So David assembled all Israel from the Nile of Egypt to Lebo-hamath, to bring the ark of God from Kiriath-jearim. And David and all Israel went up to Baalah, that is, to Kiriath-jearim that belongs to Judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the LORD who sits enthroned above the cherubim. And they carried the ark of God on a new cart, from the house of Abinadab, and Uzzah and Ahio were driving the cart. And David and all Israel were celebrating before God with all their might, with song and lyres and harps and tambourines and cymbals and trumpets.
1 Chronicles 13:1-8
But something unexpected happened.
And when they came to the threshing floor of Chidon, Uzzah put out his hand to take hold of the ark, for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah, and he struck him down because he put out his hand to the ark, and he died there before God.
1 Chronicles 13:9-10
A large crowd of people went to listen to Jesus speak when he was in a deserted area far from any towns because they saw the miracles he had done in healing the sick. At the end of the day they were hungry but there was no place nearby where they could buy food. There was a boy in the crowd who had five loaves of bread and two fish. He shared what he had with his immediate neighbors. By giving each person one loaf of bread or one fish he was able to feed himself and six other people. The rest of the crowd went hungry.
Have you ever read this story in the Bible? Neither have I, but there is one that is very similar to it. The only difference is what the boy did with the food he had. Read the rest of this entry
The members of the church in Jerusalem were generous in helping members who were in need.
There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
In doing this they were following the command of Jesus to lay up treasures in Heaven. But what would have happened if they had decided to keep their possessions for their own use? Shortly after this a severe persecution broke out. Read the rest of this entry
Under the Law of Moses the Israelites were required to worship God by offering animal sacrifices. There were several different kinds of sacrifices required but one thing they all had in common was that the animals had to be free of any defects. In the time of the prophet Malachi many of the people were dishonoring God by offering imperfect animals.
“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear?” says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name.
But you say, “How have we despised your name?” By offering polluted food upon my altar.
But you say, “How have we polluted you?” By saying that the LORD’s table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil?
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
How can we pray without ceasing? Do we have to stop all of our other activities and kneel down and spend the rest of our lives doing nothing but praying?
If you are someplace where there are a lot of people you will probably see some of them demonstrating how to obey this command. They are talking on a cell phone while going about their regular activities. You could say that when we were saved God gave each of us a cell phone that we could use to keep in touch with him all of the time no matter what else we might be doing.
When you go out to war against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and an army larger than your own, you shall not be afraid of them, for the LORD your God is with you, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
When the Israelites invaded Canaan they faced enemies who were stronger than they were. They won only because God helped them.
Israel was a nation and like any other nation it sometimes waged wars with other nations. The church isn’t a nation but is a body of people from all nations who have put their faith in Jesus Christ. Because we aren’t a nation we don’t have an army and we don’t engage in physical wars but we are involved in warfare of a different kind.
No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light.
The kind of lamp Jesus spoke of provided light by burning oil. A lamp placed under a jar would be extinguished for lack of oxygen. A lamp placed under a bed could set the bed on fire.
If you heard that someone you cared about was sick and was about to die wouldn’t you immediately go to see him if you could? And wouldn’t that be even more true if you were able to prevent him from dying? Jesus didn’t react this way when he heard that one of his friends was near death.
Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.”
But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.
The stones used in Solomon’s temple were carved at the place from which they were taken, not at the place where the temple was being built.
When the house was built, it was with stone prepared at the quarry, so that neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron was heard in the house while it was being built.
1 Kings 6:7
Imagine that these stones were alive. How might they have felt about what was being done to them?
Christians follow one of two philosophies in giving. Some take care of their own needs first and then give out of what is left; others give to God first and trust him to take care of their needs out of what is left. Which one is right?
Honor the LORD with your wealth
and with the firstfruits of all your produce;
then your barns will be filled with plenty,
and your vats will be bursting with wine.
This clearly says that we should give the first of all we have to God and he will bless us.
God commands parents to teach their children the Bible.
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
There are people who don’t believe the Bible and don’t think it should be taught to children. Some claim that parents who teach their children the Bible are brainwashing them. Those who make this claim are right; children who are taught the Bible are being brainwashed.
On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, Jesus was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”
And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.”
Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. By Einstein’s definition Simon’s response to Jesus was insane. Not only had he fished all night without results but he was a professional fisherman while Jesus was a carpenter. Logically he should have been the one telling Jesus how to fish.
While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him.
And he charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.”
Jesus told him to go to the priest because the Mosaic law required that an offering be made by anyone who had been cleansed from leprosy.
All of us have asked God for something and not gotten it. When this happens we generally believe that God hasn’t answered our prayer. That isn’t necessarily the case. Jesus said:
Which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!