The Road to Spiritual Maturity — Genesis 45:5

“[Joseph told his brothers], ‘And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life’” (Genesis 45:5).

Many believers aspire to the spiritual maturity of Joseph, who treated his brothers with extraordinary goodness despite their sins against him. Deeply wronged by them when they kidnapped him and sold him into slavery, he expressed no desire to punish them, but forgave them and comforted their guilty conscience. He held no resentment against them, and he did not want them to feel angry with themselves for the great injustice they had inflicted on him. Joseph chose to disregard the wrongs of others, because he wanted everyone to be at peace with God, others, and within themselves.

Joseph chose to emphasize and explain some of the ways that God uses to help people. To preserve life, God had sent Joseph to Egypt through the slave trade. God prepared him through imprisonment to ascend to the second highest place of authority in Egypt. Joseph understood that God had blessed him, not so he could selfishly enjoy the riches of Egypt, but so he could save the lives of many during seven years of famine. God used the evil deeds of Joseph’s brothers to get Joseph to Egypt before them so God could save from starvation the Egyptians and all who would go to Egypt; therefore, Joseph chose to focus on the good intentions and purposes of God, and let God deal with the intentions and actions of others. Similarly, the evil deeds of some religious leaders led to the crucifixion and death of God’s only Son, Jesus Christ, but God planned and used Jesus’ sacrificial death to save those who believe in Him, to forgive all the sins of many believers, and to give all believers in Jesus the gift of eternal life. Only the most spiritually mature can forgive those who have wronged them and look instead for the good that God has brought into every situation so He could meet the needs of many.

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Your Christian and Church Responses to Covid-19

A few days ago, I sent the International Bible Study Newsletter to my mailing list asking a question, and I have moved the question and replies to the International Bible Study Forum to help those not on the newsletter mailing list get some excellent and helpful answers.

 “What are you as an individual Christian and/or what are your Church contingency plans in light of the Covid-19 virus pandemic?”

If you reply and share what you are thinking or planning to do, I will send your replies out in the next newsletter as soon as possible to be helpful to the most people who are seeking answers for their church. [Posting on this Forum will now replace this.] If you do not want your name or church name shared, please let me know and I will keep that confidential. Let us pray for one another and for increasing numbers of people to place their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, for His perfect love and presence can cast out fear, conquer death, and bestow eternal life.

Bob was the first to reply to my question, and I believe most of us are in the same boat with him. His very honest reply is below.

After you read what he wrote [and others have written], please share your ideas [in the Comments below]. The pandemic problem and sharing on the forum is one way to come together as Christians from around the world. As we share what is going on in our neighborhoods and churches, we can discover best practices from each other and pray for one another.

From Bob

Your question, “What are you as an individual Christian and/or what are your Church contingency plans in light of the Covid-19 virus pandemic?” is one that my personal family has been discussing for several weeks now.

“As a Christian family we have stepped up our “common sense” personal hygiene habits and are fully trusting what the experts are recommending that people should do.  My family is not in a panic mode, but we are “Prayer-paring” and ensuring that our daily needs will be covered in the event of a shut in.

“As a Church Family I am embarrassed to say that it has been business as usual since the onset of the virus. In our defense I will say that the recent titling as “Pandemic” will most likely instigate serious discussions. The problem from the beginning was that no one wanted to believe it would affect “Our Church” “so let’s not get everyone in a tail spin”, and those of us who wanted to talk about it were told we were over reacting.

“As we move forward I hope to be able to share what protocols we will be following and like you and your readers, I too would love to hear what other churches are planning to do. God has placed smart people in a lot of different places so folks need to start listening.”

What others have been saying in Replies to my newsletter are in the Comments below. Please add your comments, thoughts, and questions to the Comments so we can help one another. If you tell us in your Comments what country or state you live in (I will only post first names) that may help all of us know what is happening elsewhere from a Christian perspective rather than relying only on the news media (that probably will ignore what Christians and Churches are doing at this time).

To Read the Comments or Make a Comment go to Comments

Receive our periodic International Bible Study Newsletter by sending me an email request to lgp@theiblf.com.

May God continue to bless your Bible study and teaching and encourage you by His Word and Spirit!

Begin your study of the Gospel of John now!! OR Go to the “Contents” page to begin with John 1:1. Use for private Bible study, mid-week Bible study and Sunday schools.

Teaching the Truth in Love for the Love of God’s Word and His people,
L.G.

If Solomon was Wise, Why did He Sin? — 1 Kings 8:22-30

The full question was, “From Solomon’s lengthy prayer, we know he was devout and wise; so why did he sin?”

First, What is sin? The Bible teaches that sin is a violation of the law. In 1 John 3:4, we read, “Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.” Solomon knew that everyone sins. In 1 Kings 8:46, as part of his prayer he said, “If they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin.” Despite his devout prayers and wisdom, King Solomon violated the laws of God and sinned, like everyone does. As he grew older, Solomon became increasingly lawless toward God, which was unwise.

Second, Though Solomon was wise, he may have thought he was so wise that he could violate the laws of God without suffering the consequences or the penalty of violating God’s laws. From the life of Solomon, we know that he was so wise that royalty and others from all over the world came to hear whatever he had to teach and answer all their questions. In most people, such adulation could lead to pride. In Proverbs 16:18, perhaps written by Solomon, we read, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Solomon grew proud, and his sins led to the destruction of his kingdom after his death when Israel and Judah divided into two kingdoms.

Third, Solomon’s pride, success, and riches probably led him to fall out of love with God and into love with the people and things of this world. In violation of the laws of God and wisdom, Solomon married many foreign wives who led his heart away from God; therefore, he built idolatrous temples in the mountains around Jerusalem for them and this led the people of his kingdom away from loyalty to God and to its eventual destruction. The Bible warns all of us against this in 1 John 2:15-16, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches—comes not from the Father but from the world.” Despite his wisdom and initial devotion to God, Solomon unwisely turned from loving God to loving the world, and he and his family suffered the consequences.

If devout and wise King Solomon sinned and suffered the consequences, he serves as a warning to each of us, especially as we grow older. We cannot take our initial devotion to God and the Lord Jesus for granted but pray for the Lord Jesus to help us keep reading and obeying all His commands in the Bible with the help of the Holy Spirit. In John 14:15, Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” And in John 15:10, Jesus promised, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”

You can ask questions on each week’s lesson by sending your questions to me directly at lgp@TheIBLF.com. I will take questions on the passages in each week’s Uniform Lesson Series Sunday School Lesson and in each week’s Gospel of John lesson that we are currently studying if you send them to me directly. I will try to answer as many as I can. Thank you for your questions!

May the Lord Jesus bless your Bible study and teaching in this New Year!

L.G.

Do Our Good Intentions Count for Anything? — 1 Kings 8:14-21

If we have faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, our good intentions, even though we cannot do the good that we would like to do, still count with God.

King Solomon said that his father, David, had wanted to build a house for the LORD, but the LORD told him, “You did well to consider building a house for my name . . . but your son . . . shall build a house for my name” (1 Kings 8:18-19).

As Christians, we can think of many good things that we would like to do to honor God and help others in the name of Jesus, but for some reason we are not able to do so. Perhaps we lack the time, talent, or treasure to become a missionary or help our church as much as we would like to be more of a help. Everyone reading this can probably think of something they wanted to do or would have liked to do or still would like to do, but that is not possible under the circumstances. For example, a person might want to help people in a foreign land learn about Jesus or learn to read the Bible in their own language, but due to circumstances beyond their control this has become impossible. Instead, they give as the Lord Jesus enables them and they pray, and they pray when that is all they can do—perhaps our gifts and/or our prayers are exactly what someone else needs to do the Lord’s will.

If something like the above can describe your thoughts and desires in some way; then, Jesus can say to you, “You did well!”

In (1 Corinthians 3:12-16), the Apostle Paul wrote, “ Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire. Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?”

Our good intentions count for something, because we may think we have no “gold, silver, or precious stones” to build with, but only have “wood, hay, and straw;” however, the Lord Jesus sees into our hearts and knows that we would have used what we did not have, if we had had it, for His glory and to express our love for Him and others. We may think what we have done for the Lord was so unlike what King Solomon did for the Lord in building the temple that all our efforts were “wood, hay, and straw,” but the Lord sees into our hearts, and the Lord Jesus will consider that because of our good intentions. “We did well.”

Finally, remember that Solomon did not end well, and neither did his kingdom. As Christians, we can end well at any age and any circumstance, for we can pray when we cannot do anything else, and we can pray that others will come to know the true God and Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world. When we do this, if this is all we can do, when we end our pilgrimage on earth, Jesus can say to us, “You did well.” Jesus will be able to say to us as He said in the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:23, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.”

You can ask your questions in a Comment (I should get an e-mail that you have made a Comment) or you can send your questions to me directly to lgp@TheIBLF.com. I will take questions on the passages in each week’s Uniform Lesson Series Sunday School Lesson and in each week’s Gospel of John lesson that we are currently studying if you send them to me directly or make a Comment on one of my postings. I will try to answer as many as I can.

May the Lord Jesus bless your Bible study and teaching in this New Year!

L.G.

Mary, the Shepherds, Jesus, and Us — Luke 2:8-20

The Bible Lessons below are from the former International Bible Lesson Commentary and International Bible Lesson by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr., which can be used for December 29, 2019. The Commentaries for these Bible Lessons can be found at: Luke Bible Lesson Commentaries and Lessons.

Angels Appeared to the Prepared

“In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified” (Luke 2:8-9).

In all of the accounts surrounding Jesus’ birth, those who saw Him as a baby were the most prepared to meet Him. The angels did not appear to the shepherds who lived in their fields just because they were poor; rather, this especially chosen group of shepherds probably thought in ways similar to the shepherd boy David, who became Israel’s greatest king and an ancestor of the Messiah. These shepherds had learned about God from the beauties of God’s creation. They may have known and identified with these words of David, “The heavens are telling the glory of God … Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge” (Psalm 19:1-2). But the heavens did not speak words they could hear until the angel of the Lord appeared to them. The glory of God showed around them in a new way, and they heard an angel of the Lord speak their language. The angel put into words what they had learned from the sun and the stars, “Glory to God in the highest heaven” (Luke 2:14). Moreover, they learned about God’s glory in a new way, because the angel proclaimed, “To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:11). No wonder they left their field with haste to find the baby Jesus in a manger, and then returned “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them” (Luke 2:20).

What Were Mary’s Expectations?

 “This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12).

The Bible does not reveal many of Mary’s thoughts after the angel told her that she would be the mother of the Messiah. Because God had shown her favor as the mother of the one and only Son of God, she might have expected that her life would become easier; however, many events made her life more difficult, especially as the time of Jesus’ birth drew near. Instead of relaxing at home and preparing for Jesus’ miraculous birth, an emperor decreed that she had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Instead of God leading her to a comfortable palace where He could give His Son the best of everything, Joseph found no place for them in an inn. Instead of a bed of luxury fit for the mother of a newborn king, Mary had to rest on a bed of hay. The nearest thing available for Jesus’ bed was a manger in a stable. Instead of rejoicing with their family at Jesus’ birth, Joseph and Mary probably celebrated alone in the company of curious animals. Reality may have contradicted all of Mary’s expectations, and she may have wondered with Joseph, “What has gone wrong!” Unexpectedly, God reassured them with the arrival of some shepherds. They told Jesus’ parents what the angel of the Lord had told them about their child, “To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:11). Those who commit themselves to serving God sometimes find their life more difficult, but God always finds ways to reassure them with His peace, power, and presence.

Some Blessings from Believing God’s Words

“The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told” (Luke 2:20).

The priest Zechariah met an angel in the temple, but Zechariah did not believe his words. When an angel met the shepherds, and announced that the Messiah had been born in Bethlehem and they could find Him as a baby in a manger, they believed him and hurried off to see Jesus. From the Bible, we learn about some of the disappointments that can come from disbelief: Zechariah could not speak for at least nine months. From the Bible, we also learn about the thoughts of astonishment and feelings of awe that can come from believing God and His words. Because they believe in Jesus, believers ponder with wonder when they think about God sending His only begotten Son into the world to save them from their sins, cleanse their conscience, fill them with love, restore their peace with God and peace of mind, and give them eternal life. Some of the shepherds might not have lived long enough to hear Jesus teach, but some of them probably did. After they saw Him as a baby, some who believed in His coming might have died and joined the great cloud of witnesses who watched Jesus’ ministry from heaven as in a giant stadium (see Hebrews 12:1). Today, when people hear and believe the good news about Jesus Christ, they respond as the shepherds did after they saw the baby Jesus. They glorify and praise God. They tell others what they experienced after they trusted in Jesus as their Savior. Eventually, they will join the great cloud of witnesses in heaven and continue watching God’s saving work.

International Bible Lessons and Sunday School Lessons

Please share your thoughts and ideas here on the International Bible Study Forum.

Receive our periodic International Bible Study Newsletter by sending me an email request to lgp@theiblf.com.

May God continue to bless your Bible study and teaching and encourage you by His Word and Spirit!

Begin your study of the Gospel of John now!! OR Go to the “Contents” page to begin with John 1:1.

Teaching the Truth in Love for the Love of God’s Word and His people,
L.G.

Mary’s Poem of Praise – Luke 1:39-56

The Bible Lessons below are from the former International Bible Lesson Commentary and International Bible Lesson by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr., which can be used for December 22, 2019. The Commentaries for these Bible Lessons can be found at: Luke Bible Lesson Commentaries and Lessons.

The Truths of Science and the Bible

“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:41).

The Bible teaches truths about the universe and us that science cannot discover from inside a test tube, under a microscope, or at the end of a telescope no matter how advanced. Modern science excludes God from its experiments, investigations, and conclusions. From the Bible, we learn that God creates everyone in the image of God. From the Bible, we learn that God creates everyone with awesome potential; people such as Moses whom God used to free the Hebrews from slavery. From the Bible, we learn that God can fill a tiny unborn baby with the Holy Spirit and babies can respond to their surroundings, for as an unborn baby John the Baptist leaped for joy in his mother’s womb. Then when full grown, the Holy Spirit in John empowered him to preach and prepare people for the coming of God’s Son into the world. From the Bible, we learn that through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit God could conceive a baby in a virgin that would be fully God and fully human before He was born. Then, unlike the false gods and demigods of mythologies and novels that are capricious and immoral, Jesus, the Son of God, lived a perfectly moral and spiritual life. He taught the truth about God and reality. Because He loved the world, He died a sacrificial death to save believers in Him from Satan and sin. The Bible teaches us the most important truths about God and ourselves; truths that do not change but reveal deeper meaning with study and prayer; truths that will make an eternal difference if we live according to them.

Jesus Christ Our God and Savior

“And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior’” (Luke 1:46-47).

The Holy Spirit inspired Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, to ask Mary, “Why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?” (Luke 1:43). Through her inspired question, the Holy Spirit revealed to Elizabeth that the child within Mary was her Lord. Mary’s first words to Elizabeth were, “My soul magnifies the Lord;” the child within her, Jesus the Messiah, was Mary’s Lord too and worthy of adoration. Mary magnified the Lord by proclaiming truths about God that would enable Elizabeth and all who would hear or read her words to see more clearly and understand with greater detail how God, the Mighty One, the holy and merciful God, would work in the world to bless and save people.

When Mary magnified the Lord, the first fact she revealed was how her spirit rejoiced “in God my Savior.” Though she did not know exactly how God would work in the world, she knew that in some way her child Jesus would grow up and be involved in saving her and all of His people. She knew that God her Savior would work in and through her Son because the angel Gabriel had said that her son would be the “Son of God” (Luke 1:35). An angel of the Lord had also told Joseph that Jesus would “save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). In the days and years ahead, Mary would learn more from others and from Jesus himself about Jesus and how He would accomplish God’s saving work. As her Savior, Mary would follow Jesus to His cross and see Him raised from the dead.

The Way to Receive God’s Mercy

“His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation” (Luke 1:50).

When we know we deserve punishment, we usually ask for mercy. Sometimes people will ask for mercy when an unjust person threatens to hurt them. After Mary learned that God had chosen her to be the mother of the Messiah, she rejoiced that many who deserve God’s just punishment would receive mercy through her Son. She proclaimed that with the conception of Jesus, God “has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever” (Luke 1:54-55). Furthermore, she declared that God’s mercy is for all who fear God.

Fearing God does not mean the cowering dread that a person might feel if they were facing a hideous, threatening monster. Because Mary knew God, she did not fear God as though God were a tyrant. From the Bible, we learn that those who fear God show forth a loving reverence and obedience toward God; while at the same time, they know that just consequences can follow disobeying or rebelling against God. A person who fears God loves and worships God. They love God so much that they do not want to disobey God or disappoint God by their thoughts or actions. They live in loving submission to the will of God. The Bible teaches that from generation to generation God offers mercy to those who deserve His just punishment, but accept His forgiving love and choose to bow in loving reverence. On Christmas Day, millions celebrate the birth of Jesus because they know they need the saving mercy that God the Father promised He would give to everyone who believes in His Word.

Please share your thoughts and ideas here on the International Bible Study Forum.

Receive our periodic International Bible Study Newsletter by sending me an email request to lgp@theiblf.com.

May God continue to bless your Bible study and teaching and encourage you by His Word and Spirit!

Begin your study of the Gospel of John now!! OR Go to the “Contents” page to begin with John 1:1

Teaching the Truth in Love for the Love of God’s Word and His people,
L.G.