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August 3 | Bible in a Year: Psalms 63-65; Romans 6

 

The Battle’s Over. Really.

We were . . . buried with him.

Romans 6:4

READ ROMANS 6:1–11

 

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For twenty-nine years after World War II ended, Hiroo Onoda hid in the jungle, refusing to believe his country had surrendered. Japanese military leaders had dispatched Onoda to a remote island in the Philippines (Lubang) with orders to spy on the Allied forces. Long after a peace treaty had been signed and hostilities ceased, Onoda remained in the wilderness. In 1974, Onoda’s commanding officer traveled to the island to find him and convince him the war was over.

For three decades, Onoda lived a meager, isolated existence, because he refused to surrender—refused to believe the conflict was done. We can make a similar mistake. Paul proclaims the stunning truth that “all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death” (Romans 6:3). On the cross, in a powerful, mysterious way, Jesus put to death Satan’s lies, death’s terror, and sin’s tenacious grip. Though we’re “dead to sin” and “alive to God” (v. 11), we often live as though evil still holds the power. We yield to temptation, succumbing to sin’s seduction. We listen to lies, failing to trust Jesus. But we don’t have to yield. We don’t have to live in a false narrative. By God’s grace we can embrace the true story of Christ’s victory.

While we’ll still wrestle with sin, liberation comes as we recognize that Jesus has already won the battle. May we live out that truth in His power.

By Winn Collier

REFLECT & PRAY

Jesus, I know You’ve won the battle over evil and darkness. Would You help me to live this out?

How are you tempted to believe that death and sin still hold power over your life? Where can you see Christ’s victory already present in the world?

 

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SCRIPTURE INSIGHT

Paul’s question in Romans 6:1—“Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase”—flows from his observation in the previous chapter that when sin increases, grace increases “all the more” (5:20). So Paul asks if grace is a license to sin. Not if we value being in the gracious care of Christ rather than in the custody and condemnation of the law (v. 21). Not when we see that what we lost in Adam now overflows in the life, love, peace, and hope that comes in the awareness of what it means to be united in and with Jesus (chs. 5-6). Mart DeHaan

 

 

 
 

Have Mercy on Me, a Sinner – Forward with Back to the Bible – August 3

Have Mercy on Me, A Sinner

Read Luke 18: 9-14

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people-robbers, evildoers, adulterers-or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast, and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Reflect

Do you identify more with the Pharisee or the tax collector?

During my teenage years, I was a good kid. I obeyed my parents and teachers, I worked and studied hard, I volunteered, read my Bible, and went to church. I did not drink or party or do drugs. I was not promiscuous.

One night at a youth group, some kids were confessing their sins and sharing their testimonies. I remember a thought that popped into my brain. “Wow, I am glad I’m not like these kids.”

Yikes. It hurts to remember that. Thankfully, I have come to recognize that this attitude is the very attitude Jesus rebuked. He got so angry at the Pharisees and called them “foolish” and “blind” and said, “Woe to you!” The people who seemed to be behaving correctly and were being “good,” were the ones that Jesus condemned.

The tax collector who was dishonest and a traitor to his own people was “justified before God” because he recognized his sin and asked for God’s mercy. He knew that without God, He’d be lost. It wasn’t a matter of outward morality. It was a heart issue.

I was guilty of pride. I was a blind hypocrite. I professed to being a Christian but acted like I didn’t really need Christ. I couldn’t see the hidden sins in my own heart.

I am so thankful for the Holy Spirit’s work in my life for convicting me and showing me just how much I need a Savior. Whether you relate more to the Pharisee or the tax collector when it comes to outward morality, we all need Jesus in order to be justified. Romans 3:23-24 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

Pray

Jesus, no matter how good I try to be, I will always fall short of Your standard. Have mercy on me, a sinner. Thank you that I am justified before God only because of You. Amen.

Move forward in your faith with more from Back to the Bible at backtothebible.org or oneplace.com. We’re also on Facebook and Twitter.

About Back to the Bible
Back to the Bible is a worldwide Christian ministry dedicated to leading people forward spiritually. Using media and technology, Back to the Bible meets people at their own spiritual level and walks with them daily into a living, growing and passionate relationship with Jesus Christ by equipping and motivating them to engage Scripture daily. With every 25-minute study, you’ll gain a better understanding of what the Bible says, what it means and how to apply it to everyday life.
About Pastor Nat Crawford
Pastor Nat Crawford is the new Bible teacher on the “Back to the Bible” daily podcast. He has master’s degrees in biblical exposition and Christian apologetics from Moody Bible Institute and Biola University. Nat completed his undergraduate studies at Grace University, majoring in biblical studies and business leadership, and went on to serve as a teaching pastor at First Free Church in Lincoln, Neb.

Nat says his passion is helping people know what they believe and why they believe it. “When this happens,” he says, “their love of God increases, and their passion for following Jesus naturally grows.”

Nat is writing a book and plans on beginning his doctoral studies in 2021. He and his wife Tiffany enjoy a full family life with their three boys: Simon, Landon, and Gracen. Nat and his family live in Lincoln Neb.

Where will you find a lake that mysteriously vanishes and reappears regularly?

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Learn More: “The Vanishing Lake,” also known to locals as Loughareema, is located a few miles from Ballycastle in Northern Ireland. Its nickname is quite apt — the small lake may be brimming with water one day, and completely dry the next. Scientists regard Loughareema as one of Northern Ireland’s most fascinating sites. It has three streams flowing into it, but none flowing out. Instead, an underground drainage system drains the water into the Carey River about 1.5 miles away. Legend has it that in 1898, a carriage tried to forge across the lake late at night in low visibility. By the time it reached the middle, the water had risen to the horse’s bellies. They became nervous and bucked around, tipping the carriage over and drowning everyone inside. To this day locals report the occasional phantom carriage sighting.

5 Lakes That Are Disappearing Before Our Eyes

Most people know that water is a precious resource. Between climate change and the needs of the world’s ever-growing population, water is vanishing more and more rapidly. Many bodies of water around the world aren’t what they once were. You may even be aware of water shortages in your area. And while some water sources are gradually diminishing, other cases are much more dramatic. The following are five lakes that are tragically disappearing before our eyes.

The Dead Sea — Israel and Jordan

Shore of the Dead Sea in Israel with a wide blue sky
Credit: aeduard/ iStock

The Dead Sea is a remarkable place for many reasons. Tourists flock to the area because you can swim in the sea and float due to the salinity of the water. The salt and mineral-rich mud are known for their health benefits, another big draw. The Dead Sea is also the lowest place on Earth at 430.5 meters (or 1,412 feet) below sea level!

Unfortunately, the water level is decreasing by about a meter per year. The water loss is primarily due to the fact that one of its main water sources, the Jordan River, was dammed in the 1960s. As the population grows, water from this river goes to maintaining crops and supporting the human community in the region. And because of the tense political climate, the potential solution of creating a pipeline from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea has been hard to implement. There’s still a lot of water left in the Dead Sea, but if you want to see this anomaly of nature and float in the water yourself, you might be smart to go sooner rather than later.

Lake Poopó — Bolivia

Lake Poopó in Bolivia with sky, clouds, and mountain reflected in the water
Credit: FernandoPodolski/ iStock

Lake Poopó is a tragic example of what can happen when humans divert too much water from a lake. This lake was once the second-largest lake in Bolivia, but now it’s all but completely dried up. Some stark aerial photos from NASA show the lake is virtually gone. This is a huge loss considering the lake saw highs of up to 3,000 square kilometers (1,200 square miles). Since the lake was always shallow, the locals are used to fluctuations in the size of the lake.

The current disappearance is not good news for the local communities that rely on the lake for fish. However, those who have been in the area for a long time have seen this before. The lake dried up entirely in 1994 because of drought and evaporation, and eventually replenished itself. So there is hope that the lake will fill back up, and the ecosystem will eventually rebuild. The rainy season in Bolivia is from December to March, so if the drought doesn’t drag on, the lake could potentially fill back up.

The Aral Sea — Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan

Rusted boats in the dried-up Aral Sea between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan
Credit: Daniel Prudek/ Shutterstock

This sea that lies on the border of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan used to be the fourth-largest lake in the world, with only Lakes Superior, Victoria, and the Caspian Sea being larger. But when the water was diverted in the 1970s, the lake slowly began to dry up, and now only 10% of the water remains. The disappearance of the water is especially distressing for communities that used to live off of the fishing industry. The BBC describes the demise of this sea as “one of the most dramatic alterations of the Earth’s surface for centuries.”

A visual reminder of the death of this lake, perhaps for people who weren’t alive before the 1970s when the lake was full, are the stranded ships that accidentally ran ashore as the water levels dropped. The mud dried, and the landscape became a desert, with the boats as relics of what once was. People who used to farm and fish in the region have had to look for other means of income, and many have struggled to do so.

Poyang Lake — China

Hill with building during dry season in Poyang Lake, China
Credit: chuyuss/ Shutterstock

Poyang Lake was once China’s largest freshwater lake. The size has always been hard to define due to the fluctuations throughout the seasons. Now, however, Poyang Lake is nearly gone due to drought and the diversion of the Yangtze River. Unlike some of the other disappearing lakes, the former lake is now an eerie grassland instead of a desert. However, if the drought continues, the land could quickly turn to sand and dirt like we’ve seen in the Aral Sea.

Some aerial photos reveal bizarre paths in the grass from people cutting through the lake bed. The disappearance of the lake certainly affects the logistics of the surrounding cities and towns. For example, the city of Nanchang used to sit right on the water’s edge. Now the shoreline is over 15 miles away. And all this change has happened in just the last century. Animal activists are especially concerned about the impending extinction of a finless porpoise that mainly lives in Poyang Lake.

Lake Chad — Chad, Niger, Nigeria, and Cameroon

Aerial view of Lake Chad with patches of land sticking out of the water
Credit: HomoCosmicos/ iStock

Lake Chad in Africa is another story of a once-enormous lake shrinking because of irrigation, climate change, and a steadily-growing population. This African lake has shrunk by 90% since the 1960s and is the water source for 20 to 30 million people. Is there any hope for restoring its waters?

Some propose routing water from the Congo River. The main problem with that is that the river is over 2,400 kilometers away (1,500 miles), and the governments of the four countries who share the lake (Chad, Niger, Nigeria, and Cameroon) are having a hard time coming to a consensus. Proponents of the plan suggest that if they can refill the lake, it would ease the crisis of nearly 11 million people in the region who need humanitarian aid to survive.

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