Scripture reading for November 24th: 1st Corinthians 7-10
I chose my life theme from going through Army officer’s leadership school. A key leadership principle that stuck with me was “Set the Example!” I was taught that one of the most powerful influences that a leader could have on others is their example. Jesus Christ modeled for us and his disciples by living a life centered on doing God’s will and serving others. The Bible records many examples that are not so good as well. Someone has said, “if you are not good for anything else, you can always be a bad example!”
In 1st Corinthians 10, Paul used some bad examples as warning for believers. Paul exhorted the Corinthians to remember the Israelites of the Old Testament. They had some great spiritual experiences with the Lord leading them by the cloud and fire and taking them through the Red Sea. They got to eat “manna” from heaven and drink water from the “Rock” for forty years while they wandered in the desert. They had God’s appointed leader, Moses, praying for them. However, God was not pleased with them! (1st Corinthians 10:1-5)
In spite of being supernaturally delivered by God from Egypt, many of them brought their idols with them! They were taught by God to be true to their wives, but many were sexually immoral as they worshiped these idols. Many grumbled against God and died from the bite of poisonous snakes and by the destroying angel of death. Their hearts were not right with God in spite of all the supernatural power that they witnessed. They thought they were right with God because of His blessings.
We should learn from their example. (1st Corinthians 10:8-10) America is a land of idols! Sports stars, entertainment figures, soap operas, movie stars, popular music stars and the like all serve as idols. We are sexually immoral and glorify sexual freedom that mocks God and His word because we are idolatrous!
Grumbling against God because of unbelief was also a characteristic of the Israelites. That grumbling kept them out of the land of promise and a whole generation died in the desert. These examples should drive us to Christ Jesus. He is our escape from sin, death and temptation. He is always faithful and delivers those who depend on Him!
Scripture reading for August 22nd: Ezekiel 16-19
In this chapter God explained how He saw the nation of Israel and how they were given life by Him. They had been born in sin and were covered with iniquity but God had mercy on them. God Himself had given the command “Live” and they received life! (Ezekiel 16:6-7) They grew up to become His beautiful bride and He clothed them in fine linen clothes and gave them fine jewelry. They were given ear rings and nose rings and even a crown for their head. They were to be a bride of royalty! (Ezekiel 16:10-14) In fact they became His queen and their fame spread among the nations!
Then a strange thing happened. God’s Queen decided to become a prostitute. She had become proud and trusted in her beauty and fame! She went up to the high places and spread her beautiful garments and offering sexual favors to all who passed by. She took some of her expensive jewelry and made cheap idols and engaged in prostitution with them! (Ezekiel 16:15-18) She even offered her sons and daughters to the idols by sacrificing them in the fires! What a strange and twisted mind this beautiful woman had!
On top of all that, instead of being paid by her lovers, she paid them to come to her! (Ezekiel 16:32-34) She had paid for favors from the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians and even the Philistines! All of this behavior would bring wrath upon His people! (Ezekiel 16:37-40) She would reap the fruit of her illicit activities by being handed over to her lovers. Those lovers would strip her and leave her naked and bring destruction on the land. God’s hope was to turn His Queen back to Him again.
As we think about this story, we must heed its warning! Many in the church today are compromising their devotion to Christ and His Holy word. They are justifying their sexual idolatry and still claim to belong to Christ. They throw their children into the fire by using abortion to free themselves from the responsibility of raising godly offspring. They claim God’s favor and blessing when they are really under His wrath because they have never truly repented. (Romans 1:18-20) Maybe it’s time for another reading of this graphic prophetic warning!
Scripture Reading for March 14th: Judges 17-21
Religion is man’s attempt to do something that makes him feel good about himself and his own relationship with God. But there is nothing we can do to improve our relationship with God! God is holy and has set up a very narrow way for man to approach Him. In the time of the Judges, the nation of Israel had slipped away from the Word of God and each person was doing what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 17:6; 21:25) The nation had forgotten God and gotten lost in self-directed religion.
Judges 17 records the story of Micah from the tribe of Ephraim who had stolen money from his own mother. He heard a curse pronounced by his mother and confessed his crime. The mother forgave him and then took some of the silver he returned and had an idol made for her son! Micah built a shrine, made an ephod, and installed one of his sons as a priest. (Judges 17:1-6) This violated everything that God had established for His people in Israel. Only the Levites could be priests and there were to be no idols. (Deuteronomy 12:1-9)
One day, a Levite stopped by Micah’s house and he hired him to be his “father and priest”. (Judges 17:10) Later some spies from the tribe of Dan stopped by Micah’s house and they inquired of the Lord through Micah’s Levite. He told them what they wanted to hear. They made this Levite a better deal: Why not be a priest for a whole tribe, rather than a household? The Levite accepted happily because the ‘price was right’!
It is easy to slip away from a true relationship with the Lord. Micah and his mother were descendants of Ephraim, one of the sons of Joseph and they had a rich heritage of faith. But materialism and money took them away from faith. There was stolen money, money to buy an idol, money given to appease the rebellious son, money to hire the Levite, and more money to hire him away from Micah’s family! When you have no King, you can end up in contemporary religion doing what’s right in your own eyes! Watch out today!
Scripture Reading for March 10th: Judges 1-5
When I was younger, we heated our home on the farm with wood. When it was extremely cold, we had a small bin of coal to help with the heat through the long winter nights in Iowa. One of the jobs right before bed was to go down and stoke the fire. More wood would be added and ashes removed so a good flow of air would cause the fire to heat up and blaze. A scoop of coal would be tossed in too. A short time later the damper was shut so all the coals and logs would glow with heat all night. If no one stoked the fire, it would go out and the house would quickly cool down.
Godly leaders stoke spiritual fire with the wood of prayer and pour on coals of God’s Word to keep zeal burning. But when the godly leader is gone the house cools down. After Joshua passed, some elders stoked the fire for a time. They passed without stoking the fire for the next generation!
After the death of Joshua and the elders, Israel drifted into sin and idolatry. God got angry and sold them into slavery to an oppressing nation. The people cried out to the Lord and He raised up another leader who would deliver them. Then there was a time of peace during the life of that leader (Judge). After the leader’s death, the cycle would begin again. (Judges 2:10-19) This was repeated seven times in the Book of Judges!
There is a great need for godly leaders in the church who will stoke the fire again and connect the next generation to God! A godly leader teaches and lives out God’s Word and sparks revival in a home or church. That leader can be a father or mother, pastor or Sunday School teacher, or a janitor who is passionate for the Lord. Will you stoke the fires of the Spirit today by praying and reading God’s Holy Word? May God anoint you afresh with the Holy Spirit and fire from on high and bring new connections for the next generation! (Matthew 3:11)
Scripture reading for January 30th: Exodus 32-34
Moses was on the mountain in the cloud and fire for 40 days. He received the tablets with the 10 Words from the Lord. The people came to Aaron, who was left in charge, and asked for gods who would lead them. Aaron gave in quickly and asked for gold earrings and ornaments. Aaron had soon fashioned a golden calf and the people wildly worshiped it.
God spoke to Moses about the idolatry. (Exodus 32:8-10) God’s verdict–“They are a stiff-necked people.” Stubborness is as the evil of idolatry and rebellion is as the sin of divination. (1st Samuel 15:23) God is jealous! (Exodus 34:14) God had just written the tablets on which He emphasized no other gods before Him and to make no idols. (Exodus 20:3-6) Moses smashed the tablets in holy anger indicating the breaking of God’s Word by the very people who had sworn to obey! (Exodus 32:19; Exodus 24:3)
Moses, however did pray and intercede with God, asking Him to spare the people. He asked on the basis of God’s reputation and promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God listened but judgment still fell on those who sinned.
Moses called for those on the Lord’s side and the Levites stepped up. They strapped on swords and executed those who participated in the idolatry, even if it was their brother, friend or neighbor! (Exodus 33:27-28) Three thousand were executed that day. God was jealous! Israel was His Bride! From her would come His Son, the Messiah!
This loving and compassionate God (Exodus 34:6-7) does not tolerate idolatry and sexual immorality. Lying often goes with them. The sword represents a slaying of the flesh! The flesh must be crucified and stubbornness and idolatry are works of the flesh. (Galatians 6:19-20) The sword of the Spirit, the Word of God brings conviction which can lead us to repent and forsake idolatry! Let’s stay connected with God and His grace through Jesus our Lord. May the Word of God cleanse us from all stubbornness and idolatry!
Scripture reading for April 16: 2nd Kings 22-25
Josiah became king of Judah when he was just eight years old! By the time he was 26, he was ready to begin what was to be the last revival in the land of Judah before the captivity! Josiah was a king who did right in God’s eyes and tried to follow the Lord in obedience. He was concerned for the temple, which had fallen into disrepair. While helping with the restoration of the temple, Hilkiah, the high priest found the Book of the Law which had been lost and ignored. The king’s secretary, Shapan read the Book, and then took it in to the king to read it to him. As the king heard the Word of the Book, he was humbled and tore his robes. He realized that God’s anger was against them because of their disobedience!
Josiah sent the leaders Huldah the prophetess to seek counsel from the Lord. She told them of God’s coming judgment and how the Lord was merciful towards King Josiah because he humbled himself. King Josiah called the elders together and they went up to the temple where he had the lost Book read in their presence. They renewed the covenant of the Lord that day by pledging themselves to the Lord. (2nd Kings 23:1-3)
Where do we end up when we lose track of the Book? First, the temple of God will be in disrepair! Without God’s life-giving Word, things decay fast! Death and sin do their destructive work among God’s people without continual contact with the Book! Second, idolatry will fill the void. The idols had crept into the temple of the Lord! Josiah’s revival of reading the lost Book brought recognition and destruction of the idols in the land. (2nd Kings 23:4-7) A key element was the response to the Word of the lost Book. Conviction brings repentance that leads to true change of direction. Humbling and response from the heart is what God is looking for.
Have you lost track of God’s Book? Why not get back on track with your life today by responding to this reading as the Word suggests? Now is the right time to make the change! Humility and repentance is the right posture to receive grace from the Lord! He is watching and waiting to restore and heal you! You’ll never be ashamed of responding as Josiah did!
Scripture reading for April 5th: 1st Kings 9-11
“The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but man is tested by the praise he receives.” Proverbs 27:21
Fame and fortune bring lots of praise from the lips of men. These blessings can easily lead our hearts away from faith in the Lord. God warned the Israelites that when they entered the promised land and settled down and became prosperous, they would be tempted to forget God. (Deuteronomy 8:10-13) In a sense, prosperity and fame can be a more difficult test than sexual lust. Solomon found this to be true.
After Solomon finished dedicating the temple and achieving all he had desired to do, God appeared to him a second time. God promised that He would hear the prayers said at the temple and watch over it. God then warned Solomon against turning away from Him and going after other gods. (1st Kings 9:6-9) God understood the test that Solomon would face as his fame and fortune grew.
Solomon was soon headed down a wrong path. His heart was not obedient to the Lord. He left the Caanites in the land and put them in forced labor. Solomon married foreign women and took 700 wives and 300 concubines from among the nations. God had warned that their hearts would be led astray to idolatry. (1st Kings 11:1-6) Solomon’s heart was not fully committed to the Lord and he did evil in God’s sight! He built high places for these gods of his foreign wives and they offered sacrifices, further angering God.
God raised up adversaries against Israel. Hadad the Edomite and Rezon from Aram (Syria) were both hostile towards Israel. One of Solomon’s own officials, Jeroboam, son of Nebat, also rebelled against the king. Solomon tried to kill Jeroboam, but he fled to Egypt.
We all think that it would be wonderful to have what Solomon enjoyed, but we must be reminded of how our hearts are tested by this. The pride and power of prosperity can make one as drunk as wine! God is jealous (Exodus 34:14) and will not tolerate idolatry. Many mighty have fallen through pride and idolatry!
Pray today for someone who has fame or fortune, who is in a position of authority and influence. Pray for God’s grace to protect and keep that person from falling away and leading others astray.
Scripture reading for June 10th: Acts 7:30-50
Stephen’s sermon defense to the rulers of Israel who crucified Jesus and now were plotting to get rid of him was taken from their own Scriptures. Stephen went on to show how the Moses that the Israelites had rejected was picked by God 40 years later to be their deliverer. He was sent to them with signs and miracles and led them out of Egypt. (Acts 7:35-36) Moses also prophesied that God would raise up another prophet like him from his own people.
While Moses was on the mountain of God getting the Ten Commandments, the people rebelled by making a golden calf. They began to worship the works of their hands and turned away from God. God gave them over to the worship of the creation and idols that they made. Their rebellion would eventually send them to captivity in Babylon. Stephen quoted Amos 5:25-27 showing that God knew about the rebellion and promised to punish them.
Stephen was being used by God to instruct these men, showing God held the Israelites accountable for their idolatry. They had always rejected His prophets and refused to follow His ways. Even now, these men were rebelling against the same God by persecuting those who were preaching Jesus Christ as Lord and performing signs and miracles in His name. They had rejected God’s chosen leader Moses and had also rejected the prophet like Moses that God raised up, Jesus! They were in danger of being given over themselves to their own idolatry of the Law and the temple!
Stephen used Isaiah 66:1-2 to show that God had already stated that He dwelled in heaven and that any earthly house could not contain Him. These truths were made plain by Stephen’s preaching to those who were ruling in Jerusalem. But truth will either bring conviction and repentance, or bring hardening and God’s judgment. Stephen’s job was simply to present the truth in the power of the Holy Spirit and let the people choose their response. How are you at listening to God’s truth when you are living outside of it? Do you like it when God reveals an area of rebellion in your own life? Is Jesus the leader you are following?
Scripture reading for April 7th: Luke 12:8-34
There’s an old bumper sticker that characterizes many people’s worldview: “He who dies with the most toys wins!” I used to subscribe to this line of thinking before I had my worldview altered by the Bible and an encounter with Jesus. I was out to make a fortune and be rich. I wanted to be one of the biggest farmers in my county and to be looked up to and recognized. Although I am not proud of it now, I even went to church to help further that goal!
Jesus Christ challenged that worldview over two thousand years ago and it seems that many in the American church need to listen to Him again on this subject. “Someone in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbiter between you? Then He said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:13-15)
Greed takes many different forms and subtly can attach itself to people. In a materialist society, we tend to identify success in life with what belongs to us. It can start small, with wanting to wear the brand-name clothes and shoes! We may feel that others won’t notice us unless we wear Nike and Wranglers for example! Or it may be that we want to eat at the best restaurants to be seen by the rich. Jesus warned them further, “Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable are you than birds!” (Luke 12:23-24)
Greed can easily become an obsession that takes our focus away from God. It is equated with idolatry in another place in Scripture. Jesus used the story of the rich farmer building bigger barns and making no preparations to meet God to drive His point home to those who would listen. (Luke 12:16-21) Death comes suddenly and all our possessions will be left behind and our soul left in hell if we are not rich towards God! Dying with the most toys can mean the biggest loss of your life! If necessary, repent and ask Jesus for mercy and a new vision of real living!