Tag: idolatry

Stoking our heart’s fire!

Scripture Reading for March 8: 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 a steady fire all night.  If no one stoked the fire, it would go out and the house would quickly cool down.

Godly leaders stoke the fires with the wood of prayer and pour on the coals of God’s Word to keep zeal burning through the long night.  But when the leader is gone and the fire is not being stoked with fresh wood and coal, complacency sets in and our hearts cool. After the death of Joshua, the elders that knew him, kept the fire burning until they passed away. The next generation arose without a personal experience of God’s mighty miracles and deliverance.  Their hearts turned towards idols.

There are seven cycles of judges reflecting this pattern of broken covenant when no godly leader was present.  When the people cried out to the Lord, He would raise up another leader who would deliver them.  There would be 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)  I see this same cycle also present in our culture today. 

Who was a godly leader or family member that stoked the fire of God’s love and presence in your life? How is God using you to stoke the fires of faith in your family, church or workplace? How would your rate your heart temperature? What can you do today to keep the fire burning during the long night?

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God’s stiff-necked people!

Scripture reading for January 30: Exodus 32-34

Exodus 32:9 “And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”

The nation of Israel quickly turned away from their commitment to obey God alone.  When Moses was on the mountain in the cloud and fire for 40 days, 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.  From them Aaron fashioned a golden calf as the god that led them from Egypt.  They made hasty plans for a festival, built an altar and sacrificed.  They bowed down to the calf-god made by Aaron and God’s anger and jealousy was aroused!

God told Moses about the idolatry and His plans to destroy them.  God’s verdict–“They are a stiff-necked people.” (Exodus 34:14)  God had just written the tablets on which He emphasized with two commands His order to have no 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 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.  These were precious promises that caused these patriarchs to live by faith and walk by faith.  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 were told to strap on swords and execute 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.  Sin is deadly, particularly idolatry!  God was jealous because Israel was His Bride!  The Messiah, God Son, would be born through her.

What forms does idolatry take in our culture today? Why are God’s people sometimes characterized as stiff-necked?’ What does the Levites using their swords to kill the idolater tell you about our response?

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Jesus offended the religious leaders

Scripture reading for August 15th: 2nd Kings 15-16, Matthew 21

Matthew 21:12-16 “And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and He overturned the tables of the money-changers and seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you make it a den of robbers.” And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple and He healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He did and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the son of David!” they were indignant, and they said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes, have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies You have prepared praise’?”

After His triumphal entry into Jerusalem for His last Passover week, Jesus went to the temple and found corruption and idolatry there. Jesus drove out the money-changers and those selling sacrifices decreeing what Scripture had decreed: God’s House would be a ‘House of Prayer’. Those in charge of the temple were indignant! Their source of income was being disrupted by someone outside their ranks! Jesus then did many miracles of healing in the temple but these religious leaders were offended and sought to eliminate Jesus. Hardened hearts and offense go hand in hand and close the door to Heaven’s message of grace!

Matthew 21:43-44 “Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

Prayer: Father God, Thank You for making Your House a House of prayer for all nations. Thank You for cleansing my heart from idolatry, and making me a person of prayer for all people. I desire to see fruit from Your indwelling me and my abiding in You. Use me to fulfill Your plans and purposes in my time and generation to pass the torch of faith to those still to come.

2nd Kings 16:2-5 “Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. And he did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord his God, as his father David had done, but he walked in the way of the kings of Israel. He even burned his son as an offering, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel. And he sacrificed and made offerings on the high places and the hills and under every green tree.”

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Do I really want to know?

Scripture reading for August 11th: Hosea 11-13, Matthew 19

Matthew 19:16-22 “And behold; a man came up to Him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And He said to him, “Why do you as me about what is good? There is only One Who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to Him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness. Honor your father and mother, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to Him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”

Jesus was approached by a rich, young man who was very religious and seemed intent on finding the path to eternal life. He asked Jesus what deed would assure him of eternal life. Jesus pointed the man to God, Who alone is good, and to God’s commandments as a starting place. The man asked Jesus what commandments were important. Jesus responded with the prohibitions against murder, adultery, stealing, lying, and dishonoring your father and mother. He threw in the great commandment to love your neighbor as yourself. This young man said he had kept these but felt something missing. Jesus then advised him to sell his possessions and give them to the poor and follow Him. This exposed his sin of idolatry. He left in sadness–and our Lord was also sad for him!

Matthew 19:28-29 “Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne; you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for My Name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.”

Prayer: Father God, You are Good and Your goodness had led me to repentance and life through Jesus Christ. Thank You for giving me the Holy Spirit to write Your Word on my heart that I might love God alone and love my neighbors as myself, fulfilling Your commandments. Thank You for Truth that leads to life eternal. Use me today to share the Good News of a merciful Savior Who promises such great reward!

Hosea 13:5-6 “It was I Who knew you in the wilderness, in the land of drought; but when they had grazed, they became full, they were filled, and their heart was lifted up; therefore they forgot Me.”

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Powerful examples!

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!

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Ezekiel’s graphic warning!

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!

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Designing a religion you can control!

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!

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The lost connection!

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)

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Stiff-necked disconnection!

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!

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The Lost Book!

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!

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