Greed can raise its ugly head in any area of life: in politics, in business, even in the family. Just as ugly is worthless religion. What does God value in the way of Christian service and religious activity? Are you relying on things that are worthless to God?
Nehemiah and the people continued to rebuild the wall, but not without opposition. Nehemiah’s response was the same one we should have when we encounter problems. Chapter 4, verses 8-9:
“… and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion. Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night.”
Nehemiah and the people prayed, did what they believed God wanted them to, and left the rest in the hands of God!
Chapter 5 changes focus and talks about problems among the people themselves. Some of the Jews had taken advantage of the hard economic times and had charged high rates of interest and even taken some of the other Jews as slaves to repay their debts. This was forbidden by the law. God takes a very serious view of this kind of behavior and Nehemiah dealt with it accordingly. Verses 11-13: Continue reading →
The people who had come back enthusiastic and ready to rebuild the temple, had met some resistance and gradually quit doing God’s work and, instead, got busy with their own lives.
God used the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to stir and rebuke the people about their priorities. In Haggai 1, God said:
“‘Consider your ways! You have sown much, but harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you drink, but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but no one is warm enough; and he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes.’ Thus says the Lord God of Hosts, ‘Consider your ways! Go up to the mountain, bring wood and rebuild the temple, that I may be pleased with it and be glorified,’ says the Lord” (Hag. 1.5-8).
What about you? Do you need to consider your ways? Are your priorities God’s priorities? Have you gotten “too busy” to be concerned about the things of God? Do you feel like you work hard, but everything goes into a purse that is full of holes? Could God be using circumstances to get your attention?
Verse 7b says, “All my springs are in you.” In Acts 17.28 Paul said, “… in Him we live and move and have our being.” And James 1.17 says, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above … ” (NASB).
God is the source of every talent, every ability, every blessing. Scripture tells us that He even blesses the unrighteous in many ways. The Puritans called it “common grace.” And yet, we are so easily puffed up and become proud of our achievements, our possessions, even, our children. We need to be careful to give God the glory that He and He alone is due!
Contentious and Angry
In verse 19, God again sees fit to warn us, ladies, that we can easily go from being a blessing to being a curse to our husbands and/or children.
“Better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and angry woman.”
Of course, we women are not the only ones who struggle with anger and it’s just as destructive when it’s you men.
Sometimes we truly “can’t see the forest for the trees,” as the saying goes. If we are made in the image of God, why do so many people come to wrong conclusions and false beliefs? Why can’t we think straight?
The temple has been completed and in chapter 6, Solomon prays and dedicates it to the Lord:
12 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands 13 (for Solomon had made a bronze platform five cubits long, five cubits wide, and three cubits high, and had set it in the midst of the court; and he stood on it, knelt down on his knees before all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands toward heaven); 14 and he said: “Lord God of Israel, there is no God in heaven or on earth like You, who keep Your covenant and mercy with Your servants who walk before You with all their hearts.
18 … Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built! 19 Yet regard the prayer of Your servant and his supplication, O Lord my God, and listen to the cry and the prayer which Your servant is praying before You: 20 that Your eyes may be open toward this temple day and night, toward the place where You said You would put Your name, that You may hear the prayer which Your servant makes toward this place. 21 And may You hear the supplications of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven Your dwelling place, and when You hear, forgive.
He prays for the nation of Israel and then he prays for all who will come to the temple in faith:
32 “Moreover, concerning a foreigner, who is not of Your people Israel, but has come from a far country for the sake of Your great name and Your mighty hand and Your outstretched arm, when they come and pray in this temple; 33 then hear from heaven Your dwelling place, and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to You, that all peoples of the earth may know Your name and fear You, as do Your people Israel …
Over and over we see God’s desire for “all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2.4) even here in the Old Testament.
He Alone Knows Our Hearts
Chapter 6.29-30, “whatever prayer, whatever supplication is made by anyone, or by all Your people Israel, when each one knows his own burden and his own grief, and spreads out his hands to this temple: then hear from heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive, and give to everyone according to all his ways, whose heart You know (for You alone know the hearts of the sons of men).”
“… for You alone know the hearts of the sons of men”—Jeremiah said it this way: Continue reading →
Is there any such thing as white magic? Is it OK for Christians to read their horoscopes or study astrology or numerology? Is there anything wrong with tarot cards, cleansings, Ouija boards, and palm reading?
Have you ever dabbled in those things? Would you know how to talk to someone who has?
If there is a spiritual world out there, should we be afraid of it? How do we resist those things?
1 Samuel 28
White Magic, Jesus & Resisting the Devil
1 Samuel 28:
Mediums and Spiritists
This is one of the more bizarre stories in the Bible and difficult to understand at first glance. The chapter opens by telling us that Samuel has died and that Saul has banished all the mediums and spiritists from the land. Then when God won’t answer him, he resorts to seeking out a medium himself.
How about you? How do you respond when answers to prayer are slow in coming? Do you continue to wait on God or resort to your own solutions?
We can’t put God in a box or demand that He do things on our timetable. Just because we have decided to walk in biblical love and forgiveness toward our spouse, doesn’t mean God is, immediately, going to cause him or her to change.
Just because we give financially doesn’t mean all our debt will disappear or we’ll instantly have the job of our dreams. In fact, our expectations are often part of the problem. We are to obey God out of a desire to please Him, not to get some desired result. Instead, we need to trust Him for the right result. It’s not that blessings don’t come as a result of our obedience, but our attitude is not to be one of “giving to get something.”
God has always forbidden His people to seek after spiritists and mediums.
Deuteronomy 29.29 says, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”
In fact, under the law anyone practicing such things was to be put to death! And God’s attitude about them has not changed. There is no such thing as “white” or harmless magic, witchcraft or spiritism, even if its practitioners claim to believe in God or talk about Jesus. It’s not the Jesus of the Bible. Remember, the devil Continue reading →
Have you ever said, “I don’t want to force my religion on my children. I’m just going to let them grow up and decide for themselves”? Today’s reading in Judges gives us a clear picture of the result of that kind of parenting.
But on the other side of the equation, some have made Christianity merely about keeping rules. Though often well-intended, this can drive children far from God.
If you set out to read through the Bible this year, you may be tempted to quit because you’ve gotten behind or started out late. I want to encourage you to keep going whether you just keep reading where you are or start with today’s reading. Either way you will probably read more than you have in the past. Even when it’s challenging or we do things less than perfectly, it’s still worth the effort.
Even if this is your first day visiting this blog or you just visit occasionally, we have lots of wonderful things to read and understand from God’s Word in the days and weeks ahead. So jump in and join us!
On “Forcing” Religion on Your Children
Judges 1 & 2:
A Generation Who Did Not Know the Lord
As we’ve talked about in the last few days, the nation of Israel was now in the Promised Land, but even though God had promised them complete victory, they failed to follow through and completely drive out the idol worshipers who had polluted the land and caused God to declare judgment against them. They thought they had things under control and did not need to completely obey God.
In addition, the older generation had failed to adequately teach their children about God. One of the saddest verses in the Bible is 2.10:
“When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel.”
More times than I care to think about, I’ve heard well-meaning parents say, “I don’t want to force my religion on my children. I’m just going to let them grow up and decide for themselves.” That sounds good in some ways and, to be sure, we can’t “force” our children to believe.
On the other side of the equation, we need to be careful that we don’t present Christianity as merely religion by making it all about rules. Many a parent has learned the hard way that you can’t insist on some legalistic standard that drives your children away from God.
Welcome to a new month of the“Bible in a Year”devotionals. I hope you’ll join us every day as we read through the Bible. Don’t worry if you’re here for the first time or only read occasionally. Anytime we open God’s Word we will find practical help and refreshment for our souls.
As we continue reading through the Gospels, we repeatedly find the Scribes and Pharisees looking for reasons to accuse Jesus. In today’s reading they accuse Him of failing to teach His disciples to obey the traditions of the elders.
Instead of responding, Jesus accused them of failing to keep God’s law while they condemned others for not keeping their human laws. They had turned from the worship of the true and living God to religion!
Religion or Christianity: What’s the Difference?
What is the difference between true worship (biblical Christianity) and religion? Continue reading →
Have you ever heard someone say, or perhaps thought it yourself, “I know this is wrong, but I’m going to do it anyway. Afterwards, I’ll ask God to forgive me.” David called this presumptuous sin, presuming on God’s grace when we don’t have a truly repentant heart.
In a previous letter Paul had rebuked the Corinthians for their unbiblical behavior. In verses 8-12 Paul followed up and revealed the reason he was willing to say things that were hard to say and hard to hear:
8 For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while. 9 Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. 10 For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. 11 For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner. What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter. 12 Therefore, although I wrote to you, I did not do it for the sake of him who had done the wrong, nor for the sake of him who suffered wrong, but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear to you.
Sometimes we must be willing to speak the truth in love even if it means offending someone, risking our friendship with them, or not being liked. No one wants to do so unnecessarily, but when we see a pattern of sin in someone’s life, Galatians 6 tells us:
1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Notice that even when we must speak to someone who is caught in a pattern of sin, we are to do it in a spirit of gentleness, examining ourselves first and continually, lest we fall into sin ourselves in the process.
On another note, as I reread today’s reading I started contemplating MacArthur’s notes on verse 1. In reference to the phrase “let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit,” he says, “False religion panders to the human appetites represented by both ‘flesh and spirit’.”
I believe that is the reason men and women can appear religious on the outside, even being priests or pastors or involved in ministry in some other way, while excusing drunkenness, sexual immorality, theft, or other sins. Their religious activity sometimes causes them to believe they have somehow earned a little favor or collateral with God.
On other occasions, they excuse immoral sexual appetites like adultery, fornication, homosexuality, or child molestation by rationalizing about “all the good they do.”
But perhaps the most pernicious way, religion keeps us bound up in sin is by seeing it as a system that cancels out or appeases God. Have you ever heard someone say, or perhaps thought it yourself, “I know this is wrong, but I’m going to do it anyway. And, afterwards, I’ll ask God to forgive me.” Continue reading →
God has called women to be in a role of submission in the church, as well as, in the home. That does not mean that women cannot teach and use their gifts, but Scripture does forbid us from being in authority over men in the church. In part, that means women should not be elders and pastors exercising authority over men.
In our culture, we view submission as a lesser role, but Scripture does not back that up. Galatians 3.28 says:
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
The role of submission whether in the family, in the church, or in civil society does not reflect the value or importance of the person in submission. In fact, while all three members of the Trinity are co-equal, there is submission within the Trinity. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all equally God, all eternal, all omniscient, all omnipotent, and more. But the Son willingly submitted to the Father:
“I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me” (Jn. 5.30).
“And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” (Lk. 22.41-42).
And the Holy Spirit submits to and glorifies the Son. John 16.13-14:
13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.
Submission is something we are all, men and women, called to in various ways and in various circumstances.
Within the family, while the husband is to be the leader, he is not to be a harsh, self-serving one, but a servant-leader, laying down his rights and preferences for the good of his wife and children. Continue reading →
When we go through tests and trials, there is often a roller coaster of emotions. But we don’t have to let our emotions run the show! As believers, how can we learn to live by something besides our feelings and emotions?
Also read about the meanings of God’s name, how joy follows loving discipline, and how the truths of the Gospel contain the power of God.
Our friend Job is on quite a roller coaster. In yesterday’s reading he had some of the most incredible revelation from God and in today’s reading He thinks God has totally abandoned him.
Isn’t that a picture of the roller coaster of emotions we can all experience when we are going through a test or trial? The important thing to remember is that even though the feelings are there, they’re real, and they’re often strong, we don’t have to be controlled by our emotions. By that I mean, we don’t have to let them determine the way we act and respond!
In spite of all his roller coaster feelings, Job stayed faithful to God. Remember what his wife said at the beginning, “Why don’t you just curse God and die!” (my paraphrase). But Job didn’t waver from his faith in God, even though he didn’t understand why God was allowing all this calamity.
So how can we avoid letting emotions run the show in our own lives?