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Showing posts from September, 2018

Sunday

Bible Reading: Malachi 1-4

“Bad Habits are Hard to Break”

BIBLE READING: Nehemiah 11-13; Psalm 126 DISCUSSION Why is it so hard to break bad habits?  We understand that these habits are bad for us, yet we continue to do them.  Is it because of negative peer pressure that we continue to fail?  Maybe it is just ingrained in our DNA to keep falling into its trap?  Maybe it is simple selfishness?  Isn’t that more of a reasonable answer?  We might continually look for excuses that have nothing to do with personal responsibility, yet none of them hold any weight.  As we go back to the book of Nehemiah, Nehemiah has left Jerusalem after the completion of the wall to go back to work for King Artaxerxes.  While there the people of Jerusalem fall right back into the same bad habit that got them into the captivity in the first place.  They stopped honoring the Sabbath day by doing business, the priesthood had again become stuck in corruption and some of the men had found wives and bore children from among the pagan nations.  Nehemiah must go back to Jeru…

“Respect For The Word”

BIBLE READING: Nehemiah 8-10 DISCUSSION                 After the walls of Jerusalem were completed in an amazing fifty-two days, the people of God rejoiced at the work that had been completed.  To commemorate the significance of what had happened, Ezra the Scribe, gathers all the people together into the square to read the book of the Law of Moses to them.  Ezra read from early morning until mid-day and all the people, not only listened to the Word of the LORD, but they understood it as well.  It appears they have a new-found respect for God and His message to the people.  That got me to thinking, today people will pay hundreds of dollars for tickets to attend concerts of their favorite musicians.  They will listen to the song for two and half to three hours and then cry out at the top of their lungs for an encore.   People will also pay for tickets to sit through movies and ballgames for hours and enjoy every minute of it, in some cases crying for more.  Yet, when it comes to the word…

“Facing Criticism”

BIBLE READING: Nehemiah 6-7 DISCUSSION             A few years ago, I received a phone call from a family member asking me if I was okay.  I replied that I was fine and asked how she was doing and after a few friendly pleasantries she expressed her concern of making sure I was okay.  I continued to let her know that I was fine, as a matter of fact that day specifically I had felt well.  I began to worry and ask why she seemed so concerned.  She proceeded to tell me that she had heard that I had been fired that day and she was just making sure I was alright.  I was in shock.  I let her know that to my knowledge I had not been fired.  To be sure, I had called all my elders to make sure that they had not fired me without my knowing about it.  After a few desperate phone calls, I assured her that I had not been fired, that she must have been misinformed.  Someone had mistakenly begun that rumor, but thankfully there was no truth to it.  As Nehemiah reaches the soon completion of the walls o…

“Nehemiah’s Pattern for Success”

BIBLE READING: Nehemiah 1-5 DISCUSSION                 Nehemiah is one of the greatest leaders in Jewish history.  He wasn’t a King or a judge or even a prophet, he was just a humble cupbearer for King Artaxerxes.  How could a man who was a servant in an entirely different nation become one of greatest leaders in Jewish history?  Passion…Nehemiah had a passion for his people and his God.  As soon as he heard that his home town Jerusalem was in ruins, he wept, mourned and prayed for days for King Artaxerxes to grant his permission to return home and do what he could to rebuild his city.  As he makes his way back to Jerusalem to undergo the project of rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem, the task at hand is much greater than he thought.  Not only was he faced with the task at hand, he also must deal with critics and an enemy who would try to stop him for succeeding.  How did he do it? How was he able to succeed in such a short amount of time?  Obviously, he had God on his side, but beyond th…

“The Trap of Sin”

BIBLE READING: Ezra 7-10 DISCUSSION                 What would you think of an individual who had been warned of the dangers of burning themselves on a stove, only out of curiosity, places their hand on the stove and severely burns themselves?  What would you think of that same individual if he touched the stove a second time after burning himself?  We might say that person was a few bricks shy of a load.  Well essentially that is exactly what the Israelites do.   During the days of the conquest of Joshua, God warned them to not intermarry with the nation in whose land they were taking.   The Israelites did not listen to the command of God, causing the introduction of idolatry into their culture. The idolatry continued so much, that it was one of the main reasons Israel was sent into captivity in the first place.  Now, as they have returned home to begin the long process of the rebuild, they have once again fell into the same trap of intermarrying among the pagan nations.  In Ezra 9, we…

“I Can Make A Difference!”

BIBLE READING: Esther 6-10 DISCUSSION
                Sometimes God places us in unusual places and circumstances so that we can make a difference for Him.  Esther was a simple Jew who through some strange trail of events is made Queen of the Persians.  While God is using her, she and Mordeci uncover a plot by Hamaan to destroy the Jews.  God uses Esther to become a leader and save the Jews from extinction.  Esther’s story is one of hope and motivation for us as Christians today.  Although we may not be called upon to save a nation, God can and will use us to make a difference in His kingdom.  It could be so easy for us to seem small and insignificant to God as we are only one of millions, yet we are still one!  One that God created with a purpose.  One that God sent His Son to die for our sins! One that God plans on using to make a difference!  Esther did what she could, where she was.  That is still all that God asks of us today.
Prayer Requests:________________________________________…

Sunday

Bible Reading: Esther 1-5

“A Glimpse”

BIBLE READING: Zechariah 8-14 DISCUSSION Again, we find ourselves among the prophesies of Zechariah to God’s people. Chapters 1-8 record visions prophesying the eventual internment of God’s people to the Babylonians.In chapters 9-14 Zechariah gives us a glimpse of the kingdom that will never be destroyed as Daniel prophesied about in Daniel chapter 2. The messianic kingdom will be led by a king riding on a donkey (9.9), and his people will reject him. Zechariah also tells us in chapter 11 that Jesus will be a rejected shepherd (Luke 17.25, John 10.11). That shepherd will not always be rejected though and through his authority a New Jerusalem (the church, heaven) will be established.The New Jerusalem will have a river of life as it represents the Garden of Eden and that river will be healing to all creation. Through mercy and grace, Christ gives us that healing in his blood and that’s the key to the New Jerusalem both on Earth and in heaven. Prayer Requests:______________________________…

“Dreams”

BIBLE READING: Zechariah 1-7 DISCUSSION Reading Zechariah is a wild ride. Like life it is not always linear. The flow of thought is hard to follow, but the theme remains the same throughout.Life doesn’t fit into neat orderly patterns. Zechariah asks us to look above the chaos and hope for the coming kingdom, which will motivate faithfulness in the present. Zechariah is divided into two main parts, chapters 1-8 and then 9-14.In the first eight chapters Zechariah has a series of dream visions and then we find their interpretations in chapters 7-8. These dreams, like some we have, are strange and vary from patrolmen, horns, blacksmiths, and even a woman in a basket being carried by a stork! While these are often hard to understand, they all drive home the point that God’s people have strayed from him. He describes their captivity in Babylon as a woman trapped in a basket being flown east to captivity. The Hebrew writer talks about how sin can trap us, just like Zechariah’s vision.God just …

Haggai

BIBLE READING: Haggai 1-2 DISCUSSION                Haggai is a book that should be studied alongside the book of Ezra seeing how both deal with the return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple.  Ezra 1:5 tells us about the remnant of people that returned were very eager and had a noble purpose of rebuilding the temple, but very quickly became lax in their efforts to rebuild the temple and began working on their own houses and belongings and neglected God’s temple.  Enter Haggai…                The work on God’s temple had come to a complete standstill for nearly 16 years.  Ezra 3:1 tells us that they were very united when they started; Ezra 3:10-11 relays to us about these people laying the foundation, and Ezra 4:1-3 shows us that they were unwilling to compromise.  Ezra 4:4-5 tells us that they also had to deal with very powerful opposition to what they were doing.  But, as time passes, these people became slack and indifferent (Haggai 1:2-4, 9).  Pay close attention, and you’ll see that …

“ Are You Facing Opposition?”

BIBLE READING: Ezra 4-6 & Psalms 137 DISCUSSION As the reconstruction of the House of God commenced, the people had rebuilt the altar and began to lay the foundation of the Temple.Then, the returned exiles began to face a great deal of opposition from some Samaritans.Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build and bribed counselors against them to frustrate their purpose…” (Ezra 4:4-5).The opposition pushed so hard that the Israelites were forced by King Artaxerxes to halt the work until Darius reinstated it years later.I’m sure it must have been hard to those Israelites; to have been so excited to begin the process of starting over fresh with a new life and new House for God, only to face criticism, opposition and even hostility as the seek to do what was right.Sound familiar doesn’t it?As Christians, we are doing our best to live the best life we can for the Lord as we try to do what is right.However, it seems the more motivated we ar…

“ You Don’t Know What You Got, Till It’s Gone…”

BIBLE READING: Ezra 1-3 DISCUSSION As the exiles return to Jerusalem to begin the reconstruction of the temple of God, they must have been overcome with emotions.Ezra says that many of the people shouted and praised the LORD as the foundation was being laid (Ezra 3.11).Yet there was also some of the priests and Levities who had seen the first temple so overcome with emotion that they “…wept with a loud voice” (Ezra 3.12).Ezra continues to say that both groups cried out so much and so loud that you could not distinguish who was who.It must have been a very emotional day for everyone, but why?I remember as a teen listening to a song by the band Cinderella entitled “You Don’t Know What You Got, Till It’s Gone”.That seems to have been the sentiment of the nation of Israel.The Temple signified Jehovah God for them and they took it for granted by falling into idolatry.When they were in captivity, their privilege of worship had been removed because of their sin.After seventy years of no Temple…

“ Anticipation Of An Answer”

BIBLE READING: Daniel 10-12 DISCUSSION Prayer is a major part of the Christian faith, yet most Christians feel like their prayer life is inadequate.One of the reasons why most feel as though their prayer life is not what it should be is because we don’t receive an answer as fast as we would like.The prophet Daniel is known for his prayer life.Even in the midst of the threat of being thrown into a den of lions, he continues his normal ritual of prayer.In Daniel 9 we have recorded for us one of the prayers that Daniel prayed after reading from the letter form Jeremiah.Within this prayer we see confession of sins, humility and an anticipation for an answer.Notice Daniel’s final thoughts in this prayer, “Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called …

Sunday

Bible Reading: Daniel 7-9

“ Weighed in the Balances”

BIBLE READING: Daniel 4-6 DISCUSSION One of the strangest stories of the Bible is found in Daniel 5.King Belshazzar is enjoying his fill in a massive party that entailed drinking and probably a lot of rated R activity.All the while they are praising all the various gods of gold, silver, bronze, wood, stone and probably anything else they could imagine.Amidst all their revelry, the fingers of a human hand appear out of nowhere.The fingers proceed to write some words on the wall, causing the king to have his color changed, his limbs give way and his knees to knock together (I personally think that would have been hilarious to see).Unable to understand the inscription that was written, the King hears of Daniel has the gift of dream interpretation, so he calls him to interpret the saying.Daniel reveals to the king the saying, “MENE MENE TINKEL PARSON”.It means “Thou have been weighed in the balances and been found wanting.”That very night the king’s life was taken from him.Today, I want us …

“ Courage in Action”

BIBLE READING: Daniel 1-3 DISCUSSION Courage is defined as mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.  As we read the first few chapters of the book of Daniel, courage is a word that comes to mind.  Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were all friends who were faced with great fear, yet they were able to have the mental and moral strength to withstand whatever danger that the mighty Babylonians had to throw at them.  Stolen away from their home and ripped away from their families, these young men were able to exhibit a faith that most of us have only dreamed of having.  They denied the good gesture of the King to have them eat at his table because they did not want to be defiled.  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego defied the king yet again when they refused to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s golden stature and were thrown into the fiery furnace.  How is it that these four young men would have the courage to be able to look fear and death in t…

Joel

BIBLE READING: Joel 1-3 DISCUSSION The book of Joel is divided into three chapters and follows a basic outline: 1.) The Consequence of Disobedience, 2.) A Call to Repentance, 3.) The Promise of Blessings. In chapter one verses 10-12, Joel describes his people as wine and oil and wine that has dried up.He is telling God’s people that there are no sacrifices to offer because of a plague of locusts and limited rain. As Christians, we have to be careful not to become spiritually dried up. As the Psalmist said “…but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither; whatever they do prospers.” – Psalm 1.3.
Joel 2.12-13 calls for a rending of hearts rather than garments. Jesus taught this lesson when he quoted Isaiah, “their lips honor me, but their hearts are far from me.” We have to be careful to not be like the Israelites and just have a re…

“ The Water of Life”

BIBLE READING: Ezekiel 46-48 DISCUSSION As the vision of Ezekiel ends, God gives him a glimpse of what the future of this Temple will bring.The vision that he revives is one where he is standing at the door of the Temple and watching as water flows from the threshold.This water continues to flow from the areas of the Temple trickling into a river that will flow into the sea.The interesting aspect of this vison is that there is no source of a river that flows near Jerusalem, therefore we must gather that this part of the vision is symbolic of what is to come.As Ezekiel continues, he is carried into the flow of the water.As he wades the water he progressively gets deeper and deeper as he goes, to the point that it is so deep he could swim in it.The water continues to flow into the Arabah and enters the sea, bringing fresh life as it flows to all the living creatures.Another interesting fact is that this sea would be the Dead Sea, in which no life is sustainable.What does all this mean to …

“ The Importance of a Holy Priesthood”

BIBLE READING: Ezekiel 44-45 DISCUSSION As God further reveals this vision to Ezekiel of the future Temple, He has some special instructions to the Levites.As we know, the Levities were the priests of the nation and were responsible for making sure that all the offerings and sacrifices of the people were being done in the appropriate way.Even though these priests were ordained by God, there was still a possibility of them being corrupt and corrupting the entire process of the worship and sacrificial systems.We have already seen from the history of the Israelites, from men like Nadab and Abhiu the sons of Eli, as well as Abijiah and Joel the sons of Samuel, that it was possible for the priesthood to be corrupt.God wanted to make sure that the Levities understood the importance of holiness when it comes to conducting the sacrifices and the worship of the people.In this vision that God is giving to Ezekiel of this new Temple, he takes Ezekiel 44.15-31 to remind them of the responsibility t…

“ Seeing The Glory of the Lord”

BIBLE READING: Ezekiel 42-43 DISCUSSION As the book of Ezekiel closes out, God is giving Ezekiel a tour of the Temple that is to come in the post exilic period.In Ezekiel 43, God reveals to Ezekiel His glory as it fills the Temple.Even Ezekiel declared that it was reminiscent of what he saw when God originally called him by the Chebar canal. Ezekiel seems to have been overwhelmed with his senses at first; he hears the “glory of the God of Israel” coming from the east as the sound of “many waters”.Then the Spirit of the LORD lifted him up in to the air and carried him into the inner court of the Temple”.Finally, he beheld the “glory of the LORD” filling the Temple.As a priest before a prophet, Ezekiel would have been very familiar with what the original Temple of Solomon would have looked like, yet this experience had been different than anything he had had before.The word “glory” here is also defined as “honor” in the original Hebrew. It is used to denote “a physical weight of wealth and…

Sunday

Bible Reading: Ezekiel 40-41

“ The Promise of Abraham Remains”

BIBLE READING: Ezekiel 38-39 DISCUSSION Centuries before Ezekiel ever existed, God made a promise to Abram as He was leaving Ur of the Chaldees on a journey of self-discovery and providential purpose.That Promise that God made to Abraham has served as the core of Jewish theology ever since. During the famine of Jacob, God’s promise remained.Through the slavery of Egypt, God promise remained.All the while, during the conquest of Canaan by Joshua, the promise remained.During the glory days of King David and Solomon, the promise was still remembered.During the day of the wicked kings of Judah and Israel, the cries of God’s prophets and the destruction of their Temple and city, for that small remnant, the promise remained.As God describes this battle within the two difficult chapter in Ezekiel, there is one theme that remains and is found in Ezekiel 39.25-29; the promise remains.Even as we see the sinless life of Christ as He lived and died for our sins, paying the way that we can become Hi…

“ The Transformation Process”

BIBLE READING: Ezekiel 35-37 DISCUSSION These messages of Ezekiel are messages of hope for the future.God would in time transform His people and bring them back to their land of Promise (Ezekiel 36.24).Ezekiel lays out this transformation process that the Lord gave to him.Today, within this same process, we can see how Christ transforms every sinner who places their trust in Him.First, God will cleanse them from their sin (Ezekiel 36.35).Today, when believers confess their sins, they are cleansed with the blood of Jesus.Next, God says that He will place His spirit within them (Ezekiel 36.26-27).When a believer has his sins washed with the blood of Jesus and becomes a Christian, He gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit.This is the spirit of God living within us; we are not our own but are now the Temple that He lives within (I Corinthians 6.20).Then He says that the people would “loathe yourselves” because of their sins (Ezekiel 36.31-32).When true Christians come to understand the price …

“ The Watchman”

BIBLE READING: Ezekiel 32-34 DISCUSSION As God continues to use Ezekiel as his prophet, he reminds him of the important role he plays as Israel’s watchman.A watchman looks out for someone, protecting them and warning them of any dangers that come their way.It is Ezekiel’s responsibility to warn the Israelites of the impeding judgment that awaits if they do not repent of their wickedness and turn back to God.If Ezekiel warns them and they come back to God, then there is cause for rejoicing.If he warns them and they refuse to listen, then God will hold them accountable for their negligence.However, if Ezekiel fails to warn the people and they suffer God’s wrath, then God will hold Ezekiel accountable for his negligence on being their watchman.The message for us is simple.We all know someone who is lost because of their sin.As God’s watchmen today, it is our responsibility to warn them (in the spirit of love and meekness Galatians 6.1-3).If we fail to warn them or at least introduce them t…

“ Hooking the Sea Monster”

BIBLE READING: Ezekiel 28-31 DISCUSSION Ezekiel 29-32 contains 7 messages that God has given to Ezekiel to deliver to the Jewish exiles and the Egyptians.Strangely enough, even after the harsh treatment that the Egyptians inflicted on the Israelites while they were slaves in Exodus, the Israelites have always looked to Egypt for help when they needed it.Warren W. Wiersbe, in his commentary of Ezekiel, states that “the longer the Jews were away from Egypt, the more they idealized their experiences and forgot about the slavery and toil” (Wiersbe, 157).God had already warned them not to trust in the Egyptians for help through the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 30.1-2; 31.1) and he continues with the warning through Ezekiel.Within these four chapters God is using metaphors to describe how HE will deal with the Egyptians.Specially in Ezekiel 29.1-16, God is revealing what will happen to Hophra, the Egyptian Pharaoh.Hophra is compared to a giant crocodile (sea monster) that is roaming around the Nile…