April 30, 2012 Bible Study

     I am using One Year Bible Online for my daily Bible study. For today, One Year Bible Online links here.

Judges 11-12:15

     This passage is the story of Jephthah. There are two things I take away from this story today. The first is that Jephthah’s half-brothers chased Jephthah off of their father’s land because he was not “good enough” to share it with them. He was cast out by his family for something that was not his fault. It appears from the context of the passage that the community supported his half-brothers in rejecting Jephthah. Yet in their time of need, they call on him to lead them. The time that Jephthah spent as an outcast taught him the skills of a warrior and a general. As in the story of Joseph, God uses the sin of people to forge the tool that He will use to save them. Things worked out well, but we should always consider that everybody is a child of God that He wants us to love, no matter how unlovely their origins.
     The second thing I took away from this story is the danger of ill-considered promises. Jephthah vows to the Lord that if He gives him victory over the Ammonites, he will sacrifice as a burnt offering the first thing to come out of his house when he returns in triumph. I do not know what he was thinking in making this promise, but the first thing to come out of his house upon his return was his only child, his daughter. He kept his vow and the account does not condemn him for it, but neither does it praise him. The account does record his sorrow. This story reminds us that making a promise where we have not truly thought out the possible ramifications may lead us to great sorrow.
John 1:1-28

     This is the core Biblical passage for adopting the doctrine of the Trinity and perhaps for understanding what the Trinity is (as best we can do so with our finite minds). This passage clearly says that Jesus is “The Word”. It, also, says that the Word was with God and that the Word was God. There is no easy way to wrap our heads around how a “person” can be with another “person” and, also, be that other “person”. Once you add in other passages that tell us that the Holy Spirit is, also, separate from God, yet part of God, you have the Trinity.
     We further have a passage where John the Baptist denies being the Messiah, or the return of Elijah that was expected for before the coming of the Messiah, or even the prophet “like Moses” that they were expecting to announce the Messiah. Right after telling them that he is not the one they are expecting to come and announce the coming of the Messiah, he tells them that he is one shouting in the wilderness to clear a path for the coming of the Lord. This passage as used by John is clearly a reference to announcing the coming of the Messiah. So, why does John deny being the prophet they were expecting to come and announce the coming of the Messiah, when he then says that he is someone coming to announce the coming of the Messiah? Perhaps he was trying to tell them that their expectations of the Messiah were wrong. That the Deliverer God was sending was going to be completely different from their expectations. To what degree do we need to have our expectations of what God’s will is altered so that we can serve His desires in this world? I do not know the answer, but we need to be alert to substituting our own desires for God’s will.

Psalm 101:1-8

     This psalm contains something that I am working on:
I will lead a life of integrity
in my own home.
I will refuse to look at
anything vile and vulgar.

     Just because no one else knows what we are doing does not mean that it is Ok. Things we look at in privacy effects the way we interact with others, even if they know nothing about it. The advent of the Internet has made possible the ability to look at stuff that we would never do if there was a risk of someone witnessing us doing is. It doesn’t have to be porn, there are other things on the Internet, and elsewhere in the world, that qualify as “vile and vulgar”. The psalmist lists other things that those who wish to be righteous should avoid. Then he tells us how to accomplish this:
I will search for faithful people
to be my companions.

If we seek out others striving to be righteous to spend time with, we will find we have less time, and opportunity, to look at the vile and vulgar. We will, also, have less desire to do so. It is well known that you tend to spend time with people who share your interests. What is less well understood is that you tend to acquire an interest in the things that the people you spend time with are interested in (and lose interest in those things they are not interested in). I must seek out more faithful people to be my companions, so that I will be more faithful.

Proverbs 14:13-14

     Today’s proverb reminds us that the comedian may be hiding sorrow and that when they stop telling jokes for the audience, the grief will still be there. Although, that is not the whole of its message. It, also, tells us that while we can break someone out of a funk by getting them to laugh, if their funk was because of some sad occurrence the grief will return when the laughter ends. We need to be aware of this and sensitive to the sorrows of others. We must remember that just because someone who suffered loss is laughing now, it does not mean that they will not be crying later.

April 29, 2012 Bible Study

     I am using One Year Bible Online for my daily Bible study. For today, One Year Bible Online links here.

Judges 9:22-10:18

     And here we have the outcome that Jotham, Gideon’s son, predicted for Shechem and Abimelech. After three years, the people of Shechem have had enough of Abimelech as ruler and rebel against him. Abimelech responds to this threat to his power in the same way he dealt with his half-brothers, he gathers his army and attacks the city of Shechem. After a two day battle, Abimelech defeats the people of Shechem, kills them all and razes the city. But Shechem was not the only city to rise in revolt. When Abimelech attacks the next city, one of the defenders dropped a millstone on his head. And so the people of Shechem pay for supporting Abimelech in his treachery against his half-brothers and Abimelech pays for his treachery. After Abimelech’s death, there were two more judges over Israel, who apparently led the Israelites to follow the Lord’s commands for 45 years between them.
     After the death of the second of these judges, the story tells us that the people of Israel abandoned worshiping the Lord completely in favor of the practices of those around them. As a result of this God turns them over to oppression by their neighbors. We do not normally think of this, but the oppression that the Israelites suffered was no worse than that of the peoples surrounding them. The rulers of those surrounding nations oppressed their own people as much as they oppressed the Israelites. Oppression is a natural result of the worship practices that the Israelites adopted from their neighbors. When people practice the sexual licentiousness and child sacrifice of those religions, they gradually become slaves of the ruling class. It was only when the people of Israel turned away from those practices that they were able to overthrow oppressive rulers.

Luke 24:13-53

     Again we have a story that one would not expect those making it up to tell. Two of the disciples are returning home to Emmaus after being in Jerusalem. When a man they do not recognize comes up to them on the road and asks what they are talking about. They tell him that they had hoped that Jesus was the Messiah, but that the religious leaders had had Him crucified. They continue by saying that some women said that Jesus body was gone and that He is alive. Finally they say that some of the men went to the tomb and confirmed that the body was missing. If they were making this up, the story would say how they were sure He had risen and that this confirmed that He was the Messiah. But that isn’t how the story goes. The story says that Jesus called them foolish and proceeded to show them from the Old Testament that this was what was prophesied about the Messiah. As it was, they did not even recognize Him as Jesus until he broke bread with them. I do not fault them for their reaction, because it is the way humans really are. I know there have been many times when I have been oblivious to what God was trying to tell me. Once they realized what had happened, they were so excited that they immediately returned to Jerusalem to tell the others, even though it had been so late in the day that they had insisted that Jesus not continue on to a destination further down the road.
     When they get back to Jerusalem they discover that Jesus had also appeared to Peter. Even with the experiences and testimony of Peter and these two, when Jesus does appear, they are all convinced He is some kind of vision or apparition until He takes some fish and eats it. It is only now that they finally start to understand what He has been teaching them all of these years He has been with them. I get this, I really do. I cannot begin to number the times in my life where, when I look back at things that happened, I realize that there were things going on that I completely missed at the time. There have been so many missed opportunities because I have not been paying attention to God. I really want to pay closer attention going forward so that I do not miss future opportunities to serve the Lord.

Psalm 100:1-5

Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth!
Worship the Lord with gladness.
Come before him, singing with joy.
Acknowledge that the Lord is God!
He made us, and we are his.[a]
We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good.
His unfailing love continues forever,
and his faithfulness continues to each generation.

     This morning this psalm just fills me with joy. I am glad today is a Sunday morning and that I will be going to worship services shortly.

Proverbs 14:11-12

The house of the wicked will be destroyed,
but the tent of the godly will flourish.

There is a path before each person that seems right,
but it ends in death.

     Notice how it is the “house” of the wicked. A house is such a permanent structure that we think it will remain for a long time, yet this proverb tells us that that of the wicked will be destroyed. But, also, notice that it is the “tent” of the godly that will flourish. The godly recognize that everything in this life is temporary and fleeting, but the result of this is that God blesses what they establish and keeps it going beyond the limited ability of mortals to do so.
     And don’t we wish that there was a big sign like the clip-art I posted before some of the choices we make? Unfortunately, there isn’t, so we must spend much time in prayer and seeking council of those around us before we make a decision, because so often the decision that seems right leads to destruction.

April 28, 2012 Bible Study

     I am using One Year Bible Online for my daily Bible study. For today, One Year Bible Online links here.

Judges 8:18-9:21

     This passage recounts what happened after Gideon defeated the Midianites. The story tells us that after the battle Gideon refused to become ruler of Israel. He reminded the Israelites that God was to be their ruler. Gideon did however gather gold from the plunder taken in order to make an ephod which he placed in his hometown. The story does not tell us what Gideon’s purpose was in doing this, but I will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he made this ephod to serve as a reminder of God’s greatness. However, the story tells us that the Israelites began to worship the ephod rather than God and that it became a trap for Gideon and his family. This is the danger of symbols. Too often the symbol becomes the object of worship rather than remaining a guide to help us worship God. Despite the fact that the Israelites began worshiping the ephod, they did not abandon the practices of worship that God had commanded until after Gideon’s death. After the death if Gideon, the Israelites began worshiping Baal. What makes this significant is that Baal worship involved child sacrifice and sexual orgies. I did a little reading about Baal and the word Baal means “Lord” or “Master”. As one source pointed out, there is no reason that such a title could not be applied to the God of Abraham. This also suggests how the Israelites fell into worship of Baal time and again. They succumbed to the argument, “We worship the same god.” I, also, found this article which makes a comparison of those today who support abortion on demand and sexual licentiousness to Baal worshipers. It is a thought that has occurred to me in the past.
     Gideon had over 70 sons by various wives and one son, Abimelech, by a concubine from Shechem. Abimelech convinced the leaders of Shechem to support him as ruler over Israel. They gave him financial support and he hired mercenaries with it. With the support of the mercenaries Abimelech put to death all of his half-brothers but one, Jotham. Jotham makes a prophecy against Shechem, one might even call it a curse. Jotham tells the people of Shechem that if they have acted honorably towards Gideon and his descendants by making Abimelech king over them, than he wishes them joy of the relationship. But if they have acted in bad faith towards Gideon and his descendants, he wishes that they destroy each other. I would call this a prediction based on human nature. The leaders of Shechem chose to offer their support to Abimelech because he was related to them (his mother was from Shechem). Yet Abimelech killed his half-brothers for no reason than that they threatened his power (they had as much claim, if not more, to rule as he did). Is it not likely that at some point he would turn on the leaders of Shechem when, inevitably, their interests came into conflict with his?

Luke 23:44-24:12

     The first thing we see is that the way that Jesus faced His death led the Roman centurion overseeing His execution to worship God. It should be our goal to face hardship and death in a manner that has a similar effect on those who witness us doing so. I strive to behave that way, I do not know if I succeed. The next thing we have is the account of Joseph of Arimathea arranging for the burial of Jesus’ body. What strikes me today is that Joseph was a member of the Jewish high council, but he did not agree with its decision. Up until now, the picture we have been presented with in the Gospel of Luke is pretty uniformly one of the Jewish leaders being in opposition to Jesus. Here we receive an indication that the Jewish leaders were not uniform in their resistance to the teachings of Jesus. This is a reminder that no group is in complete agreement on every subject and that the Spirit of God can reach into even the most unlikely of places.
     Then finally, we have the women going to the tomb and finding it empty. This is one of those passages that should give those who think the Gospels are just made up stories significant pause. In that culture women were not considered reliable witnesses, yet in this story it is the women who first resurrection and told everyone. The men thought their story was nonsense and all but Peter (other Gospels mention John as well) ignored it. Peter goes to the tomb and sees it empty and see the cloth the body had been wrapped in lying there empty. But Peter does not go and proclaim that the women’s story is true. He goes home wondering what happened. The men are not portrayed in a very flattering light in this story. If I was making up a story like this, I would tell it so as to make me look like a grand hero, not like a bumbling fool who had to have every little bit spelled out to me in explicit detail time and again until I finally started to sort of get the picture after the unreliable women had long understood what was going on.

Psalm 99:1-9

     This psalm calls on us the glorify God and worship Him. It tells us that He is a lover of justice. It speaks of those who called on the Lord and it tells us:
O Lord our God, you answered them.
You were a forgiving God to them,
but you punished them when they went wrong.

We must remember this. God will answer us when we call on Him, but He will punish us when we go wrong.

Proverbs 14:9-10

     The first of these proverbs tells us that failing to acknowledge our guilt is foolishness. Those who laugh at the reaction of those they have offended are fools. It is wisdom to acknowledge fault when you have done wrong to another and to seek their forgiveness and to be reconciled. The second tells us that we cannot fully share someone else’s grief, or joy. We should always temper our advice to those experiencing these emotions with this understanding.

April 27, 2012 Bible Study

     I am using One Year Bible Online for my daily Bible study. For today, One Year Bible Online links here.

Judges 7:1-8:17

     This is the account of Gideon’s defeat of the Midianites. God tells Gideon that he has too many men. That if the Israelites defeat the Midianites with that many men, they will take the credit for the victory themselves and not give the glory to God. Is this not a natural human tendency? We feel overwhelmed by our situation, we cry out to God and God sends us a message as to how we can and should act to get out of the situation. When things are resolved, we often take credit for our accomplishment, even though we only took action because of God’s prodding.

Luke 23:13-43

My New Testament reading today is Luke’s account of Pilate’s attempts to release Jesus and the crucifixion. Even as Jesus is in agony on the cross, He asks the Father to forgive those who put Him there. We are called to follow His example. Can we forgive, even as we are suffering from the wrong others have done to us?
The two men who were crucified alongside Jesus exemplify two different ways that people face hardship. I have known people like both of these. The first is the person who, even in the midst of suffering will mock all that is good and can only see it as having any value if it can do something for them. The second knows that they themselves were evil and deserve the suffering they are experiencing, yet will act to shield others from the same suffering. This story tells us that God recognizes such last minute repentance and will reward it. As long as we are aware of this world there is opportunity to repent and be forgiven.

Psalm 97:1-98:9

Lately, I have been somewhat concerned because I see things happening in the world that call to my mind the Biblical prophecies of the end times. This passage reminds me that the coming of the Lord will be a cause for rejoicing for those who love Him.
Shout to the Lord, all the earth;
break out in praise and sing for joy!…. For the Lord is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with justice,
and the nations with fairness.

Proverbs 14:7-8

Today’s proverb tells us that one does not learn anything useful by taking advice from those who are foolish. It also points out the importance of understanding the consequences of our actions.

April 26, 2012 Bible Study

     I am using One Year Bible Online for my daily Bible study. For today, One Year Bible Online links here.
     Today, I read the story of how Gideon was called to lead the Israelites. I can certainly sympathize with Gideon. God calls him to lead the Israelites into battle against the Midianites, yet he is not the eldest of his father’s sons and his clan is not one of prominence. Why would anyone listen to him? The story tells us that Gideon pulled down his father’s altar to Baal, yet it was the town’s people who demanded that Gideon be delivered to them to be killed and his father who says that if Baal is really a god, let Baal deliver punishment to Gideon for the destruction of the altar.
     Even though Gideon was given a sign when the Lord first called him, he still puts out the fleece twice before leading the Israelites into battle against the Midianites. I understand why. It is difficult to be sure what God is calling us to do. I struggle constantly with knowing what God’s will for my life is. I wish to serve the Lord, yet I do not know what He wants me to do. I am striving to become someone in motion so that God can guide my path.

     Today, my New Testament reading was Peter’s denial, Jesus before the Sanhedrin and then before Pilate and Herod. I am so glad that we have the story of Peter’s denial because I have found myself acting as Peter did here, lacking the courage to acknowledge that I am a follower of Christ. There have been times when this story has provided me with the courage to overcome my fear and stand up and say that “Yes, I am a follower of Christ.” But this story has also provided me with the solace that God will forgive after those times when I was unable to muster that courage. I am seeking to emulate the Peter of Acts when he tells the Sanhedrin that he cannot help but speak of what he had seen and heard.

     I started reading a psalm each morning several months ago and I still do so outside of the reading I do to prepare this blog. I read the psalm I am writing this about a week or so back and at that time it did not have the same impact that it had this morning. This psalm brings lifts me up to rejoice in worshiping the Lord, but it also reinforces the lesson I received from the story of Gideon that I must strive to find how God wishes me to serve Him in my life today. Yesterday, I was thinking that my blog was becoming rote and kind of empty, that I needed to put more of myself into it. This morning, my Bible Study is made more meaningful by my seeking to write what the Scripture I am reading means to me.
     Praise the Lord! Lord show me how you wish me to serve you. Let me praise your name in all I do.

     There are a couple of ways to take today’s proverbs. The first is to look at them as a way to evaluate the actions of others. Certainly, we can see that those who are honest are consistently honest. In addition, we find that those who have lied to us once, have usually lied to us frequently so that we can trust nothing they say. With the second proverb, I am sure we all know people who are constantly making fun of things they do not understand and cannot be made to understand. Yet there are others who quickly understand the perspective of those they disagree with.
     But there is a second way to understand these proverbs. That is to look at them in our own actions and how what actions we choose effect who we are. The first proverb tells us that if we tell the truth, it becomes easier to tell the truth, and if we lie, we will do so more and more. One lie leads to a second, and that second to a third, and so on. On the other hand, if we tell the truth, even if it is hard, it becomes easier to do so in the future. With the second proverb, if we mock the beliefs of those we disagree with, it becomes harder to understand why they believe what they do and thus becomes harder to convince them of their error (if they are indeed in error). The second part shows us that if we respect the beliefs of others, even when we are sure they are wrong, we can more readily learn (because perhaps we will realize that in a particular case it is ourselves who are mistaken).

April 25, 2012 Bible Study

     I am using One Year Bible Online for my daily Bible study. For today, One Year Bible Online links here.
     The Old Testament passage today is the story of Deborah. Once again, Israel falls away from God and once again they are oppressed and call out to God for deliverance. This time, the judge God raises up is a woman. She calls on one of the military leaders of Israel to go out to battle against the oppressors. She agrees, but tells him that as a result the credit for the victory will go to someone else. This is indeed what happens. Israel is victorious on the battlefield, but the enemy general escapes and is later killed by a woman at a place where he thought he could safely hide. What is interesting to me about this passage today is that it is told from the perspective that women are of lesser consequence than men, yet places the credit for the victory to two women without the slightest bit of sheepishness on the part of the writer.
     I am curious about something in this story, in the narrative of the story, Deborah tells Barak to call out “10,000 warriors from the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali”, yet in the song celebrating the victory several other tribes are belittled for not joining the battle. If they were not called upon to join the battle, why were they criticized for not doing so?

     The New Testament passage today has Jesus telling the disciples to gather a traveler’s bag and their money and prepare for what was coming then recounts Him going to the Mount of Olives and Judas’ arrival to betray Him. Jesus reminds the disciples that they did not take anything with them when He sent them out to preach the Gospel and they had no needs. Then He tells them that now they should gather equipment together for travel, including a sword. Yet when the disciples tell Him that they have two swords among them, He tells them that it is enough. The only thing I can figure from this is that Jesus was telling them that they should be prepared for the coming persecution. What is the point of this exchange?
     Then Jesus and the disciples went to the Mount of Olives. Here Jesus tells the disciples to pray that they will be able to resist temptation. Then He goes and prays to avoid the suffering He knows is coming, yet surrenders Himself to the will of the Father. It is a reminder of what should be our prayer. We should pray for the outcome we desire, yet be willing to accept the outcome that is God’s will.
     When Judas arrives to betray Jesus, the disciples appear to think that the time that Jesus will lead them to throw out the Romans has come. Jesus tells them to put up their swords and surrenders Himself to the authorities.

     The psalm today talks of those in positions of power who take advantage of those without power because they think that no one will hold them accountable. The psalmist tells us that even if no one on earth will hold them accountable, God will. This passage tells us that God will mete justice out against those who oppress the powerless. It tells us that if we walk in righteousness, God will be our protector.

The proverb today talks about how arrogant talk will lead to problems. Talking about how great you are will be used against you later. Whereas those who wisely choose their words will be safer for it. The second proverb tells us that hard work is required to gain success.

April 24, 2012 Bible Study

     I am using One Year Bible Online for my daily Bible study. For today, One Year Bible Online links here.
     My Old Testament reading today starts in Judges with when all of the leaders who had experienced the 40 years in the wilderness have died off. The passage says that God did not allow Joshua to drive out all of the people living in the land to test future generations as to whether they would follow the Lord’s commands. It recounts that when the leaders from the wilderness died off, the Israelites began to worship the gods of the peoples living around them and intermarrying with them. The passage tells us that when the Israelites began to worship other gods, God gave them over to a conqueror from among the peoples around them. When the Israelites called out to God, he raised up a judge to deliver them from their oppressors and lead them in following His commands. We can see the same tendency in the Church today. God will raise up a leader (or a group of leaders) who will lead a revival and the Church will grow. As long as those leaders are active in their ministry the revival will continue. Then those leaders will either die or retire and the Church will lose its vision for ministry and start to stagnate.

     The New Testament reading is Luke’s account of the Last Supper. Here Jesus instructs the disciples to break bread and share it among themselves in remembrance of His sacrifice (other Gospel writers have Him doing the same with the wine). Then something interesting happens. Jesus tells them that one of them will betray Him. They begin to discuss among themselves which of them would do such a thing. This discussion devolves into an argument over which of them will be the greatest. Jesus interrupts this argument to explain how in the Kingdom of God things are different. He tells them that the greatest in the Kingdom of God is not the one being served, but is instead the one serving. I have never thought of it before, but reading this passage reminds me of the story of Mary and Martha. I think that perhaps we should bring up what Jesus says here when we talk about that story.
     Finally, Jesus tells Peter that Satan is trying to lead him away. Peter proclaims his willingness to follow Jesus to jail. Peter’s braggadocio is probably a follow through from the argument over which of the disciples would be the greatest. In this passage, Jesus tells Peter that he will indeed deny Jesus, but instructs him to strengthen the others when he has repented. I think there is an important lesson here for all of us. We will from time to time fail to live up to God’s will for our lives, but that does not mean that we cannot repent and return to being faithful followers of God.

     The Psalm today calls on us to sing God’s praises in the morning and the evening. I am writing this blog in order to proclaim God’s love in the morning. Perhaps I should start writing a second blog entry in the evening? Whether this psalm is calling me to start writing a second blog entry each day or not, it raises up my desire to praise the Lord. The second part of this psalm reminds me of a hymn that I cannot quite remember the words of. But the phrase, “mightier than the violent raging of the seas,” strikes a chord within me of that hymn and how much it moves me.

     The second proverb this morning reminds me of something that I have seen often. The proverb says that those who take the wrong path despise the Lord. I have found that many times the philosophy of atheism (or other anti-Christian beliefs) follows a person choosing to live a sinful lifestyle rather than the other way around.

April 23, 2012 Bible Study

     I am using One Year Bible Online for my daily Bible study. For today, One Year Bible Online links here.
     My Old Testament reading today is the introduction to the Book of Judges. It gives a quick summary of Israel’s conquest of the promised land. It repeats a theme that was brought up in the Book of Joshua, the failure of the Israelites to completely drive out the people who were living in the land when they got there, as God had commanded. God sent a messenger to them telling them that He would no longer drive the people’s out of the land before them because the children of Israel had failed to follow His commands. The messenger told them that as a result the gods of those people would be a continuous temptation to the children of Israel. The people of Israel remained faithful to God while those who had seen His wonders in the desert and in the early days of settling in the land still lived. This passage is a reminder of the consequences of not being faithful in fulfilling the Lord’s commands.

     Today’s New Testament passage is Jesus’ concluding comments about His prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem, Judas’ agreement to betray Jesus and the arrangements for the Last Supper. Jesus tells us that we must not become distracted either by our entertainments or by our worries about this life. We must stay alert and strive to follow God’s will in all aspects of our lives. We must continue in prayer that God will give us the strength to stand before Him in the face of these trials.
     All the passage tells us about Judas’ decision to betray Jesus is “Satan entered into” him. The best explanation I have seen for this is that Judas was trying to force Jesus to openly display His power to overthrow the Romans. Whatever the reason, Judas had decided that his own agenda was more important than that of God. It is certainly a common human failing to place our own priorities in the place of God’s.
     Finally, Jesus gives the disciples detailed instructions on how to find a place to prepare the Passover meal. Had Jesus made previous arrangements for this? Or did He divinely know that this man would be there and that the owner of the house he served would be willing to let Jesus and His disciples use his upper room? I do not know and apparently neither did the disciples, but they found things as Jesus had said and made the arrangements. They followed Jesus’ instructions without knowing if the owner was expecting them. We need to act similarly. When we feel the instruction of God we must act, whether we know if others are receptive or not.

The Psalm passage today reminds us of how short our lives are and that despite the sufferings we often experience that God is the source of our joy. It points out that we should fear God. God should inspire us with fear because of our sins. We do not deserve the mercy that He shows us. I struggle with this continually. I do not fear God as much as I should. As we continue to read, we are reminded that God is a shelter, a place of safety, to those who love Him. I fail Him so often, yet He continues to offer me forgiveness and His love. I cry out to the Lord that He direct me in the path He wishes me to follow.

     The proverb today is “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” I really like how this translation puts the second part of the proverb, “Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.” Discipline is a product of a parent’s love for their child. Parents who do not discipline their children are demonstrating a lack of love for their children. Children instinctively know this. Children who behave badly a lot are looking for their parents (or someone) to express love by disciplining them. Children who are confident in their parents’ love are well behaved. Many of the problems in our society are the result of parents who did not love their children enough to take the time to discipline them.

April 22, 2012 Bible Study

     I am using One Year Bible Online for my daily Bible study. For today, One Year Bible Online links here.
     My Old Testament study today is where Joshua calls the children of Israel together to renew their covenant with God. Joshua recounts the history of the people of Israel going back to Abraham’s father. Reading this account, it is amazing to me how much Joshua saw in his lifetime. Joshua saw the power of the Lord displayed over and over again from the plagues in Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea to the power of God when the Israelites invaded Canaan. After recounting these stories, Joshua calls on the people of Israel to choose what god they will serve, whether that is the God of Abraham or the gods of the Sumerians or those of the Egyptians, or those of the people of Canaan. Here Joshua says something that I have tried to make my motto since the day I got married. “But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua warns the Israelites that if they choose to serve the Lord and fall away to worship other gods, God will punish them harshly. At this time, the people of Israel rededicated themselves to serve the Lord.
     This passage is a reminder to us that we must rededicate ourselves to God periodically. We must remember that if we do not take the time to renew our dedication to serve God, we will over time start to drift away from Him. God will provide us with reminders of this, but we must respond to those proddings by the Holy Spirit. I received a fresh push this morning in our congregational worship service this morning. These Bible studies are only the start of what God is calling me to do.

     Today’s New Testament reading is the story of the widow’s mite and Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus uses the example of this widow to show us that we should give sacrificially. It is not enough to give out of our excess, we need to give to the point that we need to sacrifice at least some of our comfort and more.
     The next part of the passage is Jesus foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem. My Dad often talked about how many Biblical prophecies are about more than one future event. I think that this passage is one of those passages. Certainly on the surface it is about the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.. Yet, when I read this, I cannot help but think about things that have been in the news lately. When I read Jesus telling the disciples, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’[b] and saying, ‘The time has come!’ But don’t believe them.” I cannot help but think of the recent controversy surrounding Harold Camping. Jesus then tells us that there will come a time of great persecution. When I read this, I think about what is happening to Christians in many Muslim countries, but not just in Muslim countries in many other countries as well. I, also, think of the declaration by the Obama Administration that they will fine those religious institutions that fail to pay for abortion coverage for their employees. I do not know what is coming, but I fear that the Church may soon be facing persecution in this country. On the other hand, I trust that God will give me grace to face that if it should come. Jesus tells us that the Spirit will give us the words to speak if we face this persecution.
     Jesus tells us that when we see Jerusalem surrounded by armies we will know that the time of its destruction has arrived. This was certainly fulfilled in 70 AD, but was this, also, a prophecy about today (or sometime in the future? I do not know, but there are certainly aspects of what is going on in the Middle East that could easily develop into something that would fit what Jesus says in this passage. As I said, I do not know, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. I know that God is in control of all of history and it will happen as He wills, no matter what humans may do to try and change that path.

     In today’s Psalm, the psalmist expresses his feeling that God is angry with him and punishing him. Yet he concludes by proclaiming praise to the Lord. We must remember this. The apostle Paul instructs us to give thanks to God in all circumstances. I will strive to do this in my life.

     Today’s first proverb tells us that if we spend our time with the wise, we will become wise, but if we spend our time with the foolish we will get into trouble. The second proverb is related to that. It tells us that trouble follows those who sin, while righteousness is rewarded by blessings. I have certainly seen how these are true throughout my life.

April 21, 2012 Bible Study

     I am using One Year Bible Online for my daily Bible study. For today, One Year Bible Online links here.
     The Old Testament passage that I did my Bible study on today contains the response of the tribes that settled east of the Jordan to those that settled west of the Jordan concerning the altar that the former had built. Those settling east of the Jordan were afraid that later generations would see the Jordan as a divide between them as a people and that those west of the Jordan would not permit those east of the Jordan to worship at the Tabernacle. They built this altar as a witness between the tribes that those living east of the Jordan were as much the descendants of Israel, and God’s promise to Abraham, as those living west of the Jordan. If one looks at the history of human relations, this was a legitimate fear. This passage reminds me of a dilemma that we as humans who wish to worship the Lord face. It is human nature that we need symbols to remind us of aspects of God and to inspire us to worship God. However, we have a tendency to make the symbols the object of worship. The challenge that each generation faces is that of maintaining the symbols that remind us of God without worshiping those symbols as God.
     The passage continues with Joshua calling the children of Israel together to give them his final words, as he knows that he will die soon. He reminds them of what God has done for them and will continue to do for them. He calls on them not to adopt the customs of those non-Israelites still living in the land around them. God is faithful to fulfill His promises, but if we fail to follow His laws, disaster will follow. If we start to worship and serve things other than God, we will suffer for that action. This reminds me of why I have started attempting this daily Bible Study blog, not because I am a wonderful blogger and have something to bring to others, but because it is a discipline that will help me do a daily Bible study and will prevent me from spending my time doing other things that perhaps I should not. Hopefully, God’s Spirit will use this blog to help others in their study of the Bible, but as long as it helps me in my Bible study, it has served its purpose.

     The New Testament reading continues with yet another group of Jewish religious leaders attempting to trap Jesus. Some leaders that did not believe in resurrection thought they had found a logic flaw in the concept of the resurrection. If there is resurrection, what happens when someone has been married to more than one person who predeceased them, which of their spouses will they be married to in eternity? Jesus’ answer is that the flaw is in the assumption that people will be married after they are resurrected. He goes on to show how the Old Testament supports the concept of the resurrection. This story reminds us not to accept the assumptions hidden in questions from those who do not share our beliefs. The questions will often be phrased in such a manner as to hide an assumption that is not supported by our beliefs.
     After dealing with the question that the Sadducees had asked Him, Jesus turns it back around and asks them a paradoxical question. We are not told how those He asked the question responded and Jesus does not answer the question. There are those who think that Jesus is saying that the Messiah may not be a descendant of David, but I think that Jesus is saying that such “conundrums” are a result of over analyzing the Scripture. He goes on to warn the people against the teachers of religious law who want to be respected for their knowledge of the Law. The question He just asked is the sort of question they often spend their time considering. He points out that they often practice public piety and ostentatious obedience to the letter of the law, yet live lives that violate the very spirit of the Law by cheating those with little power. We see this time and again, people who proclaim their credentials as “men of God”, who sin when they think they are out of the public eye.

     The Psalm today extols the virtue of worshiping God. It is a reminder to me that if I start my day by worshiping God, and continue to do so throughout the day, my day will be filled with joy. The psalm continues by pointing out that God has promised that David will always have an heir. However, if David’s descendants fail to keep God’s commands, God will punish them harshly, but even so, God will keep His promise and maintain an heir to David.

     Today we have three proverbs. The first can be taken several ways, but I will choose to see it as a comment on how when someone carries a message from one person to another and does not convey the message accurately, they can get caught up in trouble that they would otherwise not be part of. On the other hand, someone who accurately conveys a message from one party to another in a dispute can help bring resolution to the dispute. The second proverb talks about the importance of accepting and acting on criticism. If you do something wrong, listen to those who tell you how you should have done it and learn. The final proverb is about the joy that comes from realizing your dreams, but points out that using evil means to achieve those dreams will bring more harm than the benefit of realizing your dream.