August 1, 2015 Bible Study

For today, One Year Bible Online links here.


Proverbs 20:13-15

    I am not sure what the writer intended but the middle verse reminds us of the danger in an economy where bargaining over the price of everything is common. In such a situation we are rewarded for being dishonest. Buyers are encouraged to deceitfully downplay their interest; sellers are encouraged to deceitfully say that something is better than it is. It is better for society that things be sold at the same fair price to all who wish to buy.
    The third verse reminds us that finding someone who will give us wise advice is more valuable than any treasure we can find. A short study of the professional athletes who are bankrupt a few short years after their careers ends, despite the many millions they earned over that career, shows us the truth of this.


Psalm 25:1-15

    I found my prayer for today, and one which would be good to pray each day:

Show me the right path, O Lord;
point out the road for me to follow.
Lead me by your truth and teach me,

Actually, this whole psalm is one which it would be good for me to meditate on. The Psalm begins by reminding us why we give our lives to God, why we trust in Him. No one who trusts in God will be disgraced. Instead it is those who rely on deceit who will be disgraced (note: this means that if you trust in God you need to avoid deceit).
    God will show us the path we should follow. He will teach us the truth which He will use to lead us in the way we need to go. God will mercifully forget out youthful, and not so youthful, sins because He is merciful. If we keep our eyes on God we will avoid the traps which our enemies have set for us.


Romans 15:1-22

    If we are strong in our faith we should be sensitive to those who think things we find acceptable are sins. We should strive to please our neighbors so as to build their faith. Since Christ accepted us in our sins we should strive to accept others in their sins. Of course, when Christ accepted us He also began transforming us so that we would no longer sin.


2 Chronicles 30-31

    Hezekiah called for the people of Judah to celebrate the Passover, which had not been done in many years. However, not enough Levites and priests could be purified in time to hold it when the law declared that it should be held, so Hezekiah and his advisers decided to hold it a month later. In addition, Hezekiah sent messengers throughout the territories which had been the Northern Kingdom inviting the people to come celebrate the Passover.
    Most of the remaining northern Israelites laughed at the messengers, but a number chose to come. As a result of the spiritual revival which occurred as a result of this celebration the people went out and destroyed the idols and pagan shrines, not only in the areas of Judah, but throughout the land which had been Israel.
    So, let’s recap. Hezekiah called on the Levites and priests to purify themselves. They responded to his call and rededicated themselves to serving God. Once they had purified themselves they reached out to the people and led them back to God. All together the people, the Levites, and the priests held a celebration of God which resulted in spiritual renewal through the entire land. This is a model which we should seek to follow.

July 31, 2015 Bible Study — The Earth Is the Lord’s and Everything In It

For today, One Year Bible Online links here.


Proverbs 20:12

    God gave us ears so that we could hear and eyes so that we could see. So, let’s USE them! That means listen to what people say and pay attention to what we see.


Psalm 24:1-10

    The first verse of this psalm sums up why we serve the Lord:

he earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.
The world and all its people belong to him.

Everything we have belongs to God, including ourselves. They are His to be used for His purposes.


Romans 14:1-23

    Paul tells us not to argue with other believers over “disputable matters”. Some people believe that we may eat any food, others, whom Paul characterizes as having weak faith, believe that we should only eat vegetables. He tells us that we should not argue over such things. Paul tells us not to judge one another over such things. There are those who argue that we should accept those who practice things which have traditionally been considered sins (usually, sins which are sexual in nature) without condemning them (I think that what Paul writes about the man sleeping with his stepmother in 1 Corinthians suggests otherwise, but that is another point).
    However, if this passage were to apply, those who believe those sexual behaviors are not sin would be in the same class as those who believed it was OK to eat anything. Paul tells us that if your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat (or in this case, who you have sex with), you are no longer acting in love. He goes on to say, “So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God.” Paul says that it is better not to do anything which might cause your brother or sister to fall. So, you should not do things which your fellow believers think is sinful where they might find out. If there is any chance they will find out about it, you should not do it at all.


2 Chronicles 29:1-36

    When Hezekiah took the throne he immediately began to reverse the evil which his father, Ahaz, had done. He called on the Levites to first purify themselves and then purify the Temple. When they had purified the Temple, they purified the people. This should serve as a model for us. I believe our nation has fallen into the sort of situation which Judah was in when Ahaz was king (although, I do not believe the U.S. is God’s chosen nation, unlike Judah). If we want to turn that around we need to first purify ourselves. Then we need to purify the Church (and I do not mean the building). Only then will we be able to purify the people of this nation.

July 30, 2015 Bible Study — Submit To Governing Authorities

For today, One Year Bible Online links here.


Proverbs 20:11

    We start judging children by their attitudes towards others at a young age. How much more will others judge us by our attitudes towards those around us?


Psalm 23

    I always struggle with this psalm because I want to write something which doesn’t feel to me like I am just repeating what I heard someone else say. I am going to review what the psalmist’s imagery means to me. Jesus is my shepherd, He guides me and directs me. Sometimes that guidance is gentle and friendly, sometimes it is harsh and scary. However, that guidance leads me to places so that all of my needs are provided. One place I find sustenance, another I find rest. Sometimes that guidance sends me through dangerous territory, but I can travel that path without fear because I know that God is right beside me to protect me. The image that comes to me is a father leading his child through the forest with a weapon in his hand. The child does not fear, even when wild predators come forth because he knows his father will not allow the animal to threaten him. The predator may growl and snarl, but all I need to do is huddle close to God and they will not dare attack.
    The image changes for me in the next verse. Here I imagine a person of consequence honoring me in the face of those who have belittled and humiliated me in the past. God will honor us in the presence of those who told us we were worthless. God’s goodness will be with us for all of our lives. We will be surrounded by God’s love for as long as we live, and after that we will be in His Presence for eternity.


Romans 13

    Paul writes that we should submit to the governing authorities (it is worth noting that Paul says “submit”, not “obey”. We are to submit to governing authorities, but to obey only God). Those authorities only have that authority because God has given it to them. Rebelling against government authorities is rebelling against God, because God gave them authority in order to punish wrongdoers. When a government stops punishing wrongdoers and begins punishing those who do right it has lost its legitimacy. However, even in that case it is not our job to overthrow that government. God will overthrow a government which has lost its legitimacy in His own time. We should remain in submission to government authorities for as long as they remain in authority. Let us give what we owe to whoever we owe it, taxes to those whom taxes are due, revenue to those whom revenue is due, and respect to those whom respect is due.


2 Chronicles 26-28

    For whatever reason, I tend to think that the kings of Judah after Joash were all progressively more evil. However, this is not the case. While Joash’s son, Amaziah, turned to idol worship, the next two kings in line served the Lord. As a result of their faithfulness, they became strong and mighty rulers. Unfortunately, the third king in today’s passage turned from God as well, with the resultant decay in the position of the kingdom of Judah. The lesson we learn from this passage is that when a people and their leaders are faithful to God the wealth and power of the nation increases. When they turn from God they suffer defeat and economic hardship.

July 29, 2015 Bible Study — Do Not Conform To the Pattern of This World

For today, One Year Bible Online links here.


Proverbs 20:8-10

    Cheating others, no matter how we sell it to ourselves is wrong. I don’t think what I am about to write next is something the writer of this proverb would have said he meant, but I think he would have been pleased that someone took this lesson from what he wrote. God is unhappy when we treat different people differently in the marketplace. If your price is one thing for Joe, then it should be the same price for Judy, and vice versa. Do business with everyone fairly and honestly.


Psalm 22:19-31

    In the first half of this psalm, which we read yesterday, the psalmist expresses his deep despair. He was calling on God for rescue and wondering when God would answer his cry. Yet here in the second half, he states what he will do as if God had already relieved him of his burden. The psalmist made his plans based on the assumption that God would rescue him. In the midst of his despair, he praised God for rescuing him. Let us follow his example.


Romans 12

    This passage has so much in it that I feel like I ought to to talk about that I am not going to get to all of it. It starts with something which the Mennonite Church has always emphasized. Paul warns us against conforming to this world. This is a constant battle for Christians because it is not enough not to get caught up in the dominant culture. I know Christians who have gotten caught up with the liberal culture around us, and others who have gotten caught up in the conservative culture (and these are just two examples of secular subcultures to which we can find ourselves conforming). Instead, of that, our minds should be transformed by the Holy Spirit as it renews us day in and day out. The key to understanding how to do this is when Paul refers to renewing our minds. We experience renewal when we go on a retreat, or take part in some other event which changes how we perceive everything in the world around us. We should take every opportunity for spiritual renewal which presents itself to us, but there are two opportunities which we can take every day: reading the scripture and spending disciplined time in prayer.
    Paul continues by warning us against arrogance. We are not to judge ourselves as more important than we are. However, Paul does not just warn against arrogance, he is also warning against false humility, against thinking we are inferior to others. Each and every person has an important place in the Kingdom of God, in the Body of Christ. When people choose to not exercise the gifts which God has given them we are all diminished. It is important to both be aware of our own importance to the Body of Christ and of the importance of those around us. Whatever gifts God has given us we should exert ourselves to use them to the fullest of our ability, not spend our time bemoaning the fact that we do not have some other gift. It is important that we recognize that our gift does not make us more important than others, nor does our lack of some particular gift make us less important.
    In the final section of today’s passage (Oh look, three parts, not just two) Paul talks about love. He calls us to sincerely love others and not just our fellow Christians (although he points out that that is where the loving should start). We are to bless those who persecute us and refuse to repay evil with evil. When we are wronged we are not to seek revenge. If we have indeed been wronged God will pay back those who have done so. Rather than seek revenge on those who have wronged us we should desire to see them transformed in the same way in which the Holy Spirit is transforming ourselves. As part of this Paul says something very important. We are to seek to live at peace with everyone, but he recognizes that it is not always within out ability to do so. There are people who will refuse to live in peace with us. We are not called to compromise our beliefs in order to live at peace.


2 Chronicles 24-25

    Joash was saved from the attempt by his grandmother, Athaliah, to wipe out the House of David. He was raised by the high priest, Jehoida, who put him on the throne when he was seven years old. Joash enthusiastically served God for as long as Jehoida lived. However, as soon as Jehoida died, Joash came under the influence of other men who sought to use their influence for their own advancement, not to better Joash or the kingdom. We see this happen over and over throughout history, a young man, or woman, strives to better themselves and those around them under the influence of a strong mentor. That mentor dies and the young man, or woman, comes under the influence of unsavory characters who encourage them down a path which wastes all of their youthful promise, or worse, encourages them to become actively evil. I am not sure how you avoid this, but if you are mentoring someone it is important to encourage them to stand up on their own two feet and not shelter them from the evil in this world.

July 28, 2015 Bible Study

For today, One Year Bible Online links here.


Proverbs 20:7

    This proverb tells us that the godly behave with integrity. Integrity means more than being honest and truthful. It means being internally consistent. It means that if you say it is wrong to hunt animals in order to harvest ivory, you do not buy ivory or things made with ivory. True integrity means that if you say it is wrong to have sex outside of marriage, you do not fantasize about sex outside of marriage. Parents who live such a life are leaving their children a legacy of inestimable value.


Psalm 22:1-18

    This is the beginning of the psalm which Jesus referenced while He hung on the cross, just before He died. We can look at it to see how it applied to Jesus as He died. I have done that in the past and will probably do it again in the future. However, today I want to look at how we can take lessons from it for our walk with the Lord.
    The psalmist expresses utter despair about a life where things have gone wrong. He cries out to God, but has not received an answer. He knows that God is holy. He knows that others have cried out to God in the past and God has rescued them. He has reached the limit of what he can endure. Yet he still has faith in what God has done for him in the past and believes that God is just and righteous. In the depths of our despair let us have a similar faith, a similar trust that God is working for the good of those who love Him.


Romans 11:13-36

    In today’s passage Paul addresses those who are Christians and hold animosity towards Jews. He reminds us that the Jews are still God’s chosen people, even if many of them have rejected Jesus. God still desires that they turn to Him. Earlier in this letter Paul said that God chooses to whom He will give mercy, suggesting that whether or not someone comes to faith in Jesus is decided by God. In today’s passage, Paul indicates that the people of Israel, the Jews, have the choice of turning to God and accepting His grace through Jesus. Further, he suggests that those of us who have accepted God’s wonderful grace could choose to turn from God and lose that grace. These two things seem contradictory and are examples of how our limited minds struggle to understand God’s plan.
    I will strive to explain what I understand Paul to be saying. On the one hand, the fact that we have chosen to believe in and obey Jesus does not give us any room to boast that we are better than those who have not done so because it was God’s action which caused us to make this choice. On the other hand, each and every day we have the choice of doing God’s will. It is our obligation to make that choice.


2 Chronicles 21-23

    Jehoshaphat died and the Kingdom of Judah paid the price for his friendship with King Ahab. Jehoshaphat had arranged for his son, Jehoram, to marry Ahab’s daughter. Jehoram followed the example of Ahab. His first action as king was to kill all of his brothers. He followed this by building pagan shrines and encouraging the people to worship idols. His son, Ahaziah, was not better and died after only a short reign. At which point Jehoram’s wife, Ahab’s daughter, Athaliah, seized the throne. She attempted to kill all of the remaining members of the House of David, but her daughter took her grandson out of the nursery and stole him away to the Temple. When the boy was seven, the high priest led a rebellion against Athaliah and put him on the throne.

July 27, 2015 Bible Study — How Will They Hear Unless Someone Tells Them?

For today, One Year Bible Online links here.


Proverbs 20:4-6

    I am a procrastinator and this proverb strikes close to home for me. It is important to work hard when the time is right, so that you have resources later.


Psalm 21

    This psalm is directed at rulers, but its message applies to everyone. If we trust in God and rejoice in His strength we will have victory over our enemies. It is important to remember that part of trusting God is trusting that following His will leads to our greatest happiness.


Romans 10:14-11:12

    Here Paul lays out the obligation we have as Christians to preach the Gospel, and as the Church to commission people to preach the Gospel. In yesterday’s passage Paul described how people can only be saved by calling on the name of the Lord. However, today he points out that no one will call on the Lord if they do not believe in Him. They will not believe in Him if they have never heard of Him. They will not hear of Him unless someone tells them about Him (hint, hint. Yeah, that is meant for you and me). No one will go to tell them unless they are sent.
    This last is the part where we as a Church fail so often. An ambassador does not appoint himself. We, as members of the Church, need to identify those among us with the gift of preaching and teaching the Gospel and send them to where their mission can be the most fruitful. Paul did not appoint himself to go on his first mission trip. The Church in Antioch did so. In the same way, we in the Church today need to seek out those among us whom God is calling to ministry of one kind or another and send them to that ministry.


2 Chronicles 19-20

    Jehoshaphat is a great example of a good ruler. He did not just stay in Jerusalem and wait for news of the people to come to him there. He traveled throughout the land he ruled, learning first hand what people were going through, while encouraging them to worship God, and only God. Further he appointed judges to judge the disputes between people, advising those judges that God would hold them accountable for judging fairly.
    At one point, Jehoshaphat received news that several other nations had allied and were marching to attack Judah with an overwhelming army. Rather than panic, or attempt to enlist a powerful nation as an ally, Jehoshaphat turned to God. He called on the people of Judah to fast and pray, doing so himself. This story shows us God’s power. The army of Judah marched out to meet the enemy on God’s command. However, before they reached the enemy God had stirred up conflict within the allied armies so that Judah’s enemies has destroyed each other completely. If we trust and obey God, He will defeat our enemies for us.

July 26, 2015 Bible Study — Believe In Your Heart and Confess With Your Mouth

For today, One Year Bible Online links here.


Proverbs 20:2-3

    Avoiding a fight is a sign that one is honorable. It is foolish to get into fights which could have been avoided.


Psalm 20

    The first five verses of this psalm make a wonderful blessing to say over those we love. It would make a good benediction to a meeting. And then in verse 7 it makes a point which we should always remember. The citizens of many nations boast of their military might, but let us boast of the name of God.


Romans 9:25-10:13

    In this passage Paul refers to Jews and Gentiles. As a Gentile, I praise God that He offered me the opportunity to become one of His people through Christ. However, as we read this we should also see how it applies to those of us raised in Christian homes. We cannot get right with God by our own efforts. The only way to get right with God is to trust Him. There are many who have been raised in the Church, and even some who have joined the Church as adults, who strive to get right with God by doing the right things. In order to get right with God by doing right, we must never fail to do the right thing. That is not possible for a human being.
    No, the way to be right with God is by believing in the depths of your heart, and publicly declaring to all who care to listen, that Jesus died, God raised Him from the dead, and now He is Lord (one who has the right to command our actions, even when following the command will lead to our death). If we truly believe this to be true, we will act accordingly. There may be times when we are weak and we do not follow His will, but we will regret our failure and seek His forgiveness. By publicly stating our belief, others will hold us accountable for our actions and help us see how our actions are inconsistent with our beliefs (even when that help is intended as hurt).


2 Chronicles 17-18

    When Jehoshaphat became king he did many good things. He was king over the entire land he controlled and did not restrict his reforms to Jerusalem. He sent his officials out to teach in the towns and cities of Judah. From the context, it appears to me that while they taught the Law of Moses they also taught more general knowledge as well. He not only refused to worship the idols of Baal, he sent men throughout Judah destroying idols and pagan shrines. The only failure I see in Jehoshaphat as a ruler was his close friendship with Ahab.

July 25, 2015 Bible Study — May the Words of My Mouth, and the Meditations of My Heart Be Pleasing to God

For today, One Year Bible Online links here.


Proverbs 20:1

    If you allow yourself to drink to excess with any significant frequency you will never learn wisdom. Alcohol will make a fool of you if you let it.


Psalm 19

    No one has an excuse for not knowing about God. The stars and moon at night and the sun during the day declare His glory for all to see. So do the clouds in the sky. They do not make a sound, but they stand as a silent testament to God’s greatness and glory. The psalmist goes on to remind us that we will lie to ourselves about our sins, it is only when we allow the Holy Spirit to control our lives that we learn of the sins hiding in our heart.
    This psalm ends with what I wish to be my prayer motto:

May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you, O Lord,…


Romans 9:1-24

    I struggle with this passage. Paul tells us that God chooses to show mercy to some and not to others. As I look at this passage longer I think the key take away is that we should not think of ourselves as better than those who do not follow God. We neither chose to receive God’s mercy, nor were/are we able to work so as to obtain it. We have received God’s mercy because He chose to show it to us, not because of any merit which we have.
    The first application of this passage is that the fact that we have received God’s mercy through faith in Christ is not an indication that we are somehow superior to those who have not. We need to recognize that we are no better than anyone else. The Holy Spirit chose to work in our lives in such a manner that we would come to have faith in Christ. It is not my place to debate why He has not done so in another’s. However, I am called to pray that the Holy Spirit will do such work in the lives of those He has not yet done so. This passage convicts me to pray harder for my unsaved friends.


2 Chronicles 14-16

    When Rehoboam’s grandson, Asa, took the throne he served God faithfully. Early in his reign Judah was attacked by an overwhelming army. Asa recognized that his army was inadequate to meet the threat so he called out to God for aid. God aided him and he was able to defeat the invading army. Upon returning to Jerusalem, Asa instituted religious reforms. He destroyed idols throughout the land and called the people to worship God. However, late in his reign when he was attacked by the king of Israel, he turned to the king of Aram for aid rather than relying on God.

July 24, 2015 Bible Study — Nothing Can Separate Us From the Love Of God

For today, One Year Bible Online links here.


Proverbs 19:27-29

    When you stop learning you start losing knowledge. No one ever knows so much that they cannot improve by learning even more. Even if that was possible our minds are built so that when we stop adding to our knowledge we start to forget the things we already knew.


Psalm 18:37-50

    If we serve God He will arm us for the battles He wishes us to fight. When our enemies are God’s enemies they will fall before us and no one will answer their cry for help. We do not need to seek revenge against our enemies because God will repay those who harm us. God will hold us safe and subdue those who fight us because we serve God.


Romans 8:26-39

    The first phrase of this passage is a great conclusion to the subject Paul has been covering for the last few days. I have been talking about how Paul tells us that if we sin we are allowing our sinful nature to control us and if our sinful nature controls us the Spirit is not in us. And yet, who among us has the strength to resist temptation day in and day out. So, here Paul tells us that the Spirit will help us in our weakness. Paul uses the example of prayer, but the help the Spirit will give us extends to helping us resist temptation. If we allow the Spirit, He will help us overcome other temptations as well. We just need to listen to the Spirit’s prompting and do the things which He tells us we should be doing. As we do the righteous things which the Spirit tells us to do we will find that we do not have time to do the things which our sinful nature tells us to do.
    Using his example of how the Holy Spirit helps us pray, Paul then transitions to a new topic. He tells us that we often do not know what to pray for and about. However, the Spirit knows and helps us do so. There are times when we just need to cry out to God and allow the Spirit to convey our needs. God knows our hearts and knows what the Spirit is saying on our behalf. We can be confident that God will listen to this pleading on our behalf and know that He will cause all things to work together for the good of those who love Him. So, if God is working to make all things work together for our good (we do love the Lord, don’t we?), then what do we have to fear from others? After all, if God is for us, who can be against us? (Yes, I know, lots of people, but they can do nothing which God does not allow.)
    God has made us right with Him. He has taken the actions necessary to bridge the divide between us caused by our sin. He did this because of His great love for us and there is no power on earth, in heaven, or anywhere else which is capable of separating us from God’s love. I will conclude this with Paul’s statement on the issue:
“Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.”


2 Chronicles 11-13

    After the northern tribes rebelled against Rehoboam and made Jeroboam their king, the priests and Levites all moved south. They did this because Jeroboam replaced them with priests of his own choosing. The result of Jeroboam’s actions and the actions of the Levites was that those people in the Northern Kingdom who genuinely wanted to worship and serve God moved to the territory controlled by Rehoboam.

July 23, 2015 Bible Study

For today, One Year Bible Online links here.


Proverbs 19:26

    This proverb seems self-evident, but sometimes we overlook the self-evident. It is not just that those who do these things are an embarrassment to their parents. These are people we should be ashamed to be seen with. People who mistreat their parents as described should be ashamed to show their face in public. Society should consider them to be disgraced with no further action needed.


Psalm 18:16-36

    When I read this psalm my eyes were drawn to the middle of this passage:

To the faithful you show yourself faithful;
to those with integrity you show integrity.
To the pure you show yourself pure,
but to the crooked you show yourself shrewd.

What exactly does that mean? Well the first parts are easy, God will respond to virtue with virtue, but God is not able to do evil. So He cannot respond to the deceitful, the crooked, and the dishonest in like manner. However, God responds appropriately. The deceitful, dishonest, and crooked discover that God is not naive. He is not fooled in the least by their subterfuge.


Romans 8:9-25

    Paul points out that if we have the Spirit of God living within us we are not controlled by our sinful nature. Further, he tells us that if we do not have the Spirit of God living within us we are not God’s people. What does this mean for us? It means that we need to examine our lives and seek out the places where we are allowing our sinful nature to control us. Or more exactly, we need to ask the Spirit to search us and identify those areas. Once we have identified those areas, we need to allow the Spirit to enter into them and take control. If we do not do this, but instead allow our sinful nature to control those areas we will die bit by bit.
    However, if we allow the Holy Spirit to take control and stop us from doing the deeds of our sinful nature we will live. Doing so makes us children of God. So, even though we allow the Spirit to control us, we are not slaves. If we allow it, our sinful nature will make us slaves, but, on the other hand, if we allow the Spirit to do so, He will make us free. This does not mean that we will not suffer. No, it actually means that we will suffer. However, the suffering we experience in this life is nothing compared to the glory we will experience when this life is over. As we allow the Holy Spirit to control our lives, He will give us a foretaste of that glory. I hope that you have experienced that foretaste because even that little bit makes me excited about what is to come. My excitement is not based on my imagining what that glory might be but on the thought of experiencing that glory continuously rather than intermittently, as I do now.


2 Chronicles 8:11-10:19

    We learn here that Solomon had married Pharaoh’s daughter. He thought it inappropriate that she live in the palace which David had built because the Ark of the Covenant had been there. I know that this marriage was a political one, but nevertheless, perhaps Solomon should have considered if it was appropriate to marry a woman who he felt could not step on holy ground. Certainly, I will advise anyone reading this to take that into account before entering into a relationship with someone.
    The passage also describes how Solomon built a trading empire. Solomon sent ships on three year trading missions. He commissioned caravans. The land of Canaan was ideally suited for such an empire. If Solomon and the people of Israel had faithfully served God, this trading empire could have continued for many years.