October 1, 2016 Bible Study — Cleansing Water and Life Giving Water

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.


Today, I am reading and commenting on Zechariah 11-14.

    There are bits and pieces of this passage which speak clearly to me, but the whole of the passage eludes my understanding. I know that at least part of the reason for this is that the author used imagery which would have been clear to his contemporaries, but which does not transfer well to the way we think today. I will continue to read this passage because I know that the Holy Spirit will use it to speak to me when the time is right. Having said that I want to comment on the parts of this passage which I do understand.


    There is clear Messianic prophecy in this passage, probably even in the parts I do not understand. There is the 30 pieces of silver, which the New Testament writers tell us was a reference to Judas. There is the passage about mourning for the one “whom they have pierced.” A reference to Jesus’ death on the cross. One thing we do not often look at is the reference to God breaking His covenant in the middle of this passage about Jesus. I sure that I do not fully understand what the prophet is telling us here. However, part of the message is that, with the Crucifixion of Jesus, God is entering into a new covenant with the human race. There is also the message about the coming fountain of cleansing which will wash away sin and idolatry. Part of me wants to connect that fountain to the life-giving waters which the prophet refers to a few verses later. I think this is an example which most clearly shows how Zechariah uses a metaphor one way to give one message than turns around and takes a similar metaphor to give a different message…and yet the second message is somehow connected to the first. The waters of that cleansing fountain become the life-giving waters. It is only when we allow the cleansing waters which are Jesus’ blood to wash us and scour us that we can experience the life-giving waters which are also Jesus’ blood. The cleansing water and the life-giving water are different things…and yet they are the same thing. A paradox that never be fully understood by our limited minds.

September 30, 2016 Bible Study — Are We Doing It For God? Or For Ourselves?

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.


Today, I am reading and commenting on Zechariah 7-10.

    After the rebuilding of the Temple got under way some of the people came to Zechariah to ask if they should continue to hold days of fasting and mourning to commemorate the destruction of the Temple. Zechariah’s answer was to ask them if it was really for God that they were fasting. Further, he asked them if they were really holding their feast days for God. Weren’t they really doing that because they enjoyed it? That is the question we need to ask ourselves when we conduct the various ceremonies/sacraments we have. When we take Communion, are we doing it for God, or for ourselves? When we baptize new believers, who are we really doing it for?


    When we conduct ceremonies/rituals/sacraments we need to remember that none of them have value to God in and of themselves. Their value to God lies in the degree to which they remind us to judge fairly and treat each other with mercy and compassion. If we get the ceremonies, rituals, and sacraments exactly right, but oppress the fatherless, or widows, or foreigners, or the poor, we would have been better off to not have even tried in the first place. When we take Communion, when we baptize new believers, when we do any of the other religious observances we follow, let us remember to think about showing mercy and compassion to those around us. If in any way the performance of our religious observances make us feel better than others, we are not listening to God, and therefore He will not listen to us.


    I almost stopped after that, but I have to comment on the fact that Zechariah emphasizes the lesson of Haggai from a different perspective. Haggai told the people not to wait until every thing else was taken care of before doing God’s will. Zechariah reminds us to keep on doing God’s will. He reminds the people that before they started on doing God’s will (rebuilding the Temple) there were no jobs and no money. No one was safe because there were bandits everywhere, people were turned against each other. Once they started to do God’s will people became unified and prospered. When we do God’s will, we will find that all of our efforts prosper.

September 29, 2016 Bible Study — When We Turn To God He Will Meet Us More Than Halfway

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.


Today, I am reading and commenting on Zechariah 1-6.

    There are several statements in today’s passage that I find inspiring (that is not quite the right word, but the best I can come up with). The first is: ” ‘Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, β€˜and I will return to you,’…” There are two basic and important messages for us. The first is that if we return to God, He is not only there waiting for us, He will come to meet us. It is never too late to return to God. The second message is that at some point in our life we have been close to God, even if we did not know it. everyone of us has at one point or another in our life known God.


    The next one which inspires me/makes me feel God’s call in my life is this: “Shout and rejoice, O beautiful Jerusalem, for I am coming to live among you. Many nations will join themselves to the Lord on that day, and they, too, will be my people.” The day to which the prophet is referring is today. Yes, God has a special place in His heart for the Jewish people, but He will graft into them all who come to Him and wish to be His people. The Jews are God’s people, His children, but God has adopted all who put their faith in Jesus into His family. Let us spread this good news throughout the earth.


    The final one is this: “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.” When we look at the trials, troubles, and challenges we face, let us remember this. We do not need to overcome the obstacles in our path by our own might or power. If we trust and rely on God, His Spirit will overcome any obstacle which might get in the way of our doing His will. When we turn from sin and seek to return to God we will see all sorts of obstacles in our path, mountains and crevices. However, God’s Spirit will turn those obstacles into level ground for us as long as we keep our eyes on God.

September 28, 2016 Bible Study — The Time To Do God’s Will Is Now

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.


Today, I am reading and commenting on Zephaniah and Haggai.

    When I started reading this, part of me thought it was a prophecy about the coming (at the time it was written) fall of Jerusalem to Babylon, but part of me thought that it was a prophecy concerning the end times, or possibly some combination of both. If this passage is just the first, it contains a lot of hyperbole about what is going to happen. I am generally hesitant to attribute passages to hyperbole, but I know that some biblical writers used it. Having read through this passage several times this morning, my conclusion is that it is both a hyperbolic prophecy concerning the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon AND a prophecy concerning the end of the world. However you read this passage there is a message which you need to take to heart. When God’s judgment comes upon the land in which you live, your wealth will not protect you. The only possible protection from God’s judgment is God Himself. Now is the time to repent and to humbly seek the Lord.


    The message of the prophet Haggai is one we need to heed. All too often we know what God’s will for us is, but think we need to wait until we have accomplished this or that (paid off our college debt, earned enough money, overcome some sin in our lives, etc). Haggai tells us that if we know what God wants us to do, then Now is the time to do it. If we come up with reasons why we need to wait to do God’s will, we will always have reasons to wait. On the other hand, if we do God’s will He will bless us and things will go well for us.

September 27, 2016 Bible Study — God Is Slow To Anger, But His Justice Is Sure

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.


Today, I am reading and commenting on Nahum and Habakkuk.

    There are several verses in the Book of Nahum which provide comfort for those who put their trust in God (“The Lord is slow to get angry,…”, “The Lord is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is close to those who trust in him.”, etc.). However, the main thrust of Nahum’s prophecy is that Assyria will be destroyed. For all of its power and wealth Assyria would face God’s judgment. The Assyrians had used their power and wealth to form alliances with other nations. Despite these alliances they had treated other nations in such a manner that no one mourned their destruction. This is a warning to any nation, or person which relies on its wealth and might to dominate those around them. The time will come when God will bring judgment for our sins.


    The message of the Book of Habakkuk is that God’s judgment may seem slow to arrive, but it is sure and inevitable (see Nahum 1:3-6). The proud trust in themselves and believe that they will be able to rescue themselves from any trouble. The righteous, on the other hand, will live by their faith in, and faithfulness to, God. There are different ways that people use their wealth in their attempts to gain security. Some build big houses and create large estates for themselves using wealth they have acquired dishonestly. Some build institutions and cities (or take control of such things) using wealth acquired through corruption and evil. This last bit I may be reading more into than intended but it appears to me to refer to those who manipulate others into circumstances that can be used to coerce those others into doing the will of the manipulator. In each of these cases, God’s judgment will come down on these people. The security they thought they had gained will prove fleeting.
    Habakkuk concludes his prophesy with a prayer. In his prayer he acknowledges the fear which we all should feel when God starts to mete out justice on evildoers. However, in the face of that fear, we can and should rejoice in the Lord. We can and should be joyful to see God bring judgment on evildoers, even if we also suffer because of our sins, because God will be our salvation if we truly trust in Him.

September 26, 2016 Bible Study –Walk Humbly With God

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.


Today, I am reading and commenting on Micah 3-7.

    Today’s passage begins with a condemnation of leaders who hate good and love evil. It is the leaders who are supposed to teach the people right from wrong. Instead, the political leaders take bribes and the religious leaders work for whoever will pay them. God’s call to political leaders is for them to provide justice; punishing the evildoer and protecting the helpless. Instead they are protecting the evildoer and punishing the helpless. God’s call to the religious leaders is for them to call evildoers to repent of their sins and to comfort the poor. Instead they are comforting the evildoer and calling for the poor to do evil. The leaders work on behalf of those who can, and will, offer them some benefit while using their position to threaten those who cannot or will not support and strengthen their power.


    The prophet tells us that it is not difficult, or challenging, to know how to satisfy God. He has told us what He wants from us. God does not want our material possessions, nor does He ask us to sacrifice our most precious possessions, our children. He makes it very clear what He wants of us. He wants us to act justly, to do what is right. He wants us to love mercy, to give those who repent of their wrongdoing a second, or third, or fourth opportunity. Finally, God wants us to walk humbly with Him.

Finding Common Ground With Idolatry

Every week I receive the bulletin for the upcoming Sunday worship service in my email. It contains the announcements and the Scripture reading which our pastor is going to base his sermon on. A few weeks ago, I decided to read the scripture passage and write a blog entry containing my thoughts on the passage as a way to prepare for Sunday morning worship. I do not know how long I will continue doing this, but it seems to be an exercise that has some value.


This weeks scripture passage is Jeremiah 2:20-37.

    I am having trouble this morning putting together a cohesive set of thoughts about this passage. The first phrase which struck me as relevant to our society today was “Israel is like a thief who feels shame only when he gets caught.” It sounds like so many in our society today. All too often when people apologize for doing wrong in our society their apology sounds like they are only sorry for getting caught. The other thought that came to me was that the comments Jeremiah made about those worshiping other gods seems to apply to syncretists (those who take pieces from various different religions and put them together). These are the people who claim to be Christian, but who say that all religions teach the same things. Jeremiah is condemning those who are constantly seeking to find common ground between Christianity and other religions. I want to note that this is different from those who look for themes in other religions which resemble things taught in Christianity as a jumping off point for preaching the Gospel.

September 25, 2016 Bible Study — Feeling Compassion for Those Who Do Evil

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.


Today, I am reading and commenting on Jonah 1-4 and Micah 1-2.

    Every time I read the Book of Jonah I am amazed at the number of lessons contained within this one short book. The first lesson we learn is that running away from God’s will for us will end badly, for us and for those around us (and we will end up doing it anyway). Next we learn (there is probably one or more I am missing both here and later) that if people genuinely mourn for the harm they have done and repent of their sins, God will be merciful. A third lesson we learn is that we often value material goods more than we value people. Jonah was more upset about the death of the plant which had shaded him than about the deaths he had prophesied for the people of Nineveh. The final lesson of this Book is that we should feel compassion and pity for those who do evil rather than hate. We should prefer that they turn from their evil and do good to them being punished and suffering for their evil.


    The first chapter of the Book Micah contains a series of prophesies where the prophet does one play on words after another. As I read it (and the notes), it seems to me that some of the towns mentioned are real towns whose names lent themselves to the desired play on words, while others are fictitious names which would have been understood by the prophet’s audience as applying to towns they were familiar with.
    Then we get into Micah’s full message, the reason the bad things he is prophesying will happen. In many ways, Micah’s message is much like Amos’. His audience is those who think that if it is not illegal it is not wrong, and if they don’t get caught it is not illegal…and if they don’t get punished, they didn’t get caught. I have a saying I often say to people, “Stay out of trouble…If you don’t get caught you aren’t in trouble, and if you do get caught but like the consequences, you still aren’t in trouble.” That is the philosophy of the people Micah is condemning. However, those who know me know that my philosophy has another corollary to that rule: If someone gets hurt as a result of what I did, I get caught, even if no one else knows I did it, and I do NOT like the consequences. If what you have done hurts others, you may get away with it for now, but God will hold you accountable. God is merciful and forgiving, but He is also just. Those who sin and hurt others (and those who sin ALWAYS hurt others) will pay for that sin…either through their own remorse and self condemnation, or through the judgment which God will bring upon them

September 24, 2016 Bible Study — We Need to Repent and Turn From Our Sins

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading. Yesterday was my 16th anniversary. It has been a wonderful 16 years and I look forward to many more.


Today, I am reading and commenting on Amos 6-9 and Obadiah.

    As I read the beginning of today’s passage it sounds so much like our society. Amos uses phrases which so accurately describe our society: “What sorrow awaits you who lounge in luxury”…”You are famous and popular”…”You push away every thought of coming disaster”…”You sing trivial songs…and fancy yourselves to be great musicians”…”You care nothing about the ruin of your nation.” All of those sound so much like the elites of today, but not just like the elites, it sounds like so many of the people in our society. They spend their time entertaining themselves with no thought for taking care of those who are suffering. Amos warns them that their parties will suddenly end and they will experience the misery they have so long ignored, or worse, used for political gain. Amos circles back a little later to talk about those who put on a pretense of doing what is right, while eagerly waiting the opportunity to take advantage of others. When I read the passage about enslaving the poor, I was reminded of our complex financial systems which are structured to lure people in and capture their little bits of wealth for the truly wealthy.


    Unless we as a people, from the least to the greatest among us, learn to care for our fellows and work to meet our own needs, God’s judgment is going to fall on this nation. Amos’ prophecy was not unique to Israel, and its application today is not unique to the United States. I see the peoples of many other countries living as those Amos condemns in this passage. We, each and everyone of us, need to repent of our sins and cry out to God for forgiveness. The key is that we must repent, we must turn from our sins. Amos pointed out to the Israelites that they were no more important to God than the Ethiopians, or the Philistines, or the Arameans. We are no more important to God than the Venezuelans, or those who live in Somalia. If they are suffering today, what makes us think that we cannot suffer the same fate. Let us repent of our sins.

September 23, 2016 Bible Study — Happy Anniversary, Darling!!!

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading. Today is my 16th anniversary. It has been 16 wonderful years.

Happy Anniversary, Alanna
Thank you for being my wife through 16 years.

I am so glad that she married me.


Today, I am reading and commenting on Amos 1-5.

    When Amos started out prophesying the people of Israel must have cheered because he started by condemning their neighbors, who were their enemies. We need to pay attention to the sins of which Amos accuses them. They mistreated and abused God’s people. They sold whole villages into slavery (Note that Amos does not say that the villages which the Philistines sold into slavery were of Israel or Judah). The Edomites chased down and killed the Israelites (the sin here seems to be that the Israelites were their relatives, not that they were God’s people). Finally, the Moabites were condemned for desecrating the dead (and again, not the Israelite dead). I am not going to attempt to determine if we as a people are guilty of these sins, but I will say that it would be very easy for any nation to go there and we should seek forgiveness for the degree to which these things have been done in our names.


    As I said, the Israelites certainly cheered when Amos began to prophesy, but their cheering did not last long. After a few words of condemnation against Israel’s neighbors, Amos turns his attention to the sins of Israel. He condemned them for having forgotten how to do right. Things had gone beyond people doing what they knew was wrong to the point that they no longer even knew how to do right. It reminds me of what I see around me to the point where I wonder if I truly know how to do right. However, Amos does provide us with enough information to know what sorts of sins he was condemning. He condemns those who live a life of leisure which is earned at the expense of those less fortunate than themselves. They were people who made of show of their righteousness, while neglecting to actually behave righteously.