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Thursday, June 30, 2016

The God of the Living (Isaiah 8:19)

 "When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and stutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?"

God gives his prophet Isaiah a peek into the future. He is the Living God. He sees, He knows and He reveals His plans regarding the future, "Remember the former things of old, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient time, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please" (Isaiah 46:9-10). Therefore, I can consult the Living God on behalf of the spiritually dead!

In the night I awoke with a burden for one of my children. Instead of fretting and worrying I turned to the Living God on their behalf. Years ago I asked the Lord to speak to my heart and give me a promise for each of my children. As I systematically and daily read through the Word of God a particular verse leaped out at me. The Spirit of God bore witness with my spirit that this promise was for my middle child. Years have gone by and nothing has changed in this particular child's life (now an adult). Do I panic? Doubt that I heard correctly years before? No. I praise the promises of God. A promise given by God is a check you can take to the bank and cash out.

God only does what He says He will do. Scripture is God's primary way of revealing His will today. Our Father reveals His love, His commands, His warnings, His exhortations, His character, and His promises through His Word. As I abide or "remain in him" and His words "remain in me," I can "ask whatever" I wish, and it will be given to me (John 15:7). In this same passage, Jesus even states that the Father is glorified by my fruit bearing and that fruit bearing demonstrates true discipleship. Faith in the promises of God produce fruit--the very fulfillment of His promises! A promise made by God is a promise fulfilled by God. God, then, looks for those who will hear and believe His promises.

Why, then, should I worry when I can consult the Living God on behalf of the spiritually dead?

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Isaiah 7:1-10:4
  • What situation was occurring that caused King Ahaz to panic?
  • What promise does the LORD give to King Ahaz to calm his heart?
  • What is the significance of the names given to Isaiah's sons?
  • What Messianic promises are given in today's reading?
  • List the reasons for the Lord's anger toward Israel.
  • What does God promise that He will do to those who willingly harm Israel?
  • Even in the midst of judgment what does God promise He will do that reveals His mercy?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to speak to you from His word and give you promises regarding the situations of your life that you worry about. Ask Him to help you discover, believe, and appropriate the promises of God.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Things Are Never As They Appear (Isaiah 6:1)

"In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple."

Uzziah reigned in Judah for fifty-two years. His reign brought stability to the kingdom while his death brought uncertainty. Behind the scenes, however, Isaiah saw the stability of another throne with another king. God opens his eyes to behold the invisible reality of a Sovereign Ruler. Isaiah sees three things:
  • The Lord seated on the throne - this king would taste death but would rise again
  • The Lord high and exalted - man's worship of idols doesn't touch heaven nor displace God
  • The train of the Lord's robe filling the temple - earthly tabernacles cannot contain Him; even the heavens themselves cannot contain His glorious greatness
The New Testament clarifies Isaiah's vision by stating that Isaiah saw the Lord Jesus Christ, "Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus' glory and spoke about him" (John 12:41). What can we learn from Isaiah's vision?

Hidden behind the scenes of the natural realm where death occurs and circumstances change exists an enthroned King. Peace envelops the heart that sees, by faith, the Lord Jesus Christ as the Sovereign Ruler. A heavenly view of eternal things alters my earthly perspective. Things are NEVER as they appear.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
2 Kings 15:17-20; 2 Kings 15:6-7; 2 Kings 15:21-29
  • Describe Menahem's reign.
  • Look at the timeline at the beginning of your Bible. How many years does Israel have remaining as a nation after Uzziah's (Azariah) death?
  • What is the standard of measurement used to describe each king's reign in Israel? In Judah?
Isaiah 6:1-13
  • How does Isaiah's vision affect his view of himself?
2 Kings 15:32-38; 2 Chronicles 29:1-9; 1 Chronicles 5:11-17; 2 Kings 16:1-9; 2 Chronicles 28:1-21
  • What was the secret of Jotham's power?
  • What specifically provoked the Lord's anger about Pekah's treatment of Judah?
Turning Truth into Prayer:
Ask the Lord to let you get His perspective on your problems.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Same, Same, but Different (Jonah 3:4)

"On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned."

Same message (Repent!), same prophet (Jonah), different audience (Israel and Nineveh), and different response (repentance - Nineveh and Israel - hardness of heart).

The Chinese have a unique way of describing contrasts; their idiom is "same, same, but different". Had they been around in Jonah's day, that certainly is the phrase Jonah would have used. The Jonah drama contrasts Nineveh's response to a prophetic word from that of Israel. God uses the same prophet to confront two very different nations. Jonah gladly goes to preach to his own people even though they've turned a deaf ear to his message. On the other hand, Nineveh responds in humility and brokenness to a prophet whose gladness has given way to stubbornness and even disobedience to God.

Amazingly the parallel between Jonah and countless modern preachers is all too real. Like Jonah they happily spend their lives preaching to ever shrinking crowds who turn the same deaf ear that Israel did to Jonah. Meanwhile in a nearby country lives a large people group who are on the heart of God. Jonah would rather be a prophet to an obstinate people than to an unengaged people group. God, however, stages a fish to swallow a running prophet in order to reach a people prepared to respond to God's message.

Ninevah is six hundred miles north and east of Jerusalem, a twelve day walk for a man who could walk fifty miles a day. With contemporary air travel no place in the world is as inaccessible as Nineveh. God uses an unwilling prophet whose heart changes in the belly of a whale. What will it take to change the hearts and awaken a generation of comfortable preachers who would rather preach to deaf ears than to receptive hearts. Just as the Ninevites repented at the preaching of Jonah so too people groups today are waiting for someone to come, live in their midst and bring the good news of Christ to them.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Hosea 4:1-5:7
  • How many of the ten commandments does Israel break?
  • How are the priests of Israel described?
  • Nine times in Hosea Israel's condition is described as that of prostitution. How does prostitution differ from adultery?
  • Why is unfaithfulness to God such a serious condition?
2 Kings 14:24-28
  • What provokes the LORD to respond to Israel at this time?
Jonah 1:1-4:11
  • In what ways does Jonah's view of God change from the beginning of this story to the end?
  • What does Jonah learn about God's care for the nations?
  • What do the sailors and the Ninevites learn about God through Jonah's actions?
  • What was God's purpose in showing mercy to Nineveh?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the LORD to raise up laborers for the harvest fields of the world and volunteer to go yourself.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Loving a Harlot (Hosea 4:2-3)

"When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him, "Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the LORD."

Someone once told me that wives are more ready to forgive adulterous husbands than vice versa. For men adultery by a wife is a respect issue while adultery by the husband is a love issue.

Israel has disrespected God by going after other lovers. Throughout Israel's history God has been nothing but faithful to her, yet Israel has gone after one idol after another. Further, she has produced unbelieving children and a syncretistic religion. Yet God loves her still.

To demonstrate His love to Israel He has his prophet Hosea marry a known adulterous. This seems odd since God established regulations regarding the marriage of priests in Levitcus 22. Yet, it is out of all the people's of the earth that the Lord chooses Israel to pour His love upon. Odder still, that Israel would turn away from the Living God and worship false Gods. Could it be that she doesn't comprehend His love or could it be that she has something innately wrong with her? I think that perhaps both apply. It is only after Hosea takes her back after she has two children by other men that she begins to comprehend true love. Paul picks up this theme in his epistle, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners Christ died for the ungodly" (Romans 5:8).

Love can't be earned. It is a free gift. Some women think that they deserve love. Women who need a lot of forgiveness appreciate love more than those who think that they deserve it. The story of Hosea and Gomer reminds me of just how much I need the LORD's love and just how much He loves me.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading: Amos 7:1-9:15
  • How does Amos respond to the visions of the locust and the plumbline?
  • How does the high priest respond to Amos' visions?
  • What does this tell you about the religious leaders at this point in Israel's history?
  • What does Amos then prophesy about Amaziah?
  • What kind of famine does the LORD promise to send upon Israel?
  • How does Amos' message to Israel end?
Hosea 1:1-3:5
  • Why does the LORD command Hosea to marry Gomer?
  • Why does the LORD command Hosea to love Gomer?
  • What does this narrative teach you about God's love?
  • How does the LORD view those don't remain faithful to Him?
  • As you consider the story of Hosea and Gomer, what does this story teach you about the LORD's love?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the LORD to speak His love to your through the story in Hosea. Ask Him also to open your eyes to women around you who need to know His love.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Cows and Pampered Women (Amos 4:1)

"Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria,
you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy
and say to your husbands, "Bring us some drinks!"

Cows. Not a very flattering picture of Israel's women. It seems that certain women of Israel live for merriment and pampering; they view their husbands as the source of maintaining their narcissistic lifestyle. Their expensive tastes put pressure on their husbands to get what they demand even if it means taking advantage of others, especially the poor and the needy.

I wonder how much pressure men feel to maintain a certain lifestyle for families, especially for their wives. The pressure some women put on their husbands to buy bigger houses, luxury cars, and expensive clothing is actually pressure to obtain those very things unrighteously.

Twice in Amos (2:6; 8:6) Israel is accused of obtaining a pair of sandals at the expense of other people, "They sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals" (Amos 2:6; 8:6).

Sadly, these women are never satisfied with their expensive purchases, because they've looked for meaning in things. Outward treasures never bring inward peace. Those who seek acceptance by the bags they own, the shoes they wear, and the money they spend live in a whirlwind of their own making; their state of the art stuff never touches the state of the heart. All the pampering in the world will not change the heart of a woman or a child of God.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Amos 2:1-6:14
  • What is the root cause of Judah's judgment?
  • List the activities (fruit) that identify Israel's departure from the LORD.
  • What role do the prophets have in Israel?
  • Identify the strongholds and fortresses that Israel has constructed in place of the LORD.
  • List the five things God does to 'get the attention' of Israel.
  • What does the LORD promise to those who seek Him?
  • Describe the judicial system in Israel at this time.
  • How does the LORD respond to Israel's religious activities?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the LORD to show you where you may be putting pressure on your husband to meet your needs. Ask Him as well to give you a heart of contentment that will be free from the competition of keeping up appearances. Confess to Him the wrong desires that have caused you to express discontent with your husband's provision.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

R U Withholding Good News? (2 Kings 7:9)

"And they said to each other, 'We are not doing rightly. This is a day of good news, and we are keeping it to ourselves. If we wait until daylight, punishment will overtake us. Let us go at once and report this to the royal palace."

Bad news on every channel. If reporters today didn't have bad news, they wouldn't have news at all. They go from one crisis to another, and then withhold the good news when the bad news has been resolved. So it was in Elisha's day. The Arameans were besieging the city. Food supplies were nonexistent. Four lepers sat at the edge of the town paralyzed by fear. They decided that, since all options meant death, they might as well take the only option that could possibly mean life. Off they went to the Aramean camp. They found an abandoned camp and an embarrassment of riches. They ate, they drank, and they hid their bounty. Then they remembered the condition of the Israelites. They decided that the good news was too important not to share. Starving people needed food, trapped people needed release, and dying people needed hope--so off they went.

The world is filled with bad news; we, however, have good news. We have the Bread of life to feed the hungry, we know the Liberator who sets people free, and our story gives hope to the dying. R U withholding good news?

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
2 Kings 7:3-20
  • In what ways does Elisha's prophecy of 7:1 come to pass?
2 Kings 8:7-15
  • What causes Elisha to grieve when he prophesies over Hazael?
  • What does this tell you about God's prophet?
2 Kings 13:14-21
  • Why does Jehoash stop with three strikes, and what are the consequences of stopping?
  • What do the bones of Elisha tell you about Elisha's power to heal?
2 Kings 13:24-25; 13:12-13; 14:15-23; 2 Chron. 25:25-28
  • Look at the divided kingdom timeline at the front of your Bible. How many kings come and go during this period, and how long is this period?
2 Kings 15:1-5; 2 Chron. 26:1-21
  • What causes Uzziah's downfall?
  • What does Prov. 3:34 say about his problem?
  • Why is this such a dangerous sin?
Turning Truth into Prayer
From whom are you withholding Good News? Ask the Lord to show you those who need to hear that good news. Ask Him as well to make you conscientious to share good news with others in despair who are trapped by sin.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Kids In Ministry (2 Kings 5:2-3)

 "Now bands from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel and she served Naaman's wife. She said to her mistress, "If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy."

Imagine yourself kidnapped, taken from your home, taken to a foreign land and enslaved. Imagine, further, your childhood taken from you and being isolated from your family. How would you respond in such a setting? Several responses are possible:
  • You could become bitter
  • You could try to escape
  • You could undermine your master to others while pretending to be loyal
  • Or you could have a right attitude in a wrong situation
Our nameless young Israeli girl chose the last option. She served from the heart and she cared for her master. Moreover, she so wanted to be a witness for her God that she proclaimed His power to remove the only flaw from her master's otherwise perfect life. Naaman's leprosy was the "but" in a successful career. This girl risked everything for her God. 

Out of concern for her master she put her reputation on the line along with her life. She had such confidence in her God and in His prophet that she was willing to risk all for her master's sake. Had Naaman gone, humbled himself in the waters of Jordan and remained a leper, at the very least, her position would have changed; at worse, she might have even forfeited her life.

Why would Naaman believe this young girl's testimony? She:
  • Demonstrated huge work ethic (the good job that she did gave credence to her message about God)
  • Displayed a positive attitude (the positive attitude which she had demonstrated her large view of God)
  • Declared the unashamedly greatness of her God (the greatness of her God was good news and simply could not be contained)
God is not limited to using adults, free people, or even nameless people.
Eveyone in the story won because one little girl was willing to take one BIG risk in proclaiming the greatness of the God of Israel. What risks are you taking today? Are you risking a bold witness? And if you do, would your deeds back it up? And if they would, could there be a "Naaman" in your life who needs to hear your testimony about the greatness of God?

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
2 Kings 14:7-14; 2 Chronicles 25:11-24
  • What character flaw does Amaziah demonstrate that proves his downfall?
  • What price does he pay for that character flaw?
  • Why does Johoash the king of Israel break down the wall of Israel?
  • What does this story teach us about the sources of the warnings God may send us?
2 Kings 5:1-7:2 (The miracles of Elisha)
  • What character flaw also shows up in Naaman's life? How does the leprosy symbolize his deeper spiritual flaw?
  • How does the king of Israel respond to Naaman's request?
  • How does Elisha treat General Naaman? What does this treatment reveal about Naaman?
  • What is the public display of Naaman's faith?
  • Why does Elisha not accept payment for his ministry to Naaman?
  • What does Gehazi's decision teach us about God?
  • Where else have we seen God responding to hidden things?
  • When the king of Aram comes to attack by what means does God protect the children of Israel? How does this validate Elisha's ministry?
  • What does Elisha know about God that the servant does not?
  • What happens when Elisha prays for the servant and the Aramean army?
  • What is God's purpose in allowing the famine?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to show you where your life contradicts your testimony.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The God of Left Overs (2 Kings 4:7; 43)

 "She went and told the man of God, and he said, "Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your son can live on what is left."

"But Elisha answered, "Give it to the people to eat. For this is what the LORD says: 'They will eat and have some left over.'" Then he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the LORD."

I guess you could call Elisha "the prophet of leftovers". In order to resolve the widow woman's financial crisis Elisha instructs her to collect empty containers from all of her neighbors. He blesses the little oil that she has and she begins filling the jars from her meager supply until they are all full. He then commands her to sell the oil in order to cover her debt. What's left over provides for the livelihood of the widow and her two sons.

Later, during a lengthy famine in the region, a man presents Elisha with twenty loaves of bread, which is not nearly enough to feed the one hundred prophets. At Elisha's command, however, the bread is given to the prophets and somehow it feeds every single one of them, with some left over.

Jesus and leftovers. Jesus blesses a boy's meager lunch of bread and fishes and feeds several thousand people. John 6:13 records the final details, "Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten."

What do these three stories teach us about God's supply and our need?

  1. God is not limited by our meager resources (a little oil, a few loaves of bread)
  2. God is not limited by our circumstances (Israel was in the midst of a seven year famine and the multitude of 5,000 were out on the mountainside)
  3. The little that we presently have testifies to the LORD's provision for the future
  4. We don't have to know how the Lord will provide in order to trust Him
  5. Sometimes we end up with more than we originally had
I'd rather have a bare pantry and experience God's provisions than have a pantry, refrigerator, and freezer well stocked with the best the world can offer. God's leftovers are better that the world's best stocked kitchen.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
2 Chronicles 24:17-15a; 2 Kings 12:17-18
  • List the things that Joash does that illustrate his abandoning the LORD.
  • What does Joash's sin cost Judah?
2 Kings 4:1-44
  • What characteristic does Elisha's instructions to the widow require her to exhibit?
  • After her son dies what is the basis of the grieving woman's request as she faces Elisha?
  • What does Elisha do to "cure" the pot of stew?
  • What will the prophets have to exhibit in order to eat the stew?
2 Kings 13:4-8
  • Why does God intervene on behalf of Jehoahaz?
  • What does this tell you about God?
2 Kings 8:1-6
  • How does the LORD show his care for the woman whose son was restored to life?
2 Kings 13:9-11; 2 Kings 12:19-21; 2 Kings 14:1-6; 2 Chronicles 25:1-10

  • How are the suceeding kings described?
  • Upon what does King Amaziah base his decisions?
  • Review Deuteronomy 17:14ff.
  • What does Judah's King Amaziah come to understand about his relationship with Israel? His relationship with God?
Turning truth into prayer
Thank the LORD for His faithful provision for those who trust in Him.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Power-Hungry Women (2 Kings 11:20)

 "And all the people of the land rejoiced. And the city was quiet, because Athaliah had been slain with the sword of the palace."

Who knew that when Judah's king, Jehoshaphat, allows his son, Jehoram, to marry Jezebel's daughter, Athaliah, that she would one day become Judah's only queen? After her son, King Ahaziah, dies Athaliah kills all of the royal family and establishes herself as queen. She serves as Judah's queen for six years.

What does this story teach us about power-hungry women?
  • They are unafraid to take matters into their own hands
  • They use their marriage relationship to further their own ambitions
  • They turn against their own children
  • They accuse others of sin while justifying their own (called out "treason" to those seeking to remove her while she had murdered those of her own household)
  • They are not respected by those under their rule/authority
  • People serve them out of fear rather than love or loyalty
  • No one misses them when they are gone (Athaliah's death causes great rejoicing)
Women can either use their influence for good or for evil. Throughout the Old Testament God highlights women who fear Him and are placed in positions of authority or influence (Miriam, Hannah, Deborah, Ruth, Esther, etc.). Power-hungry women such as Jezebel and her daughter, Athaliah, use their influence for evil. That women have influence is a given. How women use that influence, however, is critical. Women face choices daily concerning the use of that influence. Will they choose wisely by walking in humility and surrender to the Lord or will they abuse that influence by choosing to walk in pride and insubordination?

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
2 Kings 11:4-21; 2 Chronicles 23:1-21
  • What does Jehoiada present to the king's son at his coronation? Review Deuteronomy 17:14ff).
  • What does this reveal about Jehoiada?
  • How do the people demonstrate their commitment to the covenant Jehoiada makes between the LORD and His people?
2 Kings 12:1-16; 2 Chronicles 24:1-16
  • How long does Joash reign? Describe his reign.
2 Kings 10:28-36; 2 Kings 13:1-3, 22-23
  • How does the LORD reduce the size of Israel and why?
  • How are all the succeeding kings described or who are they all compared to?
  • Why does the LORD show mercy to Israel in spite of their commitment to act wickedly?
  • What does this reveal about God?
Turning truth into prayer
Pray for the women who serve as our governing officials (Barbara Boxer, senator from California and for Nancy Pelosi, congresswoman from California). Pray that the women who serve in our government will use their influence wisely and well.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

R.E.S.P.E.C.T. (2 Kings 9:11)

"When Jehu went out to his fellow officers, one of them asked him, "Is everything alright? Why did this madman come to you?"

Prophets have never been treated with respect. It is easy to look back at their lives and admire their boldness and overlook their mistreatment. Elijah had a price on his head. Elisha was called a baldhead. Jeremiah was thrown into a well. Isaiah was sawn in two. And this unnamed prophet was considered a madman. God's men who speak on God's behalf have never been popular.

Following Christ isn't a popularity contest. Just as Jesus said that his kingdom is not of this world, so the rewards of this kingdom are not of this world. Prophets live for a different set of rewards, answer to a different master, and walk contrary to the culture of this world. The prophet does, however, have a message that this world cannot do without. As God's mouthpiece he must deliver the word of God, announce the glory of the kingdom and the worth of the King, without the fear of man or consequence. Nothing suspends or cripples usefulness to God more than becoming proud or worrying about what others think.

Through Jehu the LORD avenges the blood of his servants the prophets and the blood of all the LORD's servants shed by Jezebel (2 Kings 9:7-10) . Other prophets died and have yet to be avenged, however, Jesus promises that day will come, "Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar" (Matthew 23:34-35).

History teaches us that prophets receive little respect in this world, but in the world to come, they will receive their reward.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
2 Kings 9:1-37; 2 Chronicles 22:7-9
  • Why does the LORD pronounce judgment on Ahab's descendants?
  • How does the LORD use Jehu the son of Jehoshaphat, the son of Nimshi, to destroy Ahab's descendants?
  • What does this tell you about the LORD and His ways?
  • What relationship has brought King Ahaziah and King Joram?
2 Kings 10:1-27
  • Describe the response of the palace administrator, the city governor, the elders, and the guardians of King Ahab's kingdom to Jehu. Why are they so afraid?
  • How does Jehu trick the prophets, ministers, and priests of of Baal into coming together so that he might kill them?
2 Kings 11:1-3; 2 Chronicles 22:10-12
  • Who is Athaliah and why does she kill all of the male heirs?
  • What happens in the midst of this terrible situation that reveals God's providential work?
  • What does this tell you about the LORD? What does this tell you about how God works?
Turning truth into prayer
Pray for your pastor. Pray that he will fear God more than man.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Digging Ditches (2 Kings 3:15b-17)

 "While the harpist was playing, the hand of the LORD came upon Elisha and he said, "This is what the LORD says: Make this valley full of ditches. For this is what the LORD says: You will see neither wind nor rain, yet this valley will be filled with water, and you, your cattle and other animals will drink."

The LORD has an affinity for the miraculous. Seven days without water and no cloud in the sky and the LORD asks the people to dig ditches for the water that will come. This is not the first time the LORD requires His people do something seemingly illogical:
  • The LORD tells Noah to build a large ark and gather the animals for the coming worldwide flood.
  • The LORD tells Abraham to take Isaac, through whom are the covenant promises of God, upon the mount and sacrifice him.
  • The LORD has Moses to tell Israel to place blood on the doorposts in order to avoid a visit from the death angel.
  • The LORD has Moses command the children of Israel to take the first step into the Red Sea and it would part for their crossing.
  • The children of Israel are dying from snake bites and the LORD has Moses place a bronze snake on a pole and promises healing to those who will look at the bronze snake in faith.
  • At the LORD's command Joshua instructs Israel to march around Jericho once a day for six days and then seven times on the seventh day. At the end of the seventh round the people were to shout and the walls would fall down.
These are just a few of the LORD's seemingly illogical commands containing a promise. When these commands are obeyed, however, then the promises of God are fulfilled. These commands ALWAYS require faith on man's part and a miracle on God's part.

What are some ditches with promises attached that God has us dig today?
  • He promises those who hide His Word in their hearts that they will not sin against Him (Psalm 119:11)
  • He promises mercy to those who confess their sins (Proverbs 28:13, 1 John 1:9)
  • He promises that He will put away sin forever to those who trust in the substitutionary  death of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:12, 14)
  • He promises to meet the needs of those who give sacrificially (Matthew 6:33)
  • He promises peace to those who take their cares to Him in prayer (Philippians 4:6-7)
These are just a few of God's promises that require ditch digging (a faith activity on man's part). Nothing pleases the heart of God more than when someone dares to believe Him and steps out in faith. Just as the LORD provided water to refresh the armies of Israel, Judah, and Edom so He takes full responsibility to fulfill His promises to those who act in faith today.
The same water that the LORD sent to refresh Israel confused the Moabites. Why? It never rained. Isn't if often true that what the LORD uses to bless us confounds those who don't know Him.
Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
2 Kings 2:1-25; 3:4-27
  • Describe Elijah's relationship with Elisha.
  • How does a mentoring relationship benefit both parties?
1 Kings 22:50; 2 Chronicles 21:1-3; 2 Kings 8:16-25; 1 Chronicles 21:4-20;
  • What is the King of Israel's view of God? View of his circumstances?
  • How does one's view of God effect his view of his circumstances?
  • Who does Jehohshaphat's son, Jehoram, marry and how does this marriage effect his leadership in Judah?
  • Why does the LORD not immediately destroy Jehoram for his wickedness?
  • How is Jehoram's life summarized?
2 Chronicles 22:1-6; 2 Kings 8:26
  • Read 2 Corinthians 6:14. What influence does Jehoram's marriage to Ahab's daughter on his descendants?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the LORD to show you where you've been negligent in digging ditches in your own life--where you are unprepared to receive all that He has for you.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Talking to Yourself (Psalm 91:2)

"I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust."

The Psalmist declares his absolute trust in the Lord as he faces two categories of dangers in 
verses 3-6: those he can see (of the day) and those he can't see (of the night) which are just as real as the ones he can see. They are:
  • The fowler's snare (things that trap and hold us captive) - verse 3
  • The deadly pestilence (things that threaten our health and our livelihood) - verse 3
  • The terror of night (fears that steal our sleep) - verse 5
  • The arrow that flies by day (overt personal attacks and crisis) - verse 5
  • The pestilence that stalks in darkness (the things that sneak into our lives) - verse 6
  • The plague that destroys at midday (things that blatantly threaten our vitality) - verse 6
King Ahaziah does not seek the LORD as his refuge, so after he falls through the lattice in his upper room and injures himself he seeks the help of Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron. The angel of the LORD sends Elijah to rebuke King Ahaziah for acting like the God of Israel doesn't exist, "Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going off to consult Baal-Zebub?"

Ahaziah's failure to turn to the LORD after his injury stems from his lack of surrender to God and confidence in God's ability to care for him before he was ever injured. Because he wasn't in the habit of seeking the LORD as his shelter, refuge, or fortress during the good times it didn't occur to him to turn to the LORD following his injury.

Ahaziah teaches us that accidents reveal where our hope lies and the Psalmist teaches us that only the man who understands and experiences the LORD as his refuge is prepared to face the terrors by day and the plagues of the night.

Knowing the LORD as "my refuge and fortress, my God in whom I trust" in the good times enables me to address the fears that accompany trouble--those of the day that I can see and those unseen and hidden in the night. When troubles do come (and they will) I continue the habit of saying to myself, "The LORD is my refuge and fortress, my God in whom I trust" so that fears and panicky emotions are contained.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Psalm 49
  • What is the fate of those who trust in their riches and themselves?
  • Why does the Psalmist warn against being overawed with those who are wealthy?
Psalm 83
  • How does the Psalmist pray for those who plot against the LORD?
Psalm 91
  • What does this Psalm promise those who make the Most High their dwelling place?
1 Kings 22:47-49; 2 Chronicles 20:35-37; 2 Kings 1:2-18; 2 Kings 3:1-3
  • Why is Ahaziah's sending men to fetch Elijah a foolish move on his part?
  • Why does the third delegation understand about Elijah and the LORD God?
Turning truth into prayer
Thank the LORD that He is the shelter in which you can hide. Thank Him that you don't have to live in fear. Confess Him as your refuge and fortress.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Praise and Worship Suspend Unbelief (2 Chronicles 20:21-22)

 "After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the LORD and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: "Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever."As they began to sing and praise, the LORD set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated."

Singing sharpens your focus; it suspends unbelief, fear, worry, and despair. It is impossible to fret while you are singing praise to God. The children of Israel were in extreme circumstances. The Moabites, Ammonites along with some Meunites approach Jehoshaphat and the southern tribe of Judah to make war. They are out-numbered and unprepared for war.

King Jehoshaphat proclaims a fast and leads the people to seek help from the Lord. In response the LORD sends Jahaziel to King Johoshaphat with a prophetic word, "Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's." With such a promise the people burst out in loud singing. Singing praise to the Lord expresses faith in the Lord. Singing praise to the LORD turns your attention from your circumstances upward to the LORD.

A familar modern hymn reflects this truth:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of this world will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.

When God gives a promise there's nothing really to do besides sing praises to God. Singing characterizes powerless people who cling to God in faith and in desperation. Henry Blackaby says that the first indicator of a revived people is joyful singing. Do you have a singing and joyful heart or is your heart filled with worry and despair? Remember, you can't sing praise to the LORD and worry at the same time. Open your mouth and sing!

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
1 Kings 22:36-40; 2 Chronicles 19:1-1; 2 Kings 1:1; 2 Chronicles 20:1-30
  • What had God promised would happen to King Ahab in 1 Kings 21:19 and what actually happened to him?
  • Why does the Lord send Jehu to rebuke King Jehoshaphat?
  • Describe King Jehoshaphat's reign.
  • What does King Jehoshaphat's fasting proclamation and prayer in 2 Chronicles 20 reveal about his view of God and himself?
  • Why were the people able to sing as they faced the enemy?
  • What does this teach you about facing your own enemies?
Psalm 46
  • Describe the difference between how the circumstances of this Psalm begins and ends.
  • What difference does a high view of God have in the midst of difficult circumstances?
Psalm 47
  • What does praising God do to the spirit of the one offering praise to God?
Psalm 48
  • What difference does the manifest presence of God make in the city of the Great King?
Turning truth into prayer
What are you focusing on and worrying about? Turn Psalm 47 into a praise offering to the LORD. Praise Him until He becomes larger than your problem.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Pouty Men and Scheming Women (1 Kings 21:7)

 "Jezebel his wife said, "Is this how you act as king over Israel? Get up and eat! Cheer up. I'll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite."

Have you ever wanted something so badly that your obsession led to a lose of appetite? Ahab made himself sick over the property of his neighbor. Naboth's property is just a symptom of a deeper problem. The previous chapter closes with Ahab's rebuke by the prophet for his disobedience in not killing Ben-Hadad. Sullen and angry, Ahab returns to Samaria where he stews over this rebuke. At this point in his life he covets his neighbor's property. Nothing will cheer him but having Naboth's property.

Sullen and angry men either blow up or pout. Women married to men who blow up tend to withdraw while women married to pouting men scheme and rescue. Ahab is a pouter and Jezebel is a rescuer.

Enter Jezebel. "I'll get you the vineyard."

What can we learn from this scheming woman?
  • Schemers take matters in their own hands - "I'll get you the vineyard"
  • Schemers disregard the convictions and legal rights of others - Naboth's refusal is based on the Book of the Law (Leviticus 25:23; Numbers 36:7)
  • Schemers misuse authority - "She wrote letters in Ahab's name, place his seal on them"
  • Schemers falsely accuse innocent people as a cover for their covetousness - "Seat two scoundrels opposite him and have them testify that he has cursed both God and the king"
  • Schemers use religion to "front" their taking advantage over others - "Proclaim a day of fasting" & "he has cursed God"
  • Schemers treat their victims harshly - "Then take him out and stone him to death"
  • Schemers intimidate others to cooperate in their plans - "So the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth's city did as Jezebel directed"
Women who take matters in their own hands hurt others. They never experience what God will do on behalf of those wait for Him (Isaiah 64:4); they experience God's judgment instead. This story serves as a clear warning to all women who scheme; Jezebel got her way, obtained for Ahab the vineyard, but incurred the judgment of a Holy God.

Questions for today's Chronological reading:
1 Kings 21:1-29
  • What does this story teach us about innocent victims (Naboth)?
  • Who does God hold responsible for Jezebel's actions?
  • What does Jezebel's actions cost her and others?
  • How does the writer describe Jezebel's influence on her husband?
  • How does Ahab respond to Elijah's words?
1 Kings 22:51-53; 1 Kings 22:1-35; 2 Chronicles 18:2-34
  • What influence do Ahab and Jezebel have on their descendants?
  • How do Ahab and Jehoshaphat differ in their response to trouble or difficulties?
  • How does Micaiah's counsel differ from that of the other prophets?
  • What does Ahab do to prevent his own death?
  • What does this narrative teach you about God?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to make you aware of scheming in your own life.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

God With Skin On (Psalm 115:3-8)

 "Our God is in heaven;
he does whatever pleases him.
But their idols are silver and gold,
made by the hands of men.
They have mouths, but cannot speak,
eyes, but they cannot hear,
noses, but they cannot smell;
they have hands, but cannot feel,
feet, but they cannot walk;
nor can they utter a sound with their throats.
Those who make them will be like them,
and so will all who trust in them."

Men and women are theomorphic, having the form or likeness of God. God created us with eyes so that we would know that He sees, ears, so that we could know that He hears, and a mouth so that we would know that He communicates. Instead of coming to the Living God Israel worships idols with carved relational attributes.

Many people throughout the history of mankind make and worship statues with eyes, ears, and a mouth; they demonstrate that they innately know that they are created for relationship with God. Israel, of all the peoples of the world, had a unique relationship with the Living God. He came to dwell in their midst, to be their God. Early in their history the people preferred that Moses relate to God on their behalf revealing the natural bent of man away from God. While Moses was up on the mount receiving instructions from God the people below demanded that Aaron give them a god that they could see and bow down to, revealing both man's innate need to worship something beyond themselves and their bent away from God.

The Apostle Paul expresses it this way, "men who suppress the truth . . . because what may be known of God is manifest [evident] in them, for God has shown it to them . . . they became fools and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man . . . (Romans 1:18-23). People all over the world settle for man-made gods/idols with human attributes because deep down inside they recognize the need for relationship with God.

The Apostle Paul also describes Jesus as "the image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1:15).

The Heavenly Father has made Himself known through the Lord Jesus Christ, God with skin on, with eyes and ears to see and hear the plight of the leper, the poor, the grieving mother and widow, the heart-emptiness of the prostitute, and the hard-heartedness of the Pharisee. Those who worship idols need to hear about the God with skin on, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Finally, the Apostle Paul makes us all who know the truth responsible for telling idol worshipers about the Living God and His Son the Lord Jesus Christ, "How then can they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!" (Romans 10:14-15). What will we do with the good news that God is knowable through the Lord Jesus Christ?

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Psalm 104
  • Make a list of the attributes of God that are described in this Psalm.
  • How does this Psalm portray the relational nature of God?
Psalm 114
  • What does this Psalm communicate about God's relationship with Israel?
Psalm 115
  • How does the description of idols compare with Psalm's 104 description of the Living God?
1 Kings 20:1-43
  • How does Ahab respond to Ben-Hahad's threats?
  • Why does the LORD defend Ahab against Ben-Hadad's attack?
  • Describe Ben-Hadad's view of Israel's God.
  • Why does Ahab free Ben-Hadad?
  • How does the LORD confront Ahab's foolishness?
  • How does Ahab respond to the prophet's rebuke?
  • What does this story teach you about God?
Turning truth into prayer
Thank the LORD that you live in a country where you were able to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. Pray for those in other lands who worship idols. Pray that God will raise up men and women in our generation who will go and tell them about the God with skin on, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Link Between Effective Prayer and Scripture (1 Kings 17:1)

 "Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, "As the LORD, the God of Israel lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word."

Wow, that's a pretty tall statement. No ordinary man or woman would make such a statement. How could Elijah make such a bold statement with confidence?

Back in Deuteronomy the LORD gave the children of Israel a list of the blessings with which He would bless Israel if they walked in obedience to Him. One of those blessings had to do with rain, "The LORD will open to you His good treasure, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season" (28:12). He also gives an extensive list of the cursings than ensued from rebellion, one of which has to do with rain, "And your heavens which are over your head shall be bronze, and the earth which is under you shall be iron. The LORD will change the rain of your land to powder and dust" (28:23-24b).

In Deuteronomy 17:14ff the LORD also provided regulations regarding the future kings of Israel. One of those regulations required the king to take a copy of the Book of the Law from the scribe and write his own copy from which he is to read all of the days of his life. Had Ahab, the 8th king of Israel (and the 8th wicked king in Israel) read the Book of the Law he would have read Deuteronomy 28. He would have known that the lack of rain indicates God's judgment on His people.

Elijah is the first named prophet sent by God to warn Israel's king to repent. His declaration to King Ahab regarding the cessation of rain for a number of years is according to Scripture, according to the blessings and cursings found in Deut. 28. What can we trust God to do? We can trust Him to do what He has said He will do.

Two truths about effective prayer:
  • Praying Scripture is the surest way to pray according to the will of God.
  • Praying Scripture is powerful because it ensures answers.
The Apostle John confirms these truth in 1 John 5:14, "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us." An effective prayer life is sustained by knowing and praying Scripture. And, James uses Elijah's prayers to demonstrate effective, fervent prayers by a righteous man, "The effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months" (James 5:16b-17). Knowing and praying Scripture prepares God's children to receive God's interventions and answers.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
  • What does Elijah learn about God as he obeys God's instructions to go to Kerith Ravine and then to the widow in Zaraphath?
  • How does Elijah's obedience to God affect the widow? What does this tell you about obedience?
  • What does the widow of Zaraphath learn about God?
  • What does Jesus use this story to teach in Luke 4:25ff?
  • What does Elijah's contest with the prophets of Baal teach the people about God?
  • Why does Elijah drench the altar with water?
  • How does Elijah respond to Jezebel's threat? What does this tell you about Jezebel? Elijah?
  • What does Elijah learn about God, himself, and the people of Israel in his encounter with God on Mount Horeb?
  • How does Elisha demonstrate his commitment to follow the Lord?
Turning truth into prayer
List the things that Paul includes in his prayer for the Ephesian believers in Ephesians 1:15-19. Pray the contents of this prayer for yourself and for your family.