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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Spiritual Disconnect (Jeremiah 26:2-3, 8)

 "This is what the LORD says: Stand in the courtyard of the LORD's house and speak to all the people of the towns of Judah who come to worship in the house of the LORD. Tell them everything I command you, do not omit a word. Perhaps they will listen and each will turn from his evil way. Then I will relent and not bring on them the disaster I was planning because of the evil they have done. But as soon as Jeremiah finished telling the people everything the LORD had commanded him to say, the priests, the prophets and all the people seized him and said, "You must die!"

Jeremiah speaks to a packed house of worshippers (which demonstrates that filling the building with worshippers doesn't necessarily mean it is a place of acceptable worship). Israel is just years away from going into captivity because of their sin and here they are worshipping! This same crowd rejects Jeremiah's message, seizes him and demands that he die. This reminds me of Jesus' feeding the very multitude who later turned on Him and demanded that a criminal go free while He is crucified.

A few elders made an appeal on Jeremiah's behalf by bringing up a prophet from the past. Micah prophesied during Hezekiah's reign and Hezekiah repented when he heard Micah's message. King Jehoiakim had already killed Uriah, a previous prophet who spoke against him. God, however, uses the words of these elders to protect Jeremiah from harm.

This story teaches a number of truths about worship and worship services:
  1. God doesn't accept the worship of those who don't listen to and obey His Word. In other words, people living in known sin can sing enthusiastically to the LORD and their praises will not get past the ceiling. Worship is more about them having a good time and feeling better about themselves than adoring the Lord of heaven.
  2. It is quite possible to have a packed worship service while under the judgment of God. Worship, however, flows out of hearts that are repentant toward God.
  3. False prophets and priests have always existed and they often lead large congregations of people. They act indignantly when their message is questioned.
  4. God often plants his wise men in the crowd to speak on behalf of his prophets and prevent their harm.
Lively worship and packed buildings are not reliable gauges of spiritually healthy congregations. Spiritual health is measured by brokenness over sin, repentance and obedience; anything less is spiritual disconnect.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Jeremiah 8:4-9:15; 9:22-10:16
  • What is God's goal in asking man questions? (See Genesis 3:9, 11, 4:6) What kind of questions is the LORD asking in Jeremiah 8:4-5, 8, 9, 12, 10; 9:9, 12?
  • How are those who reject the Word of the Lord described?
  • How are those who follow the words of false prophets described?
  • How does God's prophet respond to Judah's worship of foreign idols? (It is important to note that God's prophets have a heightened sense of spiritual awareness.)
  • Why does the LORD urge His people to resist fearing the gods of foreign nations?
Jeremiah 26:1-24
  • Describe Judah's response to Jeremiah's message.
  • Who defends Jeremiah and what is the basis of their defense?
  • What does this teach you about God?
Turning truth into prayer
Pray for your church. Pray that you and your church will worship the LORD in spirit and in truth.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Personal Joy During National Calamity (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

 "Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights."

God revealed to Habakkuk His plans to use the Babylonians to punish Judah for their idolatrous ways. How does Habakkuk handle that kind of news? What happens when all seems lost, when the future seems bleak and hopeless?

Habakkuk reflects upon the LORD's great fame and the awesome deeds He had done for Israel in the past. He also considers God's use of nature to accomplish His purposes. And he knows that the Babylonian captivity isn't permanent. His view of God and specific promises given by God sustain Him during this awful period in Israel's history.

Regardless of what occurs in the national realm Habakkuk is able to maintain personal joy. Circumstances don't dictate joy. Joy is the result of a right attitude toward God. Habakkuk chose to rejoice in the LORD rather than fret over his and the nation's circumstances. He was able, therefore, to experience God's strength and leadership individually while the nation experienced fear, turmoil, and hopelessness.

Reciting the past deeds of the LORD is a spiritual discipline. It is intentional. And, it is beneficial as our eyes move from our immediate circumstances to the greatness of our God. We can say with Habakkuk, "I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy. Praise turns into intercession.

Today's Chronological Bible reading:
Jeremiah 22:1-17
  • What was God's message to the king of Judah through Jeremiah? What kind of response does this message require of the king?
  • What does God promise will happen to His people they disobey His instructions?
  • What does the king's palace represent to Jehoahaz?
  • How old was Jehoahaz when he became king and how is he described?
  • What happens to him as a result of his doing evil before the eyes of the Lord? What does this tell you about God?
  • Who does God use to accomplish His will? What does this tell you about God?
  • Take a look at the timeline in the front of your Bible and note how closely Judah is to being taken into captivity by the Babylonians.
Habakkuk 1:1-3:19 (Habakkuk prophesied in Judah just prior to the first captivity of Judah--see timeline in the front of the Bible)
  • As Habakkuk looks around him what does he see? What is his prayer?
  • How does God answer Habakkuk?
  • Read Proverbs 21:1. How does God view and use kings?
  • What is Habakkuk's view of God? Which character of God does Habakkuk base his prayer upon?
  • What does Habakkuk do after he completes his prayer?
  • How does Habakkuk respond to God's promise of judgment? Where is his trust?
  • What parallels do you see between Judah's situation and ours today?
Turning truth into prayerPray for our nation and our city. Pray that God's people will see and comprehend what God is doing in our day. Make a list of the past deeds of God in your life. Turn that list into a psalm of praise to the LORD

Friday, July 29, 2016

Hungry For God (Psalm 81:10-16)

"I am the LORD your God,who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it. "But you would be fed with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you."

Recently as I mowed my yard I bumped a tree limb and knocked two featherless baby birds out of their nest onto the ground. I placed a broken limb over them to protect them while their mother fluttered and chirped about in panic. During the following days I watched their mother fetch worms, keep them warm, and generally hover nearby at all times. Their open mouths demonstrated their dependence upon the care of their mother and she did not disappoint them.

God brought the children of Israel up out of Egypt and would have fed them with the finest of wheat. Just as the birds' parents hovered over the baby birds anticipating their every need, so the LORD would have hovered over Israel to satisfied them. Did they rely upon Him in their hunger? No, their appetites and stubborn resistance led them elsewhere for fulfillment, to foreign gods.

We enter this world hungry. Hungry for God. Most people misunderstand their hunger and look to human relationships, hobbies, vacations, the accumulation of things, etc., to fill the place left empty by the Fall. "Open wide your mouth and I will fill it," says the LORD. We are as dependent upon the care and provision of the LORD just as those baby birds were upon their mother. Americans celebrate independence. Yet, like Israel, independence is the very thing that keeps us from crying out to God. In her proud independence Israel refused to come with an open mouth to the LORD.

If only we would recognize our absolute dependency upon Him! We must cry out to the LORD like the Psalmist, "Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon the earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" (Psalm 73:25-26).

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Psalm 81:1-16
  • Read Leviticus 23:24; Numbers 10:10. When was the blowing of the trumpets established and what purpose did they serve?
  • What does Josiah's leading the people in this celebration tell you about Josiah and his knowledge of the Book of the Law?
  • What event does the Psalmist use or remind the people of in order to turn their hearts back to God?
  • How is the heart of God for His people revealed in this Psalm?
Jeremiah 47:1-48:47
  • Who does the LORD raise up to destroy the Philistines?
  • What does this tell you about the LORD?
  • Why does the LORD pronounce judgment against Moab?
  • What does this tell you about wicked nations?
2 Kings 23:29-30; 2 Chronicles 35:20-36:1
  • Why does Josiah engage in battle against Egypt?
  • Why do you think Josiah refused to withdraw from the battle with Egypt?
  • Why do people enter into battles that aren't really theirs to fight?
  • What did he think he would be able to do to protect himself in battle?
  • Describe Jeremiah's relationship with Josiah.
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the LORD to reveal the things you turn to when filling the empty places of your life. Ask Him to make you more aware of your total dependence upon Him.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

God-called Women Prophets (2 Kings 22:14)

"Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Acbor, Shaphan and Asiah went to speak to the prophetess Huldah, who was the wife of Shallum son of Tikvah, the son of Harnas, keeper of the wardrobe. She lived in Jerusalem, in the Second district."

Nine prophetesses are listed in the Bible: Miriam, Deborah, Noadiah, Isaiah's wife, Huldah, Anna, and Philip's four daughters. As a new believer I often heard that God only uses women when men aren't available. Bible literacy cured me of that false belief.
  • Miriam served alongside her two brothers, Moses and Aaron. She led Israel's women (Exodus 15:20).
  • Deborah prophesied during the Judges period - so, yeah, maybe there was a male leadership vacuum (Judges 4:4).
  • Noadiah prophesied falsely during the Babyonian captivity (Nehemiah 6:14).
  • Isaiah referred to his wife as a prophetess (Isaiah 8:3).
  • Huldah prophesied during King Josiah's reign (2 Kings 22:14ff).
  • Anna prophesied in the Jerusalem temple during Israel's "silent years". She rejoiced to see Jesus' day and "spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem" (Luke 2:36-38).
  • Philip the Evangelist had four daughters who prophesied during the early church period (Acts 21:9).
Back to Huldah the prophetess. We know very little about her:
  • She was married to the keeper of the wardrobe which means she was probably married to a Levite (2 Kings 22:14).
  • She was respected by the high priest, Hilkiah and by the men of the city who sought her out to hear from the LORD God of Israel (2 Kings 22:14).
  • She knew the Book of the Law, "Thus says the LORD: 'Behold, I will bring calamity on this place and on its inhabitants--all the words of the book which the king of Judah has read--" (2 Kings 22:16).
  • She spoke with authority, "Thus says the LORD" 3x (2 Kings 22:15-16, 18).
  • The priest and the King respected her and received the LORD's word through her (2 Kings 22:18, 20).
  • She did not fear man (priest or King) and delivered a message of judgment (2 Kings 22:18) and hope (verse 18-20).
The layout of the Chronological Bible makes it clear that Jeremiah was Huldah's younger contemporary in Jerusalem, proving again that God sometimes uses women just because He wants to. (Zephaniah and probably Nahum also prophesied during this period in Israel's history.) 

Through Huldah we see that God uses women who understand and practice Biblical submission, who know the Word of God, whose fear of God overcomes the fear of man and who deliver faithfully the Word of God. And, from Huldah we learn that women who know God and His Word influence kings, priests, and entire populations.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Jeremiah 16:1-17:27
  • What does the LORD use both feasting and funerals to teach?
  • What analogies does the LORD use to describe his coming judgment?
  • What does this tell you about Israel's sin?
  • In chapter 17, the LORD offers both a cursing and a blessing. He uses two analogies to describe the cursing and the blessing. What reason does the LORD give for the cursing and the blessing?
  • What does this tell you about what the LORD desires from His people?
  • Why does the LORD have Jeremiah prophesy against the gates of Jerusalem?
2 Kings 22:3-20; 2 Chronicles 34:8-33
  • What does Hilkiah find in the temple (hidden in plain sight)?
  • What does this tell you about the Book of the Law? the priesthood?
  • How does hearing the Book of the Law being read affect Hilkiah and King Josiah?
  • What is the origin of faith (Romans 10:17)?
  • Why is knowing the Word of God a vital part of being spiritually sensitive?
  • How would you describe Bible literacy in your church today?
  • George Barna says that less than one-half of one percent of adults between 18-23 years old have a Biblical worldview ( Could it be that the Book of the Law is hidden in plain sight in our day?
Turning truth into prayer
Thank the LORD for calling and using women in places of spiritual leadership.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Fired-up Prophets (Jeremiah 5:13-14)

"The prophets are but wind and the word is not in them; so let what they say be done to them." Therefore this is what the LORD God Almighty says: "Because my people have spoken these words, I will make my words in your mouth a fire and these people the wood it consumes."

There have always been two types of prophets:
  • False prophets prophesy for fame, money, prestige and popularity. They tell the people what they want to hear. They misrepresent the LORD and pronounce blessing on what God curses (dignify sin) and curse what God blesses (Creationism, the inerrant Word of God, etc.). False prophets fill the pulpits of many churches today. Liberal media have no problem finding and interviewing prophets who agree with them. Those who listen to their message experience a false sense of peace, continue in their sin, and seemingly live the "good life" now. They, however, will die in their sins and be separated from God for all eternity.
Unfortunately, throughout history false prophets seem to outnumber God's anointed prophets.
  • God's anointed prophets prophesy because they can't do otherwise. Their message, however, puts man on trial for his deeds and transgressions. They speak of coming judgment and call sin by name. They promote the holiness of God and his redemption of mankind through the substitionary death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They call people to repentance. Theirs is a fiery message. They are never politically popular or correct but they are always Biblically faithful. They are mocked and mostly rejected for their message. They fear God, more than man. As a result of their proclamation those who listen accuse them of misrepresenting God and being full of hot air. Those who listen and heed their message discover genuine peace, joy, and redemption.
Man desires a God that they can live with, one who doesn't have standards, one who doesn't punish sin, and especially, one who doesn't require repentance. False prophets give man the God he wants. Their God, however, isn't the God of the Bible.

Fiery prophets, however, preach with broken hearts--broken over the marring effect sin has on former image bearers, over how men love darkness rather than light, over the coming outpouring of God's wrath upon unrepentant sinners and especially over the rejection of God's love, grace, and mercy extended to guilty sinners through Jesus Christ. God's anointed prophets give man the God who Is, the God of Scripture, the God who has revealed Himself through His Son Jesus Christ. Man's turning point occurs when he relinquishes the God of false prophets and embraces the God Who Is.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:

Jeremiah 5:1-6:30
  • Who does the LORD hold responsible for the people's ignorance of the way of the LORD and His requirements?
  • What reasons does the LORD give Israel that should cause them to fear Him?
  • What has created the lack of hearing condition among His people?
  • What analogy does the LORD use to describe His relationship with Israel?
Jeremiah 13:1-27
  • What visual does Jeremiah use to demonstrate the LORD's love and purpose for his people and their response?
  • What does the use of this visual require of Jeremiah?
  • What should the LORD's pronouncements have done for Israel?
  • Why does Israel refuse to respond to the LORD's pronouncements?
Turning truth into prayer
Pray for your pastor. Pray that he will fear God more than man. Pray that the Word of God would be as fire in his heart. Pray that you, your family, and your church will heed the voice of the LORD through your pastor's proclamation of the Word of God.