Just men reading, memorizing and studying the bible together!

Alternate Plans
Bible Order: Isaiah 1–4
Old Testament Only: Job 20–21
New Testament Only: Acts 21:17–36
(Current Plan is Chronological)

Cry Comfort

Isaiah 40-42, Psalm 46

Eye with tear BWThe first two verses of today’s reading really spoke to me. I was reminded of the Christians who suffered and continue to suffer in Egypt and Iraq – in fact Christians who suffer in all Muslim countries. Here are the verses in question.

Isaiah 40:1-2 ESV

“[1] Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. [2] Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.”

It is the first verse that particularly stuck me since we hear today of so much suffering by God’s people. Now let me be clear. I view God’s people as those who submit their life to Christ. These verses, however, do speak specifically of and to the Jewish people. You see God has always had a tender place in His heart for the physical children of Abraham. His purpose is to save as many Jewish souls as possible. This is, of course, no different than His purpose for the rest of humanity. He intends to save as many souls as possible.

Looking back on the history of the Jewish people it is hard to deny that they have “received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins”. The Holocaust alone would prove this statement correct. Today the Jewish people are surrounded by those whose goal isn’t peace but complete annihilation of Jews as a race. You can’t make peace with people who will settle for nothing less than your death.

Today Hamas launches rockets indiscriminately into Israel; they are not targeting military facilities; they are not targeting at all. Hamas fires these rockets from heavily populated areas in the hopes that their own people will be killed and injured when Israel responds. This stands in stark contrast with the fact that Israel calls civilians in areas they intend to strike warning them to evacuate. Hamas doesn’t warn civilians on either side when it attacks.

Lost in the midst of all of this, however, is the fact that stuck between the fighting Jewish and Muslim people are Christians. These are our brothers and sisters in Christ and they are suffering. Throughout the world Christians are the most persecuted group of people on the planet and they suffer terribly. They are subjected to vile crimes against humanity and yet the world is by and large silent. Even our own government, while loudly condemning brutal acts against various people groups, is silent when it comes to persecution of Christians around the globe.

So brothers, I believe, like the verses above, God is crying “Comfort, comfort my people”. Let us endeavor to prayer fervently and frequently for comfort for those Christians under attack. Let us also seek to support and encourage them in every way we possibly can. How can we do less than that for our brothers and sisters in Christ?

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

Alternate Plans
Bible Order: Song of Solomon 1–8
Old Testament Only: Job 17–19
New Testament Only: Acts 21:1–16
(Current Plan is Chronological)

Consistent With His Will

Isaiah 38-39, 2 Kings 20:1-21, 2 Chronicles 32:24-33

Prayer - Hands on BibleI like King Hezekiah. He is so human. He reminds me of myself in that I want to walk in God’s ways, but my human weakness sometimes gets in the way and I take a tumble. Today we read of how Hezekiah was on the verge of death when Isaiah came to him to tell him he would not recover. Hezekiah turned to God in prayer asking for a reprieve and was immediately granted that reprieve. In fact Isaiah had barely left the kings presence when the Lord told him to go back and tell Hezekiah that God had heard his prayer and would add 15 years to his life.

The next thing we learn about Hezekiah, however, is that when Babylonian envoys came to see him, he showed them absolutely everything he had. He acted as a rich man boasting of all he possessed. This “indiscretion” would cost him. The king of Babylon, hearing of the wealth of Judah, would, in later years, send troops to conquer Judah and take the people into exile. The Bible says this about that:

2 Chronicles 32:24-26 ESV

“[24] In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death, and he prayed to the LORD, and he answered him and gave him a sign. [25] But Hezekiah did not make return according to the benefit done to him, for his heart was proud. Therefore wrath came upon him and Judah and Jerusalem. [26] But Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the LORD did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah.”

So we see Hezekiah doing the will of God, stumbling in his walk with God, and then returning to God with a humble heart. I find myself connecting with Hezekiah in this pattern. I love God but stumble from time to time in my walk. Each stumble requires a humble return to God.

Now some thoughts about this incident. First let’s address what was required for God to hear Hezekiah’s prayer and second why God answered Hezekiah’s prayer as He did. The Bible teaches that our prayers cannot be heard when we build walls between ourselves and God. By going our own way, behaving in disobedient fashion, we separate ourselves from God making our prayers nothing more than the rustling of the wind. Hezekiah came to God with a contrite heart after having walked in God’s ways most of his life. Now the length of obedience is not really important. The condition of one’s heart is the key to our prayers being heard. If we come to God with a humble and contrite heart He will hear our prayers.

Even if our hearts are in the right place, however, our prayers may not be answered as we would like. Just because we want something doesn’t mean what we want is consistent with God’s will. That is the key to how our prayers are answered. All prayers submitted to God from those whose hearts are right will be answered. Sometimes the answer is no. Jesus prayed that the cross be taken from Him but also prayed that not His will but God’s be done. Jesus got a no to the first part of that request but got a yes to the second; God’s will was done. This showed us what Scripture already taught, that God will answer in the affirmative only those prayers that are consistent with His will.

God answered Hezekiah’s prayer by giving him a few additional years, but here is how God explained his reasoning for such a positive response.

2 Kings 20:5-6 ESV

“[5] Turn back, and say to Hezekiah the leader of my people, Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the LORD, [6] and I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and I will defend this city for my own sake and for my servant David’s sake.”

God Himself tells us why He chose to answer Hezekiah’s prayer. He did so for His “own sake”. God does hear and answer prayer. Sometimes the answer is no, but when He says yes it is because our prayers are consistent with His will, with His ultimate plan for all of humanity and His creation. As our hearts conform more and more to the heart of Christ, our prayers will more and more be in harmony with God’s will. This will be because we put the will of God above our own will. That means that as we mature spiritually our prayers will become more powerful and effective.

So, don’t let your stumbles get in your way. Get back on your feet, brush yourself off, then get on your knees humbly confessing your sin and asking for forgiveness. God will hear that prayer and answer yes, for forgiveness is consistent with His will.

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

Alternate Plans
Bible Order: Ecclesiastes 9–12
Old Testament Only: Job 15–16
New Testament Only: Acts 20:7–38
(Current Plan is Chronological)

No Reading Today

Sleeping ManOur current chronological reading plan has no reading for Sundays. Take this day to reflect on what God has said to you through His Holy Word this past week.

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

Alternate Plans
Bible Order: Ecclesiastes 5–8
Old Testament Only: Job 12–14
New Testament Only: Acts 19:21–20:6
(Current Plan is Chronological)

In Whom Do You Trust?

Isaiah 36-37, 2 Kings 18:9-19:37, 2 Chronicles 32:1-23, Psalm 76

Quarter - US Front Closeup on TrustToday we read about some interesting history in the life of the nation of Judah. As you will recall, earlier in our reading this year, we saw the splitting of the nation of Israel into two nations. One nation, made up of ten of the original tribes was called Israel. The other nation, made up of the tribes of Judah Benjamin, was called Judah. In our reading today we see that what was called Israel was also known as “Samaria” and that the King of Assyria, Shalmaneser, had conquered that nation “because they did not obey the voice of the Lord their God” (2 Kings 18:12). The Samarians were carried off into exile.

Ten years later the new king of Assyria, Sennacherib, came to conquer Judah and succeeded in capturing all the fortified cities. Jerusalem still held out and messengers were sent to Hezekiah to intimidate him into surrendering. Here is part of what they said:

Isaiah 36:4-5 ESV

“[4] And the Rabshakeh said to them, ‘Say to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: On what do you rest this trust of yours? [5] Do you think that mere words are strategy and power for war? In whom do you now trust, that you have rebelled against me?’”

As Judah is faced with possible annihilation, this question of “In whom do you trust” is repeated a few times in today’s reading in Isaiah, 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles. It is, in fact, the most pertinent and important question to be asked at such a time. Assyria had conquered nation after nation, all of whom trusted in their gods to save them. Their trust was not well placed. But what of Samaria? Wasn’t Samaria’s God Jehovah, the One True God? I’m afraid by the time the Assyrians came to conquer, the gods of Samaria were the same gods worshipped by the surrounding nations.

There likely were individuals living in Samaria who still worshipped Jehovah, but, if so, they were by this time an extreme minority. The nation of Samaria, on the whole, had long ago turned their back on God. Still, you can kind of understand why Assyria figured the God of Judah would be of no help to Judah since they might have thought they had already defeated this God when conquering Samaria. Oops.

If you’ll recall, both nations, Judah and Samaria, had kings who would turn their back on God and worship man-made gods. Only every once in a while would a king rise who turned back to God. Hezekiah, king at the time of Assyria’s attack on Judah, was one of these rare kings who turned back to God. In fact, as we read earlier this week, Hezekiah had restored the temple and re-organized the priests for temple worship. He had also torn down the worship places of foreign gods. When threatened, Hezekiah sought out God’s prophet and God Himself in prayer. The fact of the matter is that when Samaria faced its darkest hour the people were trusting in a lie; when Judah faced that dark hour they were trusting in the One True God. Oh, how different the outcome!

Have you looked at our American money lately? You recall that we have this motto “In God We Trust” don’t you? That may have been true once upon a time, but today only a remnant does so. No today we Americans trust in ourselves. Unfortunately we can’t save ourselves. Our motto might be better stated as “In Ourselves We Rust”!

Well, as a nation today we are more like Samaria facing the darkness rather than Judah. The only thing that would turn things around would be a revival in the land. Do you know where revival begins? Revival begins in the hearts of those who belong to God. You see when we revive we are on fire for the Lord and we obediently and eagerly go out into the world proclaiming the good news of Christ. As more people hear that message and turn to Christ and are saved, the more the nation turns to God. A nation is not a monolithic entity. A nation is made up, at least in our instance, of hundreds of millions of individuals. As the majority of the individuals go, so goes the nation.

So there are two lessons for us today. In whom do you trust as an individual? When the darkest hour comes, the answer to that question will determine the outcome. That is the first lesson. The second lesson is that for our nation to survive its darkest hour the nation must once again return to God, and that won’t happen unless the people of God get on with the business of building God’s kingdom. There is no salvation without Christ. He is the one in whom each and every person, and each and every nation, must trust if they hope to survive. Take courage and get to work.

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

Alternate Plans
Bible Order: Ecclesiastes 1–4
Old Testament Only: Job 9–11
New Testament Only: Acts 19:11–20
(Current Plan is Chronological)

What Are You Looking At

Isaiah 31-35

Eye with CrossI’ve used the title of this post before I’m sure. You’ve also heard me refer to the old hymn “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” before as well. Obviously I feel the title and the reference to that song are worth repeating. In today’s passage I came across a section that spoke to what those who belong to God can expect.

Isaiah 33:15-17 ESV

“[15] He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, who despises the gain of oppressions, who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking on evil, [16] he will dwell on the heights; his place of defense will be the fortresses of rocks; his bread will be given him; his water will be sure. [17] Your eyes will behold the king in his beauty; they will see a land that stretches afar.”

So the person who walks righteously, speaks uprightly, despises dishonesty, refuses to be inflamed to bloodshed, and shuts his eyes from evil, will live for eternity with God having every need met in perfect peace and harmony. That is a lot to gain but the requirements are pretty steep. Since we have submitted our lives to Christ, how often have you and I failed to walk righteously, to speak uprightly, to shut our eyes from looking upon evil? That last one, shutting our eyes from looking upon evil, seems to be the hardest of all for us American Christian men.

Let’s face it, we are surrounded by visual temptation every hour of every day; from what women are wearing on the street, to magazine covers in the checkout line, to the ever more risqué visuals to be found on our televisions. Even the most mundane of television programs seems to have some sexual overtone these days. Of course that is the obvious, every day stuff. The research says that pornography is a booming business and Christian men are as likely to view it as any other male.

Guys, this stuff is poison. We have the indwelling Holy Spirit. A Christian looking at pornography will feel terrible as the Holy Spirit writhes within him. If you belong to Christ viewing pornography will hurt. You are to be righteous in Christ. You are to be upright. You are to shut your eyes from looking upon evil. Be it pornography or just the filth that passes for family entertainment in America today, we need to be intentional and shutting our eyes to that which is evil. We must also lead our family in encouraging them to shut their eyes to evil as well. This is serious stuff. Thankfully the indwelling Holy Spirit makes this possible and the rewards are astounding!

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

Alternate Plans
Bible Order: Proverbs 29–31
Old Testament Only: Job 7–8
New Testament Only: Acts 18:18–19:10
(Current Plan is Chronological)

Start Bearing Fruit

Isaiah 27-30

Grapes on the vine - purpleWe’re back in the book of Isaiah today and the prophet continues to tell us of coming judgment and of Christ’s ultimate return. As I read today’s passage my mind was captured by the following verse.

Isaiah 27:6 ESV

“In days to come Jacob shall take root, Israel shall blossom and put forth shoots and fill the whole world with fruit.”

The Bible teaches that God’s people will be both Gentile and Jew; that our genetics won’t make us God’s children but rather spiritual adoption into the family of God. This will only come about through submission to Christ and acceptance of His sacrifice. In days to come Jacob will be all God’s children; those adopted into His family through His Son. In the days to come God’s children will take root and fill the whole world with spiritual fruit.

This idea of God’s children bearing fruit is taught to us as well by Jesus Himself through His earthly ministry. He taught parables pointing us to fruit bearing. One such parable is known as the Parable of the Sower and it ends with the following verse.

Matthew 13:23 ESV

“As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

This idea of being fruitful was so important that Jesus spoke of it with His disciples just hours before He went to the cross.

John 15:1-5 ESV

[1] “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. [2] Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. [3] Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. [4] Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. [5] I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

Some people think the Old Testament and New Testament are two different books. They are wrong. They are two parts of the same book; telling the same story. In today’s reading in the Old Testament we see that those who are children of the Living God will bear fruit. In the New Testament we hear Jesus provide the Amen. If you belong to Christ you will bear spiritual fruit. Christ planted a seed within you and you must see to the care and feeding of that seed. Fruitfulness is part of who you are in Christ so let the growing accelerate! Start bearing fruit!

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!