Just men reading, memorizing and studying the bible together!

May 3, 2016

Alternate Reading Plans
Chronological Order: Psalms 133
Old Testament Only: 1 Samuel 21–23
New Testament Only: Luke 20:19–40

The Family Tree

Today’s Passage: 1 Chronicles 2-3

Tree - Stylized - Orange BGHere we go again. So and so had this son and that son, and they had this son and that son, and so on and so on and so on. My eyes are getting droopy! In order to stay awake through this listing of genealogy we need to understand the purpose for its inclusion in Holy Scripture. I have mentioned before that everything in the Bible points to Christ. The Bible is the story of God’s redemptive plan for humanity. The plot of this story is driven by God’s promise of a savior to be born of Adam, Abraham, Jacob/Israel, Judah, and David. The genealogy is given to us here so we won’t lose track.

Much of what we are reading right now has been given to us in other parts of Scripture but now we are doing a little recap because Israel has been scattered far and wide. This dispersion has made it harder to keep track of the lineage. This lineage is extremely important because it is the thread that weaves throughout the Bible story and leads us to Jesus Christ. Can you think of any other people group in the history of human kind that can walk you back into antiquity son by son to the beginning? At any rate, look at Matthew 1:1. The first book of the New Testament, chapter 1, verse 1, begins with the genealogy of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise of salvation and He has the genealogy to prove it.

The pattern of presenting this genealogy in 1 Chronicles duplicates the pattern from Genesis. This is a pattern that walks through the rejected lines of descendants first, followed by the line that will lead to the Lord Jesus Christ. There are names here that we haven’t heard before and there is a reason for sharing them here. Look at the following reference to the sons of David:

1 Chronicles 3:5 ESV
“These were born to him in Jerusalem: Shimea, Shobab, Nathan and Solomon, four by Bath-shua, the daughter of Ammiel;”

I found the following expert from “Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee” illuminating:

“Did you ever hear of Shimea and Shobab? We know Solomon, but who is Nathan? Well, if you go over to the genealogy of the Lord Jesus, which is recorded in the Gospel of Luke, you will find that the line goes through Nathan rather than through Solomon. Mary, the mother of Jesus, traced her ancestry through Nathan, while Joseph’s genealogy is traced through Solomon. In Matthew we see that the Lord Jesus gets His legal title to the throne of David through Solomon, and in Luke we see that He gets His blood title to the throne of David through Nathan. This is very important, because in the ancestry of Solomon, Jeconiah (whom the Lord calls Coniah) appears, and the Lord declares that “… no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah” (Jer. 22:30). This one man produced a short circuit in the line leading to the Messiah, which is further proof that Joseph could not be the father of the Lord Jesus and that Jesus must be virgin born.”

McGee, J. V. (1997). Thru the Bible commentary (electronic ed.). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

The genealogy has a purpose, so drink some coffee, take a deep breath and pay attention! “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every god work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

May 2, 2016

Alternate Reading Plans
Chronological Order: 2 Samuel 5:1-10, 1 Chronicles 11-12
Old Testament Only: 1 Samuel 19–20
New Testament Only: Luke 20:1–18

Who Is King?

Today’s Passage: 2 Kings 24 – 1 Chronicles 1

Crown of thornsToday we reach the end of the kings. If you’ll remember when God’s chosen people came into the Promised Land He had raised up Judges that would lead the people back to God and against their enemies. Samuel was the last judge and his sons, Joel and Abijah, “did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain” (1 Samuel 8:3). The people used the faithlessness of Samuel’s sons as an excuse to demand a king. They wanted to be “like all the nations”. They didn’t want God to be their King; they wanted a man to be their king. Listen to what God told Samuel:

1 Samuel 8:7-9 ESV
“And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.'”

Did they listen to Samuel’s warning? No. What came of their desire to rule over themselves? They became more and more corrupt, wandering further and further from God. Without God to guide, direct, and fight for them they eventually ceased to exist. The king of the Northern kingdom was captured by Assyria and taken into captivity along with most of the people of wealth, education, and ability. Only the poor farmers were left to tend the land. Those taken into captivity were spread far and wide and they never returned, en masse, to Israel. From this comes the notion of the “lost tribes” of Israel. The people that were left in the Northern kingdom inter-married with people of other nationalities the Assyrians had moved into the area.

You’ll remember Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan. A Samaritan was a Jew who was a descendant of those who had been left behind during the Assyrian exile. Because of wide intermarriage between these Samaritans and foreign peoples, the Jews who returned from the Babylonian exile considered them to be less than Jewish. During Jesus’ day a “good Jew” wouldn’t even walk through Samaria. If he had to go from the south to a destination on the northern side of Samaria, he would cross the Jordan in order to detour around Samaria rather than walk through it. Harsh!

Years after the Assyrian exile of the Northern kingdom, the Southern kingdom suffered a similar fate at the hands of Babylon starting in 598 B.C. Their king was captured and he, along with the people of wealth and ability were taken into exile. Now this group managed to maintain some level of national identity and, in 538 B.C., during the reign of the Babylonian king Cyrus, these Jews were allowed to return to Israel and rebuild the temple. The temple was completed in 515 B.C. which is the date traditionally viewed as marking the end of the Babylonian exile.

Exile; separation from God and the place and life He had planned for them. Exile was the natural conclusion to the journey on which Israel started when they decided they didn’t want God to be their king. Separation from God came because they wanted to rule over themselves. Let me ask you, who is king of your life? Is it God or is it you? Many of us say that we have accepted Christ’s sacrifice for our sin but have we accepted his lordship? Have we taken the crown off our own head and placed it on His? Look at the small handful of these kings that went only part of the way in walking in God’s ways. Did their behavior keep Israel from exile? No. Too little too late. They were still the kings of Israel instead of God.

It always comes down to that; who is in charge, you or Him? The history of Israel and its kings is an example of the ravaged life we can expect when we try to be king of our own life; it leads to separation from God and life in exile from what He intends for you. What does He have planned for you? Notice what Jeremiah the prophet said when he foretold of a return from the Babylonian exile:

Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
“For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”.

Do you want the plans and hope you can give yourself or the plans and hope God has for you? My plans and hopes are far too small. I’ll take what God has for me behind door number 1 thank you very much. How about you? Give up your crown so you can really live!

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

May 1, 2016

Alternate Reading Plans
Chronological Order: Psalms 102-104
Old Testament Only: 1 Samuel 18
New Testament Only: Luke 19:28–48

We Worship THE Rock

Today’s Passage: 2 Kings 21-23

Turkish flag - Red field with Islamic symbol.

Turkish flag – Red field with Islamic symbol.

It is amazing how God works! Do you remember way back in 1 Kings 12? Solomon died and the kingdom was divided. Jeroboam ruled the Northern Kingdom, called Israel, and made two calves of gold and made temples on high places and appointed priests to minister his man-made religion. In Bethel, as Jeroboam made sacrifices to the golden calves, “a man of God came out of Judah by the word of the Lord” (1 Kings 12:27). And this is what he said:

1 Kings 13:2-4 ESV
“And the man cried against the altar by the word of the Lord and said, “O altar, altar, thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name, and he shall sacrifice on you the priests of the high places who make offerings on you, and human bones shall be burned on you.’ ” And he gave a sign the same day, saying, “This is the sign that the Lord has spoken: ‘Behold, the altar shall be torn down, and the ashes that are on it shall be poured out.’ ”

Jeroboam ruled the Northern Kingdom, Israel, in about 930 B.C. A prophet from the Southern Kingdom, Judah, came to the Northern Kingdom and told Jeroboam that a king of Judah would one day come and tear down the high places he had created. The prophet specifically stated how all of this would occur. Josiah was king of the Southern Kingdom around 640 B.C. and here is what he did:

1 Kings 23:15-16 ESV
“Moreover, the altar at Bethel, the high place erected by Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, that altar with the high place he pulled down and burned, reducing it to dust. He also burned the Asherah.  And as Josiah turned, he saw the tombs there on the mount. And he sent and took the bones out of the tombs and burned them on the altar and defiled it, according to the word of the Lord that the man of God proclaimed, who had predicted these things.”

The prophet of God stated who would tear down the high place erected by Jeroboam 290 years before it took place. That’s longer than America has been a country! Sometimes I think God is just showing off but the fact is He is just being Him. He is all powerful. He is all knowing.

The reason Jeroboam had set up these false religious practices was to keep the kingdom divided. He was afraid a regular trip to Judah by his people to worship in the temple would cause them to reunite leaving him out of a job. His answer to this problem was to mislead the people into worshipping manufactured gods so they wouldn’t make the trip. Do you understand how abominable Jeroboam’s behavior was? He was deliberately attempting to keep the descendants of Abraham from worshipping God. I wonder how he likes Hell.

The fact that Josiah has torn down these high places in the Northern kingdom shows that Josiah is gaining back ground lost to the Assyrians. As we read earlier, the majority of the people of the Northern Kingdom have been carried off into exile. The Assyrian power, however, is waning. Babylonian power is on the rise, but in the vacuum created by this super-power face off is the opportunity for Judah to regain some of the Northern Kingdom lost years before.

It was not God’s idea for Israel to have a king. It was not God’s idea to split the kingdom in two. It was not God’s idea to send Israel off into Assyrian exile and then into Babylonian exile. These two exiles in lands that were not their home remind me of the consequences of living our lives outside of God’s plan. When we live contrary to God’s plan we find ourselves living in a land God did not intend for us; we end up living in a land foreign to our intended home. We are in exile.

2 Kings 23:5 ESV
“And he deposed the priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained to make offerings in the high places at the cities of Judah and around Jerusalem; those also who burned incense to Baal, to the sun and the moon and the constellations and all the host of the heavens.”

Did you notice the reference to those that burned incense to “the sun and the moon and the constellations and all the host of the heavens”? These were religions that worshipped the creation rather than the creator. When I read this I was reminded of the founding of the Islamic faith. Mohammed had been raised for a time by a Christian bishop. He developed his religion and preached it first to the Jews in the Holy Land. The Jews laughed him out of town which didn’t sit well. His religion has been pretty “anti-Jew” ever since. He went so far as to make his day of rest the day before the Jews day of rest so that it would be hard for Jews living in lands controlled by this new religion to prepare for their own Sabbath.

At any rate, Mohammed went home to the birthplace of his mother to lick his wounds and sell his religion to his tribe. He then used the strength of his tribe to conquer others; particularly those in his birthplace, Mecca. Mecca was home to a meteor that had fallen from the sky. Polytheism was rampant in that time and placed as it had been for hundreds if not thousands of years. Mohammed was extremely pragmatic and he realized that to further his ambitions he needed to unify the nomadic Arabs by unifying their religion. This he did by creating “Allah”; a conglomeration of the most popular pagan gods; the most popular of the popular was the god represented by this meteor I mentioned earlier.

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the tall, thin, square building in Mecca that is the focus of the annual pilgrimage but inside that building is that meteor. The symbol we Christians use for our faith is the cross. The symbol the Jews use is the Star of David.  The symbol the Muslims use is the crescent (it sometimes a crescent and a star together). Ever wonder why the crescent? Looks like a crescent moon doesn’t it? The shape represents part of the moon.  The meteor came from the sky; it is part of the moon or a star.  So, from long before the birth of Mohammed we have these pagan practices of worshiping the “sun and the moon and the constellations and all the host of the heavens”.

Christians, Jews, and Muslims do not worship the same god. Our God did come from Heaven but not as a chunk of cold inanimate rock. He came as a living, breathing human being who is our flesh and blood Rock. We worship the creator, not the created.

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

April 30, 2016

Alternate Reading Plans
Chronological Order: 1 Chronicles 7-10
Old Testament Only: 1 Samuel 16–17
New Testament Only: Luke 19:1–27

Reborn Into Perfection!

Today’s Passage: 2 Kings 18-20

Scripture - Born againWell hush my mouth! Finally, a king that tore down the high places! Do you remember way back during the Wilderness years when a plague of poisonous snakes had infested the Israelite camp (Numbers 21)? The people had spoken against God and Moses. They had been grumbling and complaining again and claiming that they would have been better off if they never left Egypt. Those snakes were doing a lot of biting and a lot of Israelites were dying. They apologized to Moses and asked that he pray to God on their behalf. In response to his prayer, God told Moses to make a bronze serpent on a pole. Anyone who was bitten by a snake could then look upon the bronze serpent and live.

Do you remember that story? You know what came of God’s saving graces on that day so long ago? Some people started worshipping the bronze serpent and that abominable practice continued on until Hezekiah’s day. They had created a god and gave it a name “Nehushtan”. God performed incredible miracles among them and they worshipped the work of their own hands. Well, Hezekiah put an end to that one! Here we finally have a king who went all the way. He walked in the ways of the Lord and he torn down the idols.

Do you notice that even though Hezekiah walked in the ways of the Lord, as no other before him had, his life wasn’t free of trouble and illness? God did bless him and protect him and guide him, but the consequences of living in a fallen world fall upon us all; king and pauper, saved and unsaved alike. The difference, if you will notice, is that God hears our prayers. When Hezekiah was sick, and told that he was going to die, he prayed to God who heard his prayer and gave him another fifteen years.

Hezekiah wasn’t perfect. His pride doomed his children. He was all too pleased to show off his wealth to the emissaries of Babylon. He brought a crook into his house so as to brag. The crook listened intently as the king’s pride allowed him to “case the joint”. In just a few years the Babylonians would come and carry all of Judah off into captivity. I’m telling you guys, no matter how good a hero of the Bible might appear, they are still human so they will sin. If Hezekiah had been perfect, then Jesus would not have been necessary. It would have shown that man can perfect himself; that he doesn’t need a savior. Everything the Bible tells us points to one fact; we need a “super-human” Savior; we need Jesus the Christ.

I’m afraid that what too many of us Christians take away from this fact is that we can’t be perfect. I’m here to tell you that is a lie. You can’t be perfect without Christ, but if you have accepted Christ, then perfection is possible. It isn’t easy, but it is possible. In fact, that is how you are supposed to be. Yes, you are forgiven and you now live under a new covenant but Jesus said that he came to fulfill the Law not to abolish it. He said that not one dot or iota would pass from the Law until all had come to pass; that “all” includes His second coming. He died so that you would be free from the imperfection of sin. He did not die so you could say “Oh well, I’m a sinner but at least I’m forgiven”. At least you’re forgiven? At least?

Don’t you know? You were a sinner. Your sin is as far from you as the East is from the West. You have been cleansed of that imperfect past. You have God’s own Holy Spirit living within you. You are no longer a sinner. Why are you putting those chains back on? Why are you putting imperfection back on? Why do you accept the false notion that as far as sin is concerned you can’t help it? You can help it! Jesus died so you could help it; not in your own power but in His. Start living and doing in His power. When you accepted Christ you were born again; yet it is not you who lives, but Christ who lives within you. The old has gone the new has come. That new is a child of the living God who has been made to be perfect. Stop playing in the gutter. Stop putting on filthy rages as if to go back to being that person who died. You would not be better off if you never left Egypt!

Brothers, why do you and I continually act as if we just can’t help sinning? It’s a lie! We can help it. When you accept the lie you give yourself an excuse. If you ever want to fail at something believe you can’t do it. You were not made for failure. You have been reborn into perfection! Believe it and do it!

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

Nevertheless

by | April 29, 2016 | In Daily Reading No Comments

April 29, 2016

Alternate Reading Plans
Chronological Order: Psalms 81, 88, & 92-93
Old Testament Only: 1 Samuel 14:24–15:35
New Testament Only: Luke 18:18–43

Nevertheless

Today’s Passage: 2 Kings 15-17

Tear down your high places and idols!

Tear down your high places and idols!

“Nevertheless, the high places were not taken away.” (2 Kings 15:4) How many times have we read that as we have progressed through 1 & 2 Kings? It only appears after we have been told that this king or that king “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord”. It’s always an almost-not-quite kind of thing. They walk in the way of the Lord but they don’t remove the high places and idol worship. Why? I’m reminded of Romans 3:10 which says “None is righteous, no, not one”. No one seems to be able to get up to 100% obedience. There is always some level of sin present in every human king. Even David, who had come the closest, lusted in his heart, and committed adultery and murder. David, a man after God’s own heart; nevertheless, a murderer and adulterer.

How discouraging. Even the good guys aren’t really good guys. Of course they didn’t have the shed blood of Jesus Christ to wash away their sin and they didn’t have the Holy Spirit and the fullness of God’s holy Word to guide them in righteousness. You and I, as Christians, have all of that. Nevertheless. If you don’t mind my asking, what is your “nevertheless”? With Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, you can get to 100% obedience. I’m not there yet. Are you? I know what some of my “neverthelesses” are. I suspect there are other “neverthelesses” that God will be convicting me of in short order.

Having accepted Jesus Christ, and having committed myself to walk in His ways, why do I leave the high places intact? Why do I cling to my disgusting, fraudulent idols? What idols you ask? I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours. What? Confession is good for my soul but not for yours? Okay, since we aren’t going to turn this into a public confessional, let me list the most common among us men. Ready? Women, Sex, Money, Food, Sports, Physical gratification, Ourselves – Boy, this could go on all day. What would you rather do or have than spend time with God? Idol. Why? Why is anything more important to us than God? Why should there be any high places? Why should there be any idols in our lives? There shouldn’t.

Those kings that went most of the way in following God lived a better life than the others that went the opposite direction, but they still earned a nevertheless after their names. I’m not a king but I still don’t want a “nevertheless” after my name. Jesus Christ came to Earth, was beaten, abused, spit upon, cursed, pierced and crucified to free me of my sin, including my “nevertheless”. How can I look my savior in the eye knowing I have left the high places, the idols, in my life unmolested? Brothers, they need to be torn down; mine, yours, everyone’s. Each of us has to do our own demolition but we can encourage each other to get to work and remain at work until the job is done.

As I said, I am not a king, but as a child of THE King I am a prince. I belong to the royal family. I want to live a life that is worthy of my Father, and my Brother, Friend and Savior Jesus. To do that I’m going to bring down those high places, those idols. I’m going to fire up that wrecking ball today! How about you?

Have a fantastic day my brothers! Keep your crowns straight!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

Remain In Him

by | April 28, 2016 | In Daily Reading No Comments

April 28, 2016

Alternate Reading Plans
Chronological Order: 1 Chronicles 6
Old Testament Only: 1 Samuel 12:1–14:23
New Testament Only: Luke 18:1–17

Remain In Him

Today’s Passage: 2 Kings 12-14

Grapes on the vine - purpleGetting a little redundant isn’t it? A king is murdered, his son takes his place, he doesn’t walk in the way of the Lord and there is no peace. In the other kingdom finally one of the kings is faithful to God, but not completely, as he does not destroy the idols. It is the same thing over and over again. Every time I read through the Bible I keep saying “Boy these guys are really dense. Don’t they get it? How many times do they have to cycle through separation from God and disaster back to faithfulness to God and blessing? When will they decide to stay in faithfulness?”

The answer, of course, is never; they are fallen. I point my finger at the Israelites of old but look at America today. Of course, I have that one finger pointed outward which means I’ve got three pointed back at me. Isn’t that how we are as individuals? God has revealed Himself to us. He has saved us. We have been blessed but we start worshiping things and pleasures and we walk away from Him only to suffer the natural consequences of our foolishness. When will we get it? When will we decide to stay in faithfulness?

Let me be clear. The blessings of God are spiritual. They make the paltry trinkets this world has to offer look like dung. God’s prophets lived hand to mouth and were content with their lot if not their fellow countrymen. The kings lived in luxury and perpetual fear of treachery and death. You don’t obey and remain in Christ so you will get the goodies of this world. You obey and remain in Christ so you will get the spiritual blessings that make the luxuries of this world fade to nothingness. Friends, don’t get me wrong. God made us to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever. He created the Garden of Eden as a wonderful physical place where we could glorify Him and enjoy Him in a physically luxurious setting.

We destroyed that setting because we wanted to glorify ourselves. We are able to enjoy the spiritual riches Christ promised here today if we have accepted His gift and abide in Him. Unfortunately, we live in a perverted world of our own making and the physical luxury of Eden is lost to us for a time. Lost for a time but not forever. You see we have been told that there is a new Heaven and a new Earth. Once we meet our Maker face to face we will live in both spiritual and physical luxury. The entire reason for your existence is that very time.

I was reading a little about the guy that wrote “90 Minutes in Heaven”. I haven’t read the book but I think I might. He was a Baptist minister who was hit by a Tractor-trailer and pronounced dead on the scene. He was dead for 90 minutes. He saw Heaven. He tells us that it is real. It is a physical place. His book has been a New York Times bestseller. I’m glad he has come back to us to tell his story and I have no doubt that God sent him back for that purpose, but I don’t really need his book or his story to convince me Heaven is real. I have a better book with a better story. I have a testimony from an unimpeachable source. The matter is settled for me.

Jesus didn’t promise us an easy ride until that day we see Him face to face. In fact, from a physical point of view, He promised us trouble. He said the world will hate us because they hate Him and He is in us. Jesus also said, however, that He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. My friends, I’m here to tell you that no matter what you are facing, no matter what you are struggling with, you can have the peace, joy, and abundant life Jesus came to give you. This won’t be the taking away of the consequences of living in a fallen world, but it will be peace, joy and abundance nevertheless. You want it?

If you haven’t accepted Christ’s sacrifice for you sin, then that is the first and most crucial step. It all starts there.

John 14:6 ESV
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'”

If you have accepted Christ, then “remain in Him”.

John 15:5-11 ESV
“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.  If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.  If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.  As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.  These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

Remain in His love. Obey His commandments that His joy may be in you and that your joy may be full!

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!