Just men reading, memorizing and studying the bible together!

Alternate Plans
Bible Order: Ezekiel 8–11
Old Testament Only: Psalms 91–95
New Testament Only: 1 Corinthians 3
(Current Plan is Chronological)

Love Can Make A Difference Today

Lamentations 1:1-3:36

Heart in mans hands offeringLamentations was written by the Prophet Jeremiah after the fall of Jerusalem. He cried over what had happened to Jerusalem as Christ would cry over the future of Jerusalem some 600 years later. Jeremiah had prophesied, preached, and begged the people of Judah to turn back to God; something they steadfastly refused to do. Now Jeremiah sits in the ashes of this once great and favored city, weeping for what was lost.

Lamentations 2:11 ESV

“My eyes are spent with weeping; my stomach churns; my bile is poured out to the ground because of the destruction of the daughter of my people, because infants and babies faint in the streets of the city.”

So here is a man who warned Jerusalem of coming disaster. He begged Jerusalem to return to God. He suffered persecution at their hands because He faithfully and consistently delivered God’s message. How would you feel if this were you at this point? Would you feel like saying “I warned them” or “They had it coming” or “Serves them right”? It would be easy to gloat about what has happened to these hard-hearted people, but Jeremiah cries for them, he laments what has happened. You see, the reason Jeremiah consistently preached God’s message and put up with so much from those he sought to save, was because he loved them; he did not want to see them come to destruction.

As wayward as these people were, Jeremiah, like God, loved them still. It was his love for them that motivated him to call them back to God. Today God still loves the Lost, but do you and I love them as God does? Are we heart-broken about what will happen to them without Christ? Are we motivated by love to share the Gospel with those who will suffer horribly for eternity without Christ? You see the time to cry over the Lost is now, not after Christ returns. After Christ returns it is too late for love to make a difference. Today love can make a difference, but only if you love enough to do something about it. Do you love that much? Do you love enough to share Christ?

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

No Reading Today

by | August 31, 2014 | In Daily Reading No Comments

Alternate Plans
Bible Order: Ezekiel 4–7
Old Testament Only: Psalms 89–90
New Testament Only: 1 Corinthians 2:6–16
(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: Ezekiel 1–3
Old Testament Only: Psalms 85–88
New Testament Only: 1 Corinthians 1:18–2:5
(Current Plan is Chronological)

On The Willow

Jeremiah 51, Psalm 137

Willow TreeI know I’ve written about this before but Psalm 137 reminds me of the play “Godspell”. I performed in that play as a freshman in High School. There is a song in that play entitled “On the Willows” and it uses as its chorus the following verses from this Psalm.

Psalm 137:2-3 ESV

“[2] On the willows there we hung up our lyres. [3] For there our captors required of us songs, and our tormentors, mirth, saying, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’”

Now at first I wasn’t really sure how this psalm related to the story of Jesus as it was used in the play. It is sung as the Last Supper is acted out. I don’t know if I’ve figured out the writer’s intent, but I think I do see a connection. This psalm was written about the Babylonian exile. Babylon is an analogy for the World; it takes us away from God and keeps us distracted from Him; a kind of self-imposed exile. Jerusalem is an analogy for Heaven; that is to say living in God’s presence. The following verse is also in the Godspell song.

Psalm 137:4 ESV

“How shall we sing the LORD’s song in a foreign land?”

Indeed, how can one be happy enough to sing a joyful song when separated from God? Now it is important to remember that the Israelites held in captivity in Babylon are not analogous to the Lost, but rather to the Saved. This is a story about what happens to a Christian who loses his focus on God; when we let the World distract us from whose we are. Living like, and focusing on, the World robs us of our joy. It is very hard to sing a joyful song to the Lord when we are so far from Him.

The connection between these verses in Psalms and the Last Supper as used in Godspell is the disconnection that was about to happen as Christ went to the cross. The Disciples were about to be separated from Jesus for a time. The song “On the Willows” is a song about loss; about separation. Like the psalm from which the lyrics come, it is a song about joy lost.

The Lost are without hope, but while they may hurt because of their separation from God, they are by and large ignorant of their condition. The Saved are the ones whose hearts truly ache when they lose their focus, for with the Holy Spirit residing within us, our separation becomes unbearable. We once knew joy due to our closeness with God at the time we submitted our life to Christ. As the cares of the World have dragged our focus away from God, that joy has diminished. The good news is there is nothing we can do to lose our salvation, but why would we choose to live our new life in Christ so far from Him? It doesn’t make any sense does it? Brother, if you want to reclaim the joy you have in Christ, refocus your life on Christ. Don’t let the World continue to distract you. Remember that Christ is the vine and you are the branch; apart from Him you can do nothing.

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

Alternate Plans
Bible Order: Lamentations 1–5
Old Testament Only: Psalms 82–84
New Testament Only: 1 Corinthians 1:1–17
(Current Plan is Chronological)

Evil Used For Good

Jeremiah 49-50

Jesus on the CrossWell, we are wrapping up Jeremiah. We still have a couple more chapters to read after today’s reading but we are close. I don’t mean to sound like I’m tired of Jeremiah but I’m kind of tired of Jeremiah. The message seems to be the same to everyone and after a few versions of the same message you kind of feel like you get the point. Perhaps, however, there is a greater point than simply conveying a message of doom for those who reject God. Here at the end of book we hear prophecies for specific kingdoms of the day. Each of these prophecies came to pass; at least those that did not address the end times.

The instrument for much of the destruction prophesied in this book is accomplished by the nation of Babylon. This was a brutal, bloody, evil nation and yet God used them to distribute judgment. Of course this doesn’t mean that Babylon gets a pass. In today’s reading we find a prophecy concerning the coming judgment for Babylon.

Jeremiah 50:6-10 ESV

[6] “My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray, turning them away on the mountains. From mountain to hill they have gone. They have forgotten their fold. [7] All who found them have devoured them, and their enemies have said, ‘We are not guilty, for they have sinned against the LORD, their habitation of righteousness, the LORD, the hope of their fathers.’ [8] Flee from the midst of Babylon, and go out of the land of the Chaldeans, and be as male goats before the flock. [9] For behold, I am stirring up and bringing against Babylon a gathering of great nations, from the north country. And they shall array themselves against her. From there she shall be taken. Their arrows are like a skilled warrior who does not return empty-handed. [10] Chaldea shall be plundered; all who plunder her shall be sated, declares the LORD.”

I chose this passage to illustrate that doom was prophesied for Babylon because it also illustrates how God felt about His people whom He had to discipline. Just because God used Babylon to discipline His children does not mean that He condoned Babylon’s brutality or that they would escape punishment. In a similar way God is using Satan and his demons to discipline the world. He is cleansing for Himself a remnant of humanity just as he cleansed for Himself a remnant of the people of Judah. Many will be destroyed in the process and those who God used to discipline His children will find themselves punished in the end. Just like Babylon was allowed to maul the Middle East so that God’s purpose would be accomplished, so too Satan and his minions have been allowed to maul humanity.

God is accomplishing His purpose even in the midst of evil. He takes responsibility for His creation so it may seem that God caused Babylon to do evil. I think there is a big difference between causing something to happen and allowing something to happen. God does not cause evil, but He does use the evil that others do to accomplish His purpose. Aren’t you glad God used the evil done to Jesus to save you?

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

Alternate Plans
Bible Order: Jeremiah 52
Old Testament Only: Psalms 79–81
New Testament Only: Romans 16
(Current Plan is Chronological)

Real Encouragement

Jeremiah 45-48

Jesus saves Peter on waterWe live in troubled times. I imagine every generation thought that to be true. There have been many mighty nations that have come and gone. They would rise to world prominence and sometimes even world dominance – or at least dominance over a big portion of the world. In every instance of a nation becoming a dominant power, that power is eventually lost. Sometimes those powers were wiped away completely and sometimes they were simply reduced to a second rate or even third rate nation. The Greeks, the Assyrians, the Persians, the Babylonians, the Romans, and the British all conquered major territories only to lose almost everything. The Greeks continue to exist as a nation, and the British do as well; each in a much diminished capacity.

Russia took territory after the Second World War and today it has lost almost all of it; though the current tyrant seems hell-bent on gobbling it all back up again. America has been a world power for maybe 100 years or so. I for one don’t view America’s rise to power as something that came about by conquest, though some may feel otherwise seeing as how prior to European colonization the land that became America was populated by people whom we call “Native Americans”. I view this differently because we didn’t become a world power until after we stretched from coast to coast.

However we got here, I fear our time is limited. Every great power has fallen and it has fallen because it got away from what made it a power in the first place. Inevitably the people of these nations became indolent, perverted, and decadent. Their culture and their shared morality declined to such a state that they no longer had what it took to maintain their power. Now some of the powers listed above were evil from their inception so they didn’t have far to go in terms of moral decline, but America started at a very high level of moral clarity and rectitude. We had a much larger distance to travel to hit the bottom of the gutter. Still, it seems we’ve made the journey in record time.

Our culture is morally bankrupt. Our leadership is morally bankrupt. We have moved from a nation that believed in personal responsibility to believing in getting something for nothing. Mainstream thought in America today turns morality upside down claiming right is wrong and wrong is right. Our elected officials pass laws to advance the wellbeing of their supporters over that of everyone else. We’ve become a nation of “pay to play”. If you don’t pay the politician for special treatment you will find yourself the victim of those who did.

We took a system that worked and turned it into dysfunction. Looking outside our boarders the world is coming apart at the seams and it seems this is happening because America has abdicated its leadership role in the world, creating a vacuum into which the most unsavory, and frankly downright evil, characters have rampaged. America suffers from this moral decline and as a result the rest of the world suffers as well.

Have I thoroughly depressed you? I don’t see how I could be the cause of your depression as I’m sure you already knew all of this without my telling you. No, I bring this up in order to give you hope. You see at the beginning of today’s passage we read about a message God gave to Baruch through Jeremiah. Baruch was Jeremiah’s assistant. It was he who wrote down what Jeremiah prophesied. It was he who took messages back and forth for Jeremiah. It was he who served Jeremiah through thick and thin. It was he who would follow Jeremiah into exile in Egypt.

Baruch lived in troubled times. If you think we have it bad now, you must think Baruch was living a nightmare. And you’d be right. He cried out in sorrow and God heard him. This is what instigated God’s message to Baruch.

Jeremiah 45:4-5 ESV

“[4] Thus shall you say to him, Thus says the LORD: Behold, what I have built I am breaking down, and what I have planted I am plucking up—that is, the whole land. [5] And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not, for behold, I am bringing disaster upon all flesh, declares the LORD. But I will give you your life as a prize of war in all places to which you may go.”

The world in general, and America specifically, is falling apart. It is falling apart because of the innumerable self-centered, evil choices we have made. The world has chosen separation from God and it is suffering because of its choice. Do you seek great things for yourself in the midst of this turmoil? The Lord your God has given you the greatest gift of all, eternal life. If you want a life in this world without trouble, strife, and worry, you have unreasonable expectations.

Believe it or not, what God said to Baruch was an encouragement. Trouble would come but God would sustain him through it. Brother, Jesus Christ made the same promise to His followers. He told us we would have trouble in this life. The good news is that we will come through it with Him at our side and with our eternal life secured. This is our encouragement. We will not be encouraged by a world that is suddenly peaceful and plentiful. It won’t happen. We can be encouraged by the promises of our Savior if we rid ourselves of unrealistic expectations and focus on Him. Don’t let the sad state of this world and our nation get you down. This has happened before and yet the followers of Christ still have Him and have eternity. That really is all you need.

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

Alternate Plans
Bible Order: Jeremiah 50–51
Old Testament Only: Psalms 77–78
New Testament Only: Romans 15:14–33
(Current Plan is Chronological)

Pride

Obadiah, Psalms 82; 83

The Treasury of Petra, a city of Edom.

The Treasury of Petra, a city of Edom.

The book of Obadiah is the shortest in all of the Old Testament. It is only one chapter long. It foretells of coming destruction of Edom. This area has been identified in the Bible by several names; Edom, Seir, Hor, and Esau. This is the area where Jacob’s brother Esau took up residence and where his descendants continued to live. It is located to the southeast of Israel, across the Jordan River in what is today called Jordan. It is a mountainous, rocky place. Many caravans traveled through this area as it was as major North to South highway. The Edomites were able to charge tolls for passage through their territory and the geology of the place made it easy to defend. They must have felt very secure in their mountain fortress as the rest of the world fell to the many warring nations over the centuries.

The book of Obadiah tells us that Edom was being punished for the sin of pride. Perhaps its pride came from its strong defensive position; it seemingly couldn’t be conquered by outside forces. When we feel we are in a strong position we tend to think we don’t need God. We have confidence in ourselves and God is at best an afterthought. To the modern American pride doesn’t sound like such a big deal, but pride is the very sin that led to Satan being cast out of Heaven as related to us by the prophet Isaiah.

Isaiah 14:14 ESV

“I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”

It was also pride that led all of humanity and creation to fall. Adam and Eve both wanted to be like the Most High. This is why they ate of the forbidden fruit. They wanted to be their own god. I view pride as another word for self-centeredness. This is the greatest sin, for from it all other sins find their root. Now it may not seem like pride when we fail to seek God in matters concerning our family life, our business, our health, or any other area of our life. It seems we seek God only after we’ve tried to take care of things in our own power and everything is crashing down around us. Is that not also pride? Praying for God’s guidance, and for His will to be done in every aspect of life, puts Him on the throne of our life. Going off on our own, puts us on that throne.

Brother, you need to stop trying to be God. It is an exhausting job and frankly you just aren’t up to it. It is also exhausting and discouraging to even attempt the job. What do they say – let go and let God? Don’t get me wrong, we always have our part to play. I’m not suggesting that we just sit around waiting for God to magically put food on our plate and heal our ailments. All I’m saying is this; the time to seek God’s guidance on what you should do is before you do it, not after you mess it up. Let go of your pride.

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!