Weekend Readings

Saturday, September 24, 2016  “Who Else?”

Reading: Micah 7:8-Habakkuk 2:1

My selection:

The nations shall see and be ashamed of all their might;
they shall lay their hands on their mouths;
    their ears shall be deaf;
 they shall lick the dust like a serpent,
    like the crawling things of the earth;
they shall come trembling out of their strongholds;
    they shall turn in dread to the Lord our God,
    and they shall be in fear of you. Micah 7:18-19

Sunday, September 25, 2016   “The Safe Place”

Reading: Habakkuk 2:2-Zephaniah 3:20

My selection:

Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land,
    who do his just commands;
seek righteousness; seek humility;
    perhaps you may be hidden
    on the day of the anger of the LordZephaniah 2:3

See you again on Monday.

[For reflections on these passages, see the corresponding readings in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

[Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.]

A Xenophobia-free Kingdom

Today’s reading:

Micah 1:1-7:7

My Selection:

It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the Lord
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and it shall be lifted up above the hills;
and peoples shall flow to it,
     and many nations shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.    Micah 4:1-2

Xenophobia is defined as “fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.” [1]  Those strange and foreign things may include language, dress, food, and customs.  At the heart of this attitude is the idea that one’s own way of doing things is the best or only right way.

A Worldwide Kingdom

The Church of Jesus Christ has spread to every nation of the world as foretold in Scripture.  Jesus sent His followers to make disciples of all nations and so they did.  The gospel unites us across national and cultural lines but it does not obliterate cultural differences, at least, not entirely. So there is no place among God’s people for xenophobia.  We ought to welcome those of other cultures and be careful about imposing our culture on them unless a violation of God’s word is at stake.

No culture is without sin, but there are vast areas of culture which are left to our discretion.  For example, from the Bible we understand that polygamy is sin.  Some cultures allow or even promote it.  As the gospel enters those cultures it impacts practices like polygamy and those who come to believe will seek to conform to Scripture, despite their culture.  There is no reason to expect that every area of every culture will be changed by the Bible.  Modest dress is a principle but western dress is not.

Enjoy the beauty

The kingdom of God is global, encompassing many nations and cultures.  Enjoy the beauty of this diversity that has already begun and let there not be found xenophobia among us.

For more reflections on today’s reading, see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days.

[1] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/xenophobia

A Warning about Piling On

Today’s reading:

Obadiah 1- Jonah 4:11

My Selection:

The pride of your heart has deceived you,
    you who live in the clefts of the rock,
    in your lofty dwelling,
who say in your heart,
    “Who will bring me down to the ground?”
Though you soar aloft like the eagle,
    though your nest is set among the stars,
    from there I will bring you down,
declares the Lord.    Obadiah 3-4

The prophet Obadiah issued a warning to the Edomites.  Judgment loomed for their merciless treatment of the refugees from Judah who fled from the invading Babylonian army.  Instead of protecting them, the Edomites captured those refugees and turned them over to the invaders.  They used the Jews as hostages to be traded to Nebuchadnezzar’s forces.

God’s Ways

God’s ways are complex.  Think about it. He sent the invading army to carry out His discipline against Judah.  But He did not condone Edom’s piling on His people who were under His discipline.  Instead, He sent a prophet to confront them for their pride and heartlessness.

James also warned against the failure to show mercy. “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment”  James 2:13.

Pride can blind a person to the suffering of others. That kind of blindness can lead to hardness of heart and failure to show love and compassion to those who are in trouble.  Beware of piling on those who are suffering, even when they suffer for their own failures.  A day of judgment is coming.  God will bring down the proud and those who failed to show mercy.  How can you show mercy today?

For more reflections on today’s reading, see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Amaziah, Priest not King

Today’s reading:

Amos 5:1-9:15

My Selection:

 And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there,  but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”

 Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, “I was[g] no prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs.  But the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ 16 Now therefore hear the word of the LordAmos 7:12-15

One of the things you learn when you publish a book is that perfection is impossible.  My comments on today’s passage need a correction.  I misidentified Amaziah as the king of Israel.  He was a priest in Bethel, not a king.  Jeroboam II was the king of Israel at that time. [See Amos 7:10].  I apologize for this error.

In spite of this, my point is still true that Amos models a confidence in God and God’s calling for him to be a bold prophet.  Amaziah was not receptive to the prophet and attempted to deport him.  Amos stood firm.  May we do the same.

[For more reflections on today’s reading, see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

[Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.]

Prepare to Meet Your God

Today’s reading:

Joel 2:28-Amos 4:13

My Selection:

“I overthrew some of you,
as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah,
and you were as a brand plucked out of the burning;
yet you did not return to me,”
declares the Lord.

 “Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel;
because I will do this to you,
prepare to meet your God, O Israel!”  Amos 4:11-12

Contrary to logic, people who are placed under God’s discipline and judgment do not always respond positively.  God sent a series of plagues and trials on Israel.  Did they return to the Lord?  No!  So Amos tells them to prepare to meet their God.

It is not always easy to understand if trials and difficulties we experience are God’s way of disciplining us or if they are merely the result of living in a fallen world.  It is important to ask God for wisdom (James 1:5).  Pray for the ability to respond to whatever discipline that God may send with an open heart eager to learn and grow in Him.  Israel failed to do that and suffered for it.

[For more reflections on today’s reading, see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

[Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.]

 

 

 

Hopeful but not Presumptuous

Today’s reading:

Hosea 12:1- Joel 2:27

My Selection:

I will restore to you the years
that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
my great army, which I sent among you.  (Joel 2:25)

This quotation from the prophet Joel exudes the greatness of God’s grace and power.  He sent an invasion of locusts on His people, but He also promised that in the end He would restore to them the losses of that devastation.   God is able to replace what we lost through the consequences of our sin.  It’s never too late to come to the Lord.  We are never beyond His power to save.

A Warning against Two Dangers

Grace and mercy should not lead us to a presumptuous attitude toward God’s commands to holiness.  We must not say, “My sin doesn’t matter.  God can restore the years that the locust has eaten.”  I recently asked the students in my Sunday school class, “which is liable to be more dangerous to your spiritual life: presumption or hopelessness?”  After some discussion, the consensus seemed to be “both are dangerous.”

Beware of hopelessness and of presumption. Both are dangerous to our walk with the Lord.

[For more reflections on today’s reading, see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

[Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.]

 

 

Minor Prophets are Profitable

Today we begin our readings in the minor prophets, the 12 relatively short books that come at the end of our Old Testament in the standard English versions used by most evangelicals and protestants.  The books are not in chronological order so it is helpful to consult the notes in a good study Bible or Bible handbook.  See my resources for Bible readers tab here for suggestions.

Saturday, September 17, 2016 Love so Amazing, so Divine

Reading: Hosea 1:1-5:15

My selection:

“And the Lord said to me, ‘Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins’”  Hosea 3:1

Sunday, September 18, 2016   How we look to God

Reading: Hosea 6:1-11:12

My selection:

“Like grapes in the wilderness,
I found Israel.
“Like the first fruit on the fig tree
in its first season,
I saw your fathers.
“But they came to Baal-peor
and consecrated themselves to the thing of shame,
and became detestable like the thing they loved” Hosea 9:10.

Keep reading.  You will find the profits here are not minor at all.  See you again on Monday.

[For reflections on these passages, see the corresponding readings in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

[Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.]

Handling the Truth

Today’s reading:

Daniel 10:1-12:13

My Selection:

“He shall seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant, but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.  And the wise among the people shall make many understand, though for some days they shall stumble by sword and flame, by captivity and plunder.  When they stumble, they shall receive a little help. And many shall join themselves to them with flattery,  and some of the wise shall stumble, so that they may be refined, purified, and made white, until the time of the end, for it still awaits the appointed time”  Daniel 11:32-35.

Praise God that He gives us the truth about life and eternity.

There is an insidious message being proclaimed in all the world that God exists primarily to make everyone healthy and happy.  Suffering is a result of unbelief.  God never wants us to suffer in any way.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Can you handle the truth?

The truth is we suffer in this world because God’s purpose is to make us holy and fit us for eternity.  Meanwhile, godly men like Daniel knew that “some of the wise shall stumble, so that they may be refined, purified, and made white, until the time of the end” (Daniel 11:35).

The Apostle Paul said it this way:

“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived”             2 Timothy 3:12,13.

And,

“… through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God”  Acts 14:22.

God’s purpose and end for us

God is perfecting us through trials and struggles, but His end is to bring us to His kingdom to glorify Him.

“And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever” Daniel 12:3.

By God’s grace, we can handle the truth and the trials He sends our way, learning from them until He takes us home and completes His work. Meanwhile, stand firm in Him today.

[For more reflections on today’s reading, see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

[Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.]

Confession of Sin

Today’s reading: Daniel 7:1-9:27

My selection:

“While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the Lord my God for the holy hill of my God,  while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice.  He made me understand, speaking with me and saying, “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding.  At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision.”

Daniel 9:20-23 (ESV)

Confession of sin is not morbid introspection

On numerous occasions in the Bible we read of people whose close encounter with God brought them to recognize their unworthiness and sin.   God’s presence shines on the hearts of men and exposing their depravity.  Daniel experienced this, too, and was driven to a thorough confession of his sin and the sin of his people.

Confession of sin should not be morbid introspection driving us to hopelessness.  The Apostle John exhorts us:

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”  1 John 1:8-10 (ESV)

Confession is a lifestyle

Confession leads to forgiveness and cleansing.  It is not a once-for-all event but a lifestyle which brings growth in both holiness and praise.  Be diligent in confession.

[For more reflections on today’s reading, see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

A Tribute to Aunt Lou

Mary Louise Fischer

June 6, 1914 – September 10, 201614324637_10210988671018464_2822966787155684423_o

The text came through on Saturday.  I went in the kitchen looking for my wife.  “Mary, Aunt Lou passed away this morning.”

At 102 years of age, Mary Louise (Trout) Fischer had lived from before the beginning of World War I through the roaring twenties, the Great Depression, the Second World War,  the cold war, the space age, the information age, and through most of  the second decade of the third millennium.  She had seen communication become instant, global, and digital and transportation go from mostly horses and buggies to experimental self-driving cars.  She saw seventeen presidents move in and out of the White House, from Woodrow Wilson to Barak Obama.

My mind re-played the memories of my last visit to her 18 months earlier.  By that time she was a century old.  She had survived a house fire a few years before and was safely living in a senior apartment complex where she learned to prepare and relish her own microwaveable dinners.  She seemed as witty and perky as ever if you ignored her wheel chair and manageable hearing loss.

I sat next to her in that seafood restaurant in Ft Myers, across from her son, my cousin Tom, and his wife, Cheryl, devoted adult children whose tender care for her shouted their love louder and clearer than words ever could.  Mary and I both felt privileged to have that visit with her and them.  To me, seeing my mother’s only and older sister felt like Mom had come back from the grave, so alike they were.

A recycled birthday card

The Trout sisters, Lou and Dot, were born almost four years apart, but to us who never knew them as kids, they could have been twins.  They were the only daughters in a family of seven siblings.  Maybe having five brothers contributed to their sharing the same humor, and their readiness to joke, tease, and laugh at a moment’s notice. They were practical in their practical joking.  Growing up in the great depression marked them both with frugality.  Once, one of the sisters mailed the other an unsigned birthday card.  The other one sent it back on her sister’s birthday, still with no signature.  The card got re-sent back and forth for several years.  Dot used to laugh till the tears ran down her cheeks as she told that story of how she and Lou took tight-wading to an Olympic level.

How to find a husband in the supermarket

If you doubt that Lou was a clown, consider this. In their retirement years, Lou and Ed, her beloved late husband, used to share the grocery shopping duties.  They would go to the supermarket, each armed with a list of items to buy, and then set out in different directions to hunt down and check off their assigned products.  One day, when Lou finished her list, she began looking for Uncle Ed.  Up and down the aisles she went until she was stopped by a helpful stock clerk.

“May I help you, ma’am?” he asked.

“I’m looking for a husband,” replied Lou.

Instantly Mr. Helpful dropped to his knees and pleaded, “How about me? Will I do?”

Lou, without missing a beat, quipped, “I don’t know.  The one I have now has lots of experience.”

“I have lots of experience,” he stammered. “I’ve been married three times.”

I do not know what Lou said next.  Maybe she met her match.  I do know she went home with Ed that day, not the three-time strikeout king.

The phone tag game

In the days when long distance calls cost per minute, the sisters, who lived five states apart, developed a phone tag game with their answering machines. Dot reported that she would try to call and leave a very short message at a time when Lou was likely to be out or away from the phone.  The winner of the game was the one who could leave a message obligating the loser to call back and pay for the minutes.

Sunday night, I found a voice mail message on my phone.  It was not a game.  It was from Tom.  “She’s home,” he said.  “She transitioned peacefully to be with her Lord and Savior.”

Thanks, Tom.  I needed that.

Prayer and tears in the kitchen

Mary and I bowed our heads and prayed through tears right there in the kitchen remembering those whom Aunt Lou left behind, especially her children, Tom and Cheryl and their daughters, Chelsea, Madison and Tara, and her brothers and sisters-in-law, Dick and Sharon and Bob and Nancy and, us, nieces and nephews.  “Lord,  give us all comfort in the assurance that she is in your presence, the One who is the way, the truth, and the life, who died so that believing sinners would by grace live together with You forever. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.”