Preparing for the Bad, Last Days

What should we do to prepare for the future? Scripture is clear. Know God’s Word well and you will be ready to complete whatever assignment God has for you.

Today’s Reading

Jeremiah 25-26; Second Timothy 3

Selected Verses

[Jeremiah said] “Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants, for in truth the Lord sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears.”

Then the officials and all the people said to the priests and the prophets, “This man does not deserve the sentence of death, for he has spoken to us in the name of the Lord our God.”  Jeremiah 26:15-16

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 good work. Second Timothy 3:16-17

Reflections

Paul writes to instruct Timothy in his pastoral duties and also to alert him (and all of us who have lived since him) as to the dangerous, difficult times that were and are to come. We read the list which begins with “lovers of self” and ends with “having the appearance of godliness but denying its power” (vs. 2-5). Narcissism would be rampant with phony, hypocritical uprightness.

Paul didn’t worry that Timothy would go astray. He knew the depth of character of his protégé. Not only that, Timothy had the Scriptures his whole life, the Word of God which brings wisdom for salvation and goes on to teach, reprove, correct, and train all who know it. Paul did want Timothy to continue to rely on the Word for his own life and for his ministry in light of the expected difficulties ahead.

Jeremiah affirmed to the rebellious leaders of Judah that he spoke God’s Word to them. They not only ignored it but pondered executing him for preaching it. He barely escaped death for standing on God’s Word. He might have died for preaching the truth, but his enemies would and did die by it.

Think about it

How do we prepare for whatever may come? There’s nothing wrong with stocking up on food, water, and firewood, but without a deep knowledge of the Bible it will be in vain. Be prepared God’s way, by His Word, given to us that the man or woman of God “may be complete, equipped for every good work” including enduring the bad, last days. The Bible brings us spiritual growth as we allow it to teach, reprove, correct, and train us throughout the years of our lives. Make the daily study of Scripture your priority.

The Importance of Expository Preaching

Good preaching is modeled in the Bible.  But it is too scarce in pulpits today.  Are you hearing sound preaching as the Bible commands and demonstrates?

Today’s Reading

Nehemiah 7-8; Acts 3

Selected Verses

They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.  Nehemiah 8:8

But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out,  that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus,  whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.  Acts 3:18-21

Reflections

In both Old and New Testaments, the importance of clear preaching is demonstrated.  Expository preaching includes both the reading of Scripture and the explanation of the meaning of it.

In Nehemiah’s day there had been a lack of reading and teaching the Scriptures. When the people heard the Word, they were grieved by what they heard and understood. They wept. It was natural that they should feel the weight of their failure and sin, but then the preacher (whether Ezra or Nehemiah, is not clear) exhorts them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (8:10).

In Acts, another preacher stands proclaiming God’s Word, also in Jerusalem but centuries after Ezra and Nehemiah’s day. Peter takes the opportunity, afforded by the crowd attracted by the healing of a lame man, to proclaim the good news of the risen Christ. The bad news  precedes the good news, they have killed the Author of life, Jesus, but Peter tells them they may repent, turn back, and have their sins blotted out. God will hear their prayer and send times of refreshing from His presence. Then they may wait expectantly for Christ, who promised to come back for His people.

Think about it

The gospel teaches us of our sin, but it doesn’t end there. It takes us to the mercy and grace of God who saves His repentant people, restores us to Himself, and gives us joy. Are you both grieved by your sin and relieved by God’s joy? Good expository preaching is a means of grace that takes us to both repentant grieving and unspeakable joy. Be sure you hear God’s word from faithful expository preachers. .

Means of Grace in a Hostile Place

God sends us into a hostile place, and He preserves us in it by the means of grace: His word, the sacraments,  and prayer.

Today’s Reading

Second Chronicles 26-28; John 17

Selected Verses

In the time of his distress he became yet more faithless to the Lord—this same King Ahaz.  For he sacrificed to the gods of Damascus that had defeated him and said, “Because the gods of the kings of Syria helped them, I will sacrifice to them that they may help me.” But they were the ruin of him and of all Israel.  2 Chronicles 28:22-23

I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.  John 17:15-17

Reflections

King Ahaz rebelled against the Lord which led to defeat in battle and distress. Did he learn to turn to God through His failure? No. He took his disobedience to the next level and began worshiping the god of the Syrians. Some of the kings we have studied were corrupted by success. Others were corrupted by failure. In some cases, they turned to God in defeat and were delivered. The circumstances seem to be neutral factors. What is the difference? It is the work of God in the hearts of those kings that either turned them toward Himself or let them go on in apostasy and error.

Jesus knew the kind of world into which He was sending His disciples. He prayed for them and gave them God’s word. They were not perfect. But in the end they succeeded in proclaiming the gospel far and wide and laying the foundations for the Church.

Think about it

What do we need in order to stand firm in the faith in a hostile world? Like the Apostles, we need God’s word and we need God’s power sustaining us in the midst of adversity and spiritual danger. Do we have that? Yes, Jesus is at the right hand of God interceding for us (Hebrews 7:25). He has given us His Spirit (Romans 8:1-17). We have the completed revelation of God in the Scriptures to equip us for every work He calls us to do (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  We also need God’s people, those who identify with Christ and fellowship with Him through the Sacraments.

Do not fear the world, but do be vigilant of your heart that your distresses or your successes not turn you away from the Lord who keeps His own. Do not make a bad thing worse. Trust Him and make diligent use of the means of grace.

The Consequences of Not Hearing

Hearing the words of God is evidence that one is of God.  But disaster awaits everyone who will not hear. We can learn much from a horrible example.

Today’s Reading

First Chronicles 8-10; John 8:37-59

Selected Verses

So Saul died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with the Lord in that he did not keep the command of the Lord, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance. He did not seek guidance from the Lord. Therefore the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse. 1 Chronicles 10:13-14

Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God. John 8:47

Reflections

The Book of 1 Chronicles opens with a meticulous genealogy of Israel as we have been seeing.  There are not many details about all those individuals until we come to Saul.  Then the writer zooms in on the final hours of Saul’s life.  His life ended the same way he lived it during the long years of his reign.  He disregarded God’s commands.  For example, he sought guidance from a medium.  He led the nation to defeat and died in agony by suicide.  Three of his sons died at the same time.  The threat of imminent defeat and death did not serve to awaken Saul to his need to repent and turn to the Lord for mercy and deliverance.

The Jews listening to Jesus reacted negatively to His every claim.   They hid behind their status as descendants of Abraham.  They were sure that God was their father.  Yet they were already plotting to kill their Messiah.  They considered Jesus to be the one who was illegitimate, not themselves.  They drip with self-righteousness.  As the Apostle Paul would later write, “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.  In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).

Think about it

Privilege and status did not make Saul faithful or obedient.  He grew harder as his life unfolded and he left a shameful legacy to his nation.  Many of the Jews in Jesus’ day did not believe the Truth when He lived among them.  We can learn from these examples of foolishness and blindness, but will we?  Let us learn and humble ourselves to hear and do what God has said.

Why We Need the Old Testament

The Old Testament is less frequently read and preached than the New.  In today’s reading, Paul tells us why those thirty nine books from Genesis to Malachi were given and why we still need them.

Today’s reading:  1 Corinthians 10:1-12:11

My selection: 

Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.  Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.  No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

1 Corinthians 10:11-13

Don’t neglect the means of grace including the Old Testament.

For more reflections on this passage, 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.

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.]

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.]

Prepared for Life

Today’s reading: Ezekiel 47:1-Daniel 1:21

My selection:

And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king.  And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom.  

Daniel 1:19-20 (ESV)

Unexpected Trials

The account of Daniel and his three friends, held in captivity by the Babylonian emperor, illustrates why knowledge of and commitment to the Word of God is essential for life. These men found themselves in a foreign land ruled by pagan law, but they knew God’s law and Daniel graciously appealed to the king’s representative to allow them to continue to obey the dietary laws of their religion.  Their appeal was granted and the results proved successful.

Thorough Preparation

We do not know what lies ahead in our lives.  We do not know what challenges and trials we may face.  What can we do to prepare?  Know the Bible.  Read carefully and pray for wisdom.  You will be equipped for whatever comes.  You will be prepared for life.

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 good work.                             2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)

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

Change of Terrain

Today we finish the Psalms and begin Proverbs (Psalm 145:1-Proverbs 1:7).  The change of genre is noticeable, like leaving a mountain road and passing through a grassy river valley.  Each has its special beauty and attractiveness.  Psalms speak to my heart and Proverbs to my head.  One prepares me for all kinds of emotional experiences; the other for a variety of relational and personal challenges.

I need both. Praise God for providing such thorough equipment for our spiritual lives (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Enjoy the read and the change of terrain.

[For more reflections on this passage see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

Readings for July 5-10

It’s summertime.  Mary and I will be enjoying time with family this week.  That doesn’t mean we stop Bible reading and prayer, but I am going to take a little break from daily blogging.  Here are our readings through Sunday.

Tuesday, July 5 Psalms 115-118

Wednesday, July 6 Psalm 119:1-85

Thursday, July 7 Psalm 119:86-176

Friday, July 8 Psalms 120-131

Saturday, July 9 Psalms 132-138

Sunday, July 10 Psalms 139-144

May you be blessed as you read.  See you again next week.

For more on these passages see Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 Days available on Amazon in either Kindle ($4.99) or print format ($12.99).